The Norseman staff was honored with theopportunity to meet with Tim McLaugh-lin, Department Head for Visualization Sciences.
How has the area of viz science changedsince 1988 when it started as a pro-gram?
changed and how has the program changed.I came in 1991 and I was in the third classthat entered here and we didn’t know re-
was all about, we’re doing a lot of thingsthat had to do with computing and imagerythat weren’t relatedto the entertainmentindustry and withintwo to three yearsafter that a number of movies came out,
be-ing one in 1993,
in ‘96, and both of them com-municated to audi-ences things thatwere really exciting.So
had photo-real digi-tal dinosaurs and allthe studios said “wecan do all of thesemovies now thatwere really hard todo without comput-er-generated charac-ters” and
came along and people recognizedthat fully computer-generated moviescan work and can beentertaining, people will pay to see it, andthose things transformed the industrieswhich then transformed this program inthat the industry started saying “we needmore people, we need more artists, weneed more technologists” and the studentscoming into this program said “we wantto go do that stuff” and they became veryfocused on that area.We’re still a broad program, we still
we support photography, we support pureresearch into computer graphics, but mostof the students-not all-but most of the stu-dents come in with the focus of going toHollywood.
What’s the time commitment that ittakes to obtain your masters in visual-ization?
Master of Science is a 48 credit hour program, which includes thesis work. Itcould be done-can be done-in two com- plete years, but typically takes students
their course work in about 2 years and thendo primarily research for a written thesisthat is required.
In an article done by TheForce.netwhile you were working on Star Wars:Episode One, you made the commentthat the Viz Program was not a train-ing ground for animators, but a trainingground for Technical Directors. Is thatstill the case?
Yes, the term animation can be used ina variety of ways; one is to say animationas it pertains to everything you see on thescreen when you’re looking at a videogame or a DreamWorks or Pixar movie.Another way to look at it is that anima-
on, and I tend to think of it that way, ani-mation is creating acting and performancewithin a digital character. And so an ani-mator is really an actor, but they’re using atool; an animator is a puppeteer. Our pro-gram has animation as a component in thatyou will be tasked with doing animation
but we don’t teach, or concentrate on per-formance.Programs that concentrate on anima-tion in performance require lots of act-ing classes, lots of hand-drawn classes,multiple classes dealing with timing, andemotion and expression. And
-nents of what we do. Techni-cal directing requires more of the fundamentals of computer graphics, and light and ma-terials and modeling. Thingslike that.
You mentioned in anotherarticle that there is a needfor students in forensics andclimatology, and those are
two interesting elds that
people might not immedi-ately associate with visual-ization. Could you explain alittle bit more-especially on
those two elds-how visu
-alization principals wouldapply?
We use the term visu-alization to mean the visualcommunication of informa-tion and I use forensics to de-scribe that to think of thingssuch as if an oil company isrecognizing through other sorts of datathat there are oil deposits underneath theGulf of Mexico, they need to communi-cate where those oil deposits are you cando that through numbers, you can do thatthrough 2-D maps, you can also do thatthrough viz. We have students that work for companies that do that.I visited this weekend with a former stu-dent- that works with a company calledPresagis named Cody Starr and what theymake there are software tools for peoplewho create simulations for the military. So pilot displays, things like the exact terrainand make-up of an air force base so that pilots can do simulated landings and take-offs and they require a much higher levelof precision in terms of their engineeringof these programs than what is required for the entertainment industry. There’s a lot of opportunities out there that our students
Bryan High does offer an animation class,along with some other computer program-ming classes. How much of an advantagedoes high school programs give studentspursuing a masters degree?
I don’t know yet. I am more curiousabout the effect on the graduate programthan I am of the ability to get into the un-dergraduate program. Right now, entranceto the bachelor of the environmental designand visual studies option is the same thatit is for any other program in that you areadmitted to the university based upon your GPA and your standardized test scores.This program requires visual aptitudeand there is not a test for visual aptitude.The fact that it also requires engineeringand math and computer programming somy expectation is that students coming outof the Bryan high programs and anima-tion programming will be better preparedto do well in those courses meaning theyare better prepared to get entrance into the
prepared to do well once they are here.
Is it necessary to have an undergraduatedegree in architecture or engineering todo well in the program? We have seencomments made about students partici-pating with degrees in anything fromphysiology to English, but according tothe application process on the web site,students must have an undergrad de-
gree in an applicable eld of study.
No, and basically to enter the programyou need a portfolio and if you’re takingclasses that help you produce work to gointo a portfolio then that’s great. And some
that help create a portfolio, but you could
-ative, and as long as you can show thosethings that’s great. There are also math re-