This is a sample curriculum for the 3D Animation concentration. Please look under All Courses for other course listings.
1st Year / Fall

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.

Animation Culture

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

1st Year / Spring

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.

Digital Art Seminar II

This is the second part of a two-semester course. See Digital Art Seminar I for course description.

Digital Storyboarding

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.

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.

Technical Direction

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.

2nd Year / Fall

Character Animation

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.

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.

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.

Thesis I

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.

2nd Year / Spring


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.

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.

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.

Thesis II

A continuation of Thesis I, this course is geared to achieving the goals outlined in thesis proposals. Weekly group and individual critiques will be held.

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.