DMA Central

THE OFFICIAL COMMUNITY FOR DIGITAL MEDIA ACADEMY

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

Digital Media Academy Opens at Historic Harvard, UCLA and University of Chicago

The morning chill was broken by the excitement of check-in, at Digital Media Academy’s computer summer camps at Harvard, UCLA and The University of Chicago today. After DMA staff worked to prepare the locations over a four-day setup, DMA instructors and campers finally got down to the business of summer camp.


Part of DMA’s Harvard Staff prepares to meet campers.

During the weeks ahead, student campers will be learning how to design video games…how to create professionally produced movies…how to build amazing web sites…how to make an app for iPhone or Android…how to shoot digital photos like a pro…how to program a robot or computer…or music production or image editing (using iPhoto and Photoshop). They’re not only having fun; they’re creating the future! And they’re doing at while experiencing campus life at some of the best universities in the nation.

Harvard & Its History
Harvard – arguably the most prestigious university in the world. Here, DMA’s Residential Campers arrived over the weekend, eager to begin receiving hands-on professional instruction in emerging technologies – like digital filmmaking, 3D video game design, programming & robotics, 3D modeling & digital art, and music and post production.


One of DMA’s Harvard studios/classrooms…ready to greet future video game designers.

Harvard’s not only America’s finest institution of learning; it was also the nation’s first, founded way back in 1636. Most people don’t realize that Harvardwas also the first corporation ever chartered in the U.S. Harvard has the largest financial endowment of any academic institution in the world (in 2010, it exceeded $27 billion) and claims the largest academic library in the nation, with more than 16 million books. Harvard represents the biggest and the best in American higher education.


Teens enrolled in the Digital Filmmaking and Digital Photography courses wait to start their first day at UCLA.

Harvard alumni’s include eight U. S. presidents – from John Adams to John F. Kennedy and including President Barack Obama, who attended Harvard Law School – and some 75 people affiliated with the school (either as a student, faculty or staff member) have won the Nobel Prize.


Future 2D and 3D animators.

Among Harvard’s living alumni are more than 60 billionaires, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft’s Bill Gates. Funnyman Conan O’Brien went there, too, as well as loads of Oscar-winning actors and actresses, such as Matt Damon, Natalie Portman, Jack Lemmon, Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones – who inhabited the same residence suite as fellow grad and U.S. vice president, Al Gore.


Teens at UCLA look forward to Photography, Digital Filmmaking and Video Game Creation.

And this summer (running from this week through the week ending August 12), DMA students will experience the rich heritage of Harvard University as they explore their creative passion in a variety of areas and get personalized training in different digital arts.


Adventurers at UCLA! Suited up and ready to start the day!

UCLA, in the Heart of Screenland
Located in Westwood, the movie premiere capital of Los Angeles, the UCLA Bruins are ranked by High Impact Universities as one of only two universities (the other being Harvard) which have all their faculty ranked within the top 10. The UCLA campus is diverse and offers a great atmosphere for both residential campers and commuting day campers.


At UCLA, DMA’s student campers and their parents line up to get signed in and meet the DMA staff.

DMA also opened its location at the University of Chicago. In the next few weeks, Digital Media Academy computer camps across the U.S. and Canada will begin classes at the Univ. of British Columbia in Vancouver (July 4th), the Univ. of Texas at Austin (July 11th), George Washington University (July 11th), the Univ. of California San Diego (July 11th), and Swarthmore College (July 25th). Classes began last week at DMA’s flagship program at Stanford University (in Palo Alto, CA) and Philadelphia’s Drexel University.

DMA courses are offered for all ages of kids and teens and are geared to individual skill levels. Both one-week camps and two-week academies are available, and there is still time to reserve a spot for computer camp during Summer 2011.

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posted by Phill Powell in News Blog and have No Comments

Kids Learning Pro Web Design at Age 10! Technology Classes + Computer Camp for Kids

“Wow! That animation looks great! Ok. Now we’re going to take the animated Flash movie you just created and you are going to import it into Dreamweaver on your web page. Let’s all do this together! Ready?”

I am right in the middle of another great Digital Media Adventures course for kids at Stanford: Web Design and Flash. We are taking an in depth look at the Adobe Creative Suite applications: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Dreamweaver, and Adobe Flash. We are on the third day of the five-day course at Stanford University. My class just got back into the classroom from playing a crazy game of Slaughter Ball. It sounds scary, but it’s a lot of fun. Sort of like Dodge Ball. The kids in my class are a little out of breath from playing ball, but that’s to be expected at a summer camp. They came running in and jumped (literally) in their seats excited about their Flash movies they created just before the break.

While the kids are experiencing all the fun of a summer camp, they are also getting an unbelievable learning experience. That’s what makes this the full summer computer camp experience. They are learning the same pro applications we are teaching across the Stanford campus in our adult web design courses. The professional Adobe applications like Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Flash are the real deal! The kids pick up the technology so fast. That makes it really fun to teach. It’s interesting how much better kids interact with technology they have grown up with their whole life.

Earlier in the week, the kids in my class had already designed and created their own logo and company business card design. Their custom business card had their picture from a photograph taken in the class. The graphics and effects they created turned out amazing. They had learned the ins and outs of the Adobe software and were creating a matching website to go with their cards and logo. They were now adding an animated movie they created in Flash to spice up their website design.

In the next three classrooms I can faintly hear the other Adventures classes. The kids in 3d video Game Design course are screaming about some new level they created trying to destroy their enemy. From the Robotics and Programming class I can hear cheers of two robots racing. I see the Film, Digital Movie Making and Effects class go by with all their cameras, mics, lights, and scripts to go act, film, and direct their next scene. I wish I’d been exposed to this when I was this age! This computer camp is the real deal.

kids computer camp learning and fun

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posted by Philip Harding in News Blog and have No Comments