Posts Tagged ‘Animation’

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 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 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.

The story is based on the Irish legend of the Selkies. ‘Song of the Sea’ is the story of the last seal-child, Saoirse, and her brother Ben, who go on a journey to save the world of magic, discovering 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 a great track record, being the creator of ‘Dexter’s Labratory’, ‘Samurai Jack’, ‘Star Wars: Clone Wars’,and 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 no 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

Cogswell College to Host Wajid Raza, Technical Director at Industrial Light and Magic

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

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

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

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

Monolith, the future of 3D

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Image sourced from: http://www.3ders.org/images2014/new-voxel-modelling-software-monolith-6.jpg


In an industry where the standard is influenced by the goliath Autodesk, Two Developers hope to impress with their creation. Panagiotis Michalatos and Andrew Payne have coded a modeling engine that offers “A new paradigm where objects are defined as a dense representation of material properties throughout a 3D volume.” They call their creation, Monolith. Most 3D applications are ineffective when handling different spatial variations in material properties. This is because they are mostly built to deal with a surface modeling template which represents a solid object that is enclosed by a set of edges.

However, this software was created with the new type of 3D printers in mind, which are capable of multiple print heads that can deposit different types of resin within a single build. What makes Monolith truly remarkable is the way it handles voxel channels (3D Pixels). Through this program, voxel channels act as controls for lines, points, curves or even filters like gaussian blur. Overall, this will allow for an easier and more intuitive time creating 3D models as well as 3D Printing. This is definitely a program to keep an eye on in the upcoming months!

Check out videos of the software in action at: http://vimeo.com/113743660

Peter Gazallo

PDI Dreamworks Shutting Down

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

From sfgate.com at: http://ww3.hdnux.com/photos/33/17/00/7139330/9/rawImage.jpg


January the 22nd marked a bleak day for the animation industry, as it was officially announced that Dreamworks would be closing its PDI studio in Redwood City.

I think it was pretty apparent that some layoffs would be happening—judging by the disappointments of recent box office sales, it seemed inevitable… however, this was an announcement that really knocked me for a loop.

There will be 500 employees laid off as a result of PDI shutting down. These are incredibly talented artists who have pushed the boundaries of what’s possible in animation. Some of them will be offered positions at the Dreamworks studio in Glendale, but there are still many who will be facing unemployment—creating an even larger pool of extremely talented artists looking for work.
This will no doubt cause soon-to-be graduating students concern, especially those living in close proximity to the now shut-down PDI studio. After all, it’ll be difficult enough to find a job without having to compete against some of the best animators and artists out there.

The industry has been responding with hope, however—already there have been job offerings from Blizzard Entertainment, Pixar, Rockstar Games, and other companies for those being laid off from Dreamworks. Another positive result with all these supremely talented artists suddenly being unemployed is they may be encouraged to team up together to being their own start-ups and companies. With all their experience working for a wonderful company like Dreamworks, they could easily take that knowledge and apply it to creating very successful independent businesses, which may in turn create more jobs in the industry.

So, after sulking for a good half of the day about how one of my favorite studios is downsizing and thus delaying the release of their future films, I decided to remain hopeful that there may be some benefits from this whole fiasco. As ever, the animation industry is shifting and changing and this is just one of the bumps in the road we’re going to encounter.

Sierra Gaston

John Duhring, What Art Offers: How to unlock talent through hands on courses

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

John Duhring, Cogswell Polytechnical College Submitted to the VentureWell Open 2015 Conference

Abstract
Fleshed-out characters, roles and narratives lie at the heart of both art and innovation. Recent revelations that Apple and others are looking for an appreciation of design in their workforce calls for innovation programs to strengthen this approach. This paper will expose the importance of art and design in the entrepreneurial/innovation process. By harnessing the imagination of collaborative teams, crossing boundaries of practice and function, students in college can establish their pathway to innovative and successful careers.

Image at http://www.fastcodesign.com/3034240/how-apple-uses-picasso-to-teach-employees-about-product-design

Playing with the world in new ways as part of a team, of imagining together what could be and then creating products and services for that world, sets in motion tools for learning that will be revisited and refined over a lifetime. Ultimately, the practice of artwork as described here offers visceral, quantum level expression to and understanding of the characters and scenarios that play out in any venture.

Introduction
In the heart of Silicon Valley, Cogswell College encourages engineers and artists to work together in collaborative teams to produce mobile apps, animated films and video games. Students enter the college with an interest in becoming a coder, a musician or an artist and with a portfolio of work already accomplished. Then, they are challenged to both refine their skills and to cross borders to engage in projects that draw from the entire gamut of potential across the student body.

The art program starts with hands-on skill building then evolves to figure drawing to deepen understanding of anatomy, movement and emotion as the basis for “character development”. Students then use digital tools to bring collaborative projects to life. This approach goes far beyond programs that “teach the tool” by addressing the foundational elements that make the tool valuable in the first place.

To establish art’s role in entrepreneurial education, talking about it isn’t good enough. Entrepreneurs can feel good with some exposure to art, but they will forget it in an instant if they haven’t been involved in art projects themselves. Working as part of a team, boiling down a project to its essence, switching perspectives and picking up new skills on the fly help entrepreneurs stay on course. By integrating hands-on art and design projects into entrepreneurship education, faculty can provide a rich set of experiences that mirror real-world practice in an academic environment.

Most importantly, art in this approach scales from the earliest doodle to the most complex app, video game or interactive film. The following table provides dimensions to consider when developing courses that bring art into educational experiences. Each assignment takes on deeper significance as the scope moves from intimate to social. Along the way, students develop their perspective, voice and value to teams. Art, when practiced in this context, is not an isolated act. Nor is the refinement of imagination. As part of their college experience, students enter an evolving play-learn- make cycle that will repeat itself throughout their lives. They explore their skillset and aptitude as they relate to the professional options they can pursue. Their college experience, then, becomes a safely scaffolded environment surrounded by guiding faculty and surprisingly gifted peers. It’s an environment designed to help students step into being extraordinary.

Art For Entrepreneurs And Engineers
Requiring hands-on art projects for those who do not self-identify as artists is similar to teaching science to students who don’t expect to become scientists. Practical art skills and the development of a healthy respect for what is learned leads to a deepened awareness of options to bring to bear on future endeavors. In college courses, almost any assignment can be turned into an art project that challenges students to imagine the world in a new way and to create pathways through it by exercising the skills and technologies
at their disposal. The context of these experiences can be adjusted to address issues that will come up in a student’s chosen profession.

In an approach that is becoming increasingly significant in startups and innovative projects within larger organizations, well-developed usage scenarios and well-articulated personas combine to inform engineers and entrepreneurs of the core values they are bringing forward through the intended use of their products. Artistic renderings enable quick evaluation of many options prior to “hard coding” a final product. Simple sketching, storyboarding and prototyping methods become tools for developing walk- throughs and quality assurance throughout even complex projects. Simply put, they force the organization to consider the world in a multitude of dimensions and to evaluate options that go unnoticed otherwise.

The learning outcomes offered by the experience of creating art involve not just the skills of producing artwork, but also the disposition to factor complex problems as well as the deep knowledge of the problems that are solved through critical thinking and methodical execution. Students emerge from such programs with an ability to commit themselves wholeheartedly to projects, to understand their role and to adapt to critiques of their work. They learn to play with new ideas in a fluid way, to toy with a variety of approaches to a given problem. From such free play, the imagination to try new things, to model imaginary worlds, radically shifts perspectives and opens opportunities for everyone involved. The adaptability required in such art serves to produce articulate and considerate members of entrepreneurial teams.

Skills
Just as coding serves as a starting point for software engineering, basic handwork forms the foundation of art education. Sketching starts for many as a fun way to doodle, to play with line, stroke and shadow, as a basis for increasingly complex structures. Once a student learns to draw lines of varying widths and to shadow, they can combine these elements to program objects and scenes, rendered in real time. They are challenged to consider the properties of light and perspective that shape a two dimensional image. They toy with various approaches until what emerges mirrors for others what the artist sought to convey. A skilled non-artist can develop their craft to such an extent as to inspire their collaborators to think differently, to imagine new possibilities, by forming a simple image for them to consider. Even a single picture can form the basis of decisions, which underscores their value to an entrepreneurial effort.

Basic sculpting skills bring such images into 3D space. Once again, beginning students learn by playing, in this case with clay. They feel the plasticity and toy with their sense of structure, texture and balance. They learn the language of addition and taking away, smoothing and adding texture in real-time. They create and destroy their work until they find admiration from mentors and peers. What emerges can be surprising, as by simply rolling clay into a log or straw or wire, they can create a leg or finger or wisp of hair. With a simple gesture, an eyebrow is lifted, a nostril flared or a muscle flexed to express emotion or vitality. They examine symmetry and perspective to craft works that literally stand on their own. Just as a startup needs basic underpinnings, so does each piece of
sculpture- it is obviously ill formed otherwise. With a basic level of sculpting skill, non- artists can render product ideas, make characters of customers (or partners) and render reference works that can be examined at all angles to show the effects of point of view, lighting, handling and usage.

Similar evaluation methods can be applied to painting, dance, music and acting. Each art has its own language to express, elaborate and accentuate. Traditionally, colleges have focused on writing skills and the results are unquestionably valuable. But, when we are talking about creating enterprises and making industry-ready graduates who can commit themselves to making startups successful, a broad exposure to creative methods can only help students become increasingly aware of their own unique perspectives, limitations and realistic expectations within fiercely collaborative environments. At the very least, traditional hands-on art classes offer engineering and business students the opportunity to stand up to critiques and to develop their voice in ways that can be applied to their chosen specialty.

However, what is strongly suggested in this paper: art skills should be applied towards telling a story to an audience. In many Fine Arts programs, the concept of coherence is not always considered an important ingredient. Unfortunately, graduates from such programs are not always well suited to startup ecosystems. Associate professor Reid Winfrey says, “Cogswell is a design school. Telling a coherent story, whether in a drawing, an animation, a 3D model or a game, is the most important thing.” As students advance, they engage in collaborative projects in which they take on roles in telling a story that is bigger than they themselves. These collaborations develop the “soft skills” that are a trademark of Cogswell students: the ability to imagine alternative scenarios and to harness their creativity across the boundaries of traditional disciplines to create new products, services and experiences through the resources of those involved.

Disposition
Creating artworks yield significant value beyond the expression possible via written words alone. Whether in class, club or studio environments, students form teams to produce sophisticated, collaborative works, to develop workflows and to define roles for themselves within dynamic project environments. Describing these with words alone does not do them justice, just as simply describing a business plan does not a startup make. At the heart of Cogswell’s approach are project teams that coalesce around bringing characters to life and bringing meaning to the stories they produce together. By way of example, here are two kinds of team approaches: the studio and the agency.

Studio projects involve a mix of engineers and artists who come together over multiple semesters to build an animated film, mobile app or video game. Since these projects evolve from concept to story and character development, through pre-production and production processes, students must wear many hats. They become co-creators, imagining scenarios and bringing them into being with sketches, clay models and written scripts. Each scene is storyboarded for evaluation and to inform the team as to the articulation needed for character models, environmental assets and audio soundscapes. Clay reference models are put under lights to identify how they can be presented with realistic integrity. Character sketches are elaborated to show emotion and emphasis, bringing to light the students’ deep understanding of anatomy and movement as they have learned through figure drawing.

interactive ebook emotional timeline from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTv8U7n_cIg


Going through multiple large projects, a student becomes a senior team member. These students are given responsibilities that mirror real world practices, to show “newbies” the ropes and to work collaboratively to solve the very real problems that inevitably crop up. For instance, once all the characters have been digitally modeled and rigged (their anatomy has been programmed to move appropriately when animated), the lighting and textures for scenes require unique skills in which a master rigger might become a junior lighting artist or a novice animator might supervise a group producing texture art to finalize the project. Veterans of such projects take to honing a breadth of skills in order to make themselves indispensable to the team and with an eye towards roles they might choose to take on after graduation.

Another kind of project is that of serving as an agency for external clients, often startups themselves. Typically, startups must focus their scarce resources on building a product that customers love. They don’t have the bandwidth to articulate their corporate message or the means to present their brand with sound and animation. While the outcome of such projects might be a one-minute video that exudes the client’s brand, the path to achieving an acceptable outcome provides students with opportunities to toy with a variety of possibilities and to respond to real-world feedback. In these projects, the students’ artistry must take a back seat to the story they will tell on the client’s behalf. They must imagine with the client to describe a world that will unfold with time.

Client meetings include all students on the project team. Students ask the questions and develop a variety of treatments for the client to consider. They learn to decode expressed views, develop briefs and receive critiques. In but one aspect of such a project, audio students provide soundscapes to evoke the emotions and energies that often go unexamined in traditional engineering and business disciplines. Mixing audio with characters and animations affords powerful story options. The students must listen carefully to both what is said and unsaid by clients who are often unaccustomed to working so closely with elements such as these that can unlock their narrative and bring their story to life in the world.

As the process continues, alternatives take on a resonance with the client and students can hone in on true needs. Typically, clients are surprised by the options and the freedom they have to choose or discard as they see fit. The team then executes a series of options based on earlier feedback. At the end of a six to eight-week process, a client makes their final choice, such as what is now on display at Hacker Dojo. In this piece, students imagined a world where everybody and everything is connected. They worked with the client to develop scenarios where the Hacker Dojo could be seen as an enabling platform for networked learning. They then created video animations and audio sculptures to express that world via the visual element of a puzzle piece that is carried from one project to another.

Video at http://www.hackerdojo.com/


These design and engineering exercises are not unlike that of a startup (where a problem is identified and a solution developed that provides such a benefit to a target population as to underwrite the costs of production and distribution): They are more easily said than done!

Knowledge
Students working on studio and agency projects exhibit a fascinating ability to access knowledge as needed to become experts quickly. In one film project, the class decided to
make the central character an animated goat. In order to model that goat so that the team might realistically articulate its movements, the lead modeler was prompted to research the bone structure and anatomical behavior of goats. Little did he know that a goat has no top teeth at the front of the mouth. As he designed his goat, what he learned propagated naturally across the team.

This describes what John Seely Brown calls “pull” learning: spreading knowledge throughout teams to radically improve overall performance. In this case, no one started the project as a science lesson. After all, the group played around with many ideas before deciding a goat would be their central character. Now the entire team can tell you more about goats than you might ever wish to know!

In an interactive ebook project that features a seven-year-old boy as its central character, students immersed themselves in the psychology and physical processes involved with discovering the world outside the family, particularly for boys of that age. They naturally re-imagined their own childhood experiences and integrated surprising features that enable readers to use their fingers to nudge illustrations, to shine a flashlight into the woods, to combine stars into their own constellations, even to add their own doodles to the boy’s sketchpad.

At a quantum level, the knowledge gained by observing teammates while co-developing illustrated and animated stories based on direct feedback through critique and reassessments provides an education that cannot be matched. The knowledge is tangible, timely and appropriate to the project at hand. The lessons learned have proven to last and evolve throughout the careers that lie ahead.

Art To Venture
Want to get to know your customers? Identify them in practice, develop characters that stand out and create a story around them. Animate your story with scenarios in which they experience problems getting to where they are going. Share your story and get feedback on your perceptions and descriptions. If what you share rings true, your potential customers will see themselves in your story and offer up their own accounts along with their appetite to change things if they could. Your customer stories need to be refined continually to provide your venture with perfect knowledge of every aspect of who they are and where they are going.

This is what many call “customer development”. It’s the lynchpin for validating a business idea and is second nature for experienced entrepreneurs. In its execution, there are no short cuts. Each new venture must start with a blank canvas and develop a true picture in order to build the right product. The stakes are high and failure must be accompanied by learning in order to pivot into a successful next chapter.

Unfortunately, most ventures develop these stories with mere words and numbers on paper. As should be clear by now, the language of words and numbers lack the movement, expression and emotion that surface through pictures, timelines and animations. Simple slide decks typically illustrate what was written, not what is true at a quantum level. Art, even as illustrated here, reveals what can otherwise only be described as a “gut feeling”. When “customer development” is executed in a straight- jacketed way, with a goal generating hoped-for data and optics limiting field of view, then a venture is doomed out of the starting gate.

But, when customers emerge in sound and motion, fleshed out in 3D, moving through scenarios that reflect the world as it will be, employees and investors “get it”. Creating such new worlds, to make a “dent in the universe” requires more than applying technology to a problem, it also involves articulating possibilities that do not yet exist and behavioral responses that have not been imagined before. Without bringing forth the skills we have described here to harness a collective imagination and to document using the technologies now at our disposal, ventures are limiting their chances for success.

Conclusion
On a recent tour of the Cogswell campus, a visitor abruptly stopped in a hallway and exclaimed, “This is what makes this place unique”! He pointed to the open door to his left, which led to a clay-modeling studio filled with students rendering figures poised to leap. Then, he pointed through the glass window to his right, which revealed a class of students at keyboards working their way through a Python class. “You force these people together”! It’s true. Engineers don’t have to go to another building to find an artist. Video game designers can find engineers without looking too far. For colleges to do what is described here might only require such close proximity, as is now available at USC.

Increasingly, employers from startups to studios to enterprises are not looking for what a student did in college. Rather, they are looking for what an individual might contribute as part of their team. A recent graduate who learns by “pull”, who commits enthusiastically based on the experience of previous projects, who toys with ideas and who mentors collaborators, stacks up well against more seasoned alternatives. Being comfortable crossing boundaries, mixing coders, designers and technicians, requires an imagination for what is outside a given skillset. It requires an appreciation for the perspectives of others and for the endless possibilities that can be brought into play.

And, just maybe, as artists become part of engineering teams and as non-artists learn what is to be gained through practice, the problems that are identified and products that are built can more fully benefit the population that uses them. Through the practices described here- sketching behaviors, employing storyboards to describe processes, developing personas to gain insights, painting scenarios and articulating the narratives that unfold in any business- loosely coupled teams can more effectively execute their plans, engage customers and persuade investors. What art offers might ultimately be a more refined imagination that opens new worlds of possibility to ventures of all kinds.