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Special showcase highlights IPFW’S Visual Communication and Design computer arts
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
Over a dozen animated works, created by students and alumni of IPFW’s Visual Communication and Design Department, will be highlighted at a special showcase at Cinema Center on November 7. The free showcase demonstrates a wide range of what the VCD has to offer in the field of animated computer arts, with pieces featuring 3-D modeling, photography, film, video editing, and more.
The finale of the showcase is an animated short called “The Dawn of Louis,” created by a group of six students who call themselves JASMAR and starring an animated character of their own creation, the owl-bespectacled, tuft-haired Louis. John Ladd, one of the members of JASMAR, said the group fell together after collaborating on a number of other projects; “The Dawn of Lewis” gave them an opportunity to test themselves in their knowledge of animation, and go into the capacity of what’s used in film. “As a group, we basically thought of a short story line, and divided up who would be in charge of what — someone in charge of animation, someone in charge of modeling etc,” explains Ladd, whose own specialty is working with effects and dynamics within computer-generated software. “We’ve all been attracted to the computer aspect of arts as it’s been available on campus. Basically, we were hypnotized by it, and went with it a little further.”
Ladd describes “The Dawn of Louis,” which JASMAR has been working on since last Spring, as being in the mold of Finding Nemo or Shark Tale. Not all the pieces in the showcase are animated features. Anne-Marie LeBlanc, the chair of IPFW’s Visual Communication and Design Department, says that the pieces in the showcase run the gamut from 3-D modeling to traditional, linear animated pieces (“well, as traditional as animation done on a computer can be,” she says).
Holding the showcase at Cinema Center offers the artists a unique gallery-space where the work can be viewed the way it was intended — on a video screen. Much of the work done here has a lot of commercial applications in the “real world.” These are the techniques, methods, and some of the technology used in advertising, engineering, architecture, and other fields. “For example, a lot of architects and display designers use 3-D modeling to visualize an environment or a product before it’s made,” says LeBlanc. “It’s very cost-effective that way. So, for instance, if you wanted to see what your product would look like in a trade show, you could create the entire trade show virtually, in 3-D on a computer, light it, even show a client what it would be like to walk through it before anything physical was ever created.”
Virtual reality or immersive environments created using computers also have a wide range of applications in fields that require specialized training. “If you want to teach a person who is studying nursing or medicine how to give an injection, there are ways of putting someone in the environment without having them perform something which not doing it correctly might cause serious problems,” says LeBlanc.
There’s also another aspect to having the showcase at Cinema Center. “We want the students to be comfortable with their work being viewed by the public,” LeBlanc says. “In the classroom, we watch them working on it, so even the professors are rather close to the project. Taking it out of a classroom situation, which is somewhat abstract, and putting it in a more public venue gives them a more realistic understanding of how something is seen.”
John Ladd agrees, saying that part of the whole process of “The Dawn of Louis” for the JASMAR group was discovering how an animated narrative is put together, and a huge part of that is one day showing it to an audience. “We’re really excited about a lot of people seeing it,” Ladd says. “We’re very conscious of what we’re going to show the public. We keep that in mind. Something that captures people’s interest and draws them in is basically our goal, and to find out if we succeeded or not is one of our biggest expectations, just to see if we’re on the right track.”
As for the future of Louis, Ladd is noncommittal. “I have no idea,” he says. “We’re planning on maybe making a few more shorts with him. Right now, it’s just a portfolio-builder, but we’re leaving it open.”
Admission is free and the event is open to the public. There will be a reception in the lobby immediately following the event, where audience members can meet with students and faculty to find out more about the programs offered in Visual Communication and Design.
IPFW Animation and Video Showcase
Sunday, November 7, at 7 p.m.
Cinema Center, 437 East Berry Street