The past week I traveled back up to Seattle not only to visit friends, but to support this year's animation capstone at the University of Washington was finishing up their film. The animation capstone is taught by Professor Barbara Mones and over the course of 3 quarters (about 8 and a half months) a group of 20 some students learn the fundamentals of maya and the various production roles while going through the pipeline similar to industry standards to create an original short film that is around 6 to 7 minutes and will be shown at the CSE departmental graduation. The film I did last year was called Picture Perfect, and it was probably the hardest thing that I have done. What makes this capstone so hard and stressful but at the same time a great opportunity and a great start into the animation industry is that while we have an extremely short time to work, a very limited amount of people, and the majority of us had no technical knowledge beforehand of what goes into production, we all had to take on and experience various production roles. I was involved with matte painting, weight painting the character rigs, animation, lighting, character and prop texturing, creating the titles and credits, and designing the poster. Before taking this capstone, I was just an art major who wanted to go into the animation industry and thought I would be a concept artist. Now, I am invested in becoming a lighting and texture artist.
This year, the film is called At Ease and is about how a drill sergeant is bullying two soldiers by making them pick up trash. Undaunted by the sergeant, the two soldiers make a game out of the task and have fun while picking up trash but this however angers the sergeant. The sergeant begins pulling trash out of the trash bin and throwing the trash everywhere only to be caught by the major/colonel/some sort of high ranking officer and thus the sergeant is now the one made to pick up all the trash. It is amazing how much the capstone got done. There is a total of seven characters (the sergeant, the major, and five soldiers) and a lot of effects as there were exploding trash bins with geysers of trash coming out and confetti falling everywhere. The animation looked good, especially as apparently two of the seven characters were added in a couple weeks before the finishing date to better tell the story and they had only begun to do facial expressions the week prior to the finishing date. The lighting worked well; when I came into the labs for a visit I got to give a few tips here and there about lighting from what I've learned so far at AAU. As usual, I wish the textures had more detail but seeing as there is such a short time frame to work and the animation and story really has to come through in order to bring the film to a finishing state I can see why the textures had to take a slight back seat in comparison. Usually people would drop out between the quarters either because they realize that this isn't something for them or other obligations with classes in their major take priority. In my year, we were down to 12 people in the final quarter trying to finish the film, but for At Ease, all twenty some people stayed on which is amazing.
It was great seeing old friends that I had made back in my year at the capstone and to see new faces that have lived through the capstone and still want to go into the industry. As many have said, this is a pretty small industry and so the friends that you meet will very likely be a coworker some day!