You’ve seen them in such movies as Toy Story, Twister, Jurassic Park and Forrest Gump: animated creatures, places and motions impossible to capture on screen without electronic first aid.
In two combined architecture-computer science courses at WSU, similar imaginative productions are resulting, as are promising futures for the students who acquire the technical skills in animation. One impetus comes from advanced powerful animation software programs donated over the past five years from Alias|Wavefront, Inc., based in Toronto and Santa Barbara. The company, internationally known for its computer-aided graphics and animation software, this fall gave $720,000 retail value ($363,780 educational value) of licensing, maintenance and support. The five programs run on seven specialized computers, which are continually in high demand.
WSU ranks in the top 20 of Alias|Wavefront-granted schools, and the company has hired five WSU graduates. Continued relationship with the company keeps WSU in the forefront of computer animation and 3-D graphics, say Kim Singhrs and Patrick Flynn, who teach the courses.
With the tools, 30-40 architecture and computer science students each year collectively produce about one-half hour of animation. This is typically in the form of 30-second spots, each requiring as many as 900 frames, each frame taking from five minutes to two hours to render.
After viewing several animation examples from the WSU Web site, Seattle’s Miramar Productions picked a student animation project to use in the company’s new “Imaginit”, a children’s anthology now available in video stores. Royalties for the student work will be directed toward the animation equipment fund. Student productions also have been shown at several conferences, the latest being student Sean Jenkin’s and Singhrs’ animated productions “Greed” and “Light Rain,” which were recognized at Eurographics last August in France.
WSU’s animation studies are small scale in comparison to the art design schools of California, New York and others in Canada and other Eastern states, where two- or four-year programs in animation are taught. While these other schools have larger budgets and scopes, the track record of WSU animation student placement is unrivaled at public schools in the Northwest, says Singhrs. Regional industry frequently contact WSU for prospective hires.
Taught by Singhrs and Flynn with systems support from Mike Kibler and Karl Hakimian, as many as 55 former students have taken jobs as software engineers, commercial animators and other related positions. Many are employed by architectural firms to develop 3-D animated walk-throughs, fly-bys or virtual reality versions of designs. Others are in Spokane, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and at other universities and industries.
Of the five WSU alumni hired by Alias|Wavefront, Rob Tesdahl now specializes in particle system packages, and began by working on ways to simulate cloth, animated watch gears, and 3-D faces while at WSU. Sean Jenkins now works at Dreamquest Images, a special effects company owned by Disney. Barbara Brennan has worked at Industrial Light and Magic (LucasFilms) since 1984 as a special effects animator, and she took the earliest of animation courses taught at WSU.
On a modern Worldwide Web navigator with a helper application that can retrieve MPeg files, see a sampling of video clips (or stills) of Capitalistic Pigs, Bonkers, Cosmic Pizza and other student works at http://eecs.wsu.edu/IRL/ANIM/Anim.html
Contacts: Prof. Kim Singhrs, 509/335-7315, firstname.lastname@example.org; Prof. Patrick Flynn, 509/335-4961, email@example.com. Using the new software, students have rendered the campus core, and are willing to demonstrate, if media are interested.