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StoriesAustin Vincent ’20, Art & Design

Bringing a career in animation to life

A Lesley filmmaker rediscovers a love for animated films and forges a new creative path

A still from Austin Vincent's film "Duino."
Austin Vincent's animated film "Duino" has been selected by several film festivals.

Austin Vincent '20 wasn’t always drawn to animation.

“I was more into filmmaking. Ever since I was a kid, starting at 8 or 9, I was always making movies with my sisters,” he recalls.

A few years later, his parents gave him his first digital video camera. “That was a game changer.”

Still, Austin didn’t start taking film seriously until high school.

“I took every video production class. I was fortunate to have a visual production center at school. I was president of the media club and that was my whole focus—video making.”

He was very interested in visual effects (VFX), teaching himself Adobe After Effects and other compositing and animation software.

Austin planned to study visual effects but was advised that animation would provide a solid foundation for a VFX career. Lesley University offered a pathway for him to get his BFA in Animation & Motion Media with a minor in Visual Effects.

“I remember touring and asking, 'do you have a VFX division?,' and they told me, ‘if you come here, we’ll create something for you.’ And lo and behold, I was able to graduate with a minor in visual effects. We were the first class to be able to do that.”

As he studied favorite childhood movies like "Wall-E" and "The Iron Giant" with fresh eyes, Austin grew more fascinated by the complex work that goes into making animated films.

“The amount of love I have for children’s animation is through the roof. I've always loved children’s movies but I never thought I’d want to go in that direction.”

A senior year internship at Zero VFX, a boutique studio in Boston that has produced visual effects for films as far-ranging as “Little Women” and “Hubie Halloween,” gave him additional experience in a professional studio environment.

Austin Vincent with Lesley friends and professors
Austin Vincent (second from left) with (from left to right) GiGi Bennet '21, Animation Department Chair Catriona Baker, Assistant Professor Mike Annear, and Jess Brown '20

Meet Duino

Austin’s animated senior thesis film, "Duino," tells the story of a young boy, Pete, who brings a little robot, Duino, to life. His girlfriend Emely Burgos, who graduated from Lesley with a bachelor's degree in Illustration in 2020, designed the look for Duino and Pete, and another Lesley illustrator, Joe Hamman '20, created the movie poster.

A hands-on approach to crafting characters drives Austin’s work. “For ‘Duino,’ I 3D-printed my characters so I could get to know them better," he says.

A fan of superhero films, cosplay, and online games like Warhammer 40,000, his hand-crafted costumes have won awards at several Comicon competitions.

“I love the computer but my hands need to work, and that’s really my outlet for it. I was 14 when I made my first Iron Man suit. I made a seven-foot Space Marine and an eight-foot Hulk and a big yellow mech suit from Alien 2. One day of animation, one day of working with my hands.”

Austin completed work on “Duino” from his home in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down on-campus studios and the powerful rendering engines that process the light mathematics and the textures to create a finished film.

Duino still
A curious robot comes to life in "Duino"

“For animating itself, you don’t need that much processing power—it’s the rendering aspect that takes more. I was fortunate enough to have a powerful computer at home to finish that work—it was running nonstop for months."

Beyond the world of robots

A recent animation project has taken Austin beyond the fantastic world of robots to address issues closer to home. In 2012, a New Bedford teenager, Malcolm Gracia, was shot by two police officers. Police reports claimed that Gracia had charged at police with a knife, but the physical evidence seemed to contradict their story. The Gracia family’s lawyer put out a call on social media looking for an animator to recreate the conflicting evidence at the crime scene. Austin took on the job.

“What I was brought on to do was to create animations of what the police said happened and what the physical evidence says happened. The police say it happened one way but the bullet casings on the floor say another.”

The case is still in court and Austin is glad that his work may help shed light on what happened that day, though he doesn’t see his future in forensic animation.

“I’m so proud to be able to be a part of that, but it’s not a future career path that I want to pursue.”

What's next for Austin

Austin is working on a new film project that, like “Duino,” reflects his fascination with personal relationships between robots and human beings. Meantime “Duino” has won an Award of Excellence in the Best Shorts Competition and been accepted into several animation festivals, including the Los Angeles Lift-Off Film Festival, the Animation Block Party Festival in Brooklyn, New York, the AniMate animation festival in Australia, and the Tempus Film Festival in Belarus.

“Hopefully something happens that someone important sees it,” Austin says. “I would love to work for Pixar or DreamWorks or Illumination—that’s the style and storytelling I like.”

Learn more about Animation and Visual Effects (VFX)

In addition to our BFA in Animation & Motion Media, and minors in Visual Effects (VFX) and Animation, you could also pursue a 60-credit professional certificate in Animation or an 18-credit online certificate in User Experience (UX). Lesley features cutting-edge technology and curriculum that make us one of the top schools on the East Coast for students planning careers in animation.

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