Usc Interactive Media Review Essay

The nation's preeminent program in the development of cinema, television and interactive media, the USC School of Cinematic Arts challenges students to unleash their imaginations with the latest in storytelling technology. Here two students work on a project on the Performance Capture Soundstage at the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts. Photo by Roberto Gomez.

 


Departments


The USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) is one of the nation's preeminent centers for the creation, study, research and development of film, television and interactive media. With nearly 200,000 square feet of facilities, the school confers degrees ranging from the bachelor's to the doctorate. SCA is composed of seven divisions: the John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts; the Bryan Singer Division of Cinema and Media Studies; Film and Television Production; Interactive Media and Games; Peter Stark Producing Program; Writing for Screen and Television; and Media Arts and Practice. The school also has two organized research units — the Institute for Multimedia Literacy and the Entertainment Technology Center.

Since its founding in 1929 as the first course of study in film at any college or university in the United States, USC's cinema program has consistently set academic and professional standards for excellence. In addition, the school has a record-breaking number of endowed chairs in the discipline; production facilities that rival industry counterparts and extraordinary faculty and staff.

Thanks to SCA's location in Los Angeles, students have access to the country's leading film, television, animation and video game producers; world-class literary and talent agencies; libraries and archives brimming with research materials; and alumni that support the school and the men and women in its academic body. The school is also home to USC's Trojan Vision television station.

The USC School of Cinematic Arts recognizes that a student can only truly excel in his or her chosen area of expertise after exposure to all elements of the art form. Consequently, there is an emphasis on cross-disciplinary course work that ensures writers get behind the camera; critical studies scholars edit footage; and production majors examine the canon from a rigorous academic perspective.

Administration

Elizabeth M. Daley, PhD, Dean

Office of Student Services
Brian Harke, EdD, Dean of Students
(213) 740-8358
Email: admissions@cinema.usc.edu; studentaffairs@cinema.usc.edu
cinema.usc.edu

The John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts
Tom Sito, Division Chair
School of Cinematic Arts — Building B 210
(213) 740-3986*
FAX: (213) 740-5869

The Bryan Singer Division of Cinema and Media Studies
Aniko Imre, Division Chair
School of Cinematic Arts 320
(213) 740-3334*

Film and Television Production
Michael Fink, Division Chair
School of Cinematic Arts 434
(213) 740-3317*

Interactive Media and Games Division
Tracy Fullerton, Division Chair
SCI 201M
(213) 821-4472*
FAX: (213) 821-2665

Media Arts and Practice
Holly Willis, Division Chair
School of Cinematic Arts — Building I 101
(213) 821-5860*

*For information regarding admission, call (213) 740-8358.

The Peter Stark Producing Program
Lawrence Turman, Division Chair
School of Cinematic Arts 366
(213) 740-3304
FAX: (213) 745-6652

Writing for Screen and Television
Jack Epps Jr., Division Chair
School of Cinematic Arts 335
(213) 740-3303*
FAX: (213) 740-8035

Faculty

Steven J. Ross/Time Warner Endowed Dean's Chair in Cinema-Television: Elizabeth M. Daley, PhD

Dana and Albert "Cubby" Broccoli Endowed Chair in Producing: John Watson, MA

The Larry Auerbach Endowed Chair: Larry Auerbach

The Sergei Eisenstein Endowed Chair in Cinematic Design: Bruce A. Block, MFA

Electronic Arts Endowed Chair in Interactive Entertainment: Tracy Fullerton, MFA

Conrad Hall Chair in Cinematography and Color Timing: Judy Irola

Hugh M. Hefner Chair for the Study of American Film: Richard B. Jewell, PhD

Alma and Alfred Hitchcock Chair for the Study of American Film: Drew Casper, PhD

The Michael Kahn Endowed Chair in Editing: Nancy Forner, BA

The Mona and Bernard Kantor Endowed Chair in Production: Mark J. Harris, BA

The Kortschak Family Endowed Division Chair in Film and Television Production: Michael Fink, MFA

The George Méliès Endowed Chair in Visual Effects: Michael Fink, MFA

William Cameron Menzies Endowed Chair in Production Design: Alex McDowell, BFA

Stephen K. Nenno Endowed Chair in Television Studies: Ellen Seiter, PhD

Jack Oakie Chair in Comedy: Jack Epps Jr., BA

Mary Pickford Foundation Endowed Chair: Doe Mayer, MA

The Katherine and Frank Price Endowed Chair for the Study of Race and Popular Culture: Todd Boyd, PhD

Kay Rose Endowed Chair in the Art of Sound and Dialogue Editing: Midge Costin, MA

Fran and Ray Stark Endowed Chair for the Study of American Film: Lawrence Turman, BA

Charles S. Swartz Endowed Chair in Entertainment Technology: Richard Weinberg, PhD

Ken Wannberg Endowed Chair in Music Editing: Kenneth Hall, MA

Dino and Martha De Laurentiis Endowed Professorship: Mary Sweeney, MA

Microsoft Endowed Professorship: Dennis Wixon, PhD

Presidential Professor of Cinematic Arts: George Lucas, BA

Judge Widney Professor: Robert Zemeckis

Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts: Henry Jenkins, PhD

Distinguished Professor: Mark J. Harris, BA

Professors: Bruce Block, MFA; Don Bohlinger, MFA; Todd Boyd, PhD; Drew Casper, PhD; Elizabeth M. Daley, PhD; Michael Fink, MFA; Scott Fisher, MS; Norman Hollyn, BA; David Howard, MFA; Judy Irola; David Isaacs, BA; David James, PhD; Henry Jenkins, PhD; Richard Jewell, PhD; Robert Jones; Jeremy Kagan, MFA; Barnet Kellman, PhD; Akira Lippit, PhD; Doe Mayer, MA; Christine Panushka, MFA; Michael Peyser, BA; Amanda Pope, BA; Michael Renov, PhD; Howard A. Rodman, BA; Ellen Seiter, PhD; Tom Sito, BFA; Michael Taylor, BA; Lawrence Turman, BA; John Watson, MA

Associate Professors: Tom Abrams, MFA; Mark Bolas, MS; Ted Braun, MFA; Linda Brown, MFA; Midge Costin, MA; Pamela Douglas, MA; Jack Epps Jr., BA; Tracy Fullerton, MFA; Nitin Govil, PhD; Kenneth Hall, MA; Helaine Head, BA; Aniko Imre, PhD; Priya Jaikumar, PhD; Georgia Jeffries, BA; Kara Keeling, PhD; Richard Lemarchand, BA; Everett Lewis, MFA; Tara McPherson, PhD; Laura Isabel Serna, PhD; Kathy Smith, BA; Sheila M. Sofian, MFA; Mary Sweeney, MA; Dennis Wixon, PhD

Assistant Professors: Andreas Kratky, PhD; Jeff Watson, PhD

Professors of Practice: David Balkan, BA; Jed Dannenbaum, PhD; Stephen Flick, BA; Pablo Frasconi, BFA; Brenda Goodman, BS; Don Hall, BA; Alexander McDowell, BFA; Michael Patterson, BFA; Paul Wolff, BFA; William Yahraus, MA

Associate Professors of Practice: Christine Acham, PhD; Steve Albrezzi, BA; Steven Anderson, PhD; Vicki Callahan, PhD; Christopher Chomyn, MFA; Reine-Claire Dousarkissian, MA; Nancy Forner, BA; Robert Gardner; Eric Hanson, BA; Virginia Kuhn, PhD; Elisabeth Mann, MFA; Thomas Miller, MD, MFA; Angelo Pacifici, BArch; Mark Shepherd, MFA; Peter Sollett, BFA; Jason Squire, MA; Michael Uno, MFA; Douglas Vaughan, MA; Jennifer Warren, BA; Shelly Wattenbarger, MFA; David Weber; Tristan Whitman, MFA

Assistant Professors of Practice: Michael Bodie, MFA; Peter Brinson, MFA; Evan Hughes, MA; DJ Johnson, MFA; Angela Jones, BFA; Robert Kositchek, BFA; Margaret Moser, MFA; Maks Naporowski, BA

Research Professor: Larry Auerbach

Research Associate Professor: Richard Weinberg, PhD

Research Assistant Professors: Marientina Gotsis, MFA; Jennifer Stein, PhD; Holly Willis, PhD

Instructor of Cinema Practice: Richard Burton, BA

Part-time Faculty: Ioan Allen; Kate Amend; Tom Anderson; Wendy Apple; Harold Apter; Larissa Bank; David Baron; Deborah Baron; Janet Batchler; Irving Belateche; Sandra Berg; Alan Berger; Fred Bernstein; Danny Bilson; Mitch Block; John Bowman; Elizabeth Brauer; John Brennan; Paul Bricault; Musa Brooker; Robert Brown; Bonnie Bruckheimer; Robert Buerkle; Bobette Buster; Ed Callahan; Trey Callaway; Will Carter; Michael Cassutt; Ramiro Cazaux; Bonnie Chi; Peter Chung; David Clawson; Ken Cosby; Tim Curnen; Martin Daniel; Kristen W. Davis; Paul DeMeo; Paul Demeyer; Dariush Derakhshani; Heather Desurvire; Vincent Diamante; Sharon Doyle; Frederic Durand; James Egan; Peter Exline; David Fain; Siavash Farahani; Ron Fernandez; Paul Foley; Eric Furie; Maureen Furniss; Bonnie Garvin; Lance Gentile; Andrew Given; David Goetsch; Eric Goldberg; Janet Graham-Borba; Amanda Green; Chevon Hicks; John Hight; Perry Hoberman; Joe Hoffman; Todd Hoffman; Michael Hoggan; Sean Hood; Caroline Hu; Joan Hyler; Peter Kang; Aaron Kaplan; Thomas Kemper; Darren Kiner; Randal Kleiser; Richard Kletter; Michael Kontopoulos; Jeffrey Korchek; Stu Krieger; Jon Kroll; Lucas Kuzma; Michael Lane; Neil Landau; Clifford Latimer; Ken LaZebnik; Lisa Leeman; Robert Levin; Ken Levine; Andrew Licht; David Lloyd; John Mahoney; Laird Malamed; Leonard Maltin; Peter Marx; Frank McAdams; Jim McGinn; Denise McKenna; Bill Mechanic; Lou Morton; Barbara Nance; Robert Nashak; Rob Nederhorst; Noel Nosseck; Jim O'Keeffe; Joseph Olin; Bob Osher; Rick Parks; Rod Perth; Brian Peterson; Wendy Phillips; Anne Postman; Bill Prady; Robert Ramsey; Gary Randall; Candace Reckinger; Sandy Reisenbach; Vincent Robert; Peter Robinson; Howard Rosenberg; Mike Saltzman; Julie Sayres; Nevin Schreiner; Debby Seibel; Bethany Sparks; Jim Staahl; Bill Steinkellner; Noah Stern; Sean Stewart; Noreen Stone; Jeffrey Stott; Mark Stratton; Scott Sturgeon; Danny Sussman; Neely Swanson; Adam Targum; Ella Taylor; Aaron Thomas; John Underkoffler; Marcel Valcarce; Pam Veasey; Jon Wagner; Jordan Weisman; David Weitzner; William Whittington; Tyger Williams; Chase Winton; Russ Woody; Frank Wuliger; Maureen Yeager; Laura Yilmaz; Gil Zimmerman

Emeritus Professors: Ron Curfman, MFA; Trevor Greenwood, MA; Richard Harber, MA; Edward Kaufman, PhD; Marsha Kinder, PhD; K. Kenneth Miura, MA; Woody Omens, MA; Morton Zarcoff, MA

Degree Programs

The USC School of Cinematic Arts offers professional and academic degree programs at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels.

Bachelor of Arts — Animation and Digital Arts

This program combines a broad liberal arts background with specialization in a profession. The degree is granted through the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts. The degree requires 128 units. For more information, see here.

Bachelor of Arts, Cinematic Arts, Critical Studies

This degree is granted through the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts and requires 128 units. For more information, see here.

Bachelor of Arts, Cinematic Arts, Film and Television Production

This degree is a two-year program for transfer students. The BA is granted through the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts and requires 128 units. For more information, see here.

Bachelor of Fine Arts, Cinematic Arts, Film and Television Production

This degree is a four-year program only available to incoming freshmen. The BFA in Cinematic Arts, Film and Television Production is granted through the School of Cinematic Arts and requires 128 units. For more information, see here.

Bachelor of Arts — Interactive Entertainment

The Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Entertainment is granted through the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts. The degree requires 128 units. For more information, see here.

Bachelor of Arts — Media Arts and Practice

This program is for students who want to harness the power of digital storytelling and media design to communicate across diverse fields beyond the entertainment industry. This degree is granted through the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts. The degree requires 128 units. For more information, see here.

Bachelor of Fine Arts — Writing for Screen and Television

This is a unique program designed for students who wish to receive intensive training for non-fiction and fiction writing for screen and television. The BFA in Writing for Screen and Television is granted through the School of Cinematic Arts. The degree requires 128 units. For more information, see here.

Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (Cinematic Arts)

This program offers a unique coupling of the USC Marshall School of Business and the School of Cinematic Arts in a four-year interdisciplinary degree. In addition to the Marshall School of Business core classes, the students will also take a total of 24 units from the School of Cinematic Arts. This competitive program is offered to freshmen admitted to the Marshall School of Business as Business Scholars. Upon completion of all requirements, students will receive a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (Cinematic Arts). See the Marshall School of Business  for course requirements.

Master of Arts, Cinematic Arts (Critical Studies)

This degree, with an emphasis in Critical Studies, is granted by the USC Graduate School in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts. This program requires 36 units. For more information, see here.

Master of Arts, Cinematic Arts (Media Arts, Games and Health)

This program requires 36 units. For more information, see here.

Master of Fine Arts, Cinematic Arts, Film and Television Production

This professional degree requires 52 units. For more information, see here.

Master of Fine Arts, Writing for Screen and Television

This program requires 44 units. For more information, see here.

Master of Fine Arts, Animation and Digital Arts

This program requires 50 units. For more information, see here.

Master of Fine Arts, Interactive Media

This program requires 50 units. For more information, see here.

Master of Fine Arts, Interactive Media (Games and Health)

This program requires 50 units. For more information, see here.

Master of Fine Arts, Producing for Film, Television, and New Media

The Peter Stark Producing Program requires 44 units. For more information, see here.

Doctor of Philosophy, Cinematic Arts (Critical Studies)

The PhD is based on a program of study and research culminating in the completion of a dissertation in the major field of study. A minimum of 68 semester units (exclusive of dissertation registration) beyond the baccalaureate is required. Applicants who have completed a Bachelor of Arts or Master of Arts degree in Cinematic Arts, or a closely related field, may apply to the PhD program. The doctoral degree is granted by the Graduate School in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts. For more information, see here.

Doctor of Philosophy, Cinematic Arts (Media Arts and Practice)

The PhD in Media Arts and Practice program offers a rigorous and creative environment for scholarly innovation as students explore the intersection of design, media and critical thinking while defining new modes of research and scholarship for the 21st century. Core to the program is its transdisciplinary ethos; after completing foundational course work, students design their own curricula, drawing on expertise across all divisions and research labs within the School of Cinematic Arts. The doctoral degree is granted by the Graduate School in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts. For more information, see here.

Writing for Screen and Television Certificate

The Writing for Screen and Television Certificate provides an established writer, domestic or international, with a one-year program of study. It is meant to accommodate a writer who has already attained significant recognition and would like to learn the craft of screenwriting. Sixteen units are required. For more information, see here.

Graduate Certificate in the Business of Entertainment

This certificate program provides graduate-level education in various aspects of the business of film, television and new media. It requires 16 units. For more information, see here.

Graduate Certificate in Digital Media and Culture

This certificate program is for graduate students from across the USC campus who want to explore the shifting nature of scholarly expression, pedagogical practice and research in the 21st century. It combines seminars with hands-on, lab-based workshops devoted to basic image manipulation, video editing, social media and Web design to facilitate sophisticated critical thinking and practice in and through multimedia. The program requires 12 units. For more information, see here.

General Requirements

Acceptance of Transfer Units

The School of Cinematic Arts does not accept courses taken in film and/or television production at other institutions to fulfill degree and minor requirements. Basic film or television history courses can sometimes be accepted for transfer credit.

No transfer credit will be accepted in lieu of CTPR 290 , CTPR 294 , CTPR 295 , CTPR 310 , CTPR 507  and CTPR 508  and any advanced production courses.

No transfer credits are accepted for the Peter Stark producing track, the graduate programs in animation and digital arts, screenwriting and interactive media.

Transfer policy for the PhD requires advisement and approval of the division chair.

Waiver of Course Requirements

Under special circumstances waivers and substitutions are granted; check with the Cinematic Arts Office of Student Affairs. All course waivers and substitutions must be approved by the associate dean of academic affairs.

The following courses cannot be waived for students majoring in Film and Television Production: CTIN 584a , CTIN 584b , CTIN 584c , CTIN 584z , CTPR 290 , CTPR 294 , CTPR 295 , CTPR 310 , CTPR 480 , CTPR 507 , CTPR 508 , CTPR 546L , CTPR 547L , CTPR 581a , CTPR 581b , CTPR 581c , CTPR 581z , CTPR 582a , CTPR 582b , CTPR 582z , CTPR 583 , CTPR 587a , CTPR 587b , CTPR 587c , CTPR 587z .

Student Advisement

Each program has its own advisement system. Check with the program administrator or with the Cinematic Arts Office of Student Affairs. Cinematic Arts student affairs counselors are available to answer questions about degree programs, grades, advisement and other matters.

Grade Point Average Requirements

A minimum grade of C, 2.0 (A = 4.0), must be earned in all required and prerequisite courses in order to progress to the next course level. Students may attempt to improve a grade lower than a C (2.0) only one time by registering and retaking the specific course. Departmental approval is required in order to retake a School of Cinematic Arts course.

In addition, a minimum grade point average must be achieved to earn all cinematic arts degrees (see the individual program descriptions). For example, undergraduates and graduates must earn a minimum grade of C (2.0) in all required cinematic arts courses. However, graduate students must also achieve a B (3.0) average in all courses required for the degree.

Undergraduate students in the film and television production program who achieve a grade lower than a C (2.0) in CTPR 290  (BFA only), CTPR 294 , CTPR 295  and CTPR 310 , and graduate students in the production program who earn a grade lower than a C (2.0) in CTPR 507  and CTPR 508  may petition to retake the required sequence only once. Permission to retake any prerequisite or core production courses requires prior departmental committee approval.

Students who do not satisfy the degree requirement after repeating a class will be disqualified from the program.

Tuition and Fees (Estimated)

Students in the School of Cinematic Arts' graduate programs pay differential tuition (see the Tuition and Fees  section for current tuition rates). Undergraduate programs are assessed the university-wide tuition rate with a once-a-semester access fee of $50. In addition, some classes are charged lab fees, as noted in the Schedule of Classes, and insurance fees. The university reserves the right to assess new fees or charges. The rates listed are subject to change without notice by action of the Board of Trustees.

Minor and International Programs

Minor in Animation and Digital Arts

The minor in animation offers students an introduction to the theory and practice of animation, including its relationship to the history of art and cinema, creative writing, and basic film production. It provides students with an opportunity to create both personal and collaborative work in a wide range of genres, from traditional character to contemporary experimental and computer animation. The program requires 24 units. For more information, see here.

Minor in Cinematic Arts

A minor in cinematic arts is available to USC undergraduate students in all schools and departments. The minor provides the opportunity for students to become familiar with various aspects of media study. The program requires 20 units. For more information, see here.

Minor in Comedy

The minor in comedy is designed to train students in the creation of comedic entertainment in film, television and new media. The program utilizes both analysis courses and creative workshops to train students in comedic theory and practice. Through elective choices students may focus their studies on a number of cinematic disciplines as they pertain to the creation of comedic content, including writing sit-coms, directing comedic actors and producing sketch comedy. The program requires 16 units. For more information, see here.

Minor in Digital Studies

The minor in digital studies explores the rich potential of digital media for critical analysis and creative discovery. Learning the exciting and dynamic potential of a broad array of tools and technologies, students create innovative projects, from photo essays to Web-based documentaries, from interactive videos to sophisticated Websites, and from typography in motion to 3-D visualizations. The program requires 20 units. For more information, see here.

Minor in Entertainment Industry

The minor in entertainment industry provides students interested in media content creation with a focused curriculum that will give them insight into the economic factors and professional practices that influence the creative process, and how they interact with social, historical, technical and aesthetic elements. For more information, see here.

Minor in Game Animation

The skills of the modern animator, visual effects artist, motion capture professional and many others are of great value in the games industry when paired with an understanding of how these assets can be used in games and systems. The game animation minor provides an educational path that teaches both systems thinking and the skills and creativity of an animator. The program requires 24 units. For more information, see here.

Minor in Game Audio

Game audio professionals must not only be competent in one area (e.g., expressly in music composing or in audio recording), but also in other areas of audio and in theories of procedurality and interaction. This minor provides a grounding in game design and systems thinking, while providing a theoretical backing and skills in audio design and composition to prepare students to design successful audio for the games industry. The program requires 24 units. For more information, see here.

Minor in Game Design

Design for games is a young, exciting field applicable to media artists working all over the world, in different aspects of the industry and with many different tools. The game design minor teaches basic iterative design and prototyping skills while providing students the opportunity to explore design for new technologies and the skills of user assessment and usability testing. The program requires 24 units. For more information, see here.

Minor in Game Entrepreneurism

The modern media, technology and entertainment fields are built on the backs of new businesses and new ideas. To start a successful business, you need skills and knowledge of the processes for setting up a business, finding investment and turning your creative project from prototype to finished project. The game entrepreneurism minor provides an educational path that teaches hard business thinking for creative entrepreneurs. The program requires 24 units. For more information, see here.

Minor in Game Studies

Games are a major cultural form, with game sales now exceeding box office revenue in the United States. Attention to games and interactive media is growing, and it has become necessary to understand them as meaningful systems, reflect on their cultural influence, and to help guide their evolution with insightful criticism. The game studies minor prepares students with fundamental underpinnings in media criticism and games. For more information, see here.

Minor in Game User Research

Game and interaction design are deeply dependent upon human-computer interaction and the ability to use research methods to improve player experience. This minor is designed to give students an underpinning in game design, interface design and research methods, while teaching a full set of skills for playtesting and usability practice. The program requires 24 units. For more information, see here.

Minor in Media and Social Change

The minor in media and social change provides the opportunity for students who are interested in media content creation and research to take classes in a focused curriculum on the various aspects of media for change. Students will gain insight into the professional practices of creating media content, analyzing existing content, and learning how they can influence the future by integrating social issues into the work they are doing in related fields. The program requires 16 units. For more information, see here.

Minor in Science Visualization

The minor in science visualization offers an introduction to science visualization methodology and practice focused in an area of relevant research. The minor is structured to provide the skills and knowledge needed in science visualization, and will culminate in a capstone project under the close supervision of faculty in both animation and science. The program requires 16 units. For more information, see here.

Minor in Screenwriting

The minor in screenwriting provides thorough training in the craft of writing for screen and television. Students learn the fundamentals of character, conflict and scene structure and build on their skills through each course as they write feature and television scripts in all genres and explore areas of their interest. Students may apply in the spring or fall semester. The program requires 16 units. For more information, see here.

Minor in Cinema-Television for the Health Professions

This 24-unit minor is designed for students who plan to enter careers or professional programs in medicine after graduation and are interested in working with film and television producers to disseminate accurate health information to the public. See the Keck School of Medicine of USC  for course requirements.

Minor in 2-D Art for Games

This interdisciplinary minor integrates three major disciplines (fine arts, computer science and interactive media) to develop the 2-D visual skills necessary to conceptualize and illustrate images for games. For more information, see USC Roski School of Art and Design .

Minor in 3-D Art for Games

The focus of the 3-D Art for Games minor is a trans-disciplinary approach that incorporates the creative, technological and team-based communication skills necessary to develop 3-D art skills for video games. For more information, see USC Roski School of Art and Design .

Minor in 3-D Animation

The 3-D animation minor merges theoretical concepts and practical skills, to prepare students for a career in their major field of work with incorporation of 3-D animation and interactive technologies. Through integration of three major disciplines (cinematic arts, fine arts and information technology), students gain a solid foundation in a wide range of important industry and academic skills. See the Information Technology Program  for course requirements.

Minor in Video Game Design and Management

The video game design minor integrates theoretical concepts and practical skills to prepare students for a career in interactive entertainment, specifically the video game industry. Through integration of two major disciplines (cinematic arts and information technology), students will be exposed to a variety of design concepts related to creating video games. See the Information Technology Program  for course requirements. For specific information on admission and application procedures, contact the School of Cinematic Arts at (213) 821-2515 or the Information Technology Program at (213) 740-4542.

Minor in Performing Arts Studies

The minor in Performing Arts provides an interdisciplinary inquiry into the nature and aesthetics of the performing arts. It combines the disciplines of cinematic arts, dance, music and theatre. The minor is a unique course of study that looks at how the performing arts contribute to a culturally literate society. See USC School of Dramatic Arts  for requirements.

 

International Programs

Studio Arts Center International

John C. Hench Animation and Digital Arts and the Division of Media Arts and practice jointly offer, with the Roski School of Art and Design, a fall semester abroad at Studio Art Centers International (SACI) in Florence, Italy. Undergraduate students will be required to take equivalent classes in animation and media arts while also benefiting from the wide range of liberal arts courses offered at SACI.

Global Exchange Workshop

"Documenting the Global City: Los Angeles and Beijing," is an intensive, seven-week workshop in documentary filming that pairs graduate students from the USC School of Cinematic Arts and the Communication University of China (CUC) to make short documentaries on Los Angeles or Beijing as global cities. The program is held in Los Angeles or Beijing in alternate years. It will be held in Beijing in summer 2016. Participating students enroll in CTPR 515 Global Exchange Workshop  (2 units).

With faculty guidance from both universities, the students must negotiate cultural differences both in front of and behind the camera. In the process, both students and faculty directly experience the other culture and learn how it defines globalism in general, sees its own city in global terms, combines theory and practice, and processes a new set of perceptions and lived experience.

Interested students should contact Professor Mark Harris of the division of Film and Video Production at (213) 740-3319, or at mharris@cinema.usc.edu. Airfare to China and lodging expenses in Beijing are provided for all students accepted into the course.

Minor

University Certificate




The Princeton Review named The University of Southern California the top school in the world for video game design.

The game design programs at USC are a combined effort from the Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and the School of Cinematic Arts’ Interactive Media and Games Division.

The program was founded in 2005 when the (now multi-billion dollar) video game industry was really starting to come into its own. Over the past decade, about 2,000 students have gone through the USC game design program.

This is a school that takes its Game Design programs very seriously. The game design degree is a controversial one. Many of the industry veterans didn’t attend any game design programs because there weren’t many (or any) even ten years ago.

Now, game design programs have become more mainstream. Many colleges are creating and refining the program to attract students like you.

But not all programs are created equal, which is why we’re deep diving into the USC video game design program. The Princeton Review ranking is certainly a good sign, and on paper, the USC game design programs look pretty impressive.

Hang around game design programs long enough and you’ll realize everyone claims their program actually prepares students for the industry. With the USC game design programs, as we’ll discuss in detail later, many graduates leave the school with a job lined up.

Let’s take a look at the most relevant programs, so you know what to expect from the curriculum.

Game Design & Development Degree Programs Offered at USC

The University of Southern California offers four primary major degree programs specific to game design and development:

At the undergraduate level:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Media & Games
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with an emphasis in Games

At the graduate level:

  • Master of Fine Arts in Interactive Media & Games
  • Master of Science in Computer Science with an emphasis in Games

Now, let’s look at these programs a little more closely, shall we?

Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Media & Games


According to the USC Degree programs page, “the Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Entertainment combines a broad liberal arts background with specialization in the design of games and interactive entertainment.”

USC takes the hands-on approach–you’ll make games at every level of the program. As your skills improve, you’ll develop familiarity and competency in a number of digital media arts.

This program lets you earn multiple industry specializations. The opportunity for specialization will broaden your skills and increase your value to companies after graduation.

Your game design education in the Interactive Media & Games program will focus on innovation, collaboration, creative leadership, and team-building. You’ll also spend time on emerging markets and platforms (AR and VR, anyone?).

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with an Emphasis in Games


“The goal of the BS in Computer Science (Games) program is to graduate students with a solid grounding in computer science and a cross-disciplinary background in game development.”

You’ll cover topics like:

  • Production
  • Video game programming
  • Visual design for games and interactives
  • Game engine programming
  • Game hardware architecture
  • Computer animation
  • Serious game development
  • Game design through the introductory and intermediate levels

This program also includes a final game development project that spans your final two semesters.

Interested in going for your Master’s degree? This program also sets you up for further education in the game development or computer science graduate programs.

Master of Fine Arts in Interactive Media & Games


The Master of Fine Arts in Interactive Media “is an intensive three-year program designed to prepare students to become creative thought leaders and innovators in the evolving fields of games and interactive entertainment.”

This program will hone your skills in areas like:

  • Development
  • Design
  • Creative leadership
  • Collaboration

Your third year in the program will involve a thesis project that spans the entire year. The collaboration element is prevalent here—the program “draws on the strengths of the School of Cinematic Arts”—the whole school. This includes resources from animation, sound production, producing, screenwriting, game design, and critical studies.

Master of Science in Computer Science with an Emphasis in Games


“The goal of the M.S. in Computer Science (Game Development) program is to graduate students with a core in computer science, an engineering-oriented game development core, and a concentration”.

Your concentration will be in “one of the key research directions”—the list includes:

  • Cognition and games
  • Game development infrastructure
  • Immersion
  • Serious games

Which Program is Right for You?


In order to know which game design program is right for you at USC, you’ll need to do a little “soul searching.”

What’s your ultimate goal?

If you love the idea of designing or producing games, then your best bet is the Interactive Media & Games degree from the School of Cinematic Arts.

If you’re more interested in technical game development, then you should go with the Viterbi School of Engineering’s Computer Science (Games) degree.

All the degrees take the hands-on approach. You’ll be using technology. You’ll be in charge of creative project development. You’ll be learning by doing, rather than hypothesizing and theorizing. Figure out what you want to focus on, and make your decision based on that.

What are the USC Minor Programs?

If you’re not sold on a game design major—no problem. It’s not for everyone.

If you want formal game design education without committing 30+ credit hours to the cause, a minor might be your best bet.

USC offers several minors, and some are more relevant than others.

Game Design Minor


This minor “teaches iterative design and prototyping skills while providing students the opportunity to explore design for new technologies and the skills of user assessment and usability testing.”

Hands-on experience with new tech, learning sequential approaches to game design, and learning how to test your creations? This is a well-rounded way to get your feet wet in the field.

Video Game Design and Management Minor


This minor “integrates theoretical concepts and practical skills to prepare students for a career in interactive entertainment, specifically the video game industry.”

In this minor, you’ll be exposed to concepts like:

  • Gameplay control
  • User interface
  • Level design
  • Game mechanics
  • Storytelling
  • Multiplayer

You’ll use game design software tools to build your own working video game demo over the course of the minor.

The Game Design Minor and the Video Game Design and Management Minor are the most relevant minors to this review, but USC offers a number of others:

  • Game Animation
  • Game Audio
  • Game Entrepreneurism
  • Game User Research
  • Themed Entertainment
  • Video Game Programming (this one is code-heavy)
  • 3D Computer Modeling and Graphics

Who’s Teaching this Stuff?


There is a huge roster of faculty supporting these programs. And the industry experience between them is dizzying! You don’t have to search long to see companies and games that you recognize.

Take a look at some of these:

You Have Tracy Fullerton, for example, who wrote Game Design Workshop—a textbook that is used worldwide in game programs.

There’s Scott Easley, who is “an Emmy, Telly and Annie-winning commercial writer/creator.

Richard Lemarchand is the lead designer on a “critical and commercial hit series of games.” You might have heard of the series….It’s called Uncharted.

Hao Li was named top 35 innovators under 35 in 2013 by MIT technology review. He’s held positions at Industrial Light & magic (not to mention Columbia University, Princeton University, and more).

One more—Matthew Whiting. He’s worked on games like Spyro the Dragon, Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters, True Crime, and more. He has over 15 years of experience in the industry.

This is a small taste of some of the professors you have the opportunity to learn from at USC. Professors who have spent years in the industry, who have held positions at studios and companies where you want to work, and who literally wrote the book on some of these subjects.

What Else Does USC Have Going On?

Flexible, top-rated programs. An impressive roster of faculty. These are great things to have, but on their own, they don’t ensure you graduate with an awesome portfolio or great connections (hint hint—those are what count, not where you got your degree).

No, those two things come down to you and your effort. But USC does give you some helpful resources to make those things happen! Here are some other experience-boosting perks that USC offers.

Cutting Edge Facilities


You’ll have access to a motion capture stage, a Kinect development lab (in cooperation with Microsoft), and an impressive list of hardware and software available for student use.

If you’re interested in the tools and resources you’ll have at your disposal, you’ll want to check out the full list of facilities and technology.

USC Games Demo Day—AGP


USC runs what they call Advanced Game Projects. It’s where students from all across campus get together to try and develop games. Then, on Demo Day, they showcase these projects. It’s like USC’s own little E3.

Here’s how it works.

In Spring semester, there’s a rigorous pitch process “wherein small teams pitch projects that are either original, or developed out of the other USC Games curriculum, our selection committee (comprised of faculty from across the campus, as well as industry veterans) chooses the 5-7 games that will advance.”

You can peep the whole list for the 2016-17 games on the AGP website. There’s even a game that uses augmented reality (Way more cutting edge than you’d expect from college students, wink wink).

Other Opportunities at USC and Closing Thoughts


There are activities like “game jams” which are hosted by the local student organization, MEGA. Game jams, and opportunities like them, are great places to network with your peers.

This school will have hundreds of people like you—like-minded creatives. People looking to design great games. People looking to push the boundaries of current technology. People who want to create for the sake of creating.

It’s these opportunities that will help you succeed after college. USC will let you tap into a great network of game makers. Just look at where the alumni work: Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard, Disney Interactive Games, Naughty Dog, Jam City, Treyarch, and more.

It always comes down to the time you put it, not the place you go. If you do decide to go to USC, make it count.

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