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The faces of next-gen 3D talent

By Henry Winchester

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Date Added: 29th August 2013

Modonautical adventures

With a plan in place, Henry and John lead their class of kids (or Modonauts, as they like to call them) into the weird and wonderful world of 3D animation. C. J. Deleon and Marian Styler, both students, were on hand as teaching assistants, too - John describes them as "a Godsend". But the biggest challenge was getting the kids' heads around the intricate process of 3D modeling.
The Modonauts, as Henry cutely refers to them

"Being that this is their first exposure to CG software, many basic things were a bit of a hurdle," Henry says. "The one thing that was too complicated was the entire animation process of moving controls at different frames, etc. That proves difficult for even my college students, but they have more time to wrap their brains around the concept."

John was also keen to show how 3D modeling could be used much more broadly than the kids might have first thought. "I incorporated a "show and tell" segment at the beginning of each class," he says. "I demonstrated a Wacom tablet and 3D connexion controller. I also showed the video Ruin by my friend, Wes Ball. They were suitably impressed. Among other things, I also showed my students some rather cool iPad apps that could be used in creating 3D elements."

Wes Ball's amazing short "Ruin" was used to demonstrate the potential of 3D

Team players

Despite the natural difficulties that come with learning something completely new, the Modonauts had great fun with the software, and soon got to grips with it. Particular highlights included sculpting, which challenged them to turn a unit sphere into a head, and painting with textures and materials. The best moment, though, was when the kids learned to act as a team.

One challenge involved turning a simple sphere into a skull or face

"The greatest fun we had was on the final project", says Henry. "It was a day at the races! Although the dynamics had to be set by me, each student created their own 3D car, adorned with all sorts of accoutrements, and textures. Four student volunteers, Jake, Matt, Joseph and Rhett, modeled parts of the track. Different cars raced and it was so much fun for us all. We were cheering the different cars on and just having a great time."


Creating cars for a race and modeling the track proved to be a big hit with the kids

A natural progression from the class is that 3D software becomes part of school curriculum - something that would entertain kids, and no doubt please the bosses of animation studios. "It's the perfect age to expose students to the principals of 3D," says John. "Middle school kids are at that age where they are curious and eager and yet teenage angst has not taken hold. I tried to emphasize that 3D is something that is not confined to the game or movie industry. Design, architecture and many other industries can involve 3D applications as well."

Henry's also keen to point out that the creative process of solving problems is beneficial to students in all disciplines. "The subject provides problem-solving skills and creative thinking with quick feedback," he says. "Students will take away a lasting ability to develop solutions while maintaining a positive attitude, and at the end of the class, each student spoke the "MODO" language, many experimented with ideas and some were even answering other's questions -correctly!"

"They were giggling, laughing and having a great time with sculpting," says Henry

Sculpting the future

With his class on CGI, Henry's found a natural niche, and it's one that he's keen to explore in the future. "I am totally hooked now!" he says. "I was actually just offered a teaching opportunity at another after-school program for kids. This one involves Game Design and how analogue processes, such as prototyping, will help in developing the digital version. Game play needs to be good, either for analogue or digital games. Good times, indeed!"

"It was as challenging as it was fun. I have a new found respect for the educators of the world and Henry is a stalwart example"

Henry rigged a cartoon surfer and John taught the kids how to paint his surfboard and animate his poses

John echoes Henry's sentiments. "Would I do this again?" he asks himself. "Without a doubt. It was as challenging as it was fun. I have a new found respect for the educators of the world and Henry is a stalwart example." It's also going to have a lasting effect on the kids who took the course: "When they are sitting in the theaters watching that CG character act, they'll know how it was done."

Related links

Site Santos
Fisheye Modo Demos
Graphic Communication Department at SCC
Sacramento City College
Academic Talent Search

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
(ID: 220116, pid: 0) Henry Santos on Wed, 18 September 2013 9:10pm
This is a wonderful article and sheds light on the beginnings of a growing interest to educate our future CG Artists and enthusiasts. It is well written and I am so grateful for the positive feedback and interest in this class.

ATS and I are looking forward to next year with possible more classes and more diverse subject matter.

To learn more visit the Academic Talent Search (ATS) website...

-Henry Santos
(ID: 215861, pid: 0) Marcelo on Thu, 29 August 2013 4:19pm
Nice Article. This generation is lucky. When I started, there was only 3D Studio DOS with its huge learning curve. Nowadays it is much easier and will be getting more.
(ID: 215809, pid: 0) 3ddy on Thu, 29 August 2013 10:49am
Nice article. Also very interesting how kids these days develope. With all the digital media around them, how they can focus on one interesting thing instead of losing thier focus. Because it's fun!
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