Posts Tagged ‘Alumni’

Interview with Cogswell Digital Audio student Randy Greer

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

Randy Greer - Image from: randygreermusic.com

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

Q: What is the inspiration for your music?

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

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

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

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

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

Q: What is your favorite part about the album?

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

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

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

Q: What did you learn while creating this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finals Week at Cogswell College

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Sketch by Daniela Panigada Cook found at: dpc-design.com/2012/05/04/sad-pencil-is-it-over-yet/

The last week of school is upon us and as such, many students find themselves with work piling on top of work and increasing levels of stress. With five classes this semester and a job to stay on top of, I have no shortage of tasks to complete and deadlines to meet. Luckily, I’ve already completed one class for the semester… no class next week for Drawing For Animation! For me, this means one last project in Perspective and Rendering (Daytime/Night time building), a last essay in Ethics class, a group performance in Acting for Animation, and one last project in Video Editing, the Experimental.

To say it was an easy semester would be a lie; this semester was, by far, the most challenging for me so far. With 2 project classes – both with heavy workloads – I had my work cut out for me. But I’ve managed to stay afloat! That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this semester however. It’s been one of the most gratifying few months of my scholarly career yet.

Walking through the halls of the school I see evidence of finals taking their tolls on the students. People scrambling to finish last projects, a spike in coffee intake, and more than a handful of people napping all around the campus. I’ve already pulled one or two all-nighters, but I’m sure I’m not the only one. Finals week is almost here, and while I had a great semester overall, I can’t wait for Winter Break!

Juan Rubio
DAA 3D Animation Student

Kegan Chau, Cogswell Audio Student, Attends AES

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

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

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

Former Cogswell Alumni Finds Success in the Solar Energy Industry

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

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

You worked in high tech?

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

Why Suntactics?

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

You made the panels yourself at first?

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

Did you get any outside help?

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

How did you finance your start up?

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

Do you make a living?

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

What’s ahead?

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

Is your work rewarding?

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

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

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

Cogswell on CG Society

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

CG Society Article

Hey Everyone!

I wanted to bring you some really cool and exciting news that just came across my desk. You have all been seeing the success that the latest Project X film, Worlds Apart, has been seeing. A few of you have even seen how cool it is by having the privilege of watching the whole thing. This next bit of news is huge for Worlds Apart and for Cogswell..

Recently, a couple crew members from Worlds Apart contacted CG Society and inquired about getting the film featured on their site in some way. They never expected anything crazy, just a link, maybe a small summary on their list of animated shorts. After they send some material to the editor they couldn’t believe his response. He decided that he wanted to do a full 2 page article on the film!

If you don’t know who or what CG Society is, it is probably about time that you checked the site out. They are one of, if not the biggest, online CG Art and VFX websites in the world. They not only feature individual artists work but also professional studio work as well. They get thousands of hits on their site everyday and host some of the most beautiful cg art that I have ever seen. It is not only and honor to be featured on their site but a privilege and the crew of the film couldn’t be more happy.

If you want to check out the article and more about Worlds Apart, follow the link below.

http://www.cgsociety.org/index.php/CGSFeatures/CGSFeatureSpecial/worlds_apart

Congratulations to the Worlds Apart crew! Hope you just as much success in your coming projects!

-Zombie

Cogswell’s 125th Anniversary

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Cogswell Celebrating 125 Years

Last night I was lucky enough to be invited to the 125th Anniversary of Cogswell College. The night was very relaxing and fun. A pretty large group came out to help the school celebrate, many of which were alumni or friends of the school. It was very nice to hear some of the wonderful memories and stories they had to offer from back in the day.

The night started off with our esteemed Chancellor, Chuck House, greeting everyone with his friendly smile and captivating words. Chuck then introduced Dr. Tim Duncan, head of the Digital Audio Technology department, who gave a presentation on some student work for Worlds Apart. Then we got to watch Worlds Apart in its entirety, it was my 3rd time seeing it, so that was a treat. After, Michael Huber and the students of the current Project X gave a presentation on their production process which was really informative and I found quite interesting. After that, Debby Hindus, the Entrepreneurship Program Director took the stage and gave us an update on what is being developed and coming to surface in the near future, all really good news. Afterword, everyone stuck around to talk and to take tours of the school. It was really great getting to be a part of the whole event and was a very momentous occasion.

-Zombie

Day 1 at GDC – Update: 003

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Cogswell College at GDC 2012

Hey Everyone,

So today was a great day for Cogswell at GDC. So many people stopped by the booth to talk to our students and representatives. Many connections were made that could end up being potential partnerships. Also, many companies that saw Cogswell as a very special place for training the future of the game design industry. Many alumni stopped by as well took a look at our games and demo reel, every one of them commented about how great the work from the students is looking and especially things coming from Project X. I had several conversations myself with people who thought what Cogswell is doing is an amazing thing.

A bunch of the student volunteers and other Cogswell people decided to stick around for the IGF Awards to see who won. If anything special comes from that I will be sure to let you know!

If you have never heard of the IFG, click here to get the details: http://www.igf.com/

So all in all, today was a great for day on the Expo floor. We are looking forward to an even better Thursday and Friday. I will check in with you guys soon. Stay tuned!

-Zombie

Alumni Interview: Adrian Majkrzak

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Adrian Majkrzak: Bungie Concept Artist

For those of you who don’t know who Bungie is, let me give you a brief overview. Bungie is responsible for one of the biggest game franchises ever, Halo. Their history goes back much further than that though, they were also shipped a game called Oni and several other Mac gaming titles including Marathon and Myth. Adrian Majkrzak, one of our alumni, got a job there recently and agreed to an interview with us. So here goes…

Zombie: Hey Adrian, thanks for talking to us. Could you give me a quick summary of where you work and what your job is?

Adrian: I’m a Concept Artist at Bungie. My job is to provide visual designs for anything that’s asked of me, including characters, environments, vehicles, weapons and props.

Zombie: So what does a typical day look like for you?

Adrian: Being a night owl, my day usually starts with a big cup of coffee. After that I’ll look over my tasks for the day and talk to anyone involved in them (my lead, the art director, the game designer in charge of the aspect of the game I’m working on, and any 3d artists who are going to have to model my designs). Once I have a clear idea of where I’m heading, the majority of my day is spent in front of the computer, painting away in Photoshop. As a design progresses, I’ll usually ask my teammates for a critqiue, which is almost always invaluable and I end up with a stronger design for it. At the end of the day I fire off my work to everyone involved for a round of feedback. If everyone is happy with the design, then I submit it and move onto my next task. Rinse and repeat each morning.

Zombie: What is something that surprised you when you first started your job?

Adrian: Maybe not surprising, but the sheer talent of the people I’m surrounded with can be pretty intimidating. I like the challenge though and love being able to contribute in whatever way I can.

Zombie: Can you tell us about any of the projects you have worked on in the past?

Adrian: Prior to joining Bungie, I worked at CCP Games for about 3.5 years. There I worked on concepts for EVE Online, the EVE-related shooter DUST 514 and the World of Darkness MMO.

Zombie: What is one of the most rewarding parts of your job?

Adrian: Being able to work in a creative field and getting paid for doing what I love. Cliche, but true.

Zombie: Do you have any advice for students wanting to get into your field of work?

Adrian: Be prepared to put in a ton of work outside of class and your assignments, to supplement everything you’re learning. Unless you’re a prodigy, it’s going to require a lot of self-discipline, study and hours upon hours of practice to break into the field. Spend time on online art forums, not just lurking but actively participating and asking people for feedback. Contact professionals and ask them for a critique of your work (be courteous and most people will be receptive). Learn to not be precious with your artwork because ultimately it’s the client you’re designing for, not yourself?

Zombie: Are there any qualities that someone needs to be successful in your field?

Adrian: Passion for drawing and painting is number one. Make sure you love it, because there are million other things you could be doing if not! Learning self-discipline is another big one, both for preparing your portfolio to break in and once you’re working, because you’re going to be expected to deliver and there isn’t going to be someone constantly over your shoulder to make sure you’re getting your work done.

Zombie: Is there anything special that Cogswell did to help your prepare for your job?

Adrian: For my normal day-to-day, I have to thank Reid Winfrey and Thomas Applegate for giving me an excellent foundation in drawing, painting and sculpture to build upon. They helped me recognize that 2d art was my real passion and encouraged me to pursue it. My education in 3d software wasn’t wasted either, as I still use 3ds Max frequently to create quick block-ins for me to paint over. Having that knowledge has helped make my process much more efficient.

Thanks Adrian for you time and all the cool info you provided. And for everyone else, be sure to check back in for more alumni interviews. Take care everyone!

-Zombie

Alumni Interview: Stephanie Lostimolo

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Stephanie Lostimolo

I’m pretty excited about this one everyone! I got super lucky and was able to get in contact with an alum that I have been trying to find forever. Stephanie Lostimolo is one of the biggest reasons I came to know about Cogswell, I have been a fan of her art since High School. So…. enough gushing, let’s get down to this interview.

Zombie: Thanks for taking time out of your day to talk to us. I am not going to waste any time here, would you mind giving us an overview of where you work and what your job is?

Stephanie:  I currently work for Michael Curry Design in Portland, Oregon and Faerieworlds LLC and Imaginosis in Eugene, Oregon.

For Curry, I serve as a concept designer for theater, music festivals, theme parks, and other venues. I also work as a graphic designer for Faerieworlds LLC (producers of art/fantasy/music festivals on the east and west coast), creating the look and feel for all of their websites, posters, advertisements, brochures, program books, and other collateral. For Imaginosis, I design countless books, posters, calendars, t-shirts, hats, magazine articles, advertisements, and other items for clients such as Brian Froud & Siegfried & Roy.

I also make and sell paintings, prints, jewelry, and mixed media art in my “spare time.”

Zombie: So what is a typical work day look like for you?

Stephanie: It varies. On days when I work in Curry’s office, it’s like a normal work day for anyone. I wake up at 6am, drive an hour to work in traffic, work an 8-hour day doing all sorts of design work, and then I drive an hour home. Then I work on my freelance gigs in the evenings. I work on Faerieworlds and Imaginosis stuff at home.

Zombie: Was there anything that surprised you about your job when you first started?

Stephanie: Deadlines. Must. Be. Met.

I always knew this but it didn’t hit home until I got a real job. All personal work goes out the window when someone is paying you to be their design hero!

Zombie: Would you mind listing some of the projects that you have worked on in the past?

Stephanie:

FILMS

  • Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith
  • John Carter (march 2012)
  • Outlander (2008 sci fi film, vikings)

THEATRICAL / TV

  • Michael Jackson the Immortal World Tour by Cirque du Soleil
  • the upcoming Madonna appearance at the 2012 Super Bowl

BOOKS

  • Brian Froud’s World of Faerie
  • The Art of Kinuko Craft
  • Siegfried & Roy: Unique in all the World ($700 limited edition collectable box set)

Zombie: What would you say you find most rewarding about your job?

Stephanie: The ridiculously long list of things I’ve been a part of. I like to point at something in a theater or a store and say “I WORKED ON THAT!” It’s a very satisfying feeling and it definitely makes writing the checks for my student loan payments easier every month.

Zombie: Do you have any advice for students who are maybe preparing for a job like yours?

Stephanie: I hope you like working! Laziness is a disease that is sweeping the nation; luckily for hard workers, it’s easy to stand out in this sea of lazy folk. My significant other happens to be my art director and owner of Faerieworlds and Imaginosis, otherwise I don’t think I’d have time for a personal relationship. Sleep is optional, and options only open up after the work is done.

Zombie: Are there any other qualities a person could have that would help them along?

Stephanie: You must also know how to take care of yourself. Remember to stand up for yourself when asking for money and never tolerate being treated badly. Seek jobs where you feel appreciated, but know that you will never be worshipped again the way you may have been in school or at home. That is a very hard thing to learn.

Zombie: Is there anything you would like to leave the students of Cogswell with?

Stephanie: Cogswell helped me prepare for my career by introducing me to other like-minded people who inspired me to keep moving forward. The contacts I made at Cogswell lead directly to my first job, and all of my jobs to this day.

When I started at Cogswell I thought I wanted to be a 3D animator. I soon realized 3D was not for me, and that I was more of a 2D person. It was an easy transition and I’m glad the school supported my choice to abruptly change gears.

Zombie: Thanks for all of your time and insight Stephanie. We all are looking forward to what you will be working on next.

And for any of you who would like to check out Stephanie’s work I have provided a link below. Be sure to check back in for more Alumni interviews!

Stephanie Lostimolo’s website: http://www.nethersphere.com/