Archive for the ‘Academics’ Category

Animation Show of Shows – The Student Perspective

Monday, October 6th, 2014

On Thursday evening, the 25th of September 2014, Cogswell College was given the privilege of once again being host to the Animation Show of Shows. A collection of the most intriguing (and at times perplexing) animated shorts of the year from all over the world, the 16th Annual Show of Shows demonstrated a diverse number of contributors, ranging from studios like Disney and Pixar to small indie production teams.
Prior to the show, the two shorts that were easily the most anticipated by students were titled LAVA and Feast, from the studios of Pixar and Disney respectively. Feast followed the technique of an earlier short by Disney called Paperman, using 3D animation with the appearance of a 2D medium. With Feast, more concentration was placed on the language of shape and color in contrast to each other.

Feast by Disney

The story follows a stray puppy that is saved from the streets and given a home. The puppy is very lucky indeed, because his new owner is the kind of person who enjoys cooking for their pet on a daily basis. Consequently,

the pup is showered with bacon, eggs, spaghetti and meatballs. (At this point, I was feeling rather envious and really wishing I was the dog instead of a college student who doesn’t have time to cook.) Suddenly things change for the dog when his owner finds himself a girlfriend! *Gasp* Much to the dog’s horror (and to mine, being raised in an especially carnivorous family where meat takes up the top three food groups), his meaty, greasy diet is replaced by sprigs of parsley and brussel sprouts due to the girlfriend’s health-conscious influence. I won’t detail out what happens next, as the ending should be saved, but the resolution was pretty satisfying and it was easily one of my favorite shorts in the whole collection.

Other shorts in the program were more figurative instead of having an obvious plot (at the end of one, a friend turned around to me and whispered “What the hell did we just watch?”) and some in particular were on the depressing side and made the audience question life in general. One distinctive short was titled We Can’t Live Without Cosmos, which was simultaneously humorous and heartbreaking as it followed the story of two astronauts who were as close as brothers.

The biggest impact of all was made by the short titled Hipopotamy which the show’s curator, Ron Diamond, saved for last because – in his words – we wouldn’t be able to concentrate on any other shorts after we’d seen it.
Hipopotamy, by Piotr Durnala, framed humans in a light as if we behaved like hippos—the reverse of the concept of anthropomorphism. What we didn’t expect was that every character in the short was pretty darn naked in the most blatant sense. It was also disturbing as we found out that the humans behaved with extremely animistic instincts—children were not spared from violence, and women were subjugated to open force. It was a raw outlook on perhaps how similar humans’ behavior really is comparable to that of animals like the hippopotamus, and could be interpreted as a statement about things that desperately need to be changed about society.

After going to the Show of Shows last year, I was hooked and eager to see the presentations again this year. I definitely was not disappointed—I walked away inspired and feeling just a little bit different. It’s a refreshing perspective to see things from someone else’s eyes, and Ron Diamond’s collection achieved that for me once again.

by Sierra Gaston, Digital Art & Animation Student

Photos:
Feast by Disney
Ron Diamond (left), curator of Animation Show of Shows with Cogswell College Dean (right), Jerome Solomon

Cogswell Game Studio & Barron Park Elementary School

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Cogswell Game Studio & Barron Park Elementary School

Barron Park ElementaryCogswell Game Studio, a project-based learning course, visited Barron Park Elementary on Thursday, March 6, 2014 for the first “play test” of their game Tangram Jam.

A “play test” is a quality insurance process in game development where an alpha or beta version of a game is tested in a controlled environment. The team took both a PC pre-alpha build and mobile versions of the user interface for 3rd grade students to experience.  While the game is fun, it is also a ‘serious game’; it teaches math concepts to students.

Arlinda Smith (teacher) and Magdelna Frittoria (Principal) welcomed the Cogswell students form the game development team into a 3rd grade class at Barron Park Elementary.  The elementary school students were enthusiastic to give feedback on the game and what they found to be fun elements.  Cogswell game design art and engineering students took metrics on game play performance and observed what the children were enjoying and learning during game play.

During this play test session, the team also found several things to improve the play of the game for the students.

Cogswell Game Studio is part of the curriculum and process in the Game Design & Development program.

It was a wonderful experience and we learned a lot. We were able to observe how the kids responded to the music, models and interface. We found out why they liked or didn’t like certain aspects of the game as well as what they would do differently with the game. My focus was seeing if the kids understood the interface. I was surprised at how easily the kids navigated through the interface as if they’ve done it a thousand times before. [We] tried to make the UI as clear and understandable as possible and we definitely nailed it with this one. I’m looking forward to the next school visit because we’ve prepared an even better game to present.

~ Shawn Sercombe, Cogswell student

ElementaryElementary 2

An Inside Look at Creating Digital Art

Friday, March 7th, 2014

Listen in as Cogswell Digital Art & Animation student, Jennifer Hicks, talks about her creative process and what her art means to her.

(If your machine does not support flash, please view the video here.)

From Rocket Scientist to Animator

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

So how do you go from being an engineering student to an animator? According to Cogswell student, Robert Mariazeta, you identify and then follow your dream. Since coming to Cogswell, Robert started the Animation Club, is working in Studio E and was one of the 5 Cogswell students selected by Disney to attend their 2013 Inspire Day.

In this short video, Robert talks about the journey that brought him to Cogswell to major in animation, his love of the field and why he thinks it’s important to be a ‘T’ shaped worker.

Visit Cogswell’s website to learn more about our Digital Art & Animation degree program.

Get Your BEAT On in the Electronic Music Competition

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Cogswell Digital Audio Technology student, Daniel McFarren, has put together a unique final portfolio project – a competition designed to spotlight the very best electronic musicians in the Bay Area. The final field will consist of five artists who will complete challenges to inspire creativity and innovation.

From on-the-spot creation of interesting loops to full-on song production, to live performance in front of a club audience, artists will have the chance to prove themselves as worthy beatmakers. A panel of leading industry judges will put the artists to the test, critique their work and scrutinize their style. The ultimate champion will have the chance to headline at a Bay Area club event.

When asked, why this particular project instead of something else, McFarren replied,

“There is this vast population of talented musician/DJs, just waiting for their chance to get up on stage and show everyone in that club the cool stuff they figured out through many sleepless nights in front of a laptop, hunched over a MIDI controller. The creativity of these artists came from the disparity between their musical inspiration and the lack of of technological resources available to them. It is, in fact, the non-optimal conditions of music composition that drive the creativity that fuels the evolution of Electronic Music. This, I believe, is why we are seeing such a flourish of unique EM music from ‘bedroom producers,’ who scrimp and save the meager income from their day job to get he very basic tools needed to make the music that drives them. With the help of my good friend and Co-Creator for the show, John Buell, we have made an attempt at translating this evolutionary drive into the form of a competition, where those artists who have that creative spark get the chance to be noticed, and possibly jump up on stage next to that headliner that helped inspire them in the first place.”

Submissions must be in by March 3 and interviews will be held during the week of March 9 at Motiv Nightclub in Santa Cruz to select the five competitors.

For additional information and submission details, visit BEAT.

Backstage Lists Six Great Digital Art Schools

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014

Student team working in Studio E where they are creating a short animation based on a story along with an interactive book version for mobile platforms to deepen the reader’s experience and further immerse them in the story.

An article in Backstage advises actors that developing their ability to create content is a must.  Cogswell College is one of the 6 schools the publication recommends.

With Cogswell’s focus on collaboration and project-based learning, plus strong programs in animation, audio and digital media management, the College is a great fit for performance artists wanting to build their content creation toolkit.

An Interview with Tim Heath, New Director of Cogswell’s Project X Studio

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Tim Heath, Director of Cogswell's Project X Studio

Question:  Tell us a little about your background.

Tim:  I earned my Bachelor degree in Business Administration and an Art Minor from James Madison University. After graduation I was in marketing planning to focus on the creative side of advertising but when I did an internship at an advertising agency in Richmond, Virginia, I felt more comfortable with the production side of things – posting commercials and doing a little bit of effects work.  After graduation this led me to a company that was doing this kind of work. They were all Silicon Graphics – really expensive machines and state-of-the art software – but it was for government entities, three letter words basically, and while really interesting work but with security clearances none of my work was going to see the light of day. I met my future wife in college and she was from New York. My goal was to get into film or television and more opportunities existed in New York so we moved up there.

Question:  So how did you move from advertising to film?

Tim:  I did some freelance work for ABC and eventually landed a job with Post Perfect, a big post-production house. Still all the film work was mostly being done in California and I figured that was where I eventually wanted to end up. However, life doesn’t always go in a straight line. I got my first film-gig job with Square Pictures in Hawaii where I was Lead Animator for “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.” When that studio closed, I got my chance to move to California. I got a job with Electronic Arts as Animation Supervisor.

Question:  That’s still not film work, so how did this help you achieve your goal?

Tim:  Well, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was the first feature film I worked on; I then worked on a short film for the Wachowski Brothers’ Animatrix series before Square Pictures closed. It’s also when they were trying to do a lot of film work in video games, trying to push the technology in games themselves and trying to push storytelling in games. I have game credits for Lord of the Rings and The Godfather.

Question:  When did you get your film break?

Tim:  From Electronic Arts, I had the opportunity to go to ILM and work on “Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest,” as one of the senior animators but it was a huge crew. So I just kind of came in and did my shots and it was a great experience because that’s exactly the kind of movie I wanted to work on when I first got into the mix. Back when I saw Jurassic Park, I thought, “That’s what I want to do. I want to work at ILM.”

Question:  Why did you leave ILM?

Tim:  After that show, one of the short films I had made entitled, Lagerheads, while I was on my own caught the attention of some guys at Nvidia. They we remaking some rendering software and asked me to come on board to make short films for them using their rendering software.  To me that was like the dream job part two where you go in and you get to make whatever you want, within reason, whatever you want and plus I was with some of the brightest guys in the industry doing rendering. That’s what I would like to eventually do at AMD where I am now – to make short films.

Question:  So what made you decide to teach at Cogswell College?

Tim:  It hasn’t gone that way just yet at my day job but I have this bug of still wanting to make short films and the chance to do that is one of the reasons that brought me to Cogswell.

Question:  Tell us about your work with the Project X Studio at Cogswell.

Tim:  As you know, this will be the fourth film to come out of Project X. Two did quite well in the film festival circuit and the third, “Driven” is just getting started but I’m sure it will do well too. I’m working with a team of about 18 students right now and I think we’re going to be able to get something really nice done. The goal is to have the film ready by early 2015 – about 1 year from now. The students are all very eager to work hard to make something incredible. While I brought a story, I’m also involving the students in helping develop the story. I brought the characters and an outline of what I think we can accomplish. Right now we’re going over story beats and revising it. We have a little story team of four or five of the students and we’re pounding it out and adding things and taking things out and making it better together as a group. I’m also not the only faculty who is mentoring students. David Perry is animation lead, Kong Vang is lead concept design and Rob Garcia is overseeing the pipeline, rigging and modeling issues. Richard Schimpf is consulting on the story development. Finally Julius Dobos will lead the audio portion of the film when we get to that point but we’ve consulted with him to give him a frame of reference for the eventual music and sound effects we’re going to need. I’d like to utilize all the great talent we have at Cogswell.

Question:  So what is it like to be a student working in the Project X Studio?

Tim:  Even though we just got started, you don’t walk past the Project X room without seeing people in there working and diving into it. Because we are using different software than previous films, they’re learning new software.  We’re rendering with V-Ray and composting with Nuke. They’re also learning fur technology. The goal is to push the look of the film we are making.

Question:  Any other plans for the project?

Tim:  As we develop the story and are a little further into the production pipeline, I’d like to be more open about the project and let everyone know what we are doing. I think it would be fun for everyone on campus watch it develop. Maybe we can even put up a production blog so people can follow our progress.

Question:  Any final thoughts?

Tim:  I’ve led teams of animators but never led a team of students so this is really exciting for me. I want us to learn from each other and produce a film that we will all be proud of. Given the amazing work done by students in the past, I think we will create something incredible together.

Learn more about our Digital Art & Animation degree program.

The Art of Teamwork

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

Collaboration is a work you hear all the time. It’s become a buzz word but its meaning has become diluted through constant use.

Here at Cogswell College we don’t just say it, we do it. In our Digital Art & Animation degree program students develop the fundamentals of design, form and stretching their imaginations but they also focus on building their team work skills. Our project-based learning environment helps them understand what it means to work with other for a common goal.

In this short video, student Katie Fortune, describes her experience not only developing her talent but what it’s like to work on a project with other students.

“They will ask me about my artistic opinion sometimes and I’m really honored when they do because there are some really artistic, creative people on my team.”

Ultimate Guide to Startup Marketing

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Cogswell’s curriculum has a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship and helping our students develop the skills they need to build a successful enterprise.  The College offers a degree in Digital Media Management and focuses on entrepreneurial thought, customer discovery, project management and business practices within the expanding marketplace of digital media.

One of the skills that receives lots of attention is how to market your startup. We found this helpful slideshare presentation that walks you through the basics. The offers tips for choosing a market, defining keywords, setting core metrics, choosing social media networks, creating social media content, measuring against benchmarks and much more.

Click here to learn more about our Digital Media Management program.

What Does it Take to Bring a Software Engineering Idea to Life

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Ed Hartwig & Zach Childers

You have an idea for a great – or at least intriguing – software project but how do you get started? This short video featuring an animatronic dragon’s head project designed by two Cogswell students offers insight into the development stage.

The project started over the summer as part of a special projects class in conjunction with San Jose’s TechShop. Zach and Ed wanted to build something that would resonate with the Cogswell community and be an inspiration for getting artists and engineers to collaborate.

While they still have a way to go before their prototype becomes the finished piece they envision, they have a solid plan in place to reach their goal.