Entertainment Concepts
Syllabus Fall 2014

Course info:                ILL 561 MOO2 Entertainment Concepts
                                   Monday 1:30 PM to 6:00 PM
                                   Shaffer Art Room 332

Instructor:                    Sean Andrew Murray
Office hours:                Mon. 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM (By appointment only)
Mail box:                      Viscom office

Class Blog:        


The purpose of this class will be to introduce students to the world of entertainment design for film, animation and video games, taken from a professional and artistic perspective.

The course will give students real-world assignments that would be given to a concept artist in the Video Game, animation, and Film industry, and will have to make critical design choices based on creative feedback from the professor, who will take on the role of client or art director in this case.

The course will challenge students to work on long-term, in-depth group projects. The challenge will be to work within the group to meet major design requirements, while also finding a way to express themselves stylistically.

All students will be required to work on character designs for one of three projects, broken into three teams:
1.       Live-action film
2.       Animated feature film
3.       Video game

The theme/story behind each project will be decided upon by the project’s producer (that’s me) and will be based on an existing story, book, mythology, or film that has multiple characters. The students will then work together to establish an artistic vision and narrative interpretation of the source material.

Examples of a possible theme would be: Norse/Celtic/Greek Mythology, The Wizard of Oz, Arthurian Legend, 7 Voyages of Sinbad, Pinocchio, Dune, Brothers Grimm, etc.

Assignments will cover character, environment, architecture, prop, vehicle, weapon, and creature design, as well as storyboarding.

At the end of the semester, each group will be required to give a “pitch” presentation on their project. Each student is required to participate equally.



Week 01- Introduction to Group project / team selection and 1st project pitch planning – visual reference gathering and “key scenes” sketches.

Week 02 – No class (Labor Day) – Continue to work on visual reference gathering for project. Confer with team members about your initial project pitch, work on “key scene” sketches.

Week 03 – First project pitch / presentation of “key scene” sketches. Work in class on choosing and developing one “key scene” sketch into a finished “Look and Feel” conceptual illustration. Extra credit – additional “key scenes”

Week 04 – Presentation of final “Key Scene” illustrations. Work in class on first character design assignment: “Minor Players” - thumbnail sketches of “minor players” in the world: (citizens, soldiers, shop owners, background characters, etc.) Homework: Refine 2 of the thumbnail sketches chosen in class into more finished sketches/designs

Week 05 – Presentation of sketches for “Minor Players”. Work in class on developing a chosen character into a finished full-color character illustration with orthographic drawings and material callouts. - Costumed figure drawing with a live model.  Homework: Complete the finished “minor player” character design. Extra credit – animation/expression sketches of your character.

Week 06 – Present “Minor Players” final designs – “Location Scouting and Design” Lecture and in-class exercises. Start in-class on environments/location design sketches. Homework: Sketches of various environments/locations

Week 07 – Environment/Location Design sketches presented. Work in-class on taking one image to final. Digital painting techniques and practices within the entertainment industry. Homework: Final environment concepts. Extra Credit – additional supporting environment color sketches

Week 08 – Environments/Locations Final presented – Work in-class on set-piece breakdown concepts / construction schematics and modularity drawings based on the final environment illustrations presented in class. Homework: Set-piece breakdown production drawings with call-outs.

Week 09 – Environments/Locations Set-piece breakdowns presented – Monster Design lecture/presentation. Start work on creature sketches.

Week 10 – Creature design sketches presented. Choose one in-class to take to final.

Week 11 – Final creature designs presented – Work in-class on a prop design challenge “Crates and barrels”. Lecture on hero and “major player” design. Homework: Major player thumbnail sketches

Week 12 – “Major Player” thumbnails presented – Lecture on collaborative creativity – how to work within a group to arrive at a great solution. In-class “design iteration” exercises. Homework: Refine your “Major Player” designs

Week 13 – Major Player designs presented. Work in-class on “fleshing out” the character. Homework: Final illustration of Major Player, “action thumbnails” of Major Player, and Major Player prop/weapon sketches

Week 14 – Thanksgiving Break

Week 15 – Major players final presentation. Work in-class on storyboards / planning your final pitch.

Week 16 – Final Pitch-Presentations / Survey

Learning Outcomes

After taking this course, the students will be able to: 

-          Work effectively within a creative team
-          Differentiate between style vs. design
-          Give, receive and respond to critique/feedback
-          Build and design a convincing imaginative world
-          “Convince the client” through effective conceptual illustrations.
-          Find their niche within a group project

Bibliography/ Texts / Supplies – Required:

1.       “Imaginative Realism” by James Gurney
2.       A sketchbook – mandatory. No smaller than 4x7, no bigger than 9x12.
3.       Star Wars (the original trilogy – New hope, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) – I am serious about this, if you haven’t seen these movies, you will be required to watch them and there WILL be a quiz.)

Bibliography/ Texts  / Supplies– Additional:

-          “The Skillful Huntsman” By DesignStudioPress
-          “Understanding Comics” By Scott McCloud
-          Any and all Gnomon DVDs/videos by Iain McCaig
-          Online video tutorials by Feng Zhu
-          ImagineFX Magazine

Grading Standards:
A = 90 and above: achievement is outstanding relative to the level necessary to meet course requirements
B = 80-89: achievement is significantly above the level necessary to meet course requirements
C = 70-79: achievement meets the course requirements in every respect
D = 60-69: achievement is worthy of credit even though it fails to meet the course requirements
F = 59 and below: achievement is not worthy of credit or was not completed / represents failure

Things that make me happy that you can do to receive extra credit:

-          Doing more than the required amount of thumbnail sketches I ask for
-          Doing extra research to enhance your group project or your individual assignments
-          Sharing a cool new piece of inspiration with your group and/or the class
-          Visiting museums or interesting places to get inspiration and learn about your world
-          Doing lots of sketching in your sketchbook to explore ideas for your group project
-          Finding new and interesting ways to increase the coolness factor of your group’s project and final pitch
-          Checking out the stuff I reference in class like movies, books, websites, tutorial videos, etc.
-          Laughing at my jokes

Class Policies:

-          Laptops/tablets may not be used during the class unless it is at DESIGNATED TIMES only for the purposes of research and development for in-class assignments. Anything else will not be tolerated, (unless you wish to share something extremely relevant to the class or extremely funny…. But I warn you, if it isn’t funny – I will not be pleased and you will never be trusted again.)

-          Please no texting or phone calls during class. If I have to ask you more than twice to stop texting during class then your grade could be seriously damaged. Don’t make me bring down the hammer of justice.

-          All devices that receive calls, messages, tweets, likes, notifications, +1s, or anything else that makes a sound should be put on vibrate or turned off entirely. If you receive an emergency phone call or text you should leave the classroom to answer it.

-          Three unexcused absences is an automatic failure.

-          Mechanical failures (alarm clocks, car failure, robot attacks, etc.) are NOT valid excuses, no matter how hilarious. Lateness of an hour or more will count as a half absence. Chronic lateness or skipping out early will also count towards an absence and will lower your grade. 


Class Incompletes
Incompletes will be granted only in extenuating circumstances. If you have a valid medical excuse or family emergency, and you’ve completed the bulk of course work for the semester, an incomplete is possible. You are responsible for initiating the paperwork for an incomplete.

The syllabus is subject to change as the need arises.

Important Dates

First day of classes - Monday, August 25
First day of Extended Campus classes -  Monday, August 25
Late registration & Schedule adjustment  - Monday, August 25 - Tuesday, September 2
Labor Day (no classes, University offices closed) -  Monday, September 1
Add deadline  - Tuesday, September 2
Grading option deadline to elect or rescind pass/fail or audit -  Monday, September 8
Financial deadline to drop class -  Monday, September 15
Mid-Semester progress reports due from faculty -  Monday, October 6
Midterm Monday -  October 13
Academic drop deadline -  Monday, October 20
Registration for Spring semester -  Wednesday, November 12 - Friday, December 12
Withdrawal deadline -  Friday, November 21
Thanksgiving Break  - Sunday, November 23 - Sunday, November 30
Last day of classes -  Friday, December 5
SURVEY: Seniors – December 8; Juniors - December 9; Sophomores – December 10
Last day of Extended Campus classes   - Thursday, December 12

Academic Integrity
Syracuse University’s Academic Integrity Policy holds students accountable for the integrity of the work they submit. Students should be familiar with the policy and know that it is their responsibility to learn about course-specific expectations, as well as about university policy. The university policy governs appropriate citation and use of sources, the integrity of work submitted in exams and assignments, and the veracity of signatures on attendance sheets and other verification of participation in class activities. The policy also prohibits students from submitting the same written work in more than one class without receiving written authorization in advance from both instructors. The presumptive penalty for a first offense by an undergraduate student is course failure, accompanied by a transcript notation indicating that the failure resulted from a violation of Academic Integrity Policy. The standard sanction for a first offense by a graduate student is suspension or expulsion.

For more information and the complete policy, see

Disability-Related Accommodations
If you believe that you need accommodations for a disability, please contact the Office of Disability Services(ODS),, located in Room 309 of 804 University Avenue, or call (315) 443-4498 for an appointment to discuss your needs and the process for requesting accommodations. ODS is responsible for coordinating disability-related accommodations and will issue students with documented Disabilities Accommodation Authorization Letters, as appropriate. Since accommodations may require early planning and generally are not provided retroactively, please contact ODS as soon as possible.

Religious Observances Policy
SU religious observances policy, found at, recognizes the diversity of faiths represented among the campus community and protects the rights of students, faculty, and staff to observe religious holidays according to their tradition.  Under the policy, students are provided an opportunity to make up any examination, study, or work requirements that may be missed due to are religious observance provided they notify their instructors before the end of the second week of classes. For fall and spring semesters, an online notification process is available through MySlice/StudentServices/Enrollment/MyReligiousObservances from the first day of class until the end of the second week of class.

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