Teaching passion to the digital arts world

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by Elizabeth Townsend

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By Anna Fletcher
Courier-Times Staff Writer

The best way to teach something is to always be doing it yourself. So says Adam Kania, Piedmont Community College’s new Digital Effects and Animation instructor.

Kania is also a professional film and game animator. When PCC hired him last September, he had just finished collaborating on a short film called “A Cat’s Tale” and was in the midst of a project for independent game developer and publisher +MPact Games.

The company was creating its premier video game, “Hanako: Honor & Blade,” which centers on a divided nation in a fictional rendition of feudal Japan. The early access version was released on the online gaming platform Steam at midnight Oct. 8.

“Hanako is a third-person action game,” Kania said. “What we released is essentially a sort of beta. You know the game is going to have some bugs. It’s going to be missing maybe a few key points. But overall, the game functions.”

Players join one of two clans – the fierce West or the noble East – before choosing an avatar from four classes – Kenshi (swordsman,) Naginatashi (pikeman,) Ninja (assassin) or Ite (archer.)

Now, when Kania isn’t teaching college and high school level modeling, or 2D and 3D animation, he’s working with another animator to develop the Ite class character. The company hopes to officially unveil the samurai archer early next year, he says, possibly in January.

“I’m studying a lot of archery and, besides trying to act it out myself, a lot of YouTube references,” Kania said. “As an animator, you need to watch for life. You need to focus on not just going from point A to point B, but how did they get to that? Why did they do that? Because everyone displays something whenever they perform an action - exactly what they’re thinking.”

This extra element of “why,” he says, makes game animation different from film animation.

“Gaming is about getting something to work and look good and function,” he said. “Film is acting-focused. It’s focused on making it appealing entirely. It doesn’t have to make sense. But there’s something satisfying about getting game animation correctly. It has to fit the design.”

His job as an animator, he says, motivates his teaching in the classroom.

“I work in my spare time a lot, either on Hanako or on a personal project,” he said. “The way I view it, if I stopped animating, I would technically just stop being an artist. I have a healthy balance of making sure not to overwork myself, but, overall, if I’m not working in my spare time to be a better artist and improve, then I feel like I’d be cheating my students.”

His passion for digital arts is unambiguous, and he’s noticed a likeness in his students.

“What impresses me about my students is they do see the passion,” he said. “They tend to have interest no matter what I talk about, it seems, about my whole industry. It’s been a pleasure to be able to share with them my experiences working on a game development team, or a film team, and be able to show them industry standard stuff. Having my students look forward to that is important to me.”

Learn more about the Digital Effects and Animation Technology program at PCC by visiting www.piedmontcc.edu/deat or calling (336) 694-5707!