A matter of degree Graduating student wants to help create vide

Sunday, May 5, 2002

Justin King smiles at the hammers and the monster he created for his 400-frame computer animated scene. What took hours to create plays out on his monitor in a matter of seconds.

It's the kind of animation that one sees in films and video games.

King, a 24-year-old former Dexter High School wrestling coach, will be the first Southeast Missouri State University student to graduate with a fine arts degree in 3D imaging and computer animation. He'll get that degree at Saturday's commencement at the Show Me Center.

An avid player of video games, King hopes to land a job with a video game company. He wants to help create the animation that's at the heart of today's video games.

But video games are only part of what animation has to offer. King said computer animation is in everything from flight simulators to video reconstructions of accidents. It's big in movies too. "Shrek," "Toy Story," and "Monsters Inc." are all films that relied on computer animation.

The university established the animation degree two years ago. Only a handful of students currently are seeking the degree, although other art-minded students have taken some of the classes.

King's Thursday afternoon class on 3-D animation this semester has six students. At the latest session, the students punched up their animation pieces on computer monitors as their teacher looked on. In real time, the pieces aren't long, each lasting maybe 16 seconds.

Fighting spoons, forks

But the creations of fighting spoons, forks and ketchup bottles triggered smiles and praise among the students and their teacher, Louise Bodenheimer, an associate professor of art and graphic design.

Bodenheimer grew up with the tactile side of art, with the feel of the paint brush and the canvas. But she's learned to love the new medium.

Bodenheimer said she's learning from teaching animation courses.

"I don't know where it is going," she said. "It is going to be exciting."

Student Christi Shiverdecker, a junior at Southeast, said she wants to work for a major animation company, preferably Disney.

"I want to build the characters and make them talk," she said.

Bodenheimer expects the degree program to grow gradually as more students see the artistry and technology behind today's animation.

"It's not going to be something that hits you in the face," she said.

At least, not unless it's a giant 3D ketchup bottle on a computer screen in Bodenheimer's art class.


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