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Inside Studio X

by Art U News

By Greta Chiocchetti 

This past spring, Studio X Head of Production Sasha Korellis led a virtual tour of the School of Animation & Visual Effects’ in-house factory-mentored production studio at Academy of Art University. If you have dreams of breaking into the animation or visual effects industries, read on to see which Academy classes can help you get there. 

Studio X 

“One of the big things with Studio X is that we really emulate the real-life studio experience,” said Korellis. 

Studio X students hit the ground running to add their talent and movie magic to feature films—their most recent work is featured in “Strawberry Mansion,” which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Additionally, Studio X has worked on “The 24th,” Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station,” as well as the Academy Award-nominated “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and “Theeb.” Studio X has also worked on student films from USC, Chapman University, and NYU, among others. 

“What we’re trying to do is give you a real experience of working on a project and applying the skills you’re learning in class to actual production while working in a team environment—working under the directors and supervisors,” said Korellis. 

“Connecting professional filmmakers with visual effects and animation students helps the students focus on what they came to the Academy to learn,” said Director of 3-D Animation & Visual Effects Catherine Tate. “They are having to finish the shots to a professional level in a pipeline. This really gives them an edge when they enter into the industry after graduation. They also get IMDB and screen credits while in school.” 

VFX Compositing with Catherine Tate 

Who should enroll: 

-Compositing Artists 

-Matte Painters 

“This is where we work on the high-end films with independent filmmakers—this is great exposure for students to meet up-and-coming filmmakers,” said Korellis. 

2-D Short Film Production with Daisy Church

Who should enroll: 

-Visual Development Artists

-2-D Animators, Storyboarders, and Layout Artists

-Sound Designers and Musicians


-Interested students from other majors

“This is kind of an offshoot of the Studio X classes we’ve been running in the 2-D department for the past couple of years. The concept is that we’re putting everyone involved in a film in the same room together. In Studio X, usually, it’s just the VFX people and 3-D animators—it’s very specialized. I thought it would be so fantastic if we could work side-by-side with visual development artists and the sound people and if all these people got to know each other and got to create films together in the same space,” said Church. “Every three weeks, we will put teams of three to five students together randomly, and you’re given three weeks to create a short film. By the time they exit the semester, each student has three to four completed films to add to their portfolio.” 

3-D Animation with Michael Parks 

Who should enroll: 

-3-D Animators 

-Layout Artists

-Previs Artists

-Game Animators 

“We’re actually picking up a new collaboration with the Chinese Historical Museum for the big Bruce Lee exhibit that’s running in 2022,” said Korellis. “We’ll be doing a 3-D animated Bruce Lee.” 

Production Management with Sasha Korellis 

Who should enroll: 

-Production Assistants 



-Collaborative Project Showrunners 

“In this class, we’ll work on at least two Studio X projects and maybe some collaborative projects with animation and [the School of Game Development],” said Korellis. “When you’re working on a team of five or more, it becomes a challenge to manage the project, and [it] takes a lot to keep things organized, so we help with that.” 

3-D VFX with Jason Patnode 

Who should enroll: 



-Dynamics Artists

-Texture and Lighting Artists for Photoreal VFX Pipeline

-3-D Environment Artists 


“This is the class for you if you’re looking to do texture and lighting for more photoreal things, like the ‘Avengers’-style films that we all know and love,” said Korellis. “This is where we’re creating a lot of assets for not only the 3-D animated films, but also all of the visual effects films, so there’s a lot of crossover. So, we may have very cartoony things for models and doing rigging and texturing, but then we might be doing very photoreal things—creating creatures and monsters.” 

3-D Texture and Lighting with Derek Flood

Who should enroll: 

-3-D Texture Artists 

-3-D Lighters 

-3-D Compositing Artists 

“This class is for 3-D texture artists and lighters and compositing artists that are looking to do more of the Pixar style,” said Korellis. “If you’ve seen some of our films, like ‘Soar,’ which won the Student Academy Award, it was done in this class, along with ‘Wishing Box’ and the film that we just finished, ‘Redemption,’ which is going through the festival circuit now.” 

Preproduction with John Korellis  

Who should enroll: 

-Storyboard Artists 

-Character Designers 

-Visual Development Artists 

“This is really where all those projects are getting created that may or may not go to Studio X,” said Korellis. “If you want to come up with an idea for a film or a TV series and you really want to work through that process, this is where you develop those ideas. Every semester, John will pick the projects that are doing really well, and they’ll get pitched to [the] faculty [for] possible production in Studio X. You’ll go out with a really nice pitch package. This is also a great place to get some variety. There’s an opportunity to work on different projects throughout the semester and have different styles and different ways of visualizing creative projects, so you can show that you have creative range.” 

Watch the full Inside Studio X event below. 


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