Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Post With The Most 04/09/2012

It's a very long time since I last had to go 'school uniform shopping' or buy a new pencil case in preparation for the new academic year, and yet September always gets me the same way: that unmistakeable mix of excitement-meets-melancholy.  The Summer is ending - sigh - which means it's time to rev the engines and jump-start the old grey matter and thus prepare for another incredibly busy and productive year on CG Arts & Animation.

What better way to ease us all into the prospect of a new semester of CGAA at UCA Rochester than with a freshly-minted edition of the PWTM boasting a whole host of good news stories from the CG Arts community and a round-up of what our students have been doing while not a) watching the Olympics or b) reading Fifty Shades of Grey...

Unless you've been living on the 'lost isle of no-internet' these past few months, you'll know that July's New Designers 2012 was a great success for CGAA - and it didn't go unnoticed.  3D Artist Magazine tipped us a wink in their most recent edition, which saw Isobel Dennis, New Designers Co-ordinator, singing our praises...

... and Digital Arts magazine picked up on two of our ND2012 exhibiting graduates to feature in their 'Freshest Creatives' showcase - Jolanta Jasiulionyte and Ruben Martins.


I have yet more New Designers associated good news to share with you, but rather than steal her thunder, I asked Jolanta to share with us her 'what happened next' story:

"New Designers was a great platform for exhibiting professionally as a junior artist for the first time, meeting many creative talents and, of course, boosting  career possibilities.


During those five days I had many chats with industry professionals as well as editors and other creatives.  After the show, I was contacted by The Marketing Store, a  company delivering toy designs for McDonalds and various films such as Aardman’s  ‘The Pirates’.  They arranged an interview, where I presented my work to 4 other product designers and engineers.

Three weeks later, The Marketing Store contacted me again saying I'd passed the interview stage successfully and that they'd prepared a brief for the shortlisted candidates.  They gave me two weeks to create several toy designs for McDonald’s Happy Meal on a Monsters Inc. theme.   I put all my creativity into this assignment so not to leave a single doubt that I was a serious candidate.




Finally, the day came for presenting my response to the brief...  I received a call only a few hours after the meeting - with the offer of a 6 week internship!"  Jolanta Jasiulionyte

Fantastic news, JJ!  Congratulations from all of us here on CGAA - and there is one more bit of JJ-related news that warrants a recap in the PWTM for those who might have missed the original post.  

A few weeks back, Jolanta was over in Los Angeles working as a volunteer at the 2012 Siggraph conference...


... and you can read more about her experiences at Siggraph here and here.

In other alumni-centric news, Dave 'Class of 2010' Keefe and Anifest Award winner, has recently snapped up a meaty new creative role at Article 10 Television.  Forget the nay-sayers, the glass-half empties, the cynics and the green-eyed monsters - a decent degree in talented hands is still worth its weight in gold...

... but as is often reiterated on this blog, networking and collaboration with your peers* is absolutely vital too if you want to get that first all-important foot in the door in the creative industries and build an 'employment support group' in these difficult economic times.  For example, 2012 CGAA graduate, Jordan Buckner has just finished a freelance stint working with artist and film-maker Matthew Noel-Tod on his latest video project Bang! - and it was Dave Keefe who instigated Jordan's involvement.  As Jordan writes on his blog:

"I worked alongside David Keefe for part of the project creating characters and animation for the final video piece... All in all, it has been a great experience, I've had the opportunity to work on a variety of different tasks and always had superb contact with Matthew and David to make sure the work was going in the right direction. It's also especially gratifying to see that people genuinely want CG artists to help curate a vision... my first experience in the world of a freelance CG artist has been a genuine pleasure." 

For more information about Bang! go here.

And while we're in a celebratory mood, congratulations to another CGAA alumnus, Jon Stewart who is currently interning at Cinimod as the company's first cg-centric designer.  Many of you know Jon - and will be familiar too with his ongoing self-initiated character modelling projects and his collaboration with CGAA graduate Pol Winandy on last year's Spectacular Science project with Dr Peter Klappa and the University of Kent.

I asked Jon for some words of his own for this month's PWTM on the subject of his internship at Cinimod and he was kind enough to offer up the following 'real world' insights... warts and all!


"I recently acquired a two month contract at a studio specializing in Lighting and Architectural Art installations company called CinimodI ultimately got this position for two reasons:

*1) Networking.

Networking is key, and it's fun. I networked with my peers at University by going out and getting stupidly drunk at nightclubs. Be the person you'd want to work with. Don't be an arrogant bore, no one would want to hire you, no matter how talented you are.

2) Establishing my skill-set

I picked a specialization at Uni, and worked hard to become good at that; modelling through Character design/creation. People knew that I was the person who did good modelling, and that paid off when CGAA alumni, Liam Scarlino hears about a position in need of a proficient modeller and my name came to mind. Liam phoned me out of the blue, asked me to come in for an interview that week.  I went in within a couple of days and got offered the job that same day. 

Currently I am learning more than ever, and producing things I'd never do in my own time - which really pushes my comfort zone. (Something I really needed, actually). But with it comes a lot of pressure.  As I'm the only CG employee there it's hard to speak the same language sometimes. I'm finding it very challenging, but hopefully by the end of the couple of months, I'll be able to appreciate just how rewarding the experience has been.  This is my first gig outside a couple of projects with the University, and I have really been thrown into the deep end. I'll just bullet point a few things I've learnt really:

Studios are hot.

The boss can make you get your sweat on in a second when he comes knocking for updates.

Trains suck.

People in London are rude.

Have confidence in yourself and your capabilities. It's tough to believe you can achieve what they are asking for.

Value your time off. Spend it wisely. Traveling for 2.5 hours to work and then another 2.5 to get home, combined with a 9 hour work day really burns you out fast. I've already had days where I couldn't stomach opening Maya. Enjoy your downtime.

Working on a professional project teaches you a lot. I'm already thinking of ways to apply this stuff to my current projects (which have been stagnating).

Seek critique.  Drop your pride at the door.  Reassurance from your lead that your work is taking the right direction can really help with your stress levels.

Learn to not be too attached to your work.  In a professional setting it's very rare you hit the right note first time. You'll be redoing and re-tweaking your work to such an amount that you'll be sick of it.

You're essentially on a production line.  But instead of being in a factory or warehouse, you're doing something that's enjoyable and sitting in front of a computer. It's mentally taxing, but rewarding.

It's a job.  It's serious.

I hope at the end of this experience I can look back and appreciate everything I've gained from it. My plan is to take the money I've earned and put it towards doing more internships at other CG based studios - video games hopefully. That's my only concern at this position, I like to work with like-minded people, and that's how I've always worked best in the past. I need to surround myself by CG artists in order to be one myself. So I'd definitely look to work at a CG studio in the future. But experience is experience, and I'm rather enjoying being able to say that I am working in a studio now.

My advice is to network hard while you're at University, you never know where your peers will end up and furthermore, how they may help you in the future. Gain experience from any avenue you can. This is an industry (like most) fueled by your experience and not by a grade you got at University. I've been turned down from quite a few jobs where I've nailed the interview but not had enough experience to get the position (companies are tightening their purses, they won't pay for you to gain experience, it's too risky). You're more than likely going to have to work for free for a period of time to get that experience, make sure you work on your finances before you finish Uni to ensure you can do it. (Most companies will pay travel expenses and money for lunch).

So that's it really, enjoy being at university and having the freedom to create what you want, and more importantly fuck up.  Fuck up as many times as you want, it's the safest place to iron those creases out in your workflow."  Jon Stewart

Elsewhere, CGAA graduate Tom Beg's Masters Projection Mapping project culminated in a site-specific installation in the dark and dusty interior of the LV21 decommissioned light-ship

Tom's unique installation attracted considerable interest - and continues to do so - with a profile over at Design Week and now featuring on both Kuriositas and Flooby Nooby.

The last hurrah of Tom's six year stint at UCA concludes on Friday  7th September with the private view of the Kent MA Show, in which he'll be exhibiting his archive of the LV21 installation alongside the work of his fellow soon-to-be Masters of Arts.  Congratulations, Tom - job done! :)

I can think of no more appropriate way of tying up this alumni love-in by returning to another bit of good news as featured on the group blog a few weeks back.  When Webneel.com - the online showcase for digital artists - published its 21 Most Beautiful 3D Animated Short Films, we were thrilled to learn that work by Jordan Buckner, Dave Keefe & Tom Beg had all made the grade.  Yes, you've seen them on here before, but let's hear it again for the beautiful people!

An Audience With - David Keefe

The Garden Of Earthly Delights - Tom Beg

The Minor Key - Jordan Buckner

Regular followers of CGAA Year 2 student, Nat Urwin's blog will be aware that Nat's been living in suspenseful times just recently, as she participated in the BFI's DIY Thriller Film-Making Fortnight - a hands-on and balls-to-the-wall crash course in film-making set-up in conjunction with their current celebration of the life and work of Alfred Hitchcock.  I asked Nat for the inside track on her fourteen day sprint/marathon through the mechanics of making cinema audiences contort with tension...

"I heard about this course advertised in the BFI magazine - 'BFI Future Film presents - DIY Thriller Film Making Fortnight' - and it sounded brilliant, so I signed up straight away.

From day one it was crammed full of information - from detailed breakdowns of camera use to how to set up particular shots and what equipment works great for them, even on a micro-budget. We had two days of guest speakers, learning how existing films created  suspense.

By the end of day two we'd divided into four groups.  Day three was full of story ideas; from 10am until 4.30pm we sat discussing what to make the film about -  down to every detail,  then we had to pitch the idea to all of the tutors for feedback - which went brilliantly.  The idea caught the imagination of one tutor so vividly he dived right in with us suggesting how we could make it happen.

The fourth and fifth days finalised our script, so I could get to work with storyboarding and our group could try location camera and sound tests.  By day six - thanks to the much practiced all-nighter - we had a finalised storyboard and began shooting.  Our actors Ruth Galliers and Danny Lawrence both did a brilliant job.   Over the weekend I picked up my role as editor and began working some magic with the footage we had available so far. By Monday I had a rough cut to show everybody and a detailed list of the remaining shots needed.  Day seven I continued to edit while the rest of the crew shot all of Danny's scenes. I'd also written another list of every sound effect we would need.

On day eight a skeleton crew went to shoot the closing shot in another location while I continued to edit. The remainder of our group explored how to make the sound effects. That night I continued editing, while collaborating constantly with my tutor, Nuru Mkali for frequent feedback.

Reaching day nine was very tense as there was still plenty of work to do and not much time to do it in. We did however have a pretty good edit of footage at that point, so Nuru took up the task of fixing the sound to the footage while I made a rough ident for our group, a poster - and took up my next role as Special Effects Artist!

Through the evening of day nine through to the hand-in time of final day ten, Nuru had been putting the sound to the edit while I'd send him the special effects shots via dropbox as I'd complete them, so he could slot them into the final edit. A lot of sleep deprivation, but we got there!

Day 10 - The Big Day!

We'd been told there was going to be a special guest at our film screening, this guest turned out to be Joe Cornish, director of Attack the Block and co-writer of Tintin.  We watched all four films - our's first then the other three. When it came to his feedback he wanted to talk about the films in reverse order, saving his best until last - WHICH MEANT US!

I don't want to give too much of our film away by saying the bits he loved, but it was a very exciting evening.  Then we were handed our course completion certificates by Mr Cornish, and 5 of us received a special award for the hardest working students. A very funny award, I received one, shame I can't keep it on my shelf as I have a feeling it wouldn't last very long. See if you can spot my Prize in the photo home grown by Noel Goodwin, the organiser of future film.

This whole experience was absolutely wonderful, I'd recommend it to anyone - although there is an age guide of 16-25yr olds as it's a youth program. Two weeks ago I hardly knew anything about how to make a film, NOW - I can go out there and make them! I've made some great friends and networking opportunities.  I've been asked to be the storyboard, concept art, and pre-viz artist for one of my tutor's new films.  I've also been asked to get involved teaching another tutor some Maya skills and possibly take things further to help out with an animation and media youth program at the BFI.

There are also some more possibilities in the pipeline so watch this space!"  Nat Urwin

With a bit of luck we'll be able to organise a screening of Nat's debut thriller at UCA in the near future - watch the group blog for an announcement.

It can be difficult sometimes to find the necessary motivation to keep up with creative work when the dog days of Summer encourage a more languid modus operandi - but not so for many of the CGAA community, who have used their downtime to up their skillsets.

Richard 'Class of 2012' Vosper-Carey is overhauling his 'Toilet Terror' tableau, which sees him perfecting and polishing what bugged him about the original scene...

Similarly keen to up the quality quotient, CGAA Year 3 student, Paul Lavey, has returned to his year 1 'Commission' film - Infected by HIV - and is making it over with the benefit of another year's technical experience under his belt.  The following footage is a work-in-progress and minus its talk track.

Meanwhile, John Pearmain is self-initiating with this evolving design for some kind of uber-paralympian...

... and Domantas is keeping his pen and tablet active with these  environment thumbnail exercises.

Molly Bolder has returned to Inari - her demure-but-deadly ninja  last seen as a 2D character design - as she seeks to sharpen those all-important modelling skills...

... and Adam Webb is at it again with some nicely expressive silhouettes for an imagined sea guardian...  

And while we're on the subject of silhouettes, how about a concluding selection from CGAA's newest recruits?  Yes - the new term hasn't even begun yet, but some of our about-to-be year 1 students are already cracking on with their summer project, which sees them challenged to produce 101 concept drawings in 3 categories - lifeform, structure and machine.

And finally, in a pretty shameless bid for a bit of internet traffic, check out my Summer holiday snaps - but rest assured, you are not about to be assaulted by images of me building sandcastles or floating on a lilo!  No, this is my response to that question beloved of English teachers everywhere: 'What did you do on your Summer holiday?' 

Until we meet again then!  See you all very soon.  Looking forward to it! 


  1. Nat, I very much hoped you asked Joe Cornish when Adam and Joe would be returning to BBC Radio, now that he's a big Hollywood director and screenwriter! Think I would of squealed when he came into the room - haha. Very kind of him to the take the time and see your films.

    1. HAhaha I can imagine you squealing actually... No, I forgot to ask that one, Iyarei might have though, I'll have to watch the footage when I get hold of it. My Tutor - well he's not anymore, but the guy who wants me to visualise his next film is called Iyarei Igiehon, he knows Joe Cornish from working together on radio. Google him - you might have heard him and I can ask any questions before he gets to the Hollywood stage :D

  2. too right, tom! more adam and joe! how else can i start my saturdays!?

  3. Haha. Adam and Joe!! Was it Adam that made the Richard and Judy prank call vid on youtube?

  4. Hats off to all of you pro-active people.

    Here's to the next generation.


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