Steven Kramer

Media Arts & Animation

Faculty: Media Arts & Animation, Game Art & Design, Visual Effects & Motion Graphics
The Art Institute of Seattle

Steven Kramer headshot crop

Students learn to communicate effectively, putting away egos in the interest of a team activity. Steven Kramer , Faculty: Media Arts & Animation, Game Art & Design, Visual Effects & Motion Graphics , The Art Institute of Seattle
What would you say is the defining moment in your life when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

I started as a fine artist, before computers were commonplace in the arts, and never really knew where my skills would take me. Once I started using the computer as an animation tool (3D Studio running on DOS), I realized that we were experiencing a renaissance in art making, that the computer would revolutionize all aspects of visual art.

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?

I think most instructors do this by setting projects that reflect industry skills, deadlines, and standards. It is pointless to expect students to memorize information or remember specifications without actually doing those in a hands-on setting.

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 our Motion Capture class, we explore the entire mocap pipeline (from suiting up performers, to capturing motion, to applying this motion to animated characters). For me, this hands-on experience—which is difficult and not without technical problems—forces students to think on their feet, deal with technical issues, and explore alternate solutions. Once students realize that they are able to create content that is comparable to a film or game pipeline, I really don’t have to do anything to inspire more creative work.

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

Most of all, this is similar to how the real animation / game / visual effects world operates. And it is more difficult than one may think to work on a team with a diverse range of people and skills. Students learn to communicate effectively, putting away egos in the interest of a team activity. We often have audio students collaborating on game and animation projects and it is in the subtleties and nuances that this collaboration works. For example, anyone can add audio to an animated project, but the audio students help us to think about delicate audio cues such as ambient sound and transitions between scenes. These are things that are meant to be nearly invisible to the naked ear, but greatly affect us from a psychological standpoint.

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?

I am from Africa, so I always suggest that students develop a “rhino skin.” In other words, we need to put aside ego and learn to take criticism. Artists often feel “wedded” to their own work, and this makes it difficult for them to take critique. A rhino skin helps to buttress any negative criticism but still remain open to suggestions and advice. This is harder than it sounds.