USC
University of Southern California
black horizontal bar for print styles

Animation and Digital Arts

The Division of Animation and Digital Arts is an international and multicultural program focusing on animation in all its forms. The fundamental philosophy of the program strongly encourages innovation and experimentation, and emphasizes imagination, creativity and critical thinking.

Bachelor of Arts

The Bachelor of Arts in Animation and Digital Art is a unique four-year program granted through the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts. Students study within the framework that combines a broad liberal arts background with specialization in a profession. Areas of concentration might include character animation, experimental animation, visual effects, 3-D computer animation, science visualization and interactive animation.

Undergraduate students take their pre-professional courses in the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, including the general education requirements. Major courses are selected from the curriculum of the School of Cinematic Arts. The degree requires 128 units, including 10 lower division units and 34 upper division units in Cinema-Television.

General Education Requirements

The universityís general education program provides a coherent, integrated introduction to the breadth of knowledge you will need to consider yourself (and to be considered by other people) a generally well-educated person. This program requires six courses in different categories, plus writing, foreign language and diversity requirements, which comprise the USC core. See here and here for more information.

Required courses Units
CTAN 101 Introduction to the Art of Animation 2
CTAN 102 Introduction to the Art of Movement 2
CTAN 201 Introduction to Animation Techniques 3
CTAN 202 Advanced Animation Techniques 3
CTAN 301 Introduction to Digital Animation 3
CTAN 302 Introduction to 3-D Computer and Character Animation 3
CTAN 336 Ideation and Pre-Production 2
CTAN 436 Writing for Animation 2
CTAN 401ab Senior Project 4-4
CTAN 432 The World of Visual Effects 2
CTAN 451 History of Animation 2
CTAN 496* Directed Research 2, max 4
CTCS 201 History of International Cinema 4
CTPR 495* Internship in Cinema/Television 2, max 4
FA 101ab Drawing 4-4

*Students can take either one or both classes but must take a minimum of 2 units in a directed research or internship


Two units must be selected from the following list

College of Letters, Arts and Sciences Ė Physical Education
PHED 120 Yoga 1
PHED 137 Gymnastics 1

School of Theatre
THTR 115 Movement 1 2
THTR 122 Improvisation and Theatre Games 2
THTR 181ab Modern Dance 2
THTR 184abc Jazz Dance 2
THTR 188ab International Style Ballroom Dance 2
THTR 189ab Tap Dance 2
THTR 216 Movement for Actors 2

One course must be taken from the following list
CTCS 192 Race, Class, and Gender in American Film 4
CTCS 392 History of the American Film, 1925-1950 4
CTCS 393 History of the American Film, 1946-1975 4
CTCS 400 Non-Fiction Film and Television 4
CTCS 407 African American Cinema 4
CTCS 409 Censorship in Cinema 4
CTCS 464 Film and/or Television Genres 4
CTCS 469 Film and/or Television Style Analysis 4
Total units: 52

Areas of Concentration

Areas of concentration might include character animation, experimental animation, 3-D computer animation, visualizing science, interactive animation and visual effects. Students work in consultation with the undergraduate coordinator and faculty to help them decide their course of study while at USC.

Senior Project

In the spring semester of their third year students develop their senior project through CTAN 336 Ideation and Pre-Production under the guidance of the lecturer. This project will focus on an area of concentration studied throughout the BA by the student. At the end of this class, students present their senior project concepts for review to the Division of Animation and Visual Arts faculty. Progression into CTAN 401ab is contingent upon faculty committee approval.

In the final year, students concentrate on their senior projects, completing production and post-production. The studentís project will be presented to the committee upon completion.

Completion is defined as a fully rendered, animated piece with a completed sound track. In the case of installation work, the piece must be mounted in a suitable space with all sound and animated components completed and functional.

In the case of an interactive work, the piece must be fully functional with completed animation, sound and interactivity.

In addition to completion of the senior project, the student must provide the faculty committee with written and visual documentation of the research. This can be documented as a publishable paper (2000 words), Web site or interactive DVD.

Grade Point Average Requirements

A minimum grade of C, 2.0 (A=4.0), must be earned in all required and prerequisite courses. A grade of C- (1.7) or lower will not fulfill a major requirement.

Students who do not earn the minimum grade of C (2.0) in CTAN 101, CTAN 102, CTAN 201, CTAN 202, CTAN 301, CTAN 302 or CTAN 401ab after repeating these requirements will be disqualified from the program.

Limitations on Enrollment

Registration in graduate level courses (numbered 500) for undergraduate credit requires prior approval from the School of Cinematic Arts.

Curriculum Review

Cinema-Television majors are expected to meet with an advisor every semester to review their progress. Contact the Cinema-Television Animation and Digital Arts Division Office, University Park, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2211, (213) 740-3986, or online at anim.usc.edu.

Master of Fine Arts

The Master of Fine Arts degree in Animation and Digital Arts is a three-year (six semester) graduate program designed for students who have clearly identified animation and digital art as their primary interest in cinema. The program focuses on animation production, including a wide range of techniques and aesthetic approaches, from hand-drawn character animation to state-of-the-art interactive digital animation. While embracing traditional forms, the program strongly encourages innovation and experimentation, and emphasizes imagination, creativity and critical thinking. Students should graduate with a comprehensive knowledge of animation from conception through realization; an understanding of the history of the medium and its aesthetics; in-depth knowledge of computer animation software and the most important elements of digital and interactive media.

The program requires a minimum of 50 units: 34 units are in prescribed, sequential courses in the School of Cinematic Arts. The other 16 units are cinema-television electives, 4 of which must be taken in the Division of Critical Studies. A thesis is required for the M.F.A. degree. Ongoing workshops in new technologies, traditional and digital media provide additional educational opportunities for students.

Admission is granted once a year in the fall; there are no spring admissions. Approximately 14 students will be enrolled in each incoming class. In addition to practical production, the program also provides opportunities for fieldwork experience and internships to facilitate the studentís transition into the profession.

Applicants for the M.F.A. in Animation and Digital Arts must submit a supplemental application and materials. For specific instructions, contact the Cinema-Television Animation and Digital Arts Division Office, University Park, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2211, (213) 740-3986, or online at cinema.usc.edu.

The application deadline is February 15 for the fall semester.

Prior knowledge of fundamental digital animation concepts and techniques is recommended. Those without this background will be required to enroll in CTAN 523 Principles of Digital Animation for 2 of their elective units in year one.

CTPR 507 Production 1 (4 units), which brings together students from all other CNTV divisions, introduces the fundamental principles of motion picture production, emphasizing visual and auditory communication. Each student makes several non-dialogue personal projects, serving as writer, producer, director, cinematographer, sound designer and editor, and takes a crew role in a collaborative project. Projects are shot using digital cameras and edited on non-linear systems. Approximately $1,200 should be budgeted for miscellaneous expenses, lab and insurance fees.

Requirements for the M.F.A. in Animation and Digital Arts

Required CoursesUnits
CTAN 436Writing for Animation2
CTAN 451History of Animation2
CTAN 482Basic Animation Production Techologies2
CTAN 501Interactive Animation2
CTAN 522*Animation Department Seminar1, max 6
CTAN 524Contemporary Topics in Animation and Digital Arts3
CTAN 544Introduction to the Art of Animation3
CTAN 547Animation Production I3
CTAN 577aFundamentals of Animation2
CTAN 579Expanded Animation2
CTAN 591Animation Pre-Thesis Seminar2
CTAN 594abMasterís Thesis2-2
CTPR 507Production I4
Electives**

* Can only be taken three times throughout the M.F.A.

** A minimum total of 16 elective units must be taken.

Cinema-Television Electives
To complete the 50 units required for the M.F.A. in Animation and Digital Arts, students are required to take a minimum of 16 School of Cinematic Arts elective units at the 400 and 500 level. Four of those units must be taken from the following Critical Studies courses:

ElectivesUnits
CTCS 400Non-Fiction Film and Television4
CTCS 404Television Criticism and Theory4
CTCS 407African-American Cinema4
CTCS 411Film, Television and Cultural Studies4
CTCS 412Gender, Sexuality and Media4
CTCS 464Film and/or Television Genres4
CTCS 469Film and/or Television Style Analysis4
CTCS 501History of Global Cinema Before World War II2
CTCS 502History of Global Cinema After World War II2
CTCS 503Survey History of the United States Sound Film2
CTCS 505Survey of Interactive Media2
CTCS 510Case Studies in National Media and/or Regional Media4
CTCS 511Seminar: Non-Fiction Film/Video4
CTCS 517Introductory Concepts in Cultural Studies4
CTCS 518Seminar: Avant-Garde Film/Video4
CTCS 564Seminar in Film and Television Genres4
CTCS 567Seminar in Film/Television and a Related Art4
CTCS 569Seminar in Film and Television Authors4
CTCS 585Seminar in Film/Television Critical Theory and Production4

Thesis Project

In order to begin work on the thesis project, students must first successfully propose their project to a committee of M.F.A. animation and digital arts program faculty. Their proposal is prepared during the spring semester of their second year as part of their pre-thesis class CTAN 591.

In order to pass the pre-thesis class, the thesis proposal must be presented and approved by the thesis committee at the end of the fourth semester. If students elect to change their thesis proposal, they will need to arrange an additional meeting with the committee to seek the committeeís approval. Throughout the pre-thesis and thesis years of study, students will meet regularly with an M.F.A. animation and digital arts faculty advisor to develop and refine the proposal and discuss the progress of their work. The advisor will be a member of the thesis committee.

The proposal itself will include a written treatment of the project with a discussion of similar work in the field and its relationship to the proposed project. It will describe aesthetic issues to be explored and specific techniques to be employed in its realization. It will also include a storyboard or visualization, budget and schedule, in addition to supporting materials created by the student demonstrating his/her ability to pursue the project. The faculty committee will make comments and decide whether the student may go forward with his/her project. Upon acceptance, the student will begin work on the project, otherwise revising the proposal and meeting again with the committee.

A mid-residency review of the thesis project will take place in the first semester of the final year of study. The student must show that deadlines set in the proposal have been met and that progress consistent with the proposal has been made. The committee may, if necessary, suggest modifications to the project, which the student is then obligated to implement.

In the final year, students concentrate on their thesis projects, completing production and post-production. The studentís thesis will be presented to the committee upon completion.

Completion is defined as a fully rendered, animated piece with a completed sound track (guide mix acceptable). In the case of installation work, the piece must be mounted in a suitable space with all sound and animated components completed and functional. In the case of an interactive work the piece must be fully functional with completed animation, sound and interactivity.

In addition to completion of the thesis project, the student must provide the thesis committee with written and visual documentation of the research. This will be documented as a Web site or interactive DVD. The documentation comprises the following and should include a publishable research paper: synopsis; artistís statement and research paper; learning objectives -- focus of research; type of project -- animation, installation, interactive, etc.; research presentation in the format/medium in which the project is to be seen; script and storyboard or conceptual drawings if applicable; style approach, including source references for image shot structure, etc.; sound design and references; collaborators -- if any; audience -- who it is intended for and who will benefit from the research; budget; marketing and distribution plan.

Criteria for successful completion include: 40 percent originality, 40 percent quality of execution and 20 percent quality of research documentation.

Grade Point Average Requirements

A grade point average of at least 3.0 (A= 4.0) must be maintained in all USC course work toward the masterís degree. Courses in which a grade of C- (1.7) or lower is earned will not apply toward a graduate degree. Courses below a C must be repeated.

Time Limit

Students must maintain satisfactory progress toward their masterís degrees at all times. The time limit to complete all requirements is three years from the first course at USC applied toward the Master of Fine Arts degree. Course work more than seven years old is invalidated and will not be applied toward the degree.