Digital production arts degree to be offered at new Zucker Family Graduate Education Center
From Charleston Regional Business Journal
Article by Ashely Heffernan
The first two of several degree programs that will be offered at the new Zucker Family Graduate Education Center in North Charleston have been announced.
Clemson University will offer a doctorate in computer science and a master’s degree in digital production arts at the $21.5 million facility when it opens in the fall of 2016.
Eileen Kraemer, director of Clemson’s School of Computing, said the first two degree programs are just the beginning.
“The digital production arts (degree) will probably be the first out of the gate, but by the fall of 2016, we hope to have a presence for all of the programs,” Kraemer said, referring to all of Clemson’s graduate-level engineering programs.
Students can begin applying for the Lowcountry programs beginning this fall, and Kraemer said the goal is to have a 10-student starting class for the digital production arts degree, which would eventually scale up to about 70. An additional 200 students are expected over time for the graduate engineering programs.
Two professors are already scheduled to move from the Clemson area to Charleston to teach classes for the degrees, including Robert Geist, who is the interim director of the digital production arts program.
Geist has taught at Clemson for more than 30 years and was credited in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for his visual effects work. He also co-founded the digital production arts program at Clemson, which prepares students to do animation, visual effects and electronic gaming work.
“Our graduates go to lots of the studios, of course, and gaming companies,” he said. “They go to DreamWorks, and they go to Pixar and Disney. They go to Industrial Light & Magic, which is Lucasfilms, as well.”
Since the program started in 1999, more than 150 alumni of the program have garnered film credits in movies including Frozen, The Croods and How to Train Your Dragon 2, according to the university.
Creating “everything that’s fake” in a movie — most of the water in James Cameron’s 1997 film Titanic was created by a university alumnus, for example — doesn’t come cheap for studios, according to Geist.
“I’m sure those who are out there for a few years are making over $100,000. I would imagine the starting salaries are in the 80s somewhere,” he said.
The new center, which is expected to be 70,000 square feet, is under construction near the Clemson University Restoration Institute on the former naval shipyard in North Charleston.
On top of the $21.5 million building price tag, Nikolaos Rigas, executive director of the institute, said it will take several million dollars more to get the programs up and running.
“I think there will probably be in the order of another $5 million to $10 million invested in equipment, startup packages to get professors here, hiring and things like that invested just in the educational programs themselves,” Rigas said. “Obviously those professors then bring in more money to set up their labs.”
Students can expect to pay the same tuition at the North Charleston campus as they would if they were pursuing the same program at the Clemson campus, Rigas said.
Image: rendering of Zucker Family Graduate Education Center
Clemson digital arts graduates selected for DreamWorks training program
Three Clemson University graduates will be on the fast-track to their dream jobs when they head to California next month for an intensive training program with the animation studio responsible for the hit film franchises “Shrek,” “Madagascar” and “How to Train Your Dragon.”
Anuradha Pinisetty, Zhaoxin Ye and Amanda Morland have been selected for DreamWorks SKG’s “FX Challenge.” They begin work July 14 at PDI/DreamWorks in Redwood City, California.
Zhaoxin Ye, left, works with her adviser, Jerry Tessendorf, in a computer lab in McAdams Hall.
The graduates are products of Digital Production Arts
, a master’s program that has created a pipeline between Clemson and Hollywood. Students learn the skills needed to work in the animation, visual-effects and electronic-games industries.
DreamWorks selects five or six recent graduates for the FX Challenge each year.
This is the first time the studio has selected three Clemson graduates in a single year. The previous high was two.
A spot in the FX Challenge is a step beyond an internship, said Don House, the Digital Production Arts interim director and chairman of the visual computing division in the School of Computing.
Ye and Morland will be placed in positions in Redwood City or Glendale, California, upon successful completion of the challenge, he said. Pinisetty would go to DreamWorks’ newest studio in Bangalore, India, House said.
“They end up doing some of the highest-level visual effects work in the world,” he said. “It’s a really great start for their careers. The sky’s the limit.”
The FX Challenge is designed to give recent graduates a firm base in the concepts critical to making computer-graphic feature films. It covers programming, drawing, rendering, compositing, animation, simulation and taking direction.
Ye said she is excited to work with the studio’s many talented artists and engineers.
“In the beginning it’s going to be a lot of learning from my supervisors and co-workers,” she said. “The second step is to have my name in the credits of a movie.”
Morland said she worked with DreamWorks mentors on an animated short last summer.
“I learned a great deal and got to meet some amazing and intelligent artists,” she said. “I am very excited to be working with them again on projects that not only inspire me, but inspire millions of other people as well.”
House sees the three students’ selection as vindication of the direction the Clemson program has taken since he was hired six years ago.
“Most programs that send students into the industry are either very strong artistically or they focus on the computer science side,” he said. “Our program brings the two together.”
Graduate students in the Clemson program work toward a Master of Fine Arts in Digital Production Arts. Minors also are offered for undergraduates.
Courses combine art, computer science, computer engineering, graphic communications, performing arts, philosophy and psychology. Among the professors is Ye’s adviser, Jerry Tessendorf, who won a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Pinisetty, Ye and Morland recently completed their thesis work in key areas of effects. Their work was included in the visual portfolios they submitted to DreamWorks.
Pinisetty, of Hyderabad, India, worked on digitally re-creating, animating and simulating costumes from a stage production: http://vimeo.com/71138558
. Ye, of Beijing, China, investigated techniques for volumetric rendering and animation of clouds: http://vimeo.com/95799824
. Morland, of Jonesborough, Tennessee, developed an approach to integrating real-time particle system simulation with motion-captured human motion: http://vimeo.com/86925971
Via: Clemson University