Studying at UniSA / Rising Sun Pictures

Studying at UniSA / Rising Sun Pictures

Emily Adams and Danae Lowe, graduates of UniSA / Rising Sun Pictures, share their insights on learning at this unique training facility in Adelaide, Australia.

For almost three decades, Rising Sun Pictures (RSP) has been creating incredible visual effects. The company with studios in Adelaide and Brisbane, has contributed to over 200 film and streaming titles.

Visual effects (VFX), enable filmmakers to enhance a story by bringing to life believable characters, worlds, and stunts using computer generated graphics (CGI).

RSP's talented artists have created breathtaking visuals for many Hollywood blockbusters including Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, The Fall Guy, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, The Flash, Elvis, Thor: Love and Thunder, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and The Harry Potter franchise.

Emily Adams and Danae Lowe are graduates of RSP's unique accredited training program, delivered in partnership with the University of South Australia. In this article, they share their learning experiences at RSP and how it has paved the way for exciting career opportunities working on high profile, blockbuster films!

Can you introduce your school to us and share what you think makes it special?

Emily Adams: The course offered at Rising Sun Pictures (RSP) has been one of the most incredible opportunities that has come my way. While it may be situated in the small city of Adelaide, South Australia, its impact on a global scale is massive. Whether you're just starting out or already experienced in VFX, there's a lot to learn from the talented artists and lecturers.

I personally found RSP through the University of South Australia (UniSA), where I did a second-year class, and then my entire final year of my degree onsite at RSP in their purpose-built simulated studio. This unique learning experience not only shaped my learning journey but also had a significant impact on both my personal and professional development.

Danae Lowe: The University of South Australia (UniSA) collaborates with Rising Sun Pictures (RSP) to provide students with in-depth opportunities to explore industry-standard programs and skills. This includes access to software like Nuke, and experience with company-based pipelines using Shotgun and Linux—skills that are challenging to learn independently.

What made you choose to study at UniSA / Rising Sun Pictures?

Emily Adams: When UniSA presented about their collaboration with RSP, I was immediately captivated. I was aware of their reputation, and the calibre of high-profile projects they attract and work on - anyone who is eager to be in the film industry in Adelaide, and specifically VFX, recognises RSP. I feel grateful for the opportunity provided by RSP to develop and learn new skills in this constantly evolving and growing industry.

Danae Lowe: I was looking to specialise in a film and television role. My previous study was a broad introduction to all things animation. Unfortunately, being Brisbane based, the only programs available to me were online, in US-based schools, or required full-time attendance in another state. Neither seemed viable for me. While browsing RSP’s website, I learned that their course was soon expanding to Brisbane, and I jumped at the opportunity. RSP is an award-winning VFX studio that creates photo realistic visuals for films and streaming series that I, and my friends and family, love to watch. It was an opportunity I was excited to embark on.

How do students and teachers interact and what kind of mentorship can a student expect?

Emily Adams: Future students can expect to be surrounded by experienced artists who have worked in industry and genuinely care about your development and goals. Having a mentor who assists when you're stuck but also allows you to forge your own path is something I found incredibly valuable. I was a student who often encountered challenges, having that support not only helped me problem solve, but also empowered me to think for myself and guide the interaction.

Danae Lowe: I believe my experience was unique, while the classes were held remotely, my learning space was amongst artists. To supplement the remote course delivery from Adelaide, I was immersed in the Brisbane studio environment and surrounded by artists who were incredibly inspiring. My day typically consisted of a couple of hours of live remote lectures, followed by time to complete and expand on the class content. Being remote allowed for plenty of screen-sharing with the lecturers to tackle more complicated issues, and when time permitted, I could also get valuable feedback from my neighbouring artists.

What have you found most valuable about your learning experience so far?

Emily Adams: I found the connections I made the most valuable, whether that be with fellow students who were in the course at the same time, the mentors, or the staff I met along the way. These connections ultimately have led me to not only a position in the industry, but with lifelong friends.

Danae Lowe: The best part of this course was getting to see and learn the industry standard software artists are expected to use in their pipelines.

Can you tell me about a school assignment where your teachers gave you helpful feedback?

Emily Adams: There was an end of year assignment for the Lighting/FX part of the third-year course, where I was struggling with the way my tapestry was ripping and falling. My lecturer had asked me something I hadn’t thought about before – have you looked at real life footage? That night I spent hours watching tapestry ripping videos and videoed myself dropping a heavy blanket. This really changed my perspective on the way I looked at creative projects.

Danae Lowe: The most helpful feedback on assignments was always the simplest. I often found myself over-complicating a setup when a much easier solution existed. While troubleshooting with my teacher, I discovered an issue with my rigid body dynamic (RBD) simulation, which simulates how solid objects will fall, break, and interact with other objects. They pointed out where I was missing a vital reference in my test simulation. It finally clicked why my RBD simulation was working poorly. I couldn't thank them enough for helping me uncover that.

What opportunities does RSP provide outside of regular classes?

Emily Adams: During the degree, we had quite a few unique opportunities which helped students understand the workflow of the company. We attended monthly staff meetings, as well as review sessions with artists such as dailies. We also attended ‘DITLOs’, a presentation that is designed to give students a taste of a day in the life of a particular department at RSP. We hear from working artists, to all levels in production; even the President and Managing Director at RSP!

Danae Lowe: We had the opportunity to sit in on monthly staff meetings, which included updates on current projects, upcoming events, and new staff. We also had the chance to attend session reviews and gained insight through DITLOs (day in the life of), in which staff in various roles would explain how they came to be in their career and what their role entails. It was a great way to better understand how everyone’s job works and how the different roles collaborate.

Have you had the opportunity to work with industry professionals or participate in real-world projects during your time at the school?

Emily Adams: I've been incredibly fortunate to land a position at RSP fresh out of my degree. In this supportive environment, I've been able to hone in on my skills, work with world-class artists and gain an invaluable experience. I've achieved so much, such as earning my first screen credit on The Marvels, something I'd call a “bucket list item!” and being promoted to Junior Production Coordinator, where I am today.

Danae Lowe: Not long after finishing the course, I was hired as a Technical Services Operator at RSP. This job has given me a solid foundation in understanding the VFX pipeline. I use the Linux terminal, wrangle the farm, and ingest various data in our pipeline for our artists to use. I'm always excited to see new cuts and developments, especially in some of our recent projects like Knuckles and the popular manga series One Piece. While my friends were excitedly anticipating these shows, I already knew they would love them once they were released.

How does the RSP promote diversity and inclusivity within its student community?

Emily Adams: As students, we're treated as part of the RSP community, and it also meant that their strong values were distilled in us. Rising Sun Pictures take pride in their diversity and inclusivity, which was shown through the actions of the teachers, as well as the staff and artists we interacted with.

Danae Lowe: RSP loves to bring everyone together and has a great culture helped by their community led Social Club. International Women’s Day, World's Greatest Shave, Diwali, and Harmony Day are just a few of the events in which staff and students can participate. My favourite has been Harmony Day. Nothing is better than knowing your stomach is going to be filled with delicious, homemade food by staff who are sharing their country’s culture.

With the VFX Industry evolving to include more women, how do you feel supported at RSP as a woman entering VFX?

Emily Adams: I was treated the same as any other artist in RSP, I was given equal opportunities for professional growth and advancement, just like everyone else in the studio.

Danae Lowe: While there are currently more men than women in the VFX industry, it was never anything I actively thought about. Discussions about learning and taking on new challenges were encouraged regardless of gender. Management and HR make time to listen to any concerns and address them promptly, fostering a culture where everyone feels safe to speak up and are supported.

What are your future goals, and how do you feel RSP has prepared you for them?

Emily Adams:  My future goals are to continue to improve my skills. I am dedicated to delivering my best on every project I undertake, this includes not only excelling as team member, but also providing support and being a voice for the artists I oversee on each show. I know my future is bright when I am with a company like Rising Sun Pictures, and with the knowledge I gained from the program, I know there are no limits to what I can achieve.

Danae Lowe: My short-term goal is to become an Effects Artist, with the ultimate ambition of becoming a VFX Supervisor. As a Technical Services Operator, I gain valuable insight into the collaborative process behind each shot and the intricate work involved at every stage. I aspire to leverage my experience in VFX, understanding all the steps required to create outstanding visual effects, and eventually direct a film.

UniSA’s Bachelor of Visual Effects is an innovative, industry-focussed degree that puts you at the cutting edge of visual effects production. Combining theoretical knowledge, technical skills, and unparalleled industry-based learning, it will set you up for a career as a multi-disciplinary visual effects artist.

You'll learn from experienced artists, work with cutting-edge technology, and gain hands-on experience. If you're passionate about creating photo-realistic imagery and dreaming of a career in the VFX industry, UniSA's program, developed with Rising Sun Pictures, could be the first step toward turning your passion into a profession. Learn more here.