MHS students to use animation technology for short films


May 6, 2010 at 12:06 a.m.

Move over, Pixar.

Soon, Victoria high school students will be able to make animated movies, too.

The Victoria school district now has computer animation technology like the kind used to make hit movies such as "Up" and "Avatar."

Students who take the two-hour Advanced Animation course at the Advanced Learning Center in August will use the 3-dimensional motion capturing system to make short films and simple video games, said Jeff Vuillemin, a Victoria school district career and technology teacher.

The technology allows animation to be created on the spot.

The district's Career & Technical Education Department students and staff did the first animation demonstration at Career Day at William Wood Elementary School on Wednesday.

"We just got this system about two weeks ago," Vuillemin told the students. "It's brand new to us. You all are the first in Victoria, or Inez, or wherever we're at, to ever see this equipment. You all should be very proud to be able to see this stuff."

The state-of-the-art animation system, which cost about $15,894, was paid for by the Carl D. Perkins Federal Grant and the DuPont Community Fund, said Lauri Voss, CTE coordinator.

MHS student Bethany Reyes, 17, demonstrated the animation process by wearing a skin-tight black motion capture suit that has 34 sensors on different points on the body.

Six special cameras that shoot 100 frames per second each captured all of Bethany's motion from the sensors, which were immediately transmitted to a computer.

"Avatar was shot using this technology," Vuillemin told the students. "They used these suits and put these little dots all over their faces. When their faces move and their arms move, it transfers to the computer."

The motions are then recorded and applied to a 3-D character designed by animators for a film.

"We can build their hands, their arms, their legs, and then put colors on them and make them look like robots, or creatures or aliens," Vuillemin said. "And then, this motion is applied to those creatures."

To take the Advanced Animation course, students must complete Animation I or Graphic Design and Illustration, Vuillemin said.

Both pre-requisite classes will be offered at Victoria East High School and Victoria West High School, he said.

There's a lot of math and physics involved in animation, Vuillemin said.

"One day you all will understand what we're doing here, and maybe you'll be able to take my class and we'll do some animation," he told them.

Raul Villalobos, a fifth-grader, can see himself pursuing a career in animation one day.

"It seems like such simple technology, but it's really not," Raul said. "I would like to do this because I like drawing. I would probably like an animated movie about race cars because I like race cars."

Also at the Career Fair were Howell Middle School students from the Robotics and Video Game Design class who showed the elementary kids their motorized Lego robots.

Students learned to design and program the robots themselves, said teacher Joseph Holochwost.

Next school year, the robotics course will be moved from Howell to the the Center for Middle Advanced Learning, to be located at Stroman Middle School.

"The goal is to give them an introduction to robotics, programming, and see if they're interested in it," Holochwost said. "If so, maybe they want to move on further into high school engineering courses."

The more advanced robotics course, Robotics and Automation, will be available for high school students in August at the Advanced Learning Center, Holochwost said.

Other careers represented at the fair included culinary arts, zoology, cosmetology, and the Dorothy H. O'Connor Pet Adoption Center.

The variety of careers got students thinking about their futures.

"It helps us learn what we want to be when we grow up," said Stefani Cervantes, a fourth-grader. "If we don't get a job, we'll just be poor and live in a box."



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