Students take on 24-Hour Animation Challenge

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The Mathamanimals placed third in the animation competition, which was the first time they ever competed. From left to right: Todd Olson, Zachary Polic, Kevin Hand, Sean Roberts and Brittany Keyes. Photo credit: Taylor Sinclair

Five exhausted, sleep deprived Chico State students were put in a room for 24 hours to produce a 30-second animation film. As the challenge wore on, the students endured headaches and caffeine withdrawals while their eyes never left the computer screens.

The team, called the Mathamanimals, won third place in the 24-Hour Animation Challenge, which took place at 5 p.m. Sept. 26 until 5 p.m. Sept. 27. The Mathamanimals consisted of Brittany Keyes, Sean Roberts, Kevin Hand, Todd Olson and Zachary Polic, who are all senior computer animation and game development majors.

The theme this year for the competition was a quote from “Animal Farm”: “All animals are created equal but some are more equal than others.”

All animation had to be original and created from scratch within the 24 hours.

The challenge was to make the animation 2-D, which posed a challenge for Chico State’s team, Keyes said.

“That’s more of a concern for our major, that’s primarily 3-D, in a competition that’s primarily a 2-D competition,” Keyes said. “It takes us a much longer time to get up and running in the animation process between designing, modeling and rigging before we can even animate at all.”

This challenge was done without any time outs or sleep breaks.

Roberts said staying up for 24 hours was the hardest part of the entire competition.

“People were starting to fall asleep,” Roberts said. “The last crunch was the hardest part; the last four hours. We were all super drowsy and we needed to start pushing it out faster to get it done in the time period.”

The 24-Hour Animation Challenge broke down as follows:

Hours 1-4: The theme of the challenge was announced, giving each team little time to brainstorm. After about an hour, Hand had the idea of a transition of animals equaling other animals. After agreeing on Hand’s idea, the production process took place. Keyes worked on the concepts of the animal characters while the others began timing shots and working on lighting.

Hours 5-8: These next few hours consisted of mostly modeling. Hand worked on modeling and Keyes worked on texturing. Olson, Roberts and Polic worked on editing and camera sequences. A lot of back and forth took place during this time.

Hours 9-12: 12 hours down, 12 to go. Hand was in charge of rigging, which is creating the skeletal structure and movements to the characters. This time was spent testing and reapplying things on models. Keyes continued to texture while animators started to use the models.

Hours 13-16: This set of hours consisted of animating. While animating, the lighting was revisited. During this time, the team lost one member, Hand, who had prior work responsibilities to attend to.

Hours 17-20: The team struggled to work while enduring headaches and sick stomachs as the caffeine rush started to fade. It was time to start applying sounds and songs to the animation. From this point on, there was nonstop editing until the end.

Hours 21-24: With only four hours left, the team created a high-quality picture and added any final touches. With only four team members remaining, Mathamanimals finished with only minutes to spare. On Sept. 29th, the winners were announced over a YouTube video.

Keyes said placing third was a big deal for Chico State.

“We are pretty happy about it because Chico hasn’t been represented in this contest before, even though it’s a pretty long-running contest,” Keyes said. “We just jumped in and got a place, so it’s pretty awesome. It’s a good point for our major.”

Each team member was awarded multiple prizes in addition to bragging rights.

“So for third place we each got a $250 scholarship to CSU Summer Arts 2015, a Wacom Intuos pen Small and a one-year license to Toon Boom Storyboard Pro and Animate Pro,” Polic said.

Winning third was not only a big deal for the students participating, but also for Chico State’s computer animation and game development department as a whole.

“I’d say that we feel like our major’s not quite as represented,” Keyes said. “We don’t have the same name as some of the other colleges do for this department. It’s nice to be able to compete with those schools who have more of a reputation. It’s important because we want our major to be competing in more contests and to branch out.”

Taylor Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or @TaySinclair17 on Twitter.