A Publication for the faculty, staff, administrators and friends of California State University, Chico
Decmber 9, 2004 Volume 35/Number 4

Only on the Web


Clip from "Potty Break"






"Potty Break" takes a lighthearted look at the trials of adolescence. To view, go to http://imc.csuchico.edu/cg/pottybreak/PottyBreak320.mov


Animation Project Wins Best of Show in CSU Media Arts Festival

The CSU Media Arts Festival 2004 winner was “Potty Break” by Todd Jansen. This is the fourth time students from CSU, Chico have won “Best of Show” in this systemwide competition. In addition, Chico has won in the category “Best Animation” in an unprecedented eight out of the 13 years since the competition began.

“Best of Show” is selected from eight media categories such as narrative, music videos, experimental, documentary, and animation. This year’s festival, held at CSU, Channel Island, included 220 entries from 18 campuses. Chico’s animation project, “Potty Break,” won both “Best Animation” and tied for “Best of Show.”

"Best Animation" award winnersStudent director Todd Jansen (fourth from left), assisted by animation students Jacob Palmer and Sean Ridgway, received top honors and a $1,000 prize. The Applied Computer Graphics program, part of the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management, received $500. A second Chico project, by Kentaro Nagase, was awarded second place in the animation category.

Joanne Bartok, director of the CSU Media Arts Festival, said the animation coming out of CSU, Chico is some of the best work she and others have seen in California. “I bring in animators from some of the biggest companies in the world (Pixar, Industrial Light+Magic, and Digital Domain), and they are beginning to notice that Chico is a powerhouse for animation, in spite of being isolated in Northern California.”

Rick Vertolli, instructor for the animation class in which these pieces were produced, said there are many stages involved in creating an animation, and quite often it takes more than a year from inception to finished project. Vertolli, an animation supervisor in the Instructional Media Center and instructor in the Applied Computer Graphics program, believes it all starts with a good story.

“Computer animation is very complicated, and animators must acquire a variety of skills. They are designers, sculptors, camera and lighting operators, technicians, and editors, but most important they need a good idea and story to tell,” said Vertolli.

Bartok said of Vertolli, “Rick is an amazing teacher. He’s like a rock star to his students. I can call the graphics design center at Chico any time day or night and Rick, more often than not, is there. He is one of those people who puts in an incredible amount of time on campus because he loves being there.”

Vertolli came to CSU, Chico 20 years ago from Kent State University with a fine arts degree to study computer graphics with Professor Grace Hertlein. “Very few people were creating computer graphics at that time. So we took the information from traditional animators and applied those principles to computer animation,” said Vertolli.

With help from industrial advisors, Vertolli and others have developed a method for producing computer animation. It simplifies what is a very complicated process.

“First, we develop a ‘treatment,’ a summary of the main idea of the story. Then we draw storyboards that serve as blueprints for the action and dialogue. Next we build an animatic, an animated cartoon strip that combines vocals and still imagery. It is used to flesh out the timing of each shot. Then we design characters that have strong audience appeal,” said Vertolli. “It is only at this point that we begin using computers to model our characters and get them to move and act out a scene.”

Ken Derucher, dean of the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management, said, “One of the reasons we got into computer graphics is the quality, dedication, and ability of Rick Vertolli and other faculty who teach in this area—it is second to none. The students’ dedication and willingness to learn yield these winning results, year after year.”

The Applied Computer Graphics program has begun its second year as an approved major and supports faculty members Rick Vertolli, Clark Steinbeck, Frank Periea, and John Pozzi.

—Kathleen McPartland



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