Animation & Visual Effects Spring Awards honor outstanding student achievement

Animation & Visual Effects Spring Awards honor outstanding student achievement

School of Animation & Visual Effects students celebrate their win at the department’s Spring Awards. Photo courtesy of Becky Johnson.

On April 28, the Morgan Auditorium at 491 Post Street hosted a world premiere, as students’ never-before-seen work debuted at the School of Animation & Visual Effects Spring Awards. Bags of popcorn and candy greeted attendees in the lobby, serving as a cue to relax, sit back and admire the skill and creativity about to play across the screen. Hundreds of students filled the venue’s seats to find out how their submissions fared, admire the work of their peers and congratulate the winners.

An end-of-semester tradition, the awards exist to highlight and showcase the very best work students created during the year, in categories including storyboards, layout design, stop motion, animatics, 2-D and 3-D animation, and visual effects. School of Animation & Visual Effects Animation Coordinator David Latour, who hosted the ceremony, estimated that approximately one-fourth of the school’s 1,300-plus students submitted work for awards consideration. The entire staff works together to judge the submissions. 

“It was a tough field this year,” Latour said to the audience. “I love that you guys make it so hard for us to pick what’s going to be in the show.” With that, the lights dimmed and the showcase began. The opening credits included an animated representation of the school’s global student body, which includes enrollees from Australia, Brazil, China and South Africa, among other countries. 

Excitement rippled through the crowd throughout the show as runners-up and winners in each category were revealed. Awarded entries transported the audience to locations including a forest cabin during a thunderstorm, an Old West saloon and a patisserie, and introduced characters such as a strutting, fully clothed rabbit and a bird that uses balloons to help it fly. 

While most entries were the work of a single student or a small group, two Director’s Award-winning short films—Kupala Night and Wishing Box—each involved dozens of students. “The projects originate as student ideas that require more support than any one student can accomplish on their own,” Latour explained. “Sometimes it’s a thesis film from an M.F.A. student; sometimes the idea developed in a B.F.A. storyboard class.”

Both Director’s Award recipients exhibit command of story and technique. Kupala Night explores evolving gender roles and courtship rituals. The film begins with people gathered in the forest around a bonfire, as lively music plays. Three girls in floral headdresses dance around the fire, but instead of standing back as pretty observers, they take part in the action. One catches her dress aflame while jumping over the fire to copy a boy’s feat of daring—the other girls put it out for her. Later, the same girl dives into the river to retrieve her flower crown, snagged by debris on its journey downriver to be intercepted by the boys. 

Wishing Box presents a humorous musing on the effect of singlemindedly pursuing one’s personal definition of treasure. Out at sea aboard ship, a monkey attempts to pry into a can of food with its teeth. A pirate enters carrying a treasure chest, which turns out to be empty. The monkey peers into the chest and pulls out bananas, and oranges, then cake, as the pirate pantomimes directions, encouraging the monkey to check the chest for jewels and gold. Finally understanding, the monkey mines thousands of gold teeth from the chest. Weighed down by metal, the ship sinks, as the monkey’s original treasure, the fruit, bobs to the surface.

After the film compilation ended, faculty members presented certificates to the runners up and winners, including double winner Sarah Marschman, who topped the Layout Design and 2-D Animation Effects categories. In a classic awards show moment, one student accepted her honor via video chat. Several winners were absent from the festivities because they’re already employed in their fields, proof that students’ talents and training translate to the workforce. 

Based on the progress, passion and cooperation on display at the spring awards, it seems as though hundreds of talented fellow Academy alumni will soon join them. “Every year, the level of work sets the bar higher and higher,” Latour said. “I’m continually amazed at the quality and variety of work the ANM/VFX students are able to create.”



Stop Motion Puppet
Qing Wang, M.F.A.
Runner Up: Supalert Peanchiltertkajorn, M.F.A. 

Stop Motion Short
Tada Kongjonrak, M.F.A.
Runner Up: Supalert Peanchiltertkajorn, M.F.A.

Tzuhsuan Li, M.F.A.
Runner Up: Kaho Kubo, M.F.A.

Layout Design
Sarah Marschman, B.F.A.
Runner Up: Ilja Mazurs, A.A.

Kaho Kubo, M.F.A.
Runner Up: Andrew Adams, B.F.A.

2-D Animation Puppet Rigging
Beata Smalgren, B.F.A.
Runner Up: Vesela Stamenova, B.F.A.

2-D Animation Test
Travis Capistrant, M.F.A.
Runner Up: (Tie) Naksit Nijsathorn, B.F.A. and Prem Sai GS, M.F.A.

VFX Short
Dan Kendall, M.F.A., Man's Best Friend
Runner Up: Michael Andrian Sohono, Lab is Closing

2-D Animation Dialogue Test
Vesela Stamenova, B.F.A.
Runner Up: Christine Brennan, B.F.A.

2-D Animation Effects
Sarah Marschman, B.F.A.
Runner Up: Daniel Yum, B.F.A.

2-D Animation Short Film
Liliana Vazquez Song, M.F.A., Kupala Night
Runner Up: (Tie) Supalert Peanchiltertkajorn, M.F.A. and Han Sin Wee, B.F.A.

3-D Mod. Organic
Seo Ryong Jaw, B.F.A.
Runner Up: Zhining Huang, M.F.A.

3-D Mod. Hard Surface & Environments
Jui An Tsai, M.F.A.
Runner Up: Jesse Walker, M.F.A.

MEL Scripting and Rigging
Solhee Ryu, M.F.A.
Runner Up: Ana Mei, M.F.A.

3-D Character Animation Test
Dahyun Beak, B.F.A.
Runner Up: Carolina Gomez Lopez, M.A.

3-D Character Animation Dialogue Test
Holiday Liu, M.F.A.
Runner Up: Sarah Tran, B.F.A.

3-D Character Animation Realistic
Shuwei Kuo, M.F.A.
Runner Up: Leonardo Quert, B.F.A.

3-D Short Film
Ruchirek Somrit, M.F.A., Wishing Box
Runner Up: Jeongsu Jo, M.F.A.

Feature Lighting
Jenny Wan, M.F.A.
Runner Up: Pablo Grache, B.F.A.

Dynamics and Particles
William Sokoloski, B.F.A.
Runner Up: Oceantian Qiu, B.F.A.

VFX 3-D Texture
Chaiwon Kim, M.F.A.
Runner Up: Xiangyu Ye, M.F.A. 

VFX Compositing
Sidharth Priyadarsan, B.F.A.
Runner Up: Tomohiko Fukuda, B.F.A.