The MFA curriculum and related projects takes 9 quarters (3 years) to complete – and may take up to 12 quarters. A brief look at the three-year MFA:
The first year of the program is devoted to learning the principles of making a traditional hand-done, animated film. The process begins with a series of classes that provide the student with the fundamentals of animation, exposure to different techniques, history, and critical analysis. This culminates with a 2-quarter class (FTV 181C Animation Workshop), in which the student completes an animated film with sound. This first-year film is essentially “hand-done” in that the visual components are grounded in the traditional and experimental techniques (it isn’t a computer film). The choice of technique is entirely up to the student. They may do animation drawn on paper; stop motion, clay, or puppet animation; cut-out animation; sand or paint on glass; direct-on-film; and more. The digital component of the first-year film occurs in the following ways: animation drawn on paper is digitized then colored using digital ink & paint; the digital down-shooter is used to film cut-out and other techniques; stop motion films can be captured with a digital camera & capture software; and finally, a non-linear editing program is used for final assembly & output. Audio recording and mix are done in the digital realm. After Effects, Flash, Maya, and comparable programs are not used for the 181C film. Students have the option to shoot on film, for their 181C film.
The second year is devoted to making a computer-animated film, and can be 2D, 3D, or a combination. During the fall quarter the project is taken from storyboard to animatic, until ready for production, winter and spring quarters are dedicated to production and post-production. Students who wish to pursue hand-drawn animation use Cintiqs in our Mac Lab, and work with a variety of software programs (typical choices: TVPaint; Adobe Photoshop; After Effects). Those making 3D CG films learn to model, rig, shade, light, and animate using Maya. The principals of animation, and the pursuit of excellence in individual work so important in the first year, continue to be emphasized in the second year, while fully immersed in the digital realm. During the second year students may take some of their outside requirements and electives, and are encouraged to do so in a manner that enhances their own animation interests. Those pursuing 3D animation or stop-motion should take classes in cinematography & lighting. Those focused on character animation should take acting…and so on. During the final (third) quarter of the second year, a Thesis Workshop class may be offered, in which students explore and share ideas and begin boarding their thesis film, in preparation for the third year. The second year culminates with the completed computer animation project.
The third year begins with the creation of an interactive animation project or game. Any requirements not yet completed are undertaken, and this is a good time to fit in any electives of particular interest. Most significantly, the student forms a Thesis Committee and begins production on their thesis film. Every thesis is a culmination that showcases the student’s creativity as a filmmaker. Although the complete filmmaking experience is emphasized, students interested in learning traditional character animation may do so; by the same token, those interested in experimental will follow that path; and those who wish to delve more deeply into interactive, may do an interactive thesis. Many third-year students serve as TAs and SRs (Teaching Assistants and Special Readers) in the various animation classes. This provides financial support and affords the opportunity of teaching experience – particularly helpful for those who wish to work in education, while also providing peer support to the body of animation students.