Electronic arts are booming at Concordia
by Véronique Jouhaud
As Hollywood and Montreal go digital, the electronic arts are finding their place in Concordias Faculty of Fine Arts, and the quality of the Web sites, CD-ROMs and 3-D animations by students, as seen at last months e_@rts exhibition, promises a bright future for Concordias electronic artists.
E_@rts was the first major display by students enrolled in two new programs, Digital Image/Sound and the Fine Arts, and Digital Film Animation.
"I was impressed," said Design Art Professor Greg Garvey, who was the first coordinator of Digital Image/Sound. "Its remarkable how quickly students are adapting to the new technology. As the University establishes a technological infrastructure, students are able to run with it to do quite exciting things that were unthinkable a few years ago."
About 25 first- and second-year students exhibited their electronic arts in the VAV Gallery. Visitors could access their work from 10 computers and admire stills taken from 3-D animation films.
Digital film animations ranged from the cartoon to the abstract, with themes such as "biomorphic creatures in surrealist landcape" and "morphing of a liquid vessel in a still life." In the 50-second Motownstar animation by second-year student Joshua Lee, a 3-D character with strikingly human facial expressions rode a huge imaginary insect.
Digital Image/Sound students exhibited Web sites and CD-ROM productions. Leoquat Ali, a second-year student minoring in the program, produced a virtual museum. Classmate Paul Ortchanian created a Web site offering games, animation and information on a 2-D television character.
According to Garvey, "If a Web site is done artistically, you will visit it. A successful Web site draws you in, captivates you through its interactions. Companies are realizing that it is not enough to have someone who can write strong computer programs, you need to have someone with a sense of aesthetics and design."
The Digital Image/Sound program, a two-year-old program shared by Computer Science and the Fine Arts, provides students with knowledge and understanding of digital media concepts, as well as authoring and scripting for the design of interactive multimedia.
As electronic artists are in high demand with the implementation of the Cité du Multimédia in Old Montreal, the Digital Image/Sound program has encountered difficulties filling its quota for its Major program. Until now, only five students a year entered. Current Coordinator Yves Bilodeau explained that it is a challenge to find students meeting the requirements in both the computer sciences and art.
The quota will be reached for the first time this fall, as 20 students enter the program, thanks to a slight relaxation of the entry criteria. Students lacking some requirements will be allowed to take extra credits to make up for the lacunae.
Unlike the program designed for multimedia, computer experience is not a prerequisite to enroll in the Digital Film Animation program, which prepares students for entry into the movie industry. The Digital stream of the Film Animation program is part of the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, and made its debut last September when a nine-credit digital animation course designed for second-year Film Animation students was introduced.
"It helps to have computer experience, but given the visual character of the software (Softimage 3-D), you can do it even if you dont have much," said 3-D animation instructor Sass Khazzam. "Classical animation is the essential foundation."
Students enrolled in these programs have access to cutting-edge tools. Digital Image/Sound students are using more and more non-screen-based interaction tools, such as motion and heat sensors, while the Film Animation students are producing digital animation films on Softimage 3-D. This software, which was developed by Montreal-based Softimage, was used extensively to create special effects and character animation in Titanic, Men in Black and Contact.