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Liam 'Class of 2010' Scarlino Speaks!

Hey all, I’m Liam. I graduated last year, and in the spirit of the alumni posts I thought I’d write down some bits of possibly useful advice to help you survive three years of CG Arts & Animation. As a quick background, I chose to complete a sixty credit extended dissertation in my third year, writing on Romanticism & Psychedelia, before creating an interactive modern art movement time line for my final. I’m now half way through the MA Design program just around the corner, working on theories about the digital sublime, producing interactive abstract projections, and staying true to the academic tradition of learning a lot about very little. Prepare for some wistfully nostalgic, hopefully not but probably accidently condescending ramblings…

Appreciate your war buddies.

Slight hyperbole, but you’re going through a grueling three year challenge. It can be the best years of your life, but when it gets tough, your course mates will help you through because they are going through it too. I’d recommend living with at least one person from your course, it makes it bearable when you hate the sight of your computer, and they can share your indignation at the lack of work Fashion Promotion students are doing.

Try and fail to form a band.

Don’t forget your other leisure pursuits and aspirations, even if they never quite take off, or you’ll end up being defined by your job or your roll, without any other interests, an unwashed dishcloth of a human.

Don’t be precious.

If a model has taken nine hours but isn’t working or is no longer needed, save it, blog it, and then move on. There is no point in including something if it isn’t needed or isn’t good enough. It can end up on your blog as development, so it will never go to waste.

The same applies to writing.

Sometimes you get carried away on an essay or a dissertation chapter, and end up blowing your word count without getting to the crux of your argument. Delete what you don’t really need, so you end up with a really lean, successful piece of writing. When writing my dissertation, my argument developed well beyond what I’d written as a draft, so I had to cut down from 9000 to 1000 words, which at the time was soul destroying, but ended up making the paper far better than it was before.

Take an interest in photography.

Everything about it is linked to films and animation. Consider framing, viewing angles, aperture, depth of field, focal length etc on your camera settings in Maya. These are all factors with any SLR camera. If you can get the hang of it in real life, then you’ll understand it a lot more clearly in Maya. You can borrow a Canon 350d upstairs from photography at any time, it is worth getting one and having a play.

Buy a moka pot.

It’s a stove top coffee maker for finely ground coffee. If you’re staring down the barrel of an all-nighter, or you’ve been talked into Casino Rooms the night before and don’t want to waste the day wishing away all your sins on the sofa, a moka pot will make the strongest, best tasting coffee you’ve ever had, and will keep you up all night, or when combined with a resolve, obliterate your hangover, giving you back your afternoon. The best investment you’ll make in three years.

Ignore the television.

If the TV is on in the living room, you’ll end up procrastinating by flicking through pointless channels, getting caught watching Sky Sports News for hours on end deciding what the spinning team badges would taste like if they were edible. If there is something worth watching, catch it on iPlayer; you’ll be more selective about what you watch if you are choosing from a menu. Also, if you are working, rather than sticking on the Scrubs box-set yet again, play a documentary or download a podcast series. You’ll be concentrating on your work anyway, but you can learn about something you wouldn’t normally bother with in your spare time.

Read more books.

Everything, not just about your subject. Inspiration can come from everywhere, and there is nothing more diverse then the contents of the library. Even if a book on the Finnish Winter War isn’t going to help with your lip syncing, if you enjoyed it or learnt something then it was worthwhile.


If you can produce some strange projections for a fashion shoot, help with a green screen for model makers, or even just lend a hand to marketing students set build, it’s all experience, you’re working with other people, and it prevents your own work from getting stale.

Go out.

All work, no play, ad nauseam. If you don’t fancy drinking away your texturing problems then do the gardening, go for a run, but don’t set fire to your recycling to save putting it out in the morning.

Absorb lessons.

This sounds obvious, but as I never thought I’d be going into character modeling, I didn’t take on as much in the lessons as I could have. After graduating, the first freelance job I was offered was animating a B Movie style music video, requiring a three armed headless monster to run after a band. Luckily the animation had to be laboring and clunky, but to be honest; they wouldn’t have had a choice. I’ve had to spend a couple of months getting up to scratch to catch up on what I could have learnt in my second year. In conclusion; if you don’t think you need it now, sods law dictates you definitely will later.

Have a play with other software.

Maya may be your harsh controlling housewife, but After Effects, Photoshop, Encore etc can be your cheeky mistresses that hold your loveless marriage together.

Remember it's CG ARTS.

Digital technology is a recent development compared to the hundreds of years of paintings, sculptures and books that preceded it. There is much to be said for looking around a gallery, really looking at the paint strokes, noting the position or the elements, appreciating the fine details and use of colour that you can’t get from looking at a text book or a 800 x 600 jpeg on Google. London is packed with famous pieces and regular exhibitions, and they are very cheap to enter compared to European galleries, who aren’t subsidized at the level British ones are. Take advantage.

Reflect on criticism before you react.

When you’ve worked till four in the morning on a model or idea before a crit or seminar, the last thing you want to hear is that it’s not up to scratch or it needs developing, and it can be easy to get cranky and argue the case. The only trouble with this is you usually end up sounding like a bit of a dick. Before reacting, go home and catch up on some sleep, then think about it, and then if it’s still bothering you, go and discuss it. No one is going to rip apart your work for the sake of it, as that would defeat the point of a crit. Also try to enjoy being proved wrong. If you were right about everything you discussed or argued about then you’d never learn anything.

Make your work your own.

Need a heavy footprint sound effect? Get a recorder and throw a brick into some mud. Earth texture? Take a camera for a walk into the nearest woods. It is a bit more effort than searching the internet, but it gives your work a much more original feel, and is a lot more fun, as well as a good excuse to try some stupid experiments (drum symphony recorded on kitchen utensils at midnight until interruption from neighbours).

Never feel stupid asking questions.

Pride can get in the way of admitting when there is a hole in your knowledge. I learnt how to use studio lighting by asking endless questions to a patronizing studio hand on the fashion floor; it made me feel a bit dim, but by the end of the shoot he’d told me how to work the equipment, and the next time I used the studio I didn’t need his help.

Don’t dismiss ideas.

If you can think of a ridiculous proposal or concept, try it out. The best thing about this course above all others is that you can create absolutely anything, there are no limits to what you can produce.

These are personal recollections that I found helped me through three years, and continue to now. No doubt you’ll have formulated your own work methods and ways of getting the most out of your course. Quite simply though, if you know that you have pushed yourself and worked bloody hard, when you are on the podium at graduation, dazzled by Zandra Rhodes hair, you can be immensely proud that you’ve really earned the scroll that’s waiting for you at the bottom of the steps.

Follow Liam's blog here


  1. That was brilliant to read, Thankyou. Also, I recommend Hot Lava Java coffee.... it makes even hardened coffee drinkers shake ;) Available in most supermarkets in the ground coffee section

  2. thanks for that! :) Next step is buying a moka pot :D

  3. Very interesting and inspiring!

  4. Thanks Liam. I love the idea of flavoured team logos. Very Willy Wonka.

  5. Good read, thanks for posting that.

    I'd hate to think what Arsenal F.C tastes like

  6. Ah, cool piece of advice there ! :D

  7. Thanks a lot! I'm with Andriana, gonna go research that pot! :D

  8. Arsenal would taste bitter. Man City and Chelsea would taste of shame.

    Thanks for the post, Liam. Hope all is well on the MA. :D

  9. I have a Moka - and one of those little manual coffee-grinding gadgets from Germany, which takes ages to turn beans into powder - but a very nice cup of powerful coffee results...

  10. West Ham tastes like turkish delight, specifically dark chocolate


    Barnlsley FC - Twice-cooked pork belly with an onion & apple velouté

    and finally

    Wigan Athletic has the freshness and crunch of a caesar salad

  11. Hope it was an enjoyable read!

    A few badge flavours Dave and I pinned down were Arsenal as Ready Salted Crisps, Nottingham Forest as Bombay Bad-boy Pot Noodle and Plymouth Argyle as Fisherman's friend. This game can continue for at least four full cycles of the news real.

    On a coffee related note, I'd recommend Lavazza Espresso finely ground. If you're really wanting to stay awake, pour the coffee out into a container, and then fill up the water chamber with the coffee, refilling the filter with fresh coffee, so it double distils.

  12. double distillation of Lavazza Expresso - is that legal?

  13. Class A Coffee? :O

    (I've never drunk a cup of coffee or tea in my life...)

  14. Wow... Tom how do you stay awake?


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