Posts Tagged ‘Cogswell Faculty’

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

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

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

Sunnyvale, CA, February 23, 2015 ­­

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

To download these 3D rigs, visit: rigs.php

ALSO: For “Avatarah” support, requests and comments, please

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

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

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


Designed as a “fiercely collaborative, living laboratory,” Cogswell College is located in the heart of the legendary Silicon Valley in Sunnyvale, California. The school is a WASC accredited, four ­year institution of higher education with a specialized curriculum that fuses digital arts, audio technology, game design, engineering and entrepreneurship.

Numerous alumni of Cogswell College have secured prominent positions within the entertainment, video game, technology, computer, animation, and motion graphics industries throughout California and beyond. Several of these alumni have established careers with such high profile companies as Activision, DreamWorks Animation, Disney, Electronic Arts, Pixar, and Microsoft Game Studio. Many other alumni have launched their own creative ventures.

Recent Cogswell alumni were members of the Academy Award-­winning production teams which worked on the blockbuster films “Frozen” and “Life of Pi.” Some of the other well­ known consumer projects to which Cogswell alumni have contributed include the feature films “The Boxtrolls” and “The Avengers,” and the popular video games “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,” “Halo 4″ and “Battlefield Hardline.”

Additionally, animated short films conceived and produced by Cogswell students have gone
on to win prestigious awards, including those presented by the California International
Animation Festival, the Colorado Film Festival, the Oregon Film Festival, the Miami Film
Festival, the Philadelphia Film & Animation Festival, the San Jose Short Film Festival, and
Canada’s International Film Festival.

Cogswell College is located at 1175 Bordeaux Drive, Sunnyvale, California, 94089. For more information, please call 1-­800­-264-­7955 or visit:

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

Juan Rubio

Cogswell prepares for December holidays

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Today will be the annual tree trimming party here at Cogswell College!  Located in the lobby, the scent of fresh pine greeted everyone who walked in this morning.  The annual get together brings students, teachers, and staff together for a traditional activity that is familiar to much of the Cogswell population.  Refreshments are provided, holiday tunes fill the air, and smiles are plastered on the faces of those taking part, watching, and/or stuffing their faces with holiday sweets.

In addition to the small party, the tree trimming is a reminder for faculty, staff, and students to take part in the annual Holiday Wish Drive of Family Giving Tree.  During the Cogswell Thanksgiving potluck in November, members of the Cogswell community were given the opportunity to pick up a wish card and fulfill the request of a child this holiday season.  At the end of the lunch, every wish card was found to be taken!  As a reminder to those who intend on fulfilling a wish, please give your unwrapped gift and the accompanying wish card to Lucy McDonald by December 14th.  There are also donation envelopes available if anyone wishes to give a monetary donation.


Are you going to the Entrepreneur’s Workshop?

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

It’s only two more days until the Entrepreneur’s Workshop.  Are you going?  If you have the entrepreneurial spirit, it’s not too late to RSVP.  Just fill out the form on the Entrepreneur’s Workshop page.  At the workshop, you’ll learn by doing. There are simulations lined up to give students experiences in marketing and exercises in product design.  Following the interactive activities is a panel with Cogswell Alum Ash Monif, COO and Executive Producer of Subatomic Studies, and serial entrepreneur Dan Marques, who has seen much success with his involvment in online marketing for Gemvara. The panelists are there to answer any questions you might have regarding your own ventures, so come out to the Entrepreneur’s Workshop and learn how to make your goals reality!  The event is free, and is also open to current Cogswell students, so this may be prime time for prospective students to ask questions of current students as well.

In other news, today is the Thanksgiving potluck!  This has been a highly anticipated event for everyone on campus.  What’s the excitement about food, you may ask?  Everyone from student, staff, and faculty can show off their culinary prowess.  Where else can you get a taste of the best macaroni and cheese in the world made by the Assistant Admissions Director?  Or the most phenomenal green bean casserole from your Professor?  It’s fascinating to see who is equally talented in the kitchen as they are in sculpture, programming, or music composition.

Cogswell Faculty Spotlight – Albert Chen, Digital Art & Animation

Friday, December 18th, 2009

albertchenAlbert Chen

Albert Chen is the Assistant Professor of Game Design and Development and joined Cogswell’s full-time faculty in 2007. He heads the Game Art concentration under Digital Arts and Animation (DAA) program and Digital Arts and Engineering (DAE) under the Engineering program. He is also the Associate Director for Cogswell’s Engineering Simulation and Animation Laboratory (ESAL), and the recipient of the Boeing Performance Excellence Award in 2008. His goal is to provide the mentoring and support students need to excel at Cogswell and in the video game and digital media industries. Mr. Chen was a professional game developer for over twelve years with credits in nearly two dozen game titles. His roles included Game Designer at EA, Game Design Director and Senior Level Designer at Factor 5, Level Layout Manager at 3DO, and Mission Designer, 3D Art Technician, International Lead Tester and QA Tester at LucasArts. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations from the University of California at Davis.

What classes do you currently teach?

Game 3: Introduction to game development and production, Content and creativity development, Entertainment Design and 3D Modeling portfolio

Do you have a favorite class to teach? If so, why?

Content and creativity development is currently my favorite because it’s purely focused on thinking outside the box and teamwork which results in some very cool student projects.

Have you worked for non-academic companies in the past? Which ones? How did that experience make you a better teacher?

I was a professional game developer for over 12 years prior to joining Cogswell. I have worked at Lucasarts, The 3DO Company, Factor 5 and EA. My past experience in mentoring junior designers has helped me develop my teaching style. I call it “Tough love”.

What made you decide that you wanted to teach?

When I was a game developer, I enjoyed working with and mentoring new designers. At Cogswell, I saw an opportunity to constantly get that kind of interaction with students.

What projects have you worked on in the past? What was your role in the project?

I was 3D Art Technician for Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi and Grim Fandango where I processed raw mo-cap data and fixed technical problems in digital art and animation.

As Level Layout Manager for Sarge’s Heroes 2 PS1, I managed a design team that developed and shipped a game in 7 months.

I was a level designer for Star Wars: Roque Squadron 2 – Rogue Leader (which launched with the Nintendo Gamecube) and Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3 – Rebel Strike. My levels were used for the pre-sell disks and shown at trade shows like E3.

As Game Design Director and Designer on Lair, I was responsible for building and managing a design team.

What projects (personal or professional) are you currently working on?

Cogswell Faculty Spotlight – Michael Huber, Digital Art & Animation

Monday, November 16th, 2009


Michael Huber

Assistant Professor Michael Z. Huber is a computer graphics animator and effects supervisor, based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Born in the Arizona desert and raised in the Silicon Valley, he is the product of an engineer father and an artist/actress mother. It seems only fitting that his line of work involves the marriage of art and technology on a daily basis.
Michael’s interest in animation began while attending film school in San Francisco, where he studied stop motion animation, cinematography and film production. He eventually transferred to San Jose State University, where a new program called CADRE (Computers in Animation, Design, Research and Engineering) was introduced, which was one of the first places to study computer animation. He furthered his own education by investing in animation software, called HASH, and continued to teach himself enough computer animation to start a freelance animation company, called Gravity 3D.

Having been in the visual effects industry since 1994, Michael’s freelance projects for commercials and videos eventually led to major motion picture and video game projects. He has worked on over fifteen feature length films and has been fortunate enough to work for directors such as Wolfgang Peterson, Luc Besson, Ridley Scott, Roland Emmerich, Michael Bay, and Steven Spielberg.

What classes do you currently teach?

Currently I am teaching advanced classes in computer character animation {part of the Digital Art & Animation program). Also I head up the Project X production group. In Project X we create short films for film competitions.

Do you have a favorite class to teach? If so, why?

I enjoy teaching period. When I see someone grow or that light bulb turn on over someone’s head that is very gratifying. But if I had to pick one I would say the Project X, as it’s really the most creative environment for the students to grow in.

Have you worked for non-academic companies in the past? Which ones? How did that experience make you a better teacher?

Yes, I have been all over the map as far as entertainment is concerned. I have worked for video game, visual effects, and broadcast companies alike. To name a few I worked at Electronic Arts as a Lead Artist, Disney Feature Animation as an animator and Art Director, and Digital Domain as a Technical Director. And that is just a few of them. And yes the more experience you have outside of academia the more of a holistic approach you will be able to bring the to the teaching table, it’s pretty simple.

What made you decide that you wanted to teach?

Not what you would expect. I had a death in the family and it made me realize that I wasn’t doing what I really wanted to do. Furthermore the industry is so fast paced that I had to slow down or I would be in for some serious health problems for myself. Teaching seemed like a way to slow down. Ironically it’s just as difficult. I think any job can have its challenges if you care about it.

What projects have you worked on in the past? What was your role in the project?

Well going backwards I have worked on Tiger Woods PGA tour 2005, 2006, and the 2007 versions, also The Godfather video game as Lead Lighter. For films I played a large role on the Roland Emerichs version of Godzilla as Senior Animator. Also the last two Matrix Films, Black Hawk Down, Armageddon, Poseidon, Titanic, Blade two and three, Minority Report, and there are several others. It’s funny but the work has been so fast paced and hectic that I can’t remember half of the films I have worked on sometimes.


Cogswell Faculty Spotlight – Dr. Tim Duncan, Digital Audio Technology

Friday, October 30th, 2009


Dr. Tim Duncan

Dr. Timothy Duncan has been a member of the faculty of Cogswell Polytechnical College for over a decade. In addition to full-time teaching he was Dean of the College from 2005-2008. Dr. Duncan founded the Digital Audio Technology program, where he teaches many of its courses. He has synthesized his broad understanding of the music profession and the music industry to create an innovative audio program that targets both the manufacturing and the music production sides of the audio industry.

Dr. Duncan is an award-winning composer, performer and educator who is equally at home working with technology and with traditional media. He has composed and performed a body of new music compositions as well as created visual pieces and music for modern dance that have brought him recognition in the form of awards and grants from the Southeast Interdisciplinary Fund, Meet the Composer, Inc., the Ohio Federation of Music Clubs, and the Mississippi Arts Commission (among others), as well as guest composer residencies in places such as the Meadows School of Music at SMU, the Conservatory at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and the University of Memphis. Dr. Duncan was music director for 14 regional and university theatrical productions, which earned him a citation (as composer) in the Shakespeare Music Catalogue.

Dr. Duncan completed degrees at the Universities of Tennessee, Memphis and Cincinnati, as well as pursuing additional study at Brooklyn College, Carnegie Mellon University, Stanford University and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. He is a member of the College Music Society, the International Computer Music Association and the Interactive Audio Special Interest Group. Dr. Duncan’s areas of specialization include sound synthesis, music composition and computer programming.

What classes do you currently teach?

This term I am teaching Sound Synthesis, World Music, Music Theory and DAT Portfolio classes. In general I teach a wide range of classes within the Digital Audio Technology (DAT) program.

Do you have a favorite class to teach? If so, why?

Usually it is whatever course I am teaching at the moment.

Have you worked for non-academic companies in the past? Which ones? How did that experience make you a better teacher?

I worked for Leapfrog, which manufactures educational “appliances”. I worked on the audio side of thir production.