Capstone

Contents

 

Introduction

A capstone is a two-semester project completed by BFA and BS students during the final year at SOFA.

Film and animation majors make one documentary, experimental, narrative, 2D, 3D, stop motion short or write a feature or series; Production Craft Track students contribute to the making of two live action capstone shorts in a specific craft (BFA only.) The capstone for film and animation majors is 8 credits, 4 credits each semester—although craft capstone credits can be allocated according to the amount of work planned for each semester. Advisors help craft students determine the proper distribution of credit.

A feature screenplay capstone should ideally be 90-120 pages, but may not be fewer than 80 pages or more than 140 pages. Scripts less than 90 pages are generally only appropriate for animated features. A written series capstone requires a pilot script for a one hour series, a pilot script and one episode for a half-hour series, or a pilot script and multiple episodes for a web series (60 total script pages minimum). A series capstone also requires a show “bible” that includes background information, character descriptions, and season arcs and/or episode summaries. There should be a minimum of two submitted drafts of each component of a written capstone.

Motion picture science majors might choose a theoretical or applied research or engineering project with practical implications for motion imaging applications or in general image science; contribute to the making of two capstone shorts in a specific technical role; or even make their own production, as long as its emphasis is on scientific investigation or applied engineering pertinent to imaging science or motion picture technologies. The capstone for motion picture science majors is 6 credits distributed evenly among the final two semesters of the degree.

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Collaboration and Co-Production

Capstone shorts may be a collaboration where students work together in different roles for capstone credit, with generally only one serving as the lead filmmaker and one or more serving in supporting craft roles. In rare circumstances two students (maximum) can work in a co-production where they jointly act as the lead filmmaker for capstone credit. In both collaborations and co-productions it is important to specify each student’s rights (such as for creative control and ownership) and responsibilities (such as for expenses). For a coproduction to be approved each student must have roughly equal responsibilities, earn the same credit, and work through each phase of production at the same time for, typically, the same grade. These points should ideally be covered in the capstone contract. Generally students share ownership of the finished short based on monetary contribution, and ownership of the rights to remake or spin-off productions based on story contribution. Hence, if a writer/director and a director of photography collaborated and the director of photography paid for the camera rental and gave script suggestions but did not co-write the script, both students would share ownership of the short but only the writer/director would own the right to remake it or develop it as a movie or series.

Motion picture science research/engineering students may also propose a collaborative research project for their capstone as long as the scope of work supports a substantial experience for both participants.

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Required Courses

Animation Capstone I (animation) or Production Capstone I (live action) is taken in the first semester of a capstone year. For live action only, before the class even begins students should know what they want to do for their capstone or at least have it narrowed down to a few ideas. During the class students prepare and pitch their capstone proposal. They also formalize coproductions and collaborations.

Capstone I & II (BFA), Senior Project I & II (BS), cover the actual making of a capstone in the final year. BS students in Senior Project I meet one hour each week as a class during the fall semester of the capstone year. For all other courses, students meet as a class in their Capstone course.

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Capstone Proposal

With the exception of coproductions, each student prepares their own capstone proposal.

Film and Animation

During the start of Capstone, students write a capstone proposal with some or all of these sections:

  • Title page with project title, student name, type of capstone, proposal date, and a line for the class Advisor’s signature
  • Logline(s): A one to two sentence summary of the capstone (collaborations can use the same logline)
  • Treatment(s): A one to three page single-spaced, or one to five page double-spaced, summary of the capstone (not required for craft capstone proposals)
  • Rationale: Why this capstone or craft capstone? What is your background, inspiration or motivation, and objective? (This section can begin craft capstone proposals)
  • Vision: What will be your approach to the story, production, and/or characters? (Animators should include rough atmosphere sketches and character designs)
  • Rights and Responsibilities: How will the work, control, costs, and ownership be shared? (Include only in collaboration and coproduction proposals)
  • Support: Will anyone else be working on the capstone? What other resources are in place? (Not required for craft capstone proposals)
  • Preparation: Was the required capstone preparation successfully completed? If not, what is your justification for receiving an exception?
  • Schedule: Include a realistic timetable for preproduction, production, and postproduction (craft capstone students list their combined schedule for all productions)
  • Budget: Everything needed from preproduction to distribution, including those items that can be acquired from RIT or others at no cost (craft capstone students list their budget for all productions)

Capstone proposals for collaborations should include the proposals of all capstone students. Hence, a directing capstone proposal should have all craft proposals attached, and a craft capstone proposal should have all directing proposals attached (but not other craft proposals). Craft capstone proposals should also include the directors’ capstone contracts (detailed in Capstone Proposal Review).

Students are encouraged to budget funds to reimburse actors for lost work and pay for labor to open locations in off-hours. Students are strongly discouraged from renting cameras, particularly ones they have not previously used.

Students may propose international capstone projects. Like all capstone proposals, they are subject to approval by review.

Motion Picture Science

Research/engineering proposals must include:

  • Title page with project title, student name, type of capstone, proposal date, and a line for the capstone adviser’s signature.
  • Relevant introductory theory: a one to two page summary of the applicable science or engineering addressed by the project proposal (include pertinent references and citations)
  • Research and/or design objectives: summarize the explicit research objectives and project hypotheses. What do you hope to accomplish with the research? Will the work result in an engineered system or a deeper understanding of a scientific or technical principle? What are your motivations for the work?
  • Plan of study and/or experimentation: summarize the planned experiments or design stages necessary to accomplish the project objectives. What major milestones are necessary in achieving stated objectives?
  • Schedule: A detailed summary of research, design, and experimentation phases and their expected dates of completion
  • Budget: Everything needed for design, prototyping, experimentation, and analysis, including those items that can be gotten from RIT or others at no cost (“in kind” contributions)

Craft proposals should be guided by the Film and Animation proposal format above.

Schedule

While each capstone proposal’s schedule will be unique, all should conform to the following:

  • Fall, Suggested Week 6: Animatic Night (BFA Animation only)
  • Fall, Week 15: Capstone-in-Progress Screenings (BFA Film only)
  • Spring, Suggested Week 6: Capstone-in-Progress Screenings (BFA Animation only)
  • Spring, Week 8: Pick-ups and re-shoots completed (BFA Film only)
  • Spring, Week 10: Picture lock—picture editing completed (BFA Film only)
  • Spring, Week 15: Spring Screenings—capstone completed

Film students are also strongly encouraged to complete principle photography by fall, Week 10.

Occasionally, students will not be able to start their capstone until the spring. In such cases, “fall” and “spring” capstone references above (and in most other places) should be switched. Although there will not be a formal spring Animatic Night or fall Capstone-in-Progress Screenings, students must still meet those deadlines.

Graded craft students working on a capstone short should be at all required screenings of that short (two for BFA film and three for BFA animation).

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Capstone Proposal Review

All students must successfully complete the capstone proposal review process. This means two faculty members approve their proposal. Faculty who approve proposals do not have to have involvement in advising the project after rendering their initial judgment, but students can seek all faculty input at their discretion.

Students coordinate with an advisor to find an available time slot when both are free.  In the case of some BS research capstone proposals, a special committee of experts convenes to properly evaluate the topics embodied by the capstone.

Before their capstone proposal review, students must deliver to the reviewing faculty a copy of their proposal that has been signed by their advisor.

If the capstone proposal is passed without conditions the student may make their capstone. If the capstone proposal is passed with conditions, the student cannot commence or, depending on the conditions, complete their capstone until the advisor judges that the conditions have been met. Conditions can include such things as additional preproduction steps, length restrictions, or creative suggestions but not creative mandates.

If the capstone proposal is not approved, the student must find a faculty member to approve it (up to three non-approvals) or re-propose.

When the capstone is approved, it must be sent to the Cage for archiving. This process includes the proposal, the capstone approval form, and a questionnaire administered by facilities to gauge facility needs for the year.

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Animatic Night (Animation Only)

BFA Animation students work with their Capstone class to determine an acceptable state of progress by Animatic Night. Recommended presentation criteria include:

  • “Proof of concept” with both image and sound to convey the concept/idea as fully as possible
  • Key images and demonstration of art direction
  • “Sneak Preview” for installation or performance art works—this may also be a verbal presentation that includes supporting images and audio components

MFA students have the option (but not obligation) to participate if there is space available.

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Capstone-in-Progress Screenings

BFA students must present their capstone, after which there is a discussion to solicit feedback. Students should be prepared to ask the audience specific questions if areas of concern are not addressed. Please note that film and animation Capstone-in-Progress Screenings are in different semesters.

Film

Shorts should include a rough cut of all scenes with synchronized sound. (Incomplete principal photography is grounds for a reduced grade). Ideally, widescreen masks and initial color correction for images shot “flat” should be added. Basic sound levels should be proper and consistent, extraneous sounds such as director’s comments should be removed, and sound effects necessary to understand the story should be added. Ideally, distracting ambiance holes in dialogue scenes should also be filled. Temp music is encouraged but not mandatory. Temp music (only) does not require copyright clearances. Temp titles need only include the title of the short and the name and position of each student earning credit.

Feature scripts should be pitched, with supporting visual materials, to reveal the genre and world, protagonist(s) and antagonist(s), plot and key sub-plot(s) with key turning points, character arc(s), and possibly theme. Series should be similarly pitched but with more emphasis on the world, characters, and potential for ongoing stories. In both cases, the focus should be on the broad concept and structure, not unnecessary details. Presentations should be rehearsed and timed to no more than 20:00, leaving at least 10:00 for discussion in a maximum 30:00 time slot. Pitches may be pre-recorded.

Animation

All shorts should be fully animated in hardware rendered graphics or pencil test. All camera moves should be animated so that useful critiques can be made for story, character performance, timing, and cinematography. There should be draft titles and credits. Dialogue should be final. Music and sound effects must be included but may be scratch or final tracks.

Additionally:

3D characters should be fully animated. Major elements of the set should be modeled. Final lighting and texturing are not required.

2D shorts should be fully animated (rough) and backgrounds should be roughed in.

Stop motion should have at least 80% of the final animation complete, 20% may be pop-through or blocked. All model/set building should be complete. Compositing may be done later in the spring.

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Capstone Completion Criteria

Film Production
All photography has been completed and all scenes/segments that should be included, are included.

Animation
All shots animated (no animatic, storyboard panels or ‘pop through’ shots), all shots completed to consistent standard (if the film is colored, all shots are colored, no ‘line only’ shots allowed). 3D films should be fully splined and rendered, no play blasts.

All Production
i. students must stick to the proposal contract agreement.
ii. necessary ADR and Foley work complete.
iii. music cues are complete and include full rights for use in all forms.
iv. sound design is complete; mixed effects, voice, and music.
v. credits include permissions for music and effects.
vi. color grading complete to standards agreed upon with student.
vii. full, graphic titles (not temporary) and credits completed.
viii. all intended special effects, digital or practical, must be completed to agreed standards.
ix. includes opening RIT logo, to not be removed. [but can be moved to the end after screenings]
x. includes in credits, “Submitted in Partial Fulfillment…”
xi. copyrighted at very end with year.
xii. artist’s statement (prior approval recommended).
xiii. fits within minimum and maximum lengths.
xiv. captioned.

Craft
i. PowerPoint presentation (for archive).
ii. and/or video demo.
iii. Screenwriters have a short scene, simply produced.

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Artist Statement (BFA Only)

BFA students (not BS) must write a two-page (double-spaced, 12 pt. font) artist statement to share at the final presentation of their capstone. An artist statement is not a thank you speech. Its purpose is to provide a framework through which to view the work and from which an informed discussion can evolve. It is an opportunity for students to offer insight into their background, perspective, purpose, subject, influences, and process. Most importantly, an artist statement should reflect what a student wants to emphasize about his or her short. While students may wish to thank others, that should be separate from the artist statement. Brevity is the soul of wit.

An artist statement can be funny, thought provoking, descriptive, scholarly, etc. Keep in mind that the audience may be just as interested in the original motivation as they are in the changes that took place as the student’s work and knowledge evolved. Students may wish to take any or all of the following in to account:

Personal Background

  • What personal background did you bring to the short? Are you a traveler? Inquisitive by nature? Curious about other cultures? Concerned with “bigger” issues like gender, relationships, identity, etc.? How did that influence the work?
  • What did you initially set out to explore or discover?
  • How did this perspective change as the film took shape?

Purpose and Motive

  • Were you simply motivated by your own interests?
  • What aspect of filmmaking are you exploring in this work (texture, character development, sound, light, interplay of form and function, technology, etc.)?
  • Your purpose or reason for producing this short is often reflected in the process, so how is this short a reflection of your understanding of the craft, practice, and delivery of film and/or animation?

Process, Challenges, and Limitations

  • Were your ideas, understanding, beliefs, or expectations challenged in the process of making this short?
  • How did your ideas develop?

Historical, Critical, and Theoretical Framework

  • What kind of research did you use in the making of the short?
  • What are the creative or artistic influences evident in the short?

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End-of-Semester Screenings

Students cannot be certified for the completion of their degree without screening or presenting a completed capstone at an end-of-semester screening. Students who, for whatever reason, do not screen in the spring, must screen the following fall before they can receive their degree and may need to pay for additional course credit.

Time allotments vary depending on the length of the short, but undergraduates are typically allotted a maximum of 30:00 during the end-of-semester screenings for their capstone screening or presentation.

All presentations should leave approximately 10:00 for discussion.

BFA students must also allow approximately 5:00 for their artist statement. Students giving a presentation may optionally incorporate their artist statement into their PowerPoint or prerecording but, if so, it must remain a distinct component.

Students are expected to submit their completed capstone short or presentation to their Capstone instructor for feedback and grading prior to submitting it to the FVASA Screenings Committee for inclusion in the Spring Screenings. Students giving a presentation may also be required to rehearse its content and timing with their advisor.

Writer/Screenwriting

  • 5:00 story summary, 10:00 script reading, 5:00 artist statement, 10:00 discussion

Students should briefly (within approximately 5:00 total) summarize the full story, as needed, preceding and/or following a prerecorded section of the script. This can be “live” or included in the prerecorded reading.

Students should select a roughly 10-page section of their script and prerecord it as a staged reading. That is to say, cast, rehearse, and simply shoot actors reading it standing or staged as a “black box” play with clear audio. A narrator reads the scene headings and description, either on screen or off screen. Actors perform the dialogue “on book” or “off book” (memorized). One actor can play multiple roles. Character names, parentheticals, and transitions are not read. With advisor permission, description can be summarized and/or non-consecutive pages relating to a cohesive storyline can be used. Students can optionally shoot on location and/or use basic sets, costumes, or coverage but it should not be fully produced (no location lighting or grip equipment). It is a writing, not production, capstone and should be able to be rehearsed and shot in a single weekend. “Live” readings during end-of-semester screenings are not permitted.

 

Craft

  • BFA: 15:00 presentation, 5:00 artist statement, 10:00 discussion
  • BS: 20:00 presentation, 10:00 discussion

It should be remembered that the audience is comprised of different types of filmmakers, so presentations do not have to be basic but neither should they be excessively technical.

BFA craft students should prepare a 15:00 PowerPoint and/or prerecorded presentation. The presentation can be creative or entertaining, but its primary purpose is to share what the student did and learned. Students should provide concrete examples of both process and approach—primarily by including brief sections of the capstone shorts on which they worked. Students are strongly advised to document their efforts throughout the capstone year so as to prepare for their presentation.

BS craft student presentations are similar to BFA craft tack presentations except they may be 20:00 and exclude an artist statement. BS craft emphasis students must also produce a written capstone with scope approved by the advisor.

Research/Engineering

  • BS: 30:00 presentation and discussion

A BS research/engineering capstone culminates in a formal written technical report. It may be a shared as PowerPoint or prerecorded presentation at the Spring Screenings or, with advisor approval, at another appropriate venue, such as at a meeting of a professional technical organization. A longer presentation may be possible or necessary at other venues.

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Archive Requirements

THIS SECTION IS PENDING REVISION.

All capstones must be digitally archived. Files should be named as follows: DegreeYear_Last Name_Description (i.e., BFA2014_Smith_Proposal).

  • Degree: BFA or BS
  • Year: four digits (2015, 2016, 2017, etc.)
  • Last name: your last name
  • Description: Script, Presentation, or Report

Shorts are received for archiving when they are submitted to the Screenings Committee for their end-of-semester screening.

Scripts for BFA Writing capstones must include a title page with the script title, student’s name, degree earned, year of completion, and the capstone notice and copyright information required for capstone shorts as detailed in the Credits section of Delivery Requirements. A PDF copy of the script must be emailed to the archive assistant with a copy sent to the advisor. BFA Writing students who do not archive their capstone by the last day of exams are subject to a course incomplete and, therefore, delayed certification of their degree.

Presentations for BFA/BS craft and BS Research/Engineering capstones, whether PowerPoint or filmed (that are not submitted to the Screenings Committee), must be emailed to the archive assistant with a copy sent to the advisor. BS presentations must also be copied to the motion picture science program chair. PowerPoints should include any speaker’s notes as well as the student’s name, degree earned, and year of completion and be submitted as a PDF. Films should be submitted as Quicktime movies that conform to the screenings technical specifications.

Reports for all BS capstones must be labeled with the student’s name, degree earned, and year of completion. PDF copies of the report should be emailed to the archive assistant with a copy sent to the motion picture science program chair.

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