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Student Film Sets A New Benchmark For UVU Digital Media

31 January 2012 2 Comments

January 30, 2012
For Immediate Release

University Marketing & Communications: Mike Rigert (801) 863-6807
Written by: Cheryl Kamenski (801) 863-6351

What started out as a senior project for Utah Valley University digital media students turned into a two-year venture involving more than 30 students resulting in a creative animated short film that has the potential to win student award competitions and has set a new standard for UVU’s thriving digital media program.

“We have curriculum that allows a team of students to build a senior project over an entire year, not just a semester,” said Rodayne Esmay, UVU digital media associate professor. “This film actually started as a discovery project; in fact, they all begin that way. The best evolve into titles that students build into their senior projects. The group that worked on this one had such great potential that we were hoping it would turn out well.”

The film, a 3-D cartoon called “The Lizard and the Ladder,” was written and directed by Aaron Bristow and had major contributions from digital media students Abel Perry, Brandon Wilbur and Troy Tylka with others who filled production roles to get the project finished and polished. Bristow and Tylka have since graduated with bachelor’s degrees in digital media with emphases in gaming and animation.

“Directing a project as big as this one helped me to work with others and find ways to use their talents and skills,” said Bristow who is now working as a compositor and 3-D generalist at a motion picture studio. “I learned how to delegate and compromise in order to achieve the best result. Working professionally, I’ve had to do the same thing.

“I wanted this project to be an exclamation of my diverse skills, so it took me a while to ask others to help,” said Bristow. “Once I finally did, though, I realized the benefits of having a group project. The others helped to make it look much better than I could have done on my own.”

For Abel Perry, one of his most vivid memories is when he was a junior and watched the senior Bristow utilize 18 of the 20 computers in the lab to render out the film. “That’s when I became very interested in the whole process,” said Perry. “I was determined to work on the short.”

Perry says after he proved himself with his work in a 3-D animation class, he started working on the animation side of the film and then took on a co-leading role when Bristow was busy with other parts of the project. “After the animation was squared away, I moved on to what I really wanted to do, which was lighting and rendering and then finished up with compositing,” he said.

The film is going to be entered into many national competitions, starting with the student Emmy Awards, a first for UVU.

“Being involved in the Emmys provides potential opportunities for networking,” Bristow said. “Every job I’ve had that relates to my field I have received because of networking,” said Bristow, who also is proud to be a Wolverine and is excited to be a part getting the University’s name on the industry’s map.

“If we win an Emmy, or even if we don’t, the competition is a big thing for the animation students in the future,” he said.

Perry agrees. “Being involved in this process means that I may have recognition to show for all my hard work, collectively as a school and a team,” he said. “I couldn’t do this without the rest of the dedicated students working through the night without any sleep. I am really thankful to be a part of it.”

Esmay said this is not the first film UVU digital media students have entered into national competitions, but the quality of this submission sets a new benchmark. The students also will enter the film in the student Academy Award competition, which announces winners in June.

“The primary purpose of the senior project is to prepare students for real industry jobs, provide experience working in teams and allow them to build their own portfolios,” said Esmay. “As our program ascends and the quality of student work rises, it is an added benefit for the students to enter their work in national competitions.”

UVU digital media students are currently working on another cartoon short called “Three Day Pizza” in addition to a Western-themed live action/visual effects short called “Dark Day,” featuring Esmay and Anthony Romrell, UVU Digital Media assistant professor, playing live-action roles.

To celebrate the premier of “The Lizard and the Ladder,” UVU is hosting a special viewing party for of the film on Wednesday, Feb. 8, at 10:30 a.m. in the Sorensen Student Center’s Ragan Theater. UVU students, faculty and the public are invited to attend.


About UVU

Utah Valley University is located in Orem, Utah, and is home to more than 33,000 students. UVU began as a vocational school during World War II, and in the seven decades since has evolved into a technical school, community college, state college and, finally, a comprehensive regional teaching university. UVU is one of Utah’s largest institutions of higher learning and offers programs ranging from career training to high-demand master degrees, with emphasis on undergraduate education.

The Lizard and the Ladder

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  • Brett said:

    It is great to see UVU participating in the amazing field. From what I have seen of the short it looks amazing!

  • Mack Michaels said:

    Given the ease of embedding media into blogs it would be wonderful to see a clip of the film as it does look very good. Hard to believe it;s student created.

    Also it would be great to hear a little more about the technology behind the film – what packages were used to draw and then render the frames. (Not complaining honest – just interested!!)

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