Fall 2016

PROFESSOR: John Craig Freeman

  • EMAIL: john_craig_freeman @ emerson dot edu
  • PHONE: (617) 824-8862
  • OFFICE HOURS: Ansin 1111, MTW 11:00-11:50 am or by appointment


  • Sec 02, MW 12:00 – 1:45pm, 3DL Ansin 112
  • Sec 01, MW 2:00 – 3:45pm, 3DL Ansin 112

PREREQUISITE: VM101, and VM102, or VM 120


Blog: VM261 Blog


The first course of a two-course sequence, introducing students to the fundamentals of three-dimensional modeling and animation, and preparing them for the second course, VM 363 Advanced Computer Animation and VM 364 3D Computer Gaming. Students learn to model, texture objects, compose and light scenes, animate, and add dynamics, as well as to render their animations into movies and to composite movies, audio, titles, and credits in post-production. Students complete the course with an original portfolio-ready animation.

Class time is spent either in intensive instructional sessions, where we move through concepts as a group using hands-on examples; in discussion and critique; or in open lab production. Meanwhile, students complete a series of software training exercises outside of class as homework.

Students will complete two minor projects based on instruction, and software training. After mid-semester, students propose a final project. The proposals are presented to the class where we discuss them and make recommendations. Once the proposal has been approved, students will spend the remaining duration of the semester working on their final projects. The course culminates in the presentation and critique of all final projects during the scheduled exam time.


  • To develop students’ skills in three-dimensional modeling and animation
  • To introduce students to artists that shaped and continue to shape the field of computer animation
  • To assist students in further developing their visual literacy, critical thinking and communication skills
  • To guide students towards discovering fundamental pictorial and animation principles through a series of specific exercises
  • To apply these newly developed skills to express themselves creatively and critically


  • Attend every class meeting
  • Come to class prepared to work
  • Complete required software training
  • Complete all assigned reading and browsing
  • Complete and presentation two minor project
  • Propose, develop, and produce an original final project
  • Present final project during scheduled exam

Students are required to complete the following software training titles at

To Access Emerson College’s site license, follow the Emerson College IT Using instructions.



  • Portable hard drive. Minimum requirement is 40GB of storage space. 7200 (RPM) speed is preferable. Thumb/flash drives are not recommended for this course.


The final grade will be determined according to the following criteria based on the corresponding percentages.

  • Project One: 20%
  • Project Two: 20%
  • Software Training: 10%
  • Participation and Attendance: 10%
  • Final Project: 40%

Project grade based on the following three criteria:

  • Technical: Did the project achieve or exceed the technical requirements stated in the project assignment?
  • Conceptual: Does the work represent critical, creative and original thinking? Did it address and demonstrate understanding of the concepts being discussed in class?
  • Aesthetic: Does the work appeal to sensory or sensori-emotional values.


An Incomplete will only be issued if there are extenuating circumstances related to illness or critical personal emergency and only after administrative notice has been received.

Attendance and punctuality is required at all class meetings and will be reflected in the final grade. According to College policy, unexcused absences beyond five will result in a failing grade. Everyone must come to class prepared and engaged and everyone must participate in discussions and critiques. Your undivided attention is required during all discussions and critiques. No email, texting, web browsing or other computer work will be allowed during these times if it does not support the discussion at hand.

Students should be aware of the College policies regarding creative and academic dishonesty and the penalties for plagiarism and software piracy. While it is accepted that there may be occasion for stylistic or historical inspiration, influence and reference, the student will be asked to produce original work from ones own study and investigation.

If you have a disability that warrants accommodations in this course, please register with the Disability Service Coordinator at 216 Tremont Street, 5th Floor, (617) 824-8415.

Every student in this class will be honored and respected as an individual with distinct experiences, talents, and backgrounds. Students will be treated fairly regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identification, disability, socio-economic status, or national identity. Issues of diversity may be a part of class discussion, assigned material, and projects. The instructor will make every effort to ensure that an inclusive environment exists for all students. If you have any concerns or suggestions for improving the classroom climate, please do not hesitate to speak with the course instructor or to contact the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at 617-824-8528 or by email at

Safety is always a concern in any form of media production. Emerson College supports safety measures and requires safety training through seminars and the VMA Student Production Safety Manual, which is required reading for all students participating in any Emerson College field media production.

Students with questions or concerns should contact the Director of Production and Safety, Lenny Manzo at (617) 824-8126 or email

In case of a safety emergency, call the PRODUCTION SAFETY HOTLINE at (617) 939-1311.


Project One

Create a short animated movie based on the instructional sessions, and the software training. Build a 3D scene and add objects using primitive geometry and basic polygonal and NURBS modeling techniques. Texture the objects, light the scene and animate the camera for a short flythrough. Your understanding of concepts covered in class must be evident in the work.

The content of your project must come from direct experience, your memory and/or your dreams. You should be able to articulate the stories surrounding the features of the scene you choose to include, but avoid making the finished animation narrative for now.

Render the results and save it as a self contained QuickTime movie titled with the compression set to:

  • Video: H.264 Decoder, 1280 x 720, Millions
  • Audio: AAC, Stereo (L R), 44.100 kHz
  • FPS: 24
  • Data Rate: 10,000 kbits/s

The movie should be placed in the Assignments_In folder prior to the critique.

Projects that do not conform to these specifications or that are turned in late will result in a lower grade.

Project Two

Expand and animate the objects in your scene from Project One. Render a short movie and add audio, titles and credits in postproduction. Save it as a self contained QuickTime movie titled compressed with the settings above. The movie should be placed in a folder titled lastname_firstname and turned in at the Assignments_In folder prior to the critique.

Projects that do not conform to these specifications or that are turned in late will result in a lower grade.

Final Project

Propose, develop and complete an original, portfolio ready short animated movie. You will be evaluated based on the projects originality, expressive creativity, conceptual depth and technical expertise. It can be narrative or abstract but should be rich in interpretive possibility. You may choose to continue work on the content from Project One and Project Two, or you can develop an entirely new project. The content, however, must still be derived from lived experience. You are free to explore the narrative possibilities of your idea at this point.

Each student will present their final project during the scheduled final exam time. Late projects will not be accepted. Finished movies must be saved as a self contained QuickTime move titled All movies must include audio, titles and credits. The movie must be uploaded into the Assignments_In folder prior to the critique.


Subject to changes as necessary

Wednesday September 7, 2016

Monday September 12, 2016

  • Screening: Swiss Army Man, The Daniels, 7:00pm Bright Screening Room, Laundry, Daniel Kwan, 2009, Timmy & the Tiny Tigers, 2009
  • Questions: VM261 Syllabus
  • Subscribe: VM261 Computer Animation Blog
  • Courses Networked Server: Demo Files
  • Lesson 01: 3D Space
  • Assignment: Project One (see above)
  • Software Training: 2. Select and Manipulate Objects, Audit next class meeting

Wednesday September 14, 2016

Monday September 19, 2016, Guest Lecture Jason Wiser

  • Student Work: The Hut, Anastasia Kobrina (delayed until professor Freeman returns)
  • Lesson 03: Objects and Components
  • Software Training: 4. Create Polygonal Models

Wednesday September 21, 2016, Guest Lecture Anya Belkina

  • Due: Image Research (delayed until professor Freeman returns)
  • Presentations and Discussion: Image Research (delayed until professor Freeman returns)
  • Student Work: Fishing Pole and Reel, Daniel Barkus (delayed until professor Freeman returns)
  • Lesson 03: Objects and Components continued
  • Software Training: 5. Model Polygonal Meshes

Monday September 26, 2016, Guest Lecture Jason Wiser

  • Presentations and Discussion: Image Research, Critique continued (delayed until professor Freeman returns)
  • Lesson 04: Modeling
  • Software Training: 6. Refine Polygonal Meshes

Wednesday September 28, 2016

  • Professor Travel: Art Prospect Saint Petersburg
  • Wednesday: Open Lab: Come prepared to work on projects
  • Presentations and Discussion: Image Research, Critique continued
  • Lesson 04: Modeling continued
  • Software Training: 7. Sculpt Meshes

Monday October 3, 2016

  • Presentations and Discussion: Image Research, Critique continued
  • Student Work: The Hut, Anastasia Kobrina
  • Open Lab: Work on projects
  • Software Training: 8. NURBS Modeling Techniques

Wednesday October 5, 2016

Monday October 10, 2016

  • Columbus Day: no classes

Tuesday October 11, 2016 (Monday Schedule)

  • Student Work: The Adventures of Mr. Raspberry, Ross Norton
  • Lesson 06: Cameras and Lighting
  • Software Training: 10. Create Materials

Wednesday October 12, 2016

  • Lesson 07: Rendering and Movies
  • Software Training: 11. Apply Materials and Textures

Monday October 17, 2016

  • Professional Work: Mekarate, Hiroyasu Shimo, SIGGRAPH 2003 Animation Theatre Program
  • SIGGRAPH: Special Interest Group in Computer Graphics
  • Studio: Work on projects, Be prepared to hand in your project i.e into Assignments_In before next class meeting
  • Software Training: 12. Render in Maya

Wednesday October 19, 2016

  • Due: Project One
  • Critique: Project One
  • Assignment: Project Two (see above)
  • Software Training: 13. Animate in Maya

Monday October 24, 2016

  • Software Training: Audit Progress
  • Studio: Work on projects
  • Software Training: 14. Render in Mental Ray

Wednesday October 26, 2016

Monday October 31, 2016

  • Studio: Work on projects
  • Software Training: Advanced topics as needed

Wednesday November 2, 2016

Monday November 7, 2016

  • Project Two: Due Next Week
  • Studio: Work on projects
  • Software Training: Advanced topics as needed

Wednesday November 9, 2016

  • Due: Project Two
  • Critique: Project Two
  • Assignment Final: Final Project (see above)
  • Software Training: Advanced topics as needed

Monday November 14, 2016

Wednesday November 16, 2016

  • Lab Operations: Render Server
  • Studio: Work on projects
  • Software Training: Advanced topics as needed

Monday November 21, 2016

Wednesday November 23, 2016

  • Thanksgiving: no classes

Monday November 28, 2016

  • Studio: Work on projects
  • Software Training: Advanced topics as needed

Wednesday November 30, 2016

  • Studio: Work on projects
  • Software Training: Advanced topics as needed

Monday December 5, 2016

  • Studio: Work on projects
  • Software Training: Advanced topics as needed

Wednesday December 7, 2016

  • Studio: Work on projects

Monday December 12, 2016

  • Friday Schedule: no class

Wednesday December 14, 2016

  • Studio: Work on projects
  • Due: All late work must be turned in or it will not count on final grades

Monday December 19, 2016

  • Final Critique: All final projects due in Assignments_In before class begins

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