Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Documentary: Horror Europa with Mark Gatiss

Mark Gatiss' great documentary on European horror cinema is available now on BBC iplayer.  It's got some great set design imagery from The Cabinet of Dr Caligari - and makes lots of fascinating reference to the 'visual concepts' underpinning production design and character.  Go here to watch it while it's still available.

CGAA Year 1: Meg and Morphing!

Courtesy of Chris Hunt - images from this afternoon's Toolkit: Animation workshop with Meg Bisineer: large-scale charcoal drawings resulting in morphing animations!  Great stuff everyone :)

Mudbox Update

Hi Guys,

A quick update for those of you that were having trouble loading Mudbox. The problem has now been resolved by our trusty IT team, so you should be able to open Mudbox without anymore issues.

The problem was caused by the file that Mudbox creates when opened becoming corrupted.

If anyone has issues with Mudbox crashing on start up then go to "My Documents" locate the "Mudbox" file and simply delete it. ( If you have anything saved in it then make sure you back up  these file elsewhere first.) Doing this will force Mudbox to create a new clean version of this file, after that you should be good to go.

CGAA One-A-Day: BirdPen Nature Regulate

A literal animation to the music of Band BirdPen, this music video is beautifully crafted in narrative and visuals. Nature Regulates has a toy like  B movie feel to the characters and environments. I personally love the climax of the animation with the pacing of the narrative fitting perfectly against the music. A haunting and eerie piece.

BIRDPEN-Nature Regulate from Pooya Abbasian on Vimeo.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

George Lucas Sells Lucasfilm.

I'm still in shock, but it looks like a new Star Wars trilogy is on its way :D

Dissertation Email question?

For any third years who are currently doing their Dissertation,

Has anyone successfully emailed Jude?

because I have emailed through the uni email and she hasn't received it and I have tried a few times with my personal email but I get sent back failure to send messages?

I checked with Jude today that I wrote the email down right and was confirmed that it was so I don't understand it so

Has anyone managed to email her and get a reply back?

Thank you in advance

Adam Webb

Monday, October 29, 2012

CGAA Design: Saul Bass

Saul Bass


"I want to make beautiful things...even if nobody cares."

In the last few years a simplicity and modernity has arisen in the world of graphic design. This style of design may be considered unique by some, but one of the fathers of such design is Saul Bass. He is best known for his work with Alfred Hitchcock, creating some of the best credit sequences of all time and assisting with the storyboard process of the famous Psycho shower sequence.

Bass' title sequences have become well loved by the design world, setting up some of Hitchcock's masterpieces from the very outset. This is the magic of Bass' design, within 20 seconds we are introduced to a film with exactly the correct tone and mindset. He takes the viewer from darkness to the opening scene in the perfect way, with stunning yet simple graphics that not only stood out at the time but now are the icon for a medium itself.

There is a threshold in art and design where a work can become so iconic as to transcend its own scope and become a symbol for its medium. Consider Warhol’s soup cans or Mondrian’s colour fields, or — to bring it closer to home — Saul Bass’ iconic AT&T or United Airlines logos. And just as it would be difficult to find an American unfamiliar with these works, so too would it be difficult to find a moviegoer unfamiliar with the title sequence to Vertigo. [1]

There is something very expressive behind all of Bass' work. The editing of his designs have their own emotion and magic to them, bringing the film to life in an instant and setting down the framework for what is to come. This innovation in title design has set about a new art form in itself. Films and television now put extra effort and money into designing title sequences that exemplify the tone of the film. These few minutes are the audiences introduction to a film, and thus it makes sense that they immediately emote a certain tone.

Bass' work is at it's best when it is the moving image. His title sequence for North by Northwest went on to inspire kinetic typography, a new method of animating text alone, and now today sits as one of the best examples of typographic title design. Even without such animation and editing, Bass had a style and technique that made him unique in an ageing industry. His posters had a boldness and assertion that felt incredibly modern, standing as pinnacles of poster design today. Every piece that Bass created had a simplicity and tidiness that no other designer could create. This understated yet bold design style looks almost easy to some, but it takes an intelligence to really create something so simple yet still so full of description.

At the heart of Bass' work is an incredibly intelligent understanding of design. Bass was responsible for creating work that instantly read for an audience, he knew that within 30 seconds he needed to set the tone for an entire film. However, behind all this Bass had a heart for aesthetic. He simply wanted to make beautiful things in a world of antiquated ideas.

I want everything we do to be beautiful. I don’t give a damn whether the client understands that that’s worth anything, or that the client thinks it’s worth anything, or whether it is worth anything. It’s worth it to me. It’s the way I want to live my life. I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares. [2] - Saul Bass

"When Saul Bass started making credits, the credits themselves were part of the film. And they had a clarity of a modern sensibility that took him to another decade, another two decades ahead." [3]Martin Scorsese 

The work of Saul Bass brought life into title design. Without such an artist there would no longer be the superb title sequences that now grace our screen. For more information on the best of film title design, check out

A Brief History of Title Design from Ian Albinson on Vimeo.

Further Reading and References:

Sunday, October 28, 2012

3rd Year Tutorial Times

I noticed that my uca has not been updated to show our new timetables for weeks 6 - 12.
Does anyone know what our times are for this coming monday (29th Oct) ?

Thank You

HISHE: Prometheus

I know, I know - I have to move on.  I need to 'get a life'. I have to get passed this fanboy Prometheus grief... but see? I'm not alone; another bullseye from the How It Should Have Ended people...

Saturday, October 27, 2012

FAO CGAA Year 1: Unit Space & Environment - Project 'Secret Lairs' - Your Creative Partners Announced

See groupings below: your Creative Partnerships for the duration of your new 'Secret Lairs' Project:

Go say 'hi' - and prepare the ground for a dynamic meeting of minds!  See you 10am Monday in the CGAA Baseroom - and please ensure you're familiar with the brief. 

* Both Meg and Simon have already completed a version of this project last year, so are not required to meet this brief; however, they're contribution to your creative partnership will still be of value.

Up from the depths. Thirty stories high. Breathing fire.

Civilization crumbles as its death rays blast a city of 6 million from the face of the earth!

A monstrous sea-beast...surging up from the ocean! .....A city of six-million wiped out by its death ray blast! ...Giant ships swamped! Jet planes swept from the skies! Trains ripped from the rails !

Coming soon to:

Friday, October 26, 2012

FAO CGAA Year 1 "Job Well Done!"

Congratulations to CGAA Year One!  First crit done and dusted!  Enjoy your weekend - see you Monday @ 10am for 'Secret Lair' fun and games...

FAO CGAA Year 2: Character Design Class Reminder


Justin has asked me to remind all year two students to bring an object to next weeks character design class. You will be asked to transform your object into a character so it needs to be visually interesting (no bottles or coke cans) and not a character already (a toy for example).

Be Amazing!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

FAO CGAA Year 1: CG Artist's Toolkit/Animation - Groups A & B

I'm just reiterating information here available on myUCA and via your ucreative emails: your groupings for the CG Artist's Toolkit/Animation classes beginning next week.

Group A

Akinbiyi Bababrinde
Simon Bloyce
Jebb Bobbett
Peta-Gaye Brown
Jake Bryant
Emily Clarkson
Matthew Coward
Alexander Edmonds
Katy Fosdike
Victoria Hatton
Aaron Hayre
George Hind
Megan Howett

Group B

Victoria Kerslake
Margaret Leslie
Shannon Mason
Dhuran Modha
Anass  Moudakir
Kym Mumford
Samantha Niemczyk
George Nwosisi
Lekti Rose Jacobs
Luke Scott
Nadia Yadallee
Lucy Yelding

Animschool: Creating Appeal With Directional Force

FAO Years 1, 2, and 3 - New Timetable Available

 Timetables for weeks 6 - 12 are now available to download from MyUCA

Year 1: Space & Environment


Timetable on MyUCA (Unit Information

Year 2: Narrative & Character

Timetable on MyUCA (Unit Information

Interim Critique: Thursday 8th November @ 2pm

Year 3: Minor Project


Timetable on MyUCA (Unit Information

Interim Critique: Friday 9th November @ 10am

CGAA One-A-Day: Apache

A music video entitled Apache" is a darling animation of an native American and two adorable creatures musical journey into modern day. The entire animation is done with turntable wrap effect. A very genius yet simple idea and a lovely watch.  Music by Danger Beach.

Apache from oneedo on Vimeo.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pete Doctor - "Whatever you like doing, do it!"

After reading through some of the remarkable letters and correspondences on I found this gem from animator and director Pete Doctor. His simple summation of his work is a brilliant example of how to move forward positively.

May 5, 2009

Dear Mr. Kelsey,

What would I tell a class of Middle School students?

When I was in Middle School, I liked to make cartoons. I was not the best artist in my class — Chad Prins was way better — but I liked making comic strips and animated films, so after High school it was no surprise that I got into The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), a school that taught animation.

CalArts only accepts 25 students a year, and it attracts some of the best artists in the country. Suddenly I went from being one of the top artists in my class to being one of the absolute worst. Looking at the talented folks around me, I knew there was no way I would make it as a professional. Everyone else drew way better than I did. And I assumed the people who were the best artists would become the top animators. 

But I loved animation, so I kept doing it. I made tons of films. I did animation for my friends' films. I animated scenes just for the fun of it. Most of my stuff was bad, but I had fun, and I tried everything I knew to get better. 

Meanwhile, many of the people who could draw really well kind of rested around and didn't do a whole lot. It made me angry, because if I had their talent, man, the things I would do with it!

Years later, a lot of those guys who probably still draw really well don't actually work in animation at all. I don't know what happened to them. As for me, I got hired at Pixar Animation Studios, where I got to work on Toy Story 1 and 2, direct Monsters, Inc., and Up (due out May 29th this year).

So, Middle School Student, whatever you like doing, do it! And keep doing it. Work hard! In the end, passion and hard work beats out natural talent. (And anyway, if you love what you do, it's not really "work" anyway.)

Good luck, 

(Signed, 'Pete')

Pete Docter

bluegfx expo - 22 Nov - London Film Museum, Southbank

The bluegfx expo is a one day spectacle designed to give you the opportunity to see the latest and greatest developments in the CG & VFX industry.

Whether you are making important purchasing decisions, looking to get ‘hands on’ with new tech, see demo’s from the top manufacturers or observe presentations and interact with the leading lights from the Film & TV, Games and Design Viz industries… then the bluegfx expo is for you.

 Come for the whole day or drop in for an hour…we are looking forward to seeing you there!

I got my ticket ' here ' , oh it's free by the way!!

@ Alan: Tutorial question

Alan would you be able to post the tutorial for 'moving the horse's tail with dynamic curves' inside the bonus tutorial section again please, I would like to use it for my girls' pigtails.

Thank you

Vote for NAT

Hey CGAA All Years!

I'm running for Yr2 Course Representative &
Student Experience Officer in the Student Council

If you want IMPROVEMENTS made to YOUR uni experience

I've already started motions to Solve the issue of the melting temperatures in the Baseroom, by applying for airconditioning. This is just the beginning of what is possible if you vote for me.

To VOTE, check your University emails for one titled;
Registration Invitation
MSL Membership System
(P.S. This may be in your JUNK folder)

Click on the link,
 make a password,
Find my name in the Student Experience Officer Tab

Natalie Urwin

Any problems don't hesitate to email me at :

CGAA Design: Zaha Hadid

Zaha Hadid

Known for her simplistic and modernist design aesthetic, Zaha Hadid has not only regenerated the boldness of British architecture but also left her mark as one of the most successful women in the world. Her designs go beyond the world that they inhabit, often extruded from bold intersecting lines which rise from her drawings into the world, overlapping and creating new forms within an old space. This is the key principle in Hadid's work, regenerating environments in a positive way. She firmly believes that design and architecture change lives, after all, these small worlds in which we live affect everything we do to an extraordinary degree.

"Buildings need to do another job, enlighten people, space enlightens the same way as music art and technology." [1]

Berlin, Germany - 2000 Masterplan

The commercial buildings that come from the studio of Hadid stand out among the norm of British architecture. But these final solutions are only a small aspect of the design process. Below are some design sketches generated for the famous Vitra Fire Station. These experiments fuse curves, lines and geometric blocks together in an attempt to find new forms.  From this seemingly abstract process is formed a unique and creative build. One which matches the lines of the street but isolates itself among the silhouettes of traditional surroundings. What may at first glance seem abstract from reality, is actually a conceptual mix of ideas and design.

"Conceived as the end-note to existing factory buildings, the Vitra Fire Station defines rather than occupies space - emerging as a linear, layered series of walls, between which program elements are contained - a representation of 'movement frozen' - an 'alert' structure, ready to explode into action at any moment." [2]

The process of design is equally applicable to the CG world. Generating concept art can be a daunting experience as one struggles to find a starting point. However, using such techniques will help tremendously. Hadid starts with a concept, an idea or a theme. She then explores with an approach, often abstract, to help keep the mind open and the possibilities fluid. As shown below, the JS Bach Chamber Music Hall was created from the concept of an intimate space. The design process expands from this single idea and becomes and elaborate mix of curves.

"A unique chamber music hall specially designed to house solo performances of J S Bach works - enhancing the multiplicity of his music by using a single, continuous ribbon of fabric which continuously changes, stretches, compressed and moves around itself to cocoon both performers and audience within an intimate fluid space." [3]

I have always loved Hadid's work, it has it's own personality and life that is lost in most modern architecture. Hadid creates work that is not to everyone's liking, but no matter what your opinion on the build itself, one has to admire her approach to design. A mix of philosophical concept, thematic notion and abstract design blend together to form ideas like no other. The perfect lesson to creating fresh designs from old ideas.

Further Reading and References
[1] Zaha Hadid  says austerity is not an excuse for low-quality housing.
[2] Vitra Fire Station
[3] JS Bach Chamber Music Hall
[4] Zaha Hadid Official Website -

Sunday, October 21, 2012

CGAA Alumni: Leo Tsang's Top Tips on getting the most from CG Arts & Animation

Leo Tsang graduated from Ba Hons CG Arts & Animation in July 2012 with a first class degree.   Leo was a determined, dedicated and highly consistent student, impressing early in year one with his dreamy, painterly visuals for his Ling Zhi Mushroom Life-Cycle and then again in year two, with his junk-derived character designs for his Tribe 17.   Leo's Isle of Cirrus - his CGAA swansong - is an exemplar of the way in which the innate qualities of great 2d production drawings can originate satsifying CGI. 

Ling Zhi Mushroom Life Cycle - End of Year 1

Tribe 17 - End of Year 2

Isle of Cirrus - End of Year 3

As a veteran of the CGAA rollercoaster, valued alumnus, and member of Atom Pancakes,  I asked Leo to share his insights and advice with the rest of us....

"Hey guys, my name's Leo and I recently graduated from the course this year. Phil has asked me to provide some pointers. So without further ado and in no particular order, here are my general tips and advice, which I hope you'll find useful."

1) Always keep the whole picture in mind - and by this I mean work quick and efficiently, don't linger and don't procrastinate. The quicker you can begin to form the whole image/animation, the easier it will be to see where changes and fixes can be made. Be it animatics, previs or test batch renders, these will often provide the most answers as to what you'll need to edit or do next. And by getting to these stages sooner rather than later, you will have the time to carry out any changes.

2) Be organised. Have a system for naming files and a good folder structure, e.g. chrABC_mesh_01, chrABC_rig_01 for a Maya character file. This is especially important in group projects, where it may be worth adding your initials to the file name to be sure who is responsible for the file.

It is also worth keeping multiple versions of your files by saving in increments. Nothing is worse when files go corrupt or when you find something that was previously working, broken, so it's good to have a previous version you can return to. I cannot stress this enough when it comes to rigging where it is easy to make mistakes which can be a pain to manually undo. And here it goes without saying to keep multiple backups of your Project, on separate hard drives or computers.

3) Rendering will be a huge consideration and timesink in itself, so be prepared and leave good time to deal with this part. You will most likely have to re-render elements too as you find things need tweaking, which again refers back to the previous point of getting to the whole image sooner rather than later to allow time for these changes.

I would strongly recommend forming a table of sorts to help keep track of all your renders, which may consist of something like: the Scene and Shot number, the File(s) name, the number of frames, the necessary layers and passes needed, as well as any general notes or reminders about the scene. If you're working in a collaboration, then be sure to include who/where a scene is being rendered, and make sure everyone has an up-to-date copy.

Take note of what you will think will need to be tweaked when compositing and render the appropriate alphas where necessary. For example, adding motion blur to a spinning propeller, or if your concerned of the colour/brightness of an object can be easily tweaked in compositing than having to re-render. As a general rule of thumb, always render the background environment and any moving elements (characters, moving objects) separately.

4) Maya will only get you so far - or any individual program for that matter. While it is good to focus on a particular skill, you'll also need to be sufficient with a number of skills to truly succeed.

Some skill sets to you'll most likely want to consider:

  1. Drawing Skills for thumbnails, environments and human anatomy (life drawing)
  2. Digital Painting for concepts (Photoshop/Corel Painter).
  3. Photoshop for texturing and all your image editing needs 
  4. ZBrush/Mudbox for model sculpting, detailing with normal/displacement maps. 
  5. After Affects/Premiere Pro/Final Cut Pro for compositing

There's more out there, but if you can manage to get to grips with some of these then it will go a long way to improving your work on this course as a whole.

The good thing is that these skills often feed into one another which will improve your workflow as whole. For example, knowledge in anatomy will feed into your character concepts and help your character design as a whole, where learning the fundamentals in Maya will help you understand what you need from Mudbox to help improve your modelling etc.

5) And lastly, have fun. You're here to learn and experiment, so be bold and embrace the challenges ahead. But at the same time - you must meet the deadline. If it's on the brief, then it has to be done. So make sure you check and check again that you've fulfilled all the outcomes. Always remember that you have to be able to show a final product, in any state at the very least or face the wrath of referral . You may have stacks of concepts that you worked and experimented on, but in reality its nothing without the final result. Think of it as if your submitting work to a client if you have to, a client will not care about the amount of concept art you've done if there's no final product to show.

Well, there you have it - feel free to leave a comment if you have a question and I'll do my best to answer it.

Good luck!

You can find my work on my website and blog at:

FAO CGAA Year 3 - Monday's Tutorials

This is a reminder to those year 3 students who I'd normally see on Monday: as it's year one crit week, my usual 4 day week begins on Tuesday, so I won't be in the office.  This should be on your timetable. If you want me to look at your work for a specific reason, just create an '@Phil', and I'll endeavour to feedback usefully during the course of the day.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

CGAA One A Day: Out of Sight

A short animation of a girl without sight but with a huge imagination. Enjoy :)

out of sight from kynight on Vimeo.

The Supplement: Lucienne Fontannaz

These illustrations by Lucienne Fontannaz caught my eye; dating from 1975 and produced for a children's book by Eric Merinat entitled Les Perles de Pluie, they're striking and psychedelic in a warmly muted way. (Thanks to 50 Watts).