Catalog Code: DDA 351

Course Title: 3D Animation Studio III

Department: Digital Arts

Chairperson: Peter Patchen

School: School of Art

Term/Year: Fall 2017

Course Credits: 3

Location & Time: Myrtle Hall, Room 4W-08, Monday and Wednesday, 9:30 - 11:50 PM

Req or Elective: Required

Prerequisites: 3D Modeling I, 3D Animation I

Instructor: Claudia Herbst-Tait


Phone: 718 636 3490

Fax: 718 399 4494

Office Hours: Tuesday & Thursday, Lunch

Office Location: 4W-16

Syllabus Version: May 15th, 2017


Course Description

This course is designed to teach advanced level production pipeline techniques and tactics employed in the creation of an animated short. Students will create a complete animation from story to post-production.


Detailed Description:

In this course students learn more about the production pipeline as they create their third animated short. In this animation studio course all departments will focus on high performance of original characters. Preproduction, production, post-production, and final delivery will all be aimed at creating a performance based story that has a beginning, middle and end, and also makes use of defined characters that operate within the parameters of well defined personalities. The primary goal is to create and screen a polished animated short. Students will learn to budget their time as they shift from pre-production through post and will work within the time constraints and technological limitations at their disposal. The instructor’s role in this course is to guide students through the pipeline, making them aware of and adhere to deadlines. In the professional world there can often be steep penalties for missing significant milestone deadlines and this class will operate as a quasi-real world example.


Students will employ any and all skills they have already acquired in drawing/painting, modeling, texturing, animation, lighting, rendering, and compositing to create an original short film. Additionally, they will review their postmortem notes and questionnaires from Animation Studio II in order to determine any successful techniques that were employed and also to identify areas of weakness in an effort to identify causes and propose solutions so that they are not encountered again. The stress in this class will be on creating a short performance based story and its final delivery. The story should involve no more than two characters and the focus should be on performance. The story is completely open-ended and is at the discretion of the student (in consultation with the instructor). It can be linear or experimental and should seek to be a culminating showcase of all the student has learned in 3D animation. Students must be sensitive to the time and resource limitations of a 15-week production cycle-consider creating stylized characters and using advanced techniques like fur, cloth and other dynamic systems sparingly. Students should strive to create stories that are succinct but still give the opportunity for nuanced character performance.


Animation must always be readable. If the student is attempting a performance, s/he must be aware that it requires a high level of emotion and individual personality in characters. In the event that something more abstract is attempted readability will still be of paramount importance. The abstract process should attempt to create a symbolic language that through rhythm, repetition and careful perturbation manages to get the animator’s ideas across clearly. In all instances making good use of the core 12 principles of animation will be helpful in creating compelling visual compositions. Character animation, if any, must also push out into the realm of acting, emotion and subtlety. In addition, students will also have to solve technical issues endemic to character performance with CG characters (e.g. believable character prop interaction, dynamics, simulations and advanced lighting/rendering/compositing) and lip-sync.


Each student will be solely responsible for all work throughout the entire project. Characters (if there are any) must be modeled and rigged (using any rigging tools available) by the student. It is recommended that students seek to simplify designs so that they can get the best results in the shortest amount of time (remember feature films get made in 18-24 months, a semester is a mere 15 weeks). It is also highly recommended that prop and asset creation be carefully planned so that students create only the necessary and sufficient set of assets without becoming too bogged down in detail. Every week during the preproduction phase of this course, students will have to show their work, keep to the schedule, detail what strides have been made and explain what will be done for the next week.


Every week during production, students will submit an updated animatic with play-blasts for critique. The animatic will show the status of the project: with each ensuing week the play-blasts should become more robust until the animatic starts looking like a final animation. Instructor input and direction will result from every screening. Any critique or modification offered by the instructor is to be taken as an assignment that must be completed by the very next screening.


Every week during post production students will hand in updated renders for critique. These movies will show their progress and allow for final compositing, color correction and editing decisions. Similarly, all in-critique instructions will be considered as assignments to be carried out by the next critique.

Suggested Topics:

Students are strongly encouraged to begin with a soundtrack such as a voice recording, or a piece of music. Sound lends structure to animation and defines the pacing of a film; like color, sound evokes an immediate emotional response from the audience. Possible references include:

  • animated documentaries
  • planned interviews
  • unscripted conversations
  • voice mail messages
  • music videos
  • music performances
  • slam poetry
  • political satire


Course Goal(s):

●      To enable students to create a performance-driven digital short with character animation.

●      To yield portfolio-quality work.

●      This course also continues to address storyboarding and conveys advanced camera techniques and, in a broader sense, the language of the screen providing students with an increasingly sophisticated visual vocabulary. 


Student Learning Objectives:

Upon the completion of this course student will be able to:

●      Plan and execute an original 3D animation of portfolio quality

●      Apply knowledge gained in co-requisite courses

●      Use storyboards and production timelines to present “Dailys” (regular progress presentations)




Please note that completing a film is not the only requirement for successfully completing this course. Students are required to attend all classes, to be on time each time and come to class prepared. Students are advised that four unexcused absences will result in automatic failure of this course. A student who completes a film but has accrued excess unexcused absences will fail this course. No exceptions.


1. Production of one film: duration no less than 1 minute, no more than 2 minutes (students work within their means; class uses ready-rigging software to auto-rig their own character models. Focus is on narrative, clear staging, quality of motion and establishing a well-organized production pipeline). 

Students may use no more than two characters (max). Alternatives to linear narrative, mixed media and experimental animations are also encouraged but must be similarly manageable in terms of scope and well organized and structured with a detailed production schedule.


2. Students are expected to create a blog dedicated solely to demonstrating progress in this class. Students must mail the link during the first week of class. Each week, students must update this blog twice weekly, i.e. create two entries with updates to storyboard, models, animation and any other assigned homework. Blog designs should be kept as simple and clear as possible. Each blog entry must show the date. Blogs must be used during critiques (i.e. students are required to show their work using their class blog).

Students are expected to follow instructions to the proverbial T (i.e., 5 pieces of concept art = 5 pieces of concept art, etc.)


Click here for a list of deadlines students must adhere to in order to meet the requirements of this course.  




Eva Khoury

Tau Robinson-Farrar

Danny Zhao

Perle Goldblatt

Morgan Holub

Karla Carreno

Courtney Dreher

David Bowditch

Joey Pagano

Peter Wandelmaier

Michael Maragni


All pieces of story/concept art etc. must be in the correct aspect ratio, no sketches should smaller than 50% of full size.

Students must follow these naming conventions:





FA2017_DDA351_C_Tait_ConceptArt_01.jpg or



Final rendering must be delivered at HDTV 1080p (1920 x 1080) pixel aspect square, 29.97 fps, interlacing none, compression none, audio 48 kHz sampling rate/ 16 bit stereo/ uncompressed. Students also submit a compressed version of their work.


Useful references include:

Prepare to Board! Creating Story and Characters for Animation Features...

The Noble Approach: Maurice Noble and the Zen of Animation Design

           The Master Course in High-End Blocking & Staging


Rigs: Students use ready-rigging software to auto-rig their own character models: Advanced Skeleton. 

Weekly Breakdown


Week 01

August 28th & 30th


Course overview

Discussing Sophomore screening: What stood out? Which projects were effective and why?


Designing a character for performance

Recap: Quad Draw tool

Retopologizing using Advanced Skeleton


Audio as a point of departure



  • For the beginning of Monday's class, complete all tasks outlined in this document.
  • Students begin character modeling this week.

Week 02 (Monday is Labor Day, classes do not meet)

September 6th


Review of student work


Using the Grease Pencil tool for storyboarding

Storyboard Pro


Review of student work




  • For the beginning of Monday's class, complete all tasks outlined in this document.
  • By the beginning of class Wednesday, character models are at least 75% complete, significant progress has been made on all environment models, props.

    Week 03

    September 11th & 13th


    Review of student work


    Color Types for Character Design


    Students continue developing props and assets. Test approaches to surface treatment and lighting.



    • For the beginning of Monday's class, stories have been revised and 2D animatics completed, include sound.
    • For the beginning of Wednesday's class, characters -- head and body -- models are completed and UV mapped. Rigging begins.

    Week 04

    September 18th & 20th


    Review of student work


    Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens - A Life in Animation, 2000.


    Revising animatic based on critique, redesign panels (composition/layout) of panels where appropriate. 

    Working on sound (see this document for sound resources).



    • For the beginning of Monday's class, revise animatic.
    • For the beginning of Wednesday's class, body rigs have been tested, fixed and completed; facial rigs are in progress.
    • Create at least three pieces of developed concept art, consider color, texture and light of the overall project. Consider color scheme of character and how character can read clearly against backdrop/environment.

    Week 05

    September 25th & 27th


    Review of student work


    Modeling, creating props/backgrounds/environment elements

    Lighting & rendering


    Creating production schedule (click here for details)

    Credit resources are located here


    Blocking animation

    Using reference footage



    • For the beginning of Monday's class, revise animatic.
    • For the beginning of Wednesday's class, character -- head and body -- rigs are completed, tested and finalized.
    • Finalize production documentation, including shot list, asset list and task list (click here for details)

    Week 06

    October 2nd & 4th


      Review of student work


      Modeling, creating props/backgrounds/environment elements

      Lighting & rendering

      Discussing rendering/managing render times



      • For the beginning of Wednesday's class, complete 3D animatic, including sound/effects and credits, are completed. Includes all major assets, camera has been animated. Can be flat shaded. Key lighting should be indicated at critical moments.
      • Animation begins.

      Week 07

      October 9th & 11th

      3D animatic has been uploaded, including sound/effects and credits, includes all major and most

      minor assets, camera has been animated. Key lighting has to be indicated for critical

      moments. Animation has begun. Asset creation continues.


      Week 08

      October 16th & 18th



      Revised 3D animatic has been uploaded; includes...

      ...all major and most minor assets, camera has been animated depicting good motion (ease in/out, etc.). Key lighting has to be indicated for critical moments.

      First pass of animation is completed for entire project.

      Soundtrack is close to finalized.

      Render aesthetic has been decided upon -- this means students not only know what look they are going for but have demonstrated the ability to achieve this aesthetic.

      Week 09

      October 23rd and 25th

      Review of student work: polishing animation


      Revised 3D animatic has been uploaded and includes...

      Second pass of animation is completed for the entire project. Scenes have been edited for

      length where necessary (shaving off -- or adding -- a few frames here and there allowing for

      proper pacing depending on what the mood of a scene calls for).


      Week 10

      October 30th & November 1st

      Review of student work: polishing animation


      Revised 3D animatic has been uploaded and includes...

      Third pass of animation is completed for the entire project. The action reads clearly and communicates strongly; motion is rich/fluid, or snappy depending on what the scene calls for. Actions depict changes in velocity: moments of anticipation are punctuated by acceleration.

      Overall timing has been further revised. The story is coming to life.  

      The most render-intensive shots are in the process of being finalized and set to render.

      Any last missing sound effects have been added/finessed.    

      Week 11

      November 6th & 8th

      Review of student work: polishing animation


      Revised 3D animatic has been uploaded and includes...

      Fourth pass of animation is completed for the entire project. For key scenes, acting

      and timing have undergone several revisions. The character’s personality and emotional

      states read clearly. Action, humor and/or emotion are strongly articulated, the story’s message is effectively communicated.

      At least 30% of the project is rendered.

      Soundtrack has been finalized.

        Week 12

        November 13th & 15th

        Review of student work: polishing animation


        Revised 3D animatic has been uploaded and includes...

        At least 50% of the project is rendered.

          Week 13 (week of Thanksgiving, classes do not meet Wednesday)

          November 20th


          Revised 3D animatic has been uploaded and includes...

          75% of rendering is complete.

          At least 50% of the film are in post-production.

          All scenes have been set to render.

          Week 14

          November 27th & 29th

          Revised 3D animatic has been uploaded and includes…

          100% of rendering complete.

           All scenes are in post-production.

           Finishing touches, credits...

            Week 15

            December 4th & 6th

            Monday: exporting films

            Wednesday at the beginning of class: All Projects Are Due

            Week 16

            December 11th & 13th

            Class does not meet on the 11th (Exam Conflict Day).


            Final screening

            FINAL CRITIQUE


            Pratt Institute considers Academic Integrity highly important. Instances of cheating, plagiarism, and wrongful use of intellectual property will not be tolerated.

            Faculty members will report each incident to the registrar for inclusion in student's files.
            More than one report to the registrar during a student's program of study at Pratt will result in a hearing before the Academic Integrity Board, at which time appropriate sanctions will be decided. These may include dismissal from the Institute.
            The nature and severity of the infraction will be determined by faculty members who can: ask students to repeat an assignment, fail students on the assignment, fail students in the course and/or refer the incident to the Academic Integrity Board.
            For more details about these procedures please see the Pratt Student Handbook, the Pratt Bulletins, and the pamphlet entitled Judicial Procedures at Pratt.


            If students use dishonest methods to fulfill course requirements, they are cheating. Examples of this include, but are not limited to:

            Obtaining or offering copies of exams or information about the content of exams in advance.
            Bringing notes in any form to a closed book exam.
            Looking at another student's paper during an exam.
            Receiving or communicating any information from or to another student during an exam.


            Plagiarism is a bit more complicated, but the rules of documentation and citation are very specific and are tailored to different academic disciplines. Types of plagiarism include:

            Including any material from any source other than you in a paper or project without proper attribution. This includes material from the Internet, books, papers, or projects by other students, and from any other source.
            Using your own work to fulfill requirements for more than one course
            The extensive use of the ideas of others in your work without proper attribution.
            Turning in work done by another person or a fellow student as one's own.
            Please remember that all work must be the student's own. If it is not, the source should be cited and documented appropriately.

            If there are aspects of this statement that are not understood, ask faculty members for help.



            The Americans with Disabilities Act is a series of laws designed to protect individuals with disabilities in the workplace and within educational environments. Pratt must make a reasonable effort to accommodate your disability. ADA includes not only physical disabilities, but also learning disabilities, and mental health disabilities. It is your responsibility to notify the Institute and your instructors of your disability, in a private manner, at the beginning of the course or as soon as your disability becomes evident.