Alumni News – 3/27/10
March 17th, 2010

Barry Safley is a veteran of twelve years with Industrial Light and Magic. Barry worked most recently on the movies Star Wars and AVATAR. Barry is a compositor and loves NUKE for compositing.

Carl Schmidt was just promoted to Assistant Art Director at Electronic Arts. Carl has been working at EA for over six years on the SIMS project and is now busy on SIMS 3 AMBITIONS. Carl is also planning a spring wedding to his fiancé, Kristen.

Craig Slagle is coming up on his one year anniversary with Rhythm and Hues. Prior to Rhythm and Hues, Craig worked at EA for seven years. Craig is also a former Living Arts College @ the School of Communication Arts professor and is an avid runner.

Pierre Chastain is busy working on Zoo Keeper at Sony. Pierre recently worked on the just released movie, Alice in Wonderland.

Dean Sauls is now at AFK Interactive working on mobile apps. Dean was the owner of PRAXIS Studio before selling to a larger company. Dean and his wife, Tricia, just had their third baby.

Living Arts College Students Wowed at Game Developer’s Conference
March 17th, 2010

Motion control and social gaming were the hot topics at GDC, the annual convention for game designers, programmers and creatives.

The Game Developer’s Conference is the place to be and Living Arts College students and faculty were there to “rub elbows” with the industry leaders.

Sony shook up the conference with a splashy introduction of the PlayStation Move. Watch out Nintendo… this will rival the Wii.

The biggest buzz was reserved for social gaming, a form of easy-to-play online multiplayer games. The success of “Farmville” and “Mafia Wars” is amazing. LAC students Holly Rowland, Michael Grant, Alexa Riley and Alex Loeffler checked out “Power Gig.” The upcoming guitar game was introduced in a mocked-up living room populated with hipsters rocking out to “Power Gig.”

“Civilization” and “Railroad Tycoon” designer Sid Meier delivered a keynote speech to hundreds of onlookers on the psychology of game design. Meier is the Director of Creative Development at Firaxis Games.

The students who attended had these things to say:

“GDC was a terrific experience and it was very exciting to meet so many industry professionals.” Holly Rowland

“It was big, it was long, very educational……definitely a learning experience.” Alexa Riley

“It was a great opportunity to get a ton of insight in the industry.” Michael Grant

“GDC was a very good opportunity to meet and network with industry professionals.” Patrick VanNortwick

“It was a great networking opportunity.” Alex Loeffler

College Director Networking for Success in Placement at GDC
March 17th, 2010

Learning Arts College @ School of Communication Arts has a long association with industry leaders in animation, game design, film and audio. Assisting graduates to move into top positions in these industries is accomplished by the graduate using their unique skill sets gained at the College.

The College’s “secret weapon” is the Campus Director’s networking with colleagues that she has known for over 25 years. “Networking is my sole reason for attending Game Developer’s Conference” states College Director Debra Ann Hooper. I can shake hands with leaders from Blizzard, Lucas Arts, Epic, Ubisoft, Insomniac Games, Naughty Dog, Disney Interactive Media Group and Crytek Gmbh, all under the same roof.

“My goal is to be able to text, email, or phone an industry contact when I have a talented graduate that I know has the skill set needed for their company,” reports Ms. Hooper.

Thinking “Out of the Box” – Suzanne Meiler
February 18th, 2010

January 28, 2010 – Raleigh – Suzanne Meiler, guest speaker and former Alumni of Living Arts College, presented an “Out of Box” discussion on how to make it as a professional in the game industry. Meiler comes from an extensive background in environmental modeling having over 10 years experience in the game industry working for conglomerates such as Random Games, Red Storm Entertainment, Destineer/Atomic Games and most recently with Vaco as a Director of Design and Gaming recruiting top industry professionals. She has focused on managing a large team, hiring, scheduling, performing art critiques, and producing documentation.

“Don’t be a Jack of all trades and master of none.” – Suzanne Meiler

Working in either motion pictures or the game industry requires practice by exploring your art skills, whether it is traditional painting, life or architectural drawing. Whatever it takes to improve your skill set to be prepared in your field, just do it! Focus on one specific genre and explore texture, lighting and prop layouts. What is most important is that you stand out and have the work to prove it! Think out of the box by making your own iPhone application or work with other students to design a game.

“Don’t burn bridges.” – Suzanne Meiler

Wherever you work, keep good ties with former supervisors and colleagues. Forming working relationships can help build your experience in the workplace and open up other opportunities down the road.

When developing your portfolio what message are you sending to potential employers?

Below is Suzanne’s Checklist on Portfolio Basics

  1. If you are an environment artist, have examples on your website. A CD/DVD is nice, but having a website is more important.
  2. Make sure when building your website you have a clean header, it is easy on the eye and your work speaks for itself.
  3. Attach your demo reel on your website link, NOT your blog.
  4. Create a menu that is easy to navigate.
  5. Present a variety of skills with a focus.
  6. Design your website using media other than Flash. Industry professionals can view websites on their iPhone and it will not upload if the website is designed in Flash.
  7. Separate your personal blog from your professional website.

Networking can increase your chances of finding a job by joining organizations such as IFFA, Game Initiative, GDC and E3. Facebook, LinkedIn and other industry related social media websites have also had a great impact in the digital media world.

“Preparing a resume, building a portfolio and networking are top priorities to land a job in the industry.” says Meiler. Writing a resume is not always easy, so take a step back and think about what you want, do research on potential employers and write a resume that sells.

When applying for jobs, send an email or apply online, create a cover letter which is brief and to the point, research information about the company and read the job postings carefully. Write a list of questions an employer would ask and be prepared to ask questions regarding the position. And last but not least, follow up with the employer with a thank you letter.

“Suzanne was spot on. She cares about this industry and she cares about our students. Suzanne said exactly what the students needed to hear. It showed through her presentation. She illustrated her points accurately and eloquently using her experience in the industry and her position now as a recruiter. “ – Kwame Hawkins

Meiler provided students a glimpse of what to expect in the world of animation in the game industry and ended the discussion with questions from the students. She is most notable for the environment designs on AAA titles such as the Ghost Recon series, Rainbow Six, and Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2. At Atomic she worked on the highly anticipated and controversial game Six Days in Fallujah.

Debra A Hooper
Vice President/Director
School of Communication Arts
@ Digital Circus

Red Storm Art Director & Living Arts College Alumni Relentless Pursuit of Perfection
September 2nd, 2009

Do you ever wonder how the environments in many video games look so authentic?

Living Arts College alumni, Peter Sekula shared with students how his position as Art Director for Red Storm’s game “Bio Shock” created the very realistic environments. Pete found himself in the jungles of Costa Rica. He had to take in every detail and put a team together to design an environment for “Bio Shock”. Pete said, “As an animator, you always have to think, life is a mirror to an immersive experience. How are we going to get characters to imitate life and how are we going to animate them?”

“Companies are searching for animation talent that is awesome at their craft and their portfolio showcases their talent. A good portfolio must focus on believable movements”, reports Pete. As an Art Director at Red Storm Entertainment, Pete is responsible for hiring new talent. Musts for the “killer” portfolio!

  1. Full body human movement.
  2. Research the company. Be open-minded to new technologies.
  3. Have “game ready stuff” to show.
  4. Have a wire frame to show and how it was rigged and imported.
  5. Understand the entry-level game position and how team-building ramps up in the performance of a game.
  6. Learn the rules of production and expect to execute the rules.

It takes a team of people to develop a game at Red Storm Entertainment. The Art Director steers the ship (the game) from one phase to the next. It always takes one more layer to achieve where you really want to go with the game. “It takes a group of interactive minds to come up with one theme and run with it.” states Sekula. Visuals are very important to emersion in a story, so pictures have to draw in the gamer.


Debra A Hooper
Vice President/Director
School of Communication Arts
@ Digital Circus

Debra Hooper visits GDC 2009
April 20th, 2009

School Director, Debra Ann Hooper just returned from Game Developers Conference which has been voted the most important event on the busy industry calendar. She was accompanied by professors, Ben Forman and Rich Ponte along with 15 students.

“The camaraderie and celebration of this industry floods the convention center over the course of five days. It’s inspirational and hard to pass up,” Debra commented.

For me the week of GDC feels like a family reunion,” Debra said.

The annual Game Developer’s Conference isn’t about pomp and circumstance–it’s about people banding together once a year and attempting to fit all their oversize brains into a single convention center. They sit on panels discussing distributed gaming possibilities, cloud computing, game physics…and, they occasionally stumble upon a booth that has Rock Band blaring or Street Fighters fighting.

The Internet buzzed this week with the announcement of OnLive–the scene-stealer at this year’s show. In a nutshell, it’s a streaming video game service in which the data centers on the back end host the entire game. You can play on everthing from your desktop PC or MacBook to a tiny thin-client “MicroConsole” that attaches to your TV.

What I found fascinating about the upcoming Dexter mobile game isn’t the fact that it’s based on the popular serial-killer TV series. Or the fact that it has a devious collection of minigames, such as analyzing blood splatter patterns or moving the iPhone back and forth in your hand like a hacksaw to…cut…things. I’m psyched by the fact that Icarus Studios, the company behind the project, has adapted its engine for an MMO to work on an iPhone. Icarus Studios is based in Raleigh.

Fans of the prizefighting classic don’t have much longer to wait until Punch-Out comes to the Wii (mid-May).

Debra A Hooper
Vice President/Director
School of Communication Arts
@ Digital Circus