Archive for the ‘Digital Arts Engineering’ Category

Students at Cogswell College spend 48 hours developing games

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

The following article originally on the Mercury News website, February 4th 2015 written by Jasmine Leyva of the Mercury News. It covers the 2015 Global Game Jam event at Cogswell, and offers an inside look at the thoughts, philosophies and experiences the folks at Cogswell had earlier this year.


Cogswell College was one of 518 global sites to participate in the 2015 Global Game Jam, an annual event that sees students and gaming enthusiasts hunker down for 48 hours and create what they hope will be the next great game.

Students, professionals, alumni and hobbyists have risen to a new challenge each year to develop a game, whether it be digital or non-digital, to match a secret theme. This year’s theme was “What do we do now?”

“It’s an open-ended theme, but it’s meant to be open-ended so that the developers have the freedom to do whatever they want, but they have to capture the theme in some way,” Organizer and assistant professor Albert Chen said.

The event ran Jan. 23-25 and included a record 25,000-plus participants around the world. Global Game Jam got its start in 2008, with Cogswell College in Sunnyvale participating since 2009.

Jam participants have the chance to develop their game further by working out design flaws or programming kinks. It is even possible to have their game published and in the gaming market under an independent company or a well-known corporation.

“There have been a number of success stories where students who participated at the game jam have gotten hired into game companies. It’s a great way to jump start their career if they are trying to get into the game industry,” Chen said.

Teams at the Cogswell site were designing games with many different concepts in mind. One group was using Google Cardboard for a virtual reality game. Virgil Garcia, a sophomore at Cogswell, and his team worked around the clock to put together their virtual reality game, which he described as a horror game.

“Our idea was for a dark, atmospheric maze game,” Garcia said.

The groups at Cogswell spent hours building a concept, designing characters and programming playable levels and instructions for their games. One group of came up with Fluster Cluck, a multi-player party game resembling Tron and Snake with plenty of poultry puns.

“I believe the coolest stuff comes from the craziest ideas, and if you’re having fun something must be going right. So we came up with Fuster Cluck. I think it’s just hilarious every time I say it,” said Darrell Atienza, a returning participant to Cogswell’s event.

Atienza, a San Jose resident, was his group’s character designer. Characters he designed for Fuster Cluck included Gizard, a chicken wizard and Robocock, a robotic rooster.

Besides funny game characters and programming levels in just 48 hours, event participants said they were happy to put their skills to use for their passion. Dylan Greek, a junior at Cogswell and Global Game Jam veteran, said he’s been involved in the gaming industry since he was just a little boy.

“I’ve always been an avid player, but my dad worked for a company that made educational games back in the 1990s, so I was kind of a game tester since I was 5,” Greek said.

“I was playing the original Nintendo since I was 2, so it’s amazing to see that games I used to play were developed along the same lines as we are doing now,” said Tanner Posada, a newcomer to the event.

GAMING FOR ALL

Cogswell College has worked hard to include everyone. The Global Game Jam event saw more than 50 participants and the school’s game development club is helping curb the gaming industry’s boys club reputation. President of Cogswell’s game development club, Jodediah Holems said he is focused on making the gaming community open to everyone, just as GaymerX does.

GaymerX and GX are gaming conventions that bring game developers and enthusiast together to discuss their passions while creating a safe space for all attending.

“I think Cogswell is trying to actively get more females, but I think the ratio was 80:20 when I came in,” said alumna Cara Ricci, who participated in this year’s event with a handful of other women.

“I think Jodediah [Holems] has helped things out, especially being the game development club president. I wasn’t here for it, but I know he gave a talk for inclusive and respecting other people,” she said.

Holems, an eclectic developer, is no stranger to the game development jams. He is looking for games that go beyond the normal guns, battles and missions. He develops experimental games that take more than a controller to win a level. Last year he created a game that was a combination of the puzzle game Tetris and a word search. The game ultimately created a story from the letters.

This year he and his team created a game that reached to players’ emotional and psychological playing level. They called it “And after a long day of (blank) I removed my armor.”

For more information about Cogswell College, visit cogswell.edu. For more information about the Global Game Jam, visit globalgamejam.org.

Fantastic work everyone! And much thanks to the Mercury News for coming out for a story earlier this year.

Juan Rubio – Cogswell College
3D Animation Student
Internal Public Relations, Blog Administrator/Writer
Industry News Coverage

Project X’s Driven – Partial Team Retrospective

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

Recently, we touched base with some of the team members/Cogswell Students that had worked on the Project X short film, Driven. Given that no press has been generated other than a short blurb on the Cogswell website, we decided to reach out and hear what some members of the team had to say about working on the film.

The following text is direct from each person specified, and may or may not feature edits done in order to provide a smoother reading experience.

From Taylor Hodgson-Scott:

My Responsibilities on the Animated Short Driven:

Source: Official Driven video, Youtube

I was the Lead animator on Driven, responsible for a heavy share of the 3D Animation. This involves making the characters and vehicles/bicycles move believably and have the characters emote in a way they can connect to the audience. As the lead, I also headed up the other animators to make sure their shots were consistent with the shots around them and the motion style we were targeting. Ultimately, the director had the final say, but delegating some animation critiques to me allowed him some time to allocate elsewhere in the production, and allowed other animators quick feedback.

I also compiled the reel, taking all of the latest animations/rendered shots and editing them together to view internally, and allow us to see the flow of the film and if each shot flowed into the next fluidly. Editing is important for capturing a feeling we need to convey- especially in the last third of the film when things are amping up, quick well-timed cuts are necessary for the feeling of speed.

PROGRAMS I/OTHERS USED!

3D Animation, Modeling, Rigging in Autodesk Maya 2011
Edited the film in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5
Texturing and Matte Painting done in Photoshop CS5
Rendered using the Renderman plugin for Maya 2011
Compositing was done in (Eyeon) Fusion (6)

DEVELOPMENT TIME:

About 4 months in Pre-Vis (Pre-Visualization), which included storyboarding and low quality animation to roughly time the film out
About 18/20 months in Animation/Rendering

FOR OTHERS HOPING TO MAKE A FILM!

This is more of a general mantra than a step-by-step. Production Pipeline is much better cataloged than what I can explain in this e-mail, but here’s a few rules of thumb that may be more helpful than the gritty process.

1) You need a story that you really want to tell. It helps if it comes from a personal feeling, because that will help drive the story and performance as you flesh your film out. It can also come from wanting to tell a series of gags or just having good times, but if you don’t care about the story it will fail and be painful to work on

2) You need to seek out and employ constructive critiques from others, inside and outside the film production. This is not about using other people’s ideas and make their version of your film, but rather taking their input to improve your work. Sometimes you need to instead take the spirit of a critique when making changes, but people are perceptive and pick up on problems that you’ll be too close to see.

3) Do as much planning in the early stages as you can, it will pay off tenfold down the road. Sometimes you’ll have to destroy an entire storyboard sequence and build it up again to do it right, but if it’s gotten deep into the animation stage already it will probably be too late to economically fix and meet deadlines.

4) Communicate with your team. So many students and (bad) professionals alike forget to do this, and it is key on getting stuff done. If you’re making a change that affects someone else, don’t leave them out of the discussion if you can help it.

5) Love it! If you love what you’re doing, you’ll be able to stick to it. Finding even the smallest thing to get excited about in a film or a scene can help carry you through the tough times.

From Peter Mo:

Source: Official Driven video, Youtube

As Lighting Supervisor on Driven I was responsible for ensuring consistency and maintaining a quality standard for the lighting department. Lighting is at the tail-end of the 3D production process (Composting and Video Editing come after, but they deal with 2D), so lighters often run into problems that go unnoticed through the 3D pipeline. Render crashes due to Maya nodes created during production, problems with topology or object placement or animation that only appear when you see how they interact with light, crashes and loading issues from referencing other scenes are just a few examples.

Troubleshooting was a big part of my responsibility because technical problems, ranging from little nuisances to show-stoppers, would arise on a regular basis. A lot of my early work was assessing what we could do with our available resources in terms of computing power, people-power, and streamlining things as much as possible.

We used Autodesk Maya 2013 and Renderman for lighting. Renderman has advantages over Mental Ray in a 3D animation pipeline: fast and high-quality motion blur, fast displacement rendering, and Renderman’s Deep Shadow system. Mental Ray’s raytracing capabilities are better, but we would use reflection mapping to fake glossy reflections.

We also used camera-projected textures in the 3D scene to better control the look and style. We rendered all frames in 32-bit/channel OpenEXR image format, which allowed us a lot more flexibility in color correction without worry of color banding. We rendered out many different passes per frame to allow us to adjust different lighting elements independently, such as diffuse, specular, reflectivity, and more, before combining them together.

Unlike the two previous projects in which I was working with students who had taken lighting class, I was working with a team that had little or no prior lighting experience. Lighting and rendering took place over 2 semesters, including a lot of training in the beginning. Even after lighting was mainly complete, re-rendering of certain things went on until the very end if changes were needed or if a problem could not be fixed in compositing.

We used render presets and light rigs as a way to keep things consistent across the shots at different times of day. We had a pre-dawn and sunrise setup for Acts 1 and 3 and an afternoon setup for the flashback portion in Act 2. The light rigs were updated and improved as needed and everyone would reference one into their scene to use as the primary light sources, for moon, sun, and sky lighting. Additional lights for characters were added on a per-shot basis and setups that lighters create that worked well were shared for others to use when appropriate.

For compositing, we used Eyeon Fusion 6. It is a powerful node-based compositing program which allowed us to quickly change or fix visual elements which would take much longer to do on the rendering side. Making certain parts of the composition modular and reusing them in each other’s scenes reduced the amount of redundant work we’d need to initially perform in order to build up a composite from scratch.

Useful effects and techniques that individual compositors came up with were also made modular, such as color correction nodes for shots that had been approved, or a heat-distortion effect that worked well. All monitors used for compositing were color-calibrated to ensure the closest possible image when viewed on any of those monitors. In additional to traditional 2D compositing techniques such as color correction, rotoscoping masks, and paint fixes, we also incorporated 3D techniques directly in Fusion.

To save on render-times for a lot of the vegetation in the environments, we pre-rendered various sprites, generated point clouds of their locations, and then imported 3D cameras and the point clouds from Maya into Fusion. The vegetation sprites would be attached to points on the point cloud and rendered from the 3D camera and placed over the 2D shot, all in Fusion.

Compositing took about 2 semesters worth of work with a few dedicated compositors and a few more that were splitting time between compositing and other responsibilities. An additional month could be counted for training since none of the students had ever used Fusion before. We had a Digital Tutors account and students studied many of their Fusion lessons. I also gave some lessons based on my experience using Fusion on previous projects.

For the first time on any project, we used our own in-house render management software instead of commercial software. It was customized to our needs and the developers were very responsive to our suggestions for improvements and additional features. Commercial render management software we’ve used in the past was not reliable and we couldn’t get the type of support we needed when problems arose. It definitely helped us all maintain our sanity–without it we’d pretty much have to take shifts around the clock to babysit each render job, especially at crunch-time.

Thinking back over the events during the production of Driven, I admit I was concerned how everything was going to come together at the beginning; however, the technology we used ended up working well enough and seeing how far the initially inexperienced team had come by the end of the project was very satisfying. I’m very proud of all the students who had sacrificed so much of their time and energy to making the film the very best they could.

From Steven Chitwood:

Source: Official Driven video, Youtube

Steven handled the VFX on the short, “All effects were done in Maya 2011, specifically. I used Maya fluids, particles, nParticles. Types of effects were fire, smoke, dust, explosions, and liquids. All effects were either rendered with Mental Ray or Renderman.” he says. Other programs used in the making of Driven included ” ‘Zbrush’ for 3D sculpting of characters and some environments, ‘Renderman for Maya’ (the Rendering engine used for the film), ‘Eyeon Fusion 6′ for Compositing, and finally ‘Mel’ and ‘Python’, for scripting.

To manage the team, a combination of verbal communication, along with email and other means were used to provide both official and unofficial ‘check in’ updates. “We used Google Docs for documentation including tasks for each departments, deadlines, and milestones. We did keep track of everyone’s hours and their tasks so we could accurately predict of where the project was going.” says Steven.

On the project pipeline, Steven said the following, “I was not in PX (Project X) during the beginning, I jumped in almost mid-way through but here’s my take. We first start off a pitch that Mike had and we discussed things of what did work and what didn’t for the story. Concurrently, we started create to concepts of the film while the modelers and animators were developing the layout of the film, also, the riggers were doing some RnD (Research and Development). Once some of the concepts were starting to be officially approved, modelers would start to make the final assets and create textures for them. Once assets, textures, and animations were done, those shots would be handed off to the lighters.

Lighters simply then light shots and render them and bring them to the next stage: compositing. Compositing is where we bring all the images together to make the final shots, making final tweaks to make the shots the way we want it. Keep in mind, when animators are done with shots and the assets are created, we also hand off those shots to the effects department (me).

There, we create the fire, smoke, dust, etc and then render those effects as well in separate images, just like what the lighters do. We then bring those also into the comp to finish the shots entirely. While we are doing this film, we are also doing an ongoing edit for the film. Towards the very last stages of the film, we edit the film and see what ever else changes/fixes we need to do.”

Lastly, in short the pipeline process is as follows “story->concept->look development->layout->modeling->rigging->animation->effects->lighting&rendering->compositing->final edit”, also “We decided to create our own render-farm. Our render-farm was used to expedite the rendering process.”

It’s very clear that a lot of work went into making the short film, everyone that worked on the project had a part in making it all possible. Fantastic work everyone!!

Source: Official Driven video, Youtube

Juan Rubio
3D Animation Student, Internal Public Relations, Industry News Coverage, Blog Administrator/Writer
Cogswell College

E3 Recap

Thursday, June 18th, 2015

The E3 Entertainment Expo is happening right now, among the slew of announcements comes some welcome news for any fan of Rareware (RARE) games. Microsoft and RARE are bringing a collection of 30 of the studios games to Xbox One, including titles from the very beginning, to present day. Called Rare Replay, it features games including but not limited to:

Battletoads (released in 1991, 1-2 players), Battletoads Arcade (released in 1994), Killer Instinct Gold (released in 1996, 1-2 players), Banjo-Kazooie (released in 1998, 1 player), Perfect Dark (relased in 2000, 1-4 players), Banjo-Tooie (released in 2000, 1-4 players), Conker’s Bad Fur Day (released in 2001, 1-4 players) and more.

The games aren’t just thrown on the disc with an arbitrary menu to scroll through, RARE has included additional challenges, achievements (over 10,000 Gamerscore worth), cheats, and behind-the-scenes extras to create a premium experience. Known for their charm and quirkiness, the studio decided to present the games in a theater format, with the hosts Joanna Dark, Banjo, and Conker.

The three characters are all eager to relive and reminisce about their past, and when you select a game the theater format is left behind and you’re transported into the game world. Older titles such as Battletoad’s even feature a special filter toggle that emulates the look of a CRT monitor, complete with scan-lines and that slight blurriness we all remember from back in the day.

Source: www.seaofthieves.com

As a bonus, a brand new game will be included with the bundle. ‘Sea of Thieves’ is a swashbuckling new multiplayer pirate adventure, featuring a vibrant and colorful world that’s very much in line with Rare’s style. In the game you explore islands, search for treasure, sail ships and engage in naval warfare all with your fiends as your crew mates online. There is blunderbusses, there are swords, and yes, you can even walk the plank into shark infested waters.

Source: cdn.arstechnica.net

Sadly, certain games such as Goldeneye, Donkey Kong Country, and Donkey Kong 64 are omitted due to RARE not owning the rights. Rare Replay is slated for release August 4th and will retail for $29.99 US.

    

Source: Kotaku.com

In other Xbox One related news, Microsoft has announced that backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 titles will be arriving this holiday season for the exorbitant price of $0. Xbox’s Phil Spencer mentioned you’ll be able to access your digital Xbox 360 library, as well as load physical discs you already own. Of course, not all games will work with the service when it launches, Microsoft stated 100 titles would be compatible upon launch citing Mass Effect as an example. Microsoft took a jab at Sony’s paid Playstation Now service stating, “We won’t charge you to play the games you already own.”

    

Source for all: Dualshockers.com

Crystal Dynamics just announced a follow up to their 2013 reboot of the ‘Tomb Raider’ series, the sequel is titled ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider‘. In the trailer, we follow Lara and a colleague as they trek through a frigid cave high up in the mountains. A flare is lit, and as we approach the exit, the wind starts to batter both Lara and her partner.

The sun is coming up over the distant mountains, and then right as we exit the cave the wind settles down. She speaks with her partner and then proceeds to scale a cliff, everything is fine until massive chunks of ice begin to fall down towards Lara, we see her swing and duck to avoid the ice, and run along the cliff side as an avalanche happens right next to her. All of this happens in roughly 5 minutes time, and Lara manages to make it out in piece.

Later, we see Lara exploring ruins, jungles, jumping platforms, solving puzzles, and yes, even raiding tombs. Its all presented in an incredibly eye catching and film like manner. This approach lends the game a grandiose and wonder filled atmosphere reminiscent of the feelings we all had as a child seeing the world for the first time. It’s truly a treat for the eyes and the imagination.

Its clear that Crystal Dynamics have improved the engine since 2013′s ‘Tomb Raider‘, as we see much more sophisticated and detailed particle effects, higher quality textures overall, much nicer cloth and water simulations, and improved environmental interaction and physics to name a few enhancements. ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’ is shaping up to be a technical marvel.

Tomb Raider is back and better than ever.

    

Quick! Think about a game about a young boy trying to escape crumbling ruins along with his giant bird/dog companion. Stumped? What about a game stuck in development hell since 2007? Still stuck? Does Team Ico ring a bell?

Source: polygon.com

Yes, ‘The Last Guardian‘ is finally being released for PS4 come sometime 2016, what would have been Team Ico’s third game (and in a sense, still is) was formally showed off to the public at this years E3 conference, it is now being partially handled by original Team Ico director Fumito Ueda‘s new studio genDESIGN. Fans of the studio know their first game was the critically and publicly acclaimed ‘Ico‘, followed by ‘Shadow of the Collossus‘.

The game follows a young boy as he makes his way through high altitude ruins that are falling apart. With the aid of his friend Trico. The boy must scale walls, jump chasms, solve puzzles, and more. The idea is being that Trico is your only friend, an emotional bond will be formed as the player learns to trust Trico.

There is also hazards such as traps, some enemies, and possibly boss fights as well. The trailer shows en expanded sequence of a small clip first seen in the games original trailer years ago. The game features an aesthetic that Team Ico has been known for, grand vistas, artful lighting, and small details peppered here and there to round out the visual fidelity and atmosphere. The game play trailer can be seen here.

    

Written by Juan Rubio
Cogswell Polytechnical College

Recent News in Animation & more

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

Source: tadoo.com

Disney is releasing two critically acclaimed and fan favorite films from the famous Studio Ghibli on Blu-Ray! Widely considered to be a masterpiece, the Oscar award winning ‘Spirited Away’ (2002, Best Animated Feature Film) as well as the charming fantasy/adventure ‘The Cats Return’ will be made available for the first time in a Blu-Ray Combo pack on June 16th here in the US.

Created by world renowned filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, one of the most celebrated and respected filmmakers in the industry, ‘Spirited Away’ is a feast for the eyes. With lush dazzling landscapes, minute details in things like environments and architecture, and a story bursting with adventure and wonder, its no wonder this film has been called an absolute masterpiece. ‘Spirited Away’ tells the tale of a young girl named Chihiro who ends up in a strange and unfamiliar world populated by spirits. After witnessing her parents undergo a bizarre transformation, Chihiro is tasked with finding the courage shes always carried as well as learning to cope with change in order to save her family and free them back into the outside world. A story for the ages, ‘Spirited Away’ is not to be missed if you haven’t already seen it.

The English-language voice cast is made up by Daveigh Chase (Chihiro), Suzanne Pleshette (Yubaba/Zeniba), Jason Marsden (Haku), Susan Egan (Lin), David Ogden Stiers (Kamaji), Lauren Holly (Chihiro’s Mother), Michael Chiklis (Chihiro’s Father), John Ratzenberger (Assistant Manager), Tara Strong (“Baby”) and Bob Bergen (Aogaeru).

While the original Japanese version was written and directed by Miyazaki, the English-language version was produced by Donald W. Ernst and John Lassetter (of Pixar). Bonus content in this new release includes an introduction by John Lassetter, in addition to “The Art of Spirited Away” and “Behind the Microphone” featurettes and original Japanese storyboards, Nippon Television Special, original Japanese trailers and TV spots.

Also from Studio Ghibli comes ‘The Cat Returns’. Directed by Hiroyuki Morika the film follows Haru, a schoolgirl bored and unsatisfied by her ordinary routine who saves the life of a mysterious cat and suddenly finds her world flip-turned upside down. To alter her destiny, she must learn to believe in herself and in turn, appreciate her everyday life.

The English-language voice cast is made up of Anne Hathaway (Haru), Cary Elwes (The Baron), Peter Boyle (Muta), Elliott Gould (Toto), Andy Richter (Natoru), Rene Auberjonois (Natori), Tim Curry (Cat King), Judy Greer (Yuki), Andrew Bevis (Prince Lune), Kristen Bell (Hiromi), Kristine Sutherland (Haru’s Mother) and Katia Coe (Little Haru).

Bonus features for ‘The Cat Returns’ include the original Japanese storyboards, original Japanese trailers, TV spots, and two features: “The Making of ‘The Cat Returns’” and “Behind the Microphone.” Again, don’t miss either of these releases on June 16th.

Source: gamepur.com

‘Uhcharted 4: A Thief’s End’ developers Naughty Dog have divulged details of major improvements to their internal facial animation rigs used since Uncharted 3 and the Last of Us. They claim face models now animate with around “300 and 500 bones”. Writer Josh Scherr spoke to GamesTM and quantified the improvements by comparing them to rigs used in previous Uncharted titles, and ‘The Last of Us’ which used “about 90 and 100 ‘bones’ in their faces.”

“We’ve completely revamped our facial animation systems,” Scherr commented. “Think about that, how detailed Joel and Elli’s pained facial expressions were, how well the game captured the respective actors … Now, the faces have anywhere between 300 and 500 bones.”

“(This) lets us emote more, with all the ‘bones’ we can put onto (the face) – you pan round the camera to look at Nate’s face when he’s climbing and you see him grimacing and all this kind of stuff … we’re pushing detail on a macro and micro level that I think people are really going to respond to,” chimed in lead designer Ricky Cambier.

Nathan Drake face detail, source: Gamespot.com

On previous Naughty Dog games, “some of the animations might have been sample(d) at 10 or 15 frames per second to save memory,” these captured frames would then be run through software to interpolate or “tween” (in-between) them to run at 30 frames per second in game. This new technology can “afford to record [footage] at 30 frames per second so that [it'd] look that much smoother.”

“If you look at the first Uncharted and how that looked versus how The Last of Us looked … I have difficulty fathoming that we’ll have that kind of graphical leap in the next several years. The reality is, we probably will as we learn the systems better, so it’s all up from here, and that’s exciting.”

Naughty Dog has said it is targeting 60fps for Uncharted 4, but the studio won’t push the PS4 game that far if it affects the gameplay in a negative way. According to director Bruce Straley, the Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End – Gameplay Demo was hard locked at 30fps, however, the game is now achieving higher frame rates.

Source: Cartoonbrew.com

What if the dinosaurs hadn’t have gone extinct? This is the question animation studio Pixar poses in their latest film, ‘The Good Dinosaur’. Anyone who’s been following this movie knows its had trouble getting onto its feet, after a change in directors, and a pushed back release date ‘The Good Dinosaur’ is finally ready to be shown off to the public.

The story is somewhat simple, but full of the signature charm and multi layered approach Pixar has been recognized for. A boy and his puppy… except the roles are reversed, the boy is a wild child (the puppy) and the dinosaur is the one offering life lessons to the boy. With the help of the good dinosaur, the boy learns more about the world, himself, and how to be a normal human. Originally pitched and directed by Bob Peterson, the movie has been shifted over to Peter Sohn.

Peter Sohn has been the inspiration

Arlo (the boy) isn’t seen much in the trailer, with the teaser focusing more on the titular Good Dinosaur, and the situations he finds himself in. Most of the trailer is spent focusing on the asteroid that never impacted this big blue marble we call Earth. Glimpses of Arlo are seen towards the end, which is sort of a shame as Sohn won the directors position after his insistence on the boy-and-his-dog archetype. Sohn told Yahoo! the following:

The heart of it has always remained the same in terms of the boy and the dog. I’ve been very diligent with the story team to kind of protect that and focus on that more. In terms of the world, it has kind of changed a bit here and there, and some of the characters have gone out and new ones have come in.

“We’ve been trying to find physical obstacles and and emotional obstacles for our main character, and nature can represent both. In a lot of the research that we’ve done, going out into the Northwest and out into the wilderness, I cannot tell you how beautiful and scary it can be, and how quickly nature can just turn on you. And we’re trying to finding the truth in that in terms of Arlo’s growth.”

Watch a trailer for ‘The Good Dinosaur’ on YouTube, it will be released November 25th of this year, one day before Thanksgiving.

Juan Rubio

Pixar’s Renderman now available for free!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Image from cganimationblog.com

For those not already aware of it, Pixar’s Renderman is now available for free for non-commercial use! What is Renderman, you ask? Renderman is a rendering plug-in that Pixar developed for use with 3D animation and modeling programs. It’s an alternative rendering method to the default options already available in programs such as Maya. As previously mentioned, use of the software is 100% free, with no limitations, feature cuts, or even watermarks to worry about. As long as whatever you produce with it is not for profit, anything is free game.

The latest version of the software, version 19, brings multiple improvements to the fray. One of which is a brand new rendering paradigm Pixar calls RIS. RIS is a highly optimized mode for rendering global illumination. It’s made specifically for ray tracing scenes with heavy geometry, hair, volumes, and radiance – with incredible efficiency in one pass. What does this all mean? Renderman can render your objects and scenes much quicker and more efficiently than many other options currently available today. In fact, it’s currently the most flexible and powerful option for VFX and cinematic imagery available to the public. More information and technical details can be found at the following link: http://rendermansite.pixar.com/view/latest-tech

I highly recommend that anyone interested in 3D animation, VFX, or 3D modeling check this out. It’s not often that the public gains free access to internally developed software from professional studios, much less a fully featured and limitless version of that same software. Pixar offers multiple tutorial videos to those new to Renderman, so users can get to know the workflow and learn to use it to its full potential. The plug-in is currently compatible with Autodesk Maya versions 2013.5, 2014, and 2015 as well as The Foundry’s Katana versions 1.5, 1.6, and 2.0. Support for Houdini and Cinema 4D is currently underway. Potentially compatible programs in the future include Modo, 3DS Max, Blender and more.

Download Renderman at the following link: http://renderman.pixar.com/view/non-commercial-renderman

Juan Rubio

Quick Chat: Cogswell’s Assistant Professor Jonali Bhattacharyya

Friday, March 20th, 2015

Randi Altman’s Post Perspective Interviews Cogswell’s Assistant Professor Jonali Bhattacharyya

As the saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” This is a lesson the students in Cogswell College’s Digital Art & Animation program learned recently. When borrowing animation rigs for classes outgrew its usefulness, students were tasked with creating 3D animatable rigs for 12 original digital characters. They called this Project Avatarah. Assistant Professor Jonali Bhattacharyya and her students have now made these rigs, available free to the public, through open source.

We reached out to Bhattacharyya to find out more about Cogswell, her classes, how she helps prepare her students for the real world and how Project Avatarah came about.

Can you tell us a bit about your job?
I teach character animation — from introductory to advanced level — quadruped animation, game animation and animation portfolio. If I had to describe teaching in one word, that word would be “rewarding.” It’s a really great feeling to see our students have successful careers. In training the next-geneation of animators I use my industry animation background and my experience as a zoologist to guide them in techniques, skills and preparing demo reels.

What do students learn within the program?
Digital Art and Animation at Cogswell College offers three major concentration areas: 3D Animation, Entertainment Design, and 3D Modeling. The coursework bridges traditional and digital arts classes and includes components of theory, production, and general education. Digital Arts and Animation project classes provide many opportunities for collaborations with other programs at Cogswell, including Digital Audio Technology and Digital Arts Engineering. The Portfolio classes provide a format for bringing together all of the elements of the concept-to-delivery pipeline as students collaborate on multidisciplinary teams to complete real-world projects.

What’s your background, and how do you use your past experience as a working animator in your teaching?
I have been teaching animation for over six years. Before that I worked as a zoologist, then an animator in games (Secret Level/Sega, Factor 5). I worked mostly on platform games, including such titles as Iron Man, Golden Axe and Marvel Ultimate Alliance II. After working on game animation, I felt inspired to help the next generation of animators and give back to the animation community. I felt I had a lot to offer, and I didn’t want to regret that later in life.

I started by teaching as an adjunct professor. Initially I wasn’t sure if I’d even like teaching, but like I said, it’s very rewarding, and once I got into teaching there was no turning back. My perspective in teaching is very practical, and up-to date with the industry. I give importance to traditional fine art skills as much as animating in Maya. For me, being an animator is all about dedication to the craft, and that comes with patience, perseverance and love for animation, and that is what I want to build in my students.

What inspired Project Avatarah?
Project Avatarah was born based on a need our students had. Until now, Cogswell College didn’t own any original 3D characters, and to teach our rigging and animation classes we had to borrow rigs from other outlets. With Project Avatarah we created a set of 12 rigs, covering all our animation and rigging classes. Our characters were designed, modeled, textured and rigged in-house.

Students from across disciplines were chosen to work on this project based on their expertise and they in turn got to use these characters for their graduation portfolio. Today, our classes benefit from having a variety of rigs that cover the needs of our class assignments and difficulty level. We created characters from quadrupeds to bipeds to primitives, all designed to fulfill the needs of our curriculum. The main goal of Project Avatarah is to have our students graduate with work that has its own identity.

And you are now making these available for the general public?
There are plenty free rigs out there, but not many meet the quality that we offer. Our rigs are free, built to professional quality, created under supervision of our faculty with industry background. We recently released one of our characters to the general public, Cogswell’ the Dragon. Cogswell is available to download from our website.

In the near future we plan to release more rigs to the public — this isn’t a project that only benefits Cogswell students, this is for all animators, students and professionals alike, who need good quality rigs for their portfolio.

See the full article at Post Perspective.
March 13, 2015

Cogswell College welcomes Wajid Raza, a Lighting Technical Director at ILM

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015

COGSWELL COLLEGE TO HOST WAJID RAZA, A LIGHTING

TECHNICAL DIRECTOR AT INDUSTRIAL LIGHT & MAGIC,

FOR SPECIAL GUEST LECTURE MARCH 25TH

Sunnyvale, CA, March 16, 2015 — Cogswell College, a leading educational institution offering a unique curriculum of Digital Art & Animation, Digital Audio Technology, Game Design & Development, Digital Media Management, Engineering, and Entrepreneurship & Innovation, will host Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) Technical Director Wajid Raza for a Special Guest Lecture. Karen Keister, Cogswell’s Program Director and Assistant Professor in the school’s Digital Arts & Animation Dept., made the announcement. Keister’s department regularly features one guest speaker each semester who has prominently established him/herself within the entertainment and digital arts industry.

The lecture, entitled “The VFX Pipeline,” will take place on Wednesday, March 25, from 7:30-9:30pm in the Dragon’s Den Theatre on the Cogswell College campus. Raza will discuss how the work of each artist on a large project fits into a chain of complex tasks that, when brought together, will create the ultimate visual effects. He will also cover how a visual effects studio is structured and what contributions are made by each of the studio’s different departments.

ABOUT WAJID RAZA:

Wajid Raza is currently working as ILM’s Lighting Technical Director on the upcoming Marvel Entertainment motion picture “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015.) He first joined the renowned and multi-award winning visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic in 2009 as part of its technology group. Since then, he has worked as an Assistant Technical Director, Production Engineer and Technical Director on many of ILM’s tent-pole projects. Raza was an integral part of the team behind the Academy Award winning film “Rango” (2011) and the Academy Award nominated film “Star Trek Into Darkness” (2013.)

For the film “Rango,” Raza wrote software for the Layout Team and served as a Final Layout artist to bring the director’s vision from concept art to digital 3D scenes. He helped troubleshoot issues in a newly developed monolithic-process for working in multiple shots at the same time. One of the tools he wrote for Layout enabled them to create specialized cameras for the locked-off static shots in the movie. This technique enabled the addition of a “micro-float” treatment to the CG cameras, so their movements mimicked real-life camera movements.

Similarly, for the movie “Star Trek Into Darkness,” Raza led efforts in developing new software and production workflows tailored for the film. He helped set up a distributed fracture system pipeline that was employed in key scenes.

Raza is a graduate of Savannah College of Arts and Design (SCAD) where he received his MFA. Earlier, he completed his BS Degree in Computer Science from Government College University in Lahore, Pakistan, the city in which he was born. Currently, he is a resident of San Francisco.

WAJID RAZA’S CREDITS WITH ILM:

2015 “AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON” (currently in production) – Lighting Technical Director
2014 “TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES” – Production Engineer (Technology)
2013 “NOW YOU SEE ME” – Production Support (Technology)
2013 “STAR TREK INTO DARKNESS” – Digital Artist (Technology)
2012 “BATTLESHIP” – Assistant Technical Director
2011 “PIRATES OF CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES” – ATD
2011 “RANGO” – Layout Artist

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 offers programs in Digital Art and Animation, Digital Audio Technology, Game Design & Development, Digital Media Management, Engineering, and Entrepreneurship & Innovation.

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

Experience at the Game Developer’s Conference

Monday, March 16th, 2015

Image from url: http://www.sonniss.com/wp-content/uploads/edd/2015/03/gdc15_logo.jpg

I went to my first Game Developer’s Conference (GDC) this year, thanks to Cogswell’s ASB. From March 4th-6th, I was on a mission to do as much networking and have as many portfolio reviews as possible. However, there was no way I could be prepared for the level of insanity that this conference offered. I’ve been to animation conferences and other game events before, but this conference was the Godzilla of the gamer spirit. Imagine mega-nerds gathering from every different corner of the world and combining forces for a non-stop celebration of the video game industry —that would be close to capturing the essence of GDC.

When arriving on Wednesday, my first objective was to hit the Career Center. This area houses quite a few game company booths who have job opportunities. Fortunately, a few companies were interested in my portfolio, and I was able to get portfolio reviews with Gree and Glu Mobile. The High Five Casino games representative wasn’t able to do portfolio reviews, but she invited me to come back to speak to their art director.

Afterward the Career Center, I hit the main expo floor with some friends. Some of the biggest companies were there—Microsoft, Xbox, Steam, Windows, Google, and Unity to name a few. Many of them were showing off the newest tech that would be coming out in the next year or so. One display had a man hooked into a virtual reality setup in which he was physically running, turning, and shooting his gun. There were plenty of mo-cap setups as well, where one man was jumping around and playing basketball, with a monitor displaying a 3D character replicating his exact movements. I was particularly excited about a booth from TalentScotland—multiple game companies based in Scotland were being represented and actively looking for overseas workers. Working in Scotland has been an interest of mine, so I was pretty excited to find this booth.

After the conference hall shut down for the day, the real fun began. Companies rented out full bars and clubs just for GDC attendees. On Wednesday, I went to the Polycount Mixer and then to the Epic Games after-party. The events are intended for networking as well as having fun, and I made more contacts there. I also met an awesome group of people from the East coast and another from Denmark and Spain.

One thing I discovered at GDC was how big the gaming industry was in Norway. There was a whole section dedicated to Norwegian indie game developers, and apparently investors throw hundreds of thousands of dollars to those who are willing to make games. In that moment, I considered the possibility of moving to Norway to work as a 2D artist.  Then I remembered I was a California girl and would likely freeze to death in Norway!

I was able to get some very beneficial contacts from GDC, one being with the Director of Engineering from Gree Mobile, based in San Francisco. I will be visiting the studio next week and having dinner with some of their employees, which is a fantastic opportunity. I wouldn’t have had the chance to talk directly to artists in the game industry had it not been for GDC. I would absolutely recommend the conference to anyone who’s looking to get into games. Besides being exposed to some of the best work out there, you are immersed in what the game industry truly feels like. I’m excited at the chance to have some of these people as future coworkers—the workweek would certainly not be a boring one.

Sierra Gaston

Cogswell College Students Develop and Create 3D Animatable Rigs for 12 Unique Digital Characters

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

This article was originally featured on the Creative Planet Network website, it was published on 2-23-2015, and is credited to Cogswell College.

Sunnyvale, CA, February 23, 2015 ­­

Cogswell College, a leading educational institution offering a unique curriculum fusing Digital Art, Engineering and Entrepreneurship, has announced that students within its Digital Art & Animation program have developed and created 3D animatable rigs depicting 12 original digital characters, through the program’s in-house character project: “Avatarah.”

To download these 3D rigs, visit: http://www.cogswell.edu/modeling-rigs/project-avatarah-free rigs.php

ALSO: For “Avatarah” support, requests and comments, please
Email: avatarah.cogswell@gmail.com

The first character from “Avatarah,” “Cogswell the Dragon,” has just been released via open source data to the general public. A few of the additional 11 original characters will be
exclusively for usage by Cogswell College students, but the school does plan to release a
number of additional character 3D rigs in the near future, in efforts to draw the general public back to the Cogswell College website for download. Students around the world regularly seek interesting rigs to download, so that they can use them within their own portfolios as they animate original content based on these rigs.

The new 3D animatable rigs from Cogswell College are of the highest quality, and are
expected to stand out in the middle of the vast world of “freebie” rigs available online. In
addition to the first character, “Cogswell the Dragon,” additional characters from Cogswell will include “Toothy” the Saber toothed tiger, “Snowy” the dog and “Thunder” the horse, “Chippy” the squirrel, “Chubby” the rabbit, “Flappy” the bird, and several others.

Jonali Bhattacharyya, Assistant Professor with Cogswell College’s Digital Art & Animation
program, and formerly with noted game companies Secret Level and Factor5, spearheads the Cogswell student­ developed 3D animatable rigs project in concert with game industry
professional Sergio Sykes. Sykes, currently with EMOTIV and formerly with Massive Black, is involved with the Cogswell program as an industry rigging artist and Adjunct Faculty Member. Regarding this program, Bhattacharyya said, “For the past year or so, there has been a constant demand for exciting new 3D animation rigs that can be accessed online. Our goal with project ‘Avatarah’ is to have Cogswell students create an identity of their own within the rapidly exploding world of animation. Our initial 12 characters have all been designed, modeled, textured and rigged by Cogswell College students. This is a huge platform by which our students can really start to get their names out there!”

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, video game, 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 video games “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/

Congratulations to everyone who worked on the project, I look forward to seeing what Cogswell’s students can pull off with these original rigs. Well Done!

Juan Rubio

Tour at Zynga

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

Image source: www.adweek.com

There were dogs everywhere. Perhaps that shouldn’t have been a surprise to me after seeing the huge dog logo on the massive building, but it still caught me off guard in a pleasant way. Zynga also gave off this sense of happiness—just walking in, I could tell that the people employed by Zynga were pretty content with their environment. For those of you who don’t know, Zynga happens to be one of the largest and best-known mobile and social gaming companies in the bay area– you’ve probably also seen a few games of theirs on Facebook.

A group of four people and myself from Cogswell got the chance to visit Zynga from Women in Games International, a group formed for the purpose of providing women with support and opportunities in the game industry. While there, we got a tour of the studio, which included the exercise room, bar (yes, there’s a full bar) the candy room, and the Farmville rooms!

After the tour, we got to enjoy some h’ordeuvres and listen to a panel given by women leaders at Zynga. Some of them had been in the industry for quite some time, and a few originally hadn’t had any intention of going into games. Yet another one actually played WOW as a side hobby. (Yes!)

It was amazing to see Zynga up close. It was clear to see the passion that they had for their work. We also got to do a lot of great networking, and meet people working in the heart of the mobile game industry. It was an amazing opportunity!

Sierra Gaston