Chapman’s new 24-hour Digital Media Arts Center is state-of-the-art with state-of-the-art technology, and yet pencils and fundamentals are essential.
The classic brick exterior of Chapman’s new Digital Media Arts Center, deliberately preserved from its days as the California Wire and Cable Co., belies the hyper-modern interior.
Taking inspiration from major corporations such as Disneyland Resort, Apple Inc. and Google Inc., the interior of the building was specifically designed to be a space that maximizes the creativity of the students and faculty who fill its rooms around the clock.
Staff offices have glass walls and colorful doors with large, exaggerated numbers to advertise them. The building’s conference room is simply encased in glass, balancing public and private with a gray band that obscures vision from either side.
Building technology is current, with computer labs providing two large screens for each student.
This is all led by Professor Bill Kroyer, Director of Chapman’s Digital Arts Program. Kroyer, a digital media icon, was one of the main animators of the computer-generated image sequences in Disney’s “Tron” and directed the animated classic “FernGully: The Last Rainforest.”
When Chapman was looking for a director for his digital arts program, Kroyer was the first name that came to mind. He initially turned down the offer, having never taught before, but after talking to his wife, Susan Kroyer, an adjunct faculty member at Dodge College, he reconsidered.
He said he fell in love with the campus once he saw what it had to offer. He has been at the university since 2009.
Artists making art
The art studio is one of Kroyer’s favorite rooms. Unlike all the other spaces in the centre, this room has no computers. Instead of machines, you will find more traditional tools: easels, paper, pencils and brushes.
“When I came here five years ago, there wasn’t a pencil in the building. No one drew or painted. They all thought the answer was computers,” Kroyer said. “Computers don’t make art. Artists make art. If you don’t train people to be artists, you have nothing.
While the digital media industry is constantly evolving, one thing remains the same, these are the basics of art: shape, outline, negative space, color planes, key light, etc., a Kroyer said.
Even in the latest CGI films such as recent Disney films “Wreck-It Ralph”, “Frozen”, and “Big Hero 6”, characters are extensively explored on paper before 3D modeling even begins. Artists must start with a vision of these characters, he said. They need to know all about how moving characters look before computers come into play.
Not all the technologies in the world could compensate for a deficiency in these basic skills, so new DMAC students begin their training by learning these concepts before applying them in a digital space, Kroyer said.
“In my company, every morning I arrive, there is a new tool. What does not change is taste and talent. If you develop that taste and talent, they can work forever,” Kroyer said. “There is no substitute for that. You can’t fake it, copy it off the internet, or use photoshop to cheat. You really have to work. »
A workshop environment
The DMAC regularly receives visitors from major Hollywood studios, many of whom have remarked that the atmosphere of the building is more like a studio than a classroom.
It’s intentional. The building is full of everything students might need to develop their own ideas, animations and films.
Many walls in the DMAC are meant to be doodled or drawn. The result is a space dripping with creativity. A stroll around the DMAC will show you walls filled with quirky characters and expressive designs.
The building includes a standard filmmaking scene, which allows students to do motion capture, which digitally records the motion of motion for the purpose of animating a character for a video game or digital production. Students can drive a car or truck around the room. When combined with equipment for hanging green screens, it allows students to shoot green screen shots from inside a car, if their film calls for it.
Students can book private editing rooms online. Each suite is equipped with large Cintiq graphics tablets, monitors, flat screens, speakers – everything students could need. The televisions outside each suite are updated with who has the room booked and for what. On the busiest days, a student assistant works at reception to keep things organised.
It all comes together in the DMAC Screening Room, a veritable theater that can be used for lectures, film screenings, student film exhibits and more. The theater has a 4K resolution screen (4000 pixels), lights and cameras and a tablet to control playback.
The room is equipped to play a variety of digital files such as Blu-ray and Digital Cinema Package. The bottom of the theater seats are lined with inlets that allow students to plug in equipment or a PlayStation for some much-needed stress relief.
Prepare the next generation
Incoming students for the digital arts program spend their first two years taking courses in history, history, fundamental drawing, painting, color theory, and basic animation. No matter how far the technology advances, the skills of these classes will always be a necessity, Kroyer said.
The second two years are an ever-evolving program reflecting the cutting edge of the field of digital arts. Falling behind in a rapidly changing industry is all too easy, so the instructors are usually industry professionals who teach as adjunct professors.
When Kroyer started in the industry with Disney, things moved much more slowly. Today, new techniques are born and become obsolete in a remarkably short period of time. Fully hand-drawn films of yesteryear are much rarer these days
While computer-generated imagery is all the rage these days, Kroyer said it would only take one person to completely send the market in a new direction. In a way, that’s what it’s all about: creating that remarkable artist of tomorrow who is able to write the future of media, Kroyer said.
“There are so many different ways to make a film. If a genius comes along and has a great story and a design style that clicks with the audience, that could be a game-changer,” Kroyer said.
“We saw that happen with ‘Snow White’ and ‘Star Wars’ – someone will make a different movie and change everything,” he said.
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