Thursday, December 20, 2007

I Survived my First Semester!

So I'm back in Oregon, enjoying the many greatly missed comforts of home. =) I've been busy Christmas shopping(I'm officially done!), making cards, and working at Target again. Anyways, as promised here are my final thoughts about my first semester at CalArts!

Video Animation & Computer Production: We primarily learned Final Cut Pro., next semester we'll be learning how to use After Effects and touch on Photoshop. I did learn a lot about Final Cut and basic film making(the teacher would bring in several examples of strong film making and have us analyze them)-- the teacher also gave me some great feedback on my film/animatic.

Basic Perspective: Dan Hansen has a really cool method to teaching perspective. The class was definately geared for animation and I learned some nifty shortcuts that will hopefully help me when I develop the backgrounds for my film.

Beginning Story Development: Loved this class! The teacher gave us lots of great assignments and I'm getting better at pitching story ideas. I always received great feedback on my boards and now my film is a lot stronger thanks to my classmates and teacher. Nobody teaches storyboarding better then the Dragen! haha.

Color and Design: There were two assignments I really enjoyed the most: The Flipbook animation we did and then our final project: the sculpture. I liked the film clips he showed along with several past first year films to give us an idea of what's expected at the end of the year. I sat down with the teacher on Friday and showed him my animatic and his response was exactly what I was aiming for. I was hesitant to show him at first, but by the end I was thrilled I did.

Beginning Computer Animation: We animated a snowman and then went onto animating a lamp rig(like the Pixar lamp) that the teacher built for us to use. His class has been interesting, everybody does have a better understanding of Maya and I'm now somewhat more comfortable not using my animation shortcuts I learned previously, but I still wish we animated MORE in this class. 11 weeks and only 1 official animation(that snowman), the lamp he gave us the last day of class to play with. Next term we'll be trying out different rigs and he promises the class will really start moving now that the basics of Maya have been covered.

Contemporary Literature: It's a critical studies class. Wrote 4 papers, read 7 books, kept a journal, lots of in-class discussions. I can't emphasize enough how important it is to get your critical studies classes out of the way BEFORE coming to CalArts, I couldn't imagine handling these kind of classes in the future. It was an interesting class, but more of a nuisance since I had to take time away from animating in order to work on homework for this class.

Life Drawing: I know I haven't posted any drawings from this class, but I hope to fix that next year. I couldn't find the time to photograph my drawings, but I really feel I've improved over the course of the semester. In the beginning I was unsure about the techniques the teacher wanted us to use, but in the last 2 weeks of the semester I was able to really grab hold of what he was trying to get us to see and now I'm a little more confident with my figure drawings---plus my caricatures have improved as well.

Traditional Animation: LOVE this class! Again, Story Development and this class are tied as far as which classes are my favorite, though story does loose by an eraser shaving because I still enjoy animating over developing story. The teacher always gave us inspiring lectures and showed us some great examples of the techniques he was teaching us. At the end of the semester he explained his approach to the class by basically saying, "I'm never going to treat any of you as students. I don't feel like I should be the teacher and you the student. I'll treat all of you with respect and on the same level that I am as coworkers and friends. I'm always eager to see what you guys produce and can't wait to be inspired by what I see in your animations." It explains his way of teaching and he really pushes us to develop our original styles by teaching us the "deeper" side of animation, getting inside the character and then he plans on teaching us the technical side of animation(though he did talk about a couple principles). I really enjoy this class and can't wait to put his lessons into action next semester. Plus, he enjoyed my animatic, he pointed out some staging issues, but overall he was entertained by it.

Story for Animators: I learned a lot about Story, a different approach then the Story Development class, but still it was interesting. Some of the writing exercises were useful and after reading "Story" by McKee I can't watch a movie without that book running through my head.

Overall, I had a fantastic first semester at CalArts! From the highly informative guest lectures to spending entire weekends in my cube, I love it. Some advice I'll give to anyone interested in CalArts though: I remember reading several journals by character animation students and they all touched on this one theme that I can't agree more with: CalArts has some wonderful teachers, however to get the best education at this school, you must be a pest. Go to these teachers for help/advice and show how interested you are in becoming not just a strong animator, but a film maker. I've gained a lot of valuable information just from staying after class and talking with the teacher. If you don't take advantage of the teachers here then you're losing out on some great opportunities--and the teacher might get the impression that you're not very passionate about being an animator/film maker. At the same time I've found out how helpful it is to go to fellow classmates and hear their feedback. It's very true how inspiring CalArts is. Everybody is exceedingly talented here, and I constantly want to push my work even further after seeing someone's piece--it'll be very exciting to see how the films turn out this year. Lots of great films being made right now. =) Anyways, that's all I have to say at this point. I head back to CalArts on Jan. 9th and until then plan to continue to enjoy the company of my family and friends--it's great being home. =) Well, Happy Holidays and have a very safe and Merry Christmas! Also, since I probably won't post until I get back on campus--Happy New Year!


Janine said...

Hey Jen! Great to hear about the classes!!! Have a happy holiday!!!

Jenessa said...

Jennifer! I miss you! I hope that hall is well in Oregon.

Thanks for always keeping an amazing blog. haha. I love it because I agree... this semester was AMAZING!


amelia said...

Thanks for the update! Love hearing about your time at CalArts, as always.

Sezura said...


I'm glad you're at home enjoying the company of loved ones. Congrats on completing the first semester! I really enjoyed your animation at the Christmas party :)

Second semester Computer Animation is usually hard to keep up because you'll be incredibly absorbed in your film. From how you stay organized and post for everyone about CalARTs, I get the impression that you can handle the stress.

Getting your Critical Studies out of the way is really benefical. If you want, try shooting for doing it over the summer if you aren't too tired. I talked to Dan Hansen about it once, he told me, "having a bit of critical studies is a nice balance to all the drawing you do".

Enjoy your time of relaxation :) Next semester will be like a vacation when you animate. It was for me, both years.

TARGET PRIDE!!!! (I work at target :) ) Which department are you in? I work at Garden Center. Hope the Holiday business allows you to help a lot of people.

Thank you for posting your semester and for the advice!!!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


Jennifer said...

Janine: Hey Janine! Thanks for the comment! Hope you had a Happy Holiday as well and good luck with your portfolio! :)

Jenessa: Hello Jenessa! How's it going? I certainly miss seeing everyone as well, definately miss the visits to cube 3! You should start up a blog too! The more the merrier! Anyways, hope you're enjoying your break and see in you 2 weeks!

Amelia: Hello as well! Thank you to for always stopping by. Hope you had a happy holiday and good luck with your portfolio---you've got to get in this time! :)

Jesse: Thank you very much for stopping by and for the comment. I think a lot of the freshmen animations went over very well at the Christmas party.
Yeah I bet the computer class can become quite challenging as the film deadline nears. Stress and me are well-known friends. ;) But I do hope to keep a good balance between 3D animation projects and my film.
Yeah I'm very glad I went to a community college before CalArts, I have the majority of my critical stuff out of the way so more time for animating! :)
Oh I can't wait to get back and spend my time on pure animation! I bet it'll be like a vacation!
Yay another Fast, Fun, and Friendly Target animator then! haha. You'll have to come by my cube and we can swap customer stories. I work mostly as a Cashier, but also behind the Customer Service desk, and Photolab center. The Target here isn't as fancy and doesn't have a Garden Center, but we do have a food avenue with flies (ick!).
Thank you again for coming by--I'll be sure to visit your blog as well! Always a pleasure to meet another animator! Good luck with your film as well! Hope you had a Merry Christmas and here's to a Happy New Year! :)