Maya Updates – A Student Perspective on New Tools

November 21st, 2014

Recently, while taking a break from working on a model, I decided to look through Maya 2015’s new features to see if there was anything awesome and worth trying. I found that there were some pretty cool changes that made Maya much more intriguing than before. First, Autodesk has enhanced the user interface to make it much more intuitive. They have added support for multi-touch viewport navigation on Wacom and Apple track pads. The Walk Tool was added which allows you to control Maya’s perspective camera. This tool allows video game controls so the user can easily move and scale objects on two axes at once. In addition, they have added new deformer options, (to alter and animate object shapes), as well as geodesic voxel binding for use with rigging along with several other improvements. The most noteworthy of all changes is the way Mental Ray benefits from interactive production rendering. Through the use of progressive mode, the process of lighting and shading shots has greatly sped up. Mental Ray now displays preview ray-traced reflections, which gives an overall better visual when designing materials. Thanks Autodesk, for continued awesome updates to one of the best 3D modeling suites!

Peter Gazallo
Digital Art & Animation Student
Cogswell College

Cogswell Kicks Off 2nd Annual After School Program with San Jose’s Independence High School

November 20th, 2014

COGSWELL COLLEGE KICKS OFF 2ND ANNUAL “AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAM” FOR FALL 2014 IN CONJUNCTION WITH SAN JOSE’S INDEPENDENCE HIGH SCHOOL

Sunnyvale, CA, November 10, 2014 – Cogswell College, a leading educational institution offering a unique, project-based curriculum fusing Digital Art, Engineering and Entrepreneurship, has just commenced its 2nd Annual “After School” program with 48 students currently enrolled.

Cogswell College designed this program in conjunction Mr. Jack Aiello a senior instructor with San Jose’s Independence High School. The After School program represents a shared endeavor between Cogswell College and Independence High School, and is made possible for the high school through a five year grant from Goodwill to Independence High and Cogswell’s support of providing free instructions and usage of their studios and equipment.

The Cogswell After School program will run for eight weeks, and offers courses in the areas of Digital Audio, Digital Animation and Game Design. This unique program engages students in a project-based learning environment led by Cogswell faculty, and features classes modeled on a redesigned Cogswell curriculum – one that is specifically suited to meet the needs of high school students.

Abraham Chacko, Cogswell’s VP of Admissions & Marketing, and facilitator for the After School program, said, “The teenagers who attend Independence High School are from the Silicon Valley, so when they realize that we are offering custom designed classes to them in digital animation, game design and digital audio, their ears really perk up! They know that future jobs within companies like Disney and Pixar might be within reach, if they have the knowledge and exposure to these digital art forms early in life.”

“We are delighted to be in the second year of this program. Last year, the response to this wonderful program was terrific. We had 50 students participate in 2013,” Grettel Castro-Stanley, Independent High School’s Principal said. “Those students reported back to us that they learned a lot, were inspired and encouraged, and had a great deal of fun in the process.”

Independence High School’s Jack Aiello is a “Project Lead The Way” – trained instructor who teaches Introduction to Engineering Design at Independence High. He is also a coordinator of that school’s pre-engineering program, Space Technology Engineering Academy Magnet (STEAM). He serves as the faculty facilitator for the Cogswell After School program in tandem with Chacko.

“Running an after school class with 20 students at Cogswell, working in a project-based environment, is far more advantageous than the more traditional teaching model that involves lectures or video presentations at the front of a classroom of 35 or more students,” says Aiello. “The hands-on computer and audio equipment, programming tools and industry-experienced instructors that Cogswell offers us are a tremendously valuable resource. The partnership with Cogswell allows our students an exciting peek into the ‘behind-the-scenes’ world of the digital creative arts, and gives them a leg up into the super competitive, post graduate world of securing creative jobs in the digital space.”

ABOUT INDEPENDENCE HIGH SCHOOL:

Located in San Jose, CA, Independence High School is one of the largest high schools in Northern California. With a student body of approximately 3200 for the 2014-2015 year, Independence is also part of the East Side Union High School District. The high school is one of about 400 State of California school participants in the California Partnership Academies (CPA) program. The program stresses rigorous academics and career technical education, with a career focus. Schools involved with the CPA program boast the highest graduation rates (95%) in the state, attributing this to their focus on pre-engineering and technical education programs and smaller learning communities.

For more information on Independence High School, please see: http://www.ihs.schoolloop.com/

ABOUT COGSWELL COLLEGE:

Designed as a “fiercely collaborative, living laboratory,” Cogswell College is located in the heart of the legendary Silicon Valley in Sunnyvale, California. The school is a WASC accredited, four-year institution of higher education with a specialized curriculum that fuses digital arts, audio technology, game design, engineering and entrepreneurship.

Numerous alumni of Cogswell College have secured prominent positions within the entertainment, videogame, technology, computer, animation, and motion graphics industries throughout California and beyond. Several of these alumni have established careers with such high profile companies as Activision, DreamWorks Animation, Disney, Electronic Arts, Pixar, and Microsoft Game Studio. Many other alumni have launched their own creative ventures.

Recent Cogswell alumni were members of the Academy Award-winning production teams which worked on the blockbuster films “Frozen” and “Life of Pi.” Some of the other well-known consumer projects to which Cogswell alumni have contributed include the feature films “The Boxtrolls” and “The Avengers,” and the popular videogames “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,” “Halo 4” and “Battlefield Hardline.”

Additionally, animated short films conceived and produced by Cogswell students have gone on to win prestigious awards, including those presented by the California International Animation Festival, the Colorado Film Festival, the Oregon Film Festival, the Miami Film Festival, the Philadelphia Film & Animation Festival, the San Jose Short Film Festival, and Canada’s International Film Festival.

Cogswell College is located at 1175 Bordeaux Drive, Sunnyvale, California, 94089. For more information, please call 1-800-264-7955 or visit: http://www.cogswell.edu/

Contact for Cogswell College:
Rachael Sass
Creative Services Manager
Sunnyvale, CA
408/498-5150
rsass@cogswell.edu

Media Contact for Cogswell College:
Dan Harary
The Asbury PR Agency
Beverly Hills, CA
310/859-1831
dan@asburypr.com

Former Cogswell Alumni Finds Success in the Solar Energy Industry

November 18th, 2014

Former Cogswell Alumni Dean Sala, 52,  has found success in the alternative energy industry. He is both the Founder and CEO of Suntactics, a company that specializes in producing portable Solar Chargers and Solar Panels. Dean’s company and products have been featured and covered by Forbes.com, Mother Earth News, NBC, ABC, CBS, The Mercury News and The San Francisco Chronicle. The following is an interview as it appeared in a November issue of the magazine Kiplinger, Personal Finances, and is credited to Patricia Mertz Esswein.

You worked in high tech?

Yes, for 23 years, 15 of them as a software engineer for Hewlett-Packard. In 2008, HP shut down my whole division, and I was out of a job. I didn’t see myself going back to software, so I returned to school to finish a second degree, in electrical engineering.

Why Suntactics?

Solar power has interested me since I was a kid. When I returned so school, I teamed up with a partner to power a full size glider with solar energy. We worked on other projects, and in 2009 we formed a general partnership to focus on making a portable yet powerful solar panel to charge a phone. In 2010 my partner said, “I don’t think this is going to work,” and left amicably. Since then, I’ve developed three products that can charge devices with a USB connection. I have provisional patents on my designs, and I’ve sold almost 10,000 units, mostly via our website (www.suntactics.com) and Amazon.com. Our chargers range in price from $140 to $240. They’ll charge an iPhone in two hours or less in direct sunlight, as fast as a wall outlet. They’re popular with outdoors enthusiasts, among others.

You made the panels yourself at first?

The cheapest solar panel laminator I could find cost $50,000 and was full size. I needed a pint-size one. So I built my first one out of parts from a pizza oven that  bought at Goodwill. I cranked out 2,000 panels in my garage.

Did you get any outside help?

To perfect my process, I picked the brains of a scientist and a couple of engineering PhDs. But in my previous career, I never saw the sales and marketing end, and now I was trying to run a business. So I appealed to Score [www.score.org a nonprofit group that mentors small businesses]. When I told them I couldn’t keep with with orders, that’s all they needed to hear. I have two counselors- one is an expert in manufacturing and the other in marketing. They helped me find a small manufacturer to produce more units under contract.

How did you finance your start up?

I took out a home-equity line of credit on my house and borrowed about $42,000. More recently, I got a line of credit that’s backed by the Small Business Administration.

Do you make a living?

In 2013, we did more than $500,000 in sales, and I paid myself about $65,000. That’s a lot less than the $100,000 I made at the peak of my career as a software engineer, but because I’m a sole proprietor I can write off a lot of stuff on my tax return.

What’s ahead?

Our next product will charge laptops. I’m gradually bringing production into my own facility because contracting it out is expensive. We need to get into retail outlets. Our products are sold in Batteries Plus stores, but it’s a struggle to get into sporting-goods and big-box stores.

Is your work rewarding?

I’d rather do this than anything else. My customers are my bosses, and I like to make them happy. Plus, I bought a company car: a Chevy Camaro that replaces the ’68 model I sold to go to college and the ’98 pickup I had been driving. It’s my dream car.

Dean’s story is proof that it’s never too late to go back to school or follow and pursue your dreams. All it takes is a bit of patience, hard work, and determination. Congratulations Dean!

Cogswell Hosts Their Annual Holiday Wish Drive!

November 17th, 2014

Cogswell Holiday Wish Drive with Family Giving TreeCogswell College is proud announce their nearly-decade-long tradition of the annual Holiday Wish Drive in partnership with the Family Giving Tree, an organization dedicated to fulfilling the wishes of local children and their families during the holiday season. Since 1990, the Family Giving Tree has fulfilled more than one million holiday wishes for Bay Area children in need. The Family Giving Tree partners with Bay Area social service agencies to collect specific gift wishes from children with whom they work year-round. With the help of 1,000 donating groups like ours, the Family Giving Tree was able to fulfill the wishes of more than 68,000 children last year!

Thousands more of local children are hoping to experience the joy of receiving a gift this holiday season. You can spread holiday joy in a couple of ways:

  1. Choose a card and shop for the specific gift. Wish cards with the name, age, gender, and wish of a person in need are located in The Pulse office inside the Admissions office.
  2. Go online and sponsor a child’s wish by visiting vgt.FamilyGivingTree.org/cogswell
  3. Choose an envelope and mail in your donation. Donation envelopes are also located in The Pulse office.

Cogswell continues to increase it’s donations year after year and hopes to donate 100 gifts this holiday season.

Women in Animation at Pixar

November 17th, 2014

Women in Animation - Pixar

After an hour and a half stuck in traffic on the way to Emeryville, California, a few misguided GPS turns while I was trying to follow my friend’s car, and a couple of mental debates asking myself if this was really still worth all of the effort, we pulled into Pixar’s parking lot. We were fortunate enough to be invited to an event hosted by Women in Animation, a group focused on the success of women in the field of animation.  The group had arranged for Darla Anderson, a Producer at Pixar, to talk about her work and answer questions from the audience.

Women in Animation - Pixar's Darla AndersonDarla K. has been the producer for films including Toy Story 3, Monsters Inc., and A Bug’s Life. She was even the inspiration for the name behind “Darla the Fish-Killer” in Finding Nemo, a prank that had been played on her by a co-worker during production.

The first 45 minutes were spent socializing and mixing with other members of Women in Animation. We met plenty of students from San Jose State, and some from the Art Academy of San Francisco while munching on hors d’oeuvres and sipping cocktails (huzzah!). At 7:00 pm, we were ushered into the auditorium.

From the beginning of her talk, it was clear Darla was an exceptional human being. She told us about her past, and her journey from a homeless teenager to a Pixar producer. It was evident from her personality that she never took no for an answer when it was something she wanted badly enough. She’d chased her dreams across California to San Francisco where Pixar had just started up and was undertaking a full-length animated film – a crazy feat in most people’s opinion. It took two years for her to finally get into Pixar, but once there, she worked up the ranks to land her first producer’s job on A Bug’s Life. Her talk was filled with humor and she spoke in high regard of the people she’d worked with over the course of her career, including Steve Jobs.

It was an amazing experience to hear one of the voices behind the films we all love today, and see the path she took to get to where she is now. It was also wonderful talking to so many other people who had the same passion for animation, and we all left Pixar inspired.

~ Sierra Gaston
Digital Art & Animation student at Cogswell College

Michal Makarewicz, Directing Animator at Pixar Studios Coming to Cogswell

November 17th, 2014

Cogswell Career Development Center Presents: Michal Makarewicz
Wednesday, November 19th
6:00 PM
Dragon’s Den

Have you ever wanted to see an industry professional do an animation demo? Ever wonder how to develop your project? Cogswell College hosts Michal Makarewicz today to answer your questions and more.

Michal Makarewicz, Directing Animator at Pixar Studios and Instructor at Animation Collaborative, will provide an hour-long animation demo at Cogswell. Whether you are new to animation or more experienced, Michal offers tips and techniques for developing your animation project. The presentation is in partnership with Animation Collaborative – an organization that offers workshops throughout the year on various animation industry specialties.

OM3D – 3D Manipulation of 2D Photos

November 14th, 2014

When it comes to editing photographs, Photoshop reigns supreme. But what if there was a better approach to editing a photograph? What if you could take an element within a picture and have full manipulation control over everything about it? Better yet, what if you could do it for free? Researchers over at Carnegie Mellon and the University of California found a way to do just that – through the announcement of a new, free, suite of 3D manipulation software. Their software, titled OM3D, allows a user to take an object within a 2D photograph and turn it into a 3D model. That model can then be manipulated and moved around the photo however the user desires. It also allows the users to adjust the lighting and texture of an object in order to blend in with its surroundings. The software achieves this by utilizing vast libraries of stock photographs and 3D models, and compares them to the two dimensional object the user wishes to shape. It then merges the attributes from the library of stock photos with that of the 2D object to create a 3D model that is viewable from every angle. Once the model is created, the photograph can be freely edited.


Demonstration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipTyCJi0t1Y
Download: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~om3d/code/OM3D_1_0_0_source.zip

The Book Of Life, New Knowledge

November 13th, 2014

Recently I had the pleasure of watching The Book of Life with my family. I’ll be perfectly honest, I didn’t know about the movie until a few days before Halloween. An animator who wasn’t aware of such an original movie? My word! But I saw it, and I’m glad I did. The Book of Life is brought to us by Mexican Director Jorge R. Gutierrez, co-creator of the cartoon series “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera”. After spending years trying to get somebody to believe in the project, Guillermo Del Toro signed on as producer.

Presented in a beautiful and original style, the main characters in The Book of Life are animated wooden sculptures bursting with life and emotion. There’s no shortage of appealing facial expressions and great character animation, each character moves and behaves in her or her own unique way. Color is a main focus of the art direction as well, each scene practically glows, with set pieces so intricate and detailed you swear you could reach out and touch them. The story is wholesome as well, having a little bit of everything. Family, friendship, love, growing up and more. I definitely recommend the movie if you haven’t already seen it.

Watching the movie reminded me of my current classes at Cogswell College and what is being taught in them. Most recently, I’ve been learning about the importance of lighting when it comes to character definition and scene composition. Both elements are used quite successfully in the movie. In the past, I had trouble establishing multiple layers of depth in a scene using contrast, or value; my art would look flat. What I’ve learned in my classes is that by using a simple gray scale, you can compose a scene or render a character in black and white and then make a value scale with colors, if you wish to color it all. I never knew! Perhaps someday when my skills are up to par, or better than industry standards, you will see my name in the long list of movie credits or posters around your hometown. Until then, I’m learning, getting better, hopeful and excited for what the future may bring.

Thanks for reading.

Juan Rubio, Digital Art & Animation Student

IGDA (International Game Developers Association) Meeting

November 12th, 2014

Cogswell Presents: IGDA (International Game Developers Association) Meeting
Wednesday, November 12th
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Dragon’s Den

The Silicon Valley chapter of the IGDA (International Game Developers Association) will be meeting on-campus at Cogswell on 11/12 in the Dragon’s Den at 7 pm. PlayPhone will demo integration of the Android SDK into a game and discuss why PlayPhone’s carrier gaming network is the essential addition to traditional publishing channels to maximize discovery, engagement and revenue.

More on PlayPhone:

PlayPhone is the world’s premier mobile social gaming network. Our social gaming platform enables mobile carriers to easily offer their customers a leading edge, personalized gaming experience with the most advanced social gaming features available today. PlayPhone reaches more than a billion mobile subscribers worldwide via game stores live on Verizon, Sprint, SingTel, Telkomsel, Vivo, Claro, TIM, Virgin Mobile, Mobily and Boost Mobile ­ with more carriers coming soon. In addition, PlayPhone lets game developers launch games globally and access carrier billing for all game stores plus a complete toolbox of social and monetization features using a single integration SDK. PlayPhone’s Android, Unity and HTML5 SDK is less than 100KB and takes about an hour to integrate into games.

Additional sponsors: Five Leaf Clover, Mary-Margaret Network.
http://www.playphone.com/

Day of the Devs

November 10th, 2014

Day of the Devs - Double Fine convention - in San Francisco, California

It was a video game enthusiast’s paradise. Screens and consoles decked every wall of (nearly) every room of the two story Old Mint building in San Francisco, all displaying demos of games to be released within the next year. There was a crowd gathered around each display, each person eager to get a chance at playing the game. I was attending with a few other friends from Cogswell, whose brains I could audibly hear exploding as they took in scenery and games around them.

The turnout of indie game developers was amazing. Day of the Devs was hosted by Double Fine, so they had a room full of their own soon-to-be-released games such as Costume Quest 2 and even a remastered version of Grim Fandango, but the rest of the building was filled with small studio games like Night In The Woods and Knight Squad (my personal favorites), Classroom Aquatic, Push Me Pull You, Spy Party, Ikarus, and Please Don’t, Spacedog. A few of the games were played with an Oculus Rift headset. There was even a swag shop full of t-shirts and books related to the games. Outside in the courtyard was a bar and a stage where live DJ’s played music, and games were actively played on a large screen by their developers.

It was enough to make any self-declared nerd hyperventilate. Being as there were a thousand in attendance, the excitement in the air was palpable. Within the first ten minutes, I was thrown a controller and fighting in an arena with five or six other well-seasoned game players. My first thought was along the line of panic, as I was sure I was going to get my butt kicked by people who definitely played more often than I did, but by the first game I was hooked and throwing other players to their deaths.

In the game Classroom Aquatic, one player wore Oculus Rift headgear and was plunged into an underwater school for dolphins. The character they played was a student diver who hadn’t studied for a test. As a result, the player is forced to cheat off of the neighboring students in the room. The trick was to avoid being caught by the teacher. The game effectively gave the player knots in their stomach, and was especially nerve-wracking when players were caught and scolded by the teacher.

Day of the Devs was amazing for one huge reason; EVERYONE there was in love with games, whether they were fans or developers. As a result, there was a feeling of common purpose and enthusiasm. We were all there for the same thing, and it was exciting to be in a place where people from inside the industry and out of it mixed together in a gaming paradise.

During the course of the evening, we got to talk to Double Fine creators, several other indie game makers, and even managed some networking with other people in the game industry! It was absolutely a beneficial experience, and it made the prospect of graduation and getting to work in the industry more tangible. I’m looking forward to next year with Day of the Devs!