August 28, 2020

SCA Students Make Animation on Zoom

The Animation Division Collaborates to Make Art on Video Meeting Platform


In the era of COVID-19, Zoom is everywhere. Zoom meetings. Zoom fatigue. Zoom classes. Now, thanks to the creativity of USC School of Cinematic Arts students and faculty in the John C. Hench Division of Animation + Digital Arts, Trojans can now add Zoom Animation to the conversation.

“I was trying to find a way to do something fun for the first day of class and get things going,” said Professor Sheila Sofian who teaches both courses where the Zoom videos were made. “This project was a good combination of animation and fun. We’re on Zoom so much I wanted to make it different for the students.”

“The idea of the zoom animation was pitched to us as a fun, warm-up exercise to work together with classmates,” said animation student Max Good. “The sense of community is very important to me as a student. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, it hasn’t been possible to meet in person. Activities like this one, where you still get to work with others, bounce ideas back and forth, and develop teamwork skills are so important, and really help teach the creative process.”

The first video, made by seniors in the CTAN 401 course, features students passing a pen between screens, passing an increasingly realistic cat (ending with a cameo from a real cat named Ollie), and an arm extension effect.

The second video was made with Freshman animation students in the CTAN 101 course which features students passing a mask between frames and passing a water glass which is ultimately thrown on Professor Sofian. The freshman video is a truly international affair with students streaming in from China, Singapore, Japan, Brazil, and all over the United States.

The projects required patience and problem solving to use built in features of the Zoom platform. For instance, when filming started, it was impossible to restart the session without scrambling the “mosaic” of participants. In addition, the direction on left and right had to be flipped in instructions due to video mirroring.

“I put a lot of effort this summer going on online forums on engaging students online. I’m trying to integrate lots of tricks to keep students engaged on Zoom,” said Sofian. “There are so many tools. All of the faculty worked very hard over the summer to make our classes as effective as possible. There’s so much more to learn but it seems to be working.”