DMA Central

THE OFFICIAL COMMUNITY FOR DIGITAL MEDIA ACADEMY

3D Modeling

DMA Course Profile: Learn How Maya Can Animate Your Career

Courses: Maya 2011: Character Modeling & RiggingMaya 2011: Animation & Visual EffectsMaya 2011: Texturing & Lighting

DMA Instructor: Adam Watkins

Education: Master of Fine Arts degree: Animation. Utah State University; Logan, UT (Undergrad Major: Theatre Set and Lighting Design). 

Professional Portrait: DMA Instructor Adam Watkins is a teacher and noted author of multiple books on the subject of graphic arts, with special emphasis on Maya. He’s also written more than 100 magazine articles on the subject. An Associate Professor of 3D Animation for the School of Interactive Media & Design at San Antonio’s University of the Incarnate Word, Adam also serves as Art Director for the Justice Media Lab. Recently, Adam has been using his animation skills to produce ultra-realistic simulations for nuclear training facility inspections while serving as an animations developer at the historic Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

DMA Campus: Harvard University
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Adam Watkins is a longtime Digital Media Academy animation instructor and when he’s not teaching DMA’s summer sessions, he’s a full-time teacher. He’s also a published author, with a handful of books and more than 100 articles on the subject of computer graphics. However, there things we can’t tell you about Adam. Why? Because it’s classified.


Adam’s work, like this character and environment he created, are featured in his latest book about Maya.

As the Artistic Director and animation developer for the VISIBLE Team, based at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Adam is using animation skills to develop training tools that can improve the quality and safety of inspections of nuclear facilities. This August he’ll leave New Mexico and head for Harvard University, where he’ll be teaching animation with Maya at DMA’s Harvard summer computer camp.

Putting Maya into Motion
“Maya is very robust,” Adam says. It’s true. Maya is recognized by the videogame and film industries as the premier computer graphics 3D modeling tool. This summer Adam’s again looking forward to sharing his experience. In terms of creating characters, Adam will show students how to model, UV map and texture a character…and then rig that character for animation. At that point, Adam will teach students how to animate the character with some basic animations (like walking and running). After that Adam will familiarize student campers with a collection of Maya’s amazing special effects.

Teaching Tech with Passion
Adam keeps his teaching skills sharp as an Associate Professor at the University of the Incarnate Word, a liberal arts college in San Antonio, Texas. Adam calls it “the largest university you’ve never heard of,” with multiple campuses in China and Mexico. And although the school is run by a charitable organization it still functions like a normal university, in most respects.


Under Adam Watkins’ instruction, DMA student campers will build a complete 3D environment like this one, also created by Adam.

The 3D Animation and Game Design program that Adam teaches for the University is an intensive, four-year program that concentrates on utility.“We are product-focused and students who successfully complete the program have many projects and a robust demo reel upon graduation,” Adam says, “A degree is nice, but as part of the mission of the university, we make sure to graduate people with the reel, tools and skills to get real work…fast.” He brings that same practical industry focus to the courses he teaches for DMA.

The ‘Ah-ha!’ Moment
We asked Adam Watkins about what motivates him as an educator. “My philosophy of teaching in very general terms, is to focus on helping students do real work (and will show off their skills to an employer.”

“I don’t do tutorials,” he says. “I believe that especially for beginning 3D students, tutorials simply teach students how to follow recipes, not how to solve problems. Great 3D artists are great problem-solvers, and they get this way from practice. When I teach, I give assignments that require students to help define a problem, and then grow into the solution. I’m there to assist in the process.”

And that process pays off big for him when a student learns how to solve the problem for themselves. “I love the ‘Ah-ha!’ moment that students have when working through complex ideas,” he says. “3D technology can be abstract, and good 3D is a complex collection of technical and artistic skills. Helping students harness these divergent ideas to create good work really gets me going.”

For aspiring 3D animators, videogame designers or graphic artists, DMA instructors like Adam Watkins can help you learn how to turn your passion for computer graphics into a career…so you can experience your own ‘Ah-ha!’ moment.

(Images from Creating 3D Games with Unity and Maya: How to Develop Fun and Marketable 3D Games, Adam Watkins, Focal Press.)

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posted by Phill Powell in 3D Modeling,News Blog and have No Comments

Animation: Putting Imagination into Motion

This is the first in a series of profiles on DMA courses and instructors. Our first profile focuses on the art of animation. Digital Media Academy offers a wide range of courses in animation. From beginning cartooning to 3D animation with Maya, DMA offers professional instruction in digital arts and brings students face to face with today’s most vibrant art form, digital media. 

Course: Animation

Instructor: Geoffrey Beatty

Education: University of the Arts; Philadelphia, PA (Major: Animation)

Professional Portrait: A freelance animator and designer of world-class expertise, Geoffrey Beatty began his career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s cutting-edge Media Lab, developing animation for MIT research projects into AI and robotics. Founder and coordinator of the Animation program at Philadelphia University (where he still teaches), Geoffrey has also lent his talents to creating powerful interactive museum exhibits, as well as character-based web-interactive projects and web-to-TV convergence properties. He also leads workshops on 3D animation for instructors, media professionals and kids – and remains one of only a handful of Autodesk-Certified Instructors in Maya, the leading 3D animation software program.

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“This could very well be the most exciting time to be learning animation.”

Geoffrey Beatty, Animation Instructor, at Digital Media Academy’s Computer & Digital Arts Summer Camp ought to know. He remembers back when he was a college student majoring in Animation, before technology triggered a revolution in animation. Back then, he and his classmates had to hand-render designs and shoot them on 16mm film, which was then carefully hand-cut with razor blades and assembled with splicing tape, with the final, edited product loaded onto reels. In other words, lots of slow and tedious work.


Maya, the movie and video game industry standard is used in the Digital Media Academy studio classroom.

Fast-forward to today, and not only are computers everywhere, but the same animation software used by professionals is available to students at reduced cost, or sometimes even through a free Internet link. Not only that, but now you have the ability to instantly share your creation with the world, either through a YouTube video clip or downloadable game mod. So access to animation software is easier to obtain and there are more ways to get your creative vision across to a mass audience. So now the question becomes: How do you sift through all these choices without growing totally overwhelmed? And how will you learn to really harness the power of this complex software?

That’s where DMA’s Animation program comes to the rescue. DMA instructors such as Geoffrey Beatty know not only the latest versions of the leading software that’s involved in creating great animation, but they also bring real-world professional experience to class sessions. As artists themselves, they understand what’s involved in taking a unique creative vision and translating it into animated form. They know how to get the best efforts from students, by actively encouraging their growth as animators. “I love the intense, hands-on approach of both the Professional and the Teen DMA classes,” Geoffrey reports. “This allows me to work closely with the students to create the best possible work – work they can be proud to show their colleagues, families and friends.”


Teens and Pro Series adults experience learning all of Maya’s powerful animation capabilities.

DMA’s Animation program is offered at the Kids Adventures, Teen and Professional levels. Beginning-to-intermediate students will learn basic animation principles, including character animation using pre-built rigs. Instruction for students at the Teen and Professional levels contains special emphasis on Autodesk Maya, the industry standard software for 3D animation. It’s an amazing tool that can unlock whole new worlds of imagination, and there are few instructors in the U.S. that can claim to have as much experience with the program as Geoffrey Beatty.

“I started using Maya more than ten years ago,” he recalls, “And since then I have used it to animate games, a television pilot, broadcast promos, museum exhibits and augmented reality graphics. I never would have imagined – back in school with the light tables and room-sized animation camera – that I would get the chance to create something as cool as this.”

Bring to life video game or comic book characters with animation. DMA offers computer and visual arts summer camps and courses in both traditional hand-drawn art as well as digital animation. Learn more or register for a summer camp by visiting Digital Media Academy.

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posted by Phill Powell in 3D Modeling,Maya,News Blog and have No Comments