Just a quick reminder to all those who want to go to CTN Animation Expo this year, November 15-17, to buy your ticket before August 31st as after that there will be a price increase! For students, the 3-day pass is currently $135 and there is a 10% discount. I am currently contemplating whether or not I want to go this year. Sad face. It was an amazing experience and so much fun when I went last year but unfortunately it mainly consists of animators and concept artists/illustrators. There was one little booth where modelers where showing off some zBrush features but most importantly there was nothing in the terms of lighting and texturing. For that I'd have to go to SIGGRAPH but that would be way out of my budget at over $1000 for a ticket. Granted, CTN is quite a new event, it only just started back in 2009 so I would love to see the expo expand further to include other areas of the industry.
Definitely get the 3 day passport as it is an amazing 3-day packed expo. You get access to all the panels and events. The VIP passport gets you into a special VIP room and you get to cut in front of even fast pass holders for panels. I would say to reserve buying a VIP passport for those who are actively looking for a job as that VIP room is apparently to mingle and get close to industry professionals. Later on, CTN will release some special panels that people can pay extra for but unless there is something very specific that you find yourself just having to go see, I would suggest not buying them as there are a lot of panels to go to already and even if you have some downtime there are a lot of booths by artists that you can go around to, watch some workshops, or just mingle with all the other people there.
I would additionally suggest going a day or two early and expecting to leave either late Sunday or not until Monday as there are special events where studios invite a certain amount of people to tour the studio or special screenings of movies. There's also the choice that since you're down in Burbank to hop on over and enjoy Disneyland!
I've applied for the student volunteer at CTN but I haven't heard anything about it yet. Apparently applicants won't know until October 1st which is unfortunately quite late. Being a volunteer at an event such as this looks great on resumes and such. I have heard some horror stories from friends about unless you're an AV person in the panel room who gets to directly interact with the speakers the volunteering can be very dull with just directing crowds and that you miss out on events CTN has to offer and thus you don't get to enjoy yourself as much. I don't think that I would mind that much since I didn't really go to all the more technical panels of animation and drawing but more of the ones where it was more about showcasing what the studio has done and is upcoming.