Posts

Exceptional Minds Levels Up

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Exceptional Minds is leveling up.  A research grant by Epic Games (well known for their popular game Fortnite) is putting Exceptional Minds apprentices Trevor Wallace, Russell Sayre and Kenneth McLeod to work in our studio. This trifecta of nascent video game creators are led by  Exceptional Minds' 3D/Gaming Supervisor,  Tabansi Kufahamu. They  are doing game design and development using Epic's Unreal Engine along with the many 3D animation tools and skills learned at the Exceptional Minds academy.  This comes at such an important moment. The demand for real-time 3D skills are at an all-time high, so learning Unreal Engine positions our artists for even more career opportunities.   These artists are building a library of 3D assets such as doors, chests, walls, chairs, stools, pillars, and arches. The goal?  " Hopefully we build a popular game," says Tabansi.  A side scrolling endless runner game that may one day be published.  3D side scroller game levels desig

Social Distance Is Not Social Isolation

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Virtual Instruction Continues at Exceptional Minds By Kat Cutright  Academic Dean, MFA Exceptional Minds Like so many other schools, Exceptional Minds made a rapid shift to remote learning in response to the social distancing requirements put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And like so many other schools, we resumed with remote learning at the start of our 2020/21 school year. But unlike most other schools, Exceptional Minds academy is dedicated exclusively to the technical training, behavioral support, and career development of individuals on the autism spectrum. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about remote instruction at Exceptional Mind s, it’s that social distancing doesn’t have to mean social isolation. Practicing Feedback   Our technical and vocational classes continue to be geared toward our population, many of whom struggle with communication and social skills. Before this year, our social skills and professional soft skills training utilized in-pers

“It’s Like a Little Superpower With Me”

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Jake Riess, Class of 2019 Graduation Meet Jake Riess, a 2019 Exceptional Minds graduate and 3D artist and animator who has completed internships and apprenticeships with The Third Floor, Inc. and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “I know that some people see autism as a disability, but I think of it as an ability. I use it to help me out. It’s like a little superpower with me,” said Riess, who was diagnosed with autism at 8 years old. He describes himself as more visually and auditorily inclined than most of his neurotypical peers. While a virtual intern for The Motion Picture Academy of Arts & Sciences' competitive Gold Program over a most unprecedented summer, he created an animated ‘germaphobe’ character as part of a team project that passed committee review with flying colors and could move forward into an animated short. “One creative director said he liked that character so much, he could just hug it! That is exactly what I was going for,” said Jake. 

How to Create Like Our Students: Make a 3D Cube in Minutes

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In this month’s How-To , Exceptional Minds ' instructor Randi Derakhshani, Head of 3D instruction at Exceptional Minds, walks us through the program Autodesk Maya. In addition to teaching VFX, Randi is a practicing 3D and visual effects artist with 20 years of experience in film, television, and game development.  Randi loves working with students and helping them realize their dreams.  Today you are one of her students!  Randi will teach you how to create a "cube" in Maya, a 3D modeling software our students and artists use to create characters and worlds.  For this exercise, you will need to  download a free 30-day trial of Autodesk Maya. Here is the YouTube instructional video to learn the basics of the Maya Interface by creating a "cube" figure. Now, have fun! Jump right in and start with creating your first object. Go up to the poly modeling shelf and click on “cube.” Reviewing the cube through the viewport camera. To better view the object: Yo

The Making of a Superhero

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What is Your Superpower?! ,   our animation studio’s most complex project to date  was commissioned by the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) for their 30th-anniversary celebration. This video is both a powerful message of inclusion and a shining example of a true philanthropic partnership. Artists are employed on films such as Marvel's The Avengers series and Oscar winners Green Book and Black Panther . Graduates also go on to careers at media companies such as Disney, WarnerMedia, and ViacomCBS. Exceptional Minds Studio's What Is Your Superpower?! was also released during the foundation's September 25th Annual Volunteer Leadership Workshop, which gave Mitsubishi Electric employees a chance to meet our second-year students Becca David (shown upper left) and Leona Tates (lower right) and 2019 graduate Jake Riess (upper right). The event also kicked off MEAF’s 5K run/walk/roll employee fundraiser benefiting Exceptional Minds. “The original concept was to foll

Behind the Screen: The Making of "What is Your Superpower?!"

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Created for Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) by our graduate animators,  What is Your Superpower?!  involved the usual deadline pressures  (“Is it July already? What happened to June?”)  punctuated by moments of pure creative genius  (“Are you thinking what I’m thinking? How hard would it be to morph Craig’s head into a goldfish bowl?”) The making of What is Your Superpower?! also involved several unusual challenges. Mid-project, Exceptional Minds moved its whole animation team home due to the pandemic to continue collaborating over Zoom, which presented its own set of challenges.  (“Zoom “lag" can make an animation render like a 2D drawing and appear as incomplete work. Oh Zoom!”) Still, the pandemic didn’t stop the crew from filming fellow artist Kate Jorgensen at Nickelodeon near a “secret” door that only a few in the industry know about  (Howie Hoffman, an industry veteran who knows the back doors to more studios than he cares to admit, was the Exceptional Minds

Remote Possibilities: Autism and the Different Normal

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Zoom photo of Exceptional Minds' staff and students during "Round Table." A pandemic wasn’t on the list of challenges for most young adults on the autism spectrum.  No one could have predicted that they would overcome so many social stigmas in the workplace, only to have the very foundation crumble beneath them.  And, yet, many individuals with autism are coming out the other side of COVID-19 stronger than before.  Now months into the largest unanticipated social experiment in the history of business, companies are discovering that employees with autism are adapting to working remotely.  Many, in fact, are good at it.   Companies report that their team members with autism excel at complex projects and communicate better in remote work settings, a new finding for a population that is twice as likely to be under- or unemployed than people without disabilities. At least one global IT firm has concluded that hiring more people with autism is the answer to