Ctan 200 The Rise of Digital Hollywood

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USCSchool of Cinematic Arts

CTAN 200 The Rise of Digital Hollywood

Spring 2016, 4 units

Tuesdays- 1:00- 3:50 PM
Location: Room SCA 112
Instructor: TOM SITO, Prof and Chair of the Division of Animation and Digital Arts

Office: SCB Room 210k MC2211

Office Hours: Office hours are available upon email request.

Contact Info: sito@usc.edu
Teaching Assistants: TBA


Office Hours:

Contact Info:

Course Description:

This course will be an overview of the birth and evolution of computer graphics. Computer graphic imaging, or CGI, has become central to how we experience media today. In the last twenty-five years we have seen a revolution in media even greater than the advent of sound in 1927.

Yet few understand from where or how it originated. Some believe George Lucas rubbed a lamp and Pixar popped out, and gave us digital cinema. But the real story of the computer technologies that transformed Hollywood in the early 1990s is much more complex. They were the result of decades of development by scientists, engineers, movie visual effects artists, the military, games makers, entrepreneurs, academia and experimental filmmakers. They created something no one asked them to, and made something no one really thought they wanted, which they then built into a universe parallel to Hollywood. A universe that engulfed the older one.
Course Goals

  • For Analysis, the student will gain a working knowledge of the major issues and people that led to the development of computer graphics and digital cinema.

  • For Context, the student will understand how the broader context of world events and specific movements in art and film came to influence the development of digital cinema.

  • For Connectivity, students will develop their critical thinking skills, conduct research and will have the opportunity to express their own impressions in a variety of forms. (visual, digital and written.) Students may submit supplemental materials with their paper, should they so choose.

  • For Engagement, the student will increase their understanding of becoming a lifelong supporter or participant in the arts from regular interaction with the instructor and discussion of his and his colleagues extensive anecdotal history in the animation and visual effects industry.

Required Texts and Course Resources:

  1. Sito, Tom. Moving Innovations, the History of Computer Animation. MIT Press, 2013

Sito, Tom. Drawing the Line: the untold story of the animation unions from Bosko to Bart Simpson University of Kentucky Press, 2006 .

  1. Catmull, Ed. Creativity, Inc. Overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration. Random House, 2014

  2. Menache, Alberto. Understanding Motion Capture for Computer Animation and Video Games, Academic 2000

  3. Rubin, Michael. Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution. Gainesville, Fla.: Triad, 2006.

  4. Hiltzik, Michael. Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the

Dawn of the Computer Age. HarperCollins,1999.
Course Requirements:

Midterm Exam 20% Short essay questions to test your grasp of the material covered up to that point.

Homework Assignments Two 3 page papers 5% each.

Two 1 page papers at 2.5% each

Term Paper 40% see below.

Final Exam 25% Final will consist of two essay questions to be completed in class that comprise critical/analytical thinking based on material covered during the entire semester. USC sets the date for final exams early, so they cannot be changed. If you need to travel, please take these dates into account.

Grading Scale

100-94: A

93-90: A-

89-87: B+

86-83: B

82-80: B-

79-77: C+

76-73: C

72-70: C-

69-60: D

59-0: F

Term Papers:

Essay should be a research paper of no less than five and no longer than eight pages double-spaced, on a topic approved by the instructor. Topics can range from the biography of an individual pertinent to the history of CG (Steve Jobs, John Whitney) or the profile of a specific studio or company (Cray Research, Robert Abel & Assoc., LISP). Papers are due on our Week 15 by 7:00PM. They can be handed in in class, or uploaded on to Blackboard via Turnitin.

Late Papers- Papers submitted 2-10 days late will result in the reduction of one letter grade. Papers must be submitted no latter than assigned final exam period. No term paper submitted will result in an F for the class.
Course Policies:
Regular attendance at all lectures and screenings is mandatory.

Attendance will be taken at every session. You are allowed two absences. Upon the third you are issued a warning. A further absence without a doctor’s note will result in a lowering of your final grade 10%. A fifth absence will lower your grade 30%. A sixth without a doctor’s approval will result in an automatic failure.

Use of Electronics in Class

Students are allowed to use laptops for notes, but not for trolling Facebook, Twitter or other distractions. No texting or phoning during lectures. Laptops and phones closed during screenings. You will be asked to leave the class if you violate this policy.

Outside Research

Any research used to fulfill an “outside research” requirement for a class assignment must come from legitimate academic sources, cited in standard format and bibliography provided. Wikipedia, IMDB and other user-generated sources are not considered acceptable sources. However, research websites of recognized CG organizations are permitted. For example SIGGRAPH, VES (Visual Effects Society), ASIFA (international animation society), most university maintained websites like Wayne Carlson’s CG History timeline at OSU. If you are unclear about what constitutes an academic source, consult your TA.

Support Systems

A number of USC’s schools provide support for students who need help with scholarly writing. Check with your advisor or program staff to find out more. Students whose primary language is not English should check with the American Language Institute http://dornsife.usc.edu/ali, which sponsors courses and workshops specifically for international graduate students. The Office of Disability Services and Programs http://sait.usc.edu/academicsupport/centerprograms/dsp/home_index.htmlprovides certification for students with disabilities and helps arrange the relevant accommodations. If an officially declared emergency makes travel to campus infeasible, USC Emergency Information http://emergency.usc.edu/will provide safety and other updates, including ways in which instruction will be continued by means of blackboard, teleconferencing, and other technology.

Academic Conduct

Plagiarism – presenting someone else’s ideas as your own, either verbatim or recast in your own words – is a serious academic offense with serious consequences. Please familiarize yourself with the discussion of plagiarism in SCampus in Section 11, Behavior Violating University Standardshttps://scampus.usc.edu/1100-behavior-violating-university-standards-and-appropriate-sanctions/. Other forms of academic dishonesty are equally unacceptable. See additional information in SCampus and university policies on scientific misconduct, http://policy.usc.edu/scientific-misconduct/.

Discrimination, sexual assault, and harassment are not tolerated by the university. You are encouraged to report any incidents to the Office of Equity and Diversity http://equity.usc.edu/ or to the Department of Public Safety http://capsnet.usc.edu/department/department-public-safety/online-forms/contact-us. This is important for the safety whole USC community. Another member of the university community – such as a friend, classmate, advisor, or faculty member – can help initiate the report, or can initiate the report on behalf of another person. The Center for Women and Men http://www.usc.edu/student-affairs/cwm/ provides 24/7 confidential support, and the sexual assault resource center webpage sarc@usc.edu describes reporting options and other resources.

Course Schedule:
Week 1.

- Introduction to the course. What is CG? Traditional Hollywood on the eve of revolution.

Reading: Moving Innovation, Intro and Chap 1.

- Screening-2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, MGM, 1968, 2 hours 41 minutes)
Week 2.

- Analog Beginnings. Experimental Filmmaking- Len Lye, Mary Ellen Bute, John and James Whitney, Jordan Belson, oscilloscope art, Music and Movement.

Reading: Moving Innov, Chapter 2; The John Whitney Biography Website https://www.siggraph.org/artdesign/profile/whitney/whitney.html

- Screening: Radio Dynamics (1938), Fantasia (1940) “ Tocatta & Fugue in D minor ( Walt Disney), Bute Sychromy # 2 (1935), Five Abstract Film Exercises (1945), Arabesque (1975) (total 60 minutes)

Week 3.

Government and the Military ARPA and DARPA, Flight Simulators, The Internet, Sketchpad. Reading: Moving Innovation, Chap 3

MIT Sketchpad and Genysis docs (1963-1968), The Voyager II Flyby (NASA/JPL 1982).
Week 4.

- Universities. MIT, Stanford, Univ of Utah, Univ of Chicago, USC.

Reading: Moving Innovation, Chap 4. Catmull, Creativity, Inc. Chap 1.

-Written Assignment: Write a three page paper on a topic from the material covered thus far. (Due in one week)
- Screening: Hummingbird (Chuck Csuri, 1968), A Computer Animated Hand (Ed Catmull, 1972) Tubers Two-Step ( Chris Wedge, 1985)

Week 5.

- The Corporate Culture- Bell Telephone, IBM, Xerox Parc. E&S;

Reading: Moving Innovation Chap 5, Hitzlik, Dealers of Lightning, Chap 16 & 23.

(three page paper due).
- Screening: Futureworld (Richard T. Heffron, American International, 1976,104 minutes)
Week 6.

  • Hackers- The impact of grass-roots enthusiasts and the 60s Counterculture in the creation of CG, The TMRC Gang, The Homebrew Computer Club, Siggraph.

Moving Innovation Chap 6.
- Screening Weird Science (John Hughes, Universal 1985, 94 minutes)
Week 7.

- The Games People Play Ralph Baer and Odyssey, SpaceWars!, Nolan Bushnell and Pong, Nintendo, the Console Wars.

Homework Assignment: Play a new version of a classic game like Tomb Raider, and write a one page comparing it to it’s first generation.

Reading: Moving Innovation Chap 7. Kent, The First Quarter, Chap 14, 15.
- Screening: Wreck-it Ralph (Rich Moore, Disney, 2012, 101 minutes)
Week 8.

- To Dream the Impossible Dream – NYIT 1974-1986 (One page paper due)


Read: Moving Innovation Chap 8, Rubin, Droidmaker, Chap 7,8 & 9.
- Screening: The Lathe of Heaven (David Laxton and Fred Barzyck, PBS,1979, 120 minutes)

Week 9.

- Motion Picture Visual Effects. Melies’ Un Voyage a la Lune, Forbidden Planet, 2001 A Space Odyssey, ILM.

Homework Assignment: See a new film release with VFX, and write a one page paper comparing it to a classic VFX film like Jurassic Park.

Reading: Moving Innovation Chap 9, Rubin, Droidmaker, Chap 16 & 17.
- Screening: The Last Starfighter (Nick Castle, Lorimar, 1984,101 minutes)
Week 10.

- The 1980s- Silicon Chips. Bob Abel, Digital Omnibus. Brilliance, The Juggler

Reading: Moving Innov Chap 10, Menache, Understanding Motion Capture, Chap 1

( paper due)

- Screening: Looker (Michael Crichton, Warner Bros, 1981, 94 minutes)

Week 11.

- Motion Capture, the Uncanny Hybrid. Marey, Labanotation, Waldo C. Graphic, Final Fantasy, LOTR, Rise of the Guardians.

Homework Assignment – Go see a new movie in theaters that utilizes motion-capture technique and write a paragraph comparing it a more classic examples of Mo-Cap (i.e. Gollum in LOTR, Polar Express)

Reading: Moving Innov. Chap 11, Menache, Understanding Motion Capture, Chap 2.
- Screening: Lawnmower Man (Brett Leonard, New Line Cinema, 1992,101 Minutes)
Week 12.

- The Cartoon Animation Industry. Walt Disney, Great Mouse Detective, Beauty and the Beast, Ferngully, * SUBMIT TOPICS for FINAL ESSAY

Reading: Chap 12, Sito, Drawing the Line, Chap 10 , 11.

Written Assignment: Write a three page paper on a topic from the material covered since the Spring Break. (Due in one week)
- Screening: The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, Warner Bros, 1999, 87 minutes)
Week 13.

- Pixar, PDI and Blue Sky, Oh My! Andre and Wally B, Knic-Knac, Bunny

Reading Moving Innovation Chap 13, Catmull, Creativity Inc. Chap 3.

(Three page paper due).
- Screening: Toy Story (John Lasseter, Walt Disney, 1995, 87 minutes)

Week 14.

- The Conquest of Hollywood 1991-1995 Terminator II, Jurassic Park, Toy Story, Shrek, Ice Age. The consequences of these digital changes to the traditional Hollywood labor force.

Reading: Moving Innovation Chap 14, Sito, Drawing the Line, Chap 12.

- Screening: Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, Universal,1993,127 minutes)
Week 15.

- Conclusions. Review. Screening (clips) Avatar, Gravity, The Martian, Ted

May - Study Days.
May TBA. Final Exam.

Additional Recommended Reading:
Baer, Ralph. Videogames, In the Beginning. Rolenta Press 2005
Burnham, Van. Supercade: A Visual History of the Videogame Age

1971-1984. MIT Press, 2001
Carlson, Wayne. CGI Historical Timeline http://design.osu.


Finch, Christopher. The CG Story: Computer Generated

Animation and Special Effects. Monacelli Press, 2013

Issacson, Walter. Steve Jobs. Simon & Schuster, 2011

Kent, Steven I. The First Quarter, A Twenty Five Year

History of Video Games. BWD Press, 2000

Markoff, John. What the Doormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture

Shaped the Personal Computer Industry. Viking Press, 2005

Masson, Terrence. CG 101 Version 2: A Computer Graphics Industry Reference. Digital Fauxtography, 2010.

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company.

New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.

Rubin, Michael. Droidmaker: George Lucas and the Digital Revolution. Gainesville, Fla.: Triad, 2006.

Vaz, Mark Cotta, and Patricia Duignan. Industrial Light and Magic, Into the Digital Realm. Ballantine Books, 1996

Youngblood, Gene. Expanded Cinema, Studio Vista, 1970
“ We are on the verge of something that will make the Industrial Revolution seem like a small time tryout! “ – Francis Ford Coppola, 1973

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