UD's Ryan O'Dowd with Clone Captain Rex at Lucasfilm Animation.

UD Interns: Jedi Academy

Computer science major interns with Lucasfilm Animation Ltd.

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(Editor's note: UD Interns is an occasional series that looks at enriching internship experiences enjoyed by University of Delaware students.)

1:45 p.m., July 3, 2012--Ryan O’Dowd is passionate about animation. He also loves computer science. 

This summer, O’Dowd, a rising junior studying computer science at the University of Delaware, is combining the two skills as an intern with Lucasfilm Animation Ltd., producer of such silver screen hits as Star Wars, Indiana Jones and American Graffiti.

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Stationed at the Big Rock Ranch in Nicasio, Calif., O’Dowd is reworking animation and video editing tools for Star Wars: The Clone Wars (2008 TV series), an animated television series created by George Lucas and set in the fictional Star Wars galaxy. 

“I support the artists by repairing animation tools that don’t function correctly, as well as restoring scenes from previous episodes so that they can be referenced in future episodes,” remarks O’Dowd, a resident of Pittsburgh.

The tools, he explains, are used by digital story artists to create outlines of the final animation before it is sent to the lighters and editors. His role is to ensure that they work properly with new software. 

As part of the series’ story department, he also is performing data management for two television shows and a feature film currently under production, and modifying existing code to make sure that it works when used in other environments. Additionally, he has developed a computer program that forecasts the amount of disc space required for a show at given points in production. 

“Disc space is often the most expensive commodity in animation,” O’Dowd explains. “The program allows the managers to decide how much space to allot to each artist in order to remain within budget.”

At UD, O’Dowd is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science with a concentration in animation and a minor in fine arts. He is an Honors Program student.

This fall, he plans to apply to UD's graduate program to earn his master of science degree in software engineering in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences

“I got into animation via engineering design and architecture courses I took in high school. I especially liked the design visualization -- taking 2D images and converting them to full-color, 3D models. Animation is a natural extension of that,” he says. 

He says the internship “has been a lot of fun” so far, particularly because it combines two of his greatest passions, but ultimately, he hopes the experience will springboard him closer to his dream of a career in animation.

To quote a well-known phrase: “May the force be with you,” Ryan.

Article by Karen B. Roberts

 

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