Course Spotlight: Special Effects in Film with Professor Larson

If you have been following our blog you have learned that the best kept secret of the Shepherd U Communication Department is that we have awesome students and awesome professors. Well what do you get when you put awesome students and awesome professors together? Well, awesome classes of course!

A Special Topics course offered for the first time this semester is Special Effects in Film, taught by our own Monica Larson. This class teaches students the building blocks and techniques to create special effects in digital video using the software Adobe After Effects.

Professor Larson got the idea for the class after teaching COMM 346 Motion Graphics. “I had taught COMM 346 many semesters, and there were always film students wanting to go beyond the scope of that class to apply special effects in their video projects” says Larson. “So this year I decided to make a Special Topics course to see if there was enough interest to integrate it into our permanent curriculum.”

The class combines a study of the history of effects with hands-on exercises. For example, after studying the films of Ray Harryhausen students did a one-class workshop using OSnap!, a stop-motion and timelapse app for the iPad. Here is a product of the workshop that Sam Romine created along with three other students in the class:

Another technique students are learning is how to use masks creatively to combine different scenes. Something really cool to do is to put two of the same people in the same frame at the same time like Comm student Bryant Jack did in this clip.

Other goals for the class include creating ghostly apparitions in a graveyard scene, and learning to use particle effects to create explosions.

Special Effects in Film is just one of the many classes offered in the Department that makes Shepherd Comm the best kept secret on campus!


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