Professor Jeff Cavitt Showcases the Importance of 3D Modeling & Animation Across Mediums

Explore 3D modeling, animation and creative tech insights with Jeff Cavitt, professor in the M.A. in Creative Technology program.


One of the fascinating aspects of creative technology is not just the constant evolution of innovations, but the ways in which concepts are applied across different creative mediums and platforms. Jeff Cavitt is very familiar with the changing tides of creative technology, especially in the ways 3D modeling and animation have been used, how they are being applied today and what future direction they may go towards.

“I know one of the things that people think about is [where] art and technology [is] going,” says Cavitt. “There's a line that's getting blurred between the movie and entertainment industry and gaming, for example, and how the visuals for games are rising closer to realism. The television and movie industry has always been pushing for that line of realism and now they've converged.”

Cavitt is a digital animator and visual effects artist with almost two decades of experience in the gaming industry. Some of his work highlights include developing car models featured in the video game series Forza Motorsport, as well as contributing to Kinect Star Wars as the vehicle artist for the X-Wing and the TIE Fighter vehicles in its E3 Expo trailer reveal. Cavitt also is an SMU Professor leading the 3D Modeling & Animation course through SMU’s Master of Arts in Creative Technology program.


While Cavitt began his career working in software development, he later moved into the visual effects field. He was eventually courted back to 3D art and gaming when an opportunity arose - a move which influenced him to return to school to raise his knowledge and skills to the highest standards. He leans on this life experience to relate to his current position and to help him see the perspective of students entering his course.

“Some people are taking the course to further their creative tech learning for their careers or [for] their [own] understanding of technology. I too had to go back to school and get the structure I needed. I wanted to know what the latest and greatest tools were as well. Moving into education, you have to stay on top of technology and the latest trends and what's happening.”

What stands out most among the changes Cavitt has witnessed during his time in the industry is the application of visual effects and 3D software packages that were at one point used in specialized industries now being implemented across entertainment mediums and other creative technology endeavors.

“The television series The Mandalorian is using Unreal Engine, a popular game production tool, to project the backgrounds behind the characters that have green screen and that's interactive with the stage lighting,” he says.

Cavitt also mentions his observations on how companies and studios within the industry are prioritizing these software platforms differently. This exclusivity the studios have impacts the skills and knowledge necessary to work for them.

“I've noticed a shift where you used to [have] to know the software package that the studio used. You may learn Unity or Unreal Engine, but if you go to a studio like Naughty Dog, their game engine is built on top of Maya. It's like Batman's utility belt - you have a lot of different tools. We teach various tools and software that are different, and some tools are used for specific things.”

At the end of the day for Cavitt, the purpose of embracing the creative technology space - and in his case the 3D art and modeling side of things - is to make great products that can enhance people’s lives in a variety of ways. In the gaming realm, there are always subjective debates about what defines what a “good” game is.

"I think personally, a good game is something that allows you to escape. Some people view games as like addiction or there's sometimes an overall negative view on games. I think games have helped a lot of people. People who just had a bad day, and it's good just to get in a game and take a break from the day and then come back to everything you need to take care of.” 


Cavitt is passionate about helping students in the creative technology graduate program and hopes to offer advice that stretches beyond the actual curriculum and makes a positive difference in their prospective careers in the creative technology field. Cavitt stresses that although the world itself has a lot of people in it, the programmer and digital artist spaces are small, and people know one another – which can be a benefit when looking for roles.

“I teach the importance of networking,” he says. “Getting a job is a job in and of itself. You can have the greatest portfolio in the world, but if you can't talk to somebody, and if you can't communicate and keep up on your network contacts to stay on the forefront of what's available, you might miss out on big opportunities.”

Cavitt aims for his 3D Modeling & Animation course to explore large areas of specialization and knowledge in a more refined way.

“This is an introductory class, so we touch on modeling, texturing, animation, and rendering lighting, so we're covering a lot of topics. I think if you were going to an undergraduate or even graduate-level program, you would almost find entire semesters dedicated to each of those categories, like you would have an entire semester or two on just animation. This [course] covers a lot and provides a big sample of multiple pieces of the art pipeline. If you go to the industry, sometimes people just specialize in those [individual] areas.”

Cavitt believes this approach and outline of his course will empower students with the skills and knowledge they need to make navigating the creative technology space more rewarding and fulfilling.

“There's a learning curve for using Apporto, 3DS Max, etc., as is to be expected. But I will say that the step-by-step approach in the videos makes things so much less daunting, and I appreciate it,” says Blake Knight, a student enrolled in Cavitt’s course. “I'm really enjoying what we're learning, and I can absolutely see how knowing these programs and tools will add a lot of value to my resume.”

The SMU Meadows School of the Arts M.A. in Creative Technology graduate program is designed to help prepare both creative and technical-oriented individuals to combine skill sets across interactive mediums, design, programming, blockchain and generative AI applications. To learn more about SMU’s M.A. in Creative Technology program, visit our program page.