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Media Design School animation wins at Mississippi Festival

First Contact from Media Design School on Vimeo.

Media Design School animation wins at the Mississippi International Film Festival

New Zealand’s top digital and creative technology institution reinforces award-winning reputation

Auckland – November 14, 2011 -- Media Design School has notched up another win for CGI-live action short film First Contact, taking the trophy for Best Sci-Fi or Horror at the Mississippi International Film Festival in Jackson, Mississippi.

Media Design School 3D Programme Leader James Cunningham directed alien comedy First Contact, which took 14 advanced 3D production students 13 weeks and more than 7000 hours to complete. Established New Zealand screenwriter Nick Ward wrote the script for the film that features actors Paul Glover, Andrew Beattie and Simon McKinney.

“We are thrilled to receive this award as an acknowledgement of all the hard work the students put into this production” said Cunningham. “They were able to build a crazy world, capture the fantastic performances of the actors and translate that into alien animations. Thanks also to all our industry supporters, especially Simon Reira, Nick Ward and Dave Whitehead.”

First Contact includes more than 55 digital effects, with digital head replacement throughout the film. Using sophisticated object-tracking and keyframe animation technology, the actors’ heads were transformed into animated aliens in the post-production process. The digital heads were matched to the live-action footage which was then composited over digital environments.

Media Design School’s Advanced 3D animation students undertake a group production to hone their 3D animation and production skills in a studio-like environment. Short films created using the latest technologies and produced to world-class standards are submitted to film festivals and competitions around the world, giving students the opportunity to be recognised by the industry.

This year Media Design School student films have been selected to screen at 15 international film festivals on four continents. The films have picked up over 30 awards including seven at the recent Los Angeles Movie Awards.

Media Design School delivers specialised education for 21st century creative careers by providing high-level qualifications for computer 3D animators, visual effects and motion graphic specialists, game artists and programmers.

The Mississippi International Film Festival showcases independent short films and features from around the world. The Festival shows off captivating contemporary films the movie-loving public would otherwise have little or no access to and this year included special guest Danny Glover who won the Outstanding Achievement Award for his work in the movie Freedom Song.

First Contact and other work can be viewed at:

About Media Design School

Media Design School is New Zealand’s most-awarded private tertiary institution for digital and creative technologies. The Auckland-based school offers degrees and diploma qualifications in 3D computer animation and visual effects, interactive gaming, graphic design, creative advertising, and digital media. Media Design School is part of Laureate International Universities, the world’s largest private university group with over 55 universities in 28 countries, including dedicated design schools in San Diego, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA; Berlin and Hamburg, Germany; and Milan, Italy. For more information, visit


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