Archive for the ‘Cool Stuff’ Category

Pixar Animator Michal Makarewicz visits Cogswell

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Picture credit goes to "animationfestival.no" and was used for the "Fredrikstad Animation Festival" in Europe.

Michal Makarewicz visited Cogswell College on the evening of November 19th, 2014. Currently holding the title of Directing Animator at Pixar, Michal joined the company in 2003 and has worked on many of the company’s films to date. His body of work includes The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, Toy Story 3, Cars 2, and Brave, as well as numerous Pixar shorts. In 2008, he was awarded an Annie for “Outstanding Character Animation in a Feature Production” by the International Animated Film Society for his work on Ratatouille.  Michal is also the co-founder of the Animation Collaborative, a school of animation founded by professional animators. Teaching since 2005, Michal has also been a lecturer as well as teaching classes at the online school, Animation Mentor, as well as instructing classes at California College of the Arts and the Academy of Art University.

The evening of November 19th was a special occasion, not only were students shown the workflow and artwork of an industry professional, they were also treated to an animation demo! This is quite rare, as most guest speakers do just that – speak and answer questions. Michal helped foster a loose and friendly atmosphere, answering any questions posed to him during his demo, no matter what they were. The presentation Michal gave started off with a 10 minute reel of his work at Pixar. He seemed hesitant to play it, citing time constraints, but the crowd wasn’t going to have that. After the video, Michal dove right into a detailed breakdown of his workflow including tips from his mentors, examples of how to streamline your work, and even throwing in an impromptu lecture on the philosophy and principles of animation. After his presentation, we were given a meet and greet opportunity while Michal set up his animation demo.

Michal started his demo using Maya and a free rig available to to the public. He imported some audio from “Liar, Liar” and proceeded to show us each and every step of his process, flying from menu to menu and making rapid changes and edits. He explained exactly why he was doing what he was doing, and would ask the audience for feedback on his work while he did it. Asking the crowd for feedback and suggestions made the session more interactive and laid back, which seemed to be greatly appreciated by those in attendance; everyone had a great time. After a short 40 minutes, Michal had fully animated a character including facial expressions, body movement, even mouth movements synced with the dialogue. And the crowd had helped!

The evening closed with Michal explaining his role at the Animation Collaborative, and a thank you. This truly wasn’t a night to miss for any hopeful animators or those interested in the field of animation. Hopefully we will have more speakers that with interactive presentations and allow the crowd to get more involved. I’m ready for more speakers like him, are you?

Juan Rubio
Digital Art & Animation student at Cogswell College

Toy Story 4

Monday, November 24th, 2014


When the first Toy Story movie came out in 1995, it signaled the dawn of a new era. The fully animated film paved the way for other CG (computer generated) films, and is now the most common form of animation. Over the next 15 years the sequels Toy Story 2 and 3 were released, causing generations of audiences to feel like they had grown up with the characters. Toy Story 3 was declared to be the end of an extraordinary trilogy, and many felt it was the perfect ending. The toys had encountered the worst possible obstacles but overcame them all, even facing abandonment and annihilation in the process. We collectively said a tearful, but content,“goodbye” to the toys whom we had grown attached to. Then, earlier this month, Toy Story 4 was announced.

The internet exploded.

Mixed reviews of “Why on earth are they making ANOTHER Toy Story?” and “So excited they’re making another Toy Story!” popped up everywhere. John Lasseter made an announcement regarding his decision to direct another Toy Story movie – it seems that they were presented with a storyline they couldn’t pass up. Although personally I loved the ending to Toy Story 3 and thought it was the perfect way to wrap up an amazing storyline, it’s intriguing to consider the plotline possibilities for the upcoming Toy Story 4 that will be released in 2017. It was revealed that the new Pixar film will revolve around a love story, which no doubt put fans everywhere in frenzies of speculative delight. Will it be about Buzz and Jessie? Perhaps Bo Peep will find her way back to Woody?

Whatever the plot that will be revealed, it’s a good reassurance that Pixar has a trend of making powerful sequels that either live up to or surpass the original. There’s no doubt in my mind that Pixar will continue to carry on its legacy of excellent filmmaking.

Directing Animator at Pixar, Michal Makarewicz, made a visit to Cogswell on November 19th. Michal, whose work includes The Incredibles, Cars, Ratatouille, Wall-E, and Up, came last year and demoed an animation scene from the film Monsters Inc. Needless to say, everyone at Cogswell was very excited to see him. Who knows, maybe we’ll see some of his work on Toy Story 4 when 2017 rolls around!

Sierra Gaston
Digital Art & Animation Student

Maya Updates – A Student Perspective on New Tools

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Recently, while taking a break from working on a model, I decided to look through Maya 2015’s new features to see if there was anything awesome and worth trying. I found that there were some pretty cool changes that made Maya much more intriguing than before. First, Autodesk has enhanced the user interface to make it much more intuitive. They have added support for multi-touch viewport navigation on Wacom and Apple track pads. The Walk Tool was added which allows you to control Maya’s perspective camera. This tool allows video game controls so the user can easily move and scale objects on two axes at once. In addition, they have added new deformer options, (to alter and animate object shapes), as well as geodesic voxel binding for use with rigging along with several other improvements. The most noteworthy of all changes is the way Mental Ray benefits from interactive production rendering. Through the use of progressive mode, the process of lighting and shading shots has greatly sped up. Mental Ray now displays preview ray-traced reflections, which gives an overall better visual when designing materials. Thanks Autodesk, for continued awesome updates to one of the best 3D modeling suites!

Peter Gazallo
Digital Art & Animation Student
Cogswell College

Former Cogswell Alumni Finds Success in the Solar Energy Industry

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Former Cogswell Alumni Dean Sala, 52,  has found success in the alternative energy industry. He is both the Founder and CEO of Suntactics, a company that specializes in producing portable Solar Chargers and Solar Panels. Dean’s company and products have been featured and covered by Forbes.com, Mother Earth News, NBC, ABC, CBS, The Mercury News and The San Francisco Chronicle. The following is an interview as it appeared in a November issue of the magazine Kiplinger, Personal Finances, and is credited to Patricia Mertz Esswein.

You worked in high tech?

Yes, for 23 years, 15 of them as a software engineer for Hewlett-Packard. In 2008, HP shut down my whole division, and I was out of a job. I didn’t see myself going back to software, so I returned to school to finish a second degree, in electrical engineering.

Why Suntactics?

Solar power has interested me since I was a kid. When I returned so school, I teamed up with a partner to power a full size glider with solar energy. We worked on other projects, and in 2009 we formed a general partnership to focus on making a portable yet powerful solar panel to charge a phone. In 2010 my partner said, “I don’t think this is going to work,” and left amicably. Since then, I’ve developed three products that can charge devices with a USB connection. I have provisional patents on my designs, and I’ve sold almost 10,000 units, mostly via our website (www.suntactics.com) and Amazon.com. Our chargers range in price from $140 to $240. They’ll charge an iPhone in two hours or less in direct sunlight, as fast as a wall outlet. They’re popular with outdoors enthusiasts, among others.

You made the panels yourself at first?

The cheapest solar panel laminator I could find cost $50,000 and was full size. I needed a pint-size one. So I built my first one out of parts from a pizza oven that  bought at Goodwill. I cranked out 2,000 panels in my garage.

Did you get any outside help?

To perfect my process, I picked the brains of a scientist and a couple of engineering PhDs. But in my previous career, I never saw the sales and marketing end, and now I was trying to run a business. So I appealed to Score [www.score.org a nonprofit group that mentors small businesses]. When I told them I couldn’t keep with with orders, that’s all they needed to hear. I have two counselors- one is an expert in manufacturing and the other in marketing. They helped me find a small manufacturer to produce more units under contract.

How did you finance your start up?

I took out a home-equity line of credit on my house and borrowed about $42,000. More recently, I got a line of credit that’s backed by the Small Business Administration.

Do you make a living?

In 2013, we did more than $500,000 in sales, and I paid myself about $65,000. That’s a lot less than the $100,000 I made at the peak of my career as a software engineer, but because I’m a sole proprietor I can write off a lot of stuff on my tax return.

What’s ahead?

Our next product will charge laptops. I’m gradually bringing production into my own facility because contracting it out is expensive. We need to get into retail outlets. Our products are sold in Batteries Plus stores, but it’s a struggle to get into sporting-goods and big-box stores.

Is your work rewarding?

I’d rather do this than anything else. My customers are my bosses, and I like to make them happy. Plus, I bought a company car: a Chevy Camaro that replaces the ’68 model I sold to go to college and the ’98 pickup I had been driving. It’s my dream car.

Dean’s story is proof that it’s never too late to go back to school or follow and pursue your dreams. All it takes is a bit of patience, hard work, and determination. Congratulations Dean!

Women in Animation at Pixar

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Women in Animation - Pixar

After an hour and a half stuck in traffic on the way to Emeryville, California, a few misguided GPS turns while I was trying to follow my friend’s car, and a couple of mental debates asking myself if this was really still worth all of the effort, we pulled into Pixar’s parking lot. We were fortunate enough to be invited to an event hosted by Women in Animation, a group focused on the success of women in the field of animation.  The group had arranged for Darla Anderson, a Producer at Pixar, to talk about her work and answer questions from the audience.

Women in Animation - Pixar's Darla AndersonDarla K. has been the producer for films including Toy Story 3, Monsters Inc., and A Bug’s Life. She was even the inspiration for the name behind “Darla the Fish-Killer” in Finding Nemo, a prank that had been played on her by a co-worker during production.

The first 45 minutes were spent socializing and mixing with other members of Women in Animation. We met plenty of students from San Jose State, and some from the Art Academy of San Francisco while munching on hors d’oeuvres and sipping cocktails (huzzah!). At 7:00 pm, we were ushered into the auditorium.

From the beginning of her talk, it was clear Darla was an exceptional human being. She told us about her past, and her journey from a homeless teenager to a Pixar producer. It was evident from her personality that she never took no for an answer when it was something she wanted badly enough. She’d chased her dreams across California to San Francisco where Pixar had just started up and was undertaking a full-length animated film – a crazy feat in most people’s opinion. It took two years for her to finally get into Pixar, but once there, she worked up the ranks to land her first producer’s job on A Bug’s Life. Her talk was filled with humor and she spoke in high regard of the people she’d worked with over the course of her career, including Steve Jobs.

It was an amazing experience to hear one of the voices behind the films we all love today, and see the path she took to get to where she is now. It was also wonderful talking to so many other people who had the same passion for animation, and we all left Pixar inspired.

~ Sierra Gaston
Digital Art & Animation student at Cogswell College

Michal Makarewicz, Directing Animator at Pixar Studios Coming to Cogswell

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Cogswell Career Development Center Presents: Michal Makarewicz
Wednesday, November 19th
6:00 PM
Dragon’s Den

Have you ever wanted to see an industry professional do an animation demo? Ever wonder how to develop your project? Cogswell College hosts Michal Makarewicz today to answer your questions and more.

Michal Makarewicz, Directing Animator at Pixar Studios and Instructor at Animation Collaborative, will provide an hour-long animation demo at Cogswell. Whether you are new to animation or more experienced, Michal offers tips and techniques for developing your animation project. The presentation is in partnership with Animation Collaborative – an organization that offers workshops throughout the year on various animation industry specialties.

OM3D – 3D Manipulation of 2D Photos

Friday, November 14th, 2014

When it comes to editing photographs, Photoshop reigns supreme. But what if there was a better approach to editing a photograph? What if you could take an element within a picture and have full manipulation control over everything about it? Better yet, what if you could do it for free? Researchers over at Carnegie Mellon and the University of California found a way to do just that – through the announcement of a new, free, suite of 3D manipulation software. Their software, titled OM3D, allows a user to take an object within a 2D photograph and turn it into a 3D model. That model can then be manipulated and moved around the photo however the user desires. It also allows the users to adjust the lighting and texture of an object in order to blend in with its surroundings. The software achieves this by utilizing vast libraries of stock photographs and 3D models, and compares them to the two dimensional object the user wishes to shape. It then merges the attributes from the library of stock photos with that of the 2D object to create a 3D model that is viewable from every angle. Once the model is created, the photograph can be freely edited.


Demonstration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipTyCJi0t1Y
Download: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~om3d/code/OM3D_1_0_0_source.zip

The Book Of Life, New Knowledge

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Recently I had the pleasure of watching The Book of Life with my family. I’ll be perfectly honest, I didn’t know about the movie until a few days before Halloween. An animator who wasn’t aware of such an original movie? My word! But I saw it, and I’m glad I did. The Book of Life is brought to us by Mexican Director Jorge R. Gutierrez, co-creator of the cartoon series “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera”. After spending years trying to get somebody to believe in the project, Guillermo Del Toro signed on as producer.

Presented in a beautiful and original style, the main characters in The Book of Life are animated wooden sculptures bursting with life and emotion. There’s no shortage of appealing facial expressions and great character animation, each character moves and behaves in her or her own unique way. Color is a main focus of the art direction as well, each scene practically glows, with set pieces so intricate and detailed you swear you could reach out and touch them. The story is wholesome as well, having a little bit of everything. Family, friendship, love, growing up and more. I definitely recommend the movie if you haven’t already seen it.

Watching the movie reminded me of my current classes at Cogswell College and what is being taught in them. Most recently, I’ve been learning about the importance of lighting when it comes to character definition and scene composition. Both elements are used quite successfully in the movie. In the past, I had trouble establishing multiple layers of depth in a scene using contrast, or value; my art would look flat. What I’ve learned in my classes is that by using a simple gray scale, you can compose a scene or render a character in black and white and then make a value scale with colors, if you wish to color it all. I never knew! Perhaps someday when my skills are up to par, or better than industry standards, you will see my name in the long list of movie credits or posters around your hometown. Until then, I’m learning, getting better, hopeful and excited for what the future may bring.

Thanks for reading.

Juan Rubio, Digital Art & Animation Student

IGDA (International Game Developers Association) Meeting

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

Cogswell Presents: IGDA (International Game Developers Association) Meeting
Wednesday, November 12th
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Dragon’s Den

The Silicon Valley chapter of the IGDA (International Game Developers Association) will be meeting on-campus at Cogswell on 11/12 in the Dragon’s Den at 7 pm. PlayPhone will demo integration of the Android SDK into a game and discuss why PlayPhone’s carrier gaming network is the essential addition to traditional publishing channels to maximize discovery, engagement and revenue.

More on PlayPhone:

PlayPhone is the world’s premier mobile social gaming network. Our social gaming platform enables mobile carriers to easily offer their customers a leading edge, personalized gaming experience with the most advanced social gaming features available today. PlayPhone reaches more than a billion mobile subscribers worldwide via game stores live on Verizon, Sprint, SingTel, Telkomsel, Vivo, Claro, TIM, Virgin Mobile, Mobily and Boost Mobile ­ with more carriers coming soon. In addition, PlayPhone lets game developers launch games globally and access carrier billing for all game stores plus a complete toolbox of social and monetization features using a single integration SDK. PlayPhone’s Android, Unity and HTML5 SDK is less than 100KB and takes about an hour to integrate into games.

Additional sponsors: Five Leaf Clover, Mary-Margaret Network.
http://www.playphone.com/

Day of the Devs

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Day of the Devs - Double Fine convention - in San Francisco, California

It was a video game enthusiast’s paradise. Screens and consoles decked every wall of (nearly) every room of the two story Old Mint building in San Francisco, all displaying demos of games to be released within the next year. There was a crowd gathered around each display, each person eager to get a chance at playing the game. I was attending with a few other friends from Cogswell, whose brains I could audibly hear exploding as they took in scenery and games around them.

The turnout of indie game developers was amazing. Day of the Devs was hosted by Double Fine, so they had a room full of their own soon-to-be-released games such as Costume Quest 2 and even a remastered version of Grim Fandango, but the rest of the building was filled with small studio games like Night In The Woods and Knight Squad (my personal favorites), Classroom Aquatic, Push Me Pull You, Spy Party, Ikarus, and Please Don’t, Spacedog. A few of the games were played with an Oculus Rift headset. There was even a swag shop full of t-shirts and books related to the games. Outside in the courtyard was a bar and a stage where live DJ’s played music, and games were actively played on a large screen by their developers.

It was enough to make any self-declared nerd hyperventilate. Being as there were a thousand in attendance, the excitement in the air was palpable. Within the first ten minutes, I was thrown a controller and fighting in an arena with five or six other well-seasoned game players. My first thought was along the line of panic, as I was sure I was going to get my butt kicked by people who definitely played more often than I did, but by the first game I was hooked and throwing other players to their deaths.

In the game Classroom Aquatic, one player wore Oculus Rift headgear and was plunged into an underwater school for dolphins. The character they played was a student diver who hadn’t studied for a test. As a result, the player is forced to cheat off of the neighboring students in the room. The trick was to avoid being caught by the teacher. The game effectively gave the player knots in their stomach, and was especially nerve-wracking when players were caught and scolded by the teacher.

Day of the Devs was amazing for one huge reason; EVERYONE there was in love with games, whether they were fans or developers. As a result, there was a feeling of common purpose and enthusiasm. We were all there for the same thing, and it was exciting to be in a place where people from inside the industry and out of it mixed together in a gaming paradise.

During the course of the evening, we got to talk to Double Fine creators, several other indie game makers, and even managed some networking with other people in the game industry! It was absolutely a beneficial experience, and it made the prospect of graduation and getting to work in the industry more tangible. I’m looking forward to next year with Day of the Devs!