Kyle Agee, John Brown University assistant professor of Visual Arts, and Dustin Solomon, founder and CEO of Bentonville-based Mutiny FX, have partnered to offer the course, Motion Graphics, as part of JBU’s undergraduate Visual Arts program. Agee and Solomon, both JBU alumni, strived to expand the skillset of JBU students who are studying digital cinema and graphic design with additional knowledge in visual effects.
“At JBU, we are committed to our mission of providing academic excellence so that our students will have the expertise to be the best in their field, while also nourishing their spiritual life to honor God and serve others,” Dr. Ed Ericson, vice president for academic affairs & dean of the faculty, said. “We are glad Agee and Solomon, who are both JBU graduates with extensive career knowledge, are able to collaborate and give back to their alma mater on a course that meets the demand of today’s ever-changing market.”
The class, which began this fall semester, addresses a need for education and talent in the growing field while increasing overlapping skills needed for digital cinema and graphic design students.
“The digital cinema students need to know how to do non-cinematic virtual effects,” Agee said. “At the same time, graphic design students need to understand not only how to build for 3D space, but also things like point tracking, so they can create realistic graphics for display prototypes or a store walk-through environment.”
Business at Mutiny FX has been steadily picking up, with 17 film and TV movie projects in 2018 alone. Their services include titles, motion capture, virtual reality and full-service post production. The company has worked on more than 50 films, including “God’s Not Dead 2,” “Greater” (the Brandon Burlsworth story) and the film “Unbroken: Path to Redemption,” which opened in theaters, Sept. 14.
The work was there, but Solomon was having trouble finding talent.
“There hasn’t been the educational opportunities in our area for someone wanting to get into this field,” said Solomon, who opened Mutiny FX in 2011. “They go out of state for their education, then usually stay there for their careers,” leaving Northwest Arkansas without the expertise, talent pool and opportunities that come with VFX projects.
Once a luxury reserved for big-budget Hollywood films, visual effects have moved into mainstream and independent media thanks to improved technology and software. Visual effects is a specialized mix of technology and artistry, using computer software to enhance or create imagery not achieved with live-action filming (for example aliens invading Earth or a massive skyscraper explosion). Visual effects are also used heavily in television shows such as Westworld and Game of Thrones, and to design video games, apps and virtual environments such as retail displays.
Agee started teaching the class this semester as a faculty member. The previous version of the class was taught by adjunct professors and often lacked consistency from semester to semester.
“This is the best of both worlds,” Agee said. “We get the consistency of a faculty member teaching the class every semester, along with outside experts to help develop a curriculum that’s relevant. Dustin and his team are so very good at what they do. Since they do this every day, they’re always up to date in this field, which changes so rapidly.”
Agee and Solomon eagerly await the results and feedback from this semester’s students so they can discuss what happens next with the program. After the fall semester started on Aug. 22, three additional students approached Agee to take the class based on recommendations from friends who attended the first session.
“We are blessed that we have students who want to learn,” Agee said. “We are industry and job focused. We make no apologies for saying our goal is to get students employed. They’re pumped any time they get to learn something hands-on that they can put on a resume that sets them apart from another student.”
Visit jbu.edu/motion-graphics/ to learn more about the Motion Graphics course. Visit mutinyfx.com to learn more about Mutiny FX.