Archive for the ‘Cool Stuff’ Category

Interview with Cogswell Digital Audio student Randy Greer

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Randy Greer - Image from: randygreermusic.com

The Cogswell Pulse interviewed senior Digital Audio Technology student Randy Greer about the creation of his compilation album that was released last semester.  Randy began studying classical music in 2007, under DR. Scott K Bowen, Travis Silvers and Aaron Garner. He later shifted his focus from classical music to digital music while at Cogswell College. We asked about his experience in producing an album and the journey that he went through.

Q: What is the inspiration for your music?

A: The inspiration varies from song to song really. Because the songs have to cover a wide variety of styles, I have to draw inspiration from all over. I might listen to jazz and country back-to-back for a week straight in while I’m working on a rock song. I got one of my catchiest melodies “glock jams” from a mechanic who was whistling to my music as I wrote with my window open.

Q: What project did you create your music for? Why did you create your album?

A: I created an album for my Portfolio II class. It’s license free music to hand out to businesses to help get my name out there as a composer.

Q: How long did it take you to create? What software did you use?

A: It took me the whole semester to create the album. I wrote about 3 songs a week, but some of the songs had to be recorded. All songs had to be edited, mixed, and mastered.  The album art and website had to be created as well. I used Pro Tools 10 a lot. I also used a MIDI notation program called Guitar Pro, mastering was done with iZotope, and I used Propellerhead Reason 5 for a lot of my electronic sounds.

Q: What is your favorite part about the album?

A: My favorite part of the album was probably the country song. I had to learn to play the banjo just for that song and I fell in love with the instrument and its unique characteristics.

Q: What was the most challenging part about creating the album?

A: The most challenging part, believe it or not, was not the time constraints. It was not knowing how the music will be used. This meant I had to make music without direction even though it still had to fit parameters to stay as useful as possible.

Q: What did you learn while creating this?

A: I learned that although the people guiding you have knowledge, it is often faster and more consistent to execute your own decisions – with confidence and reason. I learned how to write a simple work-for-hire contract. I learned how to play the banjo, and I also learned how to prep meals for marathon work sessions. That might not be important to everyone but I don’t believe it’s necessary to kill your body to make good work while meeting tight deadlines.

Q: Did you create the album with the help of other people? If so, how did they contribute?

A: Having outside help was a must. I have original music falling out of my ears to the point where it’s a distraction on any given day. But finding ways to manage and present the music can be overwhelming with 45 songs at a time. I had to use other students in the audio department for mixing and mastering: Justin Floyd,  Joey White, Marc Rivas, and Andrew Wilkins were all a huge help. Often times, the school’s studios were overbooked, or equipment I reserved was rented out to someone else when I had booked a session with a professional musician.  Those other students pulled through to help me out in emergencies.

My whole class also helped with feedback on songs and how they might need reworking. It was a critical listening process. Also Katie Fortune was a huge help, she worked with me remotely to get the album art to present in a professional way.Q: What was your experience with working with other people on a project like this?  What did you learn?  What were the benefits and challenges?

A: Most of the people I worked with who were also Cogswell students were reliable and fast, however most of the people who were not from the school – like my session musicians – were flaky. They were willing to commit but reluctant to execute, without some coaxing and encouragement. The best thing I did was playing the instruments myself. I made recordings by myself. I mixed by myself. It’s not that I wouldn’t want to work with these people, but when I’m on a timeline and being graded and they are not, I can’t expect them to put the same amount of care and determination into a piece of work that I would.

Q: What would you do differently for your next album?

A: Hands down, I would write for a project that had a specific need. I like to make music that is uniform and collectively representational. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll write anything for the right price, but I only had a week to formulate this project.  At the time, I was also doing work with MediaWorks. That said, I’m currently working on an app that requires a diversity of music. Funny how that works I guess.Q: What career do you hope to get into?

A: As far as careers go, my first choice would be to create original music and sound effects for video games, followed by movies or television. I’d also be happy to be hired to write music for apps, commercials, online videos and startup promotions. Ideally I would like to work full-time for a company that has good benefits. I’m not sure how many 9-to-5′s are out there that fit that description, but I my goal is to one day start a family.  I want to be able to support them without compromise and I will need a job that can ensure that that happens.

Finding Dory

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Hold your breath and hold the press—new details are swimming the internet right now about Finding Dory, the long-awaited sequel to Finding Nemo from Pixar Animation Studios. Guess what—much of the film is going to be set in California! At the Marine Biology Institute of California, to be precise. (Sounds a lot like Santa Cruz to me.) As stated by comicbookmovie.com, “the story of the movie will follow Dory, Merlin and Nemo as they set off on a journey to find about Dory’s past and parents.” In addition, we also learn that Dory had, in fact, been born at the Institute and was released into the ocean when she was young. We’re going to see the return of many of our favorite characters, but there’s also going to be plenty of new ones—including Dory’s parents! (Do they also suffer from short term memory loss? Are they natural blues as well?)

Apparently there’s been software developed specifically for handling crowd simulations for this movie (the many schools of fish) which isn’t surprising at all. Studios are constantly upgrading to newer and better ways of showing us complex animation and rendering – the likes of which we’ve never before. With their newest release Big Hero 6, Disney has set a new bar in terms of the level of sophistication in rendering.

Speaking of fabulous rendering—be sure to keep an eye on Project X here at Cogswell. I was able to get a glimpse of a few of their first renders of the new and upcoming animation short and I was blown away. I feel that this new one is going to be an amazing addition to what Cogswell has accomplished so far.

Happy Holidays!
Sierra

CTN Animation eXpo 2014

Monday, December 8th, 2014

Creative Talent Network Animation Expo

If I were to describe an experience as life-changing, this would be one those experiences. Talent from all over the world was concentrated into a single, weekend-long conference at the Marriott Hotel in Burbank, California. Thousands of artists and animation enthusiasts gathered to participate in workshops, visit artist booths, have their portfolio reviews by industry professionals and make connections. Animation legends like Glen Keane and Eric Goldberg were there. More than once, I walked by a short, older man in a Hawaiian shirt and realized I’d just passed by one of the greatest names in animation. While I never got the chance to talk with Eric Goldberg, it was thrilling just having seen him in real life.

Sierra Gaston with Dice Tsutsumi

Sierra Gaston with Dice Tsutsumi

I participated in seven workshops, many of them concentrating on character design. A particularly useful one by Ty Carter, a visual development artist at Blue Sky Studios, focused on how to get a dream job right after college. Ty Carter made it very clear that a lot of hard work was required—and that if any of the workshop attendees were as good as the artists currently exhibiting at CTN, we would definitely get into the industry.

I had around four portfolio reviews; two by Nickelodeon from their Artist Program and Interactive Content Development departments, one by a professional (and very exhausted) character designer, and the last by an extremely talented character and design artist who actually volunteered to look at my portfolio and gave me feedback. Portfolio review is so extremely important—while getting invaluable critiques on how to make your art work better, you are also making connections and getting a really good look at what the industry standard is. There’s a certain degree of fear in what others will say about your work, but I was mostly eager to see in which areas I was succeeding and which ones I needed to work harder at. The reviews were very positive, and I left with a clear vision of what I needed to work on before application dates rolled around.  I also gained a possible lead working with Nickelodeon.

Sierra Gaston with Tom Moore

Sierra Gaston with Tom Moore

In addition to workshops, book signings, and meeting artists, I got to see a screening of Song of the Sea, the newest animated feature by Cartoon Saloon in Ireland. A story about selkies, humans that are part seal in nature and can transform when they put on their coats, Song of the Sea is breathtaking in its 2D traditional intricacy. It’s wonderful seeing a traditional animation studio from Ireland making waves in such a 3D animation-focused industry.

CTN is an absolute must for any serious student in any area of animation. The connections are invaluable, and it is a privilege to be in the same room as some of the artists that attended this year. It’s a dose of reality to be around industry professionals of that caliber—while in school you’re in a completely different environment, but once you’re actually talking and interacting with people you’ve only heard about your entire life, it makes it that much more real. A weekend in Burbank among people in love with what they do is the perfect tool for inspiration and personal growth.

Sierra Gaston, Digital Art & Animation Student, Cogswell College

Cogswell student group ready to go to CTN Animation Expo 2014

Cogswell student group ready to go to CTN Animation Expo 2014

About CTN

The CTN animation eXpo
Nov 21-23, 2014
Burbank Convention Center
800 604 2238 | 818 827-7138
www.ctnanimationexpo.com

The only event of its kind presents a unique opportunity that brings together the top professionals from both the traditional and digital worlds of animation. Hosted by the Creative Talent Network, this six year event has captured both the industry and local community’s attention as a resource for education, employment, inspiration, business opportunities and most of all FUN!

While the Expo has a very broad appeal, it is focused specifically on “THE TALENT” from the animation and surrounding communities. In an intimate setting at the Burbank Marriott Hotel and Convention Center thousands of attendees meet the faces behind the fantasy from yesterday, today and tomorrow over the course of 3 days. The event presenters include contributors from some of the highest grossing animated films of all time and are targeted to empower professionals, educate students and entertain the general public.

Of particular interest to attendees are the Live Demonstrations, Networking Receptions, Master Workshops, Panel Discussions, Business Symposiums, Recruiting and the Professional Exhibits offered throughout the Expo as well as the signature One-On-One Personal Consultations with creative professionals from top studios and educational institutions both local and international all happening during the first city wide proclamation of “Animation Week” just for this event.

With a demographic that includes both students and professionals it is our pleasure to work closely with each of our sponsors to ensure that every agreement is tailored to address your specific marketing objectives. Together we can make this event a memorable and successful one that will bring the community together as well as raise awareness for the animation medium each and every year.

“…AMAZING … ONE OF A KIND … BETTER THAN EVER … SO NEEDED IN OUR INDUSTRY…”

- See more at: http://www.ctnanimationexpo.com/axAboutUs.php#sthash.4zihYqnp.dpuf

Kegan Chau, Cogswell Audio Student, Attends AES

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

Cogswell’s own Kegan Chau attended the AES (Audio Engineering Society) convention this year, gaining valuable knowledge and insights about his future career. Being both a student at Cogswell and a member of the student AES chapter at Cogswell, Kegan expresses how well prepared he felt while taking on this year’s AES. Kegan is a Digital Audio Technology student at Cogswell and has been a part of several large projects at the College. Currently, he’s working with on-campus animation studio, Star Thief Studio, as both composer and sound designer.

Watch the interview on YouTube here: Kegan Chau, Digital Audio Student, Attends AES

Marc Farly, Senior Sound Designer at Sony Playstation

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Cogswell AES Student Chapter Presents: Marc Farly
Monday, December 1th
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
Dragon’s Den

Are you interested in sound design? What about sound design Sony Playstation? Senior Sound Designer Marc Farly is coming to Cogswell College to share his experiences and background, then open the floor to give  students a chance to have their real world questions answered.  Don’t miss it!

3D Displays through QR Codes

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Image credit goes to Gizmag.com and The Optical Society A "lenslet" sheet is placed over a smartphone screen to show a 3D image

A team of engineers led by Bahram Javidi (Professor of Electrical Engineering) from the University of Connecticut have found a way to display 3D images by simply scanning a series of QR codes, without needing use of the internet. This is possible due to the storing of compressed and encrypted images, which can be easily scanned, decrypted, and decompressed by commercial smartphones for secure 3D visual communication. This process is done by selecting the primary image to be visualized. This could be either a single 3D object, or an entire 3D scene. The 3D image is then broken down by taking multiple 2D images of it from multiple perspectives called elemental images. Each elemental image is taken from one portion of a precisely oriented array of tiny lenses called lenslets. The lenslet then captures the scene from many slightly offset perspectives. The elemental images are then split into two essential parts: the unique perspective of the 3D scene and the corresponding intensity information. This system is still in the concept stage and not yet available for commercial use however, the researchers believe that their system can be improved to produce higher quality 3D visual images and a more secure integration with smartphone technology.

Peter Gazallo
Digital Art & Animation Student

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!