Posts Tagged ‘Animation’

Recent News in Animation

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

Image source: http://referentiel.nouvelobs.com/

The Academy-award nominated, BAFTA award winning, and French academy award (Cesar) winning filmmaker and director Sylvain Chomet (director of ‘The Illusionist’ and ‘The Triplets of Belleville’) has just directed a brand new animated music video for “Carmen“, a song off of Rwandan-Belgian rapper Stromae’s album ‘Racine Carrée’.

The video is very clearly done in Chomet’s style, a look achieved by scanning pencil drawings into the computer and then coloring them. With minimal cleanup if any, and watercolor style backgrounds, this creates a more raw look that is both appealing and refreshing to see. The song is loosely based on the 1800′s opera of the same name, and features an animated Stromae struggle with his addiction to Twitter. What begins as a small habit soon turns into a massive weight on his shoulders, an obsession that sinks its claws into every facet of his life, from friendship to love.

The video was released Tuesday, March 31st on Buzzfeed, and has gotten over 5 million views on Buzzfeed and 2 million views on Youtube. It was produced at Th1ng, Chomet was not only the director but served as lead animator as well alongside Neil Boyle. Background layout was done by Marcin Lichowski, while Kirk Hendry served as lead compositor and lighting designer for the short.

Fans of Chomet’s style might also want to check out his Simpson’s Couch gag, which can be viewed on Th1ngs channel on Vimeo.

Source: cartoonbrew.com

Industry veteran Will Finn (animator, voice actor, character designer, storyboard artist and director) with nearly 40 years of experience has offered his thoughts and advice to anyone who’s dream it is to work in animation. In his blog post, “Why You Shouldn’t Want A Job In Animation”, Finn spoke about and explained the difference between a ‘job’ and a ‘career’ in animation:

“To me a job is something you depend on from an employer. It’s theirs to give and theirs to take away… A career is something I have to be responsible for based on my reputation, my ability, and my preferences. I don’t expect much beyond what I invoiced for last week, and I keep tabs on whatever’s coming up—staying in touch with long-term contacts and making new ones almost constantly. I try to keep at least one ‘Plan B’ in mind at all times. And that’s fine. A career is like a life: mine to tend, mine to succeed or fail at, mine to take credit and blame for, mine to earn. I would not have it any other way.”

In the post, Finn also speaks about what it was like starting his career at Walt Disney Animation studios. Following his childhood dream only to have that dream ripped apart after “barely nine months” on the job”, while working on ‘The Fox and the Hound”, getting into behind the scenes politics, his run in’s with the higher ups, and producing work that was “substandard even for a newbie”.

This was his first crash and burn with Disney, Finn would later come back to Disney to supervise the characters of Cogsworth in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and Iago in ‘Aladdin’, he also worked for Warner Bros., Dreamworks, the Don Bluth Studio, Reel FX, IMAGI, Renegade Animation, and others.

In his third leg at Disney in 1999, Finn would come to realize that his original childhood dream of working at Disney until retirement was clouded by the innocent lens of youth.

“Senior Disney artists who I remember envying on that day in 1979 when I got let go were being given their 20th and 25th anniversary pins alongside pink slips terminating their employment. Some of them had never worked outside the studio and the transition must have been difficult. But at that point I knew while I still admired their talent and artistry, I had stopped envying the idea of a long tenure at a single studio long ago. In 2004, I was on the pavement again, looking for work.”

If you would like to read the full post, please do so on Will’s Blog.

Juan Rubio

Don Hertzfeldt on ‘World of Tomorrow’

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

Image source: http://thefilmexperience.net/

Independent animator and filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt has just released his latest short, titled ‘World of Tomorrow’, on Vimeo on Demand after having screened it at film festivals like Sundance and SXSW. For those who don’t know Hertzfeldt, he is most well known for his short “Rejected Cartoon’s”, a surreal film in which various cartoon adverts for “The Family Learning Channel” are played back to back. The cartoons eventually begin to fall apart and lose sense and structure, a reflection of the fictional artist’s own descent into madness.

‘World of Tomorrow’ follows a young girl, played by Hertzfeldt’s own four-year-old niece Winona, on a journey through the memories of her future self. Don describes the character as “Mary Poppins but with part of her brain missing” in a recent Reddit AMA promoting the film. When asked about what is was like to work with his niece, Hertzfeldt said “I don’t know why I was ever under the impression I could direct a 4-year-old.

She wouldn’t even recite lines back to me. Everything she says in the film is just her being herself while we hung out and talked about the world…”. He later went on to say that he ended up using an iPad app to record her, and rewrote parts of the script to match her dialogue. Hertzfeldt mentioned working with these limitations was sort of fun, having to improvise the animation along with her dialogue.

On the subject of the creative process, Hertzfeldt described it as if “…you’re floating in an ocean, and you want to build a raft. So you just float there and you wait and wait. And eventually this little piece of something comes drifting by, maybe a memory, and you hang on to it, and then another little piece comes around, it is unrelated, maybe it’s a funny sentence you overheard somewhere…”. He says more and more pieces drift by and you collect them until you have enough to build a raft, and eventually you have to make a decision.

Which pieces are essential for the raft and which aren’t? Writing a story is very similar to his raft idea, you collect ideas and see what works well together and toss whatever doesn’t help the story, or raft, float. He also notes that he doesn’t spend a lot of time “swimming around, or (doing) calculation(s)…”, saying stressing over details or trying to figure things out is like poison for creativity, “The big ideas won’t happen right when you mentally stress on them… It is more a matter of being patient and being open to all the things that just drift in.”.

Don was asked about why he chose to release ‘World of Tomorrow’ on Vimeo on Demand, and he responded by saying “It’s a bit of a risk, I’ve traditionally funded everything else through theatrical tours and DVDs, and most people will tell you there’s no market for shorts online. But if we continue to believe that without ever trying to do anything to challenge it nothing will change, right?”. He praised Vimeo’s ability to allow him to update his videos throughout the 30-day rental period, saying he could improve picture quality by using better compression methods, or replace the footage altogether.

He’s come to like the 30-day rental concept, regarding it as a 30-day movie ticket, where you can watch the film as many times as you wish and get more out of it. With the knowledge that the film will disappear after a set time, and that we won’t actually own it, it turns into more of an experience and less of a fleeting though like many of today’s films. “What if after the end of the 30 days I deleted all of the master files and removed it from theaters and the film will forever only exist in our memories? Isn’t that kind of beautiful? Ok I won’t do that.”.

Someone asked why he didn’t just post the video to YouTube for free and use their algorithm to generate revenue to which Hertzfeldt answered, “Vimeo gives the filmmakers a 90% share, which I think is unprecedented. They also seem to genuinely care about presentation. YouTube gets more traffic than anybody, but they are sort of eating themselves alive with advertising.”. Since Don is an independent, he has to sustain himself and as such has started to sell his shorts and films through platforms such as Vimeo.

“For the survival of young short film makers and aspiring animators today, we really need to begin training people to pay for short films. Theatrical tours and DVD sales and the old models that I relied on are not going to be realistic much longer for them (or even for me).” He notes that the free YouTube model the public is growing fond of is hurting independent filmmakers, its teaching the newer generations of artists that their work has no value and that their “silly” personal projects should just be dumped online for free.

Unfortunately, the “free” model isn’t exactly viable for most people working on their own as Hertzfeldt does, “… if they’re lucky it will attract an advertising gig to pay the bills. And maybe make one more “personal project” that they can do on the side again. It’s not a good cycle.”. Don then began to speak about how he was on the Sundance Jury a few years ago, he watched amazing short films and independent productions that were met with great praise from the jury and festival attendees alike. Unfortunately, these same films would later fade into obscurity after their festival screenings, with little to no funds for a theatrical or physical release and with the creators reluctant to upload their films for fear of having them circulated for free, these films often disappear.

He says, “…many filmmakers aren’t even bothering with the internet… “Getting exposure” doesn’t fund films. When you pay to see a movie you are casting a vote. You are saying, hey please go make more of this sort of thing.”. Everyone knows that Hollywood is a machine that makes money, and all it wants to do is make more money. People tend to bemoan and complain about the string of bad movies were forced to watch in between the few gems, and yet they line up to see them, casting their votes for more bad movies to be made. Nobody is forcing people to watch the “bad” movies, but they go and watch them anyway. However, when people pay to see independent movies they are saying, “hey i’d like you to actually have the chance to go make another one.”.

Hertzfeldt announced he was working on a new feature length film as well, ‘Antarctica’, saying the only thing holding it back at present was paperwork. He mentioned he will continue to make more shorts leading up to the new film. Finally, when asked on how he defines art Hertzfeldt said, “Anything artificial that is intended to produce an emotional reaction.”.

You can see some of Don’s shorts on his channel at YouTube, watch his short ‘World of Tomorrow’ on Vimeo on Demand, and check out his website. If you’d like to find out more, including Don’s favorite ice cream flavor and his opinion on David Lynch, you can read the full AMA here.

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

The Leviathan

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015

Art by Jim Murray, creature design by Jordu Schell

The Leviathan is a short which has been making the rounds on the internet lately. Made as a proof-of-concept by Irish director Ruairí Robinson, the short features stunning visuals and fantastic animation. Robinson created the short as a pitch to major movie studios in hopes of having it become a feature length film. It was created with the aid of the Irish Film Board and Jim Uhls, who wrote the script to ‘Fight Club’.

The story is set in the 22nd century, where humans have colonized many worlds. Faster-than-light travel has been made available, however, the only viable fuel source for this kind of travel uses exotic material from the eggs of the largest species humankind has ever seen. Those who go out to hunt the animals are mostly voluntary labor.

I’d love to see the short turned into a full length movie; perhaps they could delve deeper into the back story. How was interstellar travel developed? How did they figure out space whale eggs were the perfect fuel source and is there really no alternative?

See the film at the following link: https://vimeo.com/122368314

Recent News in Animation

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

Image from cartoonbrew.com

Tonko House, the studio founded by former Pixar art directors Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, is making a feature film based on their short ‘The Dam Keeper‘.

The news came with the announcement that Tonko House is pairing up with First Second Books, an offshoot of McMillan, to expand the short into a series of graphic novels. The first book in ‘The Dam Keeper‘ series will be released in 2016, picking up after the events of the short, and set a few years after Pig’s original story. The book will address two unanswered questions from the short: What became of Pig’s parents? And how did his world come under the influence of a dark cloud? To date, no further details of the feature film have been divulged.

As a fan of the Academy Award nominated short, I await any new details or sneak peaks with bated breath, this is going to be great!

Image from Cartoon Saloon

In other news, Oscar nominated film ‘Song of the Sea‘ from Cartoon Saloon and ‘The Secret of Kells‘ director Tomm Moore, is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD! ‘Song of the Sea‘ takes the viewer into the wonderful world of Irish folklore. It features a fantastic art style incorporating techniques used in ‘The Secret of Kells‘ and mixes it with watercolors, creating a world bursting with color and personality.  It’s truly a treat for the eyes. Based on the Irish legend of the Selkies, the story tells of the last seal-child, Saoirse, and her brother Ben, who go on a journey to save the world of magic and discover details of their past along the way. Hounded by Macha, an owl witch, and a variety of ancient and mythical creatures, Saoirse and Ben are on a race against time to awaken Saoirse’s powers and prevent the world of spirits from disappearing for eternity.

Image from aceshowbiz.com

In what many would consider an upset, Genndy Tartakovsky has dropped Sony’s ‘Popeye‘. While finishing ‘Hotel Transylvania 2‘ Genndy noted that the studio was moving in a different direction and opted to drop out of the project. He was quoted as saying,“I was in love with what we were doing, but I think the studio is going through changes and I don’t know if they want to make the ‘Popeye‘ that I want to make.” He continued, saying, “Right now, I’m off that project and moving on to the other one we soft-announced, which is Can You Imagine?…It was hard to let Popeye go, but that’s the business.”

Genndy is going on to work on ‘Can You Imagine?‘, his own project at Sony. ‘Popeye‘ was announced to great reception last March. A proof of concept was released shortly after the film was announced, it was brimming with personality and showed great promise. Fans of Tartakovsy know he has an incredible track record: creator of ‘Dexter’s Labratory‘, ‘Samurai Jack‘, ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars’; co-creator of ‘Sym-Bionic Titan‘; and director of ‘Hotel Transylania‘ 1 and 2.

No news of the film’s future have been given, and no indication of whether or not Tartakovsky is out for good has been given either. I, for one, hope whoever they choose ends up honoring the original vision and style Mr. Tartakovsy had in mind.

Image from spinoff.comicbookresources.com

If the above image doesn’t already tip you off, Astro Boy is getting a brand new animated series! Paris-based animation studio Caribara Animation unveiled a teaser for the new series, titled ‘Astro Boy Reboot‘. 26 episodes of the hybrid 2D/CG cartoon are currently in production. The short was directed and designed by Florian Thouret, co-art director and assistant director of the French feature ‘The Suicide Shop‘ (‘le magason des suicides‘). Mickael Crouzat animated the piece. Crouzat, who was also a key animator on ‘Despicable Me‘ and ‘Ernest & Celestine‘ shared his pencil test on Vimeo as well.

Caribara is co-producing the series with Monaco-based Shibuya Productions and Japan’s Tezuka Productions. The series will be based on Osamu Tezuka’s creation, but will feature a brand new storyline as well as new characters. The announcement was made just a few days ago, and there is currently no word on a U.S. localization, or whether any U.S. broadcasters will air the show. Whatever the case, this is exciting news and I’m looking forward to seeing what this new series has to offer. I find the art style vibrant, colorful and incredibly appealing as well.

Watch the finished teaser trailer here: https://youtu.be/Z240pys_D4A

Watch Crouzat’s pencil test here: https://vimeo.com/122894003

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

Blue Sky presentation at San Jose State

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Image from fashions.toprate10.com

The Shrunkenheadman Animation Club at San Jose State is a pretty remarkable group. Many people at Cogswell might not be aware that Jeff Jackson, Cogswell’s storyboarding and drawing animation teacher, actually came from San Jose State and started the Shrunkenheadman club. Being a particularly large club, comprised of both illustration and animation departments, there is a very strong sense of community and kinship. They have a track record of hosting some impressive speakers/presenters, and last Thursday was no exception. Blue Sky representatives came to SJSU to give a presentation about their studio, including Matt Munn, Lead Animator.

Munn showed work from his early days as an animator (which visibly proved EVERYONE has a starting point) and gave some helpful advice. What stood out the most for me was the advice to “follow your heart.” As a previous nursing major, this really resonated with me. I’d left everything to go to art school because, in my heart, I felt passionate about animation and creating things. As graduation approaches and I reflect back, I don’t regret my decision; I’m glad I made the dive into animation.

I feel that both Cogswell and the animation department of San Jose State could learn from each other, and I hope to encourage networking and connections between the two. After all, we have the potential to be future co-workers so why not create professional relationships now!

Sierra Gaston

Women in Animation and Women in Games International

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Image from http://www.womeninanimation.org/


Image from http://www.womeningamesinternational.org/

The animation and games industries are two places where you rarely find women working, until recently. Even Cogswell has been a heavily male-dominated school until a few years ago. What’s exciting is the wide-spread growth of organizations that are specifically for women in these industries (although men may join). These groups promote networking, inclusion, exposure, encouragement and opportunities to hear industry leaders. By creating a more diverse workplace, animations and games will be even stronger therefore garner more consumer enjoyment.

Two organizations that I am involved with are Women in Animation and Women in Games International. Thanks to Women in Animation, I’ve had the opportunity to visit Pixar twice as well as network with some of the best known women in the business. Being a newer member to Women in Games (WIG), this week I will visiting Zynga’s campus for the re-opening of the San Francisco WIG chapter. As a primary developer of Facebook games, Zynga is one of the most famous game companies in the Bay Area.

I definitely recommend checking these two groups out, and any groups dedicated to animation and games in general. As well as being fun to join, they can be key to getting crucial contacts in the industry.

http://www.womeningamesinternational.org/
http://www.womeninanimation.org/

Sierra Gaston