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Bright Future, Dark Vision

Before he came to NC State to earn a master’s degree in art and design, Marc Russo had limited skills in animation.

“I wasn’t the best Flash programmer out there but I could get things done, I could cobble things together,” he says.

Today he tells a different story. When he graduates, Russo will enter the job market with a wide range of creative skills, from 3D animation and modeling to film production and match moving (a process of combining live action film with animation). But his education has prepared to do more than just run some complex software programs.

“In addition to the technical skills, NC State has given me the overarching skill of just being a better designer,” he says.

The Four Horsemen

Russo proved the point last month in the Allred Gallery on campus when he presented his master’s project, an animated exhibit based on the four horsemen of the apocalypse. The innovative project featured a story told in a series of richly dark animated scenes running randomly on four screens. Gallery visitors experienced the story differently, depending on when they arrived and when they moved from one screen to the next.

“The idea was for you to tell yourself the story,  so you would latch onto certain characters and tell the story about that character,” he says. “This comes from the idea that the way we look at paintings is very, very different from the way we view animation or the way we view film. I wanted to push film to be a little more like a painting.”

He even surrounded each monitor with an ornate frame to add to the effect.

We Need to Change

The subject matter is dark, Russo admits. But times are tough.

“This is my way of yelling, ‘Hey, we need to change,’” he says. “The Hollywood stuff you see doesn’t really challenge us in that way and I want to use animation in a sort of subversive way to sneak in my vision and demonstrate that I’ve got something more serious to tell using the same tools.”

Russo hopes his career path keeps him in the Triangle, where the computer gaming industry is booming. And he hopes his future includes an opportunity to teach.

“There is something really wonderful that’s going on in higher education when it comes to research and working closely together with people who are doing bigger thinking,” he says. “It would be great to help somebody else learn this skill set because it’s a great career to be creative every day.

“But if Pixar calls tomorrow, I’m out of here.”

Watch Clips of the Project