Digital Brilliance on Display at 2024 Festival of Animation

May 6, 2024

Students at the Festival of Animation in the Lehman Auditorium

The Festival of Animation was first held in 1990 to showcase the projects from the course Computer Animation. Over the years, it has expanded to showcase projects from a wider range of computer science courses, including Computer Graphics, Computer Game Design and Programming, Design of Interactive Multimedia, Design of Human Computer Interface, Augmented Reality (AR), and Virtual Reality (VR). The latest Festival, held on May 3, 2024, involved 100 students and highlighted their work from five participating courses taught by Profs. James Hahn, Hurriyet A. Ok, Elyse Nicolas, Louai Adhami, and Juman Byun.

The Festival provides a public platform for students in these diverse but related fields of digital media to share the innovative projects they developed over the semester. Students in Computer Animation, Computer Graphics, and Computer Games courses applied theoretical and algorithmic concepts to design complex systems for motion control, visual rendering, and interaction in the virtual world. Games from the Festival were published in the Apple App Store with thousands of downloads within days of their publication. Students in the AR and VR courses were tasked with designing applications that teach scientific concepts like assembling molecules or demonstrate scientific experiments such as the effects of gravity. This hands-on experience allows students to apply theoretical knowledge in creating immersive educational tools while helping them to refine their technical skills and creativity in real-world scenarios. Students in the Human Computer Interface course created high-fidelity software prototypes and interface designs focusing on both the design of the front-end interface and multiple working functionalities. Students in the course Design of Interactive Multimedia chose to either come up with a new exhibit for a museum and create multimedia information interfaces for the chosen exhibit or wrote code and created interfaces for games. Presenting their work at the Festival encourages peer-to-peer learning and opens up networking opportunities with professionals and academics, further enhancing their learning journey and career prospects.

Students who have participated in the Festival have achieved significant accomplishments. Some have gone on to win Academy Awards, establish computer game companies, and become university presidents or professors. Notable alumni include Bill Westenhofer, M.S. ‘95, who won Academy Awards for visual effects in the movies Life of Pi and Golden Compass. Larry Gritz, M.S. ‘93, D.Sc. ‘99 won the Academy Award for Technical Achievement in 2017. Professorial Lecturer and Adjunct Faculty member Elyse Nicholas received screen credit for the moves The Mummy and Alpha.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Festival was held in virtual reality, allowing participants to meet as avatars in a virtual recreation of the familiar Science and Engineering Hall. This provided the GW Engineering community a sense of togetherness that was otherwise impossible in the real world.