Art Institutes

Animation & Effects

Tell stories. In a whole new way.

You’re wired for this. And we’re ready to help push your creativity and build the technical skills you need to create new characters and the worlds they inhabit.

Program Areas


Media Arts & Animation

The skills and imaginations of animators, 3D modelers, concept artists, compositors, and other creative minds are needed everywhere from film to TV.


Visual Effects & Motion Graphics

Use industry-standard technologies and your own imagination as you combine images, space, movement, and sound to create new worlds in film, TV, and other media.

Meet our Faculty

  • Media Arts & Animation Instructor Billy Burger

    Billy Burger

    Media Arts & Animation

    "Create your own style, your own brand."

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    Billy Burger

    Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    I’ve always been driven to create things. While I was running a neon studio here in San Francisco in 1992, I had lunch with a producer from Colossal Pictures. Just sitting there talking to him, realized I was destined for a career in animation.

    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

    I share all of my professional experience, including creating 2D special effects for films, in every class I teach. In my Portfolio classes, I translate all the studio expectations into rubrics that foster the best work possible.

    What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

    I teach a class called Animation Studio, where, in the past, students had basically worked on material for their show reel. I reached out to Chris Ayers, a character designer whose creations have included characters for the film Men in Black.

    I asked him if my students could animate some of the characters a book of sketches he’d published, called The Daily Zoo. The idea was to help students build their reels, and potentially forge a professional relationship with him. It’s been a mainstay—and a great, real-world opportunity—for my Animation students ever since.

    What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

    Create your own style, your own brand. I tell my students that the real world isn’t a textbook exercise or an online example. Out there, the stage is blank and it's time to create something completely new—on their own, from scratch—and make it industry-quality. That’s why I stress the need to create work that’s unique—to develop a strong style and a solid reel to help them join the next generation of commercial artists.

    Anything else you’d like to share?

    Recently, I chose two students and two graduates to work on a story idea for a short film I came up with a few years ago. They’re beginning work on the model pack, storyboards, and initial principle animation. It’s something they can add to their resume and their reel.

  • Trey Gallaher

    Trey Gallaher

    Game Art & Design

    "Critiques and group discussion are where students stand to benefit the most."

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    Trey Gallaher

    What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

    From a young age, I knew I wanted to be an artist of some sort.  When I took my first art history class in college I saw the work of Artemisia Gentileschi and knew what I was destined to do.

    How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience to provide an industry veteran's sense of the realities / challenges / opportunities of the profession?

    Whenever possible, I try to use samples of my own work or an anecdote from my professional experience to set the tone and create a picture of the industry practice and standard.  I have always been a hands-on type of teacher. I try to show, not tell, and demonstrate the skills and steps required to achieve a higher standard.

    Is there a class assignment that exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring? Similarly, how does your approach inspire each student to push themselves beyond their own perceived limits

    In my character design classes, I give an assignment where students explore abstract visual concepts through thumbnail sketching and silhouette refinement. I begin by showing them how to get started, what methods and tools to use, and set them to work. Through their own exploration and work they find a spark of originality and an idea that sets the direction for further development.  They are often surprised by their own discoveries and in finding something unique and special in their own working process. This is the heart of what I do. I teach process for image creation and visual problem solving thereby unlocking my student’s potential.

    What role does collaboration contribute to students' success, especially when students from other programs contribute to the same project?

    One of the many rewards of attending a traditional brick and mortal college in the modern age is the collaboration and feedback you get from an on-ground experience that generates and fosters professional working relationships.  By having a diverse student body with a variety of design concentrations, students are exposed to neighboring disciplines often working together on projects exchanging ideas and both giving and receiving feedback.  Critiques and group discussion are where students stand to benefit the most.  Students find themselves surrounded by other creative individuals attempting to solve similar types of design problems.  Through this exchange and collaboration, they make connections and form lasting bonds that carry on after their college life and into the professional work place.

    In your opinion, what is the single most important thing you impart to your students to help them succeed in your class and in the real world? Alternatively, what is the most critical advice you would offer any student as he / she embarks on a creative career?

    Work ethic and accountability are the two biggest requirements to becoming a professional.  Taking personal responsibility for the development, execution and on-time delivery of the highest-grade work possible is the sign of a student that is ready for the industry.  When students enter The Art Institute, it begins with their passion and talent.  Our job as faculty is to guide that passion and talent through challenging course work and instruction that will better prepare them for the demanding industry standard. A strong work ethic and accountability are the promise each student must make to themselves in order to achieve success.

    Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you, your experience, or your role as a faculty member at The Art Institutes?

    For over thirteen years at Ai I have been continually amazed by the high caliber of work our students achieve.  I have a strong respect for the discipline it takes for students to stay focused on their goals in this busy and challenging age. I applaud and consider it a privilege to stand behind them in their dedication to their own passion, talent and decision to make their dreams a reality.