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: August 7th, 2019


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 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 originality, narrative (for traditional stories), 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, such as mixed media and experimental animations are also encouraged and 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.)



Akinlana, Falola O.

Chan, Allison C.

Hong, Sunny

Kwon, Julie S.

Lennon, Emily P.

Lin, Jingbin

Liu, Yuyang

Matta, Nikitha

Pastrana, Daniel W.

Rea, Jorelle K.

Savastano, David K.

Shine, Julia A.

Story/concept art etc. must be in the correct aspect ratio (16:9), no sketches should smaller than 50% of full size.

Students must follow these naming conventions:





FA2019_DDA351_C_Tait_ConceptArt_01.jpg or



Final rendering must be delivered at HDTV 1080p (1920 x 1080) pixel aspect square, 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 27th & 29th


Course overview and review of summer progress

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

We’re watching Alike and Alma.  

 -What do the opening shots tell us?

-At the end of the film/s, in what ways have the main characters changed?

Exercise: Create a beat sheet for one of these films.


  • For the beginning of Tuesday’s class, complete all tasks outlined in this document.

  • Students begin character modeling this week. For proper rigging, characters must be retopologized.

Week 02

September 3rd & 5th


Review of student work: discussion of ideas and work posted on blogs

Storyboard Pro



  • For the beginning of Tuesday’s class, complete all tasks outlined in this document.

  • By the beginning of class Thursday, character models are at least 75% complete.

Week 03

September 10th & 12th


Review of student work


Color Types for Character Design


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



  • For Tuesday’s class, stories have been revised and 2D animatics completed, include sound.

  • For Thursday’s class, characters -- head and body -- models are completed, retopologized and UV mapped. Rigging begins.

Week 04

September 17th & 19th


2D animatics are due at the beginning of Tuesday’s class.


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 Tuesday’s class, revise animatic.

  • For Thursday'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 24th & 26th


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 Tuesday's class, revise animatic.

  • For Thursday's class, character -- head and body -- rigs are completed, tested and finalized — characters are truly ready for animation.

  • Finalize production documentation, including shot list, asset list and task list (click here for details)

Week 06

October 1st & 3rd

 Review of student work


Modeling, creating props/backgrounds/environment elements

Lighting & rendering

Discussing rendering/managing render times



  • For Tuesday'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 8th & 10th

MIDTERM BREAK — class does not meet on Tuesday, Oct. 8th

Oct. 10th:

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 15th & 17th



Formal in-class presentations of advanced 3D animatics meeting the following requirements:

-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 includes quality sound effects and is representative of final score

-students demonstrate the render/aesthetic of their final film and their ability to achieve this aesthetic

Week 09

October 22nd and 24th

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 29th & 31st

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 5th & 7th

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 12th & 14th

Review of student work: polishing animation


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

At least 50% of the project is rendered.

Week 13

November 19th & 21st


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 26th & 28th — Thanksgiving week, classes do not meet Thursday…

Revised 3D animatic has been uploaded and includes…

100% of rendering complete.

 All scenes are in post-production.

 Finishing touches, credits...

Week 15

December 3rd & 5th

Exporting films: test export, check for any issues (size, playback, quality, etc.)

Week 16

December 10th & 12th

Tuesday: All films are due at the beginning of class.

Final screening — Details TBA



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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.
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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.

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