The University of New Orleans is building a digital animation studio to better equip students for jobs in animation and special effects.
Jeff Rinehart, an instructor in UNO’s fine arts department, led the effort to secure a $94,728 grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents for the project. The funds will pay for an 11-station laboratory housed at Earl K. Long Library. Each station will be equipped with a 13-inch, Wacom Cintiq high-definition tablet as well as software enabling animation, rendering, video editing and web design.
Rinehart said he expects the lab to be available to students in the spring of 2017.
The department is working toward a goal of creating a new media and animation arts degree program. The creation of a lab based at the library will give students needed access to the equipment outside of class hours, freeing them to use the technology at their convenience, Rinehart said. Currently, only three similar tablets are available to fine arts students and they are accessible mainly during class hours.
“This makes it so that students can work at a really high rate and have all the tools to allow them to experiment,” Rinehart said.
The lab will be located on the fourth-floor of the library and will be accessible to all students, but is especially targeted to students in the fine arts and film and theatre departments.
Rinehart, who collaborated with Daniel Rule, associate professor of fine arts, and Hamp Overton, associate professor of film, to make the lab possible, said it will complement work being produced in the recently opened digital media laboratory, which was unveiled on the library's third floor this spring as a collaborative project between the Department of Computer Science, Department of Film and Theatre and the library.
Called the Innovation Lab, students there have access to 10 high-performance computers, a 3-D printer and motion capture equipment, all of which assist them in creating digital game prototypes such as the “Honest Abe” side-scrolling action game students developed this spring in computer science professor Stephen G. Ware’s advanced game development class.
Rinehart said that when coupled with the existing motion capture software, students will be able to push their digital animation to work to a higher level. Together, the two labs will enable project-driven curriculum that gives students maximum amount of professional development before leaving the University.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs available to multimedia artists and animators is growing nationally due to an increased demand for animation and visual effects in video games, movies and television. In the New Orleans metro area, the annual mean wage for people working in that field is nearly $73,930.