About TDU

Here’s a little secret about our industry…film companies don’t care what software packages you know.

They have proprietary renderers and proprietary software and proprietary workflows that they need to teach all new hires so it doesn’t matter if you know VRay or Nuke or whatever. What they look for are individuals that can demonstrate an ability to create a beautiful image that elicits an emotional reaction from the audience. An artist that can generate a cohesive, well-composed image that shows an artistic eye. This is what TDU focuses on. We’ve designed courses that will not only train you how to initially create a beautiful image, but also how to analyze that image and improve it through iterative steps to ultimately have a successful final product.

What are the origins of TDU? 

TDU is the brainchild of two Lighting TDs who decided to explore a different way of educating students on the non-animation disciplines of animated features and visual effects. TDU is designed to be an online education system that was affordable and accessible to everyone looking to get started in computer graphics or expanding their existing knowledge in this ever-changing industry.

While there are many options for students and professionals to improve their skills in character animation, there were very few options for those interested in lighting, compositing, rigging, materials, FX, and all other crafts in the industry.

tdu is here to change that!

Why did we create TDU?

We created TDU because working in animated features and visual effects has been a dream come true and we wanted to share that experience with you. It is an extremely complex and challenging industry, both technically and artistically, but it is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have.

What are the main philosophies of TDU?

  • Students are trained by current working industry professionals to learn the most up to date practices and techniques.
  • The goal of TDU is not to teach specific software packages. Instead, we focus on teaching the art of creating beautiful images and arming individuals with the well-trained eye needed to be successful in this industry.
  • TDU is an affordable, reasonable way to elevate aspiring artists into the career of their dreams!

Who is behind TDU?

Jasmine Katatikarn and Michael Tanzillo are the Co-Founders of TDU. They are both Senior Lighting Artists at Blue Sky Studios with a combined 20+ years of working on VFX and Animated Films. 

Mike and Jasmine created TDU because working in animated features and visual effects has been a dream come true. They were both struggling, young artists who were a bit lost before making the decision to try and become lighting artists. Since then, they have been able to launch careers that have allowed them the opportunity to not only work in an industry that is challenging and fulfilling, but also lead a full life outside of work including traveling the world and starting a family.

This success did not come without a price. Mike and Jasmine have combined to spend over $100,000 on their education before getting their first jobs in animation. Even after that, there was still a gap between what they learned in school and what they needed to know to ultimately succeed in this industry. Now, after more than 20 films and countless student loan payments, they have designed a way to teach artists the necessary skills in order to be successful in this industry without the huge financial burden. The system included a school designed to be an online education system that was affordable and accessible to everyone around the world who wants to chase their dream of working on the next big animated film.

In other words, they have designed a school they wish existed so they could get their dream job faster and save $100,000 in the process.

That school is TDU.

P. Jasmine Katatikarn

Co-Founder , TDU

When I graduated from College with an Economics degree from Vassar College, I felt a bit lost on what career path I wanted in life. I went to many finance related job interviews and quickly decided it was not the path for me. This is when I went back to what my original passion, the arts. Since I was young, I was taught I should not pursue anything artistic if I wanted a realistic career that did not involve struggling for money. I was always pushed to do something more practical instead, thus the economics degree. It was not until I was 21 years old that I decided to forget about “being practical” and do what would give me inspiration every day and I haven’t looked back since.

I started building a portfolio from scratch the summer after I graduated from college and, by some miracle, landed a job in package design at Godiva Chocolatier. During this time I was introduced to the world of 3D animation through an instructor that was teaching me basic 2D graphic skills. I was instantly intrigued by this new art medium that combined both aesthetic and technical skills. This is when I applied to graduate school at NYU for a Masters of Science in Digital Imaging and Design.

My first job in animation was working on 3D medical visualization. From that experience, I was able to propel myself into VFX and commercial projects at The Mill, Framestore, and RhinoFX for seven years before moving into feature animated film work at Blue Sky Studios. Along with working on animated films, I also had the pleasure of co-authoring a book entitled Lighting for Animation: The Art of Visual Storytelling.

I have never looked back and am so grateful I decided to follow my dreams and chase the “unpractical” career route. Not only am I not a starving artist, I am very financially successful but more importantly I am doing something that I love to do. I am living my own dream and I hope to bring the same to you!


Jasmine is currently a Senior Lighting Technical Director at Blue Sky Studios. Her lighting credits include Ferdinand, Peanuts, Rio 2, Epic, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Rio, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Ghost Town, and The Nanny Diaries.


Michael Tanzillo

Co-Founder , TDU

In 2004, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had just finished college and had a degree in photography but felt completely lost because I still didn’t know what career I wanted. I was making ends meet by waiting tables and working any odd job I could get my hands on.

Then I watched Finding Nemo and my life changed forever.

More specifically I watched a behind the scenes that showed artists scuba diving off the coast of Australia to obtain reference for the look of the film. It showed how they altered the color of the water in certain scenes to specifically elicit an emotional reaction from the audience. I was blown away. I had no idea there were artists that did that kind of visual work on an animated film.

So I did a lot of research and discovered the role of Lighting Artist and I immediately knew this was the career for me. Unfortunately, I also discovered I was grossly under-qualified for such a position and, therefore, I decided to bite the bullet, head back to school, and work my butt off to gain the necessary knowledge to build a demo reel to apply for jobs with animation companies.

Now it is over a decade later and I am working on my 9th feature film as a Senior Lighting TD at Blue Sky Studios and it’s better than I could have imagined. This industry is the combination of artistic creativity and scientific exploration that I always dreamed it would be. It has allowed me the chance to work with some of the most creative and inspiring people I could ever imagine. It has allowed me to accomplish another life goal of becoming a published author when Jasmine and I released Lighting For Animation: The Art of Visual Storytelling. This industry has given me a career that I am proud of and now I can create a future for my family.


Mike is currently a Senior Lighting TD at Blue Sky Studios. His lighting credits include Rio 2, Epic, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Rio, Scrat’s Continental Crack-up, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Peanuts and Ferdinand.


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