Stuck in a Rut? Some Ideas to Reinvigorate Your Creativity

February 13th, 2014

As a student, the pressure of constantly producing content for class assignments can sometimes make you feel like your creativity has hit a brick wall.

This blog in ArtProMotivate offers some tips to help you get back on track. Ideas range from things as simple as taking a walk to gaining a new perspective by talking to children or senior citizens. The goal is to get out of your own head and look at the world around you with a fresh set of eyes.

What other things do you do to unleash your creativity?

Backstage Lists Six Great Digital Art Schools

February 12th, 2014

Student team working in Studio E where they are creating a short animation based on a story along with an interactive book version for mobile platforms to deepen the reader’s experience and further immerse them in the story.

An article in Backstage advises actors that developing their ability to create content is a must.  Cogswell College is one of the 6 schools the publication recommends.

With Cogswell’s focus on collaboration and project-based learning, plus strong programs in animation, audio and digital media management, the College is a great fit for performance artists wanting to build their content creation toolkit.

Audio Fills Us With a Sense of Time and Place

February 12th, 2014

As you listen to the sound of wind in the trees, the gentle burble of a nearby stream or the chirp of birds, you might physically be sitting in your living room but mentally you are far away. In this beautifully written article in Gamasutra by Sound Designer Damian Kastbauer, you are given the opportunity to take a look at his vision of the future of interactive audio experiences.

Sound has the ability to put us in a specific time and place associated with that sound. In the article he says, “I remain lost in thought as the sound of rushing water catches my memory. My mind is transported to a sunny day from my past. A reunion has brought family members together…”

The piece is an introduction to his Oxford Handbook of Interactive Audio (due 2014) in which he imagines the ability to synthesize the long-ago sounds of earth circa 2012 and the technology it took to get to this point. “It was during this time in simulation technology that our industry was just beginning to iron out inconsistencies inherent within the burgeoning field of procedural audio, synthesis, and the advanced manipulation of dynamic sound: baby steps toward the expansive fully realized simulation I’m testing today.”

Can you think of a time that sound has taken you to a different time and place?

Cogswell’s Game Studio – The Joy of Bringing a Game Concept to Life

February 11th, 2014

Listen in as Cogswell students Sean Langhi, the Engineering & Design Lead and Bugi Kaigwa, Art Lead for the Prairie Rainbow project, share their excitement about the work they are doing in the Game Studio. Access the video here for a sneak peek into a game development team at Cogswell.

Prairie Rainbow develops board games and teacher and parent guides to help students learn math. The Rainbow Math Models are designed to engage tactile learners who need to build a physical model, image learners who need to create a representation of a mental model, and language learners who need to hear, read, or write a number model. This Game Studio project is taking the company’s board game concept and turning it into a unity-based action puzzle game for mobile devices that will not only support the different learning methods but will add another dimension to the user’s experience.

“One goal of our Game program is to offer students real-world learning opportunities,” said Jerome Solomon, Director of Cogswell’s Game Design & Development degree program. “This partnership gives students the chance to not only design a math learning game but to test the prototype in local schools.”

Under the supervision of faculty and industry advisors, Cogswell’s comprehensive project-based learning focus gives students the chance to work on teams that mirror real game development teams of artists, engineers, animators, game designers, audio specialists, and management. Our unique system of Studio classes offers students the opportunity to experience the entire production pipeline from concept through shipping in the process of delivering a professional-quality product.

Behind the Scenes of the Lego Movie

February 10th, 2014

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

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

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

How to Create an Effective App Demo Video

February 7th, 2014

You’ve built a great app that you are sure will have a large audience. The next question is how do you get the word out – you know, market it. Many app developer are turning to demo videos to entice potential users to check it out and from there hopefully download it.

So what are some elements that lead to a successful demo video? According to this article in DevsBuildIt by Sean Casto, CEO of Alliance member PreApps, here are a few tips:

  • Choose your tools carefully
  • Don’t shy away from creativity
  • Harness the power with a strong voice
  • Keep it to the point
  • Hook the viewers

Please share links to any great demo videos you have seen.

An Interview with Tim Heath, New Director of Cogswell’s Project X Studio

February 5th, 2014

Tim Heath, Director of Cogswell's Project X Studio

Question:  Tell us a little about your background.

Tim:  I earned my Bachelor degree in Business Administration and an Art Minor from James Madison University. After graduation I was in marketing planning to focus on the creative side of advertising but when I did an internship at an advertising agency in Richmond, Virginia, I felt more comfortable with the production side of things – posting commercials and doing a little bit of effects work.  After graduation this led me to a company that was doing this kind of work. They were all Silicon Graphics – really expensive machines and state-of-the art software – but it was for government entities, three letter words basically, and while really interesting work but with security clearances none of my work was going to see the light of day. I met my future wife in college and she was from New York. My goal was to get into film or television and more opportunities existed in New York so we moved up there.

Question:  So how did you move from advertising to film?

Tim:  I did some freelance work for ABC and eventually landed a job with Post Perfect, a big post-production house. Still all the film work was mostly being done in California and I figured that was where I eventually wanted to end up. However, life doesn’t always go in a straight line. I got my first film-gig job with Square Pictures in Hawaii where I was Lead Animator for “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.” When that studio closed, I got my chance to move to California. I got a job with Electronic Arts as Animation Supervisor.

Question:  That’s still not film work, so how did this help you achieve your goal?

Tim:  Well, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was the first feature film I worked on; I then worked on a short film for the Wachowski Brothers’ Animatrix series before Square Pictures closed. It’s also when they were trying to do a lot of film work in video games, trying to push the technology in games themselves and trying to push storytelling in games. I have game credits for Lord of the Rings and The Godfather.

Question:  When did you get your film break?

Tim:  From Electronic Arts, I had the opportunity to go to ILM and work on “Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man’s Chest,” as one of the senior animators but it was a huge crew. So I just kind of came in and did my shots and it was a great experience because that’s exactly the kind of movie I wanted to work on when I first got into the mix. Back when I saw Jurassic Park, I thought, “That’s what I want to do. I want to work at ILM.”

Question:  Why did you leave ILM?

Tim:  After that show, one of the short films I had made entitled, Lagerheads, while I was on my own caught the attention of some guys at Nvidia. They we remaking some rendering software and asked me to come on board to make short films for them using their rendering software.  To me that was like the dream job part two where you go in and you get to make whatever you want, within reason, whatever you want and plus I was with some of the brightest guys in the industry doing rendering. That’s what I would like to eventually do at AMD where I am now – to make short films.

Question:  So what made you decide to teach at Cogswell College?

Tim:  It hasn’t gone that way just yet at my day job but I have this bug of still wanting to make short films and the chance to do that is one of the reasons that brought me to Cogswell.

Question:  Tell us about your work with the Project X Studio at Cogswell.

Tim:  As you know, this will be the fourth film to come out of Project X. Two did quite well in the film festival circuit and the third, “Driven” is just getting started but I’m sure it will do well too. I’m working with a team of about 18 students right now and I think we’re going to be able to get something really nice done. The goal is to have the film ready by early 2015 – about 1 year from now. The students are all very eager to work hard to make something incredible. While I brought a story, I’m also involving the students in helping develop the story. I brought the characters and an outline of what I think we can accomplish. Right now we’re going over story beats and revising it. We have a little story team of four or five of the students and we’re pounding it out and adding things and taking things out and making it better together as a group. I’m also not the only faculty who is mentoring students. David Perry is animation lead, Kong Vang is lead concept design and Rob Garcia is overseeing the pipeline, rigging and modeling issues. Richard Schimpf is consulting on the story development. Finally Julius Dobos will lead the audio portion of the film when we get to that point but we’ve consulted with him to give him a frame of reference for the eventual music and sound effects we’re going to need. I’d like to utilize all the great talent we have at Cogswell.

Question:  So what is it like to be a student working in the Project X Studio?

Tim:  Even though we just got started, you don’t walk past the Project X room without seeing people in there working and diving into it. Because we are using different software than previous films, they’re learning new software.  We’re rendering with V-Ray and composting with Nuke. They’re also learning fur technology. The goal is to push the look of the film we are making.

Question:  Any other plans for the project?

Tim:  As we develop the story and are a little further into the production pipeline, I’d like to be more open about the project and let everyone know what we are doing. I think it would be fun for everyone on campus watch it develop. Maybe we can even put up a production blog so people can follow our progress.

Question:  Any final thoughts?

Tim:  I’ve led teams of animators but never led a team of students so this is really exciting for me. I want us to learn from each other and produce a film that we will all be proud of. Given the amazing work done by students in the past, I think we will create something incredible together.

Learn more about our Digital Art & Animation degree program.

Global Game Jam Recap and link to Games

February 5th, 2014

Cogswell hosted 28 jammers from January 24 to 26 during Global Game Jam 2014. Here’s a recap of what happened over that 48 hour period. We hope you will take a few minutes to check out the games our teams developed.

  • We were one of 487 jam sites around the world with 23,452 participants making video games.
  • At Cogswell, we made 7 games/playable prototypes.  We made more than the folks at Stanford!!!!
  • We had a mix of people ranging from Cogswell students to Google engineers.

3 largest single jam sites in the world:

  • Tel Aviv, Israel = 485
  • Curitiba, Brazil = 410
  • Giza, Egypt = 400

Many thanks to the Cogswell faculty and staff and the Global Game Jam 2014 volunteer organizers who made this experience possible!

Here’s the link to all our games

Check out photos from GGJ 2014 at Cogswell College

More Photos

Cogswell Student Interns as Graphic Designer for Tampa Bay Buccaneers

February 4th, 2014

Aston with his Merceds Benz poster design.

Aston Majors knew he wanted to complete an internship before he left college but had no idea it would lead to such an exciting opportunity. In his wildest dreams he hadn’t imagined interning for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“I found a site called TeamWork Online that all of the major professional sports teams use to recruit staff,” said Majors, “and signed up. I saw on the job board that the Buc’s needed a graphic design intern and applied.”

The Buc’s called, interviewed him, reviewed his work and Aston was on his way to Tampa Bay. Though it was not a paid position, he feels that what he learned on the job will pay big dividends in the future. In fact, his supervisor at the Buc’s asked him to stay in touch and the Banana Republic offered him a graphic design job but Aston said he has to finish school first.

Aston spent the Fall term doing his internship, working full-time with the Marketing Department and tackling a variety of design projects.

“I got to go to meetings and present my work,” said Majors. “It was a great learning experience and I found out I really liked the process. My advice to all students – don’t leave school until you have done an internship. It will make a big difference in your career and you will make a lot of connections.”

Aston will graduate this summer in Digital Art & Animation with a concentration in Entertainment Design.

Favorite Film Noir Bad Guys

February 3rd, 2014

Everyone loves to hate the villain. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary a noir film is: a type of crime film featuring cynical malevolent characters in a sleazy setting and an ominous atmosphere that is conveyed by shadowy photography and foreboding background music.

Here is a list of the top 5 film noir bad guys from Pretty Clever Films.

Who would you add to the list?