Saturday, July 31, 2010

Blog Template

The blog template needs fixing & the members/years needs to be updated. Am I right in thinking that Liam is the only Administrator on here? If possible, could you make someone else Administrator in order to keep the blog up to date please Liam?


Alan's USA Trip - Part 5: Gnomon

The Gnomon School of Visual Effects.

The Gnomon School of Visual Effects has been in operation since late 90's/2000's. Founded by Alex Alvarz and Marcel De Jong its function is to train students in high end CG skills. Something that wasn't available at the time in US universities. It started life as one room of Silicon Graphics computers and slowly over the years its grown into a world leader in vocational CG and Art education. Now offering cetificate programs (both specific and generalist) to a worldwide audience.

When I studied there it was still in the early stages and had an excellent 'family / community' feel. Many of the staff, students, and tutors are still my friends today. Here is a quick tour of Gnomon today...

This is the main entrance to Gnomon. Glamorous huh? Like most things in this world its whats inside that counts. Gnomon is part of the 'Television Center' building which also houses, sound stages, processing labs, dance classes, and a gym (see images below). In fact its belived that Ray Harryhausen made some of his films early here early in his career.

These are some of the key rooms and computer labs at Gnomon. Over the years extra rooms have appeared to house and facilitate the growth in student numbers. This has included a gallery and workshop (for DVD production)...

...and a 'dirty' studio for life drawing and sculpting.

Here are a couple of friends of mine from my Gnomon days. Charlie and I studied together, whilst Kristen gave us important advice on curriculum choices and still remains one of central hearts of Gnomon. Unfortunately, Alex was out at Siggraph (as were many of the staff that week) giving a talk on his role on Avatar.

As, I mentioned before Gnomon is surrounded by other key buildings. The sound stage is used for small shoots as well a presentations by Gnomon. In my time there I saw, Ray Harryhausen, Sid Mead, Sony (Spiderman), Pixar (Cars), David Arquette, Snoop Dog, Jessica Alba and many more. Infact that list was all in one 10 week term if I remember correctly.

Finally, on a funny note. Its always seemed ironic to me that Gnomon shares a building with a big gym (Gold's Gym). On one side people spend all day sitting down whilst on the other running and lifting weights. I suggested that they connected all the bikes and machines to a generator to power the computers. Kind of makes sense if you think about it.

Ok, thats it for now. I have one final trip to make before leaving. To see my good friends (and ex-landlords) Pam and Michael Hogarth. Pam was one of the heads of Gnomon until this year when she moved to Look Effects. Michael is an artist who used to work with David Hockney and now teaches at Gnomon. Michael's late father was the famous artist Burne Hogarth best known for Tarzan.

For more info:

Alan's USA Trip - Part 4: Siggraph Conference

To give a little background to the conference:

Siggraph started way back in 1974 as part of scientific research into computers. This was mainly comprised of University and Institute (eg MIT) research. However, during the late seventies and early eighties computers as an entertainment tool gave the conference a dual appeal - Entertainment and Science based Research. This year the conference was held in L.A but next year it will be in Vancouver. There is also a Siggraph Asia but sadly no Siggraph Europe.

The L.A Convention Center

An unfortunatechange in Computer Industry...

On the Apple IPAD you can download a game called "Osmos" (Below). In the game you move around absorbing orbs smaller than yourself in order to grow in size. The bigger you grow the bigger the orbs you can absorb until you are the only one left.

So why am I talking about an Ipad game. Well its this process of absorbing and overtaking that has contributed to the decreasing size of Siggraph. Companies are eating each other and many are now relying on online marketing. A real shame for the industry and the people who work in it. What used to be healthy competition between companies such as Discreet and Alias are now one entity "Autodesk". It's also meant that some key companies has opted not to attend this year.

Notable Non-Attendees:

Digital Tutors
Idustrial Light & Magic

This is a cycle that comes around periodically - Hopefully companies will be back or there will be some new competitors soon:

Some of the key booth's this year:

Autodesk were previewing / updating the community on Maya, 3DSMax, Mudbox, Motion Builder, and associated software. As an example they were streaming live from the Mo-cap booth opposite (Halon). Some of you may have heard me talk about Halon before. They are a big Pre-viz house who've spent alot of time developing new 'Pre-viz' technology such as 'live camera to 3D worlds' and Mo-cap suits.

Pixologic and Wacom demonstrating new features for ZBrush 5 and the Cintiq

Blue Sky Entertainment (Robots/ Ice Age)

Rhythm & Hues Studios pushing there new feature films.

Pixar were hiring!

Nvidia promoting the new set of Quadro Cards

Cap Digital are a French business cluster that helps develope new software. In many cases plugins for Maya and other 3D Software. There software was used in the Oscar winning 'Logorama'.

There are always an array of 3D Scanners, 3D printers, and Mo-Cap suits on display.They just get better every year. The resin printers are now reaching modelmaking levels.

Finally, the first liquid cooled home computer (or at least thats what the brochure said.)

Onto "Emerging Technologies"

This is always the fun and amazing part of Siggraph. The section where new inventions and technologies are showcased. Often in the very early stages. Here's my pick of the world yet to come...

Yes believe it or not this is actually an 'Air Keypad'. You move your fingers in mid air and type / manipulate your phone. Wow?

This is a 3D map moveable table display. When you put on the glasses the computer knows where you are in relation to the table and gives you a 3D image. In this case a map. You can then manipulate it much like the IPAD.

This has to my favourite. A 3D display that you can walk around whilst you view.

And play a game:

It feels like the future is here huh?

This is an interactive 3D Hologram using a Zoetrope method of projection. When you speak into the microphone the Holographic head speaks along with you. A part of Disney research.

Again, another Disney development for their theme parks. This is a liquid floating and electronically responsive animatronic eye. They're certainly getting more realistic.

Finally, Emerging Technologies wouldn't be complete without the architypal mad scientist - Albiet in this case a very friendly one. This is the Meta Cookie experiment. You are given a plain cookie but through the glass you see a flavoured one (Chocolate, Vanilla etc). Through the tubes you get to smell your choice whilst you're eating the plain cookie. Your brain is then fooled into tasting the flavour. Strange, interesting, and fun.

Next stop Gnomon.

Alan's USA Trip - Part 3: Hollywood

Well, it's been another busy week as you'll see from this soon to be very long post (i'll try and keep it as short as possible). To make it simpler I've broken my trip into three parts; Hollywood, Gnomon, and the Siggraph conference.


I thought I would take a little bit of time to show you all around what I consider to be the main center of Hollywood.

From the map above you can see the three main roads through Hollywood, Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Boulevard, and Santa Monica Boulevard. When I lived here the first time to study at Gnomon these three streets represented a large amount of my time either spent, having fun, studying, or stuck in traffic (City driving). However, they also represent the main tourist attractions such as;

The Hollywood / Highland Mall is named after the two streets it rests upon. In the late nineties Hollywood went through a clean up to get rid of crime and bring back tourism. The mall is one of those additions and is just a short walk from Graumans Chinese Theatre. Its also a great place to park (fairly cheap), something that is incredibly important in a city - How to safely and cheaply park your car. The L.A. Subway also runs from here to downtown.

Graumans (aka Man's) Chinese Theatre and the Kodak Theatre are alongside the Mall. Graumans is famous for it premier's and hand prints whilst the Kodak theatre hosts the Oscars. As you can see Hollywood Boulevard is pretty deserted at 8am in the morning. However...

By 6.30pm it's packed with people and a premier (Scott Pilgrim vs The World) it just about to take place. Just another day in Hollywood.

Moving onto Sunset Boulevard my favourite daytime area (ie non-nightclub) is the section between Cahuenga Blvd and Vine St. Amongst there being a couple of fast food places (Jack in the Box & Baha Fresh) there is also the Arclight Cinema (Retro domed screen), Amoeba Music, The LA Film School, and the CNN building. I used to frequent all of these for various reasons - To watch movies, buy dvds/music, to use the film library, and to visit friends (working at CNN).

The Arclight holds Q&A's with directors whilst Amoeba Music is the supplier of DVDs / Music to the stars. I saw Jake Gyllenhall there once myself.

Onto Santa Monica Blvd. Unfortunately I was running pretty late at this point so I couldn't get all the photos I wanted, but I did risk life and limb taking this photo from my car...

This is the cemetery where many of Hollywoods biggest celebrities are burried. Chaplin, Monroe (as I am led to believe). During the summer they show movies so you can sit amoungst the dead stars and watch them whilst they were still alive. A bit creepy. Whenever I see the cemetery the song "Hotel California" by the Eagles comes into my mind...I think the combination of two would make a great basis for an animation.

There is one part of a street call 'Le Brea' which always sums up Hollywood to me. Let me share the observation with you. The two following buildings are opposite each other...

Yep thats right - Kermit and a strip club. It was made worse in the past by the club being painted fully pink (Recently re-painted) and it also had a large billboard of a naked women which Kermit 'flirted' with. Funny!

I generally stay in a Hotel in Burbank when going to L.A. It's a little bit nicer area and relatively cheap. However, the night I arrived...

...A Japanese resturant was on fire. Luckily no one was hurt and we didn't have to be evacuated. The helicopters and fire trucks did make it seem like world war three though. Because its a desert a fire can be twice a deadly here.

Finally, off to Siggraph...

Believe it or not this is light traffic for L.A...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bradley 'Class of 2009' Sturch Speaks!

Firstly, I'm thrilled CGAA won first prize at ND and makes me altogether even prouder that I was part of it last year. Here's a little something about Animate & Create and me for the CGAA blog:
Walking out of university and straight into a recession I am not alone in saying postgrad life has been filled with challenges. The year following my graduation was quieter than I'd expected. There wasn't a red carpet laid out for me with a job at the end!

During Easter 2010, I gathered a list of addresses of animation and game companies based in London, printed out CV's, ordered more business cards and plenty of print outs of my work and relentlessly went door to door. Success was pretty limited but I would still recommend doing it as the companies that gave me the time of day were surprised someone had gone a step further than email or phone.
I was simply in the right place at the right time when the Future Jobs Fund (part of JobCentre) phoned me about the Animate & Create position. I immediately got in contact with Animate & Create and was granted an interview the next day. Any plans I had immediately went out the window and I made public my big news on Facebook. This set a ball rolling because an old tutor of mine recognised who my interview was with and put a good word in, and then the founder of Animate & Create happened to know Phil Gomm too. It all fell into place and I got the job.
I am their latest Animation Assistant and am responsible for a number of jobs around the studio from working with young people in workshops, aiding senior members of staff in any way possible, video editing, looking for sound effects, graphic design, working on the quarterly newsletter - down to the odd jobs like painting walls and making the tea. I've been there for a month and a week at the time of writing this and my contract runs until mid December. I;m thoroughly enjoying the job and believe it is THE best company to work for, and THE best company for animation workshops in the country!
I would also like to say, if you haven't heard from Phil yet, please check out!
My advice for the students? Your job won't be waiting for you as soon as you get out, but if you stay committed, keep talking to your contacts and keep creatively active, you WILL get a creative job at some point. Probably the most important factor is your contacts so keep in contact with your class mates and your tutors because one day it will get you a job.
Bradley Sturch

Monday, July 26, 2010

Alan's USA Trip - Part 2: Comic-con 2010

Ok, part two of my update: Comic-con 2010...

It was an interesting and fun few days amongst, fans, friends, celebs, and in some cases all of those rolled into one. I was really lucky this year in managing to score an 'Exhibitor Pass' via a freind who had a stall (more about him later). This gave me backstage access and in some cases the ability to queue jump (very un-British).

However, in that capacity its a little harder to take pictures. Here are the rules of backstage/ professionals:

1) No pictures backstage because all materials (movie props etc) are copyrighted and celebs don't like it either.
2) Talks are again copyrighted and show officially unreleased material. Some people do sneek cameras in and later upload to youtube, but its considered very bad form. In extreme cases studios have pulled out of comic-con because of 'abuse' of this request.
3) Its pretty common that when talking 'business' you don't whip out your camera.

With that said I was able to take pictures in the craziness which is the main hall and a couple of friends did insist on me taking photos to show you all as a form of personal greeting to all CG Arts students at the UCA. Very decent of them.

An official estimate for the Comic-con week shows that over 125,000 people attended. This is the building that housed them all:

Doesn't look like it can house them all right. Well it does get crowded but generally speaking everyone gets on well and I have to say that there is often a great buzz in the air. I heard one guy shout "Comic book geeks unite!"...may be that sums it up? :) Sadly, I did witness one bad incident where a guy was stabbed with a pen because he wouldn't move. Bizarre! If you want to read more check it out here:

Inside the main hall you can see how vast Comic-con is:

The numbers along the ceiling represent stand numbers. The fact theres a stand number well into the 2000's says everything. However, this is only the main hall and the event extends to three floors with classes, discussion panels, and talks. Everything from Paramount studios to new artists.

The main hall is where most of the people head to early in the day to make a dash for free stuff. For some people thats their only reason for going and they get pretty aggresive about it - Think January sales and old ladies! Its pretty funny watching people fight for ten minutes only to realise that they don't even know what they're fighting for. Often its just a sticker of R2D2. :)

Here are a pick of the key stands:

Stan Winston

Gentle Giant

Warner Brothers

DC Comics


However, there was one that caught my eye. UCA and New Designers anyone?


Part of the magic and strangeness of Comic-con is the people who dress up. These generally fall into two catagories: The good choice brigade and the bad choice brigade. What I mean by this is clearly there are fans who see themselves as their comic book heroes but weigh 500 pounds. You could argue that everyone entitled to free expression, but when its wrapped up in spandex and in front of you I tend to disagree. One person who i'd loved to have photographed as an example of this unfortunately got away. A 'Catwomen' (Tim Burtons Batman) that had very little chance of cat like movement. Oh well, never mind, here are a few fans and entertainers I managed to photograph and couple from local news photographers:

Good Costumes

Worst Costumes

Picture marked A: Was taken by the local press. I was behind the photographer as it was taken.

Pictue marked B: I wasn't present when this was taken but I walked by this guy several times. He's a bit of a youtube celebrity by all accounts.

Check out the best costumes here:

Having a background in Modelmaking I'm often drawn to the sculpture aspect of Comic-con. Studios such as 'Gentle Giant', 'Sideshow', and 'The Four Horseman' generally have great exhibitions of future products. Despite many of these being film/ comic based and really impressive I still like the 'fringe' products too. These are often the sleeper products that go under the radar but are great to look at:

Sideshow & Weta

The next picture is a shamless one for Phil who's a Superman fan (Don't think he'll mind me saying that). Yes its the Brandon Routh's Superman costume:

Superman Returns

Ok onto the movie related stands. Obviously there are loads of these alongside presentations and sneak peek trailers. A few too many to mention here. However the bottom of the list for me was 'Green Lantern' and 'The Green Hornet'. Both of these look like they are straight to DVD. A real shame for the Green Lantern given the names that have been associated with it over the years, such as Kevin Smith who would have done it justice I'm sure. Here are a few sci-fi / comic-book ones which may fair a bit better in the next 12 months:

Tron Legacy

My main pick is Tron Legacy. It seems like the right time to make this film given the point we've reached in culture and CG. The film requires us to start looking backwards to see how far we came in a short space of time. Check out the new Comic-con trailer:


This film has me split in much the same way the comic book did. Norse god as a superhero? However, the visuals for Thor were always great. Does this mean we're going to get an eye-candy / no plot film?

This one is a bit of a prediction. There's been a lot of speculation around a Ghostbusters 3. Aparently there is a script, there is already a game, and now the Original Ghostbusters car appears at Comic-con. Hmmm...I smell a studio testing the waters.

A few more reveals here:

So finally we come to friends. Fristly, my good friend Matthew Spradlin. To give you some background information, Matt and I studied together at Gnomon and later worked together on several projects. Matt gave up CG some years ago to become a writer. This year has seen him write and produce a graphic novel 'Bad Kids Go to Hell' based on the movie 'The Breakfast Club', as well as having scripts accepted by the Sci-fi channel and several movie studios.

Bad Kids Go To Hell

Matt has agreed to come to the UCA and talk about his experiences, script writing, and his new comic. So watch this space guys!

This one is bit of a fan moment for me as I love the work of the animator Bill Plympton. I was lucky enough to meet him a couple of years ago. He was at Comic-con again this year promoting his new film 'Idiots & Angels' and agreed to say hi to you all (via a photo). A very nice guy.

Finally, a bit of a funny spot...

Well...thats it for now. I did see and do more at Comic-con but this is becoming a bit of a long post. My next venture is to Siggraph 2010 in L.A. and hopefully Gnomon if I get time too. Unfortunately, they close for Siggraph week so my window is tight this year before I fly back. No matter, most of the staff will be at Siggraph anyway so I will get to see them there.

Next update from Siggraph coming soon.