School of Cinematic Arts

The John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts

The John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts is an international and multicultural program focusing on animation in all its forms. The fundamental philosophy of the program strongly encourages innovation and experimentation, and emphasizes imagination, creativity and critical thinking.

Bachelor of Arts

The Bachelor of Arts in Animation and Digital Arts is a unique four-year program granted through the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts. Students study within the framework that combines a broad liberal arts background with specialization in a profession. Areas of concentration might include character animation, experimental animation, visual effects, 3-D computer animation, science visualization and interactive animation.

Undergraduate students take their pre-professional courses in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, including the general education requirements. Major courses are selected from the curriculum of the School of Cinematic Arts. The degree requires 128 units, including a minimum of 16 lower-division units and a minimum of 26 upper-division units in Cinematic Arts.

General Education Requirements

The university’s general education program provides a coherent, integrated introduction to the breadth of knowledge you will need to consider yourself (and to be considered by other people) a generally well-educated person. This program requires six courses in different categories, plus writing, foreign language and diversity requirements, which comprise the USC core. See The USC Core and the General Education Program for more information.

Required courses Units
CNTV 101 Reality Starts Here 2
CNTV 495* Internship in Cinematic Arts 2 or 4
CTAN 101 Introduction to the Art of Animation 2
CTAN 102 Introduction to the Art of Movement 2
CTAN 201 Introduction to Animation Techniques 3
CTAN 202 Advanced Animation Techniques 3
CTAN 301 Introduction to Digital Animation 3
CTAN 302 Introduction to 3-D Computer and Character Animation 3
CTAN 305 Professionalism of Animation 2
CTAN 336 Ideation and Pre-Production 2
CTAN 436 Writing for Animation 2
CTAN 401ab Senior Project 4-4
CTAN 432 The World of Visual Effects 2
CTAN 451 History of Animation 2
CTAN 496* Directed Studies 2, max 4
CTCS 190 Introduction to Cinema, or
CTCS 201 History of International Cinema 4
FADW 101 Introduction to Drawing: Studio Projects, Methods, Materials 4

*Students can take either one or both classes but must take a minimum of 2 units in a directed studies or internship.

Two units must be selected from the following list:
USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences — Physical Education
PHED 104ab Self-Defense 1-1
PHED 120ab Yoga 1-1

USC Kaufman School of Dance
DANC 181ab Modern Dance 2
DANC 184abc Jazz Dance 2
DANC 188ab International Style Ballroom Dance 2
DANC 189ab Tap Dance 2

USC School of Dramatic Arts
THTR 122 Improvisation and Theatre Games 2
THTR 216 Movement for Actors 2

One course must be taken from the following list:
CTCS 192 Race, Class, and Gender in American Film 4
CTCS 392 History of the American Film, 1925–1950 4
CTCS 393 History of the American Film, 1946–1975 4
CTCS 400 Non-Fiction Film and Television 4
CTCS 403 Studies in National and Regional Media 4
CTCS 407 African American Cinema 4
CTCS 409 Censorship in Cinema 4
CTCS 464 Film and/or Television Genres 4
CTCS 469 Film and/or Television Style Analysis 4
CTCS 482 Transmedia Entertainment 4
Total units: 52

Areas of Concentration

Areas of concentration might include character animation, experimental animation, 3-D computer animation, visualizing science, interactive animation and visual effects. Students work in consultation with the undergraduate coordinator and faculty to help them decide their course of study while at USC.

Senior Project

In the spring semester of their third year students develop their senior project through CTAN 336 Ideation and Pre-Production under the guidance of the lecturer. This project will focus on an area of concentration studied throughout the B.A. by the student. At the end of this class, students present their senior project concepts for review to the Division of Animation and Digital Arts faculty. Progression into CTAN 401ab is contingent upon faculty committee approval.

In the final year, students concentrate on their senior projects, completing production and post-production. The student’s project will be presented to the committee upon completion.

Completion is defined as a fully rendered, animated piece with a completed sound track. In the case of installation work, the piece must be mounted in a suitable space with all sound and animated components completed and functional.

In the case of an interactive work, the piece must be fully functional with completed animation, sound and interactivity.

In addition to completion of the senior project, the student must provide the faculty committee with written and visual documentation of the research. This can be documented as a publishable paper (2,000 words), Website or interactive DVD.

Grade Point Average Requirements

A minimum grade of C, 2.0 (A = 4.0), must be earned in all required and prerequisite courses. A grade of C- (1.7) or lower will not fulfill a major requirement.

Students who do not earn the minimum grade of C (2.0) in CTAN 101, CTAN 102, CTAN 201, CTAN 202, CTAN 301, CTAN 302 or CTAN 401ab after repeating these requirements will be disqualified from the program.

Limitations on Enrollment

Registration in graduate level courses (numbered 500) for undergraduate credit requires prior approval from the School of Cinematic Arts.

Curriculum Review

Cinematic arts majors are expected to meet with an adviser every semester to review their progress. Contact the Cinematic Arts Animation and Digital Arts Division Office, University Park, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2211, (213) 740-3986, or online at anim.usc.edu.

International Program

John C. Hench Animation and Digital Arts offers a fall semester abroad at Studio Art Centers International (SACI) in Florence, Italy. B.A. students will be required to take equivalent classes in animation and digital media while also benefiting from the wide range of liberal arts courses offered at SACI.

Master of Fine Arts

The Master of Fine Arts degree in Animation and Digital Arts is a three-year (six semester) graduate program designed for students who have clearly identified animation and digital art as their primary interest in cinema. The program focuses on animation production, including a wide range of techniques and aesthetic approaches, from hand-drawn character animation to state-of-the-art interactive digital animation. While embracing traditional forms, the program strongly encourages innovation and experimentation, and emphasizes imagination, creativity and critical thinking. Students should graduate with a comprehensive knowledge of animation from conception through realization; an understanding of the history of the medium and its aesthetics; in-depth knowledge of computer animation software and the most important elements of digital and interactive media.

The program requires a minimum of 50 units: 32 units are in prescribed, sequential courses in the School of Cinematic Arts. The other 18 units are cinematic arts electives, 4 of which must be taken in the Division of Critical Studies. A thesis is required for the MFA degree. Ongoing workshops in new technologies, traditional and digital media provide additional educational opportunities for students.

Admission is granted once a year in the fall; there are no spring admissions. Approximately 14 students will be enrolled in each incoming class. In addition to practical production, the program also provides opportunities for fieldwork experience and internships to facilitate the student’s transition into the profession.

Applicants for the MFA in Animation and Digital Arts must apply online and submit a hard copy of their portfolio. For specific instructions, contact the Cinematic Arts Animation and Digital Arts Division Office, University Park, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2211, (213) 740-3986, or online at cinema.usc.edu.

The application deadline is December 1 for the fall semester.

Prior knowledge of fundamental digital animation concepts and techniques is recommended.

The Graduate School Two-Thirds Rule

The school requires 50 units minimum to graduate from the MFA in Animation and Digital Arts program, and two-thirds must be at the 500 level, not including 4 units of CTAN 594ab Master’s Thesis.

Requirements for the MFA in Animation and Digital Arts

Year One, First Semester Units
CNTV 501 Cinematic Arts Seminar 1
CTAN 451 History of Animation 2
CTAN 522 Animation Department Seminar 1
CTAN 544 Introduction to the Art of Animation 3
CTAN 577a Fundamentals of Animation 2
CTAN 579 Expanded Animation 2

Year One, second Semester Units
CTAN 522 Animation Department Seminar 1
CTAN 536 Storytelling for Animation 2
CTAN 547 Animation Production I 3
CTAN 577b Fundamentals of Animation 2
Elective*

Year TWO, first Semester Units
CTAN 522 Animation Department Seminar 1
CTAN 555 Animation Design and Production 4
Elective*

Year TWO, second Semester Units
CTAN 505 The Business of Animation 2
CTAN 591 Animation Pre-Thesis Seminar 2
Elective*

Year three, first Semester Units
CTAN 594a Master’s Thesis 2

Year three, second Semester Units
CTAN 594b Master’s Thesis 2
Total required units 32

*A minimum total of 18 elective units must be taken.

Cinematic Arts Electives

To complete the 50 units required for the MFA in Animation and Digital Arts, students are required to take a minimum of 18 School of Cinematic Arts elective units. Four of those units must be taken from the following Critical Studies courses:

Electives Units
CTCS 501 History of Global Cinema Before World War II 2
CTCS 502 History of Global Cinema After World War II 2
CTCS 503 Survey History of the United States Sound Film 2
CTCS 504 Survey of Television History 2
CTCS 505 Survey of Interactive Media 2
CTCS 510 Case Studies in National Media and/or Regional Media 4, max 12
CTCS 511 Seminar: Non-Fiction Film/Video 4
CTCS 517 Introductory Concepts in Cultural Studies 4
CTCS 518 Seminar: Avant-Garde Film/Video 4
CTCS 564 Seminar in Film and Television Genres 4
CTCS 569 Seminar in Film and Television Authors 4
CTCS 585 Seminar in Film/Television Critical Theory and Production 4
CTCS 587 Seminar in Television Theory 4
CTCS 673 Topics in Theory 4
CTCS 678 Seminar in Film Theory and Medium Specificity 4, max 8
CTCS 679 Seminar in Genre and/or Narrative Theory 4

Thesis Project

In order to begin work on the thesis project, students must first successfully propose their project to a committee of MFA animation and digital arts program faculty. Their proposal is prepared during the spring semester of their second year as part of their pre-thesis class CTAN 591.

In order to pass the pre-thesis class, the thesis proposal must be presented and approved by the thesis committee at the end of the fourth semester. Students cannot change their approved thesis project after the completion of CTAN 591. Throughout the pre-thesis and thesis years of study, students will meet regularly with an MFA animation and digital arts faculty adviser(s) and thesis committee to develop and refine the proposal and discuss the progress of their work. The adviser(s) will be a member of the thesis committee.

The proposal itself will include a written treatment of the project with a discussion of similar work in the field and its relationship to the proposed project. It will describe aesthetic issues to be explored and specific techniques to be employed in its realization. It will also include a storyboard or visualization, budget and schedule, in addition to supporting materials created by the student demonstrating his/her ability to pursue the project. The thesis committee will make comments and decide whether the student may go forward with his/her project. Upon acceptance, the student will begin work on the project, otherwise revising the proposal and meeting again with the committee.

A mid-residency review of the thesis project will take place in the first semester of the final year of study. The student must show that deadlines set in the proposal have been met and that progress consistent with the proposal has been made. The committee may, if necessary, suggest modifications to the project, which the student is then obligated to implement.

In the final year, students concentrate on their thesis projects, completing production and post-production. The student’s thesis will be presented to the committee upon completion.

Completion is defined as a fully rendered, animated piece with a completed sound track (guide mix acceptable). In the case of live action and visual effects projects, at least 70 percent of the final film must be animated. In the case of installation work, the piece must be mounted in a suitable space with all sound and animated components completed and functional. In the case of an interactive work the piece must be fully functional with completed animation, sound and interactivity.

In addition to completion of the thesis project, the student must provide the thesis committee with written and visual documentation of the research. This will be documented as a Website or interactive DVD. The documentation comprises the following and should include a publishable research paper: synopsis; artist’s statement and research paper; learning objectives — focus of research; type of project — animation, installation, interactive, etc.; research presentation in the format/medium in which the project is to be seen; script and storyboard or conceptual drawings if applicable; style approach, including source references for image shot structure, etc.; sound design and references; collaborators — if any; audience — who it is intended for and who will benefit from the research; budget; marketing and distribution plan.

Criteria for successful completion include: 40 percent originality, 40 percent quality of execution and 20 percent quality of research documentation.

Grade Point Average Requirements

A grade point average of at least 3.0 (A = 4.0) must be maintained in all USC course work toward the master’s degree. Courses in which a grade of C- (1.7) or lower is earned will not apply toward a graduate degree. Courses below a C must be repeated.

Time Limit

Students must maintain satisfactory progress toward their master’s degrees at all times. The time limit to complete all requirements is three years from the first course at USC applied toward the Master of Fine Arts degree. Course work more than seven years old is invalidated and will not be applied toward the degree.