Tisch School of the Arts - New York University

A City in Motion: Experimental Video and 3D Animation in Nice

H32.1960 (Undergraduate) /H33.1960 (Graduate)


Jean-Marc Gauthier, instructor

Maria Mavrakis, assistant


Villa Arson – Nice - France


Course syllabus updated 07/27/08



Special Programs, Tisch School of the Arts, NYU website

2005 Show at Villa Arson: gallery of projects

2007 Show at Villa Arson: on the website of the French Ministery of Culture

2007 The Nice Art Animation and 3D Conference: brochure in pdf format

Villa Arson

Nice Tourist Office

3D animation and video tutorials


Class 1 - 07/07 Presentation: From video to computer graphics


Presentation, roadmap for the class


Create a digital panorama. Please note that we will spend the afternoon in the Old Nice.


Create a panorama 3500 by 500 pixels from stitching together a collage of digital photographs: windows, doors, prints, wall textures, paint, fabrics, floors, stones, flowers, grass, sand, sky... Print as a pdf, select print preview, scale to fit media. View your work by zooming and scrolling the image through the small rectangular window of the pdf.

Class 2 - 07/08: Intro to video composition


Video composition and 3D scenes. How to work with video footage inside a 3D scene. This lecture shows how to design with the colors and the environment of a scene using video footage and digital lighting. Case Studies: Nekropolis by Bilal, Sky Captain World of Tomorrow by Kerry Comran. PLF for "Panic Room" and Weta Digital for "Lord of the Rings".


Building a diorama. Creating a panorama in After Effects. Please note that we will spend the late morning at the marlet Avenue Garnier and at the flower market at the Plonchettes.


Create a diorama of an urban example, a market place.
1- Take pictures or draw a market place: people, cars, street lights, street furniture, signs, street vendors, buildings, sidewalks, textures, smoke, clouds, sky…
2- Print and mount pictures on foamboard. Build a diorama the size of a shoe box using paint, collages, paper, cardboard and glue.
3- Use the panorama from class 1 as a background for example using a video projection

4- Shoot a video of the inside of your diorama - no more than 2 minutes in length - with sound from the street and music. No editing required.

Class 3 – 07/09: Intro to 3D animation - part 1


3D survival kit.


Texturing digital billboards in Maya. step-by-step pdf

Creating a video composite of the Baie des Anges around the theme of  ‘Negresco Fantastico’


Re-create a video composite of a real scene experienced in the street inside Maya using still images and video footage shot during the week. Render a short animation in Quick Time format.

Party at the Beau Rivage private beach. TBC.

Class 4 – 07/10: Intro to 3D animartion - part 2


Survey of trips around Nice, Google Earth


Modeling a 2D1/2 character with Maya


This week we have been exploring using 2d images in a 3 dimensional space using billboards, lights and camera movements.  Make a short scene, about a minute long using still images and video footage shot. The content can be from the market street, the MAMAC or the trip to Tende.

1. Go into AfterEffects and convert one of your movie clips into an image sequence, you may use the "color key" effect to key out certain colors from your footage. Create billboards in Maya with still image or image sequences.

2. Scan drawings and sketches. Go to Photoshop and make paths from images that will then be used as billboards inside Maya. (File > Export > Path to Illustrator)

3. Make billboards by importing your paths into Maya and texturing them.

4. Animate a billboard by using a lattice.

5. Light your scene.

6. Make a camera and animate it to explore your scene

7. Render your scene as a playblast movie in quicktime movie format. (Window > Playblast)

8. Sound is optional

Class 5 - 07/11: Trip to Col de Tende - Vallee des Merveilles + video shooting on location

Class 6 – 07/14: Character animation


Designing a character's motion. Animator’s survival kit . Afternoon trip to Vingtimille (Italy)


Modeling a character step-by-step pdf Animating a character step-by-step pdf


Create a simple scene with an animated character.

Class 7 – 07/15: Motion capture


How to extract motion and lighting from video footage . Afternoon trip to Saint Paul de Vence


How to create an animation using motion capture files

Create a character animation using several motion clips


Create a scene with an animated 3D character

Class 8 – 07/16: Digital cinematography


Bringing everything together: introduction to digital cinematography. Case study: particle systems by Industrial Light and Magic. Case study: the making of environmental effects for the "Perfect Storm" in Maya.


Using Maya with Final Cut and After Effects. Compositing a character step-by-step pdf

Create a scene with environmental effects using, smoke, particles and procedural lighting.

Class 9 – 07/17: Machinima, gaming and future of digital storytelling


Labyrinths and storytelling


How to record a video fiction inside a game, how to build a game from a video


This week was about character modeling and animation. Monday’s assignment will include setting up an animated character inside video footage.  The end result should be more or less a 4 minute scene, with characters, background billboards, camera placement, and lighting.


1. Edit your footage from Entrevaux in order to create the look and feel of a story taking place inside a video game. Render as several image sequences and import it into maya. Split screens and unusual frame formats are suggested. Not all scenes need have character animations in them.


2. Create and model one or more characters using subdivition mode. You can reuse the character created this week.

3. Texture your characters:

In order to paint your own textures in Photoshop: the tutorial can be found at www.tinkering.net/tutorialssite, there is a shortcut on the server.


4. Set your character in the standard mode and rig the character with a skeleton. Animate your characters, either by individually key-framing them or importing animation from the mocap files.

5. The tutorial called Maya Compositing 3D character and video footage"  on the tutorials website (same as above)" will help you to cast shadows on the floor of the video footage.

6. Render your scene this time a quicktime, note that you will need to render again in AfterEffects in order to include sound and or music. However you can preview your scene in playblast with sound.  Just render clips with animation as a quicktime or as image sequence in Maya and then stitch together all the scenes in AfterEffects.

Class 10 – 07/18: Trip to Entreveaux + video shooting on location

Class 11 - 07/21: Life forms and organic growth


Virtual life and emotions. Life forms and organic growth. Afternoon trip to Villefranche.


How to create procedural 3D models of simple life forms for example the plants from the gardens of Villa Arson.


Create a scene showing the bottom of the sea.

Class 12 - 07/22: Sea, sky and sun …underwater


Fluid simulations and visualization above water and underwater. step-by-step pdf
Afternoon trip to Monaco


Particle animation, fluid effects


Create a scene with a camera moving above and below water with plants and corals

Class 13 - 07/23: Virtual fishes with behaviors. Creating virtual eco-systems


Underwater environments, behavior.


Creating an underwater environment.


Create a scene with fishes step-by-step pdf

Class 14 - 07/24: Designing virtual landscapes: islands, clouds... and life above water


Digital paintings and virtual landscapes


From 2D to 3D building an animated landscape. Recreating weather changes above the lanscape


Create virtual landscapes showing a virtual ecosystem above and underwater with animated changes.

This week’s assignment will be illustrating some of the dynamic features in Maya based on aquatic life and environments. We are using oceans because in essence they are two different worlds that constantly effecting one another, the light hitting the ocean surface makes the caustics, the motion of objects in the sea going up and down, the stillness of being on the shore.  There is also different movements that are made by things that are still (buoys) and things that move and disturb (boats) the surface. Finally new elements are made from joining of the air and water and force: particles  (such as bubbles, sand displacement etc…

1. Make an ocean floor from a polygonal plan (subdivisions 100.100) use the sculpt geometry tool (push and pull) to make crevices and mountains, then decorate your scene using some of the paint effects. Please note that shallow water and rocks emerging from the surface of the water can create interesting scenes similar to what we experienced during our trip.

2. Make an sea using the ocean shader and or the “Ocean Examples” provided in Visor, tweak the waves, transparency, turbulence levels etc..  You might want to use the caustics example and/or the calm sea with the fluid box.

3. Model a fish or more and set it on a path using the IK rig provided on the server. Group fish+curve and duplicate the group in order to create a school of fish swimming in your ocean.

4. Use particles, wakes, locators enabling elements in your scene to talk and effect one another.
5. Create a moving sky using the fluids-sky tutorial. http://www.tinkering.net/pdf/ocean2.pdf

6. Create several cameras.
Target Camera. Create a CV curve, in order to use it as a path. Create a “Target Camera” with target. Select the target, set it on a motion path Animation > Animate > in order to explore your scene.
Path Camera. Create a “Path Camera”, set it on a path going from the bottom of the sea to above the surface). Create more cameras showing how your environment can be animated through time, with changes of color, light, transparency or shape of the waves at the surface of the sea.
Buoy Camera. Create a buoy, create a camera with target. Attached a camera to a buoy, target moving objects in the sky or floating objects at the surface of the sea.

7. Render first as a Playblast. Render high res and composite your scenes.  Due to the processing power needed this time, render as an image sequence from Maya to ensure that no frames are dropped. Bring the image sequence in Final Cut Pro or After Effects for post-production and editing.

Class 15 - 07/25: Trip to Red Rocks (Le Tayas, Esterel) and boat trip to Saint Augustin island (Cannes)

Class 16 - 07/28: Introduction to digital storytelling


Before, now and after . Conceptual design to storytelling.


On site recording of footage for digital storytelling.
Shoot 15 seconds of video including gentle camera motion and at least 5 contrasted visual markers visible thoughout the footage


Create three scenes or more illustrating Before Now and After.
You can use still images, drawings and or video footage.

Classes 17-18- 07/29-30: Studio time and Review of mid-class project Guests, Eric Mangion, Director of Centre d"art Contemporain, Villa Arson, Sylvie Grosgogeat, Director of Communication, OTC Nice. Presentation pdf

Class 19 - 07/31: Introduction to Final Project


From Emotions to Virtual Environments
Monday’s assignment is to create a scrapbook of elements that you will use for your final projects.  The scrapbook will help you focusing not only on the story, but also on other elements including visuals, sensorial associations and relationships that can trigger a viewer’s emotions. 

You will start thinking about your finals on an emotional level (what type of emotions are you trying to evoke) then the transitions between emotions, the movements and finally the setting in which the story will take place, in essence going from the abstract to the concrete, the emotional to the physical.

On Monday at 4:00 Sylvie T, Maria and Jean-Marc will review your scrapbooks and ideas. You can check her site out at www.sylvie-t.com
Your scrapbook should include

1. A gallery of textures, colors, color changes/ lighting, color changes/mood, sound bites presented in Quick Time movie

2. A gallery of photographs and drawings of fixed and moving objects – for example sea/ sky are moving - rocks/windows are fixed. Slideshow presented in QuickTime format

3. Sketches characters in their environments and suggestions about how characters are affecting their environment. The animation on the Prada site was a good example of a character’s trail creating an environment. Slideshow presented in QuickTime format

4. Camera movements, what is the character of the camera? Target, handy/steady cam, path, surveillance, etc. Shematic camera movements presented in Playblast and Quick Time movie format.

5. Optional a storyline. No more than 10 lines.

Class 20- 07/31: Trip to Sospel, visit of Ligne Maginot + video shooting on location

Class 21- 07/31: Storytelling, gaming and interactivity (1)


Storytelling and narratives in video games (1)

Special event :

Afternoon: round table with Sylvie T, painter www.sylvie-t.com

Class 21 - 08/04: Storytelling, gaming and interactivity (2)


Analysis of video games (2)


Final project / create the following documents in pdf format: 1- revised story pitch, 2- storyboard showing the sequences and camera shots, 3- storyboard showing gradients of color and textures, 4- list of video shots with frame captures, 5- sketches of main character, 6- define the pivotal scene for your project.

Class 22 - 08/05: Creating effects - Simulating physics and other natural phenomena


Particle animation, fluid effects, use particle instancing with goals to create dynamic schools of fish.


How to create soft collisions and particle simulations in Maya.


Final project assignment.

Classes 23 - 08/06: From 3D animation to DVD - Post-production and broadcasting


Postproduction, publishing and broadcasting


Compression and DVD publishing


Final project assignment.

Classes 24-25 - 08/07-08: Final Project Production studio

Class 25 - 08/09: Trip Marseille + video shooting on location

Classes 26 to 29 -08/11 to 08/14: Final projects workshops

-08/15: Final project presentations - Show at Villa Arson