The Scoop - Stephan Calitz

Highest qualification?
BA Honours in Visual Communication

When did you graduate?
Apr 2018

What did you major in?
Game Design


Stephan’s Biography
Over the years, Stephan’s career evolved as he assumed increasingly influential roles. Notably, he became the Head of School for Animation Arts at Open Window in 2015. Before this, he served as the Subject Manager for 3D Animation and played a pivotal role in the development and management of the BA Degree in Film Arts. Under his guidance, Open Window’s Animation Arts program flourished, empowering students to launch successful careers in the creative industry.

In 2010, Stephan co-founded Contentbox, a creative hub that collaborates with like-minded professionals to produce high-quality digital content. As Creative Director, he has overseen projects ranging from Character Animation and Visual Effects to Interactive Media and Game Development. With a roster of clients that includes both local and international corporations, ContentBOX has become a reliable source of captivating digital content.

Stephan’s technical skills extend across multiple software suites, from Adobe to Autodesk, DaVinci Resolve, Substance, Blender, Unity and Unreal Engine. His expertise in gamification and e-learning content for VR and AR platforms underscores his forward-thinking approach to animation education.

How long have you been a lecturer?
Since 2007, so nearly 17 years now.

Can you briefly describe the different subjects within the AA department (3D Animation, Motion Design and Game Design), and how they work together to create a cohesive curriculum?
The Animation Arts department is not isolated from the rest of the schools, since animation often relies on a multitude of skills. 3D animation forms the foundation of the department, because it presents a wide range of career opportunities, while other popular areas of specialisation like Motion Design, Visual Effects and Game Development continue to be critical skills for the digital media industry.

What career opportunities do graduates of the AA department typically pursue?
The majority of graduates enter into the digital media industry as artists, animators or developers and the various sub-sets of careers within these fields. Other graduates venture into neighbouring industries, producing visualisations for architectural, medical or mining companies, while some may choose to further their studies.

How do you prefer to stay up to date with what’s happening in the industry?
By actively participating in it. Lecturers are encouraged to practice what they preach, so to speak.

How do you balance teaching technical skills with fostering creativity and critical thinking in students?
During the student’s first year of study, emphasis is placed on software orientation and training, through basic exercises in design, modelling, animation and presentation. This ensures that students who choose to continue with a particular Major understand the technology and techniques involved in the process. Students would continue with structured exercises that mimic a professional production process within their respective Majors and by their final year they’re able to initiate and produce their projects. Ultimately students learn through their experience in the medium and with every iteration they’re able to reflect on their work, identify their strengths and refine their skills.

Can you speak to any recent personal projects that you’re particularly proud of?
It feels like I’m always working on new projects, and because every project presents it own set of challenges it soon becomes my favourite. The fun is in solving the design, but once the product is delivered I prefer to set it free… then again, some projects take years to complete.

Top 3 favourite bands at the moment?
It’s all over the place. It ranges from Phonk to Dad-rock, even Pop, but I’ll frequently revisit albums by Nick Cave, Cohen, Dylan, Waits and Yorke.

Top 3 Podcasts?
Ted Tech, Huberman Lab, but to be honest, I mostly consume curated YouTube material at double speed on the current topic of interest. YouTube provides you with a world of knowledge at your fingertips, but it can also be brain-numbing and highly addictive.

Can you suggest any great resources for students in the AA department?
We host a list of resources under 3D and VFX respectively.

What’s your go-to creative snack?
Fruit salad… mostly grapes, pressed and cheese.

Any favourite hobbies?
When I’m not gaming or making games, I love nature; gardening, hiking, rafting, bouldering and I play casual squash, but serious chess.

How do you envision the AA department evolving or growing in the future?
Every year is a fresh learning experience for students and academic staff alike. Because we embrace the evolution of digital arts and the associated technologies, we learn critical life skills like problem-solving, teamwork and time management along the way. I’d like to imagine, that as long as society thirsts for knowledge, effective communication and creative expression there will be a need for education in the field of animation.

Do you have any advice for prospective students who are looking into doing their Bachelor of Film Arts/Animation Arts?
Enjoy and consider the medium. Watch films, binge series, play games, read books and draw – but do so attentively.

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