Archive for the ‘Academics’ Category

Game Studio Class Works with Prairie Rainbow Company

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

This fall the Game Studio Class will roll up its collective sleeves, put on their thinking caps and create a ‘Rainbow Squares’ mobile and pc game for the Prairie Rainbow Company to help elementary school children learn math.

This Oakland California company is operated by George Gagnon, Pre-Engineering Partnerships Director at UC Berkeley and Michelle Collay, Director of the Urban Teacher Leadership program at Cal State East Bay. Prairie Rainbow develops board games and teacher and parent guides to help students learn math. The Rainbow Math Models are designed to engage tactile learners who need to build a physical model, image learners who need to create a representation of  a mental model, and language learners who need to hear, read, or write a number model. Rainbow Math Models are made of wood that is hand cut and painted by home crafts people in the Bay Area of California.

“We are looking forward to the opportunity to work with Rainbow Prairie Company to help them move in a new direction by designing a video game that suits the learning needs of their customers,” said Jerome Solomon, head of the Game Design & Development program at Cogswell. “One goal of our Game program is to offer students real-world learning opportunities. This partnership gives students the chance to not only design a math learning game but to test the prototype in local schools.”

This is a big step for Prairie Rainbow Company as it ventures into the realm of using video games to help children master important math and conceptualization skills. Cogswell College is pleased they chose to partner with us to develop this additional learning pathway for its customers.

You can enroll for the class now. Fall 2013 semester starts August 26.

Women in Animation Presentation at Pixar

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Cogswell College students at the Women in Animation San Francisco Pixar Studio event.

On July 16 more than 20 female students attended the Women in Animation San Francisco screening of Monsters University at Pixar Studio. After the movie, everyone at the event had the chance to listen to a panel of talented women who worked in Technical, Artistic and Production roles on the film followed by an audience Q&A session.

Rosalie Wynne, one of the students who attended was impressed by the size of Pixar and the amenities they provide their employees like the dining areas all over the building. “I also enjoyed touring the second floor where they kept their art gallery and had some concept art on display,” she said.

Students Rosalie Wynne and Cara Ricci at Pixar

Rosalie noticed that the panelist had mostly arrived at Pixar in the mid-1990s to early-2000s and were able to work their way up the ranks. She doesn’t think that approach will work now. “Our generation has to have all this schooling and amazing portfolios and reels to be considered for jobs now. I think the days are mostly past when  you can start at the bottom and work your way up into an artist’s position,” she added.

One of the main things the panelists stressed was the importance of being collaborative and to learn to communicate effectively. They said overall, working at Pixar is about being a team player plus learning when to fight for your ideas and when to let them go.

At Cogswell College – in addition to an amazing faculty and curriculum – we provide multiple learning experiences both through on-campus and off-campus events.

Students Amanda Martinez, Ashley Evans, Jennifer Hicks and friends at Pixar.

Rapid Concept Visualization Special Topic Class

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

If you would like to move your design skills into the stratosphere, then consider taking DAA 106: Digital Imaging Concepts. In this class faculty member, Jared Gross who works at Juice Box Games in San Francisco, shows students how to go from loose, freehand sketches to final presentation quickly. The course focuses on rapid sketching techniques using tablets and Photoshop, material and rendering methods, rapid visualization of forms in perspective and portfolio presentation and development ideas.

Students will also gain valuable experience using conceptual tools for creating unique and visually interesting forms for hard-surface models, vehicle designs, environments and characters. The goal is to learn to use digital and traditional media to quickly describe elemental and complex forms and then use these forms in the creation of assets for game and film.

Jared has a degree in transportation design and began his career as a vehicle designer in the automotive industry. He is now following his passion for character design by moving his focus to the game industry.

Visit Cogswell’s website to register.

Photography Class Students Gain New Perspectives

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Introduction to Photography class on a recent trip to the San Jose Museum of Art

Not only do photographers need to learn by doing but it also helps to see the work of exceptional noted photography artists. Cogswell Introduction to Photography students had the chance to meet both goals when they recently took part in a field trip to the San Jose Museum of Art.

Students visited the museum to see two exhibits in particular – Rising Dragon: Contemporary Chinese Photography and Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage. While they could only take photos in the Museum lobby, the trip was an valuable part of the learning process.

“It’s important for students to see real works of art and participate in the rich arts and cultural programs in our area,” said Karen Keister, faculty.

After checking out the exhibits, some of the students stayed in the downtown area to take photographs for their latest class project.

Creating the Music For “Driven,” the Newest Project X Film

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Recording session for "Driven" at Stanford with Stanford Orchestra and Cogswell College doing the recording.

Memorial Day marked a new opportunity for the Digital Audio Technology (DAT) Department at Cogswell College. Instead of spending their holiday on the beach, several faculty and audio students spent their time on the Stanford University campus along with a 32-piece orchestra of Stanford students recording the score for Driven. This collaboration between the two institutions is a first for both Cogswell and Stanford and provided new learning experiences for everyone involved.

Driven is also the first Project X film where the production incorporated a musical score, soundtrack and sound effects created by Cogswell students and faculty. Dr. Timothy Duncan, director of the DAT program, and an award-winning composer in his own right, composed the rich, high-energy score then worked with Stanford graduate student, Michael Repper, who conducted the orchestra, to create an exciting recorded performance.

The Memorial Day recording was set to a click-track, which allowed multiple takes of the session to be recorded at the exact same tempo so that in post-production the clips needed would fit seamlessly into the film. Robert Kirby, an undergraduate DAT student at Cogswell, recorded the live orchestra session with the help of other students.

DAT student, Robert Kirby, during the recording session at Stanford.

Julius Dobos, Distinguished Lecturer, brought an internationally-acclaimed background in music production to the project. Dobos directed DAT students in the process of creating original, organic sounds recorded in a real-world environment, such as a motorcycle and a car driving at high speed. The team chose not to rely on a sound library—a shortcut often used by major film studios to save time and production costs—and instead captured and modified most of their own sounds to include subtle desert ambiance, dramatic engine revving, high-intensity racing sounds and others.

DAT faculty, Anthony Dias, has been chronicling the project both in video and still photography. A behind-the-scenes documentary will be released with the new animated short detailing the scope of teamwork and collaboration between Cogswell students, faculty, the Stanford music department and its student orchestra.

A preliminary version of Driven had a surprise preview at the Stanford music department’s 2013 commencement ceremony. The film was met with audible gasps, laughter and resounding applause from the crowd of nearly 300 attendees.

The film’s animation and sound are currently being perfected by Cogswell students and the final mixing of the soundtrack is in process. Driven is the third Project X animation short to be released under the direction of Michael Zachary Huber. The film’s expected release date is mid-July.

Recording session for "Driven" at Stanford with Stanford Orchestra. Film was showing on the screen so Orchestra Conductor could see the progress.

Worlds Apart is Now on YouTube

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

For all of you who have not had the opportunity to see the second film produced by Cogswell’s Project X studio class, Worlds Apart, it is now on YouTube.  With an amazingly successful film festival run completed in late May, we are happy to make the film available to a wider audience.

By the way here are the results of the film festivals:

  • Official Selection = 46 festivals
  • Best Animation or Audience Choice Awards = 16
  • Screened in 20 different states including 17 different cities in California
  • Screened in 4 International locations including 3 different festivals in England
  • Congratulations to everyone involved in creating this outstanding piece!

Check out the video.

Digital Media Management – Program Spotlight

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Meet Digital Media Management Program Director, Bret Sweet

Bret Alexander Sweet was born in San Francisco, California. He was raised between Oakland and Sacramento, settling in San Francisco in 1997. Bret graduated from Berkeley High School in 1995. He is the son of prominent Bay Area civil rights attorney and social entrepreneur, Clifford Charles Sweet.

Bret combined his passion for music and entrepreneurship at a young age by earning himself an internship at PolyGram Group Distribution’s San Francisco office in the summer of 1995. Three months later he was an artist development rep focusing on the company’s urban division associated with Island Def Jam artists. He left PolyGram shortly after the merger to focus more on his college career at San Francisco State University and open his own label. Throughout his studies, Bret invested his time working in various community development organizations as well as running his own independent record label, House Kemetic Suns. Although House Kemetic Suns never reached platinum status with its artists, Bret had established the first online music distribution channel when he was 19; 6 years before Steve Jobs would bring iTunes to market.

In 2002, Bret began teaching entrepreneurship to youth and young adults from under-developed communities. In 2003, he signed on as Lead Entrepreneurship Instructor at BUILD, a non-profit organization in Menlo Park that uses entrepreneurship as vehicle for college admission for first generation students. In 2004, Bret was awarded Certified Teacher of the Year by the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship. In fall of 2007, Bret retired from teaching to pursue his life-long dream of an MBA at the University of San Francisco. In 2008, Bret began certifying new cohorts of future NFTE instructor as a NFTE CETI (Certified Entrepreneurship Teacher Instructor). Bret graduated from the University of San Francisco in May 2009 with his Master’s of Business Administration with a dual emphasis in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. In December 2008, he received the USF School of Management’s Dean Circle Scholarship for exemplary service in his community.

In 2007, Bret founded the Dualism Group which is early stage venture capitalism firm and consulting arm geared toward helping underserved entrepreneurs launch and expand their companies in order to bring jobs to lower income communities. One of his clients is Robert Simpson of Back A Yard Corporation which led to Bret being instrumental in the founding of Coconuts Palo Alto and the expansion of Back A Yard into San Jose. In addition he established his own property management firm called Sweet Rentality which creates tech innovations for the property rental market. Bret is currently the director of Digital Media Management programs at Cogswell College.

Q & A About the Program

Cogswell:     Managing an entrepreneurial business that manufactures or provides a service probably does not pose the same challenges as managing a digital arts venture. Can you provide a definition of ‘entrepreneur’ as it applies to the expanded Digital Media Management Program?

Sweet:          I think the term entrepreneur has become really co-opted over the last 10 or 20 years. In regards to the Digital Media Management Program here at Cogswell, it’s really the fusion of creative thinking, business systems and self-awareness within four concentrations: audio artist management, entertainment media management, game design and business modeling, and finally, interactive marketing.

Cogswell:     I’d like to know if this program is designed just for people who want to go out on their own after graduating?

Sweet:          This program is for those who want to work both independently and for those who want to be prepared to work for companies like Disney, Sony and EA. We’re teaching them the fundamentals of how to have a larger position in business, whether it’s starting their own business or working in a high level position at a global company.

Cogswell:     That’s great, because not everyone wants to go out on their own right after graduating and even the ones that do usually work for a larger company before making that jump.

Sweet           That’s right. ‘Fundamentals for the digital arts’ is a key descriptive here. Let me give you an example. We had a Dean of a business school speaking to us recently. His brother had gone to an Ivy League school, was a practicing attorney, but wanted to get into the animation field.  He had to go back and make coffee at the animation company for four years before he got hired into management because he knew nothing about animation. Imagine if he attended a law school integrated with digital arts. I don’t believe he would have been making coffee.

Cogswell:     Sounds like he needed our Digital Arts Management program, he could have probably secured a degree in less than four years.

Sweet:          Indeed, but what’s really going on out there is that you have a generation of individuals who are running media companies, largely a result of consolidation and mergers, who don’t know the fundamentals of the digital arts business. You have the artists who work in these companies who don’t know business because it’s out of their comfort zone, and then business managers who don’t know anything about where the art comes from.

Cogswell:     What specific sets of skills will digital artists learn in this program that will help them be more successful?

Sweet:          Digital arts students understand how content is created, but they may not understand how to monetize it, create a working business model around it, protect it, keep it legally viable, market it, or determine who the target customer is. It’s not like there’s a How to Run a Studio for Dummies out there. We provide the core skills of what is needed to run a digital arts enterprise and present the information in the context of the arts, where our students are most comfortable.

Cogswell:     Aren’t some skills universal, don’t all businesses need some of the same core skills regardless of what the industry is?

Sweet:          Yes, but the digital arts have a unique core skill set. If you talk to most of our students and you ask them why they’re at Cogswell, what they are not going to say is ‘I want to be a business person.’ The students look at the business world and say, ‘that’s not something I am good at.’ Cogswell’s Digital Media Management program places students at the intersection of business and the digital arts. We use the term ‘entrepreneurship’ as a vehicle to teach business to our students. The irony here is that the attitude of a game designer or someone who wants to manage musical artists is decidedly anti-business, but many of our graduates have gone on to work at Pixar, which is owned by Disney, one of the largest companies in the world. They end up with most of the same skills, but learned in a very different environment. They find out that the business skills they used to fear actually come quite natural to them.

Cogswell:     Can you share a specific example of this?

Sweet:          Sure. This summer we are offering Hip Hop: America’s Narrative Platform. It’s a humanities class, but the idea is to teach students how to do a S.W.O.T. analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) by looking at urban music. We’re teaching a core business skill through an art form.

Cogswell:     What you’ve described certainly demonstrates a larger need in the industry for this broader base of education in the digital arts community.

Sweet:          Absolutely. Just imagine that you work for an entertainment company, but the person who signs your checks worked at a television network for 20 years selling soap ads. They were great selling ads, but when the network bought your record label, they got moved, placed above you on the ladder and do not know anything about music. To them, everything is business and corporate culture. To the recording artists, everything is music and culture. The Cogswell Digital Media Management graduate becomes the conduit in between. We’re finding that there has to be a happy medium between the people who are creating the content and the people who are monetizing it. This is what our program is all about.

A Day in the Life of an Audio Engineer

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

Spliggityfidge Studio

Want a quick peek into what an audio engineer does? Then watch this short video by Kevin Weber, owner of Spliggityfidge in Emeryville, CA as he walks you through some of the things you need to know to enter this profession.

So much of what Kevin says is mirrored in the coursework and teaching approach of Cogswell College’s Digital Audio Technology degree program.

He talks about the importance of working in a fun and aesthetically pleasing environment. Cogswell’s studios and classes are designed around these principles.

His background in engineering was key to his success since it emphasized problem-solving. Cogswell focuses on giving students the tools they need to tackle any challenge.

He also discussed the need for a technical education but also just jumping in taking on some recording projects. His advice meshes well with Cogswell’s emphasis on providing project-based learning experiences.

All of the changes in the audio industry have opened up a lot of opportunities for skilled audio engineers.

Jump Start Your Animation Mojo

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Cogswell College knows what it takes to take your talent from beginner to pro – but here’s a helpful article in 3D World Magazine with a few tips to help you decide if animation is the right path for you.

Their 10 tips include: the best use of your time (don’t waste time playblasting), how to approach each scene (treat each phrase like it’s own shot), dealing with facial expressions (it’s about motion not poses) and troubleshooting (bookend trouble spots).

It’s a challenge for artists to step back from their work and keep moving forward before each shot is perfect.

Check out the trailer from “Worlds Apart” an award-winning, short animation produced by Cogswell’s Project X class.

More Summer Classes to Put the ‘Wow’ in Your Education

Friday, May 17th, 2013

Classes start on May 20.

BB Sketchbook (DAA499ST) A general storyline or previously published manuscript will be assigned at the start of the semester and students will work to develop everything that will go into a world which suits that storyline.  Over the semester, students will also be given intensive observational assignments to assist in the learning and development process.  These assignments will force the students to intensely observe figures, plants, machines and other items which will then allow for a complete understanding of real-world subject matter that can be later turned into confidently imagined characters, environments, vehicles, props or whatever  is needed as a conceptual step forward in designing to the given storyline. Ideas will be generated and changed and turned into something new, all chronicled in sketchbook form.  The end result of the semester will be a compilation of this development process.

“As the name ‘Sketchbook’ implies, this course is intended to be a ‘behind-the-scenes’ approach to developing ideas and imagery for character and creature design, environments, vehicles, props and anything students can imagine.  For every great concept, there is a paper trail of hard work, discarded and unseen ideas and drawings – the dirty laundry of concept development – this will be the focus of this Summer 2013 Sketchbook.”  -David Perry, Faculty

Theory and Practice of Sound Work (DAT 302) Have you ever wonder how and why music and sound impacts our moods and emotions? If your answer is yes, then Cogswell’s audio department is offering a class this summer that lets you examine the ways that sound and music interact with body and mind states. Sound Work takes a critical look at the issue from both a music theory standpoint and from a body/mind perspective. Explore multiple Sound Work practices, representative musical examples and take part in exercises and experiments to accompany the reading and discussion.

“Doing Sound Work frames music and sound in a different way. It often is as much energetic as it is sonic. Sound Work is successful if a listener or subject experiences some beneficial change, such as better concentration, a decrease in compulsive urges or deep relaxation. Engaging with the practice of Sound Work can be life-changing in its effect on a musician or audio specialist.”  -Tim Duncan, Faculty

“I’ve seen research that shows how certain sounds can induce states of healing, reduce stress or induce sleep. I think this is a very understudied field and would like to be part of research projects. It’s fascinating how frequencies affect the brain and can be embedded in musical works to promote different states.”  -Brahmanya Ananda, Student

Ultimate Electronic Music Production (DAT 499) lets you spend your summer immersed in every aspect of electronic music. Start with the history of and then move on to an analysis of groundbreaking works, focusing on an examination of the evolution and expansion of music production technologies in electronic music.  Take a behind-the-scenes look at famous synthesizers. Explore the use of MIDI/synch in the studio and concentrate on the elements of advanced sound design by (re)creating sonic textures and incorporating stylistic analysis and (re)production.  Best of all, the class features a synthesizer workshop.  With more than two decades of experience and passion, platinum-album electronic music composer, Julius Dobos, looks forward to sharing the techniques, sonic discoveries and future possibilities electronic music holds for dedicated students.

“Electronic music is an expansive and ever-evolving field within music composition & production, stylistically much more diverse than most would think. It has influenced countless genres and it presents an inexhaustible number of ways to communicate musical ideas.”  -Julius Dobos, Faculty

“Given the wide variety of distinguished professionals teaching at Cogswell, the best thing a student can do for his/her education is to take advantage of a teacher’s experienced wisdom on a subject. Ultimate Electronic Music Production is a great opportunity to hone my skills at electronic beatmaking, learn how to use heady gear in creative and efficient ways, and receive invaluable instruction and advice from a seasoned producer with a familiar passion for electronic music.”  -Daniel McFarren, Student

Technology & Culture (HUM 199 B) is an introduction to contemporary thinking about the nature and significance of technology as a dynamic element in human society and an embodiment of cultural values. Does technology work for us – or do we work for technology? Through the exploration of important – and widely divergent – theories of technology, you will be asked to think critically and creatively about the technologies that impact the work you plan to do upon graduation and the culture in which we live.

“Technology is the lens through which we view our work, our relationships with others, and even ourselves. It’s really important to develop a conscious approach to thinking about and discussing technology – so that we don’t mindlessly accept what the media tells us, or sleepwalk through our interactions. I’m excited to present this fascinating and challenging material to Cogswell students who engage every day with big questions about technology and culture.”  -Susan Harvey, Faculty

Apocalypse & the American Imagination (ENG 499) is taught in a seminar setting giving students ample time to delve into American’s obsession with zombies, cyborgs and the end of the world.  Why are we so fascinated with the apocalypse? Students will be asked to isolate and analyze memes and tropes in popular culture and media, and develop a deeper understanding of our culture in the process.

“I think it’s important because it teaches young artists how artists use culture to build and create something original.  The better your understanding of culture, the more informed your creations are.  I came up with the class because I was fascinated with how resilient zombies, cyborgs, and apocalypse are in our media.  I wanted to know more about it, and I do learn more each semester with the students in this seminar.”  -Richard Schimpf, Faculty

“I would like to take this class because I have an open-minded opinion on the possibility that our species will ruin this planet and make it uninhabitable.”  -William Collins, Student