TMCNet:  Drawn to opportunity [The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa]

[September 13, 2011]

Drawn to opportunity [The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa]

(Hawk Eye, The (Burlington, IA) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Sept. 13--WEST BURLINGTON -- Rebecka Aigner moved 180 miles so she could join the animation program at Southeastern Community College.

"I'm not taking any other classes," said Aigner, who traveled from Guttenberg, which is about 40 miles north of Dubuque. "I'm just taking the animation program." Aigner wants to get into television animation.

"I would love to have my own TV series," she said. "I came here because I wanted to get my foot in the door in animation." On Monday, SCC animation students, school officials and staff members gathered at the new classroom addition at the college for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house.

SCC board Chairman Moudy Nabulsi used a pair of oversized wooden scissors to cut the red ribbon stretched across the front of the building.

The animation program is housed in the new addition on the east end of Building 200. The 5,380-square-foot space includes a graphics communication classroom.

It's the only two-year animation program in Iowa. Twenty-seven students are in the program, and enrollment came on a first-come, first-served basis.

A month into the school year, Zach Ervin said the program isn't what he expected.

"I thought it would be boring book-by-book questions, but it's more hands-on individual work," said Ervin, who wants to get into the gaming industry. "Right now, we are doing story development by creating a story that we will animate. We are just drawing up our characters, a story plot and pretty much figuring out where our story will go for 30 seconds." Courses mainly are composed of 3-D animation techniques using software specific to animation. Autodesk Maya and Blender are the major software programs used.

Autodesk Maya generates 3-D assets for use in film, television, game development and architecture.

Blender is a 3-D graphics application used for texturing, rigging, water simulations and creating interactive 3-D applications, including video games.

Students are using state-of-the-art technology in SCC's new animation computer lab and stop-motion lab on the West Burlington campus.

"The goals for the students are to get them the skills and experience necessary to get into the field of animation," said Ben Rosales, the program's instructor. "Also, if they so choose, this will give them the necessary credits they need to transfer to a four-year college." Rosales taught animation courses at a Houston-area high school before coming to SCC. He also was an animator apprentice for Real FX. He worked on the animation for "Open Season 3," a 2010 direct-to-DVD sequel to the 2008 computer-animated film "Open Season 2" and the 2006 computer-animated film "Open Season." "I found this job online, and I had my interview over Skype," he said.

Students will take a variety of classes, including story development for animation, introduction to animation, English composition and technical and character animation.

SCC didn't create the animation program alone. Grasshorse Technologies in Winfield helped write the curriculum.

Grasshorse's work has been used by Walt Disney, Warner Brothers, Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, Jim Henson Co. and the Olympics.

Executive Vice President Vivan Jennings, who attended Monday's ceremony, said Grasshorse will look to hire students from the program.

"As we move along, this type of program will be very important," Jennings said. "Local people will be trained, and it will be an advantage to southeast Iowa to have people trained in information technology." Jennings said this is important because students were going to other colleges, such as the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, to get training in animation.

"It was taking people away from southeast Iowa," Jennings said. "Now, there are opportunities back here. There is a new demand for these types of services and this will be important." Ervin said anyone interested in the program should try it, but he suggested enrolling early.

"The spots go fast," Ervin said. "It's a program that is creating a lot of interest." ___ (c)2011 The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa) Visit The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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