Sunday, August 31, 2014

FAO Years 1, 2, 3 : Field Trip 2015 - Barcelona?

Dear all - I'm thinking ahead to 2015 and our potential field trip destination. I'm championing Barcelona - for lots of reasons, but also because the Pixar exhibition is going to be there in Feb 2015. I've had some quotes in from various travel companies and the best deal so far is £310 for a Tues - Sat duration inclusive of air travel, coaches, excursion/entrance to the Dali Museum and likewise to the Pixar show... I just want to gauge interest from you all as soon as possible, because we always need to move decisively to get the best price. It would be a shared trip with the Theatre course, so we'd be looking to fill 30 places with our students... Let me know your interest via a comment and spread the word. Thanks.

Post With The Most 31/08/2014

August is a tricky month, what with everyone clinging onto the holiday mood, but with one eye on their calendars because they know.  They know busy times are looming.  They know the wheels are  moments from turning.  People are poised to power-up again, and no more so on Computer Animation Arts, as September sees the kick-off of the new academic year... But we're not there yet.  

This edition of the PWTM is more of an amuse-bouche than a main course, reflecting as it does the more relaxed pace of the Summer holidays, but reflecting too that none of us truly disappear into a box over the holiday period.

Our all new first years are yet to enrol, but many of them are already getting stuck into their inaugural Summer Challenge.  They're already sending me their blogs - the first batch are available here - and below is a sneak peak at some of their creations; so from left to right, we have thumbnails from Charlie Serafini (44,48), Kayliegh Anderson (6) and Thanawat Phrommet (42, 43, 44).  

And enjoy this selection from Julien van Wallendael.

There are loads more on our newbies' blogs - and loads more to come. I have little doubt that the design work of our newest recruits will be enlivening future editions of the PWTM.

Last month's PWTM caught up with a number of our recent graduates, who shared with us their successes, post-degree experiences and insights.  Chrissie 'Class of 2014' Peters continues our catch-up with the great and the good of our graduate community.  Chrissie was one third of Polydoodle Pictures, the year three collaboration behind the animated short & Son.  Chrissie worked with Sammy Butler and David Vandepeer, and was largely responsible for the animation's overall production design and 2D components. 

Character sketches for & Son by Chrissie Peters 2014

Character sketches for & Son by Chrissie Peters 2014

At New Designers 2014, Chrissie was approached by a publisher, who was suitably charmed by her illustrative style and strengths as a character designer.  In light of her success, I asked Chrissie to share her recent experience and offer some advice for our incoming first years:

"After Graduation, some of the class of 2014 took our final year projects to the New Designers 2014 Exhibition in London, one of the key shows for design graduates. Our stand generated lots of interest, and both the awards for animation were won by my classmates, which I think shows the high standards of our course. 

New Designers has been a success for me, both because guests enjoyed & Son, and because it has generated some potential illustration work for me. I was approached by a publisher and asked to provide sample work for a series of children’s books that will be used in schools. 

Chrissie Peters 2014

My advice for Newbies: don’t be afraid to ask for help. Make use of your course mates – they will all have different skills. Some will be quicker at Maya, some will be able to spot things that aren’t quite right in your work. Use the blog for this – all those of us who graduated with high grades were constantly active on our blogs and spent a large proportion of our time in Uni. This feedback is so important that I am still posting my freelance work online for my course-mates to critique. It’s easy to become blind to your own work, especially when you are working at home alone. Other people’s opinions are invaluable. 

I've made some good friends; we've laughed and cried’s been amazing. Aspects of the theory lectures and my dissertation research have made me much more aware and critical of what's around me, and that has been a life-changing experience. "

Three members of our course community were selected for the Student Volunteer Programme at this year's SIGGRAPH conference:  Ernesta Baniulyte, Nat Urwin and Kym Mumford all jetted out to Vancouver to facilitate the conference.  I'm yet to spot them in this official photograph, but I know from reading their recent blog entries that they've been making the very most of this great opportunity.  With more blog updates following soon, we look forward to hearing more about Nat, Ernesta and Kym's adventures in Canada.

For some time now, the course team have been discussing ways in which we might seek to support further our community of talented graduates.   Soon, we will be launching Geek Boutique - our very own creative agency.  We have current CAA student, Jake Bryant, to thank for the agency's name, and over the course of the Summer, we've been working on getting everything else sorted, including the branding, which we're showcasing here for the first time.

Meanwhile, Tom Beg continues his work on his music video Owl for Collectress.  Regular followers of the PWTM will know Tom's development for this project has been utterly fascinating.  Using lo-fi, traditional mark-making to give rise to abstract sculptural forms realised in Maya, Tom is now combining his CGI forms with the spectral landscapes resulting from his forays into infra-red photography.  Tom's heightened sensitivity for lighting and the poeticism of black and white imagery was first showcased in his much-lauded adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Picture Of Dorian Gray.  These most recent developmental stills offer a tantalising glimpse of Tom's work for Collectress.

There's a house in France where I holiday.  It's all rather rustic.  I always try and respond to the site in some creative way; nothing too complex, preferring the stimulus of limitation to more elaborate responses.  Previous years have seen me enjoying the complete lack of light pollution and privacy required to explore the other-worldly effects of long exposure-photography.  This year, things became more basic still, as, for the first week, I dispensed with a physical camera completely and explored cyanotypes as a medium.  In very simple terms, you use the sun to fix the image of something onto specially treated paper.  You put the physical artefact onto the paper and then you expose the set-up to sunlight.  It was straight-forward and strangely addictive (I did loads), and I was seduced totally by the delicacy of the gradations, the transparencies and the ghostly qualities of many of the images.   What appears as shading or tonal range actually derives from shadowing and the different translucencies of the artefact itself.

My 'dark room' for the preparation of the cyanotypes


Daucus carota

The second week, it was back to the old Praktica and some solar-powered light-sources, and while I'm not ready to show the results of these late-night jaunts into the long grass, I can show you the kit as proof-positive that this was art on a budget!

The other job on my Summer to-do list was to finish readying my trilogy of children's novels for the publisher's approval.  The good news is I got the greenlight and contracts are being signed.  I won't have an official book-launch date until the paperwork is done, so for those of you who read Chapter One of Chimera and wondered what Kyp Finnegan did next, you can read Chapter Two here.

The Final Word...

“And suddenly you know: It's time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” Meister Eckhart

Monday, August 25, 2014

Siggraph 2014 Diaries - Vancouver : Sunday 10th August


Sunday was my first full day off since we arrived in Vancouver, so I wanted to see some of the lovely sights I'd heard all about. 

Figure 01. Woke up with the light, I still had jet lag at this point and this was the view just from laying in bed.

Figure 02. Breakfast, flavoursome organic cherries

After a chilled out (rush free - from not having a shift) I took a walk around and snapped some cool pictures from within the area. I was heading to the harbour to find out times and prices of the sea-plane tours as that's my idea of fun.

Figure 03. Vancouver Art Gallery

Figure 04. Near Vancouver art gallery

Figure 05. The Winter Olympic torch in early light

Figure 06. Reflective buildings

Figure 07. Knobbly trees

I got to the airport and the flight I was hoping to hop onto didn't have any takers and as I was on my own they wouldn't book just one person, but luckily the flight half an hour later had a space so I went for it. 

Figure 08. Boarding Pass

Figure 09. The plane I flew in

I got onto the aircraft and it didn't look like there were any seats left, so I asked the pilot (who was taking my bag at the time) if there were enough seats and he said 'Would you like to sit up the front with me?' and that was that! I got the best seat in the house. As I sat down, a passenger behind me started asking questions about the flight and when I said I'm just a tourist I thought he was going to fall out of his seat from surprise. 

Figure 10. Nat with the Pilot before take-off

Figure 11. Listening to some funny talk over the pilot radio

I was allowed to put the headphones on and talk to the pilot as we flew, and I also got to hear some funny conversations between other pilots and the control tower. 
Imagine this conversation in a strong Canadian accent
One man said to another 'Hey Bob, it's been a while, how you doin?' (I forgot the actual name used)
'Oh hey, this isn't Bob'
'Oh no? Oh you sure do sound like Bob'
'Oh gee thanks, no Bob's retired now'
'Oh yah?'
'Yah, retired about a year ago now'
'Oh yah?'
'Oh, well you sure do sound like him'
'Oh thanks'
'Yah…. Well…. you take care now'

So I was sat giggling away hearing this with an amazing view

Figure 12. Spectacular View

Figure 13. Spectacular View

Figure 14. Spectacular View

Figure 15. Spectacular View

After the flight and a nice conversation with the pilot, I went and grabbed some lunch

Figure 16. Lunch

Figure 17. Cruise Ship

Figure 18. Lego Movie talks

At 3.45 - 5.15 I went to a selection of talks in the East building (where the cruise ships always moor up)  
These were:
Everything is Awesome
- "The LEGO Movie": Construction, Animation, and Demolition (Animal Logic)
- Tuning Facial Animation in a Mocap Pipeline (Weta)
- Assembling Environments with LEGOscape
- "The LEGO Movie": Bricks, Bricks and More Bricks

These talks were brilliant and solved the questions I had after watching the Lego Movie a few weeks before and so so much more cool geeky information. The 'Tuning Facial Animation' talk from Weta was really interesting, they explained how they adjust and animate parts of animation where the results hadn't matched the actor's original performance to the exact expression by navigating through all of the graph data and corresponding tracking points.

Figure 19. After the World Record Attempt

After the talks we all met up again in an attempt to be part of a New World Record for most cellular devices creating a pixel of an image bouncing off of a satellite. 
However…. we all overloaded the network so the attempt failed.

We did bump into a person we recognised from the train journey from the airport to the apartment on the first day though, and as we knew he was part of Siggraph we invited him to join us to the social.

After that there was a meet at a bar called 'Steamworks' (where we went on our first evening in Vancouver and over populated the establishment). This was an 'SV reunion'. So anybody that had been or is an SV or part of the committee were welcome to come along. 
We walked to this bar with the beautiful evening lit scenery.

Figure 20. Evening Scenery

Figure 21. Evening Scenery

When we got to Steamworks, they said there wasn't enough room for everybody so the new destination was The Cambie (Where we went on the second night).

Figure 22. Kym and Phil

Figure 23. Ernesta

One of the SVs had printed balloons as a type of business card, those went down with the crowd very well. 

Figure 24. Hot chips and a beer

There was pub food, which was too piping hot for me to hold and it was a very fun evening!

Figure 25. Nat and Ateen

Figure 26. Ernesta, Lee and Nat

Siggraph 2014 Diaries - Vancouver : Saturday 9th August


Saturday 9th August was another free day for Ernesta, with Kym and I scheduled for some more pre-conference shifts. 

Figure 01. Saturday morning shot of the view

Figure 02. Ornate tram

There was a big mess up with the shifts on this day as the places we were supposed to be working decided they didn't need volunteers for the first couple of hours, so the people on Kym's shift were moved to the place where my shift was supposed to be which left all of my people without anywhere to work and so there was quite a bit of sitting around and Team Leaders unsure of where to put us. After an hour though somebody grabbed me to help hand out work passes to the exhibitors that were starting to arrive to the conference. This was a nice, easy and relaxed task which allowed me to read my book between checking people off the list. 

Figure 03. Nat's new morning shift

A couple of exhibitors kept coming out into the foyer to test the controls of their quad-copter. The machine started flying with the blow of a whistle and the guys each had a glove which was able to control the gentle direction of where the copter would fly just by swishing it below or around any side of the machine. It was quite entertaining to watch.

Figure 04. Exhibitors tuning their aircraft

Figure 05. lunch, basic chicken Thai rice

Lunch Time! We were only allowed half an hour for lunch but there's a food hall very close to the convention centre so it was good to have a nice selection of whatever you fancy to eat. I had some Thai food and Ernesta had some Sushi.

Figure 06. Ernesta with a Sushi lunch

Figure 07. Caution…. HOT

Figure 08. Other Student Volunteers drawing on a blank castle in the SV Office
We all just officially signed in for our volunteering experience and got the big brown envelope with the details we need.

Back to shift for me straight after though. This time the shift positions had slightly corrected themselves so I went back to the studio set-up where we were going around all of the computers and making sure all of the software licences were working on the computers we had installed. There was about 25-30 software programs to go through on each computer with a guy from Intel helping out if they still didn't work even with their licence codes. 

Figure 09. Food Art (Studio Project)

Figure 10. Description of Figure 09.

Whilst we were on shift the Student Volunteer orientation was taking place a few floors above which basically answered any questions the volunteers might have about how to conduct themselves and where to guide people during the conference. Last year it was really fun with GIANT inflatable beach balls and everyone volleying them around the crowd, but I don't think anything like that happened this year. 

After all of the shifts were finished for the day there was the annual SV group photo in front of that year's location scenery. This is the Official Photograph

Figure 11. The Student Volunteers (Orange), Team Leaders (Green) and SV Sub-Committee! 
SIGGRAPH Vancouver 2014!
The CAA's are on the right hand side if you can spot us

Figure 12. After the group photo, there was a free slice of pizza and a drink

Figure 13. Ernesta & Nat after the group photo

Figure 14. Afternoon view towards Stanley Park

Figure 15. Winter Olympic Torch

Figure 16. Winter Olympic Torch

Figure 17. Building with 3D text on each level

After all of the group excitement we headed back to the apartment to change up and feel refreshed for a dinner meet up. We went to a small thin restaurant/bar and this is one page from the menu.

Figure 18. Because Fish & Chips is a type of sandwich or wrap….

Figure 19. Ernesta fell asleep at dinner again

Dinner took quite some time to arrive, giving Ernesta time to fall asleep waiting for it.

Figure 20. Nat's Dinner

Figure 21. Ernesta's Dinner

The plan was to meet up with some other SVs after dinner but we needed wifi so we went back to the apartment to use the internet to arrange this meet-up. The elevator had turned into a padded cell by then.

Figure 22. Padded Cell of an elevator in the apartment block….
(Left - Right : Phil, Ateen, Kym, Nat)

Figure 23. Troubleshooting with international power problems

While Phil was arranging a time and place to meet up with the others (using the wifi) I was trying to solve some international power socket issues.

We eventually arranged to meet some other SVs at a common meeting spot, London Drugs.

Figure 24. Waiting…. waiting…. and more waiting

By the time the others got there they decided they were just going to go to bed so we waited around for a couple of hours for no reason, and so we also called it a night as by this time it was around midnight.

At least we were able to grab a couple of hours extra sleep compared to the previous evenings.