Animation

Master of Fine Arts
MFA in Animation

This two-year program in Animation offers a curriculum that emphasizes digital technology skill sets required to express creative ideas. The program explores digital animation as a form of visual expression and it is designed as a practiced-based and process-oriented program to prepare students to work as independent artists or for a commercial studio. Professional skills and an understanding of the industry in Europe and the United States is an integral part of the program. Students can also elect to take classes to prepare them to become teaching professionals. The program offers a unique blend of studio practice, and theoretical and art historical training in the European and French contexts.

The Last Delivery

Sarah Maxwell

Halloween Bat

Xenia Rybina

Why study animation in Paris?

Historically, animation was born in France with Emile Reynaud doing his first screenings at the Musée Grevin a few years before the invention of cinema. With Emile Cohl, another pioneer in animation, it became an art form known as Fantasmagories, leading the way for European and French animators to create in their own distinctive style, which is very different from the dominant animation productions in the United States and Japan, the other two countries with a rich and vibrant animation industry.  Students who pursue the program at Paris College of Art will benefit from the rich animation offerings in France, including the annual International Animated Film festival in Annecy, and have opportunities for connection-building thanks to PCA’s ties to the industry. The 2-year MFA in Animation draws from the expertise of international faculty members in the fields of animation creation, production and distribution, and the Paris College of Art network of animation production companies. French companies Les Armateurs, with 5 Oscar nominations for animations such as Les Triplettes de Belleville, and Folimage are part of the Hildegarde group, chaired by the President of Paris College of Art, and will provide internship possibilities and first-hand exposure to the industry.

Who is this program for?

Students with an undergraduate background in animation, computer graphics, drawing or film/video and demonstrated technical skills (drawing, digital tools such as Photoshop and Adobe After-Effects) will be considered for admission. The program combines technical knowledge and principles of animation and theory. Studio classes and workshops conducted by professionals emphasize the mastery of contemporary techniques and professional practices, while theory-based and methodology courses help students develop their personal creative visions. Thanks to internships and ongoing partnerships between PCA and relevant French institutions, students will be well prepared to enter the job market and will have started to create a professional network by the time they graduate.

MFA Curriculum

Credits

Year One

fall

Animation Fundamentals

Description

This course will cover the basic concepts of 3D modeling and animation as it pertains to visual effects. Fluids, particles, cloth, hair, fur, and soft/ rigid bodies will be introduced in a production setting. Students will use these elements for their portfolio projects.

Drawing for Animation

Description

Students will perfect their drawing skills, with weekly assignments for drawing animals, humans, environments, and perspective, followed by critiques. Students learn to create drawings that fulfill the animation production needs for TV, feature, games, and storyboarding. Emphasis is placed on design flexibility, sequential drawing for animated performance, line-of-action, and volume control utilizing a variety of styles. Students will maintain a sketchbook throughout the semester and are encouraged to develop their own style alongside the ability to draw « in the style of ».

Digital Lab I: 3D Modeling

Description

Using Autodesk Maya, this course teaches the tools of 3D modeling and animation. Students will build a solid foundation in the use of 3D software, and gain knowledge of file management, the operating system environment and production practices. Modeling, animation, lighting, texture mapping and rendering are introduced.

Introduction to Research & Methodology

Description

The course provides introductory-to-advanced-level research and methodology instruction, covering topics from art and design theory to the use of technology. This course focuses in depth on various research methods currently used to inform the design process. It builds on knowledge and skills acquired in the first semester to introduce students to specific research methods for designers and artists. The course will cover research in physical human factors; human cognitive factors; cultural human factors; and ethnographic fieldwork. Students will learn how to apply these methods to the design process through hands-on projects requiring a multidisciplinary approach.

In this section, students will be introduced to the basic tenets of research in order to support their reasoning with respect to the design process. Foremost, they will learn to formulate a design research problematic; engage in data gathering and analysis; differentiate between primary and secondary research sources; carry out quantitative and qualitative research.

Contemporary Issues and History of Animation

Description

This course focuses on the diversity of animation aesthetics, from industrial processes to individual personal expression. Screenings include a wide range of commercial and experimental work produced throughout the world, examining historical contexts and methods as well as contemporary trends and techniques. Oral and written critique is supported by practical investigation into personal aesthetic choice.

spring

3D Character Animation

Description

Students explore the principles of animation to develop an understanding of the physics of character motion utilizing both traditional and computer-generated techniques. Students learn to analyze action and demonstrate weight and timing and also explore advanced texturing techniques, including use of hair and fur, to create realistic and stylized surfaces appropriate for animated characters in context.

Storytelling and Storyboarding

Description

This course examines a number of approaches for adaptation of story content to cinematic form, examining the styles of many films and aesthetic problem-solving particular to animation. Students learn how to transpose ideas through 2-D storyboards and animatics to 3-D asset creation for pre-visualized story reels, emphasizing deadlines, techniques and alternative methods to communicate ideas.

Digital Lab II: Lighting and Texture

Description

This course emphasizes the application of industry-standard practices to create believable lighting and texture for animation environments. The course covers advanced topics in set creation, design and modeling with an emphasis on reference-based structures as applied to predetermined content requirements.

Intermediate Research & Methodology

Description

The course provides introductory-to-advanced-level research and methodology instruction, covering topics from art and design theory to the use of technology. This course focuses in depth on various research methods currently used to inform the design process. It builds on knowledge and skills acquired in the first semester to introduce students to specific research methods for designers and artists. The course will cover research in physical human factors; human cognitive factors; cultural human factors; and ethnographic fieldwork. Students will learn how to apply these methods to the design process through hands-on projects requiring a multidisciplinary approach.

Elective

Description

The following are specifically recommended for students in the proposed MFA but students may select electives from any graduate program at PCA

French 1-4
Students take a placement test to be placed into one of three levels of French language: introductory, intermediate and advanced. The fourth and most advanced level is a liberal studies course in French. Classes meet twice a week and propose a combination of written and oral exercises designed to strengthen vocabulary, grammar, written and oral expression. These language courses use dialogues, oral and written exercises, short compositions, and literary texts to establish a firm foundation in the language. Students approach everyday life situations in French, while learning the fundamentals of grammar and the complexity of conversation and the written word. The intermediate and advanced courses serve as a more sophisticated introduction to French culture and lifestyle, and as a means of consolidating grammar and vocabulary.

Intellectual Property Rights
The I.P. course covers issues related to copyright, patents, contracts and liabilities as they apply to art and design. Students will learn about international laws related to copyright and patents and learn how to protect their intellectual property and the best strategies to adopt in different circumstances.

Professional Practice Workshop Series
Professionals from the Parisian art world will come in to introduce students to their professional practice and engage them in practical exercises preparing them for the job market. This workshop series will look at both the business and practical side of the photographic industry and the importance of understanding today’s driven society. Instructors will be drawn from a broad range of fields: photographers and videographers; galleries, museums, auction houses and private collections; art fairs and international exhibitions; art dealers; curators; historians; journalists and iconographers; artists; etc.

Educational principles in art education
This course will allow students to think about and develop some principles of, and approaches to, teaching, learning, and creating appropriate classroom environments for teaching art and design. They will engage in planning and teaching in different curricular and learning environments.  Students will identify the role of diversity and culture in learning, as well of the role of the teacher as decision-maker and facilitator of learning. Additionally, this course provides an introduction to approaches to integration, alternative approaches to managing classroom environments and specific approaches to dealing with students’ behavior. Assessment procedures and how to provide appropriate feedback on performance, competence and knowledge are also introduced in this seminar.

Business of animation
This course will familiarize students with the animation industry in Europe and the United States. Students will learn how to market their skills and their films by creating personalized portfolios, reels, résumés and mailers. Guest lecturers from the industry will discuss the exciting opportunities in the field of animation.

Year Two

fall

Digital Lab III: Sound for Animation

Description

This project-based course covers the basic design principles and production techniques used in producing sound for animation. Students will explore the historical roots of sound and music for animation through screenings, case studies, and assigned readings and develop the skills necessary to create a variety of sound elements: music, sound effects, and vocal elements.

Degree Project I: Preproduction

Description

This two-semester course takes students through the full production cycle, from idea generation to finished product. After developing their concept, students begin making the visual portion of their thesis with animation tests, character designs, storyboards, and animatics. They complete it with sounds, titles and other postproduction requirements. Emphasis will be on students executing, understanding and discussing quality work, succesful composition, productive conceptualization, application of technical skill and creative problem solving.

Advanced Research & Methodology

Description

The course provides introductory-to-advanced-level research and methodology instruction, covering topics from art and design theory to the use of technology. This course focuses in depth on various research methods currently used to inform the design process. It builds on knowledge and skills acquired in the first semester to introduce students to specific research methods for designers and artists. The course will cover research in physical human factors; human cognitive factors; cultural human factors; and ethnographic fieldwork. Students will learn how to apply these methods to the design process through hands-on projects requiring a multidisciplinary approach.

In this section, students are encouraged to investigative their practice with an emphasis on the materials and approaches of the student’s field of study. Advanced Research Methodology involves the student developing and expanding on their arts or design practical work, where knowledge of materials, techniques, processes, and methods in relation to context play a key role. Students are also prepared for a skilled professional role and/or research studies within the various main fields of study.

Elective

Description

The following are specifically recommended for students in the proposed MFA but students may select electives from any graduate program at PCA

French 1-4
Students take a placement test to be placed into one of three levels of French language: introductory, intermediate and advanced. The fourth and most advanced level is a liberal studies course in French. Classes meet twice a week and propose a combination of written and oral exercises designed to strengthen vocabulary, grammar, written and oral expression. These language courses use dialogues, oral and written exercises, short compositions, and literary texts to establish a firm foundation in the language. Students approach everyday life situations in French, while learning the fundamentals of grammar and the complexity of conversation and the written word. The intermediate and advanced courses serve as a more sophisticated introduction to French culture and lifestyle, and as a means of consolidating grammar and vocabulary.

Intellectual Property Rights
The I.P. course covers issues related to copyright, patents, contracts and liabilities as they apply to art and design. Students will learn about international laws related to copyright and patents and learn how to protect their intellectual property and the best strategies to adopt in different circumstances.

Professional Practice Workshop Series
Professionals from the Parisian art world will come in to introduce students to their professional practice and engage them in practical exercises preparing them for the job market. This workshop series will look at both the business and practical side of the photographic industry and the importance of understanding today’s driven society. Instructors will be drawn from a broad range of fields: photographers and videographers; galleries, museums, auction houses and private collections; art fairs and international exhibitions; art dealers; curators; historians; journalists and iconographers; artists; etc.

Educational principles in art education
This course will allow students to think about and develop some principles of, and approaches to, teaching, learning, and creating appropriate classroom environments for teaching art and design. They will engage in planning and teaching in different curricular and learning environments.  Students will identify the role of diversity and culture in learning, as well of the role of the teacher as decision-maker and facilitator of learning. Additionally, this course provides an introduction to approaches to integration, alternative approaches to managing classroom environments and specific approaches to dealing with students’ behavior. Assessment procedures and how to provide appropriate feedback on performance, competence and knowledge are also introduced in this seminar.

Business of animation
This course will familiarize students with the animation industry in Europe and the United States. Students will learn how to market their skills and their films by creating personalized portfolios, reels, résumés and mailers. Guest lecturers from the industry will discuss the exciting opportunities in the field of animation.

spring

Digital Lab IV: Special Effects

Description

In this course students are introduced to the main software programs and techniques used for special effects.

Degree Project II: Production and Postproduction

Description

This two-semester course takes students through the full production cycle, from idea generation to finished product. After developing their concept, students begin making the visual portion of their thesis with animation tests, character designs, storyboards, and animatics. They complete it with sounds, titles and other postproduction requirements. Emphasis will be on students executing, understanding and discussing quality work, succesful composition, productive conceptualization, application of technical skill and creative problem solving.

MFA Thesis

Description

Building on the research, critical thinking and writing skills developed in the first three semesters of the seminar, in the final semester, each student will be responsible for the production of a 40 to-60 page thesis paper and the corresponding body of work, culminating in a public exhibition or conference. For their final paper, each student will be responsible for identifying an urgent, critical or current problematic, that may stand independently of the student’s studio practice. Rigorously researched and constructed, this paper will provide the platform for ongoing lines of investigation. Students should be versed in the critical voices and issues surrounding their own practice and develop the communication and research skills necessary to assert their own critical voice in regards to their evolving practice. Faculty and guest lectures will guide each student to a reading list appropriate to their research and final exhibition. For their final exhibition, the students will focus on creating a body of work and build a portfolio based on their artistic research, documenting the process and their different projects. This is done under the guidance and support of an internal and external thesis committee.

Elective

Description

The following are specifically recommended for students in the proposed MFA but students may select electives from any graduate program at PCA

French 1-4
Students take a placement test to be placed into one of three levels of French language: introductory, intermediate and advanced. The fourth and most advanced level is a liberal studies course in French. Classes meet twice a week and propose a combination of written and oral exercises designed to strengthen vocabulary, grammar, written and oral expression. These language courses use dialogues, oral and written exercises, short compositions, and literary texts to establish a firm foundation in the language. Students approach everyday life situations in French, while learning the fundamentals of grammar and the complexity of conversation and the written word. The intermediate and advanced courses serve as a more sophisticated introduction to French culture and lifestyle, and as a means of consolidating grammar and vocabulary.

Intellectual Property Rights
The I.P. course covers issues related to copyright, patents, contracts and liabilities as they apply to art and design. Students will learn about international laws related to copyright and patents and learn how to protect their intellectual property and the best strategies to adopt in different circumstances.

Professional Practice Workshop Series
Professionals from the Parisian art world will come in to introduce students to their professional practice and engage them in practical exercises preparing them for the job market. This workshop series will look at both the business and practical side of the photographic industry and the importance of understanding today’s driven society. Instructors will be drawn from a broad range of fields: photographers and videographers; galleries, museums, auction houses and private collections; art fairs and international exhibitions; art dealers; curators; historians; journalists and iconographers; artists; etc.

Educational principles in art education
This course will allow students to think about and develop some principles of, and approaches to, teaching, learning, and creating appropriate classroom environments for teaching art and design. They will engage in planning and teaching in different curricular and learning environments.  Students will identify the role of diversity and culture in learning, as well of the role of the teacher as decision-maker and facilitator of learning. Additionally, this course provides an introduction to approaches to integration, alternative approaches to managing classroom environments and specific approaches to dealing with students’ behavior. Assessment procedures and how to provide appropriate feedback on performance, competence and knowledge are also introduced in this seminar.

Business of animation
This course will familiarize students with the animation industry in Europe and the United States. Students will learn how to market their skills and their films by creating personalized portfolios, reels, résumés and mailers. Guest lecturers from the industry will discuss the exciting opportunities in the field of animation.

Overall Credits Total
60

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know that this program is right for you?

  • You are passionate about animation and want to make it your profession
  • You are open to different cultural approaches and aesthetics to animation
  • You want a hand-on experience that will prepare you to enter the professional world
  • You are intellectually curious and want to forge an international network

How cutting edge is this program in comparison to similar programs?

It is hand-on and taught by industry professionals, while respecting the academic rigors of an internationally recognized university degree.

What are the prerequisites?

  • A Bachelor’s degree or equivalent.
  • Ability to draw in different styles
  • Basic understanding of animation
  • Sociologists who want to design for social change;
  • Programmers and engineers who want to develop their creativity and apply their skills in creative projects;
  • Philosophy majors who want to address issues through group action;
  • Business/Management students who want to work in technology;

What can I do with a MFA in Animation? 

  • Students are expected to gain the professional skills and network necessary to join a commercial or more independent studio
  • Students will graduate with at least one short animation in their portfolio

Are there other graduate students at PCA?

PCA offers several graduate programs and all graduate students share elective courses, so there is an opportunity for interaction across disciplines both inside and outside the classroom.

Why are academic writing samples an essential element to join the program?

Writing is an essential academic skill across all our graduate programs; one of our requirements for graduation is to write a thesis that shows that students can work independently according to a scholarly method. Submission of writing samples as part of the application for admission allows us to evaluate the candidate’s research, writing, and analytical skills, as well as the capacity to undertake the development of the written thesis project. For this specific MFA a script is a suitable writing example.