Fall 2021


Office Hours:
Earl Mark
Tuesdays 5 to 6 pm and Friday   9:30 to 11 am, see Collab site Calendar for detail .

TA Dorothy Li
Mondays and Wednesday 6:30 to 7:30 pm, see Collab site Calendar for detail.

Description: Arch 5420 is a workshop/seminar that explores moviemaking through exercises in computer animation. All classes will be hosted live on Zoom. Approximately five independently developed short animations constitute the work of the term culminating in a one to five minute time-length final movie project. An interdisciplinary group of students bring perspectives from across the arts and sciences, design and engineering. Movie projects may range in creative subject areas. For example, built and landscape architectural places may be experienced according to our own changing eye point of view, the transformation of light and objects, as well as the movement of other people. In addition, objects found in architecture and nature reveal formal, tectonic and spatial orders that can be understood through animated sequences that depict varying intervals of time. Storytelling, whether focused on simple character animation or more complex scene description, may be related to these contextual aspects of either real or imagined environments. An in-depth exploration of NURBS three-dimensional modeling and rendering will be the basis for representing built and natural environments, sculpting characters and creating complex geometrical forms. Subject areas for individual projects may range widely according to the disciplinary perspective of the individual student, including visual narratives with character animation movies, or the analysis of mico-scale physical environments or larger scale architectural and landscape architectural settings.

Enrollment: Registration is by instructor permission. Enrollment is open to all graduate students and to all undergraduate students (typically second year undergraduate students and avove) with some weight given to statements of interest on SIS and seniority. There are otherwise no prerequisites. The instructor has a background in moviemaking that includes film/video production and computer graphics animation.  

Technology: The primary software is Maya, a professionally used product in computer animation and movie production. Other  related products may be introduced this term as time allows for animation, including special software focused on sound editing and production, movie editing and advanced light energy modeling and rendering. Maya provides an advanced set of animation techniques, such as instantiated motion, inverse kinematics, compositing, fluid dynamics effects, hair and clothing simulation and other special effects. Also used in the term will be software for digital video editing, compositing, morphing, creating human figures, sound capture and editing. Maya will be available on Apple and Windows computers throughout the school. Free academic use copies of Maya with full functionality are available for students who have access to a personal computer on the Apple and Windows platforms. The required class text is free and online to members of the UVA community (see below). We will use inertial motion capture equipment for full-body motion capture and work with motion capture data. The V-Ray Next plugin to Maya, academy award winning advanced global-illumination and light simulation program, is integrated into advanced rendering tutorials in the class. More information about personal copies under a program established with Chaos Group will be announced in class. The class will take advantage of higher performance Vritual Workstations with all the software included and Cloud Computing resources for more computationally intensive uses of V-Ray  On grounds computer resources for independent use are also available in Campbell 105 and other locations to be announced.

Grading: Each of the first four projects counts towards 10% of the grade. The final project counts towards 50% of the grade. Class attendance and participation counts towards 10% of the grade. Due to the sequential building block nature of the topics covered, full attendance is expected but for standard excusable absences (e.g., illness).

The next two sections have been changed from earlier drafts of the syllabus to include modified language that the university suggests for course syllabi, and edited to relate more specifically to the context of this course.

Class Participation: This is an in-person course.Your presence and active participation is important to creating the most effective, step by step sequenced and coherent learning experience. Excusable absences are permitted under UVA policies and should be communicated to the course instructor and your SIA and also done in advance if possible.

The class uses a system of continous assesment throughout the semester that aims to not penalize lack of experience or lack of initial understanding but is focused more on cumulative results and growth.

Our personal and learning circumstances may be different than they were prior to the Covid-19 epidemic. While we face challenges as an educational community, the goal is to continue to learn and grow while adjusting for unexpected events. The class is committed to maintaining a healthy and equitable environment for all of us by respecting and making room for differences in how we approach learning. While these goals may seem hard to realize in a course not specifcally based on health and equity, one strategy is to encourage moviemaking projects that give more license to students. The objective is to be motivated by what interests you and from which we can all learn together.

Your health and well-being are also a priority. Please take the time to care for yourself. The university asks that if you are ill or expect that you have been exposed to COVID-19, please stay home, notify the primary course instructor, and contact the Student Health and Wellness Center (434-924-5362) so that you can receive appropriate care. 

Individual Support: UVA is attempting to further expand its teaching to embrace the reality that students bring many diverse experiences to the classroom that contribute to the general education of all. Many factors such as social identities, visible and invisible disabilities, family circumstances, physical location, mental health and access to the internet, influence the experiences that you may have. One way to meet this challenge is to create an environment that supports each individual's learning needs and to encourage each individual to communicate and explore your ideas. For example, the choice of an animation subject in this class is not limted to a restricted or approved list. On the one hand it will need to satisfy some criterion based upon general attributes of movies the lend themselves effectively to the exercises in the class. For example, exercises explore the treatment of time, light and story. Still, theyneed not be limited in terms of cultural or national topic or geographical setting. The course instructor, SIA and students as a whole willl all benefit from indidividual perspective if your curiousity is heightened by your less limited selection of a subject. The class is committed to your freedom to pursue your ideas in animation subjects and to make everyone learn from your discoveries through the creative process.

There are also newly recognized challenges to educators to more completely respond to the different personal histories students bring to the classroom. We recognize that there are many complex factors that include social identities, disabilities, family circumstances, physical location, mental health, and access to the Internet that influence performance. To support your learning, you are invited to help the SIA and the course instructor be more responsive to any unique situations you may be experiencing.

The University admits undocumented students, students from mixed-status families, and students with Temporary Protected Status. All students at UVA, including students of all immigration statuses, are welcomed in this class. If your personal situation is impacting your success in the course, please come see me to discuss your concerns so that I can accommodate you.

Technology Support: If you need assistance using any of the tools for our class, the SIA and I happy to work with you. You can also find resources for each below:


The schedule below is subject to modification.

TU 24 Introduction to animation and course overview
TH 26

Interface, primitives (nurbs and polygon primitives), key-framed animation and movie output file creation with FCheck [Robinson: Browse Chapters 1 and 2, Read Chapters 3 and 4]  


- linked in training (formerly tutorials are optional and available on grounds or through the UVA VPN system)
Maya 1019 Essential Training by George Mastri, Overview, 1. The Maya Interface. 2. Selecting and Manipulating Objects, 3. Organizing Maya Scenes

TU 31 Basic lighting and nurbs surfaces
  - linked in training Maya 2019 Essential Training 7. Nurbs Modeling Techniques, 8. Refining Nurbs Models
TH 2 Polygon extrusion and editing
  - linked in training Maya 2019 Essential Training 3. Creating Polygonal Models, 4. Modeling Polygonal Meshes
TU 7 Instantiation, grouping and parenting, selection modes and templates [Robinson: Read Chapters 5 and 6]
TH 9 Geometry Affine Transformation,  FCheck and iMovie Assembly Editing
TU 14 Review exercise 1
TH 16
Sound and digital video editing with iMovie HD and composite video rendering.
  -linked in training iMovie HD 10.1.1 Essential Training
TU 21
Nurbs (continued) editing, sound syncronization [Robinson: Read Chapters 6 - 9]

TH 23

Skeletons & IK Handles [Robinson: Read Chapters 10 - 12]
TU 28 Make Human Characters, Non-linear deformers [Robinson: Read Chapters 13 - 15]
- linked in training 8. Refining Nurbs Models
TH 30 Camera control and rendering [Robinson: Read Chapter 16 and optionally Chapter 17]
TU 5 Inertial body suit data capture and rigging. (Date to be confirmed).
TH 7 Review exercise 2
TH 12 Reading Break
TU 14 Dynamics/particles/colisions [Robinson: Read Chapter 18]
TH 19
Shaders, materials, texture mapping, lighting continued
  - linked in training Maya 2019 Chapter 9. Creating Matarials, 10. Applying Textures, 11. Rendering in Maya 12. Rendering in Arnold
TU 21 V-Ray Light Energy Modeling and Material Simulation
TH 26
Graphical editor & path animation [Optional Palamar: Read Chapter 2]
TU 28
Fluid dyamic effects, environmental sky
- linked in training Quick Fluids Using nCloth in Maya
TU 2 Review exercise 3
Hinges, springs, and hair
Linked in training Creating Hair with Maya nHair
TU 4 Cloth and constraints
  - linked in training Understanding Maya nCloth Maya 2012
TU 9
TH 11 Advanced Rendering / Global Illumination Options
TU 16 Blend shapes and composite editing in iMovie HD, individual review workshop
  linked in training Creating single-mesh blend shapes Maya 2016
TH18 FX: mash, fluid dynamic clouds, paint effects
TU 23 Special topics continued, open workshop
TH 28 Thanksgiving Holiday
TU 30 Final project preview Exercise 4
TH 2 V-Ray Atmosphere Simulation
TU 7 Course Summary
TBA Final Project Screening

Note: The required text/tutorial and addtional reading as well as the tutorials are available on-line through the UVA Virgo System.  

Required Text:

Maya 8 for Windows & Macintosh (Visual QuickStart Guide) by Morgan Robinson, and Nathaniel Stein, Peachpit Press, 2007 ±
§ -see on-line version of this textbook

Recommended Readings:


Introducing Autodesk Maya 2016  by Dariush Derakhsshani, Autodesk Official Press, 2015° § - see on-line version of this textbook
Mastering Autodesk Maya 2016 by John Palamar, Wiley Publishing, Inc., 2016 A° § - see on-line version of this textbook
Maya Visual Effects: The Innovators Guide by Eric Keller, Autodesk Official Press, 2013 +  § - see on-line version of this textbook
Creating Visual Effects in Maya: Fire, Water, Debris, Destruction by Lee Lanier, Focal Press, 2014 + § - see on-line version of this textbook
MEL Scripting for Maya Animations, Second Edition,  by Mark R. Wilkins and Chris Kazmier, Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, 2005 + § - see on-line version of this textbook
Maya Programming with Python Cookbook by Adrian Herbez, Packt Publishing, 2016 + § - see on-line version of this textbook
Maya Secrets of the Pros 2nd ed. / John Kundert-Gibbs, Dariush Derakhshani et. al. Sybex Inc., 2006. +  § - see on-line version of this textbook
* linked in video tutorials (formerly are available in internal to uva either on grounds or the VPN access. See specific links in schedule above. Use is optional.


Arnheim, Rudolf, Film as Art. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1957.*
Cocteau, Jean, Beauty and the Beast: Diary of a Film. New York: Dover Publications, 1972.
Greene, Graham, The Third Man and The Fallen Idol, Penguin Books Ltd., 1977.
Murch, Walter, In the Blink of An Eye, A Perspective on Film Editing, Silman-James Press, 1995.

Philosophy and Perception:

Arnheim, Rudolf, Art and Visual Perception. Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1974.
Goodman, Nelson, Languages of Art. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Publishing Company Inc., 1976.
Sacks, Oliver, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1987.
Putnam, Hillary, Representation and Reality. Cambridge, MA: M.I.T. Press, 1988.
Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sarte, Edited by Walter Kaufmann, The World Publishing Company, 1956 (Rainer Maria Rilke, "The Notes of Malte Laurids Brigge", 1910)

Notes:± This is the primary text with paced readings and straightforward tutorials tied to the syllabus and a week to week developmental progression of the class. It is also available online at no cost to members of the University of Virginia community.
§ An online version of these books are available to members of the University of Virginia community only. See also Maya on-line textbook links

 This is a more up-to-date introduction though less compact than the Robinson and Stein text.
+ These texts include greater focus on more on specialized topics. 
Mastering Autodesk Maya 2016  has over 800 pages, covers significantly more features and special effects than the primary text we will be using in the class.