3D Design and Fabrication I
This course will examine several methods of virtual to digital output. It will cover the software programs needed to successfully translate creative ideas into a file format that will be used for printing and cutting, or to machine-build a project. Applications include SolidWorks, Rhino, Modo, SketchUp, Sculptris, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, Geomagic, MasterCam, Vcarve Pro and Cut3D. Weekly assignments will familiarize students with 3D scanning and printing, laser and CNC milling and cutting machines, and other techniques. The works of well-known artists who use these technologies as well as the history of these types of artistic production will be discussed.
3D Design and Fabrication II
This course is a continuation of 3D Design and Fabrication I. After mastering the basics of digital and mechanical methods of making art, students will begin to work on advanced projects. Class time will include discussions on the evolving aesthetics of this type of work. Students will produce several projects during the course of the semester, or may use this class as an adjunct for fabricating their thesis projects. Prerequisite: 3D Design and Fabrication I.
3D for Fine Artists
This course aims to introduce different 3D techniques that can be used to produce artistic content. It is intended for students who are not necessarily pursuing 3D animation as a specialization and will introduce different 3D content creation and acquisition workflows. It will also cover ways to present the 3D content that is relevant for a fine artist, such as interaction using the Unity Game Engine and various ways to display it, including virtual reality and projection mapping. Students will have the opportunity to develop artwork through critique and discussion of historical and aesthetic perspectives of computer art. Assigned projects include still, time-based and interactive works.
3D Modeling and Animation
The technical concepts of creating computer-generated 3D imagery will be the focus of this course. We will also examine the application of the aesthetic concepts of traditional animation to creative 3D animation. Geometric construction, surface texturing, scene illumination and cameras will be covered. Techniques such as squash-and-stretch, anticipation, follow-through, overlapping action, arcs of motion, exaggeration, staging and appeal will be explored. Assignments integrate technical and aesthetic information into short, creative 3D animation projects.
Advanced 3D Techniques
This course will demonstrate advanced 3D techniques in animation, texturing, lighting and rendering. Students will explore aesthetic concepts that establish mood, environment, time of day and color through the use of light. Conveying character will be emphasized through acting and movement. Short assignments will focus on developing animated characters and their imaginary worlds. The use of the production pipeline and development of a professional workflow will be introduced. Prerequisite: 3D Modeling and Animation.
Advanced Modeling and Rigging Concepts
Creating distinct animated characters is one of the most challenging aspects of modern cinema. This course will explore how to create 3D characters from design to modeling and setup through the development of a character pipeline. Considerations in character design will be covered from art direction, visual references, concept art, the maquette and 3D modeling to rigging techniques. Professional criticism to enhance creativity when working in a collaborative environment will be emphasized. By the end of the course, students will have created both a character they can easily animate and a document to illustrate their creative choices made throughout the character development process. Prerequisite: 3D Modeling and Animation.
Why do we love animation? What is it doing for us—or to us? This course will explore the impact of animation on our perception and culture through screenings, discussions and written work. We will discuss how pervasive animated worlds influence people through entertainment, games, advertising, broadcast media, medicine, law and architecture. The use of animation as commentary on topics such as politics, emotional life and intimacy will be considered. The culture of animation itself—as represented by legendary companies, people and practices of this multifaceted art form—will also be addressed. Guest speakers and field trips are included.
App Design and Development
This course provides students with a workshop setting in which to deepen their understanding of professional practice and solve complex animation problems. It will focus on techniques such as forward and inverse kinematics, lip-sync and facial expressions, model deformation (morphing), animating lights and camera movement, and rotoscoping. Acting techniques will be practiced so that students can better understand how to convey fluidity of movement and expression of emotion in animated characters. The course will be divided into lectures, demonstrations, tutorials, in-class exercises and critiques. Prerequisite: Advanced 3D Techniques.
This course will survey a range of aesthetic issues, practical techniques and software applications used for digital compositing. The role of compositing in feature film and television commercial production will be examined in depth through practical examples. Students will be assigned short projects that reflect the ideas and techniques discussed in class and will present their creative work for critique.
Computer Systems I
The purpose of this course is to give an overview of the inner workings of computer systems. It will cover the many facets of computers, including logic, hardware, programming and software, how they communicate to create networks and how to use that knowledge to make informed technical choices. It will review the theory, history and cultural context behind the emergence of computer systems, which has shaped the current technological state of affairs. Students will also learn to configure hardware and software for specific tasks, including motion graphics, 3D animation and fine art.
Computer Systems II
The MFA Computer Art Lab is a sophisticated and complex network of computers, peripherals, software, servers and other high-end components. If students are to take advantage of the true potential and power of the MFA lab, indoctrination in “real-world” problem solving is necessary. This course dissects, researches and solves systems problems that prepare students to successfully execute a thesis project. In addition to lectures, field trips will be made to state-of-the-art facilities.
Guest artists will discuss their artwork in a forum designed to help students under- stand the work of their contemporaries. By exposing students to a spectrum of computer art-making possibilities, this course inspires creative work and provides an opportunity to meet prospective thesis advisors and professional digital artists.
Creative Programming for Artists I
This course is intended for students who have no prior exposure to programming and who want to build their own tools to create digital art. We will take a close look at the techniques used to program simple manipulations of video and sound works, control these with a broad range of external controllers that are commercially available, as well as with simple camera and motion-tracking techniques. The course will consist of lectures and presentations, with a short assignment after each session. Software and hardware includes: Max/MSP/Jitter and the Processing language tool set; Arduino, iCube, and other I/O devices; Korg Nano, QuNeo and MIDI-based controllers; Kinect, Leap, and other 3D interfaces; iPhone, iPad, and smartphone apps that are able to control the computer.
Creative Programming for Artists II
Digital Art Seminar I
This seminar addresses many aspects of digital art history and theory, including the evolution of digital technologies through an examination of the key theorists and practicing artists who have defined the digital media field. The primary goal is to expose students to the broad range of ideas and forms of expression that the digital arts encompass. Students will clarify and expand their personal creative niche within the context of contemporary art and culture, through research, short written assignments and creative experimentation. This lecture series offers a historical and theoretical foundation in the digital arts, along with establishing a familiarity with contemporary art in New York City through gallery visits, artist talks and guest lectures.
Digital Art Seminar II
This is the second part of a two-semester course. See Digital Art Seminar I for course description.
Digital Matte Painting
Matte painting has been used since the dawn of motion pictures, and continues to be an important component of making movies: spanning Georges Méliès’s pioneering 1902 film, A Trip to the Moon, to James Cameron’s groundbreaking 3D spectacle, Avatar. While matte paintings were once created on location using large sheets of glass, the digital revolution has extended its use and versatility by combining traditional painting skills with cutting-edge technology. Beyond the technical challenges of creating photorealistic landscapes and interiors, matte paintings have an essential role in capturing the filmmaker’s vision, and remain the most cost-effective way to create panoramic shots without building expensive sets. Additionally, how to best research image banks and libraries will be discussed. Students will explore the principles of matte painting through assignments and exercises.
The role of the art department, particularly in feature films, has expanded from being a front-end process to being actively involved throughout the production. This course will focus on honing the craft of visual development through creating concept art, storyboards, animatic production and previsualization. Using digital imaging and video, students will apply their creativity to the latest techniques in digital storyboarding. These techniques will be explored through short assignments and group critique. Screenings of key works that range from feature films and independent productions to commercials will provide a forum for discussion. Prerequisite: Narrative and Visual Storytelling.
Dynamics and Particle Systems
Particles and dynamics will be used in this course to explore a variety of special effects families, including: explosions, chemical reactions, flocking animals, complex morphing, meteorological phenomena, glows, magical effects, dust and tornadoes. The effects will be built from scratch and then we will identify, refine and control the most essential aesthetic parameters. Topics will include: particles, fields, goals, collision detection, the instancer, springs, paint effects, hard and soft bodies, deformer interaction, shader networks, glows, software and hardware render compositing, and lighting. Students will develop a strong foundation in MEL (Maya Embedded Language). Prerequisite: Advanced 3D Techniques.
Ecstasy and Apocalypse
In this course, we will study selected science-fiction utopias and dystopias in popular culture, literature, cinema and theoretical writing from the 19th century to the present. We will begin with the question, “Why is science fiction our political theory?” in order to use the genre to analyze relations of power and control; capitalism and the media; ethics and freedom; definitions of human, gender and race in an increasingly bioengineered world. Among the texts will be Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, as well as essays by Donna Haraway, Tom Moylan, H. G. Wells, Frederic Jameson, Scott Bukatman, Allucquére Rosanne Stone, Samuel Delany and Jean Baudrillard. Students will have the choice of writing a seminar paper or creating a piece of serious critical work in another medium for their final project.
Exploring Still and Moving Imagery
The practice and theory of still and motion-based imagery will be explored in this course. The theoretical function of montage will be investigated by examining how digital production tools and techniques have impacted the creation and perception of still and temporal imagery. Through the study of the history of montage and selected theoretical readings, students will place their personal practice within the broader context of digital art and culture, and translate their ideas into action through short assignments. Class time is divided between critical discussions and studio projects.
The study of interactive design is at the core of what is unique to making art on the computer. Game design is the creation of interactive, self-contained systems of rules that usually contain a challenge and a victory condition. This course is geared not only toward those interested in the game industry, but also toward those interested in creating compelling and meaningful interactivity. This goal will be met through the exploration and critique of the work of interactive artists and commercial game designers. The course will include guest lectures by artists and game designers, readings, assignments to create paper prototypes for games, commercial and fine art games. Students will research and play games that lie outside the course syllabus and share those experiences in a thoughtful and meaningful way.
Interface Design: From Ideation to Realization
This course will investigate how to construct ideas through design, research, storyboarding and wireframes. Students will examine what design can accomplish and the impact it has on a larger scale. Assignments will explore specific ways of building usable, effective and meaningful interface designs for mobile devices, tablets, desktop computers and/or any imaginable interactive surface. The goals of the course are to connect the dots of user experience within the flow of a specific activity with different devices.
Motion Graphics I
Graphics that move, but how? This foundation course will explore the tools and production pipeline within Adobe After Effects and related Creative Cloud applications. Students will be encouraged to investigate trends and software while producing creative work with a focus on art direction. Independent motion graphics projects, as well as television commercials, will be discussed throughout the course as examples of current techniques and what is creatively possible. Assignments will also provide a catalyst for group critique.
Motion Graphics II
This course is intended to go beyond the basics of motion graphics and assist students in refining their personal style. Advanced techniques relating to combining 2D and 3D animation, live action and stop motion will be explored in depth. Course work will be complemented by guest lecturers and workshops given by industry professionals. Students will complete the course with a reel that showcases both their creativity and knowledge of the software. Prerequisite: Motion Graphics I, or instructor’s permission.
Motion Graphics: Theory and Design
Intended to develop creativity and a personal style, as well as hone professional and artistic skills, this course will focus on an innovative approach to producing motion graphics projects, including crossover (designers as artists, artists as designers), inspiration, osmosis and looking beyond the screen to the world around us. The art of title design for opening sequences will also be addressed. Self-directed short- and long- term projects within an artistic design framework will be supported, and group critiques will help to develop communication and visual analytic skills. Reel building will be examined to further professional development. This course is for flexible, open-minded thinkers who want to explore their creative vision and learn the art of communication through moving imagery. Prerequisites: Motion Graphics I, or equivalent, and a working knowledge of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.
Narrative and Visual Storytelling
This course will study the structural elements underlying animated entertainment, traditional and experimental narratives. Story structures will be analyzed to discover what content can be conveyed within 30 seconds, a few minutes or longer in art and entertainment. We will focus on the key elements of storytelling, including the development of concepts, such as the central dramatic question, inciting incident, idiosyncratic characters and spaces, conflicts and needs, mounting tension, reversals and resolution. Visual language will be addressed by gaining a familiarity with camera shots, movements, angles and placement. Through short assignments, students will develop original scripts, concept sketches, storyboards and animatics. The basics of previsualization will be covered. An examination of key works in the field is included.
New Forms in Media
Sixty years ago, video was only seen on television. Today, the electronic moving image is also experienced via the Internet, as live performances, and within sculptures and installations on various digital platforms. This studio course will investigate how to create media art. Lens-based image acquisition with various types of video cameras (surveillance, action cameras, UHD) will be explored, as will cameras that capture RGB and depth in three dimensions. Interactive and performance video forms and their technologies will also be examined through the many ways that media art can be displayed, such as multichannel environ- ments and projection mapping. Emerging media art distribution platforms will be covered. Students will complete a project in at least two of the following mediums: Internet, installation, visual performance, interactive video, sculpture, hybrid forms.
New Media in Contemporary Art
This course will explore artistic developments in new media over the past century, with a particular focus on artistic practices that examine or embrace new circumstances in the media and technologies of our time. Key works will be presented and discussed in light of the evolution of creative expression. Students will also research and discuss the concepts presented by critics and theorists. The term “new media” will be treated broadly to include developments in contemporary art, interaction, Internet-based work, film, photography and radio, as well as the beliefs and expectations that accompany new technologies.
New Media Theory
The history and theory of new media from aesthetic, cultural and political perspectives will be outlined in this course. Key texts from science, technology, cultural theory and philosophy will be used to illustrate how mediation in various forms has impacted perception, communication, information systems and cultural production. Prominent theories will be referenced to trace the development of the term “new media.” Other topics include the logic of the database as a new cultural form, as well as notions of software and the power of code’s structures and rules. How networks affect cultural production—from social networking to semantic filtering to intellectual properties and urbanity—will be explored. Through lectures, reading assignments and discussions, new media will be positioned in this larger cultural context.
Production Issues: Animation I
The production of animation projects will be examined in this course through such topics as scene layout, camera, motion, shading, lighting, effects, rendering and compositing. Focusing on production methods as they are practiced in the professional realm, assignments will address the conceptualization, design, scheduling and techniques of animation production for thesis projects.
Production Issues: Animation II
A continuation of Production Issues: Animation I, this course will go into greater depth in the examination and discussion of thesis projects and professional production methods. Advanced techniques in lighting, texturing and rendering will be addressed. Prerequisite: Production Issues: Animation I.
Production Issues: Fine Art
Geared toward students working on their own projects in the area of installation art, interactive video, sound art or performance, this course will address issues surrounding creative projects and follow the projects to completion. Topics will include timeline and budgets, contractual issues for hiring musicians/engineers, testing and documentation. We will also discuss networking, press materials, CV, promotion, identifying funding sources and grant writing. How digital artworks can survive in a time of constant technological changes will be addressed.
Production Issues: Motion Graphics I
Serving as an expansion upon the topics addressed in first-year motion graphics, this course will explore the workflow of a professional production artist. Photoshop timelines, advanced camera techniques in Cinema 4D and the Adobe After Effects pipeline, character animation, the framing of a story through collage and sound will be covered. Each week, a task is assigned to create elements toward a final project and/or demo reel. Prerequisite: SCG-5573, Video Projects, or SCG-5641, Motion Graphics I, or instructor’s permission.
Production Issues: Motion Graphics II
The focus of this course is from the standpoint of compositing, including the use of green screen, tracking and the combining of 2D/3D and live-action elements. The fundamentals of using video for compositing will also be covered. Students will experiment with advanced techniques for visual effects. Additionally, analysis of the trends of current motion graphics and glitch art, along with the subject of distortion—visually and through sound—will be explored. Prerequisite: Production Issues: Motion Graphics I, or instructor’s permission.
Programming for Animators
The ability to write scripts (short programs that control other software) is one of the most powerful skills that a CG artist can have. In addition to an artistic eye, it is perhaps the skill that most frequently separates a run-of-the-mill artist from an irreplaceable one. In this course, we will examine Python, which is both a full- fledged programming language suitable for building entire applications and the integrated scripting language of choice in CG software such as Maya, Houdini and Nuke.
Seminar in Musical Choices
Guiding students toward designing a sound environment that is properly connected to their thesis project is the premise of this course. Animation and motion graphics students will work with a sound accompaniment to support the story line and the motion of characters, or abstract visual elements involved in their thesis projects. Fine artists, web designers and installation artists can achieve a strong musical refer- ence point in order to formulate a soundtrack that speaks to their creative work. Students will learn how to make music choices for projects that will guide the artistic vision or to enhance the already conceived image. Note: The composition of original music is not required.
The fundamental principle of sound design is simply to explore the possibilities for underscoring an image or time-based work. There are principles of music that work with time-based media (motion graphics, animation, stop motion, networked media), interactive media and games. Topics for the principles of music include: selection and use of prerecorded material, creation of music and audio content, the connection of music and sound production for animations, websites, DVDs and videos, as well as music inherent in illustration and photography leading to developing the final track. Discussions will center on the differences between working with sound in a narrative or interactive environment, along with the static images of illustration and photography. Note: The composition of original music is not required.
Sound Workshop I
This course will explore the many forms of sound creation and what can be done with them. There will be an equal emphasis on sonic and compositional aspects, including form and structure, texture, and the technical concepts of understand- ing and using recording equipment and software. Emphasis will be placed on “outside the box” thinking regarding the possibilities of sound creation. Class time will be divided among lecture, discussions and practical/technical exercises. Topics will include the physics of sound, hearing vs. listening, psychoacoustics, the history of sound art and concepts in sound art composition. Practical projects will involve creating sound art compositions using Avid Pro Tools and exploring the deep connection between sound and imagery.
Sound Workshop II
Intended for students who want to expand their ability to compose within the medium of sound, this course will focus on the conceptual and technical contexts for the composition of computer-based music. Coursework will consist of individual creative projects, in-class project presentations and discussion. The first half of the semester will explore the advanced use of Avid Pro Tools for music composition using MIDI sequencing and sampling with virtual instruments and various types of MIDI controllers and surround-sound mixing. The second half focuses on inter- active sound possibilities for installation and performance applications utilizing Ableton Live, Max for Live, sensor technologies and Arduino, and will culminate in a final project of each student’s own design. Note: Prior musical training is not a prerequisite for this course.
Stereoscopic 3D, which provides separate images for each eye, has been part of imaging since the dawn of photography. Working with stereo imagery has become increasingly valuable in entertainment, and the arts and sciences. It also offers a window into visual perception and the opportunity to re-examine many of the techniques and issues confronted in conventional image work. This course will cover the diverse methods and artistic possibilities for producing and displaying stereo imagery. Students will produce several stereoscopic projects that explore their own artwork using video, still images or animation.
The technical director (TD) is traditionally both a jack of many trades and the “hub” that brings the work of more specialized artists together into a cohesive whole. Nowhere else in the CG ecosystem will you so frequently find professionals who straddle the line between art and science. The most sought after TDs are invariably those who have multiple skills, an artistic eye and the ability to delve into the inner workings of the CG pipeline to repair and/or improve it. This course will cover advanced topics in Python scripting. We will touch upon fluid simulation, particle dynamics, cloth, procedural animation and modeling, rigid and soft bodies, and more. Prerequisite: Programming for Animators.
Theory, Criticism and History of Time-Based Media
As the first time-based medium, film quickly became a primary means of cultural expression and an icon of popular culture. Early works by Thomas Edison included live action, stop motion and animation, laying the groundwork for digital video, motion graphics and computer animation. Although digital projection, 3D and web-based technologies have begun to supersede the film medium, its history, including video and animation, provides a wellspring of ideas and practices that demand theoretical and critical analysis. This course will address the vocabulary, grammar and syntax of experimental and mainstream film language, while examining and analyzing basic film constructs, genres and forms. Focusing on these issues from an international perspective, students will explore time-based media through the works of theorists, critics and practitioners. Reading and writing assignments will be complemented by student presentations, guest lectures and discussion.
The thesis project consists of documented research and a body of creative work. The project should reflect individual direction and interests, attained through an awareness of the creative use of the computer and emerging technologies and its potential in the chosen area of practice. This course is intended to guide students through the initial stages of their thesis. A forum for discussion of content and context, as well as critique of work-in-progress with faculty and visiting artists will be provided. Throughout the year, students will work with a thesis group leader and the department chair.
Thesis Research and Writing I
Intended to help students to refine their research skills and articulate concepts and context, this course will focus on finalizing the thesis proposal, and the thesis research paper. Students will meet with the instructor in groups and individually several times during the semester. The critique and review sessions will be open to all thesis students every week.
Thesis Research and Writing II
A continuation of Thesis Research and Writing II, this course is intended to help students prepare the written materials needed to introduce their art practice. It will focus on the artist’s biography, statement, résumé/CV, project description and a press release. Students will meet with the instructor in groups and individually several times during the semester. The critique and review portion will be open to all thesis students every week.
Touch and Tech Art Lab I
Touch and Tech Art Lab II
Touch and Tech Art Lab III
User Experience Design and Development
User experience (UX) is an essential focus of designers, artists and developers. This course will address how usability, accessibility and information architecture shape design: from applications and websites to fine art and installations to industrial and product design. Students will learn how to make responsive designs for desktops and mobile devices—even television. Bringing designs to life through prototyping both improves the refinement of your work and dramatically assists the creative process. We will use prototypes to explore navigation methods, how they influence generative art and data visualizations.
Video Art and Beyond
This course begins by examining the emergence of video art of the 1960s, through structuralist films and the freewheeling days of “feedback” and “real-time” manipulation of the analog electronic signal. Students will examine how the barriers between artistic disciplines broke down as artists took up portable video cameras, experimented with installation, staged actions, and went outdoors to build land art. Works of contemporary video artists who move freely between painting, sculpture, photography, film, performance and other media will be discussed, as well as the contributions by musicians toward developing new working methods. The course will consist of weekly screenings, analysis of installations, readings and written assignments.
Video Production: From Concept to Completion
The focus of this course will address professional video production workflow methods in order to tell compelling cinematic stories. Through demonstrations, assignments and discussions, we will investigate setting up a video shoot, cinematography, camera functionality, lighting, color correction, audio recording and editing. All of these techniques will be examined in terms of how they relate to creating an engaging narrative. Assignments will concentrate on aesthetic and technical issues and how to troubleshoot throughout the production process.
This course will include demonstrations and exercises in project development, production and editing, as well as ongoing class critique. It is designed to provide students with facile control of moving-image content, craft, film language and techniques. We will explore these elements in light of emerging practices through different styles, current trends and technology. Students will produce short video and mixed-media projects that will be presented for group critique. Lecture topics include directing, storytelling, the creative use of lenses, cinematography, and editing philosophies.
Web Programming I
Web Programming II