Archive for the ‘Digital Art’ Category

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

Cogswell Kicks Off 2nd Annual After School Program with San Jose’s Independence High School

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

COGSWELL COLLEGE KICKS OFF 2ND ANNUAL “AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAM” FOR FALL 2014 IN CONJUNCTION WITH SAN JOSE’S INDEPENDENCE HIGH SCHOOL

Sunnyvale, CA, November 10, 2014 – Cogswell College, a leading educational institution offering a unique, project-based curriculum fusing Digital Art, Engineering and Entrepreneurship, has just commenced its 2nd Annual “After School” program with 48 students currently enrolled.

Cogswell College designed this program in conjunction Mr. Jack Aiello a senior instructor with San Jose’s Independence High School. The After School program represents a shared endeavor between Cogswell College and Independence High School, and is made possible for the high school through a five year grant from Goodwill to Independence High and Cogswell’s support of providing free instructions and usage of their studios and equipment.

The Cogswell After School program will run for eight weeks, and offers courses in the areas of Digital Audio, Digital Animation and Game Design. This unique program engages students in a project-based learning environment led by Cogswell faculty, and features classes modeled on a redesigned Cogswell curriculum – one that is specifically suited to meet the needs of high school students.

Abraham Chacko, Cogswell’s VP of Admissions & Marketing, and facilitator for the After School program, said, “The teenagers who attend Independence High School are from the Silicon Valley, so when they realize that we are offering custom designed classes to them in digital animation, game design and digital audio, their ears really perk up! They know that future jobs within companies like Disney and Pixar might be within reach, if they have the knowledge and exposure to these digital art forms early in life.”

“We are delighted to be in the second year of this program. Last year, the response to this wonderful program was terrific. We had 50 students participate in 2013,” Grettel Castro-Stanley, Independent High School’s Principal said. “Those students reported back to us that they learned a lot, were inspired and encouraged, and had a great deal of fun in the process.”

Independence High School’s Jack Aiello is a “Project Lead The Way” – trained instructor who teaches Introduction to Engineering Design at Independence High. He is also a coordinator of that school’s pre-engineering program, Space Technology Engineering Academy Magnet (STEAM). He serves as the faculty facilitator for the Cogswell After School program in tandem with Chacko.

“Running an after school class with 20 students at Cogswell, working in a project-based environment, is far more advantageous than the more traditional teaching model that involves lectures or video presentations at the front of a classroom of 35 or more students,” says Aiello. “The hands-on computer and audio equipment, programming tools and industry-experienced instructors that Cogswell offers us are a tremendously valuable resource. The partnership with Cogswell allows our students an exciting peek into the ‘behind-the-scenes’ world of the digital creative arts, and gives them a leg up into the super competitive, post graduate world of securing creative jobs in the digital space.”

ABOUT INDEPENDENCE HIGH SCHOOL:

Located in San Jose, CA, Independence High School is one of the largest high schools in Northern California. With a student body of approximately 3200 for the 2014-2015 year, Independence is also part of the East Side Union High School District. The high school is one of about 400 State of California school participants in the California Partnership Academies (CPA) program. The program stresses rigorous academics and career technical education, with a career focus. Schools involved with the CPA program boast the highest graduation rates (95%) in the state, attributing this to their focus on pre-engineering and technical education programs and smaller learning communities.

For more information on Independence High School, please see: http://www.ihs.schoolloop.com/

ABOUT COGSWELL COLLEGE:

Designed as a “fiercely collaborative, living laboratory,” Cogswell College is located in the heart of the legendary Silicon Valley in Sunnyvale, California. The school is a WASC accredited, four-year institution of higher education with a specialized curriculum that fuses digital arts, audio technology, game design, engineering and entrepreneurship.

Numerous alumni of Cogswell College have secured prominent positions within the entertainment, videogame, technology, computer, animation, and motion graphics industries throughout California and beyond. Several of these alumni have established careers with such high profile companies as Activision, DreamWorks Animation, Disney, Electronic Arts, Pixar, and Microsoft Game Studio. Many other alumni have launched their own creative ventures.

Recent Cogswell alumni were members of the Academy Award-winning production teams which worked on the blockbuster films “Frozen” and “Life of Pi.” Some of the other well-known consumer projects to which Cogswell alumni have contributed include the feature films “The Boxtrolls” and “The Avengers,” and the popular videogames “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,” “Halo 4” and “Battlefield Hardline.”

Additionally, animated short films conceived and produced by Cogswell students have gone on to win prestigious awards, including those presented by the California International Animation Festival, the Colorado Film Festival, the Oregon Film Festival, the Miami Film Festival, the Philadelphia Film & Animation Festival, the San Jose Short Film Festival, and Canada’s International Film Festival.

Cogswell College is located at 1175 Bordeaux Drive, Sunnyvale, California, 94089. For more information, please call 1-800-264-7955 or visit: http://www.cogswell.edu/

Contact for Cogswell College:
Rachael Sass
Creative Services Manager
Sunnyvale, CA
408/498-5150
rsass@cogswell.edu

Media Contact for Cogswell College:
Dan Harary
The Asbury PR Agency
Beverly Hills, CA
310/859-1831
dan@asburypr.com

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

Feature Spotlight: Modeling Toolkit

Friday, November 7th, 2014
Autodesk Maya 2014 Modeling Toolkit

Autodesk Maya 2014 Modeling Toolkit

Before Autodesk’s 2014 version of Maya, trying to find the mesh editing tools you needed within Maya was a bother. You had to go through a cluttered UI (user interface) just to find that one tool that always seemed important enough to have its own tab. You were also limited to having one component tool active at a time: face selection, vertex selection or edge selection. Often times I’ve wondered why Maya couldn’t have cleaner functionality like its counterpart, 3DSMax. After all, both programs are made by Autodesk and 3DSMax is far less technical and more forgiving.

Suddenly, from what seemed like out of nowhere, Autodesk introduced the Modeling Toolkit with their 2014 release of Maya. It is a 3D modelers dream! All of the most commonly used tools are now set up right in front of you, in one click of a button. Gone are the days of rummaging through the 3D modeling program, just to find one primary tool.

Need to have all component tools active at once? No problem, just click multi-component.

Need to work on two sides of a model at once? It’s as simple as selecting a center edge, and clicking symmetry.

Thank you Maya for making this modeler’s life easier!

Peter Gazallo

Cogswell Presents: Nye Warburton

Thursday, November 6th, 2014
Cogswell College Presents: Nye Warburton
Cogswell Presents: Nye Warburton
Tuesday, November 11th
12:45 – 1:30
Dragon’s Den

Students!
Do you find yourself starting projects that never get finished, or find yourself swimming in awesome ideas and never do anything with them? Come see Nye on Tuesday to learn how to…

Finish it! How to take your creative ideas and finish the project.
Tips from the industry. How to go from idea to final film, or final game, or whatever you are building. A little bit of project management, a little bit of creative advice and a little bit about the business and how to get your work out there.

About Nye:
Nye Warburton is an animator, cartoonist, game designer and artist. His graduate thesis film, Magnetism, landed him in the Los Angeles animation industry in 2004. He spent a decade at studios like Electronic Arts, Sony Imageworks, Fox, Blur, Proof, Digital Domain and  The Third Floor. He has worked on 30+ high budget films including Monster House, Thor, Battleship, Men in Black III and Oblivion. He has had development deals with Fox Animation and Comedy Central, as well working on several independently funded animation and game projects.

Nye currently works as a creative director for start ups, out of his office space in downtown Los Angeles. Visit him online at http://nyewarburton.com

Concept Art Process for Award-Winning Short Animated Films

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Kong Vang, Cogswell alumni and Art Director of two short animated films

Kong Vang, Cogswell alumni and Art Director of the two short animated films “Driven” and “Worlds Apart” – both created in Cogswell College’s Project X class – shares his process of creating character concept designs and more.

While working on the films created in the Project X class, I learned that it takes a very dedicated team to make a short film in four semesters or less. Many of the students on this team are attending classes full-time in addition to contributing their talents towards making an awesome film.

Here’s an overview of what happens during the production process of a short animated film: First the script and storyboards are completed and approved, within the first semester. Meanwhile, the concept team begins creating concepts for characters and environments.  Approved concepts are sent into the modeling pipeline as soon as they are approved where our artists create 3d models. As each model is approved by the Director, they are sent into the texturing and rigging pipeline. Technical artists create animation rigs for each model and prepare them for animation testing.  Animation is a long process so it is important to get the rigged 3D models to the animators as soon as possible. Animation takes almost a year to get all of the shots approved.  After the animation is polished, the first test of the film timing is created, approved, and sent off to the sound effects and music score team.  Also during the process of animation, approved shots are sent to the lighting team for light set and test render. When the finalized lit shots are rendered out, they are sent to the compositing team for the final clean up. After the composite shots are cleaned up and finalized, they are sent off to the film editor who creates the final cut of the film and music score.

On the latest film ‘Driven’, each member of the team wore different hats depending on which stage of the production pipeline the film was in.  For instance, initially I started out in the concept design pipeline, then moved to the animation pipeline and finally to matte painting for the final stage of the film.

One of my jobs as a concept designer was to collect the approved designs from the other artists and finalize them. Because most approved designs are from different artists, each with their own distinct style, the finalization process ensures a consistent look and feel. After finalizing the look and stylization of the characters, I would render each character in 2D using Adobe Photoshop so that it would represent its 3d counterpart.  This allows the Director to easily visualize how each character will look before it gets passed along to the modeling team.

Digital media is the fastest way to work and Photoshop offers the perfect tools and work flow for this demanding field. With infinite tool presets, custom brushes, and limitless iterations, it allows me to work more quickly and easily compared to traditional mediums like paint or ink.

To block out the initial character’s silhouette, I like to use a standard round brush, which I adjust into an ellipse shape, then angle it 45 degrees. This style of brush setup creates a line weight that flows much more nicely than the standard round brushes. Once the silhouettes and internal shapes look good, I create a new layer in Photoshop and start to block out the forms with one color value. At this early stage, I prefer to work in black and white.  It makes it easier to focus just on values and form rather than getting caught up about the colors. My preference in digital painting is to work from dark to light values, or shadows to highlights. It has been my experience to get results much faster using this method than trying to paint from light to dark.  I push and pull (lighten and darken) the values until the character forms are clear.  During this process, I maintain a wide range of values to create depth and realism.

Once the characters have been sketched out, it’s time to experiment with color palettes. I like give a slight color tint to the values before painting on top of the black and white image. The tint layer acts as a color wash so none of the black and gray value show through later. I create a new layer and set the Layer Mode to “Color”. I start by painting over the character with the color palette that the team agrees on. By using multiple layers, I don’t lose my original black and white image – and I can test out different color schemes.  Once I’ve added general color blocks to the characters, I use a new layer to start painting in details. For the final detail stage, I use textures and custom brushes to polish the look of the characters.

The development stages from concept to finished product vary from character to character; it all depends on what the Director is looking for. For example, secondary characters may be approved before main characters. Main characters are often challenging as they have to be visually pleasing and have the right visual attitude. On the other hand secondary characters have far less restrictions, allowing flexibility for designers to explore their creativity.

The concept team spent almost an entire semester designing characters. After four months and multiple iterations, all nine characters were finally approved. Once approved, I took the concepts and started finalizing each character’s look. It took me roughly four or five hours to render out the first pass of each character to show the Director.  One character in particular – the adult Biff cop – took almost ten hours to design.  After multiple small changes, the final designs were approved.

One of the most surprising and challenging characters to design was the Jet Bike that the main character rides.  Its importance in the film is equal to the character that rides it. Although there were many great concept designs shown to the Director, none of them were approved. That’s when I was given the tough task of designing the bike. After fifty designs, we started to narrow down the concept. Once the main silhouette was chosen, I mixed elements from the best three designs together to get the final jet bike concept. The process for this single ‘character’ took three or four weeks, from start to finish, working with traditional mediums like graphite and paper.

This is just the front-end of the production pipeline for a short animated film. It takes a strong team and lots of man hours to complete the film. In the end many people had come and gone, and lots of talented people contributed to the film. We were all so glad that the film was finally finished. It took the PX team about four semesters and two summers of hard work to accomplish the short film, Driven. The Project X class has given me the best hands-on experience possible. It has definitely changed my future and life for the better. Thanks Project X!

Kong Vang

Thoughts from Inside the Star Thief Studio Project Class

Monday, November 3rd, 2014

Star Thief Studio Logo - Animated Short Film Project

For two semesters, I was part of Star Thief Studio (formerly Studio E) – a project-based class that creates an animated short in an on-campus environment that mirrors an industry studio production pipeline. When I first started out, I had a very general idea of what I’d be doing, but in truth I was heading into the project pretty much blind, and hoping that I’d be able to perform on the same level as the other artists. During the first week, we were separated into different groups: pre-visualization (pre-vis), production, and post-production. The pre-vis group had duties including concept art, color keys, layout, and animation blocking— mostly preliminary planning and design. Members of the production group started on animation, character modeling and painting backgrounds. The post-production group was tasked with polishing, texturing, lighting, and general effects that would make the project visually appealing.

As a general painter and designer, I helped out in several different areas. My first group did design and layout, followed by texturing and painting.  I moved onto several other areas as well, helping out wherever needed, as phases of the production cycle started and ended.

Star Thief Studio Character Model

Star Thief Studio Character Model

Our studio’s pipeline used a structure where we tackled one shot at a time. First the storyboards were completed and handed off to a layout artist, who created a 3D scene in Autodesk Maya, based off of the storyboard. In addition, rough color keys were created to determine an artistic direction for the background elements. Preliminary animations were blocked out, based on initial layouts, and later replaced by polished animations with the finalized characters and completed backgrounds. The process concluded with a combination of polishing, re-assembling, and finalizing texturing and lighting. Because of our unique process, each group within the studio was constantly involved.

My day-to-day process started with talking with the team to find out what was needed and then picking up tasks to help complete a scene. Often, I took 3D models that our artists created, imported them into Mudbox or Photoshop and painted them.  I would then re-import everything back into Maya. The models were then placed into a scene to create the background.

Star Thief Studio - Oak Tree Model with Animated Leaves

Star Thief Studio - Oak Tree Model with Animated Leaves

By the end of my time at Star Thief Studio, I had experienced modeling, rigging, and background animation in addition to the painting that I was already doing. Working within the studio has shown me that you get a broader experience when working on a large-scale project.  I found myself juggling tasks I didn’t expect, and it was an interesting experience. It pushed me to grow my skills in certain areas which have helped me to become a more roundly-developed artist.

Whether or not I will actively use the skills I’ve gained on this project once I start my career, I do not know.  But, as a once very traditionally-based artist, I’ve definitely become more technically nerdy. What I do know is that by doing a little bit of everything, I understand more about the roles that comprise a studio.  This will help me in the future to understand the needs of everyone within a studio and allow the pipeline to run more smoothly.

I hope that everyone will enjoy our film when it is released, and perhaps will have an opportunity to understand and appreciate the multi-layered process of creating an animated short. This team has truly created something extraordinary.

Sierra Gaston