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FILMMAKING //
FILMMAKING // ACADEMY OF ART UNIVERSITY
GET THOSE CAMERAS ROLLING!
REELIN’ AND SEALIN’
THIS ACADEMY OF ART UNIVERSITY GRAD IS LIVING HIS DREAM.
BY JENNIFER BLOT
Do I have something
in my teeth?
PHOTO COURTESY OF
IAN A. NELSON
Award-winning cinematographer Ian A.
Nelson views filmmaking as a creative
and mathematical process. You can start
with the vision and concept but you
need to master your equipment using a
more logical approach.
Nelson, 25, earned his Bachelor of
Fine Arts (BFA) in Motion Pictures & Television from San Francisco’s Academy of
Art University, but as a wildlife filmmaker, he must constantly apply STEM to his
craft—from math and technology to the
scientific research he relies on to better
understand the species he documents.
Nelson’s documentary “Northern Elephant Seals,” for which he was videographer, editor and music composer, won
the Best Short Film at the Vaasa Wildlife Film Festival in Finland. The festival
received 186 entries from 47 countries
and nearly 5,000 attendees were on
hand at the awards ceremony.
16
Nelson’s parents, Craig and Annamarie, are both directors of Academy
of Art University’s School of Fine Arts
– Painting, and nurtured his creativity
when he was a child. They were overjoyed when he contacted them from
Finland with news of his award, but also
knew that their son had more than a
passing interest in filmmaking.
Nelson began making videos as a
sophomore in high school in Santa Rosa,
Calif. He and three friends—with whom
he still remains close to today—spent
free time making their own movies.
“In high school I was using MiniDV
cameras and editing on Final Cut. We
made about three films a semester and
would usually take just one or two days
to shoot everything,” he said.
Nelson said he’d always been very
good at math and science. Though filmmaking may seem more artistic than
STEM JOBS // LATE FALL 2014 // STEMJOBS.COM
scientific, he taps into the science and
math skills he sharpened early on.
In the case of elephant seals who migrate annually to Ano Nuevo State Park
on the Northern California coast, he did
a lot of scientific research. He learned
to spot the Alpha males—or “bulls”—and
their respective harems of female seals.
He studied their patterns—in December, the females come to the shore from
the sea to prepare to give birth. Usually
within six days of arrival, each female
gives birth to one pup, usually about 75
pounds. The mother—who may weigh as
much as 2,000 pounds and is about 12
feet long—nurses her baby for 25 to 28
days and then abandons it, forcing the
pup to acclimate quickly.
Using a Canon Rebel T2i DSLR, Nelson switches lens to change perspective—but not without applying some
quick math in his head.
“THE CAMERA
REALLY IS A
MATHEMATICAL
TOOL.”
— Ian A. Nelson, Director,
“Northern Elephant Seals”
“The camera really is a mathematical
tool. You’ve got to figure out if you’ve
got a nice depth of field. You have to adjust your aperture to get the exposure
right. Math is also used in converting
shots filmed at higher frame rates to
slow motion. Filming at 60 frames per
second is converted to project at 24
frames per second, essentially slowing
down time,” Nelson said.
When finished filming, he uses Adobe Premiere Pro editing software to construct the footage into a narrative piece.
“A major part of editing is color correcting—that’s really important. As a
camera person you want to do everything
that you can to make everything look as
good as possible in camera so you don’t
have to do much—but it makes all the
difference in the world when you color
correct your footage,” he said.
“And then after video editing there’s
audio—layering in sounds for the visuals.
Having waves crashing further from
the beach, having the seagulls and the
crows sounds come in—it immerses the
viewer into the film even more,” he said.
Nelson, who plays guitar, piano, ukulele and bass, also composes all of his
own music.
“Math and engineering can be used
for music composition, figuring the
time needed for a piece of music and
whether the tempo should be faster
or slower according to the pace of the
film,” he added.
Nelson plans to enter “Northern Elephant Seals” into more contests in the
next few months. He juggles a number
of freelance projects—from commercial
shoots to corporate videos—but his own
documentaries are always close to his
heart. He plans to travel to Wyoming
and possibly British Columbia this winter to get footage of animals in the snow.
“I’ve always been a wildlife and animal lover. I thought that making films
about animals would hopefully create
more awareness, have people show
more respect towards animals and maybe try to do something to help these animals if they’re endangered,” he said.
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COVER STORY // INTERSTELLAR
CINEMATIC SCIENCE
...did I remember to
feed the cat?
CINEMATIC
SC I E NCE
PAUL FRANKLIN BLENDS ART AND SCIENCE
TO CREATE BREATHTAKING VISUAL EFFECTS.
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY AS COOPER
PHOTO COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES
18
STEM JOBS // LATE FALL 2014 // STEMJOBS.COM
BY STEPHANIE PETIT
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19
INTERSTELLAR
Which one of you left
the refrigerator open?
LEFT TO RIGHT:
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY AS COOPER
ANNE HATHAWAY AS AMELIA BRAND
AND DAVID GYASI AS ROMILLY
PHOTO COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES
“Creativity is not
purely preserved
for people who
work in the arts
and humanities. It
is something that
is universal. And
if somebody is a
good computer
programmer, they’re
just as creative
as somebody
who works with
a paintbrush or
sketches for a living.”
— Paul Franklin,
Visual Effects Supervisor
Paul Franklin has what many would describe as a “dream job.”
As the visual effects supervisor for Hollywood blockbusters
like Inception (for which he won an Academy Award), two of
the Harry Potter films, and The Dark Knight trilogy, he designs
and executes all the amazing images you see on the big screen
using computer technology. However, while he was growing
up, computers weren’t what they are now.
“I first encountered a computer when I was probably about
10 years old. A neighbor was an engineer and had a computer
terminal in his house—which I think was actually worth more
than the house. It was very, very basic by modern standards—
your smart phone would put it to shame,” Franklin says.
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STEM JOBS // LATE FALL 2014 // STEMJOBS.COM
Even though he chose to study fine arts in college in the
1980s, his interest in computers continued to develop. Because
there were no courses at the time that combined technology and
the arts, Franklin took it upon himself to experiment in his free time.
“I took advantage of the access that my university gave me
to the engineering department. They were happy for me to go
in and use their computers in down time so I could teach myself the basics of computer graphics and computer animation,
which I then used to visualize the sculptures I was making as an
art student during the day,” he says.
As the co-founder of a visual effects studio in London called
Double Negative, one of the biggest visual effects houses in the
world,
Franklin continues to push the field of computer animation. The engineers there are
constantly developing new software and tools to advance
in what Franklin calls a “creative arms race”—the continuous
need to exceed what has already been done in film to create an
exciting, new experience.
For his newest film, Interstellar, Franklin again partners with
director Christopher Nolan to create that spectacle that will
dazzle audiences. The film starring Matthew McConaughey and
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INTERSTELLAR
Anne Hathaway takes us to outer space, an arena
Franklin has seen on screen since he was a child
watching shows like Star Trek. Franklin was tasked
with creating visualizations of wormholes, black
holes, and other real space phenomena. While
these events have been depicted in motion pictures before, the team wanted to ensure scientific
accuracy in addition to stunning images.
Collaborating with Professor Kip Thorne, one
of the world’s leaders in gravitational physics and
astrophysics and a professor at the California Institute of Technology, engineers at Double Negative
developed a new suite of computer graphics tools
which allowed them to visualize the way space
time is warped by the intense gravity of a black
hole. The images they came up with were not only
scientifically accurate, but stunning.
“What we found was that when we went to
the science and we asked the science what does
this thing look like, it gave us such extraordinary
images that we didn’t need to resort to fantasy to
make them cinematic and exciting,” he says.
Along with advancing the field of computer
technology and creating amazing works of art,
Franklin loves that he gets to work with an eclectic
group of people who are not only intelligent but
also creative.
“Creativity is not purely preserved for people
who work in the arts and humanities,” Franklin says. “It is something that is universal. And
if somebody is a good computer programmer,
they’re just as creative as somebody who works
with a paintbrush or sketches for a living.”
Franklin stresses that there shouldn’t be a divide
between arts and sciences—creativity and ingenuity are both needed. He encourages students to
keep an open mind and never assume you know
what something is like without trying it for yourself.
“It’s not that people aren’t capable of doing
this, it’s just that people sort of shut down their
options at too early an age,” Franklin says. “Really to get the most out of modern technology, to
make the best, most beautiful, most dynamic visuals to tell the stories in the most interesting way,
you have to both develop your creative side both
visually creative side and also an appreciation of
what the capabilities of the machinery are.”
Think a visual effects engineer would be an
awesome job for you? You could get an internship
at one of the studios in the United States or the
United Kingdom, but Franklin says the way that a
lot of people get into the field is by experimenting
on their own like he did. And you even have an
advantage—there’s never been as much opportunity to actually get out there and start making
things. Using devices you already have like your
phone and computer, you can create, edit, and
animate movies.
22
STEM JOBS // LATE FALL 2014 // STEMJOBS.COM
ANNE HATHAWAY AS AMELIA BRAND
MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY AS COOPER
PHOTO COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES
So, that’s what
happens when you
sneeze in space...
STEMJOBS.COM // LATE FALL 2014 // STEM JOBS
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JOB SNAPSHOTS // FILMMAKING
STEM ON THE SCREEN
WANT TO KNOW YOUR STEM TYPE?
LOG ON TO STEMTYPE.STEMJOBS.COM
TO FIND OUT!
FILMMAKING
HOT
PRODUCTION
COORDINATOR
WHAT
WILL I DO?
MEDIAN
SALARY
STEM JOBS BY SALARY
VISUAL
EFFECTS
TECHNICIAN
PHOTO COURTESY OF
PARAMOUNT PICTURES
CONSTRUCTION
MANAGER
FILM EDITOR
CINEMATOGRAPHER
SOUND ENGINEER
Production coordinators
support the production
managers or
production supervisors
in organizing the
business, finance and
employment issues
in film and television
productions. The work is
varied and each project
may be different, which
requires the PC to learn
a broad scope of skills.
Editors spend their
days—and some late
nights—in front of a
console of computer
monitors, shaving
seconds off of shots
and painstakingly
editing audio. Larger
film projects employ
many different editors,
each with a specific
task—rough cut editor,
dialogue audio editor,
special effects audio
editor and more.
The role of the
cinematographer is to
translate the director’s
vision and the
screenwriter’s story
into film or video. A
cinematographer must
have a keen artistic
eye and a mastery
of the technology
and technique of
camerawork.
Responsible for all sound
recorded during the
production of the film.
Must slate/identify shots.
Microphone knowledge.
Plans sound effects and is
able to record on location
and in the studio. Foley
artists are responsible for
making creating realistic
sounds for a movie or
animation. This involves
using unique props to
create sounds that convey
the feeling of the scene.
Make animated
effects, illusions
and other effects
such as explosions,
natural disasters
and intergalactic
events seem real
for movies, videos
and animations.
Shooting a big-budget
movie is like building
an entire world
from the ground
up. Inside massive
studio soundstages,
teams of set builders,
carpenters, riggers,
plasterers, painters
and even plumbers
work long hours to
construct exteriors
and interiors of
buildings and homes.
Directors oversee
the artistic vision of a
film. Directors aren’t
usually involved in
the financial side of
filmmaking, unless
they’re wearing
multiple hats as a
producer-director.
$36,000
$41,000
$52,000
$63,000
$64,000
$91,000
Integrator
Producer
Designer
Maker
Designer
People come to you
when they want to
get something done.
You may have already
added a few touches to
your childhood videos.
You will likely
film your own
wedding.
You like
the sound
of this job.
There may be a fake
ghost video on YouTube
with your name on it.
DIRECTOR
3-D MOTION
TRACKER
PRODUCER
TALENT AGENT
Motion tracking is
the foundation for
all live-action visual
effects. This entrylevel position works
as part of the visual
effects team using
advanced software
technology and a lot
of physics and math
to literally set the
stage for all postproduction work.
One of the vaguest
titles in Hollywood,
a producer can be a
writer, an investor, an
idea man, a manager
or all of the above.
In film, the head
producer is called the
executive producer
and is responsible for
each and every phase
of filmmaking: preproduction, production
and post-production.
The role of a talent agent is
all-encompassing. Agents
find scripts for their actor
or director clients to read.
They shop around their
clients’ headshots, film
reels and original scripts
to studios and independent
production companies
across the country. They
negotiate salaries and
complicated profit-sharing
deals with movie studios
and distribution companies.
$109,000
$125,000
$138,000
$178,000
Integrator
Integrator
Solver
Advisor
Explorer
Building the next
Lord of the Rings set
is on your bucket list.
Someone
has to call
the shots.
You use words like
roto, Maya, perspective
and render wrangler.
Having ideas is great—
having the resources
and vision to make it
happen is essential.
“Show me the money!”—
you didn’t say it first,
but you say it best.
STEM
TYPE
WILL I
LIKE IT?
SCHOOLS
THAT TRAIN
• Hastings College
• Illinois Wesleyan
University
• Inver Hills
Community College
• Meredith University
• Valparaiso University
• Blue Ridge
Community College
• Lawrence Technological
University
• Valencia College
• Washtenaw
Community College
• Academy of Art
University—
See ad inside front cover!
• National University
• Oakland University
• Regent University
• Southern Illinois
University Carbondale
• Andrews University
• California University
of Pennsylvania
• Michigan Technological
University
• University of
Nebraska-Lincoln
• Valencia College
• Citrus College
• John Tyler
Community College
• Mercy College
• Oral Roberts
University
• Renssalaer Polytechnic
Institute
• Eastern Kentucky
University
• Bates Technical College
• Milwaukee School
of Engineering
• University of
Massachusetts Amherst
• University of
Wisconsin-Stout
• Virginia Tech
• Academy of Art
University—
See ad inside front cover!
• Grand Valley
State University
• Oakland University
• Southern Illinois
University Carbondale
• Western Michigan
University
• Academy of Art
University—
See ad inside front cover!
• Richland College—
See ad on pg. 29!
• Digipen Institute
of Technology
• Fayetteville Technical
Community College
• Pueblo
Community College
• Carnegie Mellon
University
• Chatham University
• National University
• Regent University
• University of Nebraska
• Westminster College Pennsylvania—
See ad on pg. 17!
• Chatham University
• Florida Gateway College
• Newman University
• University of Bridgeport
WHO’S
HIRING
• Lucasfilm Animation
• Method Studios
• National Geographic
• NBC Entertainment
• Vice Media
• Education Portal
• Lennar
• Mullen Advertising
• Stella & Dot
• Tuner Broadcasting
• Arawak Entertainment
• Diabolic Pictures
• Elysium Productions
• HOV Short Film
• Rockstar NY
• The Creative Group
• ESPN
• McGraw-Hill Education
• The New York Times
• Turner Broadcasting
• Boss Fight Entertainment
• CoroWare
• Harmonix Music Systems
• MECLABS
• Sony Music Entertainment
• Creative NYC
• Film New Orleans
• Fox Studios
• Millennium Studios
• Paramount Pictures
• CBS Corporation
• Disney-ABC
Television Group
• HBO
• Maker Studios
• Netflix
• NBC Universal
• NFL
• Technicolor
• Twentieth Century Fox
• Warner Brothers
Entertainment Group
• Amazon Corporate LLC
• Blue Temple Productions
• Kohler Co.
• Turner Broadcasting
• Vice Media
• Grayscale Entertainment
• Mandolin Casting
• Starz Entertainment
• Walt Disney Studios
• WWE
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