By MAUREEN JONES
BYU’s Visual Arts Department has acquired computer design programs and equipment which enables the students who use them to work with computer animation and design projects.
The new design programs also aid students in competing in the job market, said R. Brent Adams, an assistant professor of visual arts.
Adams said BYU has received about $8 million dollars in donations of computer equipment and programs from various companies.
These donations have been essential in helping students learn and benefit in computer animation and design, he said.
Adams teaches VaDes 410R, a computer application studio class. Students in this class are creating and animating a five-minute film with the equipment.
There are also two students who are using the equipment to create animation projects on their own, Adams said.
Adams credits the donation of the computer software to efforts made by Douglas Chabries, dean of the College of Engineering and Technology, and Del Scott, a professor of statistics, who both served as assistant academic vice president for computing.
“In 1990, Chabries helped me come in contact with people who were interested in donating to us,” Adams said. BYU received a $650,000 computer lab donation from AT&T at this time.
Scott worked to secure university funds so that more companies would be interested in making donations of equipment and resources, Adams said.
BYU could not afford to buy the software, but Scott succeeded in having the computer machines paid for through BYU’s budget and having the software donated.
“The computers put the visual arts program ahead or with the best universities in computer design,” Scott said.
The engineering department at BYU has been working with computer animation for years, Scott said.
He thought it was important to provide the Visual Arts Department with the same equipment that other universities and private art colleges are using, he said.
What has been extremely beneficial in receiving the computer equipment is the money the university has put forth, Adams said. This shows companys who are considering giving a donation that the university is willing to work and cooperate in the donation process.
The biggest software donation the Visual Arts Department has received is a $4.5 million donation from SiliconGraphics. They donated machinery and 20 copies of Alias, which is a design program used in such films as “Toy Story” and “Jurassic Park.”
The donated equipment has been a big benefit for students looking for jobs after graduation.
“Our students compete very favorably for jobs,” Adams said. In 1996, General Motors picked two BYU graduates to work in their automotive design studios.
This is impressive since BYU does not have an automotive design program, Adams said.
BYU graduates can compete in the computer design and animation industry due to their well-balanced background in classes other than design, Adams said.
“People are hiring them because they have a different voice and perspective,” he said.
With the program Alias, students are completing an animated film. The film will be five minutes in length and Adams said he is interested in entering it for competition to be judged in April.
Animation can run up to $1,000 per finished second, Adams said. This film project is significant because animation takes a long amount of time to complete, and because it is an expensive process when not completed in the school setting.
The film’s action centers around a brother and a sister who must cope with the fact that their mother is sick. The boy, Rupert, journeys on an imaginative trip which explores the world of microbes.
Qian Zhenhui, a senior from China majoring in illustration, is working on the film. She said traditional illustrators use computer-generated images in their work.
She is animating a kitchen for the film. She said the process combines drawing and sculpting, but modeling the characters requires more sculpting skills.
“We decided we wanted to do a parody on Japanese animation for this film,” said Ben Cloward a senior from Provo majoring in design.
Cloward is animating Rupert as a big, robotic figure so he can combat the microbes. He had to sketch a model on the computer and fill in the bones and joints. The process took about three weeks, he said.
He then positioned Rupert in different stages of running, and from there, the computer worked to fill in the stages so Rupert is moving, Cloward said.
The animation was rewarding when he saw his character move and run after working on the model, he said
Tony Avila, a senior from Provo majoring in illustration, said he has to consider the simplest way to build a model when he animates to be efficient and use time wisely.
Another factor he thinks about when he works on the film is how close the figure will be to the camera, he said.
“I feel fortunate to be at BYU at this time,” Avila said.
He said he feels he is learning at a good price, since most private schools with this equipment charge more for tuition than BYU does.
Dan Lemmon, a senior majoring in industrial design from Thousand Oaks, Calif., is animating his own project for his bachelor of arts thesis.
He said he also plans on entering it in the Academy of Motion Picture Sciences Motion Picture Awards and the Student Emmys.
Lemmon worked at a company called Digital Domain for the past three summers. He worked on modeling and animating the films “The Fifth Element” and “Titanic.”
The animation process he is using for this film requires him to have a film print and then take video images to animate the characters, he said.
Digital Domain has donated equipment to him so he can complete this film project, he said.
His project is about a man who only has eyes, who must interact with people who only have mouths, in a party setting, Lemmon said.
The equipment at BYU has made a big difference for his animation experience, he said.
“From an animator’s perspective, there wasn’t anything worth working on before the equipment BYU currently has came along,” Lemmon said.