Cogswell Brings Original VR Mobile Game “We Are Cubed” To SIGGRAPH 2015’s “Appy Hour”

August 3rd, 2015

Sunnyvale, CA, July 27, 2015 –Cogswell College, a historic, 600-student educational institution offering a unique curriculum fusing Digital Art, Engineering and Entrepreneurship, will have two students from its Game Design & Development Program present a newly produced, school-developed mobile VR game during the 2015 SIGGRAPH Conference’s “Appy Hour” showcase in Los Angeles (August 9-13).

Originally prototyped during the 2015 Global Game Jam by Cogswell students Christian Sasso and Steven Ulrich, “We Are Cubed” (WeR3) is the next evolution of 3D puzzle game. Sasso and Ulrich will demonstrate WeR3 during SIGGRAPH 2015’s “Appy Hour,” a cocktail reception where independent app developers can show their apps to the SIGGRAPH 2015 attendees. During this event, participants get feedback, cultivate new ideas, and make contacts to help move their efforts along. “Appy Hour” features new apps that use augmented reality, computational photography, image manipulation, location-based gaming, or anything someone can make a mobile device do.

In WeR3, each level presents players with a colored canvas they must recreate using their own colored avatar. Players must develop a strategy for moving their six-sided avatar across the landscape, as some faces of the avatar “paint” different colors. Developed in the Unity Game Engine using Google Cardboard technology, the game can be enjoyed as a standalone smartphone experience using touch controls or, much more interestingly, as a completely hands-free Virtual Reality experience. The Virtual Reality mode immerses the player within the game world, and the intuitive and easy to use controls take nothing away from the experience. For more information about WeR3, please visit http://myvirtualrealitygames.com

Regarding today’s news, John Duhring, Director, Strategic Alliances and Alumni Relations with Cogswell College, said, “The acceptance by Siggraph of our students’ new game ‘WeR3’ points to a critical note of differentiation about our school’s approach. There is no doubt that conventional wisdom embraces the idea that exposure to research provides the best college experience. However, most colleges request that students graduate first before they are allowed to create experiments. Our students have the opportunity to paw through brand new technologies and generate their own experiences while they are still undergrads. I believe that our approach is more effective. Our results speak for themselves.”

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. In 2015, Cogswell was cited by Animation Career Review as “One of the Top 50 Private Game Design Schools and Colleges in the U.S.”

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 “Big Hero 6” and “The Avengers,” and the popular videogames “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,” “Halo 4” and “Battlefield Hardline.”

As seen on:
Gamasutra
Creative Planet Network

Professor Julius Dobos, Award-Winning Electronic Music and Film Score Composer, Releases ‘Forgotten Future: W1′

July 30th, 2015

New Electronic Music Album is First in 4-Installment Concept Series from Acclaimed Composer

Sunnyvale, CA, July 21, 2015 – Julius Dobos, an award-winning, platinum-album composer mostly known for his film-scores and electronic musical works, has released the first piece of a unique psybient electronic music project, under the moniker forgotten future. Entitled forgotten future: W1, the new album is the first installment of a 4-piece concept series, the framework of a musical and ideological endeavor, which aims to take the listener through Universal themes centered around four “big questions”: human existence, time, space, and purpose. Far form being dogmatic, forgotten future: W1 offers an environment of alternative realism for the listener to explore their “future memories” in, and find their personal answers.

The original concept work borrows elements both from current science and ancient belief systems, but also deeply crosses into metaphysics. Comprised of complex rhythmic patterns, haunting melodies, monumental electronic instrumentation, dynamic structures, cutting edge sound design and organic textures of electronic soundscapes, the music evokes strong emotions and memories, sending its listeners on a 15-track psybient journey through time, space and new dimensions. To preview select clips from the new album, please visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYfcSRrZepM

Dobos also spends time as a Distinguished Lecturer in Residence within the Digital Audio Technology program at Silicon Valley’s Cogswell College. “Julius Dobos’ ‘Forgotten Future’ is a terrific album containing truly beautiful music. We are very fortunate to have such a creative artist of this caliber in our midst,” said Timothy W. Duncan, Professor and Director of the college’s Digital Audio Technology program.

Said Dobos, “Forgotten Future: W1 is the story of a journey – one of multiversal scale, beyond the boundaries of time and through seven dimensions. It is about the journey we will all take one day. We are frightened of the unknown, yet it feels so familiar… it feels like we have been in this environment before. This trip is a curious and humbling experience, a galactic travel on a forgotten road that takes us to a mysterious destination, which road seems like… we must have traveled it before. Upon returning from our voyage, we only bring the distant memories of feelings with us… forgetting the experience – which we will re-live again, in the future.”

Forgotten future: W1 took Dobos five years to conceptualize, compose music and design sounds for – every bit of audio heard on the album is built from the ground up. Vincent Villuis of the genre-leading Ultimae label and dark-ambient pioneer Robert Rich also contributed to the production in the mastering phase. According to Dobos, an important goal was to create a long-term listening experience with music that features dozens of (almost) hidden layers – each with a meaning or emotion attached to it. “If even after the seventeenth listen you are still discovering new elements, cool little details that might change your interpretation of the concept, I will feel I was successful” – said the composer.

ABOUT JULIUS DOBOS:

The Hungarian-born Dobos started his piano studies at age five and was composing music at nine. After combining his studies in music production, audio engineering and composition, he scored art films, feature movies, designed soundscapes for installations, released seven albums and worked on projects such as the DragonBall Z soundtracks, produced music for use in national television shows and movies such as Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Mallcop and Zookeeper.

Between his work as forgotten future and composing music for use in film, Dobos also shares his production experience with the audio professionals of the future. As a Distinguished Lecturer in residence at Cogswell Polytechnical College of Silicon Valley, an educational institution offering a unique curriculum fusing Digital Art, Engineering and Entrepreneurship, he teaches music production and sound design courses. He also leads an original audio- and music production program, MediaWorks, in which students have worked with such real-life clients as Panasonic or TEDx. In 2012, Dobos moved his cutting-edge electronic music production center, Studio CS, to Cogswell’s campus, providing students access to his collection of unique sound synthesis tools and expertise.

“FORGOTTEN FUTURE: W1″ INFO:

The new album is now available via all major outlets both as a digital download, a 24-bit studio master, and as a premium digipak edition CD complete with a 20-page booklet featuring the original work of three European digital painters.

Available via:

Composed and Performed by: Forgotten Future
Produced by: Julius Dobos
Label: Creative Shop Music
Publishing: Creative Shop Publishing and Spirit Music Group

Official websites: http://www.juliusdobos.com and http://www.forgottenfuturemusic.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. For more information, please call 1-800-264-7955 or visit: http://www.cogswell.edu

As seen on:
Mix Online
Music Industry News Network
Pro Sound Network
Trailer Music Vibe
Creative Planet Network

Upcoming Pixar Films

July 28th, 2015

For those who haven’t already seen it, Inside Out is Pixar’s most recent movie. Their next major release is going to be the alternate prehistory story, The Good Dinosaur. The lush and vibrant Lava was the short shown before Inside Out, and prior to The Good Dinosaur animator Sanjey Patel’s Sanjay’s Super Team will debut.

Sanjay’s Super Team will deal with both religion and spirituality, and the experiences of a young boy (Sanjay) as he’s exposed to a world he doesn’t fully understand or appreciate in particular. Sanjay loves superheros, he lives in a motel and watches a lot of TV especially when his dad has a prayer or ritual session.

This short will also be done a style that’s much more bold, striking, and vibrant than what we’ve grown used to seeing from Pixar. According to producer Nicole Paradis Grindle the short comes from a, “very different cultural place than all the other stories we’ve told before. And for kids who come from these backgrounds to see themselves on screen, it’s exciting for us.”

Looking at one the two brand new production stills released not too long ago, we can see Sanjay playing with an action figure with his Dad in the background. In the other it seems like Sanjay has actually been transported to a different reality. With three interpretations of three Hindu gods behind him, Sanjay appears to be in distress over something. It seems the short is one in two distinct styles, one more traditional Pixar while in the human world, and the other hyper vibrant, bold, and cell-shaded.

The short won’t have any dialogue in it whatsoever, but the score will be done by Oscar Award winning composer Mychael Danna (Life of Pi). Seeing Pixar try something new is refreshing and exciting, while I’m a fan of their overall style, seeing them break from their norm is going to be great.

One last thing that makes this short special, is that its based on Sanjay Patel’s own childhood. In an interview covered by Sam Whiting of SFgate.com, Patel said:

“My parents emigrated from the U.K. when I was about 5. We moved to Southern California and my parents bought a motel, which is very common for Patels. It kind of rhymes. ‘Hotel, motel, Patel.’ ”

“A lot of foreign nationals came here and they needed a place to live and they wanted to buy a business. My entire family runs motels and my wife’s entire family runs motels as well.”

“My mother was schizophrenic and my parents didn’t have a lot of resources. Because of my mother’s state we were isolated from the Indian community. I was already detached from Americans because of my skin color and my parents’ business. I wasn’t living in a neighborhood. Another level of detachment. It left me with a lot of free time, which was the upside.” and so he watched a lot of TV, “I was stuck in that motel, so there weren’t a lot of options.”

If you’d like to read more about Patel, check out the full interview at SFGate.com.

Sanjay’s Super Team premiered at this years Annecy animation festival in Europe, for the rest of us, it will be attached to The Good Dinosaur which is set to premier November 25th, 2015.

- Juan Rubio

Artists on Instagram

July 17th, 2015

Greetings everyone!

Let’s talk about Instagram. I’ve really only had one social media profile which I used for everything. Recently, I decided to get an Instagram account since I tend to share more photos than anything else. It’s quick, easy, and it works rather well for my needs. After playing with the app for a while I found the suggested follows page.

For the artists reading this blog: listen up! There is a treasure trove of unique artists all over Instagram, be it 2D, 3D, traditional or experimental and more. If anyone is ever lacking in inspiration, or needs some cool visual references to get their creative juices flowing, just flip through artists on Instagram. The more artists you follow, the more it will suggest for you. Many of them are famous and well known but occasionally you’ll find a real talented gem that very few people know of.

These “smaller” artists need support too, and in our day and age a simple like and comment can make somebody’s day. It lets the artist know that, “Yes. We like this, more of this please”. This can also influence what direction the artist eventually goes in, or at least let them know what their fans like and want so they can produce more or less of that.

- Juan Rubio

Campbell Con 2015

July 6th, 2015

Source: Campbell Con

Official Press Release for the 1st Campbell Con follows
Since Campbell is a relatively small town, the whole idea behind this convention is that it’s a much smaller and more intimate event. Most well known conventions such as the San Diego Comic Con, Fanime, Emerald City Comicon, SacAnime, et cetera, are rather large and have a very different vibe and energy to them. Since they are larger, fans get less one-on-one time with guests, speakers, and industry professionals. While there are meet and greets, signings, panels and more, there is a certain sense of a disconnect (at least for me).

Campbell Con aims to allow fans to have more individualized interactions with the folks they admire and follow. Be it actors, voice actors, cosplayers, artists, collectors, vendors or anyone well regarded across one or various platforms or industries, the fans will have plenty of opportunities to meet with the professionals. If you’d like to know more about the convention, please visit the official webpage or look for the event on Facebook and follow the page!

The Facebook page is updated on a regular basis, and many posts talk about the latest developments in the world of comics, video games, movies, and more. A special offer for ticket discounts is available on the official Campbell Con Facebook page which expires August 1st of this year, so if you are interested please take advantage of the offer.

The entirety of the event will be held at the Campbell Community Center with the Banquet Hall being used as the main exhibitor room. There will be panel rooms at a nearby building, and the attendees are free to use all of the outdoors spaces as well.

Source: Campbell Con

Source: Campbell Con

You can also ask questions directly on the Facebook page if there’s any clarification needed. I will be attending the event and will cover it on the blog, take plenty of pictures, and hopefully meet some cool people. I think folks from Cogswell, and fans from all around would enjoy this event. Stuff to do includes: An Artist Alley, Board Games, Cosplay Events (without Prizes) Dealer Room, Formal Dance, Autographs (for a fee), Free Autographs, General Cosplay, Guest Panels, and Sci Fi Screenings.

Some interesting people and groups will be attending including but not limited to: Guest of Honor Chris Marrinan, artist/special guest Omar Morales, multitalent/special guest Dominick Brascia, Lassie child actor Jon Provost, voice actor/special guest Chris Edgerly, voice actress/special guest Margo Apostolos (this would be her first ever Con! She was Ewok warrior Tokkat in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi), voice actress/special guest Georgie Kidder (Jedi Master Adi Gallia in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, also first Con!), voice actress/special guest Kathy Garver (Firestar in the 1980′s Spiderman cartoon ) and more.

Give the convention a shot, this is the first ever for Campbell and I for one hope it succeeds.

Juan Rubio – Cogswell College
3D Animation Student
Internal Public Relations, Blog Administrator/Writer
Industry News Coverage

Campbell To Get Its First Ever Pop Culture Convention

June 23, 2015 – CAMPBELL, CALIF. [The] City of Campbell is having its first ever pop culture convention. The event, called Campbell Con, will be held November 7, 2015 at Campbell Community Center and will feature celebrity guests, cosplayers, artists, collectors and vendors. Celebration of all things pop culture from comic books to movies to fantasy and sci-fi will put Campbell on the geek map of Silicon Valley.

“Being often overshadowed by San Jose, Campbell remains a great family-friendly community that needs a pop culture convention of its own,” – says Campbell Con Show Director Marina Lukyantseva and adds: “That’s why we decided to bring some geeky fun to Campbell and give it the tagline “Your Neighborhood Pop Culture Convention. You don’t need to travel far to meet your favorite celebrities and have a day of fun for the entire family”.

[The] Guest of Honor this year is renowned comic book artist Chris Marrinan, best known for his works for Marvel and DC including Excalibur and Wonder Woman. The celebrity guest lineup also includes actor Jon Provost (Lassie, The Country Girl, Back From Eternity, Escapade in Japan), actress Kathy Garver (Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, The Ten Commandments, Family Affair), actor Dominick Brascia (Friday 13th Part V, National Lampoon’s Last Resort), comic book artist John Heebink (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD), artist Mark Badger (Batman: Jazz, Spiderman Online), Underground cartoonist Bruce Simon and Omar Morales [creator of the comic book ‘CruZader: Agent of the Vatican’], and cosplayer Silly Little Missy.

Campbell Con will also feature a Star Wars gathering with the following Star Wars Special Guests in appearance: Chris Edgerly (Jedi Master Eeth Koth in Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Zach Hanks (Garnac in Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Georgie Kidder (Ganodi in Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Angelique Perrin (Jedi Master Adi Gallia in Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Margo Apostolos (Ewok warrior Tokkat in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi).

Campbell Con promises to be a day of fun for [people of] all ages and fans of superheroes, comic books, movies, TV shows and collectibles. Attendees will also be able to shop from their favorite exhibitors and creators including Katie Shaw (Dragon Child), David Mejia, Christopher Cayco, Beyond Forever Studio, Heroes Comic Books, Herring & Robinson Bookbinders, Echo Base Media, The Carbonite Chamber, Amy Gohal, Steampunk Wolf, KatGirl Studio, Lost Graphics, Edgy Brothers, Illusive Comics & Games, Isle of Gamers, A Different Studio, Space Cat Comics & Cards, Pat Collectibles, Jack Kirby Museum and more.

“What makes Campbell Con different is that it is an experience that is pop culture with a touch of intimacy,’ explains the Show Director. ‘Unlike big corporate conventions where fans are rushed out, Campbell Con offers all attendees a unique opportunity to spend quality time with celebrity guests, creators, exhibitors and friends.

[The] Fun begins November 7, 2015 at 10 am and [the event] welcomes fans of all ages [that are] passionate about pop culture and especially comics and movies, [and] interested in all sorts of entertainment, media and technologies. Tickets available online only at www.campbellcon.com

Source: Campbell Con

Students at Cogswell College spend 48 hours developing games

July 2nd, 2015

The following article originally on the Mercury News website, February 4th 2015 written by Jasmine Leyva of the Mercury News. It covers the 2015 Global Game Jam event at Cogswell, and offers an inside look at the thoughts, philosophies and experiences the folks at Cogswell had earlier this year.


Cogswell College was one of 518 global sites to participate in the 2015 Global Game Jam, an annual event that sees students and gaming enthusiasts hunker down for 48 hours and create what they hope will be the next great game.

Students, professionals, alumni and hobbyists have risen to a new challenge each year to develop a game, whether it be digital or non-digital, to match a secret theme. This year’s theme was “What do we do now?”

“It’s an open-ended theme, but it’s meant to be open-ended so that the developers have the freedom to do whatever they want, but they have to capture the theme in some way,” Organizer and assistant professor Albert Chen said.

The event ran Jan. 23-25 and included a record 25,000-plus participants around the world. Global Game Jam got its start in 2008, with Cogswell College in Sunnyvale participating since 2009.

Jam participants have the chance to develop their game further by working out design flaws or programming kinks. It is even possible to have their game published and in the gaming market under an independent company or a well-known corporation.

“There have been a number of success stories where students who participated at the game jam have gotten hired into game companies. It’s a great way to jump start their career if they are trying to get into the game industry,” Chen said.

Teams at the Cogswell site were designing games with many different concepts in mind. One group was using Google Cardboard for a virtual reality game. Virgil Garcia, a sophomore at Cogswell, and his team worked around the clock to put together their virtual reality game, which he described as a horror game.

“Our idea was for a dark, atmospheric maze game,” Garcia said.

The groups at Cogswell spent hours building a concept, designing characters and programming playable levels and instructions for their games. One group of came up with Fluster Cluck, a multi-player party game resembling Tron and Snake with plenty of poultry puns.

“I believe the coolest stuff comes from the craziest ideas, and if you’re having fun something must be going right. So we came up with Fuster Cluck. I think it’s just hilarious every time I say it,” said Darrell Atienza, a returning participant to Cogswell’s event.

Atienza, a San Jose resident, was his group’s character designer. Characters he designed for Fuster Cluck included Gizard, a chicken wizard and Robocock, a robotic rooster.

Besides funny game characters and programming levels in just 48 hours, event participants said they were happy to put their skills to use for their passion. Dylan Greek, a junior at Cogswell and Global Game Jam veteran, said he’s been involved in the gaming industry since he was just a little boy.

“I’ve always been an avid player, but my dad worked for a company that made educational games back in the 1990s, so I was kind of a game tester since I was 5,” Greek said.

“I was playing the original Nintendo since I was 2, so it’s amazing to see that games I used to play were developed along the same lines as we are doing now,” said Tanner Posada, a newcomer to the event.

GAMING FOR ALL

Cogswell College has worked hard to include everyone. The Global Game Jam event saw more than 50 participants and the school’s game development club is helping curb the gaming industry’s boys club reputation. President of Cogswell’s game development club, Jodediah Holems said he is focused on making the gaming community open to everyone, just as GaymerX does.

GaymerX and GX are gaming conventions that bring game developers and enthusiast together to discuss their passions while creating a safe space for all attending.

“I think Cogswell is trying to actively get more females, but I think the ratio was 80:20 when I came in,” said alumna Cara Ricci, who participated in this year’s event with a handful of other women.

“I think Jodediah [Holems] has helped things out, especially being the game development club president. I wasn’t here for it, but I know he gave a talk for inclusive and respecting other people,” she said.

Holems, an eclectic developer, is no stranger to the game development jams. He is looking for games that go beyond the normal guns, battles and missions. He develops experimental games that take more than a controller to win a level. Last year he created a game that was a combination of the puzzle game Tetris and a word search. The game ultimately created a story from the letters.

This year he and his team created a game that reached to players’ emotional and psychological playing level. They called it “And after a long day of (blank) I removed my armor.”

For more information about Cogswell College, visit cogswell.edu. For more information about the Global Game Jam, visit globalgamejam.org.

Fantastic work everyone! And much thanks to the Mercury News for coming out for a story earlier this year.

Juan Rubio – Cogswell College
3D Animation Student
Internal Public Relations, Blog Administrator/Writer
Industry News Coverage

Project X’s Driven – Partial Team Retrospective

June 30th, 2015

Recently, we touched base with some of the team members/Cogswell Students that had worked on the Project X short film, Driven. Given that no press has been generated other than a short blurb on the Cogswell website, we decided to reach out and hear what some members of the team had to say about working on the film.

The following text is direct from each person specified, and may or may not feature edits done in order to provide a smoother reading experience.

From Taylor Hodgson-Scott:

My Responsibilities on the Animated Short Driven:

Source: Official Driven video, Youtube

I was the Lead animator on Driven, responsible for a heavy share of the 3D Animation. This involves making the characters and vehicles/bicycles move believably and have the characters emote in a way they can connect to the audience. As the lead, I also headed up the other animators to make sure their shots were consistent with the shots around them and the motion style we were targeting. Ultimately, the director had the final say, but delegating some animation critiques to me allowed him some time to allocate elsewhere in the production, and allowed other animators quick feedback.

I also compiled the reel, taking all of the latest animations/rendered shots and editing them together to view internally, and allow us to see the flow of the film and if each shot flowed into the next fluidly. Editing is important for capturing a feeling we need to convey- especially in the last third of the film when things are amping up, quick well-timed cuts are necessary for the feeling of speed.

PROGRAMS I/OTHERS USED!

3D Animation, Modeling, Rigging in Autodesk Maya 2011
Edited the film in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5
Texturing and Matte Painting done in Photoshop CS5
Rendered using the Renderman plugin for Maya 2011
Compositing was done in (Eyeon) Fusion (6)

DEVELOPMENT TIME:

About 4 months in Pre-Vis (Pre-Visualization), which included storyboarding and low quality animation to roughly time the film out
About 18/20 months in Animation/Rendering

FOR OTHERS HOPING TO MAKE A FILM!

This is more of a general mantra than a step-by-step. Production Pipeline is much better cataloged than what I can explain in this e-mail, but here’s a few rules of thumb that may be more helpful than the gritty process.

1) You need a story that you really want to tell. It helps if it comes from a personal feeling, because that will help drive the story and performance as you flesh your film out. It can also come from wanting to tell a series of gags or just having good times, but if you don’t care about the story it will fail and be painful to work on

2) You need to seek out and employ constructive critiques from others, inside and outside the film production. This is not about using other people’s ideas and make their version of your film, but rather taking their input to improve your work. Sometimes you need to instead take the spirit of a critique when making changes, but people are perceptive and pick up on problems that you’ll be too close to see.

3) Do as much planning in the early stages as you can, it will pay off tenfold down the road. Sometimes you’ll have to destroy an entire storyboard sequence and build it up again to do it right, but if it’s gotten deep into the animation stage already it will probably be too late to economically fix and meet deadlines.

4) Communicate with your team. So many students and (bad) professionals alike forget to do this, and it is key on getting stuff done. If you’re making a change that affects someone else, don’t leave them out of the discussion if you can help it.

5) Love it! If you love what you’re doing, you’ll be able to stick to it. Finding even the smallest thing to get excited about in a film or a scene can help carry you through the tough times.

From Peter Mo:

Source: Official Driven video, Youtube

As Lighting Supervisor on Driven I was responsible for ensuring consistency and maintaining a quality standard for the lighting department. Lighting is at the tail-end of the 3D production process (Composting and Video Editing come after, but they deal with 2D), so lighters often run into problems that go unnoticed through the 3D pipeline. Render crashes due to Maya nodes created during production, problems with topology or object placement or animation that only appear when you see how they interact with light, crashes and loading issues from referencing other scenes are just a few examples.

Troubleshooting was a big part of my responsibility because technical problems, ranging from little nuisances to show-stoppers, would arise on a regular basis. A lot of my early work was assessing what we could do with our available resources in terms of computing power, people-power, and streamlining things as much as possible.

We used Autodesk Maya 2013 and Renderman for lighting. Renderman has advantages over Mental Ray in a 3D animation pipeline: fast and high-quality motion blur, fast displacement rendering, and Renderman’s Deep Shadow system. Mental Ray’s raytracing capabilities are better, but we would use reflection mapping to fake glossy reflections.

We also used camera-projected textures in the 3D scene to better control the look and style. We rendered all frames in 32-bit/channel OpenEXR image format, which allowed us a lot more flexibility in color correction without worry of color banding. We rendered out many different passes per frame to allow us to adjust different lighting elements independently, such as diffuse, specular, reflectivity, and more, before combining them together.

Unlike the two previous projects in which I was working with students who had taken lighting class, I was working with a team that had little or no prior lighting experience. Lighting and rendering took place over 2 semesters, including a lot of training in the beginning. Even after lighting was mainly complete, re-rendering of certain things went on until the very end if changes were needed or if a problem could not be fixed in compositing.

We used render presets and light rigs as a way to keep things consistent across the shots at different times of day. We had a pre-dawn and sunrise setup for Acts 1 and 3 and an afternoon setup for the flashback portion in Act 2. The light rigs were updated and improved as needed and everyone would reference one into their scene to use as the primary light sources, for moon, sun, and sky lighting. Additional lights for characters were added on a per-shot basis and setups that lighters create that worked well were shared for others to use when appropriate.

For compositing, we used Eyeon Fusion 6. It is a powerful node-based compositing program which allowed us to quickly change or fix visual elements which would take much longer to do on the rendering side. Making certain parts of the composition modular and reusing them in each other’s scenes reduced the amount of redundant work we’d need to initially perform in order to build up a composite from scratch.

Useful effects and techniques that individual compositors came up with were also made modular, such as color correction nodes for shots that had been approved, or a heat-distortion effect that worked well. All monitors used for compositing were color-calibrated to ensure the closest possible image when viewed on any of those monitors. In additional to traditional 2D compositing techniques such as color correction, rotoscoping masks, and paint fixes, we also incorporated 3D techniques directly in Fusion.

To save on render-times for a lot of the vegetation in the environments, we pre-rendered various sprites, generated point clouds of their locations, and then imported 3D cameras and the point clouds from Maya into Fusion. The vegetation sprites would be attached to points on the point cloud and rendered from the 3D camera and placed over the 2D shot, all in Fusion.

Compositing took about 2 semesters worth of work with a few dedicated compositors and a few more that were splitting time between compositing and other responsibilities. An additional month could be counted for training since none of the students had ever used Fusion before. We had a Digital Tutors account and students studied many of their Fusion lessons. I also gave some lessons based on my experience using Fusion on previous projects.

For the first time on any project, we used our own in-house render management software instead of commercial software. It was customized to our needs and the developers were very responsive to our suggestions for improvements and additional features. Commercial render management software we’ve used in the past was not reliable and we couldn’t get the type of support we needed when problems arose. It definitely helped us all maintain our sanity–without it we’d pretty much have to take shifts around the clock to babysit each render job, especially at crunch-time.

Thinking back over the events during the production of Driven, I admit I was concerned how everything was going to come together at the beginning; however, the technology we used ended up working well enough and seeing how far the initially inexperienced team had come by the end of the project was very satisfying. I’m very proud of all the students who had sacrificed so much of their time and energy to making the film the very best they could.

From Steven Chitwood:

Source: Official Driven video, Youtube

Steven handled the VFX on the short, “All effects were done in Maya 2011, specifically. I used Maya fluids, particles, nParticles. Types of effects were fire, smoke, dust, explosions, and liquids. All effects were either rendered with Mental Ray or Renderman.” he says. Other programs used in the making of Driven included ” ‘Zbrush’ for 3D sculpting of characters and some environments, ‘Renderman for Maya’ (the Rendering engine used for the film), ‘Eyeon Fusion 6′ for Compositing, and finally ‘Mel’ and ‘Python’, for scripting.

To manage the team, a combination of verbal communication, along with email and other means were used to provide both official and unofficial ‘check in’ updates. “We used Google Docs for documentation including tasks for each departments, deadlines, and milestones. We did keep track of everyone’s hours and their tasks so we could accurately predict of where the project was going.” says Steven.

On the project pipeline, Steven said the following, “I was not in PX (Project X) during the beginning, I jumped in almost mid-way through but here’s my take. We first start off a pitch that Mike had and we discussed things of what did work and what didn’t for the story. Concurrently, we started create to concepts of the film while the modelers and animators were developing the layout of the film, also, the riggers were doing some RnD (Research and Development). Once some of the concepts were starting to be officially approved, modelers would start to make the final assets and create textures for them. Once assets, textures, and animations were done, those shots would be handed off to the lighters.

Lighters simply then light shots and render them and bring them to the next stage: compositing. Compositing is where we bring all the images together to make the final shots, making final tweaks to make the shots the way we want it. Keep in mind, when animators are done with shots and the assets are created, we also hand off those shots to the effects department (me).

There, we create the fire, smoke, dust, etc and then render those effects as well in separate images, just like what the lighters do. We then bring those also into the comp to finish the shots entirely. While we are doing this film, we are also doing an ongoing edit for the film. Towards the very last stages of the film, we edit the film and see what ever else changes/fixes we need to do.”

Lastly, in short the pipeline process is as follows “story->concept->look development->layout->modeling->rigging->animation->effects->lighting&rendering->compositing->final edit”, also “We decided to create our own render-farm. Our render-farm was used to expedite the rendering process.”

It’s very clear that a lot of work went into making the short film, everyone that worked on the project had a part in making it all possible. Fantastic work everyone!!

Source: Official Driven video, Youtube

Juan Rubio
3D Animation Student, Internal Public Relations, Industry News Coverage, Blog Administrator/Writer
Cogswell College

E3 Recap 2 – Final Fantasy 7

June 26th, 2015

Source: Official Trailer - YouTube

In 1994 a game that has been since known as a ground breaker for Japanese RPGs began development. It was originally intended to be developed and released for the Super Nintendo, and was moved to to N64. The only problem was even the largest N64 cartridge lacked the capacity required for the game, the first in this game series to use fully rendered 3D characters on a pre-rendered background.

Final Fantasy 7 was released on the Sony Playstation in 1997 to critical and commercial success, through the years and various re-releases and versions, its sold over 10 million copies worldwide. At the 2005 E3 conference a PS3 Technical Demo of FFVII was shown off leading many to believe a remake was on the way. After a decade of speculation and rumors, a Final Fantasy 7 remake was officially announced at this years E3 in the form of a trailer.

Source: FFVII Official Trailer - YouTube

With visuals that are at times brilliant and vibrant, and then shadowy and brooding, Square Enix manage to transport us to right back into that world we first explored some 18 years ago. A haunting score reminiscent of the horror classics of yesterday plays over a narration delivered by voice actor David Lodge, all the while we are treated to sights both old and new. Director Tetsuya Nomura reassures us that this game isn’t just the original with a face lift, but rather something like visiting an old friend who has new clothes. Not everything is exactly the same, nor will it be, but classic and pivotal story elements won’t be altered in any way. Speaking with Famitsu, Mr. Nomura had the following to say about the trailer and game:

“We’re using part of that video in the game. We’re going to raise the quality even more.”, he said on using footage from the trailer in-game. On platform choice he said, “You’ll be able to play it first on PlayStation 4, that’s for certain. We’re not thinking beyond that yet, so after that is undecided. Since we’re bringing out PlayStation 4 title after PlayStation 4 title, it’d be great if we can give the hardware and industry a boost.”.

On whether or not the game was just a remaster or a remake Nomura said, “Final Fantasy VII is special, and we can’t ‘exceed’ the game by simply making the graphics nicer. That’s not a thing to be excited about…. Precisely because it’s a full remake, I want to challenge what’s fun and what’s possible now.”. When asked about the possibility of new characters, Nomura said, “There won’t be new characters. As for the visual taste, we’re doing them to match today’s visuals and appear closer to reality.”. Lastly, when asked about the game and battle system he said, “I can’t share details, but we’re changing it to a more realistic system.”.

In an interview with Matt Kamen from Wired UK Tetsuya Nomura had the following to say:

“In terms of taking a such an iconic game and giving it a fresh feel, we can’t go into too much detail but we’re not intending for this to become a one-to-one remake, or just the original Final Fantasy VII with better graphics,” Nomura says.

“We don’t want to interfere with what makes the original title so iconic,” Nomura explains. “There are certain plot points we don’t want to interfere with or disturb, nor will we want to change elements that fans have very big attachments to.”

Source: FFVII Official Trailer - YouTube

“My goal with the remake is to make it apply to the current era, the current generation of players that are going to be coming into contact with or playing FFVII for the first time through this remake,” Nomura continues. “I want to make it so it’s relevant to the modern era, as well as having an element of surprise.”

“It has to be something that riles up this sense of wonder and amazement. I don’t want to change it so much that it’s unrecognisable, but make sure that it’s something fresh and new [yet still] recognisable as FFVII. That’s what I’ll be keeping in mind as I work on this.”

“We’re taking something that’s text based with no voice over. If we add voice over to it, that will trigger some adjustments that need to be made to accommodate for that. Then, because we’re making it in full HD, we’ll need to think about all the resources that are needed to populate the screen. We’d need to go in and see what needs adjusting in that aspect. It’s like a chain of events; ‘OK, we’re going to revamp this part, what do we need?’, and see if there are any changes that creates. As I say, we can’t go into the specifics at this point but we’ll need to revisit elements within the game to see what is appropriate.”

“This term, ‘J-RPG’, I don’t approve of it,” he says. “I don’t get why it’s being referred to as such — it almost feels like people are kind of making fun of RPGs that are coming out of Japan. I think ‘well, how are they different to RPGs coming from other countries, what’s the difference?’ It feels very uncomfortable when people bring up the term JRPG.”

No official release date has been confirmed or announced, all we currently know is the game is slated to come out on the PS4 first. If there’s any concern over the changes being made to the game, bear in mind original writer Kazushige Nojima is on the project to contribute any new story content, and the original game’s director Yoshinori Kitase is a producer.

Source: FFVII Official Trailer - YouTube

Watch the announcement trailer here.

Written by Juan Rubio, with some edited excerpts credited in the article.
Cogswell College Blog

E3 Recap

June 18th, 2015

The E3 Entertainment Expo is happening right now, among the slew of announcements comes some welcome news for any fan of Rareware (RARE) games. Microsoft and RARE are bringing a collection of 30 of the studios games to Xbox One, including titles from the very beginning, to present day. Called Rare Replay, it features games including but not limited to:

Battletoads (released in 1991, 1-2 players), Battletoads Arcade (released in 1994), Killer Instinct Gold (released in 1996, 1-2 players), Banjo-Kazooie (released in 1998, 1 player), Perfect Dark (relased in 2000, 1-4 players), Banjo-Tooie (released in 2000, 1-4 players), Conker’s Bad Fur Day (released in 2001, 1-4 players) and more.

The games aren’t just thrown on the disc with an arbitrary menu to scroll through, RARE has included additional challenges, achievements (over 10,000 Gamerscore worth), cheats, and behind-the-scenes extras to create a premium experience. Known for their charm and quirkiness, the studio decided to present the games in a theater format, with the hosts Joanna Dark, Banjo, and Conker.

The three characters are all eager to relive and reminisce about their past, and when you select a game the theater format is left behind and you’re transported into the game world. Older titles such as Battletoad’s even feature a special filter toggle that emulates the look of a CRT monitor, complete with scan-lines and that slight blurriness we all remember from back in the day.

Source: www.seaofthieves.com

As a bonus, a brand new game will be included with the bundle. ‘Sea of Thieves’ is a swashbuckling new multiplayer pirate adventure, featuring a vibrant and colorful world that’s very much in line with Rare’s style. In the game you explore islands, search for treasure, sail ships and engage in naval warfare all with your fiends as your crew mates online. There is blunderbusses, there are swords, and yes, you can even walk the plank into shark infested waters.

Source: cdn.arstechnica.net

Sadly, certain games such as Goldeneye, Donkey Kong Country, and Donkey Kong 64 are omitted due to RARE not owning the rights. Rare Replay is slated for release August 4th and will retail for $29.99 US.

    

Source: Kotaku.com

In other Xbox One related news, Microsoft has announced that backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 titles will be arriving this holiday season for the exorbitant price of $0. Xbox’s Phil Spencer mentioned you’ll be able to access your digital Xbox 360 library, as well as load physical discs you already own. Of course, not all games will work with the service when it launches, Microsoft stated 100 titles would be compatible upon launch citing Mass Effect as an example. Microsoft took a jab at Sony’s paid Playstation Now service stating, “We won’t charge you to play the games you already own.”

    

Source for all: Dualshockers.com

Crystal Dynamics just announced a follow up to their 2013 reboot of the ‘Tomb Raider’ series, the sequel is titled ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider‘. In the trailer, we follow Lara and a colleague as they trek through a frigid cave high up in the mountains. A flare is lit, and as we approach the exit, the wind starts to batter both Lara and her partner.

The sun is coming up over the distant mountains, and then right as we exit the cave the wind settles down. She speaks with her partner and then proceeds to scale a cliff, everything is fine until massive chunks of ice begin to fall down towards Lara, we see her swing and duck to avoid the ice, and run along the cliff side as an avalanche happens right next to her. All of this happens in roughly 5 minutes time, and Lara manages to make it out in piece.

Later, we see Lara exploring ruins, jungles, jumping platforms, solving puzzles, and yes, even raiding tombs. Its all presented in an incredibly eye catching and film like manner. This approach lends the game a grandiose and wonder filled atmosphere reminiscent of the feelings we all had as a child seeing the world for the first time. It’s truly a treat for the eyes and the imagination.

Its clear that Crystal Dynamics have improved the engine since 2013′s ‘Tomb Raider‘, as we see much more sophisticated and detailed particle effects, higher quality textures overall, much nicer cloth and water simulations, and improved environmental interaction and physics to name a few enhancements. ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ is shaping up to be a technical marvel.

Tomb Raider is back and better than ever.

    

Quick! Think about a game about a young boy trying to escape crumbling ruins along with his giant bird/dog companion. Stumped? What about a game stuck in development hell since 2007? Still stuck? Does Team Ico ring a bell?

Source: polygon.com

Yes, ‘The Last Guardian‘ is finally being released for PS4 come sometime 2016, what would have been Team Ico’s third game (and in a sense, still is) was formally showed off to the public at this years E3 conference, it is now being partially handled by original Team Ico director Fumito Ueda‘s new studio genDESIGN. Fans of the studio know their first game was the critically and publicly acclaimed ‘Ico‘, followed by ‘Shadow of the Collossus‘.

The game follows a young boy as he makes his way through high altitude ruins that are falling apart. With the aid of his friend Trico. The boy must scale walls, jump chasms, solve puzzles, and more. The idea is being that Trico is your only friend, an emotional bond will be formed as the player learns to trust Trico.

There is also hazards such as traps, some enemies, and possibly boss fights as well. The trailer shows en expanded sequence of a small clip first seen in the games original trailer years ago. The game features an aesthetic that Team Ico has been known for, grand vistas, artful lighting, and small details peppered here and there to round out the visual fidelity and atmosphere. The game play trailer can be seen here.

    

Written by Juan Rubio
Cogswell Polytechnical College

The Cartoon Art Museum: The Importance of Preservation

June 8th, 2015

From still images to full comics, concept art to finished animated works, The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco (currently located at 655 Mision St.) features snapshots , glimpses into the colorful history of cartoons across a variety of media. Chronicling great examples from every era since the very beginning, the museum (one of only a handful in the nation) is a beacon for all things cartoons. Unfortunately, the future fate of the museum is up in the air. Many of the exhibits and pieces of art have begun to be packed up in preparation for (hopefully) temporary storage while the museum seeks a new location.

The lease has been extended out into fall of this year but after that, nothing is certain. Recently, Deanna Trapp, a 19 year old University of Wisconsin student currently studying Web development, stopped by the museum for the first time with her sister, giving it praise. “It was cool,” she noted. “I loved all the different styles of drawing that were displayed.” Her sister, Jazmyn Trapp age 20, an animation student at Cogswell Polytechnical College in Sunnyvale, found the historical exhibit to be an eye-opening experience. “I never really read the newspapers or knew about comic strips,” she remarked. “I’m more a fan of 3-D animation like ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ by Dreamworks, but I respect that this, this genre of cartooning, is where it came from. It was educational, and it makes me want to go home and start drawing.”

Just as Jazmyn mentioned, its good to know where it is that today’s animated movies and cartoons got their start. Like a family tree for the world of cartoons, its important to not lose track of what happened yesterday on our journey to tomorrow. I’m hopeful that this generation of animators, modelers, environment artists, software and sound engineers, technical animators, and more look back and appreciate what came before them. This way, the past won’t be forgotten but rather preserved while new strides and revolutions are made in this industry. Thank you for reading folks, and be sure to try and visit the museum before it closes it’s doors this September.

Written by Juan Rubio, 3D animation student at Cogswell
With notes taken from the article “Is it the end of Cartoon Art Museum? No!” by Carolyne Zinko, featured in last Sunday’s SF Chronicle Datebook publication.