Viz students, DreamWorks artists
create animations in summer class


Artists from DreamWorks Animation worked with students last summer in a graduate level class at Texas A&M's Department of Visualization to create three 30-second videos about an adventure of a robot in outer space.

The intensive, 10-week class is one of the program's signature offerings. Each summer, students in the class spend their summer working alongside industry professionals, some of them former students, who have contributed to animated blockbusters from studios such as DreamWorks, Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic and Walt Disney.

"It's a class unlike any other," said Ann McNamara, assistant professor of visualization, who assumed a producer's role by managing the course and facilitating interaction between the students and industry visitors. "It's amazing to watch the students mature professionally over the summer, how well they present themselves and their work to these seasoned professionals in the very field they hope to go into."

DreamWorks provided the concept and a loose storyline for the projects. "They have a good idea how much the students will be able to achieve in the 10-week timeframe," said McNamara. "The team at Dreamworks was so impressed by the final results they said it was the best student work they had ever seen."

Seven artists from the studio came to the visualization lab to work with students, one for each step in the process, including:

  • production pipeline,
  • layout, which is using a viewing angle to tell the story,
  • surfacing,
  • rigging, giving the robot a skeleton,
  • animation, adding motion to the character,
  • special effects and
  • lighting.


"The DreamWorks animators were mentors, teachers and advisors," said McNamara. "They typically lectured for about an hour every day and then worked hands-on with the students in the Viz Lab."

The tight time schedule meant students, who were split into three groups, spent lots of time in the lab creating the videos, said McNamara.

"It's their passion that drives them to spend all those hours and it's very much a feeling of teamwork and collaboration," she said. "They don't want to let their teammates down, they don't want to let DreamWorks down and they don't let want to let the department down, so they're very focused and very driven."

McNamara said the teams were well organized, listened very carefully to feedback from experienced artists regarding scheduling, meeting deadlines, what to focus on to get the most "bang for their buck," and when it was time to let go of something if it was not achievable in the time frame allotted.

The videos can be viewed online at

Texas A&M’s Master of Science in Visualization Sciences program, offered through the Department of Visualization at the College of Architecture, has provided a steady stream of leaders in the growing field of digital and electronic visualization since its creation in 1989. Program graduates have achieved success as creative directors, computer animators, university professors and software designers, with the majority working in the animation, visual effects and electronic gaming industries. 

Aggie "Vizzers" can be found among the leading creative talent at Pixar, Blue Sky, Industrial Light and Magic, DreamWorks/PDI, LucasFilm Animation, Walt Disney Animation, Microsoft and Sony Pictures Imageworks, and have been integral members of the teams behind such recent blockbusters as “Avatar,” “Star Trek,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “How to Train Your Dragon,” as well as the Harry Potter, Transformers, Pirates of the Caribbean, Chronicles of Narnia and Night at the Museum series. Eighteen Aggie Vizzers also served on Pixar’s Academy Award-winning team that created last year’s “Up.”

In addition to hiring A&M visualization program graduates, Pixar and DreamWorks are ongoing supporters of the program, providing visiting artist lectures, one-on-one reviews of student work and scholarships for current students given by former students and matched by money from the studio.


- Posted: Sept. 30, 2010 -

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Contact:   Phillip Rollfing, or 979.458.0442.


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