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Students collaborating at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Commencement Keynote Speaker Announced

31 May 2011

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh proudly welcomes Jim Martin as keynote speaker for our commencement ceremony on Friday, June 17, 2011 at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland. Below, you can read about Mr. Martin’s extensive experience and career achievements. Join us in welcoming Mr. Martin for our Portfolio Review and Commencement Ceremony.

Jim Martin is a professional with talent and experience in the areas of producing, writing, puppet performance and directing. Whether giving Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Leonardo his facial expressions in the movies, bringing various Muppet characters to life on Sesame Street, or delighting children of all ages with live performances of his own puppet company Pupplets, Jim Martin’s credentials have been growing for more than twenty years.

Mr. Martin earned his Bachelor’s degree in Directing and Acting from Point Park College in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Through his role of puppet performer on The Puzzle Place, he got his first opportunity to direct a television episode. This achievement led to Jim’s enrollment in the prestigious Director’s Guild of America. Since The Puzzle Place, Jim has gone on to direct episodes of Sesame Street, Elmo’s World, Bear in the Big Blue House, and Between the Lions. On Sesame Street, Mr. Martin is the only Director who is also a Muppeteer and in 2002 he received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Direction in a Children’s Series for his work on the show.

Jim also served as Director, Associate Producer, and Lead Puppet Performer of The Puzzle Place, a daily national PBS series teaching multiculturalism, diversity and social skills. As Associate Producer, he supervised the 8 member performing group, acted as script consultant, coordinated stage direction, and also filled the duties of a principal puppet performer in the role of “Chief Piece Police” and “Ben”.

Jim has also worked on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Muppets Take Manhattan, The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson, and The Muppets’ 3-D Movie at Walt Disney World.

Guest Speaker Recap: Bruno Velazquez Part Three

26 May 2011

By Guest Blogger
Bethany Crowley

Student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division
IGDA (International Game Developers Association) Member


Arnold asks Velazquez about his take on the importance of a degree, certificate or training in the industry. Velazquez responds that there are several people he has met over the years that did not have any degree who were able to get in. "As the industry has become more popular," he notes, "it's gotten a lot harder to get your foot in the door. But I think that if you get to know what it takes to make a game and you decided which area you want to focus on, that will definitely help." So will a degree, he claims. "Learn all about what position you want and what you want to get into." Because this is such a specialized industry, it is crucial to know your strengths and become skilled in that area. Then you will be able to prove it to a potential employer.

As Velazquez goes on to say that personal projects are available to him, "it's just a matter of me actually doing it," he laughs. "Especially after working, I still have enough energy and passion to work on being a better animator and drawer." Keeping the whole team motivated and up to date on their own skills and inspirations gets a bit adventurous, however. "The number one thing we like to do here is set up figure drawing classes. It's a way for us to keep up with our drawing skills, and just to have that available is helpful. Playing games is another way of getting our skills up. You figure out why they're fun, why they're not fun. We also watch movies, a lot of Japanese animations which keeps us pumped up." Velazquez says that personal fun is important to growth as artists and developers. "It's so important."

"Any demo reel tips or advice you can share with our students, Bruno?" Arnold asks. The question had been looming for awhile. "Oh of course - I can really only talk about it from an animator's perspective, but what I like to see is creativity, definitely." Velazquez mentions that we all probably know the usual submission requirements of a walking and running cycle in animations. "But I'd rather see them being incorporated into a scene rather than just simple walking and running cycles on their own. Show me a guy running and then coming to a stop. Show me a little story that incorporates that idea - I'm not saying everyone has to create a short film, but maybe a small scene that shows camera movement and personality. Just have fun with it and show me your creativity." Velazquez goes on to say that he would really only want to see students' best stuff. "I'd rather see a short demo reel with nothing but good stuff then a longer one with a bunch of really bad stuff," he laughs.

"And how much does fan feedback affect the evolution of a series or characters and game play?" Arnold wonders. "Oh, I think it's very important actually. A lot of us like to go on blogs and read comments after the game has come out. We take it apart and really read into what people have to say," Velazquez claims. "This is so that hopefully we'll get another chance to change something in the next game or something." Velazquez opens up about Kratos's weapon choices in the series. "This happened with Kratos's new weapons; we tried to do our best with those weapons and people seemed to like to go back to the chains. We realized that people really liked that about Kratos, as it was a part of his character, and so we tried to incorporate that into God of War III for fans who liked that aspect about him."

"Bruno, what's the best piece of criticism you've received about your work and what does it mean to you now?" Arnold asks. Velazquez thinks aloud until finally stating that, "as an animator, one of the best compliments is when someone doesn't notice anything about the animation.." He laughs and goes on to say, "I mean when someone doesn't say anything negative about it. If something moves in an unnatural way, it stands out like a sore thumb. I mean silence is golden because if it's right, the animation just feels natural - animation is about making movements feel natural, people don't question it when you get it right." They just enjoy it.

Velazquez talks about how important he thinks hand drawing skills are to an animator. "Because I came from an artistic background, it's certainly very helpful. I don't think it's a must though, to know how to draw, as long as you understand the principles of animation." He recommends taking some figure drawing classes to help with developing and brushing up on skills. "It helps train your eye to see how the body works, how weight is distributed, how feet stand on the ground."

As Arnold and Velazquez agree to bring the presentation to a close, I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have attended such an event. One part of the earlier conversation echoes throughout my mind as we all say our goodbyes. What motivates Velazquez day to day, exactly? "It helps when a project is successful," he laughs. "Lesser known ones helped along the way, of course, but if you enjoy it it's great." Velazquez went on to say that the cycles in a production can take several years, so motivation is important. Keeping the focus drives the team along and, as is quite evident, he enjoys animation, "so it is always helpful and inspiring to learn each day, work on what I love each day." There will always be a need for animators, he claims. "As the industry moves forward, it's important to have animators with those core skills, so there will always be a need."

In wrapping up, Arnold asks is Velazquez has anything else he would like to share with all of us. As he thanks everyone for their time, Velazquez admits that he is honored to be the first guest for the Guest Speaker series. And I cannot help but feel the subtle chill of excitement that creeps up my spine as he ends in saying, "This has been great. And I look forward to possibly getting to work with some of you guys in the future!"

Many thanks are owed to Bruno Velazquez for his unparalled time, presentations, insights, and thoughtfullness while working with our IGDA Guest Speaker Coordinators, Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division faculty and staff, and the students of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division.


Want to watch the recording of this presentation? Check it out on our Featured Events page!

Guest Speaker Recap: Bruno Velazquez Part Two

23 May 2011

By Guest Blogger
Bethany Crowley

Student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division
IGDA (International Game Developers Association) Member


Velazquez continues by explaining that flexibility and adaptability are crucial to the game design and development processes. For him, the core skills in animation and drawing that he nourished over time proved essential when ported to the 3D realm of animation and design. Velazquez explains that in order to pull some weight around the artistic zones of the game design and animation fields, artists should be knowledgeable about timing, sense of weight, strong poses, and interesting silhouettes, all of which are equally important concepts and techniques in 2 and 3D animation. Arnold asks if teamwork inside a development studio is truly essential or if departments can work separate from each other. If we can picture the game development studio as a puzzle, says Velazquez, we can envision certain departments as pieces to that puzzle. "Think of departments as teams. We work as teams and communicate through teams too." Teams work together to create the whole and bigger picture, often pairing up and working side by side. Velazquez says that animators and designers in Santa Monica Studio often work with one or two characters from beginning to end. In order to ensure consistency with each other and every character in their games, this is the method that works.

As Velazquez presents the presentation he has prepared for the event, I am blown away by the sheer devotion he has shown us so far. Bruno Velazquez has been noted as one of the most community friendly figures in the industry, and it is not hard to see why. By showing us the animation process, he is eager to point out key elements of animating characters. Velazquez presents his take on important processes of animating characters from the concept stage, creating exciting contact sensitive moves for in-game play, keeping main character Kratos consistent throughout the game, and understanding the balance between game play and animation.

As Velazquez gives us an overview of what that means, using the Chimera character as an example, he delights us by showing early concepts of the character. He explains which concepts work and which do not in order to see how simple or difficult it would be to animate the complex character. Velazquez demonstrates the scale image of the Chimera next to Kratos, identifying potential rigging issues in animations. For Velazquez, concept art serves as initial inspiration in momentum and creativity for continuing with projects.

As a general rule of thumb for Velazquez and the animation team at Santa Monica Studio, animators' main aim is to keep characters consistent throughout game play. Velazquez notes key points in keeping main avatar Kratos as consistent as possible. Animators had to follow simple trait elements when Kratos was being developed - he is always grim and angry, we never see him smile or joke, he never falls on his back until he dies, and he must always have forward movement. Velazquez claims that because Kratos is a very direct character, he must always have forward momentum. In order to make sure players experience the ultimate from Kratos, every animator at Santa Monica Studio had to learn how to animate the character, but these rules were well applied beyond the animation department. From scene to scene, Kratos had to remain consistent. The Santa Monica Team certainly had their work cut out for them, yet they triumphed in creating a memorable character we all were able to get swept away with.

As our facilitator, Arnold closes the fabulous event with a quick Q&A section, the response erupts from the group chat. The first question is one that is often on the minds of animation students pursuing the career goal of being on a game development team. Just how important are programming skills to an animator's position? Velazquez's response claims that programming is not something animators need to know, usually. "It's something that could be...beneficial, if you know how to do some light scripting...or if you're familiar with other aspsects of Maya, some light rigging or modeling. Especially early on when you're breaking into the industry, it might be important to know a bit about that." Yet he says rigging and modeling are more important to animators' skill sets than programming.

Arnold asks Velazquez how big the teams are that he works with."We have about one hundred people in the Studio," he says. "Of course, we're not limited to that amount and depending on the needs of the project we're working on, contract positions open up. On God of War III, I think we had about one hundred and thirty to one hundred and forty people." Velazquez says that this is what he really likes about the game design industry - the chance for contracted positions to become permanent ones, one of the few careers to do so in this ever-changing world. "We were able to hang on to a few people after some projects ended, which really helped us out."

To be continued...

Are you an Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division student interested in writing for this blog? Check the Welcome Center in the Campus Common to find out how!

Guest Speaker Recap: Bruno Velazquez Part One

19 May 2011

By Guest Blogger
Bethany Crowley

Student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division
IGDA (International Game Developers Association) Member


The cell phone crackles a bit and I turn it in my hands, knowing that this is one phone call I don't want to drop. A few presenter voices are resounding in my ear, and, on my laptop's screen, I see their individual cursors' movements, as well as mine, scurrying about the Adobe Webinar space to ensure the best set up for our guest speaker. He's our first, and, fortunately for us, he seems exceptionally patient as he listens in on how to connect us to his own desktop, how to import the presentation files he's prepared for us, how to maneuver the online lobby. Finally, he speaks.

He is Bruno Velazquez, the Lead In-Game Animator at Sony Santa Monica Studios based in Santa Monica, California. Best known for the notable God of War II and III gaming hits, Velazquez is a well-known name amongst God of War enthusiasts and video game animation fans alike. He speaks calmly, taking the time to learn the presentation space and all his options. As Velazquez and the presenters get acquainted, the Group Chat is beginning to catch fire. Unable to call in just yet, the large group that continues to form grows restless, biting into topics that range from Super Bowl predictions to how the interview will work, until they finally ask - "Is Bruno here?"

Once it's time to allow guests to call in to hear the interview, there is an excited franzy; when everyone has been muted, other than Velazquez and the presenters, the presentation begins, but not without the anxious activity from the Group Chat. All is quiet and the maiden voyage of our first guest speaker presentation begins. Brian Arnold, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division's National Chapter of IGDA (The International Game Developer's Association) founder, leads the charge and dives in with "warm up" questions to get the ball rolling. I cannot help but grip my phone tightly, hanging on to Velazquez's every word as if my life depended on these very moments.

Velazquez explains that as the Lead In-Game Animator at Santa Monica Studio, he is responsible for overseeing every animation aspect of game play within a game. As easily as this title slips off the tongue, I'm not fooled and begin having a hard time imagining a person, such as myself, with such a weight on her shoulders. Prompted by Arnold, Velazquez goes on to say that he has always had a passion for arts and animation. Knowing he wanted to explore a career that combined these fields, Velazquez admits that his interests changed a bit while attending CalArts, and while most students relied on inspiration from major movie hits such as Disney's Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King, he realized that the ground-breaking visuals seen in the movies such as Disney/Pixar's Toy Story were the most likely to take off in future animating endeavors.

To Be Continued...

Are you an Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division student interested in writing for this blog? Check the Welcome Center in the Campus Common to find out how!


Finding the Best Online Degree Programs for Your Creative Career

17 May 2011

What are the best online degree programs for creative people?
Ah, creativity… it would seem as if there would be no lack of creativity in the world… yet, there is. Throughout history, those who create and share what they’ve created have been considered a special group, a group of people who see more, hear better and imagine what no one else can imagine.

Are you one of those creative people? If so, you carry within you a special gift - a gift given to few others - a gift to envision, create and share something that can strike a chord deep within others. You aren’t an ordinary person, one who works, sleeps and eats, with little vision and less imagination; you’re one who looks upon things not for what they are, but for what they can be.

Starting Your Creative Career
Preparing yourself for a creative career means learning the language of the medium you are going to create in. Sculpture has one language, while painting another, the language of video games is yet another, while photography has its own language as well. Creating in one of these languages means learning how to meld the language of that medium with the creativity that’s deep down in your soul.

Where does one find the best online degree program to learn how to make their creativity come out?

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division focuses on the language of creativity. This isn’t a general university for doctors, lawyers, accountants and engineers; it’s a school offering online degree programs for those who are born creative, an institution that teaches students like you how to apply creativity in a way that helps others to see, to hear, to feel.

Where does one find the best online degree programs for birthing their creative career? Here at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division, we surround you with other creative people, who share your passion for bringing creativity to life.

Career Options Possible with an Online Game Art and Design Degree

11 May 2011

Modern computer games have increased in complexity by leaps and bounds and continue to do so. The interface, graphics, textures, backgrounds, characters and technology that contribute to the creation of a living, breathing virtual world has grown to the point where the production of a modern 3D computer game requires the efforts of a large team of designers, programmers, testers, and sound engineers.

Studying for your online game art & design degree program is your entry ticket to this exciting world of game production. As a trained game designer, you will be ready to enter into a game design studio and specialize in designing part of the game, becoming part of the team.

Game design specialties include:

  • Concept/storyboard artist – Every video game revolves around a story. Creating the initial concept of the characters, scenes and storyline are the beginning of the process.
  • Character artist – In modern games, the characters have an incredible amount of detail from all angles, while attempting to create as lifelike a character as possible.
  • Texture designers – Just developing the textures for rocks, skin, water and armor requires an incredible insight into how light and color interact to become something that appears real.
  • Background artists – The scenery behind the characters has to become real to the gamer, changing with lighting, direction and action.

A game art & design degree will prepare you to become part of a game design team, but it is your innate talent and ability that will help you and your employer choose where you best fit into the team. Just as with a body, each member is essential, each fulfills a part, and each makes the whole into something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Teacher Appreciation Week is Almost Here

9 May 2011

Each Year, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division takes time to celebrate our faculty members with Teacher Appreciation Week. Students have the opportunity to contribute by answering the following question:

"Name an instructor at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division that has made you think about the world differently, and what that has meant to you."

From May 2nd through May 13th, students can share their thoughts in Connections, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division's exclusive social community. They can either post a video (which must be no more than three minutes in length) or write their response in Connections (which should be no more than 500 words).

Current students who wish to contribute should log in to the Campus Common and head to Connections to get started.

The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale Alumnus Wins Her 4th Pulitzer Prize

5 May 2011

Carol Guzy, an alumnus of The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, has won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in “Breaking News Photography.” This is Guzy’s 4th Pulitzer Prize win—she was previously honored twice with the Pulitzer Prize for “Spot News Photography” for her coverage of the military intervention in Haiti and a mudslide in Armero, Colombia. In addition, she’s won a Pulitzer Prize for “Feature Photography” for her work in Kosovo. She has been named Photographer of the Year three times by the National Press Photographers Association and eight times by the White House News Photographers Association.

Guzy is a 1980 graduate of The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. After graduation, she worked for the Miami Herald for eight years as a Staff Photographer before becoming a Staff Photographer for The Washington Post, where she has been employed since 1988.

How to Make Yourself Shine Online

2 May 2011

We’ve all heard stories about how employers Google the names of candidates they’re considering during the hiring process. Most people would agree that what you say and do online can work against you. In other words, if you’ve done or said something that you wouldn’t want a potential employer to see, don’t post it online.

But now, according to this article from, many of us have put ourselves at risk not of sharing too much, but sharing too little. While it will definitely work against you when an employer Googles your name and finds a picture of you acting the fool, what do you think happens when an employer Googles your name and doesn’t come up with any results at all? Obviously you exist, but why don’t you exist online? Not showing up can be every bit as detrimental as showing up in an unflattering light.

It may seem like it’s impossible to fix this situation. Some of the world’s biggest companies hire SEO firms to gain visibility in the natural search rankings. But you don’t have to go to such extremes. There are a few relatively simple ways you can boost your presence in a positive way.

Google Yourself! – This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t take this simple step. If you don’t know what conversations are happening about you online, it’s difficult to control them. If you find anything unflattering, take the necessary steps to stomp it out. Untag yourself in Facebook photos. Delete unfavorable comments.

Beef up Your LinkedIn Profile – LinkedIn is a great way to boost your credibility online. If you don’t have a profile yet, create one. If you have one but haven’t spent much time on it, there’s no time like the present. In addition to listing your employment history, you can join professional groups and list any special talents you have. The next time you Google yourself, there’s a good chance you profile will show up on top.

Contribute to the Conversation – You can use LinkedIn and other avenues to join groups related to your interests and professional affiliations. Contributing to conversations that take place there can help build your online presence. You might even consider starting your own blog, keeping in mind that anything you say has the potential to be viewed by the entire world.

When building your online presence, it’s safe to assume that the whole world could be watching. Luckily, you have it within your power to present yourself in the most flattering light possible.