New masters degree combines creativity and science

The Daily Reveille

To some, art and engineering are as different as night and day. But the University’s new digital media arts and engineering master’s degree could dispel that notion.

Set to begin in January, this two-year program is the first of its kind in Louisiana and one of 44 in the country.

Students enrolled in the course will explore the multifaceted field of video game and interactive design as well as visual effects and animations.

Marc Aubanel, the program’s director, said the DMAE master’s degree came from a push by Louisiana Economic Development and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber about 10 years ago to attract more digital media companies to the state. Even with a tax credit for eligible enterprises, companies were initially wary of the idea due to a lack of trained workforce.

But with an EA Games facility in the University’s new Digital Media Center and IBM recently breaking ground on a Baton Rouge complex, Aubanel said the tide is changing.

Aubanel comes from an extensive background in video game design and said the industry has already begun to change how people see engineering and art.

“The balance of power is pretty equitable,” he said, “You have to have really compelling looking environments, but you’re interacting with them, so you need programmers.”

Companies are relying more on people who understand aspects of both design and programming, Aubanel said.

“I think people often focus on one,” he said. “But it’s always good to be a musician who can program, an artist who can script.”

While Aubanel expects many applicants from the arts and computer sciences, he also predicts interest from English, mass communication, music and architecture.

Architecture sophomore Frank Alvarez said the technology involved in his degree would fit well with digital design’s needs. He also said links among students, businesses and the University are beneficial for everyone involved.

“I think it’s going to open opportunities for those that want to pursue that kind of area,” Alvarez said. “It’s going to set us apart.”

Biology and geology junior Rachel Gregory said the new degree would distinguish the University.

“More people will want to come here rather than go to Tech or Tulane,” Gregory said, “It will be something just LSU has.”

The three types of classes within the program — including project-based, skill development and electives — are designed to prepare students for a wide range of jobs within the field. Often, students will work directly with local companies including EA Games, Gameloft, Pixel Dash Studios and Moonbot Studios.

The degree compares to an MBA in that students are not expected to go on to get a doctoral degree after completion. But Aubanel stressed the importance of this degree in a field where the software is getting more and more complex.

“The state of the tools is getting to the point where complexity is pretty severe,” Aubanel said.

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