Wednesday, May 29, 2013

CGAA Summer Speed Paint Challenge, Guidelines and First Topic.

So the CGAA Summer Speed Paint Challenge is due to begin. Initially topics will have a 48 hour window, to see how we get on.  Although the most current offerings will be showcased at the appropriate time feel free to revisit any previous post.

Other than that the format will be the same as the Christmas ones, with a 9am start and finish time. I also won’t be limiting this to environments, the length of time we have to play with means we can introduce characters, items, vehicles, illustrative narratives and even whimsical subjects.

In terms of presentation on your blogs a simple post with the header :

CGAA Summer Speed Paint Challenge: (Insert subject title here)

Then your image plus a brief description if you wish.

For archiving purposes if you could create a file titled “CGAA summer speed paint” and store the final high resolution images there. This way if we need to print the images we have the best quality images available. For this reason working at 300 dpi is  also recommended as is working at a fairly decent image size.This gives an advantage at any printing stage. ( For example 4800 x 2700 (16:9)at 300 dpi will give an image size of 40.64cm x 22.86cm)

Any questions don’t hesitate to ask. If I am not following your blog then let me know so I don’t miss anyone.

With the formalities out of the way we can jump right in to the first subject.

I thought we should start with something whimsical so I have borrowed the title from Sir Frederic Leighton’s masterpiece,

Flaming June

 Hopefully this will usher in some good weather for us.  Don’t feel you have to reference the original in any way just take those two simple words as inspiration. Also I will make the dealine for this the first of June.

Take it away….

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

At Last! The CGAA Gallery Is Go!

Ages back, we applied to the UCA Creative Fund on your behalf for some additional dosh to purchase some picture frames and some lighting so we might at last create a course-centric gallery space in the lower 4th corridor.  It's been a long time coming, but today we completed the installation of our twelve new frames* and so transformed an otherwise unloved and unlovely expanse of wall into a glittering showcase of student work.  Ta da!

The twelve lockable frames make it easy for us to refresh the corridor exhibition when we fancy a change of scenery.  First time out, I wanted to highlight character design as an integral aspect of the course and promote your unsung strengths as illustrators; next time, who knows - a cavalcade of digitally painted landscapes? A celebration of life-drawing? An anthology of Summer speed paints? (I did rather rashly promise Ernesta a theme on mutant typewriters, but this might prove a little too niche - even for CG Arts & Animation!).  The point is, we now have a space by which to better define ourselves in the eyes and estimation of others and we should use the gallery to dynamic effect.  All ideas for future exhibitions are welcome!

*Actually, when I say 'we', I mean 'Alan', who somehow attached the frames to the walls single-handedly without swearing even a little bit! 

Welcome to the New CG A&A Blog

The CG Arts & Animation Group Blog is a central hub for the course, a hive of ideas, shared thoughts and inspirational work. It has been developing over the past few years into something quite extraordinary, but also, something that needed a little bit of control. It is for this reason that a redesign has been on the cards. The tricky part was creating a design that sat quite calmly in the background  allowing the work and content to be the focus. For this reason, we have produced this simplified, sparse design. Allowing for easy navigation, visible content and fast page loading. Before I mention some of the changes, here is a test post to demonstrate how the new blog will be an improvement for content display.

So, today's one-a-day animation is titled Ark. Not only is this short animation an incredible demonstration of the 3 act narrative but shows just how important style and art direction are to binding a short together. The narrative examines a world that has been almost devastated by a virus, the survivors of which board the final arks and travel out to find new land. It is a great example of the 3 act structure, the world and narrative is set up and explained to the audience. A problem then arises which alters events, and finally the third act conveys the solution or twist to this problem.

One of the first goals was create a film with vision that will last in the viewers mind. To create a story that matters and keeps the audience thinking after they leave the theater. - Brothers Quay films had a huge influence on the decision to use miniatures for ARK. And when it comes to the lighting the first ALIEN movie made by Ridley Scott was probably the biggest influence. You’re right about the influence of eastern European animation; they have a very distinguished and twisted style. I cannot point to one particular artist or production right now but it had an impact mostly character design.
For those interest in the making of the film check out the official website and CG Society article on the piece...

As you can see, content is much larger, with emphasis on the visuals being shared. The images and videos can be embedded at 900 px. This will make the blog a much easier viewer platform. It takes the approach of an art gallery, with little in the background, allowing the work to take centre stage. The colour scheme matches this approach, a subtle and unobtrussive grey with a accent of green. Again, content is the focus.

To help with navigation a set of banners and icons have been created. These represent the key labels that identify posts. Whether this be the One a Day animation post, or the PWTM, they will allow users to get to the content they want to see a lot quicker. These banners can be identified easily by colour and icon, and will be placed at the top of the post to instantly communicate the simple message. The right hand panel allows you to access this feature whenever it is needed. Along with this, a list of useful links, recent popular posts and a monthly poll will be posted. The top bar of tabs will show links that are more course focussed. They represent important information that students may need to access at any time.

The banners are shown below to outline the various features that are a focus of the blog.

The number of posts per page will also be lowered, this will make the blog a lot faster to load. The key is really to make the site a very quick, friendly and visible place to share information. The final aspects of the design will be completed and implemented this weekend. Over the coming weeks further aspects will be added as they are required, but hopefully this simple design allows for a very solid and functional base for the blog. Keep an eye out for the big change over and enjoy the new blog!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Post With The Most 27/05/2013

That's it ladies and gents. It's all over bar the shouting. No more crits, essays, or Maya tutorials. No more film screenings, tutorials, seminars, or life-drawing classes. The baseroom will no longer smell of chips and ketchup and the lecturers will soon return to their musty wooden crates under the lower 4th stairwell where they hibernate until mid-September... 

Of course, it's not over - not really - all this talk of endings is an exaggeration. Indeed, I could just as well have begun this PWTM preamble as a pean to beginnings; after all, the end of the academic year marks the moment year one students become year two students, year two students assume the mantle of year three students, and year three students become graduates who must now make their first tentative forays into that place sometimes referred to as 'the real world'.

The May edition of the CG Arts & Animation Post With The Most has a simple enough remit - to showcase a selection of final student work from all three years. Be advised: it's necessarily video-embed-centric and your respective computers might chug and splutter in indignation, but there's lots to enjoy here, so do persevere, sit back and happy browsing. I've included a synopsis of the project brief to which the featured work relates and be sure to go further by exploring the students' individual blogs, which you can access via their names and where you'll find a plethora of pre-production and unpacking of technical pipelines! Enjoy.

Year 1 - Unit Storytelling & Commission/Project 'Fantastic Voyage'

"In response to one of the scenarios presented to you at time of briefing, you are required to produce a complete 3D animation that demonstrates creatively your ability to interpret, transcribe and represent complex ideas in engaging and dynamic ways. Your final animation should demonstrate clearly your creative methodology as established by your Year 1 curriculum, i.e. pre-production (production design and art direction via concept art and the structuring of time-based narratives via storyboarding and pre- visualisations), production (modelling, UV layout, texturing & lighting, and animation), and post-production (compositing, digital editing, sound design, publication and promotion)."

Jake Bryant - The Cell Cycle

Samantha Niemczyk- The Prokaryotic Life

Emily Clarkson - Eukaryotic Cell Structure - App Demo

Vikki Kerslake - Eukaryote

Megan Howett - The Cell Cycle

Year 2 - Unit 'Adaptation'

"An adaptation derives from previously existing material reconfigured to suit the requirements of different media and cultural contexts. Innovative adaptations revitalise and reinscribe their original source and engage new audiences. The art of adaptation relies on the ability to identify essential characteristics, themes and information integral to the original and articulate them dynamically. This unit requires students to adapt creatively an existing source or body of information and marks a key transition from directed to self-directed study."

Ernesta Baniulyte - Metamorphosis

Tom Farrington - 'Lenny Knightingale'

Steven Payne - Making Plans For Nigel

Sammy Butler - 'Winter'

Alice Druzga - 'Tiffany'

Joey Ku - There's No Need To Be Scared At Night

(Joey's even gone as far as commissioning a toy-maker to re-create her fearsome fivesome as collectible 'plushies'!)

David Vandepeer - 'A Short Drive'

Lydia Caplan - Twenty To Nine

Anita Gill - Calypso's Island

Year 3 - Major Project
"The Major Project requires students to demonstrate innovative and sophisticated approaches to CGI and animation supported by an advanced creative methodology. Creative methodologies should evidence sustained and focused research, sophisticated concept development, design development, critical analysis, experimentation, refinement and advanced proficiency of execution. Independent learning, reflective practice and project work commensurate with professional practice are essential."

Justin Easton - 'Mars Earth Logistics'

Aidan Codd - France de Demain

Dan Rolph - Tundra Rats

Molly Bolder - Dream Cleaners

In other news...

If you thought that all our students have planned for the long summer break is lounging around, you'd be mistaken - as this round-up of other news from the CGAA community makes clear.

Congratulations to CGAA year 2 student, Nat Urwin  who has been selected from innumerable other applications to participate in the volunteer scheme at SIGGRAPH 2013.  We hope Nat will be blogging about her adventures at the world's number one conference showcasing new and emerging technologies so watch this space for some postcards from the edge...

... and in more Nat-related news, Nat is soon to commence her four week work placement at Nexus Productions. Well done, Nat - looks like you're going to be very busy indeed!

Meanwhile, CGAA year 2 students Steve Payne and Sammy Butler are interning at Picasso Pictures...

... while Tom, Alice, Emma, Ernesta, Lydia, Anita, Joey, Gabriel, Chrissie, Lloyd, and Urvashi  are all working with Butch Auntie this Summer...

... and big congratulations to Leo 'Class of 2012' Tsang  who is now working at Blue Zoo Animation.  Well done, Leo - great news, great stuff!

CGAA Artist-in-Residence Tom Beg  and GTA Jordan Buckner  are working hard to transform the wealth of synesthetic imagery created by students, staff and alumni during our last blog-based Speed Paint Challenge into resolved animated sequences. Between them, Tom and Jordan will be creating sixteen minutes of animation to be rear-projected behind the musicians of the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne as they perform Darius Milhaud's ballet La création du monde (1923). This European-funded project is ambitious and exciting - and there are more projects in the pipeline - and here you can take a look at Tom and Jordan's progress so far.

The next edition of the PWTM will be a New Designers special. Over the course of the next month, many of our year 3 students will be revisiting both their minor and major project submissions and readying them for New Designers 2013  at the Business Design Centre, Islington, London. As I suggested at the start of this edition, the end of everything is always exaggerated at this time of year. The end? Nonsense! It's just the beginning getting started... 

The Final Word...

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”  Theodore Roosevelt

Saturday, May 25, 2013

CGAA - Summer Speed Paint Challenge

“Neglect your art for one day and it will neglect you for two.” - Chinese Proverb

Good day ladies and gentlemen,

The summer break is practically upon us and hopefully these days will be long and balmy, I say that with anticipation (fingers crossed).  In order to stop those little creative fingers from seizing up I am proposing running a new speed paint challenge throughout the summer break via the CGAA blog.

Obviously this will be entirely voluntary and will be open to all years, including recent graduates and the incoming cohort, so it could be a great way to sign off, as well as introduce oneself to the CG Arts community.

At this stage it will run in a similar fashion to the popular Christmas challenge, except with a slightly longer duration between subjects. So guys leave a comment and express your thoughts and ideas.

It would be great if we could curate the results in some way, maybe take advantage of the UCA gallery spaces in some way. However these ideas that I have buzzing around my head are entirely speculative and entirely dependent on the powers that be.

“One never knows what each day is going to bring. The important thing is to be open and ready for it” –Henry Moore

Thursday, May 23, 2013

CGAA Misc: Gustav Hoegen's Animatronics Showreel

As you watch this incredible showreel of Gustav Hoegen's animatronic work for the movies, keep a tab on the number of times you think to yourself, 'f**k me, I thought that was cgi...'

Reminder: The CGAA Super Screening Needs You!

Friday 24th May is the CGAA Super Screening - an end-of-term celebration of all your creative endeavour this academic year.  By the agency of some raffle tickets and the now-legendary 'mysterious blue box', we'll randomise the running order and enjoy a veritable pot pourri of cg eye-candy.  

I'll open Lecture Theatre 2 at 10am so you can come in and get your files on the computer; alternatively, you can present from your blog/Vimeo/Youtube etc.  This isn't a crit - it's a show and tell and an opportunity to share with others the inside-track on the highs, lows and home truths of making cg happen.

In addition, Tom Beg & Jordan Buckner will be sharing with you their progress so far on the ACT Live Commission project and the  new look for the CGAA group blog will be unveiled!

If you're participating in the screening, could you just leave a comment below so I can get a sense of our numbers/running time for the event.  Obviously you can attend and not show work - the more the merrier.

Remember too that we'll be going for a drink after the screening as a way of winding down and rounding off another busy year. 

I look forward to seeing you all tomorrow :)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

CGAA One-A-Day: Save the Badger, Badger, Badger

As part of YouTube Comedy Week, the guys at Weebl's Stuff recreated their stupidly popular animation Badger, Badger, Badger as this fantastic homage to Flash Gordon. It would be a crime against nature if I didn't post this for the world (more specifically, Phil) to see. 

After viewing this, I think it is safe to say that this animation pretty much renders anything Pixar has ever created void and that as far as we're concerned, animation will never get any better than this.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Visiting Lecturer - Tuesday 21st May @ 2pm - Darren Wall Speaks!

At last!  Darren Wall from Planet Jump is coming to speak with us on Tuesday 21st May @ 2pm Lecture Theatre One. It's been a long time coming after 'snow stopped play' etc. so let's ensure there's a big crowd and lots of questions.  Alumni welcome!  See you all there :)

FAO CGAA Year 3 - Monday 20th @ 1.30pm External Examiner Wants To Talk To You!

Incase you didn't see this message posted on myUCA for your attention:

"The External Examiner, Tim Webb, is visiting on Monday 20th May. It is very important that you are available from 1.30pm in the CGA studio area as he may wish to discuss your work with you. Please ensure that you are present and prepared to speak to Tim if needed. Thank you."

External Examination of your student work is a normal and necessary part of the academic process and nothing to worry about.  Tim Webb may talk with you - he may not - the important thing is to be available should he want to.  If for some reason you're unable to attend, please let me know.  Many thanks.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

FAO CGAA Year 1: Toolkit Proformas @ Your Ucreative Accounts

Hi - your CG Artist Toolkit summative proformas have been sent to your Ucreative email accounts.  If yours doesn't come through or you've got any queries email me at

Monday, May 13, 2013

Visiting Lecturer Tuesday 14th May - Cancellation :(

Sorry folks - I've had to press the visiting lecturer cancellation button again!  Pete Hardy was due to come in tomorrow but he's had all his leave cancelled because Cinesite's gone into overdrive in order to get the new 300 sequel sorted... well, as excuses go, it's not bad.  As far as I know, we can still expect a visit from Darren Wall on Tuesday 21st... fingers crossed!

FAO CGAA Year 2: Work Placement Briefing 10am CGAA Baseroom Friday 17th

Just a reminder to all those Year 2 students who got messaged a while back re. the opportunity for a placement with Butch Auntie over the summer break: Pete Wallace is coming in on Friday 17th to meet and brief you at 10am in the CGAA base room.  Don't be late!  This is a great opportunity to keep those creative brain cells of yours fizzing throughout the long summer months and to notch up some live project experience on those all-important cvs and showreels... grab with both hands and shake!

CGAA One-A-Day: We Should Make Strange Things

Has to be one of my favourite animated shorts, watched it quite a few times already. The use of colour and composition just makes it so easy to enjoy!! I also like the sounds used and how the objects seem to come to life through music!!
[Description below via AwesomeRobo]
 Japanese animation studio Tange Films is behind this surreal animated short, 'We Should Make Strange Things.' Definitely holding true to the title, it shows us the story of a [literally] drifting, lost man (man?) and his encounters with the bizarre and fantastical.  To say this piece is dream-like would be more than accurate, as it appears it is about sleep itself and the crazy things our minds like to come up with.  Utilizing a very simple color palette of blue, pink, and black/white, it's very stylized and abstract.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Visual effects workers in film industry 'overworked'

Really interesting little story from the BBC about people in the visual effects industry being overworked. Much better than being under worked.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

FAO CGAA Year 3 - A Message From Jordan Buckner

CGAA GTA Jordan Buckner has some words of support, comfort and inspiration for our weary year 3 students on this, the night before their final hand-in.  Go here for some words from the wise.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

FAO 2nd years - Dissertation proposal feedback

Hi 2nd years!

I have just noticed on my UCA, that Chris Hunt has posted the following -

Dissertation Proposal - results and feedback

Posted on: Wednesday, 8 May 2013
The feedback sessions for dissertation proposals will now be on Tuesday 14th May (not 6th and 13th as previously advertised). Location: Lecture Theatre 1. The assessor giving feedback on these is Kath Abiker. The format is:
Group A - 10am
Group B - 11am
Group C - 12 noon
Group D - 2pm
Group E - 3pm
Please ensure you attend the appropriate session to receive your feedback so that you can build on the feedback over the summer. It is strongly recommended that you work on your dissertation over the summer period - this will enable you to get the most out of your tutorials in the first term. Any students who don;t attend will receive their feedback the following day in their pigeonhole.

Ray Harryhausen 1920 - 2013

Sad news: Ray Harryhausen died on Tuesday 7th May 2013.  I'm pretty sure without the legacy of Harryhausen's beloved stop-motion monsters, a course such as ours would not exist.  Read his obituary here and enjoy his most celebrated stop-motion special effects sequence below.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

CGAA One-A-Day: Oscillate - Daniel Sierra

OSCILLATE from Daniel Sierra on Vimeo.

If you thought Rise of the Guardians was Particle Effects: The Movie, check this out. This visualisation of waveforms defies words; seriously, just watch it and see.

FAO CGAA Year 1: Your Fantastic Voyage Proformas Have Been Emailed

Hi - just to let you know that your Fantastic Voyage proformas have been sent to your ucreative email accounts - let me know if I've missed anyone or if you have any queries.  If you want to discuss your feedback, do please come and find me for a chat - no probs.

FAO Year 2 and 3: Submission Check List.

Year 2

Final Critique: 8th May 2013

10 Minute Crit Presentation Order:

1) State the source (Adaptation: Book title) and intended outcome (Eg Two games characters).
2) Show the final work
3) Present the making of...
4) Any other comments.

Please Include on Your Submission Disk:

Project Work (Final Piece)
Making of Document
Demo Reel Shot (Turnaround, Fly-through, or Stills)
Up to Date Blog (.pdf)
Maya Tutorials Submission: 10th May 2013

Completed technical tutorials uploaded to your blog by 2pm

Year 3

Final Submission: 10th May 2013 by 5pm

Please Include on Your Submission Disk:

Project Work (Final Piece)*
Making of Document*
Technical Document*
Demo Reel*
Up to Date Blog (.pdf)
*Copied on to base room computer also.
Good Luck Everyone!

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Congratulations to Leo 'Class of 2012' Tsang - New Job At Blue-Zoo Animation Studios!

Great news!  CGAA alumni, Leo Tsang, who graduated last year with a first class degree, has just been in contact to let me know that he's just started his new job with London-based Bafta-award winning Blue-Zoo Animation Studio and is working currently on Blue-Zoo's children show, Q-Pootle 5!  Congratulations Leo, from all of us on Ba Hons CG Arts & Animation - your success is sure to inspire! Well done and best of luck in the new role! :)

The CGAA Super Screening 24/05/2013 @ 10.30am Lecture Theatre 2

This is your formal invite to the CGAA Super Screening on Friday 24th May in Lecture Theatre 2 @ 10.30am.  For the very first time, all years are invited to screen their final project work collectively - an opportunity to celebrate your achievements this academic year and to engage in some inter-year Q & A.  The first years have already been challenged to return to their 'Fantastic Voyage' animations in readiness for the Super Screening - to tweak, polish and address any issues raised at the crit.   I'm going to suggest that all students now consider this a post-hand-in opportunity to excise any flies from the ointment.  The Super Screening isn't about assessment criteria (it's not a crit!).  It's about you and your pride in your work.  On Sunday May 26th, the next edition of the Post With The Most will go live; I'll want to be able to select the very best work that is looking at its very best, so if you need further incentive to return to your animations etc. post-hand-in to iron out any creases, let this be it.

In terms of the precise running order for the day, I'm thinking that some kind of mixed-up, randomised approach between all years might be a nice way to keep the day varied and surprising - but I'm absolutely open to suggestions.  As suggested in previous posts, the Super Screening will be followed by some end-of-term drinks in some sunny beer garden...  Between us, let's make this a great day and instigate boldly a new course tradition!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Batch Render Question

I've noticed the batch render seems to hang/ freeze at random points in the animation. I checked the render diagnostic and in snort it was saying :

- If Completed_Book_w_Outlines_file2 is not a memory mappable file, use imf_copy to convert it to .map format, to improve the performance.
  - Eye_texture has a resolution of 2048x2048 which may be inefficient.

For almost all of the textures, is it basically telling me to make the file size smaller, like 1024x 1024 or do I have to lower the dpi from 300 to something else?

@Alan Maya hair dynamic issue (Rather urgent)

I recently moved my work to another computer and when I looked at a playblast of Rhea walking one of the hair pieces is, kind of flicking in an unusual way. so where the rest of the hair flops down this hair piece flicks and then snaps back into position.

I'm not sure why its doing that so any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Before I noticed it acting strangely the only things that had changed were: The computer I was doing it on, I had tried to create a collision object between The hair pieces and Rhea's body, (and because I'm using 2013) I had also tried using the ncloth collision object on Rhea at a point but it didn't seem to stop the hair from going through her head.

I don't think Rhea's body is still a collision object although I'm not sure how I'd be able to tell it was.

I had also checked the follicle that was misbehaving it seemed to have collision on , I turned it off and didn't make a difference, but when I went to look back it seemed to be back on again, which seems to be some sort of glitch.

Thank you in advance

Thursday, May 02, 2013

CGAA One-A-Day: IBM - A Boy and His Atom

At first glance you may think "A Boy and His Atom" is a charming but slightly primitive animation. However, once you take into consideration that you're actually looking at individual carbon monoxide molecules magnified 100 million times you quickly reevaluate your thinking.

Created by IBM "A Boy and His Atom" consists of 242 frames each measuring 45 by 25 nanometres (there are 25 million nanometres in an inch). Each image was created using a remotely operated two-ton scanning microscope operating at temperatures of 450 degrees below zero (Fahrenheit).

Amazing. Enjoy!