Trajectories in Animation, Mathematics, and Physics (description varied depending on student’s specialty track)
Faculty: Krishna Chowdary and Ruth Hayes, MFA
Trajectories in Animation, Mathematics, and Physics was a full-time introductory program that combined animation, physics and writing, with optional specialty tracks in drawing or calculus. Students studied ways that animators and scientists investigate, make sense of, and represent change. They learned the mathematical models that help describe and explain motion in the natural world. They explored how to combine observation, reason and imagination to produce such models, and the creative uses that they could make of them. Faculty evaluated students’ work based on their engagement, submission of assignments, and demonstration of learning in workshops, assignments, and (in physics and calculus) in-class quizzes and exams and take-home exam revisions.
In fall, Trajectories participated in piloting Evergreen’s Academic Statement Initiative. Students read essays and interviews that examined different experiences of and views about education, tied these to our theme of change, and developed material for the first drafts of their Academic Statements. Seminar discussions focused on readings related to Academic Statement work and to animation and films screened. Students wrote entry “tickets” in response to prompts on each seminar’s readings. They integrated program ideas, information and activities in a peer-reviewed Integrative Essay submitted for faculty review.
Explorations of ways that physics informs animation began with the question of what is funny (humorous, strange or unexpected) about different phenomena. Students then examined styles of motion and approaches to representation that animators use. They read excerpts from Bergson’s essay on laughter and Carroll’s study of Buster Keaton as well as writings on animation by Wells, McLaren, Furniss and others. They viewed works by Keaton, Fleischer, Fischinger, Disney, Avery, Fischerkoesen, McLaren, Hubley, Lenica, Brakhage, and many contemporary animators including visiting artist Chris Sullivan. In conjunction with these studies, students produced animated sequences to explore how to represent physics phenomena in two ways: accurately and with creative license. They developed skills in basic preproduction and analog 2d techniques including drawn, cut-out, rotoscoped, and direct animation. In winter students focused on digital animation techniques, learning how to use Adobe After Effects to represent physics phenomena. They read excerpts from Furniss and others that discussed the relative merits of analog and digital techniques and the different formats currently available for presenting animation. They viewed works by Foldes, Hykade, Griffin, Hinton, Hillenburg and others. Visiting artist and inventor Rufus Butler Seder introduced them to a wide range of philosophers’ toys based on animation principles. In response, they designed imagery for his Strobotop and for flipbooks. Anticipating their final project, students viewed a variety of didactic animations and read Najafi’s short essay on the pedagogies of wonder and pain. Students each maintained a Screening Journal to document their learning about and responses to animation they viewed.
In the Drawing Track, students practiced basic skills including gesture and contour techniques, perspective, value and composition. In winter they learned color theory and applied that and their basic skills to drawing from a model in charcoal and chalk pastel. As weekly homework they further practiced and integrated these skills as well as doing studies of how other artists apply color in their works. To learn from other animators, they took visual notes in their Screening Journals of characters and other imagery seen in films screened in class.
In Physics, students studied standard topics in classical mechanics (College Physics, Knight Jones, Field, 2nd ed., ch. 1-7, 9-10; kinematics, dynamics, and conservation laws) and special relativity (using a custom Relativity Reader based on materials from Bucknell University’s Dept. of Physics and Astronomy; basic postulates, space-time, relativistic energy and momentum, and applications of relativistic conservation laws) via lectures, labs, and problem-solving sessions, with particular emphasis on concepts and applications related to animation. They used data-loggers and sensors to make measurements in the lab and at a local amusement park, performed video analysis, and used Vernier’s LoggerPro to represent and analyze motion. Students submitted weekly reading quizzes and homework online (via MasteringPhysics), and took two exams in fall, and in winter, six quizzes and an exam.
Students in the Calculus Track studied standard topics in differential and integral calculus (Stewart’s Calculus: Concepts and Context, 4e, ch. 1-6; functions, limits, differentiation, and integration). Physics connections and applications were emphasized. Students submitted weekly homework assignments and took two exams in fall, and in winter, six quizzes and an exam. In winter, students also chose their own project, and submitted a report to communicate their mathematical reasoning.
For the fall project, students integrated their learning about ways to observe and represent motion. They first used physics tools to analyze motions in two different styles of animated film. They each then chose one of the motions studied as a jumping off point for producing a sequence of animation.
The final integrative project in winter had students focus on creative ways to present a math or physics concept or phenomenon. Students submitted a proposal that included a treatment, an annotated bibliography, and a work schedule. Students were given significant program time to develop and execute their projects. Their work culminated in an in-class presentation that generated significant peer feedback. Students reflected on what they learned and the didactic effectiveness and creative impacts of their work in a project summary statement.
(Standard) Suggested Course Equivalencies (varied depending on specialty track)