Visualizing the Future
Before performers take their places in front of a green screen or in the studio, every aspect of their characters’ looks and the imaginary world they inhabit has been made real by a talented coterie of visual development artists. A new Visual Development department certificate at Santa Monica College gives students the complete picture they need to join that select group, whose members give life and heft to animation, games, and other media.
The new certificate is the most recent addition to SMC’s expansive Entertainment Technology program, which offers degrees and certificates in Animation and Digital Media (Visual Development also forms a new area of concentration in SMC’s Associate in Science degree in Animation.). For the Visual Development concentration, SMC faculty developed new courses that cover every detail of the pre-production process used to design the characters, props, vehicles—and even whole environments—that create memorable cinematic experiences and allow players to immerse themselves in games.
Karina McBeth, who served as storyboard artist on The Angry Birds Movie, is one of the many entertainment professionals throughout the Los Angeles area who honed her skills and developed industry contacts at SMC. “The program has helped me in my career by refining my artistic abilities,” says Karina, “and preparing me to work collaboratively!”
“The decision to come to SMC was truly a game changer. It helped me so much, to the point where a couple of studios noticed me. That’s a huge, huge deal for a student.”
– Jacqueline “Yurika” Imai, SMC Student
Joey Karwal was also attracted to SMC by the Animation program’s strengths, as well as by the transfer agreement with CalArts. He notes another advantage offered by SMC: affordability. “Between the affordability and just how good the program is, SMC’s a great choice for anyone,” says Joey. He transferred to CalArts to complete his Bachelor’s degree, but says he would have chosen SMC for his lower-division courses even if finances were not a factor. “I loved SMC, and I would go there all over again.”
Gaming brought Susan Tang to SMC, where she is studying game design and 3D Art. She had already earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology before coming to SMC, but what she really wants now is to combine science and her newfound expertise in entertainment technology to create interactive educational games for children. The best part, says Susan, are the instructors. One even set up an independent study option so that she could learn a software program not officially taught at SMC. “They care a lot,” she says.
“Our Animation curriculum introduces students to the fundamentals of 2D and 3D animation, storytelling, and project management before having them choose a concentration in a specific discipline,” says Chris Fria, chair of SMC’s Design Technology department, which includes Entertainment Technology, Graphic Design, and Interior Architectural Design. The program—with hands-on components and industry-standard software and equipment—is designed to prepare students for direct entry into careers in the animation field.
As students and alumni can attest, the new Visual Development certificate is just the latest example of why SMC alumni are so prized by the entertainment industry—and why the University of Southern California (USC) and CalArts number among the noted programs with transfer agreements for SMC students who want to continue their training and earn a Bachelor’s degree.
Increasing interactivity is just one example of how the entertainment industry is changing more rapidly than ever in this digital age. In response, SMC continues evolving its programs to enable students to stay ahead of the curve in fulfilling these shifting needs. Entertainment Technology faculty work in and collaborate with the entertainment industry to ensure that students learn practical, job-oriented skills.