Q&A With Visiting Motion Capture Instructor Deanna Matthews

Deanna Matthews, visiting ADMA instructor, and Alfred Muchilwa (back), former ADMA instructor.

Deanna Matthews, visiting ADMA instructor, and Alfred Muchilwa (back), former ADMA instructor.

We were fortunate to have the talented Deanna Matthews teaching ADMA students in Kigali during all of September. (Colleague Kevin Hansen was teaching here, too). Deanna is a graphic artist and 3D character modeler with experience in motion capture (mo-cap) animation, post production editing and compositing, broadcast and film production. Her most recent projects include on-set stagehand and editing, respectively, for online shows "Sword and Laser" and "MacBreak Studio."

How did you come to be teaching in Rwanda for one month?
I'm lucky to be working so closely with one of the ADMA's directors, Alex Lindsay, with the motion graphics team for Pixel Corps in Petaluma, CA. Word came that the motion capture studio in Kigali was close to completion, and because of my experience with mo-cap technology I found myself approached to become a part of this experience.

What did you think teaching at ADMA would be like, and how was the reality different?
I had known that the ADMA had some of the highest quality media technology in East Africa, so I really didn't think teaching there would be much different than working with the same tools in the industry. I thought the language barrier was going to be the biggest issue in a teaching environment. I was pleasantly surprised to find language was not an issue! 

What was your teaching schedule like in Rwanda?
I worked 9-12 hour weekdays, and each day ended with classes. Preparation was usually an all-day activity switching between updating course material, creating lecture assets, and grading students' projects. I also assisted Kevin in building the motion capture studio and directing motion capture demonstrations.

What were the challenges in teaching at ADMA? The successes?
One of the challenges was determining how much time to give the students between projects. Given the short amount of time and the amount of material to teach, we couldn't help but to push the students to their limits. It was fantastic to see the majority of the students excel in the new computer graphics interfaces in a realistic fast-paced production pipeline!

What do you wish you'd been able to teach but you didn't have time?
I'd like nothing more than to delve into the vast sea that is 3D production: character creation, scene building, advanced rigging and rendering, and refining hand-animation on top of motion capture data. I'd prioritize the planning that goes into motion capture shoots for a finished film.

Do you have a favorite moment from when you were teaching here? If so, what?
One day I was flooded with questions about my experiences in the industry, how they could pull off motion capture feats such as ones in Planet of the Apes, and how I had enjoyed my time in Rwanda. It was refreshing to converse back-and-forth. It reminded me that education can be a two-way street.

How do you see your role/relationship with ADMA in the future?
Outside of planning my next trip to Rwanda, Kevin and I will keep in close contact with the ADMA via Google Hangout, and provide periodic lessons and projects for the students to further their motion capture experience.

Anything else you'd like to add about teaching here or living in Rwanda for one month?
Try the goat!