Thursday, July 31, 2014

CAA One-A-Day: Tiny Worlds

Very charming use of VFX plus drawn elements proving that CGI + film ideas needn't be epic!

Monday, July 28, 2014

CGAA One-A-Day: League of Legends Cinematic: A New Dawn

I am not sure how many of you have already seen the newest Riot's cinematic from the League of Legends game, but in my opinion is pretty amazing and the behind the scenes video is definitely worth watching!

Behind the scenes: 

CAA One-A-Day: There's A Man In The Woods

Just watch this - it's excellent, Jacob Steilein's There's A Man In The Woods.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tutorphil Is Off On Holiday

Dear all, just letting you know that I'm off on my Summer hols on Monday, returning to that old former farmhouse in France, which, in previous years, has been the setting for some ad-hoc phantasmagoria!  There's something about the quality of the dark - and the complete lack of internet access! - that inspires creative responses, and I'm hoping this year's sojourn will prove as invigorating.  Previous years have seen me mucking about with long-exposure photography in the dead-of-night, braving sheep ticks and mosquitos in the pursuit of something transformative and other-worldly.  I am once again armed with a toy box of cobbled-together kit - solar lights, coloured gels, and lots of 35mm film - so quite what will materialise this year is anyone's guess!

Au revoir!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Post With The Most 26/07/2014

The last of the graduation champagne has been quaffed, the Computer Animation Arts baseroom is deserted, and thoughts at last turn to flip-flops, sun cream and a few days off...  Just enough time then to reflect on some of our recent successes, beginning with New Designers 2014.

Our graduates shone out at this year's show, the quality of their work much remarked upon.  We were very excited and pleased to win two awards as part of the New Designers inaugural Screening Prize, with Urvashi Lele receiving the Judges Award for her animated short The Owl & The Pussycat, and Nat Urwin winning the People's Vote for Mother's Days.

About Urvashi's film, the judges said, "Strong narrative and animation, good mix of interview with the original poem, unique interpretation and great comedy. Fantastic research and foundational work resulting in a very complete and unique piece." 

Well done, you two!  We couldn't be more proud!

Class of 2014 at New Designers 2014 - Awards Evening

Urvashi Lele and her Judges Award for best animation.

The Owl & The Pussycat

Nat Urwin and her 'People's Vote' award.

Mother's Days

Of course, the success of New Designers 2014 is shared by the wider Computer Animation Arts community.  Thanks to the fund-raising efforts of our students, staff and alumni, we were able to realise fully our creative ambitions for the exhibition and thereby give our graduates the very best showcase for their work.  We owe a similar debt of gratitude to all those student-loving philanthropes who donated prizes for our tombolas or sponsored us in our endeavours. 

In final celebration of this year's graduates and their achievements, feast your eyes on our latest showreel; it's exuberant, playful, and action-packed - a normal day at the office for the likes of us!  

We don't do things by halves here on CAA @ UCA Rochester.  Not satisfied with just putting on a major London show, July saw another big project come to fruition.  

Regular readers of the PWTM will know we've been involved in a highly interdisciplinary brief challenging us to visualise Verdi's Requiem.  The very creative way by which we went about this transcription of sound into sculpture is archived here, but this one-sheet summary will get you up to speed.

The resulting seven sculptures, devised by CAA graduate, Ethan Shilling and manufactured by UCA alum, Tim Hall, were installed on the lawn at the Royal Opera House's High House Production Park, Purfleet.  Audiences attending a performance of the Requiem, conducted once again by Arie van Beek, were free to walk among the sculptures, which inspired curiosity and delight in equal measure.

The 'Requiem Seven' on the lawn at the High House Production Park

Jonathan Simms, lecturer in photography at UCA Rochester, photographed the sculptures for us in-situ, creating these sumptuous portraits of the 'Requiem Seven' as they glowed like sparks beneath perfect blue skies.


Dies Irae



Agnus Dei

Lux Aeterna

Libera Me

When all the hoopla of graduation and New Designers subsides, the long Summer holiday can actually be a rather strange and melancholy time for new graduates as they contemplate more uncertain futures.  The Summer can also be anxious and nerve-wracking if you're an incoming student making the bold, creative step of starting this course.  For all of you then - our latest graduates and our newest recruits - I've asked some of our alumni to share their successes, experience and insights with you.  Read on, and be energised and inspired. 

Natty from Dream Cleaners by Molly Bolder (2013)

Let's begin with Molly 'Class of 2013' Bolder, who, following a brief stint of work experience, has just been offered a permanent job as a junior designer at The Marketing Store, London.  Molly graduated with a First Class degree last year, creating an animated short, Proportion, for her minor project, and Dream Cleaners for her major - a transmedia 'proof of concept' for a children's television show.

Still from Proportion by Molly Bolder (2013)

I asked Molly to describe how the job opportunity came her way: 

"I'd been chasing the idea that I could work in Toy Design ever since my third year on the course. It was during New Designers 2013 that I met Bryn, from The Marketing Store, and he really liked my work and mentioned some Work Experience down the line. Seeing as Jolanta (Jolanta Jasiulionyte, 'Class of 2012') loves working there I thought I'd chase it up and after that politely pestered him via email for a while, but there was never any desk space for me. Just as I was starting to drift away from the idea I got an email from him saying I could be there for 2 weeks, and it was great! It went really well and when I thought I was going to be offered another week of Work Experience I was offered a permanent job instead. I couldn't believe it! I started on the 14th July and I'm super excited. I know everyone says it but it's definitely true: Just don't give up. If you keep producing work you enjoy, and stay enthusiastic, something good will happen. It can take a while and feel like forever but keep putting your work out there and be nice to people (it really does help)."

Panzerbombe and Flugbombe from Warbreakers by Dan Rolph (2013)

Next up, is Daniel 'Class of 2013' Rolph, whose own post-Computer Animation Arts experience proves that to be the proud owner of a creative skillset can open up opportunities even in the most apparently unrelated of working environments: 

"I applied to Pfizer to see if they had any temporary office jobs to get some experience for my CV. Luckily for me, it's the 60th anniversary of Pfizer at Sandwich, so they were planning to do several events. They saw I could do video editing and invited me for an interview. My current job is a mixture of journalism intern - helping draft stories for the site newletter, maintaining the intranet site, taking photographs - and also video editing - mostly adding subtitles to videos, but also putting together short video presentations and a little motion graphics work - and a little bit of logo design thrown in too."

Still from Mahiki by Bharathi Anthonysamy (2013)

Bharathi Anthonysamy's post-Rochester adventures have been featured already in an earlier edition of the PWTM, when we profiled his internship at the Imago Center, Seville.  Never one to let the grass grow under his feet, Bharathi joins us now from Rotterdam:

"I'm currently in the midst of 3-month 3D Artist internship at Blue Label Studio. Blue Label is an indie game studio in Rotterdam currently working on their first PC release, I Will Escape, a third person action/adventure game. The game is made entirely using open-source programs, namely Blender. I'm working on the intro to the game which includes developing an existing animatic, modeling, texturing and animating a combination of 2D and 3D content. Learning the entire animation pipeline on Computer Animation Arts at UCA has really helped me approach the intro, as I'm required to use a lot of these skills to take the animatic into full fruition. I've also been able to learn the 3D software package Blender and gain an understanding into how much work is put into making a game. This has motivated me into revisiting my 3rd year minor project, Mahiki, and planning ways to transform it into a fully playable game."

Kinnaree character concept by Dayle Sanders (2012)
Hemmy by Andriana Laskari (2013)

Dayle Sanders and Andriana Laskari collaborated for the duration of their final year on Computer Animation Arts, creating Kinnaree, a richly decorative and technically ambitious animated short.  I asked both of them to summarise their experiences so far, and also to offer some words of wisdom and reassurance to both our current students and our new recruits.

Dayle wanted to share this with you:

"I started the course back in September 2010 fresh out of Canterbury College where I studied Games Development for two years. I had some prior knowledge in 3DS Max and Adobe Suite software which helped. But for the record, it is not essential that you have any existing technical proficiency. If you’re competent, persistent, and willing to solider on, then you’re in for one a heck a ride. You’re going to go bananas, but it’s so worth it! 

Dayle (back row, right of centre) and the A & C Studios team

I'm currently working as an in-house 2D animator and artist at Animate & Create (now A+C studios) specialising in traditional lens based animation, based in Whitstable, Kent. Recently, I’ve produced a number of animated explainer videos and motion graphics shorts. Using animation, we can display different locations and multiple characters without the need for hiring actors, dressing sets, or organising locations. I also help out at client-side workshops and team-building events run by our sister company, ‘Animation Team Building’. This means on occasion I am able to take a break from the computer and get hands-on experience with stop-motion animation. Every day brings something new to the table and the workflow is refreshing.

So, welcome to the course: Your first year will involve emotional turbulence. Fortunately, however, if it’s any consolation you will reflect back at how much of a farce you were making of it come your second and final year and beyond! You may need to experiment a bit to find which method or combination works, but it's the ideal time to experiment.  Slowly, you'll actually figure those things out. The main thing is not to fret. Don't panic. The first year is all about experimentation; the second is honing in on your strengths, and your final year is about confidently putting them to use in producing something you’re proud of, to graduate with something that showcases ‘you’ as a creative individual. 

Treat your classmates as a unit, working together as a group with a shared sense of commitment to a common goal. It’s all about keeping a calm demeanour and seeking to help one another. You’re all creative pioneers so bounce ideas off each other and learn things.  Be open-minded.

Be malleable: learn to sponge up creative criticism in a way that will transform you; there is a lot of it and it is valuable, ditch your expectations of a picture perfect response. Get critique from tutors and peers from multiple angles.  

Get Active:  don't neglect your physical and emotional well-being. Try to pace yourself - it's the littlest things that matter, such as getting up from your seat regularly, drinking water and eating healthily.

Sleeping patterns/ late-night antics: It is very likely you'll be invited out for some impulsive recreational/ booze sessions. If this is the case, or if you were out on a celebratory raz the night before and need to attend a lecture, you must improvise. With all that golden advice spilling out from tutors and guest talks, you just don't want to miss it!  Invest in a decent mid-budget Dictaphone; it will be like having a second memory. Record your lectures and tutorials - retrace every detail.

Be inspired. Negativity depletes your energy. This point works in tandem with many of the points; keep a calm demeanour and when the going gets tough, take a break from work. There is a website called ‘TEDTalks’ devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks, trusted voices and convention-breaking mavericks, icons etc. Inspiration oozing left, right and centre. The beauty of it is you can select what kind of talks you want to listen to: beautiful, courageous, funny, ingenious, inspiring, fascinating, jaw-dropping, persuasive, etc. The point is, if you're feeling stuck in a creative rut, switch off from project work and let yourself re-engage with some new things for your mind to think about. 

Don't worry when things get difficult on the course: you will soon find things stick, creative jargon and lingo clicking into place. It's an incredible journey. It will transform you.  Challenging as it was, I wouldn’t change my experience of the course for all the world! Good luck!" 

Tim Peake character design by Andriana Laskari for SpaceFund (2014)

Andriana has been equally generous in terms of putting her post-Rochester experiences into words for the benefit of our leavers and our 'arrivers':

"My name is Andriana – or Andi for short. I am a recent Computer Animation Arts graduate (2013 to be exact) and now have the great opportunity to talk to you about my own university experience as well as my ‘first year out’. I remember myself reading through graduates’ post university stories and never thought I would do the same.  Here goes!

I have always been interested in Art and Illustration from a very young age. I loved getting hands on with arts and crafts and attended drawing classes. Animated films also played an important part of my childhood. I remember being very curious about the production process behind animated films. Unfortunately, I reached a point where school studies took over and I put my passion on the side thinking it was more of a hobby than something I could take on professionally. After finishing school in Greece, I decided to give art a go again with a Foundation course in the UK. It was a refreshing re-introduction to art, which I'd missed a lot. My initial degree choice after Foundation was Modelmaking – something that could perhaps lead me to stop motion animation. I was encouraged by my tutor to take on 3D Animation (a very daunting idea at the time) and that is how I got to Computer Animations Arts.

With no software knowledge whatsoever, long nights battling with Maya, frustration over computers, and with the support of my tutors and coursemates, I saw myself building up my skills as a CG Artist. My biggest accomplishment was taking on ayear-long project with my fellowcoursemate, Dayle. Despite the struggles that came with it I wouldn’t change my last year. I discovered a lot about my strengths, weaknesses and helped me distinguish what I really enjoy taking part in within the animation world.

After graduating the job hunting mode followed almost immediately.

My ‘first year out’ focused mainly on getting to know the right people that could give me a helping hand with stepping into the industry. The easiest way to do this is to give freelancing a go. It is important to create positive bonds with your first clients who can provide you with references to support any future applications. I took part in number of projects that gave me the first taste of what the future could hold for me as a CG Artist.

One of the most rewarding projects I took part in was the first Digital Arts Project organised  by Carve Productions and my local Job Centre for the digital rejuvenation of Crystal Palace Park. I became a Business and Marketing coordinator where I got to show my art direction skills and also do a bit of branding work.

Other projects were more animation based, like making animatics for The Jazz Cat series song books, animating a character for a kids’ Space Show and producing UCA’s Clearing Guide animation. These little projects kept my mind busy from job hunting whilst enhancing my skills in animation, illustration and storytelling. 

Andi (back row, second in from the right) & the Designer group at Fuse Universal

After almost a year of taking part in numerous projects while looking for that first industry step things were looking up. I was offered a full time position as a Digital Media Designer at Fuse Universal – and it all started with a casual phone call!

Fuse Universal is an award winning Learning Solutions Company in Shoreditch. It runs a platform which encourages sharing of content and knowledge between members of a team, company or organisation. Part of the Fuse Formula is creating bite sized animations that impact the way you operate and improve performance.

Being part of the designers group, I am privileged to be part of a team made of people from various media backgrounds: Graphic Designers, Videographers, Illustrators, 3D and 2D animators and many more. We are often encouraged to put our own personal touch on our premium animations, which is where I'm hoping to apply my 3D skills in.

Here is a list of things that I would advise anyone who is about to start job hunting:

Organise your work

You want to make it as easy as possible for any employer to view your work. Organise your visual work in categories of projects, pipelines or whatever you feel is more suitable for you. Also make sure you have an up to date Demo Reel showcasing your best work.


You have most likely heard this too many times but your CV is your potential employers’ first impression of you.  Make sure it is short and sweet. No more than 2 pages long with the most important aspects of what could make you a great employee.

Social Media

Employers are now taking into account your participation in professional platforms such as Linkedin. Make sure your profiles are always up to date, accompanied by your work to capture interest. Use them to talk directly to people from the field.

Get ‘real’ social

Social media does one part of the job. It is vital to open up to people and show you are a truly energetic, job-ready graduate. A good practice for your social interactions is to be out and about. Open up to people, make friends. It will benefit your confidence around people and the way you present yourself.  Who knows, maybe the next person you meet will introduce you to a big project or your next employer? Take it is easy and let it flow.

Be alert

Always keep your eyes and ears open for anything that could be related to your career prospects. If you see something that might interest you like a job description, go ahead and apply or look into it. You have nothing to lose! Just make sure your application and cover letter match that job description,

Don't assume

Do not assume your application, CV or showreel has been viewed or that someone will give you a call after you left your details at the reception. Take the first step and be persistent. Call again, send another email. Recruiters deal with hundreds of applicants, they won’t necessarily remember you, as harsh as this sounds. If everything fails, then you move on to your next step and do not get disheartened.  Keep going is the only thing you can do.

Do something memorable

You want to stand out from the crowd. Do something memorable for employers to remember you for as part of your application. In my case, a short video CV is what sparked interest.

Keep busy (whether it is animation/ design work or not)

You want to keep your mind busy with activities that don’t involve job hunting, whether it is design related or not. Waiting in front of the screen for an email causes you unwanted stress.  A watched kettle never boils! Go back to hobbies you missed during your time at university or start new ones to take your mind off job hunting.

Go back to basics

Nowadays it easy to apply online, which is what everyone does. The sad part is that your CV can get lost in a big pile that way.  Try alternative ways of showing your interest in a job position in addition to your online applications like cold-calling, Skype calling or request to meet someone in person for a chat.

Support from family and friends

There will be times when you feel down during your job search. Family and friends will always be there to comfort you. Ask for their support, you need encouragement!

Keep positive

This is might sound like a cliché but thinking positive can do you good. Once a door closes, another one opens.  If opportunity doesn’t knock, build another door!"

Chimera Book One cover design by Phill Hosking

And now for some exciting news of my own... As many of you know, when not working with the students, staff and alumni of Computer Animation Arts, I've often got my head stuck in a book... my own!

I first conceived of Chimera, a series of three novels for children, back in 2005.  I continued to write them alongside other writing projects, and over time it developed into something more elaborate.  I completed the final draft of the third Chimera adventure in 2008 and revisited all three books again in 2010. Since then, Chimera has been read by literary agents, receiving much needed constructive criticism - and by a number of children, who have always responded positively.  In January this year, I decided the time had come to put Chimera 'out there', in part to draw a line under what's been a long period of sustained creativity, but also to allow those who know me, (and especially those who are taught by me!), an insight into my own endeavours.  For years now, I have lived a secret double life among a bestiary of imaginary creatures.  I have had one foot in distant lands.  I have decided the fates of beloved characters and conjured evil and villainy into existence with the incessant taps of my typing fingers.  I write every day on my train journey to and from work, the people sitting opposite me clueless as to the motley crew of improbable characters with whom they're sharing their commute.

Writing has a lot in common with much of advice given here by our recent graduates, the advice that says 'keep going', 'don't give up', and 'keep dreaming'.  I have written stories since I was a child.  Alongside Chimera, work has continued on another novel (for adults), which is 75% complete.  My desire to see this novel finished is another reason for signing off on Chimera; I need to make a bit of room in my imagination, not least because book three of Chimera is not the end of that story, but rather the end of its beginning...

Soon then, Chimera will become available as a series of three ebooks and I'm working right now with the publisher as we ready them for their launch.  I have been assisted in this endeavour by artist, illustrator and sculptor, Phill Hosking, who has created cover art for the ebook editions.  I can't tell you exactly when the ebooks will become available - September we hope - but should Phill's cover art have piqued your interest, you can read the first chapter of Chimera Book One by going here.

The Final Word...

"Perseverance, secret of all triumphs." Victor Hugo

Friday, July 25, 2014

CAA Alumni: Jon Stewart @ Dovetail Games: Fishing Screenshots

Hey guys, I just wanted to share some official work in progress screenshots from Dovetail Fishing. I've been working on the Character, Rod and Reel. But I'll share some Environment stuff too :)

The game is coming along really nicely. I really can't wait for people to play it! :) 

Summer Speed Paint Challenge 2: Collective Nouns No 5

A drift of pigs


A bloat of hippopotamuses

Animation is UK's Favourite Genre!

Animation is our favourite film genre - for the first time!  Read more here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Supplement: Philip Cooper - 'In Praise Of Thumbnails'

A while back, I featured the collages of artist Philip Cooper on here, and waxed lyrically about his extraordinary landscapes and inspiring technique. Phil's blog, Hedgecrows, is always a joy, and I was particularly interested in what he had to say about the importance of thumbnailing in terms of his creative process and I wanted to share it.

Crow Tower, Philip Cooper, 2014

Summer Speed Paint Challenge 2: Collective Nouns No 3

A parliament of owls


A pandemonium of parrots