Visual effects studios and software developers have taken a personal interest in a group of talented young adults with autism who are pursuing careers in the film industry. Recent among them is The Foundry, whose sizable software donation to Exceptional Minds digital arts academy in Sherman Oaks, Calif., this month will help these young adults with autism compete for jobs in the demanding field of post-production.
“We have been following the phenomenal achievements of Exceptional Minds and these very talented individuals and wanted to do our part to ensure their success. It didn’t take us long to realize how our compositing software suite could benefit them,” said Mike Ephraim, Head of Americas Sales at The Foundry. “We’re thrilled to be part of such a worthwhile cause and to support the special needs community,” he added. The company has provided 12 annual licenses at no charge to Exceptional Minds’ vocational school and working studio for its NUKEX compositing software suite.
Exceptional Minds opened its doors in 2011 to prepare young men and women on the spectrum for careers in the digital arts. Known for its close working relationship with the visual effects industry, Exceptional Minds and its growing body of students have since worked on six productions, including summer release Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Oscar-nominated film American Hustle as well as the 2012 motion picture Lawless.
The three-year digital arts vocational program is taught by industry professionals and adapted for the special needs of individuals with autism, involving both professional certification and real-work experience is the field. The Exceptional Minds Studio (EMS), opened earlier this year, is co-located with the school to offer quality post-production services by graduates and students on a contract basis. EMS operates independently of the vocational school to provide high quality stereo conversion (rotoscoping), visual effects, computer graphics, title work, and animation in demand by the industry. Both the Exceptional Minds school and studio have a range of compositing, rotoscoping and animation applications for use by students and contractors. With the addition of the NUKEX compositing application suite, these individuals are now able to move into node-based compositing for larger scale, deep-compositing projects that require powerful camera and planar tracking, in-application model building, and collaborative assist tools.
NUKE is used in almost every Hollywood blockbuster film made today, and has been used extensively in recent CG-heavy films such as Gravity, Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Hobbit, The Avengers, Pacific Rim and many more. “This is an important contribution for our students and for our working studio of young men and women on the spectrum who require the latest tools to be competitive in a very demanding industry,” said Susie Zwerman, who is in charge of job development for Exceptional Minds and is an accomplished visual effects producer with Crystal Rain Media Entertainment. The Foundry joins Adobe Systems, StereoD, Method Studios, Annapurna Pictures, Stargate Studios, Film Roman, United Front, Pixel Magic, DreamWorks Animation, Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox, among many others, in support of Exceptional Minds.
Now creating a bridge between high school and the working world for individuals on the spectrum, Exceptional Minds is the first and only vocational school and working studio for young adults with autism entering the post-production field. According to a study prepared for the U.S. Department of Education, one in three young adults with autism lack paid job experience, college or technical school nearly seven years after high school graduation.