Archive for the ‘Alumni’ Category

Cogswell Alumnus, Andy Timm’s, Art Featured in Flicks and Bits

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

It’s so cool to see artwork created by our alumni get published. In a recent Flicks and Bits review about the “Dark Knight Rises,” they featured a piece by Andy Timm depicting a wrestling match between Bane battling Venom.

Congrats Andy!

Adobe Youth Voices 2013 Selects Two From Cogswell as Judges

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Jose Saavedra

Cogswell student, Jose Saavedra Lara who was a 2012 Adobe Youth Voices winner, has been selected as one of the judges in the upcoming Adobe Youth Voices 2013 competition in the Music Video category.

Jose, along with fellow Cogswell students P.J. Poloai and Diamante Horton, directed and produced Keep Pushing, a video that received the Gold Award in the Music Video category in the 2012 competition. Their moving narrative, Angel in my Sky, received a Gold Award in the Narrative Category of the competition.  20 20 Vision, an inspiring call-to-action music video, received the MTV Act Award. The trio met at the Redwood City Boys & Girls Club while in middle school. The Club houses a state-of-the-art production studio and provides guidance from Adobe industry professionals who donate their time to teach audio engineering, video editing and production. Jose, P.J. and Diamante turned to Cogswell College to continue their education and earn their bachelor degrees. Jose’s goal after graduation is to become a music producer for the best in the business.

Michael Martin

Michael Martin, Dean of the College at Cogswell College, has been asked to serve as one of the judges in the Poster Campaign category. Michael also currently serves on the San Jose Arts Commission and sits on the nationally recognized Public Art Committee and the Mineta Airport Art Program Oversight Committee.

Death Boulder Bones is in the Running to Win the Next Game Boss Competition

Friday, March 8th, 2013


IGN’s Youtube web series, The Next Game Boss, has a Cogswell College alumnus connection. Seth Robles who graduated from Cogswell in 2005 is the Lead Artist on the Death Boulder Bones game that is one of the final three games in contention for the $10,000 prize.

Death Boulder Bones, a product of Grandendroit, is an innovative new auto-runner game. The twist is that the game player controls the environment instead of the character. Using their mouse or touch screen, players draw walls, jumps and even control time itself in order to lead the near-sighted adventurer, Dr. Indianapolis Bones, to the exit. Along the way, gamers challenge themselves to collect the many artifacts and secrets hidden throughout each level.

“Early player response has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Robles, “and the game is expected to shake up the runner genre.”

Grandendroit began in 2009 when coder Eli Delventhal and artist Seth Robles met during the first Global Game Jam at Cogswell College. Frustrated with the difficulty of realizing their creativity at their day jobs with the gaming establishment, Grandendroit became a place for their own ideas to take flight. In 2011, they began work on an innovate auto-runner game, Death Boulder Bones.

As for the results . . . you’ll just have to watch! Check out their website to see the episode where the final two competitors are selected. Will Death Boulder Bones be one of them?

They currently have a Kickstarter Campaign underway to raise funding for further development ahead of the games official release this summer.

Let us know what you think about their game!

Ever Wonder What the VFX Artists Did on the Life of Pi?

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

It’s hard to image a film without the wonder that special effects brings to the movie-going experience. Their hard work and talent makes those things that couldn’t possibly happen – believable.

Several Cogswell College alumni had the opportunity to be part of the cadre of artists who worked on the Oscar-winning “Life of Pi” and offer a fascinating peek into the life of the artists who bring these stories to life.

Most of these artists were also graduates of Cogswell’s unique Project X class. One of the secrets of Project X is that it does not run like a regular class but rather a full-blown film production company. Hours are long, aesthetics are very demanding and the artists are treated like professionals and not students. This total immersion creates an environment conducive to quality, camaraderie and the highest production value.

Our Alumni talk about their work on “Life of Pi”:

Ryan Rogers

Title: Technical Animation Lead

Brief Description: As a tech anim lead I was in charge of half of the tech animators that we had in LA as we had two teams. Technical animation is a department that is tasked with bringing to life all of the secondary motion of a scene. Our main tasks for “Life of Pi” were skin simulations, fur simulations and simulating the tarp that was covering the boat (which actually turned into our hardest character).

Most notable work: Tech is also in charge of any interaction between live action people and the CG characters. One of my most notable memories from working on the show were the scenes where Pi put Richard Parker’s head on his lap. We had to do a quite a bit of work on the shot to feel like the two characters were really sharing the same space, and that Pi’s hand was really contacting the tiger and running his hand through the tigers fur.  The dummy that they used on the set for the actor to act with, was just that… a dummy, it wasn’t an actual tigers head. A few of the shots, Pi is running his hand from the side of the tigers face, up to the top of his head. These were very difficult to sell, as the tigers head and the dummy didn’t line up perfectly. We had to do a lot of things to cheat the tracked hand to push down into the tiger’s fur so that we could get some sort of interaction through our simulations. It took a lot of time and ingenuity, but it was all worth it in the end. When you watch those scenes in the movie, it’s very convincing that Pi is running his hand through the fur of a real 500lb dying Bengal tiger .

Chris Evart

Job Title: Technical Animation TD

As a TD, I was responsible for the animation of muscle contraction and jiggle for skin simulation (sim), character interaction with skin and cloth and post animation geometry cleanup. Basically, the workflow was sim the muscles, sim the skin over the muscles, sim the fur over the skin and then do the interactions with the boat/set/plate actor.

I was responsible for many of the shots on Life of Pi because I worked on the show during the main production period and did a bunch of shots then, but I also was the only Tech TD (besides the supervisors) who came back and finished up the show after it came back from hiatus.

Some of the most memorable shots for me were:
An extremely long shot when the tiger first emerges from the tarp and kills the hyena. Pi rolls around on the tarp and there was a ton of tarp/tiger interaction. Simulating the tarp to get good interaction was a challenge but I’m happy with how it turned out. It’s the reveal shot of the tiger and it’s about 1600 frames I believe.

I did a close up interaction shot of Pi crying and petting the tigers head and then another interaction between Pi’s hand and the tiger’s head skin/fur as well as all the normal tech stuff. (skin sims and such.)

One of my shots was where the hyena starts attacking the dying zebra and bites his leg. The zebra kicks the hyena so I got to do fun kick recoil and interaction work. It also had OJ in the shot yelling.

Another favorite was the shot where the tiger comes out from under the tarp and turns around and roars right at the camera.

For each of these shots, I just described the shot specific stuff I did but I also did all the general tech on each of the shots.

Chris Sutherland

Job Title: Compositor (the process of combining multiple footage layers or “elements” to make them appear as if they were shot with the same camera, at the same time)

Before I started compositing on the film, I was asked to help with the Stereo QC stage of production–the first step in getting every shot ready for vfx magic. I trained and helped lead artists in LA for a while, which enabled our team to refine and streamline the process. After a couple of months, I had the opportunity to fly to our Hyderabad office in India for two weeks of training a small team of artists there. Wow… what an experience! Not only did I get to see an entirely different culture, but I also made some very good friends almost instantly. It’s a trip I will never forget… There is so much I could tell but I think it would end up being a book! Shortly after that trip, I started on the compositing stage of things…

First of all, it was amazing to work under Bill Westenhofer. The man is a master at his craft as visual effects supervisor. At least 95% of the time, he knew exactly what he wanted and gave very clear notes for artists to address. It’s hard to put into words how important that is for us! Not only that, but he was easy-going, and relatively chill for the most part. After working with him on this show, it’s no surprise that he’s been nominated for three Oscars and won two!

Second, it was even better to work directly under the guidance of my sequence supervisor Chris Kenny. It seemed no matter what issue I came across, he knew a way to address it. Every opportunity he got, he was teaching me something new. I learned a lot working with him and for that I’m also very grateful. He was also able to keep a light-hearted and fun atmosphere for the team, even when things got stressful and a bit crazy.

In terms of my own personal shot work, I felt very fortunate to have a variety of shots, and four in particular that I thought were really ‘cool’. One was when the whale jumps out of the water and knocks Pi off of his raft. My shot was of Pi underwater with all the jellies and bioluminescence. Another was in the flying fish sequence, when the camera whip pans from left, where all the fish are coming from, to right, where Pi and Richard Parker are in the boat trying to avoid and/or catch them. The last shot I worked on for the show was in the meerkat island sequence. It’s the first shot of the night scene, when Pi awakes, surrounded by meerkats in the tree. But finally, maybe the coolest shot I composited–that I had the least to composite on, funny enough–was where Richard Parker’s head takes up the entire screen for a few seconds, and you can just stare into his eyes. Beautiful imagery created by amazingly talented artists.

Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of working on this film was seeing it finished in theaters. It was a wonderful feeling to have my expectations blown away–as a film, as a story, and on top of that, a visual masterpiece. Even though I’d worked on the film and seen final shots in dailies, I was still astonished by the final product. I don’t know that I’ve seen another movie where the visual effects had so much to do with telling the story.

Working on Life of Pi honestly felt like a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I am immensely grateful for the experience.

Ben Taylor

Job Title: Systems Operations Administrator

The work I did on the film covers a wide range of technical aspects on all the shots.

Some of my responsibilities included: Managing studio resources, converting/finalizing all the shots, fixing renders and various pipeline issues, and increasing efficiencies between technology and production.

It’s always fun to do work that you enjoy, although Life of Pi came at a very challenging time for our studio.

Embark on Dark New Adventures with Grimm Bros

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

How Grimm Can a Game Be? That depends upon your definition. If you imagine a game filled with dark-themed fairy tales and a large dose of black humor, then the new Grimm Bros offering might be just what you are looking for. Think Evil Dead meets Monty Python and you’re in the right neighborhood.

Grimm Bros is a new start-up studio founded by Cogswell College alumni, Ash Monif, and his partner Randis Albion, both veteran game developers. Their focus is to produce a franchise of Triple-A quality games for PCs and tablets using a cloud-based technology – meaning you can play anywhere, anytime on almost any device.

“I have always been a fan of complex subject matter,” said Monif. “I grew up reading the classics Grimm, Chaucer, Tolkien – and I feel that today’s games gloss over a lot of the richness that can be found within these great works.  Our goal is to build a community of core and mid-core gamers who are seeking out a redefined RPG experience.”

Monif and Albion have worked together for many years and in 2013 decided to combine their talents to found Grimm Bros. The company has started production on its first title and will announce details at the upcoming 2013 Game Developer Conference in March!

Ash Monif is CEO and in charge of business development and production. His game credits include: Fort Courage (Android), TinkerBox (iOS), Fieldrunners (Mobile/Online), Mercenaries 2 (Console), James Bond, FRWL (Console), Sims 2 (PC), Lord of the Rings – TTA (Console) and James Bond – EON (Console)

Randis Albion is COO and in charge of art direction. His game credits include: Puzzlevania (iOS), ThinkerBox (iOS), League of Legends (PC), MMO Cooee (PC), AquaNox Angels Tears (PS2), AquaNox II (PC), and AquaNox (PC)

Sergei Gourski, another Cogswell College alumni and co-founder of the award-winning Subatomic Studios and creator of the hit sensation Fieldrunners had the following to say about Grimm Bros, “We worked with Ash and Randis on multiple projects. Both are outstanding and extremely talented individuals.  Grimm Bros looks like a great team with lot of potential for success!”

Check out their official Facebook page for updates and game release dates.

Wonder What Cogswell Alumni Do? Here’s a CGI Sample from Rhythm & Hues

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

While the news coming from Rhythm & Hues last week seems bleak as they head in to bankruptcy, there is always hope for a new beginning.

In a statement issued by Lee Berger, president of Rhythm & Hues Film Division, he said, “Following the filing, R+H will be seeking to secure financing for future growth. I believe that we are going to come out of this situation stronger, more efficient and as prolific as we are now.”

Whatever the eventual outcome – and we are rooting for R+H to succeed – their artists have done a lot of amazing work over the years as demonstrated in this video showcasing their CGI abilities.

Quite a few Cogswell College graduates worked on projects in this clip and we are happy to celebrate their talent as well as the great work of R+H.

Cogswell Alumni Work on Top Games of 2012

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

A few of our Alumni’s Facebook posts caught my eye last week. It’s great to hear about the amazing projects Cogswell grads are working on!

Scott Russell at Electronic Arts posted: The games I worked on last year took home some hardware!

“Need for Speed: Most Wanted” won Racing Game of the Year (at the VGA 12) and “SimCity Social” won Web Based Game of the Year at this year’s DICE Awards! Huge congrats to my friends at Criterion, Playfish, and Mindwalk!

Mike Apolis at Cryptic Studios posted: A glowing preview of “Neverwinter”:

“’TERA’ used to be the standard visual ideal, now for me, the ideal to beat is ‘Neverwinter.’ It’s just that good, and there’s really not much more to say than that.”
http://lorehound.com/news/neverwinter-beta-preview-part-1/#more-33620

Forbes is also impressed with Neverwinter.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/danieltack/2013/02/07/neverwinter-first-impressions/

Alumnus, Chris Waltner, an animator at Telltale Games worked on “The Walking Dead: The Game” which won Game of the Year at the VGA 12. Kudos also go out to Alumni, Pat Gillette and Will Christensen, who are animators at Microsoft Studios/343 Industries and worked on “Halo 4” which picked up the Best Xbox 360 Game at the VGA 12.

If any other Cogswell College alumni worked on the top games of 2012, let us know! You’re an inspiration to the students who hope to follow in your footsteps.

Cogswell Grads Worked on Some of Highest Grossing Films of 2012

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013


This has been a great year for the movies and Cogswell College alumni worked on a number of the top 30 grossing films of 2012. We salute our animators, 3D modelers, Concept Artists and Programmers who are building great careers in an industry they love.

The Avengers, weighing in at #1, was touched by Gregory L. Smith as a Digital Modeler: Legacy Effects and Adam Lawson as an Animator.

If any of you saw Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, then you saw the handiwork of Carl Frytz as Postvis Artist and Adam Lawson as Animator.

Carl Bahor as a Resource Animator and Allen Stetson as a Production Engineer at DreamWorks had the pleasure of working on Madgascar 3: Europe.

Chad Stubblefield used his skills as a Visual Development Modeler at Disney on Wreck-It-Ralph.

Rhythm & Hues, one of the top special effects houses in the world, opened the door for a number of our alumni to work on two of 2012′s biggest hits. Joshua Cogswell, Technical Animation Lead; Jessica ‘Psy’ Delacy and Andrew Jennings both Technical Animators; Ben Taylor, Render i/o Coordinator; Jason Bettinger, Layout Artist and Adam Lawson, Animator provided some of the talent that made Snow White & The Huntsman so visually stunning.

And who can forget the Life of Pi? Alumni Chris Evart, Technical Animator; Ryan Rogers, Technical Animation Lead; Chris Sutherland, Compositor and Nic Spier, Digital Artist all had the opportunity to work on that breathtaking saga.

If we missed seeing a Cogswell alumni name in the film credits, we apologize. Let us know, so we can recognize your hard work as well.

Good work everyone! We look forward to seeing your talents grace the big screen again and again.

PC Gamer Features Neverwinter

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Neverwinter Game Box ArtNeverwinter made the cover of PC Gamer in its upcoming issue. Neverwinter is a product of Cryptic Studios in Los Gatos and a number of Cogswell grads worked on the project.

Designed as a story-driven game of adventure and intrigue, Neverwinter is a true Dungeons & Dragons experience of epic tales, strategic gameplay and classic roleplaying – all brought to life with the dynamic Cryptic game engine. Players can create and share their own adventures using The Foundry creation toolset, work strategically with other players, or choose to go it alone with the help of conscripted AI henchmen.

Congrats to everyone involved!

Twas the night before Christmas, at the VFX House

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012


“Twas the night before Christmas, at the VFX house
Everyone was still there, ’cause shots “HAD” to go out.
The clips were all loaded, ready for playback again,
With hopes to be home by a quarter past ten.

The artists all wiggled, back and forth in their chairs,
Confident that “Finals”, soon would be theirs.
VFX sup at the ready, their anticipation grew,
As they all settled in, for one last review.

When out in the hall there arose such a clatter,
They sprang from their seats to see what was the matter.
From through the door a producer screamed like a loon,
More shots just came in, due tomorrow afternoon!

“How could this be, do they know it’s Christmas eve?”
“We’ve been on OT for 6 weeks, and now we can’t leave?”
“For my family I’ve bought, nothing at all!”
“On the way home, I was going to stop at the mall!”

Sadness and anger took over their minds,
But soon they were off, they dared not get behind.
Back to their desks, away they did flee,
Anxious and worried, what kind of shots would these be?

No new characters or props, a bit of good news,
A new environment, no time, an old one they’d re-use.
More rapid they typed, as they got back to work,
They drank coffee, and yelled, and started to curse!

“Screw Maya and Nuke and this proprietary crap!”
“Wake me when that file loads, meanwhile I’ll nap!”
“Ok, it loaded, but my assets aren’t showing!”
“Where the hell are those files, there’s no way of knowing!”

After awhile they all settled, back on the right track,
They had to make haste, there was no going back.
Hours and hours they slaved at their screens,
Pushing every pixel, every red blue and green.

And then, via email, a bit of joy after all,
Donuts in the office, at the end of the hall.
Pushing and shoving to claim circular delight,
Glorious sugar and frosting, some fuel for the night.

With simulations and renders, out on the farm,
A slight glitch here and there, no cause for alarm.
Keeping tabs on their renders, frame by frame,
Soon they would finish and freedom they would claim.

By four the next morning, all tasks were complete,
Freshly animated and lit, then composited neat.
Shots uploaded and queued, so they gathered once more,
Tired and haggard, the team was drained to it’s core.

The VFX Sup stood up and looked over his crew.
A wave of pride rushed over, and immediately he knew,
These people had families that soon would awake.
These words he spoke so loud, the ground it did shake!

“Get away from this place, another minute do not spend.”
“Be with your spouse and your kids, go home my dear friends.”
“If during review the client says these shots do not pass,”
“I’ll turn to him and say, why don’t you kiss my ass!”

They looked at each other, then started to cheer,
Finally it was time, they were all in the clear.
They got up and walked out, goodbye they all waved,
Racing home in their cars, Christmas might have been saved.

Back in his office the VFX sup awoke from his slumber.
Where had everyone gone, out loud he did wonder.
Up on the roof, old Santy morphed back to himself,
“Happy Christmas to All!”, shouted the jolly old elf.”