Catalog Code: DDA 400

Course Title: Senior Project Pre-Production

Department: Digital Arts

Chairperson: Peter Patchen

School: School of Art

Term/Year: Fall 2019

Course Credits: 3

Location & Time: Tuesday and Thursday 02:00PM - 04:20PM, Myrtle Hall, Room 4E-07

Req or Elective: Required

Prerequisites: DDA390

Instructor: Claudia Herbst-Tait


Phone: 718 636 3490

Fax: 718 399 4494

Office Hours: Tuesday & Thursday, Lunch

Office Location: 4W-16

Syllabus Version: August 20th, 2019


Bulletin Description:

This is the first in a required two course series in which students produce a 3D-animated Senior capstone project that was developed in DDA-390 Senior Project Development. By semester’s end, 50% of a student’s project is fully rendered and ready for post-production; sound design is near completion and quality of motion is expressive, depicting strong poses, timing and sense of weight; surface treatment, lighting and rendering convey a distinct, original aesthetic and strengthen the message of the film. Open to senior students only.


Detailed Description:

The goal of this course is to continue production on the project developed in DDA-390 Senior Project Development and to complete a significant part of the film: by semester’s end, 50% of the project is fully rendered and ready for post-production. The focus is on a high level of finish with regards to a project’s aesthetic as well as quality of motion. Motion is expected to communicate strongly and to be expressive. Students have to use broad and nuanced motion in order to make characters and/or objects move convincingly; refining animation takes several passes and students are expected to schedule accordingly.  

Because the completion of a 3D animated film requires a high level of organization, students continue to hone their production pipeline and keep current their production documentation, including shot lists and production schedule.


Course Goal(s):

  • To complete -- animate and render -- 50% of a professional quality Senior Project started in DDA-390 Senior Project Development.

  • To further develop the student’s creative, technical, production abilities.


Student Learning Objectives:

  • To devise an efficient production pipeline and schedule.

  • Demonstrate advanced presentation and communication skills.



In addition to weekly in-class presentations, students will give two formal presentations of their developing Senior Projects to faculty and peers to be scheduled at midterm and at the end of the semester. Each student is allotted 15 minutes to present their work to date, this includes 5 minutes to present his/her project, followed by up to 10 minutes Q&A. Attendance is mandatory for the entire length of presentations.

For the midterm presentation, students must meet or exceed these milestones:

  • test and rehearse presentation beforehand

  • all characters and rigs are truly finalized and animation ready

  • environments and shot design are in an advanced stage of development

  • 100 % of animation is in 1st or 2nd draft of animation with expressive poses

  • 50% of animation is in 3rd or 4th draft of animation, action and emotions read clearly

  • 25% of animation is polished and rendered for presentation


    For the final presentation, students must meet or exceed these milestones:

  • test and rehearse presentation beforehand

  • include an advanced animatic with: 100% of animation at 3rd or 4th draft; 50% of scenes fully rendered and ready for post-production; all shots depicting finalized compositions; a nearly finalized soundtrack; lip sync audio complete*

  • texturing is 75% complete

* instructors submit .mov files of final animatics to the department for Assessment at the end of the semester


It is important that all production visuals, such as concept art and animatics, adhere to the final 16:9 aspect ratio.

Character-driven animations as well as experimental animations are expected to show expressive motion that connects with the audience. The refinement of motion takes time and requires several passes; it is important that students allow for this process in their scheduling.



The animatic should always include the most current version of each shot and the most up to date version of sound design. Thus, animatics have to be updated and posted on a weekly basis.

Students are strongly encouraged to consult with a skilled/professional musician or sound designer in order to achieve a high quality of sound design.

Students will not be allowed to scrap and restart or change their projects after the beginning of the year. Late story alterations will not be an excuse for missing production deadlines.

Animations must be 4 minutes or less.  



Creating a short film is a complex undertaking and file management is a big part of bringing a project to successful conclusion. Thus, students are required to manage and organize their data, assets and resources in a professional manner and to devise and maintain logical naming conventions and file structures for their projects. Students are further required to devise a comprehensive production pipeline and schedule for the completion of their Senior Project. All production documentation must be kept current throughout the production of a Senior Project and shared with the instructor online.

  • Students update their shot and asset lists in a spreadsheet format.

  • Students hone their project map and overall production pipeline.

  • Students continue to think digitally: what modeling detail can be simulated using textures, what elements can be recycled, etc.

  • Students will create a production calendar based on their pace from the vertical slice. This calendar will be shared with the class weekly and will determine what is due for each student's weekly critique.

 Note that ‘incompletes’ will not be granted simply because work is not completed. An “Incomplete” is only granted for documented illness or extraordinary hardship.


Each student is solely responsible for all visual components of their films. Any plagiarism of third party assets of any kind could result in failure or expulsion. This includes sketches and designs, animation, editing, matte painting, textures and texturing and also rigging. Rigging tools, such as Advanced Skeleton, are acceptable provided that credit is given. Using online services to rig characters, or applying pre-made animation cycles, is not permissible. Use of online services such as CG textures to obtain individual texture maps is acceptable. Using entire online shader networks is not acceptable. Please read Pratt’s plagiarism policies at the end of this document.

Students are strongly encouraged to consult with a skilled/professional musician or sound designer in order to achieve a high quality of sound design.   

Storage and Backups

Students are expected to use cloud-based storage and/or obtain external hard drives for daily and weekly backups. Lack of work due to data loss is no excuse.

Naming Convention:


(ex. UG_19FA_GannisC).

Winter Break

Students are encouraged to continue to work on their Senior Project films during the winter break.


Final rendering must be delivered at HDTV 1080p (1920 x 1080) pixel aspect square, 30 fps, interlacing none, compression none, audio 48 kHz sampling rate/ 16 bit, stereo/ uncompressed. NOTE: For detailed information, see the Capstone Requirements document for the current academic year, available from the office.


Useful References

Animated Storytelling: Simple Steps For Creating Animation and Motion Graphics, by Liz Blazer

Basics Animation 01: Scriptwriting, by Paul Wells

Inspired 3D Short Film Production, by Jeremy Cantor

Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, by Robert McKee

Film Directing Shot by Shot: Visualizing from Concept to Screen, by Steven D. Katz

The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, by Christopher Vogler

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

Blog Links

Barber, Lisa Z.

Braddock, Austin J.

Chen, Yinuo (Serena)

Fortune, Caitlyn F.

Foster, Caroline

Kim, Chaeyoung

Kimes, Emily M.

Lin, Lena

Linzey, Alexandria M.

Schmid, Ashley

Tardif, Sofia

Yokoo, Max T.


Weekly Breakdown



August 27th & 29th

Course overview. Students present their most recent animatic (including vertical slice), pipeline and schedule. Students share progress they have made over the summer, updates to look development, rigging, animation, etc.

Assign shotlist, due next week


Assign revised production schedule, due next week

Assign finalization of all character rigs — all characters must be truly ready for animation, due week 3


Assign block-in of all environments, create strong compositions, demonstrate that you are a designer, due week 3

Assign camera block-in of entire animatic — all camera motion should show good ease-ins/outs, due week 3

Assign first pass of animation completed for 100% of animation — this means motion that goes beyond stepped keyframes but shows good timing and the beginnings of expressive motion that communicates strongly, due week 4

Quality of Motion Check Sheet

Elements of Expressive Motion


September 3rd & 5th

Review of shot list, production schedule

Critique developing 3D animatic focusing on evolving animation — motion should be expressive, timing/editing should help convey mood/atmosphere.


September 10th & 12th

Critique of animatics

Students hand in (drop files here):

A revised 3D animatic that includes all 3D characters with expressive poses/motion, advanced pacing (i.e. editing has undergone several revisions), blocked in environments, compositions/scene layout is at an advanced stage, camera block-in for entire animatic, uses ease-ins/outs).

All character rigs are truly finalized, files are handed in as .ma files. Screen shots (wireframe on shaded) are posted on blogs, as well as rigging tests.

Assignment: continue animating to meet week 04 deadline (first pass of animation completed for 100% of animation, motion shows good timing and is expressive, beginning to communicate strongly.

Please note that missing this deadlines means you are at risk of failing this course which is a prerequisite for DDA410

Students print two copies of their production documentation (schedule, shot list, task list, etc.)


September 17th & 19th

Individual meetings

Review of animatics (must include first pass of animation completed for 100% of animation, motion shows good timing and is expressive, beginning to communicate strongly)

Review of hardcopies of project documentation, including production schedule

Assign 50% of animation at 2nd or 3rd draft, due week 6

Assign 25% finished animation, due week 6

Assign 15% of rendering completed, due week 6

Assign refine camera movement, due week 7

Assign development of environment models to next level of detail for the 50% of animation you will show at 2nd pass for midterm presentations, due week 7


September 24th & 26th

Critique evolving animation, camera, environment

Assignment: complete week 6 animation project (see week 4)

Assignment: begin rendering finished animation


October 1st & 3rd

Rehearsal for mid-term presentations.

Critique work and suggest refinements for next week’s presentations

Assignment: Do a post pass on your rendered work for next week’s presentations. Continue work on environmental modeling and texturing

Critique entire 3D animatic: a minimum of 50% of animation is in 2nd or 3rd draft, 25% is finished and rendered


Assignment:  Have 25% of project rendered for next week. Do post pass on finished renders from this week.  Continue work on environmental modeling and texturing


October 8th Class does not meet, mid-term break

October 10th

Rehearsal for mid-term presentations. Students must meet or exceed these milestones for the presentation:

  • test and rehearse presentation beforehand

  • all characters and rigs are truly finalized and animation ready

  • environments and shot design are in an advanced stage of development

  • 100 % of animation is in 1st or 2nd draft of animation with expressive poses

  • 50% of animation is in 3rd or 4th draft of animation, action and emotions read clearly

  • 25% of animation is polished and rendered for presentation


October 15th & 17th

Mid-term presentations



October 22nd and 24th

Mid-term presentations

Students are advised of their grade in writing.

    Critique post pass on final renderings

    Assignment: finish animation on the 50% of your project you plan to show at final presentations, due week 11

    Assignment: refine post pass for next week


October 29th & 31st

Discussion about feedback received during the presentations.

Critique developing animation and post work

Assignment:  Finish animating your 50% segment for next week.  Integrate all of this into your project movie for next week


November 5th & 7th

Critique finished animation for 50% of project

Assignment:  render 50% of project, due week 13

Assignment: 100% of animation at 2nd or 3rd draft, due week 13

Assignment:  Continue work on environmental modeling and texturing


November 12th & 14th

Critique evolving animation and rendering

Assignment: Do a post pass on the rendering you have completed.  Continue work on environmental modeling and texturing.


November 19th & 21st

Rehearsal for final presentations. All materials due for presentation (see week 14 list)

Critique on all materials

Assign refinements for next week’s final presentation


November 26th — Final presentations, student-led critiques. Students must meet or exceed these milestones:

  • test and rehearse presentation beforehand

  • 100% of animation at 2nd or 3rd draft

  • 50% of scenes fully rendered and ready for post-production

  • all shots depicting finalized compositions

  • texturing is 75% complete

  • a nearly finalized soundtrack; lip sync audio complete

28th — Thanksgiving, classes do not meet Thursday…


December 3rd & 5th

Final presentations, student-led critiques.

Students must be present for the duration of the presentation.


December 10th — Final presentations, student-led critiques.

December 12th

Discussion about feedback received during the presentation.

Planning for winter break. 

Hand in: final presentation exported as a PDF + the final animatic for the semester.

Follow this naming convention: UG_19FA_DDA400_GannisC.pdf


A Word on Professionalism

A key goal of this course is to prepare students for the professional world. Here are a few notes on what it means to be a professional.

 1) Show up on time every day with all of your work done and in a state ready to be shared with the group in a succinct and organized manner. No excuses.

2) Handle critique graciously and don't take harsh feedback personally.

3) Avoid juvenile behavior. Do not have side conversations which interrupt lectures, presentations and critiques.

4) Don't be arrogant. In the professional work space, arrogance leads to termination.

5) Take direction. Be comfortable being told to do something and do what you are told. That said, it is always possible to disagree. Just do it politely and without excessive emotion. In a nutshell, production is a high-stress environment of sleep-deprived people whose flaws are easily placed on display. Professionalism is a means of keeping the environment productive and harmonious for everybody. Most importantly, professionalism is how you keep your job. Your work and interview usually get if for you, but after that, your people skills in the workplace are essential to your survival. Your grade depends heavily on your professionalism because your future career does as well.




Students are evaluated based on, both, the quality of their work and their level of professionalism. 

 40%     Professionalism: meeting deadlines, communication, attendance, ability to take critique and implement changes, attitude, participation

60%    Quality of work: students are advised that a finished project does not necessarily translate into a passing grade (see below). Animations are supposed to communicate strongly and clearly, motion is supposed to be polished. Similarly, renders should demonstrate a unique aesthetic that goes beyond ‘out of the box’ rendering but demonstrate strong color and design and post-production skills.

Your grade in large part depends on your professionalism because your future career does as well. If you are professional -- you complete your work on time and your follow through on critique and suggestions -- the quality of your work almost certainly will meet basic expectations. The quality of your work counts for a larger portion of your grade because meeting 'basic expectations' won't suffice in this field. Aim for excellence.

 Four absences result in automatic failure. Two tardies equals one absence. You are tardy if you are late for class. Be present and on time. No exceptions.

Finished 3D Movie Criteria 

1) All frames are fully rendered at 1080p.  There are no playblasted scenes.

2) The final movie has no glitched frames, missing frames, popping frames, or significant rendering noise issues.

3) The audio has no glitches, pops, distortions or discontinuities which read as errors.  Audio sound levels are balanced.

4) Animation has been completed in all scenes.  There are no blocked in or unanimated sections which were clearly slated for animation in the production plan.

5) Texturing has been completed in all scenes.   There are no untextured models which were clearly slated for texturing in the production plan.

6) The movie has a title, credits, and displays the Pratt logo.  The credits are spellchecked and appropriately timed (i.e. they have not been slapped on with no regard for timing).

7) The film has a coherent story or a legible conceptual framework.

8) The instructor believes the film is finished

Methods of Assessment

A student’s progress is assessed based on their level of professionalism as demonstrated during presentations, level of organization and ability to meet deadlines. Students are also evaluated based on their ability to receive feedback and to implement suggestions they have received during critiques. A student’s project is assessed based on the demonstration of technical ability and originality of ideas and overall creativity.

Missing deadlines, rehearsals, presentation schedules, late arrivals, or leaving during a presentation are not acceptable and negatively affects a grade.  

Students who receive an F in Senior Project I will not be allowed to progress to Senior Project II. Instructors will provide early grading feedback. Individual instructors may add additional checkpoints between the major project deadlines. In these cases, the instructors will provide the class with the adjusted grading weights for each stage of the project.



A= Exceptional Work

A-= Excellent Work

B+= Work of high quality

B= Very good work that satisfies goals of course 

B-= Good Work

C+=Average Work

C= Barely adequate work

C-= Poor Work.

D= Poor Work; doesn't understand the assignments

F= Failure, no credit


Students are advised that incompletes are given only in cases of a documented emergency.




4 absences will result in an automatic failure. Two absences will result in an automatic full grade deduction (ie. A becomes B). Two tardies equals one absence. You are tardy if you are late for class. In addition, all students are required to present at major critiques during the semester. Be present and on time. No exceptions.


Attendance at Critiques

Any student who fails to attend a critique and does not email their work on that day, will receive a 0 (that's zero, lower than an F) for that assignment.  


Academic Integrity Policy

At Pratt, students, faculty, and staff do creative and original work. This is one of our community values. For Pratt to be a space where everyone can freely create, our community must adhere to the highest standards of academic integrity.

Academic integrity at Pratt means using your own and original ideas in creating academic work. It also means that if you use the ideas or influence of others in your work, you must acknowledge them.


At Pratt,

• We do our own work,

• We are creative, and

• We give credit where it is due.


Based on our value of academic integrity, Pratt has an Academic Integrity Standing Committee (AISC) that is charged with educating faculty, staff, and students about academic integrity practices. Whenever possible, we strive to resolve alleged infractions at the most local level possible, such as between student and professor, or within a department or school. When necessary, members of this committee will form an Academic Integrity Hearing Board. Such boards may hear cases regarding cheating, plagiarism, and other infractions described below; these infractions can be grounds for citation, sanction, or dismissal.


Academic Integrity Code

When students submit any work for academic credit, they make an implicit claim that the work is wholly their own, completed without the assistance of any unauthorized person. These works include, but are not limited to exams, quizzes, presentations, papers, projects, studio work, and other assignments and assessments. In addition, no student shall prevent another student from making their work. Students may study, collaborate and work together on assignments at the discretion of the instructor.


Examples of infractions include but are not limited to:

  1. Plagiarism, defined as using the exact language or a close paraphrase of someone else’s ideas without citation.


  1. Violations of fair use, including the unauthorized and uncited use of another’s artworks, images, designs, etc.


  1. The supplying or receiving of completed work including papers, projects, outlines, artworks, designs, prototypes, models, or research for submission by any person other than the author.


  1. The unauthorized submission of the same or essentially the same piece of work for credit in two different classes.


  1. The unauthorized supplying or receiving of information about the form or content of an examination.


  1. The supplying or receiving of partial or complete answers, or suggestions for answers; or the supplying or receiving of assistance in interpretation of questions on any examination from any source not explicitly authorized. (This includes copying or reading of another student’s work or consultation of notes or other sources during an examination.)


For academic support, students are encouraged to seek assistance from the Writing and Tutorial Center, Pratt Libraries, or consult with an academic advisor about other support resources.

Refer to the Pratt website for information on Academic Integrity Code Adjudication Procedures.

Attendance Policy

Four absences result in automatic failure. Two tardies equals one absence. You are tardy if you are late for class. Be present and on time. No exceptions.


Students with Disabilities
The instructor will make every effort to accommodate students with both visible and invisible disabilities.  While it is advisable that students with disabilities speak to the instructor at the start of the semester if they feel this condition might make it difficult to partake in aspects of the course, students should feel free to discuss issues pertaining to disabilities with the instructor at any time.  Depending on the nature of the disability, and the extent to which it may require deviations from standard course policy, documentation of a specific condition may be required, in compliance with conditions established by the campus Learning Access Center, and in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Students who require special accommodations for disabilities must obtain clearance from the Office of Disability Services at the beginning of the semester. They should contact Elisabeth Sullivan, Director of the Learning Access Center, 718-636-3711.


Religious Policies

In line with Pratt’s Attendance Policy, Pratt Institute respects students’ requirements to observe days of cultural significance, including religious holy days, and recognizes that some students might need to miss class to do so. In this, or other similar, circumstance, students are responsible for consulting with faculty ahead of time about how and when they can make up work they will miss.