Nurturing the Artistic Talent of Engineering Students through Multimedia Courses

Posted on April 26, 2011

2


This article is co-authored by Sangeeta Malik and Sanjay Goel.  In the last nearly 15 years, we have  been co-workers  on several multimedia related projects and activities. She can be contacted at  sangeeta DOT malik AT jiit DOT ac DOT in.

_________________________________________

Multimedia involves the art and technology for designing the information and experiences to inform and engage people. It also affords to overcome the traditional communication barriers of space and time.

In software industry, the importance of multimedia and human computer interaction has significantly increased in the last decade. In some fields like animation, games, educational software, it is even more important.  It requires a cross cultural interaction of graphic designers and software engineers.  Hence, a basic understanding of aesthetics and graphic design tools becomes very useful for engineers to help them make a good team with graphic designers.  Taking this trend into consideration, in 2002, JIIT, Noida, initiated the teaching of multimedia courses. Our earlier design and development experience in several pioneering multimedia projects at the Cultural Informatics Lab of IGNCA provided us the necessary background and insights to design and further evolve these courses.

We began with a basic course in ‘Graphics and Presentations Design,’ which gradually grew and now, we offer three courses in this stream for B.Tech Students. These courses expose students to area of Graphics Design, 2D and 3D Animation Design, and theories of Multimedia Communication and Interaction Design. With respect to these courses, while the second author’s role is mostly limited to planning activities only, the first author has been regularly involved in directly teaching and coordinating these courses. Several other faculty members were also inducted for teaching of the first of these  to a very large number of students.  Few faculty members, e.g., Anuja Arora, Ritu Arora, and Suma Dawn have been enthusiastic members of this teaching team on many occasions. Few others have also contributed.

For undergraduate students, these three aesthetic multimedia oriented courses compliment our department’s computational multimedia courses like  Computer Graphics, Image Processing, and Multimedia Computing.  These computational courses focus on algorithmic, mathematical, scientific, programming, and technological aspects of multimedia technology.  A prior exposure to our aesthetic multimedia courses enhances the level of these computational courses as well because the students have already used some powerful multimedia tool. While  few motivated students develop the urge to develop some such tools, almost all become  better prepared to understand the technolgy behind  such tools.

Multimedia Development Lab I

The very first course “Multimedia Development Lab I (MMDEV I)” offered to 2nd year B.Tech. (CSE/IT/ECE) students, is a lab course. It introduces students to the world of digital graphics and interface design. Through this course, the students start appreciating the considerations behind good user interface designs. They develop hands-on skills with different types of graphic design tools.  The students are also exposed to some professional working styles and sub-processes by means of a mini project.

A variety of projects have been executed by the students in this course. In the year 2002, they designed the cover pages of several magazines. In 2003, they designed a variety of print material like cover pages of several magazines, brochures, news paper layouts, product promotional pamphlets & danglers, etc. In 2004, we moved towards creating a wide range of advertising material.  In 2005, the next batches worked on designing of numerous publishing materials like calendars, CD covers, hoardings, brochures, posters, website layouts etc. In 2006, the students were asked to create significant key frames of small stories and poems and these pages were linked in sequence to run as Slide shows.  In the year 2007, a huge mass of 608 students were assigned a single educational multimedia project based on NCERT middle school syllabus, with specified individual work division to avoid any copying in the project work. In 2008, around 300 students learned to design various types of publishing material like brochures, proceedings, cover page, and CD covers for international conferences. In 2009, they created a series of posters on biographies of famous people in the world, and in 2010, they worked on creation of a series of posters on history of science and technology. Currently in 2011, they are creating 300 posters to various topics of history, art and science.

Student Creations

Student Creations

 

 

In this course, students are given weekly Lab and take home assignments based on Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator. Lab assignments are evaluated there and then, and ‘take home assignments’ are evaluated in the next class. Every work is judged on the basis of accuracy, neatness, and aesthetics. Each lab assignment has a specific aim for which the student has to use a number of techniques.   A few typical examples of assignments include extracting an image from its background, merging multiple images to create a new image, color & tonal adjustment, colorizing textured grayscale images, and restore old & torn photographs, use of filters, effects & brushes, creation of visual layouts & illustrations, image slicing and linking etc. The students also practice automation techniques, e.g., action, batch processing, photomerge, create droplet, fit image, crop and straighten photos, lens correction etc. Many a times, the assignments are to be performed on students’ self & their family photos.

Though this course is assigned only one credit in the curriculum, the assignments require a significant amount of homework. As per their feedback, 70-80% of students like it.

This course has very large number of students and in addition to the first author, 2-5 other faculty members are engaged to take lab classes for different groups in the batches of 30 students.  As there is no common lecture class assigned to this course, it is often felt that not all students get the conceptual clarity and guidance with respect to aesthetics and balance in graphic design.  In order to address this matter, we now plan to create video lectures on these issues. We also plan to create an archive of video recordings of selected project meetings.

Multimedia Development Lab II

The second lab course “Multimedia Development Lab II” is offered to 3rd yr B.Tech. (IT) students. It is designed to enable students to practice various creative as well as technical sub-processes in animation production and impart skills to handle 2D & 3D animation tools like Adobe Image Ready, Flash, and  3D Studio Max. Till 2009 Animo (Cambridge Animation System) was also used in this course. The course is delivered through practical exercises oriented towards imparting basic skills of concept development and tool handling during pre-production and production phases of animation production. Regular lab and take-home assignments are given to students.

To bring conceptual clarity, we start with creation of story line and story boards as per our format.  We have designed different formats for non-interactive and interactive projects. The students then get acquainted with animation tools. Sometimes, the students are provided with a sample animation, which they have to re-create by the end of lab.  Sometimes, they are provided with an outline of story of an animation sequence which they themselves have to further visualize and create. They practice various types of animation techniques using Flash, e.g., cel animation, tweening, guided motion, onion skinning, movie clips, edit centre, morphing, object animation, compiled animation etc.   Further, they integrate the animations with html code, audio and video. Action scripts are created for giving interactivity. 3DS Max is used for 3D object modeling and modifying, cloning, applying materials, texture mapping, lights and camera movement, animation trajectories, particle system, morphing, space warps, human body kinematics, rendering, etc.

An animation design project carried out by students is evaluated on the basis of concept presentation, overall visual layout, storyboarding, and effective use of animation tools.  The project starts in the very beginning of the semester. Project is also evaluated in 4-5 phases, where regular feedback is given to students to further modify their work. 70-80% Students feels that the course is worthy and fruitful, though at the same time 30-40% students say that the work involved in creating animations is really tiresome.

The animation projects undertaken by the students are also theme based. Students have been offered variety of projects with well diversified themes every year. In 2002, our students started with creating small animation on various social themes like “SAVE WATER”, “NO SMOKING”, etc., In 2003, they were given a theme of creating animated Panchatatra stories, In the year 2004,  the theme was to create Animations on “How Stuff Works” in which they created animations explaining working processes of various small and big machines. In 2005 and 2006, they created animated e-learning modules on the basis of the courses they were studying. This project was done under close association of a subject expert (faculty member at JIIT), and the content of final animations were also verified by them. In 2007 and 2008, we moved towards creation of interactive educational multimedia which included interactive animated tutorials and quizzes, where we included lots of topics within their engineering curriculum. In 2009, our students created “3D Art & Science Exploratorium”, where each group of students worked on one animated display. In 2010, they created humorous animations. Each group had to un-simplify any routine task taken in-hand. Build a humorous story around how to accomplish that task using only machines (with minimum usage of hand).  In this project, students have created animation sequences, in which very simple tasks like “opening a book” or “lightening a lamp,” etc., are performed by an automated chain of mechanic tools like pulleys, springs, rollers etc.

Currently in 2011, students are working on creation of interactive educational animated stories and puzzles based on variety of topics on physics, mathematics, and logic. In future, we intend to expand “3D Exploratorium.” 

Multimedia Content and Animation Design

The third course, “Multimedia Content and Animation Design,” introduced in 2004, is an elective course open to all 4th year B.Tech. students. This Course focuses on the study of theory of multimedia and human-media interaction, and provides a background in research in the upcoming areas of multimedia interaction and experience design. The students are exposed to various creative as well as technical sub-processes in multimedia content and animation design by means of experiential learning. During the course, the students are well acquainted with various phases of multimedia project, various components of multimedia, theories of color, signs & symbols & their application in interaction design, principles of interactive multimedia, animation design, multimedia authoring environments and underlying philosophies,  and game design. The course also deals with various emerging areas of multimedia applications for Info-edu-tainment.

The students are evaluated on the basis of theory exams, various practical and design based assignments, and a project carried out in multimedia interaction design. A few typical examples of MMCAD class assignments were – planning multimedia kiosks; designing visual layouts out of a set of provided shapes and colors; creating a “game design;” etc.  For the take-home assignments,  students were asked to review interviews and videos on “the techniques used and  efforts gone in making latest animated advertisements/movies”, and then finally discussion on all this in classes, visit a 5D theatre, and share their experiences and understanding of technology used there. Around 200 students were divided into groups and were asked to do a detailed study of existing tools and current research with respect to some application areas.

In 2004 and 2005, students explored authoring tools like Macromedia Director and Flash and created interactive multimedia using them. They also worked on other tools like, Animo, 3D Studio Max, Adobe Premiere etc. Till 2009,   they were asked to prepare detailed project proposals as new applications of their literature studies in multimedia design. Many incomplete animation projects of earlier courses were completed by the students of this course in 2010. Every year,  this elective course attracts a large number of enrollments every year.

Minor Project and Mentoring

Apart from these three courses, many students also chose Multimedia for their minor projects (5 Credits). As their minor projects, a group of students have worked for the compilation and further modification of 3D exploratorium project in 2008, and in 2009, students have created a 45 minute long animated movie, “The Story of Physics”. A good numbers of students every year are willingly participating in students’ mentoring programme run by deptt. of CSE/IT, where final year students mentor juniors in their labs and project work. Students who performed well in multimedia courses at their own time have proved themselves to be wonderful mentors for their juniors too.  In 2007, a very interesting student, Kunal Raizada, who could not perform well in his own multimedia labs, volunteered to mentor multimedia lab of the juniors. In this engagement, he worked very hard as a mentor and we consider him as one of the best mentors till now.

The overall experience in handling Multimedia Courses in JIIT is awesome. In the span of these 9 years, we have come across the hidden creative instinct and love for design of a number of engineering students. Many students have shown remarkable performance in these courses. Some of those students are Pravesh verma (from 1st batch of JIIT), S. Pavani, Abhinav Shrivastava, Rohit Bhargava, Bhuvan Sachdeva, Aniket Bera, etc.  Student, like Vatsal Chaoji, and Akshan Ish realized the depth of their interest in the field of design and have changed their career paths from a engineer to designer. In words of Akshan Ish, a final year student who has passed entrance exams of NID and CEED (IIT Mumbai), “It was a pleasure to have MMDEV I course as part of the curriculum as it let me explore various possibilities, taught me to work on something. I eventually learned to love, and gave me the impetus to consider it as a serious career option.” An ex-student Vatsal Chaoji, says, “I did not know or learn any art before I joined this course… I can literally say that this course change the course of my life… I, now am a brand custodian at Circle Marcomm… and I feel this course help me self-actualize”.

Final Remarks

The strategy of lecture-cum-demonstration classes to supplement and further create a link to the theories, literature surveys, lab exercises, exploratory projects with continuous guidance and multi phase evaluation, project linking across various multimedia courses, and sometimes with other course as well, are the key techniques which have become a root cause of the popularity and success of multimedia courses in JIIT.

Advertisements
Posted in: Uncategorized