Closer Look at an MFA Thesis Completed in SketchUp

June 24, 2014 Deana Rhodes

We speak to a lot of professionals about how they use SketchUp for their projects, but it’s been a while since we’ve highlighted some of the amazing work that students are doing in SketchUp every day.

A few weeks ago, we came across Julia Carusillo’s thesis project website. She recently graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) with an MFA and, because we’re pals on Twitter, we found that she did a lot of work for her project in SketchUp.

We don’t often hear about SketchUp being used in the context of an MFA, so we called up Julia to learn more about her degree and her thesis, a set redesign of the 1959 film Black Orpheus.

Exterior scene of Orfeu’s home

Julia’s thesis project was the culmination of her MFA in Production Design. The project includes concept iterations, perspective drawings, elevations and renderings.

Her thesis project abstract paints the scene so to speak saying, “This thesis details the process of relocating Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus (FR, 1959) from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Venice, Italy, and the emotional, physical and metaphorical implications in changing this element of the film through production design.”

Concept iterations of Orfeu’s home
Elevation A of Orfeu’s home

So, how was Julia introduced to SketchUp? “The first thing we learned on our first day in school was SketchUp,” she said. Julia laughed as she mentioned her first days in SketchUp at SCAD, “I thought I was an expert on the second day.”

“SketchUp is totally integral to my entire process…I always start with SketchUp,” Julia said, “I was able to do everything in LayOut.”

Julia used SketchUp to draw and refine her model, then used creative-oriented software programs to paint scenes for more texture. Her final assignment only called for one set redesign and Julia completed two, Orfeu and Serafina’s homes, the film’s lovers.

Staircase of Orfeu’s home

Her thesis also features an animated 3D fly-through of Orfeu and Serafina’s homes in SketchUp. Julia explained that she selected the scenes for this fly-through that best spoke to the project theme: “The dichotomies of dark and light, inside and outside, architectural and feral all create unique spaces.”

Now that Julia has received her MFA, she plans to move to the west coast and pursue her dream of working in the film industry, behind the scenes designing sets.

Full set rendering

Her advice to others in pursuit of studying production design? Be in the academic program that lets you go on set and see that not everything you model is going to be the way you created it, and to be okay with it. We’re excited to see what’s next for Julia. See more of her work at

About the Author

Deana lives for learning and growing in the world of digital user experience. When she wasn't in the office interning on the Marketing Team and putting her skills into action, she was outside soaking up the Colorado sun.

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