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Frequently Asked Questions if you are thinking about enrolling in a Game Design Program at a college or university


Enrolling into a game design program at a college or university can be extremely daunting, especially for the novice. Robert Appleton of the New York Film Academy puts a few of the typical worries to bed with some Frequently Asked Questions he receives from his greener game design students.




Q. I am not great at drawing. Will this be a problem?

Computer animation attracts a wide variety of personalities and incorporates numerous different interests; a glance at the credits of any CG or visual effects-heavy film will show just how many different roles and people are incorporated. Not only are there the artists, character designers, and modelers; there are people in charge of dynamic simulations (i.e. cloth, crumbling buildings, explosions) and developing and maintaining the pipeline (i.e. streamlining the interaction of various departments through programming and scripting). Not everyone has to be da Vinci-or, on the flip side, a computer genius like Pixar's Ed Catmull-to find a niche in CG.

Students with skill in drawing (or, again, other areas such as programming) will definitely be able to exploit those skills. Students who have not done much drawing (or programming, etc.) will get the chance to develop and subsequently flex those muscles thanks to the instruction offered, for instance character design, storyboarding and life drawing classes which are all part of the NYFA animation curriculum.

NYFA's 3D Animation program is a generalist program, meaning it will touch on all these aspects, and give students a chance to find the areas which interest them most.


Q. I am also a lover of film and animation as art forms. Does the curriculum include any animation history or film studies?

A. Unfortunately, given the intense schedule that has to be maintained, we are unable to include film history or studies as a primary focus. We do however address many aspects of movie making and important cinematic works in our directing and screen writing classes.

That being said, your education will involve much more than mere modeling and animation. Part of the magic of CG animation is that it comes from literally nothing more than an idea. In a live-action shot in a kitchen the table, chairs, microwave in the background, etc. can be procured by props and placed on the set. But within our CG world every element in the shot-that table, those chairs, the microwave and the counter on which it sits-must be created from thin air (and a bunch of 1s and 0s).

The animator plays every role in the movie, and to this end classes also include directing, cinematography, and even acting-for what is animation if not slipping into a character's CG skin and making them "act" convincingly? Furthermore, the program includes a series of life drawing classes using live models, as there are few better ways to teach an artist how to "see" the world around them.

Finally, you will be surrounded by other film and animation lovers, so all you will need to do to find an enlightening conversation on film as an art is walk down the hall-or just turn around in your chair.


Q. What kind of software is taught at NYFA's 3D Animation program?

  A. We teach using widely used, industry-standard software. The primary program during the first semester, which focuses on 3D modeling and animation, is Autodesk Maya. Although we also use Adobe Photoshop and After Efects.

In the second semester we begin using Pixologic's Zbrush for high-poly (extremely detailed) modeling. Working with Zbrush is like working with digital clay, and is often very intuitive for fine artists.

The second semester also includes various other aspects of 3D animation. Students will learn how to composite using The Foundry's Nuke industry standard software. Compositing is "putting the pieces together" for a shot (including working with green screen footage so live actors can be relocated to CG environments!), and in our case will culminate in the student integrating a CG character into live action footage. (Furthermore, this character will be animated using motion capture, so the students get a chance to go to a mocap studio and hop around on a stage, getting in touch with their inner actor!)

Students will also be introduced to scripting-programming specialized for use with CG-using the languages MELscript (a proprietary Maya scripting language) and Python, which is widely used for all sorts of applications, not just CG animation.

Other software is used along the way, including Adobe After Effects and Photoshop. The student will graduate quite the software polyglot . . . .

NYFA's classroom computers are fully loaded with the software needed; however, students can frequently benefit from educational discounts that can be found for many programs for working outside the school. In fact, Autodesk makes most of its programs available in educational, yet fully-functional, versions free of cost!




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