Archive for the ‘Animation’ Category

Behind the Scenes of the Lego Movie

Monday, February 10th, 2014

If you played with Lego blocks as a child – or even as an adult – they don’t miss “The Lego Movie.”  Filled with beautiful animation and great voice actors, according to review, this film is sure to grab your heart.

This short video takes you behind the scenes and let’s actors, Liam Neeson, Chris Pratt and Will Ferrell, talk about the experience of seeing their ‘Lego’ alter-egos come to life. The clip is a fascinating look at how the animators took the actors’ expressions and superimposed them on our little plastic friends.

If you’ve seen the movie, let us know what you thought.

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.

Cogswell Faculty Shares His Expertise with DreamWorks Artists

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Even professional artists who are at the top of their game still have things to learn. Cogswell faculty, Thomas Applegate, brings inspiration and a new perspective to the artists who take his workshops through the Artistic Development Office.

Applegate designs the workshop content to meet DreamWorks goals which typically focus on expressive narrative and character design and expression. Most of his workshops run for 6 weeks and average 15 to 25 participants.

Some of the classes he has taught include: Character Development, Character Sculpture and 2D Water color Character Portrait. His most recent class was Character Expressions.

“When you teach a class to professional artists,” said Applegate, “the expectations are really high. It requires a lot of energy on my part to make sure I challenge them. But on the other hand, these very talented artists come in with lots of humility and are eager to learn. I feel honored that they approach our time together with that attitude and do my best to reciprocate.”

Thomas is an Assistant Professor in the Digital Art and Animation program at Cogswell and is the Director of the Studio E project class.

10 Short Animated Films Considered for an Oscar

Friday, December 27th, 2013

The 10 films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their production companies and whenever available, a link to the trailer.

Feral,” Daniel Sousa, director, and Dan Golden, music and sound design (Daniel Sousa)

Get a Horse!” Lauren MacMullan, director, and Dorothy McKim, producer (Walt Disney Feature Animation)

Gloria Victoria,” Theodore Ushev, director (National Film Board of Canada)

Hollow Land,” Uri Kranot and Michelle Kranot, directors (Dansk Tegnefilm, Les Films de l’Arlequin and the National Film Board of Canada)

The Missing Scarf,” Eoin Duffy, director, and Jamie Hogan, producer (Belly Creative Inc.)

Mr. Hublot,” Laurent Witz, director, and Alexandre Espigares, co-director (Zeilt Productions)

“Possessions,” Shuhei Morita, director (Sunrise Inc.)

“Requiem for Romance,” Jonathan Ng, director (Kungfu Romance Productions Inc.)

“Room on the Broom,” Max Lang and Jan Lachauer, directors (Magic Light Pictures)

Subconscious Password,” Chris Landreth, director (National Film Board of Canada with the participation of Seneca College Animation Arts Centre and Copperheart Entertainment)

Do you have a favorite?

Twas the Night Before an VFX Artist Christmas

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

One of our alumni shared this with us last year and we thought it was worth repeating.

************

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 while 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.

A Conversation with the Directors of Five Top Animations

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Five animation directors, Chris Sanders ("The Croods"), Chris Renaud ("Despicable Me 2")Dan Scanlon ("Monsters University"), Jennifer Lee ("Frozen")and Chris Wedge ("Epic") gathered for a round-table discussion about their films and the special needs of the genre.

The LA Times recently covered the Envelope Animation Round Table and had a conversation with five directors of top feature animations. The directors were Jennifer Lee (“Frozen”), Chris Renaud (“Despicable Me 2″), Chris Sanders (“The Croods”), Dan Scanlon (“Monsters University”) and Chris Wedge (“Epic”) tackled such topics as the challenges of female characters, the effect of celebrity voice actors and the changing economics of feature animation.

Congratulations to the Cogswell alumni who had the opportunity to work on these films:

  • Frozen – Christopher Evart, character technical animator; Andrew Jennings, character technical animator and Chad Stubblefield, modeling supervisor
  • The Croods – Steven Sorensen, final layout artist and Carrie VanEtten, image finagling artist.

Did any of their comments surprise or inspire you?

From Star Wars To Gravity: The Special Effects Milestones That Shaped Cinema

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

The title of this intriguing slide show in Empire Online basically says it all – the milestones that shaped the use of special effects in film. This presentation of 19 moments from ground-breaking films includes a description of the early special effects and the techniques that they made possible in later films.

Starting with Bound for Glory in 1976 the piece progresses through more than 30 years of films highlighting the works the authors thought had a significant impact on the industry.

Did they leave out any films you think made a big difference in the types of special effects available?

How Disney Made the Snow Look Real in ‘Frozen’

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

It’s only snow, right? How hard can it be to make snow look real? Well several Cogswell alumni who worked on the film could probably tell you stories of long hours in front of their computers striving for the perfection that is a Disney hallmark.

This article and short video in Mashable, talks about the new technology called, ‘material point method,’ that Disney animators created to bring the desired realism to the scenes in the film. The accompanying video was first shared at this summer’s SIGGRAPH when the animators explained the algorthms behind the complex particle response and showed some nifty and very realistic demonstrations of their “snow” in action.

Congratulations to Cogswell alumni Christopher Evart and Andrew Jennings who each received credit on the film as a Character Technical Director and Chad Stubblefield who is credited as Modeling Supervisor!

If you saw the movie, let us know what you thought.

Giving Up Won’t Solve Your Problems or Why Art Can Be a Problem

Friday, November 29th, 2013

Disney Character Artist, Chris Oatley, shares insights into learning from your failures, knowing when you’ve learned everything you can from the piece of art you are working on and knowing when to move on. Oatley says, “Works of art abandoned for frustration, self-doubt and depression are needless casualties of a needless war.”

According to Oatley, the process of art-making is basically just a sequence of problems with corresponding solutions that begins with an idea or an inspiration and ends with a finished piece of art. Instead, he suggests that artists look at the rocky patches they hit during the creative process as a measure of progress.

His final piece of advice is, “Art problems are external. Don’t internalize them. Don’t blame yourself for their existence.”

What ‘rocky patches’ have you hit during the creative process and how did your solve them?

Cogswell’s MediaWorks Presents its ALearn Corporate Identity Project

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Screen Shot from the ALearn Animated Logo Project

MediaWorks, a project-based, learning program in which student teams engage in audio and visual production projects for real-world clients just completed a flagship corporate identity and messaging project for the Santa Clara-based nonprofit, ALearn.

Check out the project on YouTube.

Cogswell College instructors Julius Dobos and Anthony Dias envisioned the concept and are leading the implementation of the MediaWorks program. Utilizing their industry experience, they oversee student-produced works that include animation, live action footage, sound design and original music. The program’s audio and visual production projects involve real-life client meetings, creative brief and concept generation, participation in the approval process and project and time management.

The ALearn media production, just a little over a minute long, included a newly-animated corporate logo, original music and sound design. A preliminary version of the video was previewed and well-received at ALearn’s annual fundraising dinner in October.

“The MediaWorks program is designed to immerse students in the real world process of audio and visual production,” says Anthony Dias, co-leader for the project and digital audio technology (DAT) instructor at Cogswell. “Our students sat down with the client, listened to their vision and asked them questions aimed at guiding the creative process.”

The class meeting about the project.

MediaWorks has created a shift from the college’s standard semesters-long portfolio classes—some of which can take up to 18 months for completion—to 6-8 week deadline-driven client projects where students work in teams of 12-20. Dias and Dobos, adopted this model in an effort to mimic the experience of working for a large creative agency.

“We wanted the students to feel the pressure of the project’s deadlines, just as they would if they were working in a large creative agency,” says Julius Dobos, distinguished lecturer at Cogswell and MediaWorks’ co-leader for the project  “There’s a big difference between creating sound design for movies and sound design for corporate communications, one is entertainment, the other is advertising.”

Dobos has composed movie scores for Hollywood films and admits that most of the students want to work in Hollywood or a big studio environment creating varying forms of entertainment.

Dobos continues, “Our students have the chance to utilize traditional corporate work as a stepping stone to the entertainment field, which is a lot harder to get into directly. Through MediaWorks, they will have big-name Silicon Valley companies in their portfolios that even industry professionals would envy, which presents a huge edge in the marketplace. Not only being ready to work with a major client but showing the results of having done so makes a significant difference on a job interview or when you are launching your own business.”

The goal of the MediaWorks program is to generate sufficient revenue to provide for student compensation and the ability of the audio, engineering and animation departments to make technology purchases as new industry tools become available.

Cogswell is in talks with several high-visibility Silicon Valley firms for media projects for 2014 and has begun work on a yet-to-be announced multinational corporate client project, currently under non-disclosure.

We look forward to sharing the projects with you as they become available.