Games, Film, and Animation

Home to one of the country's premier film schools, RIT offers the resources and facilities to execute high-level film and digital media projects.

MAGIC Spell Studios

Students and faculty from various disciplines partner to work on sponsored research and independent study projects focused in film, games, AR/VR and interactive experiences through RIT’s MAGIC Spell Studios. The state-of-the-art facility, encompassing a 7,000-square-foot soundstage, sound mix and color correction post-production studios, a 4K Dolby Atmos theater and several media labs, supports research and entrepreneurial activities within RIT and in Western New York.

Supported by partner companies on the front lines of media innovation — including award-winning visualization studio THE THIRD FLOOR Inc., co-founded by Chris Edwards ’97 (film and video production) — MAGIC's alliances have helped fuel its success since opening in 2018.


Coca-Cola Refreshing Films

Say Cheese — a pioneering, heartfelt film directed and produced by students Anna McClanahan (film and animation: production option) and Gabriel Ponte-Fleary (film and animation MFA) — took the top prize in the 2022 Coca-Cola Refreshing Films (CCRF) program.

The prestigious CCRF program invites film students across the United States to submit a script for a 60-second branded spot celebrating the movie-going experience. Say Cheese was among four finalists selected from 41 universities. RIT was the sole East Coast university among the final four, joined by UCLA, Chapman University and California Institute of the Arts. 

The meet-cute story co-written by McClanahan and Ponte-Fleary, who is Deaf, is partly based on their experiences at RIT, including McClanahan's performances in joint hearing, deaf and hard-of-hearing productions for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf’s (NTID) Department of Performing Arts. The authentic, cross-cultural project featured the combined creative efforts of students, faculty, staff and alumni in RIT’s School of Film and Animation and NTID. 

The commercial portrays Chris, a male, hearing college student, attempting to ask his female, Deaf classmate named Jessie to the movies. Chris, an American Sign Language novice, clumsily signs a visually similar sequence of words, instead asking her if she wants to go to a “cheese.” This wins Jessie over and the two head to the theater for their first date. By winning the CCRF program, Say Cheese screened in movie theaters across the country.

Photo by Kashif Ahmed Bin Arif

Payton Schleh headshot.

Motion capture research

When there is a motion capture need for a project, who do you call? Payton Schleh ’23 (motion picture science).

As a student, Schleh worked on co-op with MAGIC Spell Studios researching the latest motion capture technology and techniques. Motion capture is the process of recording movement of objects or people with the use of sensors and markers, and incorporating it into media such as video games, animations and films. 

Schleh operated out of a lab in MAGIC, where she employed the cutting-edge equipment and know-how to meet the growing demand for motion capture technology in various student projects. Schleh’s technical and creative support benefitted students in the School of Film and Animation and the 3D digital design program.

“I enjoy helping people out and seeing what they’re doing,” said Schleh, from Portland, Ore. “I’ve always enjoyed getting my hands on equipment and working with the tools and figuring out what they can do. Getting the chance to do that here, as part of my major, has been really great.”

She experimented with different motion capture systems. Namely, Schleh explored the technology through alumni-donated Vicon cameras and a Perception Neuron system that possesses industry-leading sensor technology and algorithms. 

Schleh used the Perception Neuron suit to record motions for student animations, virtual production projects and even American Sign Language hand-tracking. She even attached motion-detection sensors to a stick-shaped object and simulated the movement of a whale for an aquatic character in an animation.

Schleh’s research role evolved beyond motion capture. She also developed a familiarity with RIT’s state-of-the-art virtual production setup to bring the revolutionary media production technique to student projects.

A crew on a soundstage working on the visual album by Misterwives.


MAGIC Spell Studios firmly believes in students “learning by making” — a credo supported by countless examples of students receiving real-world experience through MAGIC. One such opportunity was three College of Art and Design students being hired for the production of a visual album by indie pop band Misterwives, filmed entirely in MAGIC Spell Studios’ state-of-the-art sound stage. 

Sarah Alexander ’21 Production Option (Film and Animation BFA), Trisha Pickelhaupt ’21 Visual Media Option (Photographic and Imaging Arts BFA) and Simon Yahn ’22 (Motion Picture Science) were integral in the production of “SUPERBLOOM: The Live Dream,” an immersive, high-energy performance of MisterWives’ 2020 album that was streamed to a live virtual audience. The livestream event served as a live concert alternative during COVID-19. 

“I’m thankful MAGIC Spell Studios exists and gives professional work experience with industry-leading equipment, which would otherwise be hard to come by and learn,” Yahn said. “There really is unlimited potential there. It’s to the scale of Hollywood feature productions. To have that as a dependable resource is insane to young filmmakers.”

A cartoon goat used as the mascot for the "That Damn Goat!" game.

That Damn Goat!

“That Damn Goat!” is a party game where chaos reigns, frustrations mount and everything you think you know about your situation is instantly thrown out of whack by a head-butting goat with magical powers. 

The game is a multidisciplinary collaboration out of MAGIC Spell Studios, headed by RIT faculty: Creative Director Brian Larson (School of Film and Animation), Co-director Jesse O’Brien (School of Interactive Games and Media) and Technical Lead Austin Willoughby (School of Interactive Games and Media).

In 2016, RIT became the first university to fund, develop and launch a game on Xbox One with “Hack, Slash & Backstab” and did so again in 2018 with “Fragile Equilibrium.” MAGIC is setting its sights once again on another full game launch with “Goat.”  

The development philosophy of “Goat” is that it will be faculty-led and student-developed, and aims to mimic standard industry production practices and methodologies to provide a best-in-class student experience. The project is expected to span multiple years and cohorts of student talent — composed of developers and artists from various majors at RIT. “Goat” is being produced in residence at MAGIC Spell Studios with the support of the MAGIC team.

Follow “That Damn Goat” on Twitter for future developments, content and announcements.

Emily Haldeman (left) and Tim Stringer (right), working on their film, Fluffed, using virtual reality equipment.

VR Storytelling

In making their virtual reality thesis film, Emily Haldeman and Tim Stringer — 2019 alumni of the Animation option in the Film and Animation BFA — used myriad resources to execute the innovative project. Much of their research and development was done in MAGIC Spell Studios and its well-equipped VR lab. Their film, “Fluffed,” is an animated, immersive VR experience that merges storytelling and interactivity.

“It’s great to be in an environment where there are so many different ideas and different people, which, I feel, we benefit more from than other art schools,” Stringer said. “We were looking to combine our backgrounds in storytelling in film and this medium of VR, where you can actually be interactive and the viewer is an active member of the story.”

The quality of their film led to being hired by Rochester-based production company Optic Sky. They showed it to Optic Sky’s founder, Aaron Gordon ’13 (Film and Animation), at RIT’s annual Creative Industry Day and shortly after were hired as VR developers on the company’s new VR team.

Haldeman did a deep dive into VR while at RIT. She collaborated with students and faculty in the School of Interactive Games and Media (IGM) on projects ranging from creating game assets to VR ventures. Her broadened skill set, made possible by the ease of multidisciplinary studies at RIT, paid dividends when making “Fluffed.”

“RIT having a wide range of majors and things I could dip my toes into prepared me for Optic Sky,” Haldeman said. “Especially with VR, because now I have that background with IGM, working with gaming and coding. I feel like if I went to just an art school there is no way I would have gotten that.”

A tank Dellostritto designed for “Table Trenches.”

Mixing Film and Games

While she views herself as more video game artist than filmmaker, Amanda Dellostritto ’21 still found RIT’s School of Film and Animation as the right place to execute her ideas. With a deep interest in environment art, Dellostritto has spent her time at RIT blurring the line between film and games. 

Dellostritto developed an unconventional senior capstone project, leading a collaboration with School of Interactive Games and Media students on the development of a video game (“You Deserve to Take up Space”) and companion experimental film (“Lucid”). Similarly, Dellostritto produced a game, “Return to Otter Space,” with a pair of in-game cinematics her junior year.

“I know like the industry is rapidly changing, and with VR and game engines now becoming more viable for films and cinematics, I think the School of Film and Animation is in a good position to experiment with that and produce more non-traditional films,” Dellostritto said.

Dellostritto worked on multiple mobile games during her RIT career, including “Table Trenches” for game studio DB Creations, through MAGIC Spell Studios. Approached about the project by Jesse O’Brien, senior lecturer in the School of Interactive Games and Media and MAGIC resident faculty member, she was hired as the 3D modeler for the AR battle game.

Headshot of Amanda Dellostritto.

MAGIC has opened many doors for me. The connections I’ve made and the access to facilities and professionals working in the field have been super important. And there is a real sense of community.”

Amanda Dellostritto ’21

Key Faculty and Staff

Amy Adrion
Assistant Professor
Jason Arena
Associate Professor
Christine Banna
Senior Lecturer
Kevin Bauer
Senior Lecturer
Jack Beck
Michael Boas
Visiting Lecturer
Mari Jaye Blanchard
Associate Professor
Franklin Deese
Associate Professor
Shaun Foster
Tom Gasek
Brian Larson
Associate Professor
David Long
Director of RIT MAGIC Center
Peter Murphey
Senior Lecturer
Atia Newman
Associate Professor
Jonathan Seligson
Dave Sluberski
Principal Lecturer
Vanessa Sweet
Assistant Professor
Munjal Yagnik
Associate Professor