After years of working in the animation and video game industry, William “Wink” Winkler joined Samford University as a professor to help kickstart the university’s new game design and 3D animation degree.
Winkler’s first job in the industry was working at EA as a game tester.
“I worked on Madden, NCAA, Bass Pro 7, Fight Night Round 3, Superman Returns. I worked on a bunch of games which was a great intro to the industry,” Winkler said.
After working for EA, Winkler became a performer and puppeteer at Walt Disney World, then a builder at LEGO, before eventually moving to New York.
“The night I moved to New York, I was on a train with all my luggage, and I met a guy who worked at CBS who offered me a job to be a talent assistant for Dan Merino, Coach Cowher, Shannon Sharp, the whole NFL today show,” Winkler said. “All the while, I was progressing my graphics career and doing freelance work.”
After returning to Florida to work in the technology department of a studio called Digital Domain, where he worked to bridge the gap between the IT department and the art department, Winkler was picked up by a studio called Stereo D in California as a finalling artist. There, he worked on the Jurassic Park 3D edition and Star Trek: Into Darkness 3D conversion.
Winkler eventually moved back to Orlando to be closer to his fiance, now wife, and was offered a job at the Nickelodeon hotel to be a graphic design manager. There, he quickly became the graphic design and production manager. In the years that he worked at Nickelodeon, Winkler continued his freelance and contracting work before he was approached by a college in the area.
“At this point, I was turning down contracting work because the projects were becoming bigger than one person could do by themselves,” Winkler said. “I was working on a few different projects and got picked up by a small technical college in Orlando called Orange Technical College, and I helped write all their curriculum for the 3D animation program.”
It was after Winkler worked at Orange Technical college when he was contacted by Samford University. The Samford University Art Department identified that they wanted to create a digital arts program, so Winkler was brought to Samford to help launch a game design and 3D animation major, in addition to teaching computer science classes in Howard College’s Department of Math and Computer Science.
“Samford had called me and asked me if I was interested based on some recommendations that came from some of their contacts,” Winkler shared. “They called me and here I am.”
After discussing what they wanted the program to become, Winkler wrote the curriculum for the program and is currently primed to teach all seven courses of the major specific classes. The course covers both 3D animated content for rendered projects such as movies like Wall-E or television shows, and live-rendered projects such as video games like Madden.
“In a live-rendered world, we don’t have to prerender the content,” Winkler explained. “The fundamentals of the two types of areas- modeling, animation, rigging, texturing, lighting- the fundamentals for those are all the same for the most part, but the application of them is slightly different.”
This fall semester marks the beginning of the game design and 3D animation program.
“We do actually have freshmen enrolled in the program currently and we have upper classmen who have switched, who are now sophomores in projection of completion,” Winkler said. “In 2023, we will have our first graduation class from the 3D animation program.”