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CU Denver students complete 'monster' of a short film

CU Denver DAC students at work.

A CU Denver DAC student works on an animation cell.

A rendered cell from "I Need My Monster."

The DAC students' to-do list.

CU Denver students pursuing their BFA with the Digital Animation Center are showing their recently completed short film, I Need My Monster, based on the children's book of the same name. The film is showing at RedLine through May 8 as part of its BFA showcase and will culminate in a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. on the final night of the exhibition. 

The film is capstone project for the three-year curriculum, explains Area Head Howard Cook. "The job is to create a high-production value short film in about 22 months," he says. This year, that's culminating in the eight-minute film, which has about 12,000 frames in all, at a rate of 24 per second.

"Each year it changes," says Instructor Stephen Baker. "We've done more historical things, we've done fantasy stuff, space. We kind of change it up each year so we don’t look like the same cartoon characters."

The university launched the fast-paced concentration core in 2000, and it's been garnering awards and attracting interest, drawing students from as far away as Egypt, Italy and Africa, Cook says. "The last four films have been in over 100 national and international film festivals and they’ve won 25 of those…for animated shorts," he says.

The department has developed a lot of resources that are helping the students learn the business, including two motion capture studios and software and hardware that’s the same or similar to what pros are using in studios like Sony and Pixar, in fact one of the students, Jeremy Kuehn, recently became the third student from the program to win an internship at Pixar.

Cook says the department invites professional animators to the school. "When they come in they're usually pretty impressed with the level and quality of equipment we have," he adds.

“The studios recognize the three-semester capstone,” Cook says. "They recognize that as being as close to real work as you can do and when these guys sit down in an interview and start talking, the guy or the woman on the other side of the table is going to know right away that they've been through a production."

That’s makes the program successful for students. "We're somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of our students getting hired out of school within nine months," Cook says. "That's in a wide range of fields. We have kids working in forensics animation, medical animation, all the way to working Disney or Pixar or places like that."

Still Hollywood or that nexus between it and Silicon Valley is where they want to end up. After all, one student remarked: "A lot of us want to work on feature films. Pretty much everything here we’re learning is geared toward that."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.
Chris Meehan

Read more articles by Chris Meehan.

Chris is a Denver-based freelance writer, editor and communications specialist. He covers sustainability, social issues and other topics.
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