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 3-D Design and Duluth's Port

Tim Gearns, Sam Pickard, and Rob Lodge.

SEE VIDEO CLIP of the 3-D animation.
UMD Students Create
Marketing Animation for Seaway Port Authority

Associate professor Eun-Kyung Suh, who teaches three-dimensional (3D) digital design classes, shows students how to create graphic animations that can bring to life complicated scenarios.

During the fall 2008 semester, students from Suh's class crafted a 3-D animated short detailing the workings of the port terminal located in the St. Louis Bay at the Duluth Seaway Port Authority. The final 3D animation makes a visual representation for anyone around the world to see. It shows a working industrial site that is hard to conceive using words or still pictures.

Five students, with a mix of majors and minors that include graphic design, civil engineering and studio art, spent about 600 hours making the two-minute digital animation. The students, senior Rob Lodge, recent graduate Andy Wold, Tim Gearns, Sam Pickard, and Brent Johnson, got the opportunity to present their work to the port's board of commissioners.

The focus of the clip is a visualization of port operations. The clip shows wind-industry cargo being brought in by ship, unloaded and then reloaded on trucks and trains. It displays the highly mechanised equipment used for loading and unloading and demonstrates the efficiency of the Duluth operations.

Tim Gearns, a student studing art and civil engineering, said the rendering was a painstaking process. "Each frame took eight minutes to load, and there were 3600 frames," he said.

"The computer takes the information and calculates the lighting and shadows, one frame at a time," said Sam Pickard, an art and photography student. "We got a lot of studying done while we waited. It took a long time but we spread out the time between us."

When the 3D animation is finalized, it will be available for viewing on Port Authority and other Web sites and will be used as information for prospective clients.

Suh is interested in working with other area businesses on similar projects. “This is a reality-based experience for our students,” she said, “It is the best preparation for their careers.”

The project got the students out of the classroom. They visited the port location, studied its operations, talked to employees, and took dozens of photographs. Back in the lab, they used aerial photos and the Website Google Earth to assist in the creation of the animated models.

“It was good to interact with real clients,” said Rob Lodge, a graphic design student. “Real-world experience is the biggest thing. It's something we don't normally get. It won't be a shock when we graduate and have to deal with strict guidelines and teams that we haven't met before.”

Andy Wold, who graduated last semester, said working on the project was much like making a movie. “You have cameras, lights, objects you build; we can virtually manipulate everything,” he said.

For more information about UMD's 3D design classes, contact Eun-Kyung Suh at

Written by Cheryl Reitan

Department of Art and Design

UMD home page editor, Cheryl Reitan,
NEW RELEASES, UMD media contact, Susan Latto,, 218-726-8830

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