Posts Tagged ‘Digital Art & Animation’

The Book Of Life, New Knowledge

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Recently I had the pleasure of watching The Book of Life with my family. I’ll be perfectly honest, I didn’t know about the movie until a few days before Halloween. An animator who wasn’t aware of such an original movie? My word! But I saw it, and I’m glad I did. The Book of Life is brought to us by Mexican Director Jorge R. Gutierrez, co-creator of the cartoon series “El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera”. After spending years trying to get somebody to believe in the project, Guillermo Del Toro signed on as producer.

Presented in a beautiful and original style, the main characters in The Book of Life are animated wooden sculptures bursting with life and emotion. There’s no shortage of appealing facial expressions and great character animation, each character moves and behaves in her or her own unique way. Color is a main focus of the art direction as well, each scene practically glows, with set pieces so intricate and detailed you swear you could reach out and touch them. The story is wholesome as well, having a little bit of everything. Family, friendship, love, growing up and more. I definitely recommend the movie if you haven’t already seen it.

Watching the movie reminded me of my current classes at Cogswell College and what is being taught in them. Most recently, I’ve been learning about the importance of lighting when it comes to character definition and scene composition. Both elements are used quite successfully in the movie. In the past, I had trouble establishing multiple layers of depth in a scene using contrast, or value; my art would look flat. What I’ve learned in my classes is that by using a simple gray scale, you can compose a scene or render a character in black and white and then make a value scale with colors, if you wish to color it all. I never knew! Perhaps someday when my skills are up to par, or better than industry standards, you will see my name in the long list of movie credits or posters around your hometown. Until then, I’m learning, getting better, hopeful and excited for what the future may bring.

Thanks for reading.

Juan Rubio, Digital Art & Animation Student

Concept Art Process for Award-Winning Short Animated Films

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Kong Vang, Cogswell alumni and Art Director of two short animated films

Kong Vang, Cogswell alumni and Art Director of the two short animated films “Driven” and “Worlds Apart” – both created in Cogswell College’s Project X class – shares his process of creating character concept designs and more.

While working on the films created in the Project X class, I learned that it takes a very dedicated team to make a short film in four semesters or less. Many of the students on this team are attending classes full-time in addition to contributing their talents towards making an awesome film.

Here’s an overview of what happens during the production process of a short animated film: First the script and storyboards are completed and approved, within the first semester. Meanwhile, the concept team begins creating concepts for characters and environments.  Approved concepts are sent into the modeling pipeline as soon as they are approved where our artists create 3d models. As each model is approved by the Director, they are sent into the texturing and rigging pipeline. Technical artists create animation rigs for each model and prepare them for animation testing.  Animation is a long process so it is important to get the rigged 3D models to the animators as soon as possible. Animation takes almost a year to get all of the shots approved.  After the animation is polished, the first test of the film timing is created, approved, and sent off to the sound effects and music score team.  Also during the process of animation, approved shots are sent to the lighting team for light set and test render. When the finalized lit shots are rendered out, they are sent to the compositing team for the final clean up. After the composite shots are cleaned up and finalized, they are sent off to the film editor who creates the final cut of the film and music score.

On the latest film ‘Driven’, each member of the team wore different hats depending on which stage of the production pipeline the film was in.  For instance, initially I started out in the concept design pipeline, then moved to the animation pipeline and finally to matte painting for the final stage of the film.

One of my jobs as a concept designer was to collect the approved designs from the other artists and finalize them. Because most approved designs are from different artists, each with their own distinct style, the finalization process ensures a consistent look and feel. After finalizing the look and stylization of the characters, I would render each character in 2D using Adobe Photoshop so that it would represent its 3d counterpart.  This allows the Director to easily visualize how each character will look before it gets passed along to the modeling team.

Digital media is the fastest way to work and Photoshop offers the perfect tools and work flow for this demanding field. With infinite tool presets, custom brushes, and limitless iterations, it allows me to work more quickly and easily compared to traditional mediums like paint or ink.

To block out the initial character’s silhouette, I like to use a standard round brush, which I adjust into an ellipse shape, then angle it 45 degrees. This style of brush setup creates a line weight that flows much more nicely than the standard round brushes. Once the silhouettes and internal shapes look good, I create a new layer in Photoshop and start to block out the forms with one color value. At this early stage, I prefer to work in black and white.  It makes it easier to focus just on values and form rather than getting caught up about the colors. My preference in digital painting is to work from dark to light values, or shadows to highlights. It has been my experience to get results much faster using this method than trying to paint from light to dark.  I push and pull (lighten and darken) the values until the character forms are clear.  During this process, I maintain a wide range of values to create depth and realism.

Once the characters have been sketched out, it’s time to experiment with color palettes. I like give a slight color tint to the values before painting on top of the black and white image. The tint layer acts as a color wash so none of the black and gray value show through later. I create a new layer and set the Layer Mode to “Color”. I start by painting over the character with the color palette that the team agrees on. By using multiple layers, I don’t lose my original black and white image – and I can test out different color schemes.  Once I’ve added general color blocks to the characters, I use a new layer to start painting in details. For the final detail stage, I use textures and custom brushes to polish the look of the characters.

The development stages from concept to finished product vary from character to character; it all depends on what the Director is looking for. For example, secondary characters may be approved before main characters. Main characters are often challenging as they have to be visually pleasing and have the right visual attitude. On the other hand secondary characters have far less restrictions, allowing flexibility for designers to explore their creativity.

The concept team spent almost an entire semester designing characters. After four months and multiple iterations, all nine characters were finally approved. Once approved, I took the concepts and started finalizing each character’s look. It took me roughly four or five hours to render out the first pass of each character to show the Director.  One character in particular – the adult Biff cop – took almost ten hours to design.  After multiple small changes, the final designs were approved.

One of the most surprising and challenging characters to design was the Jet Bike that the main character rides.  Its importance in the film is equal to the character that rides it. Although there were many great concept designs shown to the Director, none of them were approved. That’s when I was given the tough task of designing the bike. After fifty designs, we started to narrow down the concept. Once the main silhouette was chosen, I mixed elements from the best three designs together to get the final jet bike concept. The process for this single ‘character’ took three or four weeks, from start to finish, working with traditional mediums like graphite and paper.

This is just the front-end of the production pipeline for a short animated film. It takes a strong team and lots of man hours to complete the film. In the end many people had come and gone, and lots of talented people contributed to the film. We were all so glad that the film was finally finished. It took the PX team about four semesters and two summers of hard work to accomplish the short film, Driven. The Project X class has given me the best hands-on experience possible. It has definitely changed my future and life for the better. Thanks Project X!

Kong Vang

From Rocket Scientist to Animator

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

So how do you go from being an engineering student to an animator? According to Cogswell student, Robert Mariazeta, you identify and then follow your dream. Since coming to Cogswell, Robert started the Animation Club, is working in Studio E and was one of the 5 Cogswell students selected by Disney to attend their 2013 Inspire Day.

In this short video, Robert talks about the journey that brought him to Cogswell to major in animation, his love of the field and why he thinks it’s important to be a ‘T’ shaped worker.

Visit Cogswell’s website to learn more about our Digital Art & Animation degree program.

Cogswell CUC Exchange Student Wins In UCLA Festival of New Creative Work

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

The CUC exchange student program has brought many young talents to Cogswell, all of which have increased their artistic talents while enrolled at the school. So it brings joy to our hearts to hear that one of the first to be apart of the program Henry Zhang has won Best 2D Animation in the 2011 UCLA Festival of New Creative Work.

We all wish him the best here at Cogswell and we hope that his position in the MFA program gives him opportunites that will show the best of his artistic abilities.

Rock on Henry!

You guys can check out the video here:

[Be Quiet] Animation by Henry Zhang

Source: Michael Martin, Dean of Cogswell

Latest Project X Film, Worlds Apart, Official Selection at LA Shorts Fest

Saturday, July 16th, 2011

Academy Award qualifying film festival, LA Shorts Fest, has invited Worlds Apart to be an official selection for its upcoming July 21 to July 29, 2011 event. This prestigious festival boasts an outstanding past record of 37 Academy Award-nominated films, including 12 Oscar winners. This will be the festival’s 15th season.

“After reviewing the many films submitted, we found your short represents the caliber of work we want participating in our festival,” said Drea Garcia in the official invitation email.

Worlds Apart, produced under the umbrella of the Project X class, is the culmination of eighteen months of collaboration between Cogswell College students, faculty and industry advisors under the leadership of Animation Professor, Michael Zachary Huber. One of the secrets of Project X is that it does not run like a regular class but rather a working film production company – using teams of skilled artists, engineers and sound designers.

“The hours are grueling, aesthetics standards are very demanding and we treat the artists like professionals and not students,” said Michael Huber, Director of the Project X course. “This total immersion creates an environment conducive to quality, camaraderie and the highest production value. We believe it is the best way to learn.”

The festival will host all screenings at the historic Laemmle Sunset 5 Theaters located at the start of the famous Sunset Strip at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Crescent Heights.

All of us at Cogswell are incredibly proud of the Project X team! We hope all the film festivals the movie screens at gets high praise and high ranking awards!

Cogswell Trailer Now Available to Watch on YouTube

Friday, October 1st, 2010

YouTube1

Cogswell alumnus, Michael McConnell (2009), who works on campus with board member Michael Novak for their company Tertia, recently created a trailer for Cogswell to show to high school students.  The video is fast-paced and in one word, epic.  Thanks to Michael for lending his endless amount of talent! 

See the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjYY2h9HAlE

Cogswell Alumna Lectures in India

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

lilly

2009 Digital Arts and Animation graduate Lilly Vogelesang, now a technical consultant for Toon Boom Animation Inc, presented a lecture and demonstration on using storyboard software to streamline and simplify the storytelling process to a crowd of student filmmakers at SRM Sivaji Ganesan Film Institute in Chennai, India.

“It saves a lot of time and money for the producers. The trick is to get into the practice of storyboarding and rehearse each scene,” said Vogelesang.

The event was covered by The Hindu newspaper.

Michael Martin, Dean of the College

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?
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