Three animated films, each portraying a 30-second tale about a robot, were created this summer by graduate visualization students at Texas A&M with guidance on the latest digital techniques from artists at DreamWorks Animation.
Students created the films in the 2014 version of the Department of Visualization’s Summer Industry Course, in which students work with professionals in leading animation studios to develop 30-second videos using a “real world” production pipeline.
“DreamWorks gave students vague guidelines for the story, basically, robots on a foreign land interacting with a substance of some sort,” said Ann McNamara, associate professor of visualization, who manages the course and serves as a producer for the projects, facilitating interaction between the students and industry visitors.
During this summer’s course, five DreamWorks animators, whose specialization matched a particular stage of the video’s development, traveled to College Station a week at a time to advise the students, who worked in two teams of six students and one team of five.
“The artists were really, really generous with their time,” said McNamara. “They didn’t just come here during the day, they were at the Viz Lab in the evenings too, working with the students.”
The DreamWorks artists had worked on the recently released “How To Train Your Dragon 2,” which was lauded by critics for its groundbreaking animation. The studio paid for the class to see the movie on opening night in June.
“They used a lot of new techniques and new technology to render the images in the movie, and the artists shared them with students,” said McNamara. “It was a fantastic opportunity for the students to become familiar with all of the cutting-edge research and technology that’s being used in the industry,” she said.
Many former visualization students, said McNamara, tell her it’s the most important class in the program because they network with industry professionals, it synthesizes elements of what they’ve learned in other courses, and they work in groups for a common goal.
“The class can be challenging for people who haven’t worked much in groups before, but it’s really good practice because that’s how these films are made in the real world,” said McNamara, who got help during the summer from teaching assistant and vizzer Tim Schwartz.