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Students To Show Off 'Reel' Skills At Animation Festival

April 11, 2012
SHSU Media Contact: Meredith Mohr

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Computer animation
Students in SHSU's art animation program will work intensively for at least seven weeks to complete the projects they submit for the semiannual Animation Festival. This semester's festival will be on May 3. For more information on the BFA in art animation, click here.  —Photos by Brian Blalock


Sam Houston State University senior animation major Cole Wiser’s interest in animation began in movie theaters when he saw the first Toy Story movie.

“I first fell in love with 3-D animation when that movie came out,” Wiser said. “I remember sitting there in the movie theater watching Woody’s hilarious demeanor and just being amazed.”

Wiser, who has been doing animation since high school, has produced a few short films in his time at the university, as well as models of characters and other small scale projects. Many of these projects are featured on his website.

“Now that I’m kind of grown up, I’m off to make my dream a reality,” Wiser said.

In the last few months he has at Sam Houston, Wiser will be doing just that by working on a project for submission in this year’s Animation Festival, sponsored by SHSU’s chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery's Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques (SIGGRAPH).

The Animation Festival is held semiannually as a chance for animation students to show off their hard work at a festival screening of their short films, projects they have been busy at work on all year. This semester’s festival will be May 3.

It is creativity that spurs on the festival and their personal and professional goals in the world of animation, according to art assistant professor Diana Salles.

Submissions range from senior projects, animation pieces students hope to use for their portfolios, demo reels and revamped pieces they have submitted to the festival before. The average student will work on a piece for at least seven weeks of intensive work, sometimes staying up all night working with project groups, Salles said.

Senior animation student Weston Jones said he will have several projects in the festival, inspired by video games and music videos.

“I tend to try to have narrative with less words in my films,” Jones said. “I think that is a common theme in this department’s animations, as we are not voice actors.”

Erin Izbrand
SHSU senior Erin Izbrand submitted a three-minute short with classmates Cole Wiser and Alina Ortega last semester for the animation festival. Izbrand says she "finds that everything is an inspiration" when it comes to her work as a concept art designer.

Last semester, Wiser worked on a three-minute short with fellow animation classmates Alina Ortega and Erin Izbrand. Together, the three seniors produced a satirical take on the classic Greek story of “Persephone.”

“Though it ended up not being as funny and successful as we had hoped, the amount of work we were able to produce in that time span was a success,” Wiser said. “That is a stand out favorite for me.”

Izbrand, a concept art designer, said she “finds that everything is an inspiration.”

“It’s inspiring when you can see something nobody else can,” Izbrand said. “In the future I hope I can put my inspiration into practice working for a studio as a concept artist or character designer.”

The animation program has been a part of the art department for five years, and since its inception, has grown to 150 students, all of whom are required to take the Workshop in Art Studio and History (WASH) program classes before starting on their Bachelor of Fine Arts degree curriculum in art animation. The classes are mostly lab-based, with emphasis on software such as Flash, Photoshop, Maya, Aftereffects and Unity, a game engine. Salles said the department is looking for eager, creative students to be involved in the program.

“It takes a lot of motivation to do this,” Salles said. “There is a lot more effort and problem solving in this field than people realize. You are constantly tweaking and working on a project until everything goes the way you want it, so students who want to do this as a career have to be very passionate about animation. They almost have to be obsessed with it, I think.”

Associate art professor Michael Henderson, who developed the curriculum for the animation program, said that he used inspiration from other university’s successful programs, such as Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida and the California Institute of Art, to design one for Sam Houston.

“I proposed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in computer animation that would be built on a foundation that emphasized drawing, figure drawing, and the principles of design and offer upper-level courses in 2-D and 3-D computer animation,” Henderson said. “The degree program is designed to give students the necessary skills to pursue careers in animated filmmaking, computer game design, advertising, fine art or to continue their studies in a graduate program. The curriculum I wrote was quickly accepted by the university and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and in 2006, SHSU became the first school in the state and one of the few in the country to offer a BFA in computer animation.”

student animatorFrom the everyday inspiration they find in the world, to the long nights in the lab, to the final product in the festival, Wiser described the animation process as “painstaking, but really awesome.”

“I don’t necessarily enjoy all the hours it takes,” Wiser said. “But once you’ve finished and you see one of your characters on the screen moving and flopping around, it’s a really great feeling. I think it’s kind of like watching your kid do something amazing and feeling proud of them.”

This semester, the animation program will hold another festival May 3, beginning with a reception at 6 p.m., followed by the screening at 7 p.m.

SIGGRAPH hosts the animation festival each year to promote interest and encourage involvement in animation.

The Animation Festival is open to any interested student, and entries must be submitted to faculty adviser Diana Salles, associate art professor Edward Morin or one of the officers of SIGGRAPH by the end of April. All submissions will be reviewed for originality, quality, requirements met, and creativity.



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