CLEMSON — Three Clemson University graduates will be on the fast-track to their dream jobs when they head to California next month for an intensive training program with the animation studio responsible for the hit film franchises “Shrek,” “Madagascar” and “How to Train Your Dragon.”
Anuradha Pinisetty, Zhaoxin Ye and Amanda Morland have been selected for DreamWorks SKG’s “FX Challenge.” They begin work July 14 at PDI/DreamWorks in Redwood City, California.
The graduates are products of Digital Production Arts, a master’s program that has created a pipeline between Clemson and Hollywood. Students learn the skills needed to work in the animation, visual-effects and electronic-games industries.
DreamWorks selects five or six recent graduates for the FX Challenge each year.
This is the first time the studio has selected three Clemson graduates in a single year. The previous high was two.
A spot in the FX Challenge is a step beyond an internship, said Don House, the Digital Production Arts interim director and chairman of the visual computing division in the School of Computing.
Ye and Morland will be placed in positions in Redwood City or Glendale, California, upon successful completion of the challenge, he said. Pinisetty would go to DreamWorks’ newest studio in Bangalore, India, House said.
“They end up doing some of the highest-level visual effects work in the world,” he said. “It’s a really great start for their careers. The sky’s the limit.”
The FX Challenge is designed to give recent graduates a firm base in the concepts critical to making computer-graphic feature films. It covers programming, drawing, rendering, compositing, animation, simulation and taking direction.
Ye said she is excited to work with the studio’s many talented artists and engineers.
“In the beginning it’s going to be a lot of learning from my supervisors and co-workers,” she said. “The second step is to have my name in the credits of a movie.”
Morland said she worked with DreamWorks mentors on an animated short last summer.
“I learned a great deal and got to meet some amazing and intelligent artists,” she said. “I am very excited to be working with them again on projects that not only inspire me, but inspire millions of other people as well.”
House sees the three students’ selection as vindication of the direction the Clemson program has taken since he was hired six years ago.
“Most programs that send students into the industry are either very strong artistically or they focus on the computer science side,” he said. “Our program brings the two together.”
Graduate students in the Clemson program work toward a Master of Fine Arts in Digital Production Arts. Minors also are offered for undergraduates.
“The Clemson School of Computing’s DPA program is a world-class program and the selection of Clemson University students for FX Challenge is a testament to the work done by our faculty and students,” said Anand Gramopadhye, dean of the College of Engineering and Science.
Courses combine art, computer science, computer engineering, graphic communications, performing arts, philosophy and psychology. Among the professors is Ye’s adviser, Jerry Tessendorf, who won a Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Pinisetty, Ye and Morland recently completed their thesis work in key areas of effects. Their work was included in the visual portfolios they submitted to DreamWorks.
Pinisetty, of Hyderabad, India, worked on digitally re-creating, animating and simulating costumes from a stage production: http://vimeo.com/71138558. Ye, of Beijing, China, investigated techniques for volumetric rendering and animation of clouds: http://vimeo.com/95799824. Morland, of Jonesborough, Tennessee, developed an approach to integrating real-time particle system simulation with motion-captured human motion: http://vimeo.com/86925971.