At Woodbury Lab, One of West’s Top-Ranked Animation Programs, the Next Generation of Filmmakers Merge Art and Technology to Shape Professional Careers
BURBANK (PRUnderground) October 11th, 2017
In entertainment as in so many other fields, everything old is new again – and that applies in spades to Woodbury University’s Animation Department, where its Stop-Motion Lab is helping to train the next generation of animators and filmmakers.
As the 2017-18 academic year gets rolling, Woodbury’s animation students are in their best-ever position to learn true state-of-the-art animation, thanks in part to the Stop-Motion lab, which is at once a throwback and in the vanguard of the field. Stop-Motion Animation taps such key technologies as 3D printing and complements affiliated Woodbury disciplines like architecture.
While hand-drawn animation is captured on paper or cells, and computer-generated images are designed entirely on-screen, Stop-Motion Animation is shot frame-by-frame with a digital SLR camera, to capture the subtle movements of characters, sets and props. According to Woodbury Animation Professor Ric Heitzman — a four-time Emmy Award winner and a veteran animation series director, art director and production designer — a single scene can require hundreds of individual shots, a process that is both painstaking and capable of delivering mind-blowing results.
Most early-stage animators enter the program expecting to gain employment as an artist drawing two-dimensional characters, Heitzman noted, but the Stop-Motion lab – which can seem old school — can be a game-changer. “Hand-drawn, two-dimensional animation is where most students start out, because that’s the way Disney did it,” he said. “But it’s a much larger world, and there’s a reason to learn a diverse set of skills, such as 3D animation or working with digital media. Stop-Motion is a big part of the animation industry, and it’s among the skills that people in the industry are looking for right now when hiring. The most qualified candidates are those with a broad range of capabilities.”
Woodbury’s Stop Motion Lab is a professional-level offering that the Animation Department brings to animation education, a capability reinforced by its interdisciplinary ties with Woodbury’s School of Architecture. Indeed, Heitzman is exploring new paths to creativity with students from the Architecture School, who have benefitted from a nexus between architecture and animation when building miniature replicas and mini “sets” for studio projects. Said Heitzman: “Woodbury is a place where people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse skills can collaborate with faculty or students in areas where their interests intersect.”
Students using the Stop-Motion Animation Lab learn the secrets of animating materials shot in three-dimensional space and experiment with lighting, staging and camera placement on one of the studio’s four stop-motion stages. Students have access to software programs expressly designed for shooting Stop-Motion Animation, equipment used in creating and rendering 3D stage sets, and learn to make puppets and other characters, sets and props using 3D printers.
“At Woodbury, our Animation curriculum has been developed with the needs of our students and trends in the animation field in mind,” said Sue Vessella, dean of the School of Media, Culture & Design at Woodbury and herself a veteran animator. “Ric has led the development of a truly professional-level capability in Stop-Motion Animation, one that is second to none. He has a true passion for his students, and his industry contacts are invaluable when it comes to time for students to serve an internship or find a job.”
According to Heitzman, students who complete the BFA degree in Animation and a professional internship often find themselves on the inside track when exploring employment opportunities at a who’s who of Hollywood-area leaders in animation – from Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, Warner Bros., Hasbro Studios and Chiodo Bros. to Blu Pix Entertainment, Acme Filmworks, Walt Disney Imagineering, Walt Disney Animation, Titmouse Studios and Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, among others.
“I’ve also had some success with students making CG models, translating them into 3D printing and then reanimating them, which – in this world of animation – is the most complicated form of animation there is,” Heitzman said. “We’ve got students working at that level.”
About Woodbury University
Founded in 1884, Woodbury University is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Southern California. The university ranks 15th among the nation’s “25 Colleges That Add the Most Value,” according to Money Magazine, was voted “Best Graduate School” in the Los Angeles Daily News 2017 Readers Choice Awards, and is a 2017-18 College of Distinction. Woodbury was a finalist for the General Community Service Award, a part of the 2015 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll recognition program. With campuses in Burbank/Los Angeles and San Diego, the university offers bachelor’s degrees from the School of Architecture, School of Business, School of Media, Culture & Design, and College of Liberal Arts, along with a Master of Business Administration, Master of Architecture, Master of Interior Architecture and Master of Science in Architecture. The San Diego campus offers Bachelor of Architecture and Master of Architecture, Master of Interior Architecture and Master of Landscape Architecture degrees, as well as a Master of Science in Architecture, Real Estate Development. Visit woodbury.edu for more information.