Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tombola Of Dreams 2014: Just 40 Tickets Remaining!

Just letting you know that just 40 tickets remain for the Tombola Of Dreams 2014 Prize Draw - and I thought I'd refresh your memories as to all the prizes you could win...

A Cintiq 13HD!
12 month subscription to Digital Tutors!
£100 poster and sticker printing from!
2 weeks work experience @ Dovetail Games!
Original storyboard panel from Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade, signed by the producer!
Original comic artwork, signed by Laurence Campbell!
2 signed copies of Phillip Hosking's Eclecto art book!
An A2 Giclee print of your own bespoke caricature portrait by Justin Wyatt!
Your very own CAA Baseroom-style Big Red Ball!
Concept art books - Digital Art Masters Vol 4!
A Lifecam Cinema Webcam!
Free lunch for a week!
Crates of Sol Beer!

So don't delay, go here to the online store and purchase your tickets today!

SIGGRAPH 2015 / Los Angeles - Apply Now For The Student Volunteer Programme

Okay - see the shout-out below from SIGGRAPH for applicants to their student volunteer programme for their August conference in Los Angeles.  Students from Computer Animation Arts have a great record in terms of being accepted for the SVP, so don't be shy!  It's a fab experience, and where possible, we do try and help successful applicants in terms of air travel etc.



SIGGRAPH 2015 marks the 42nd annual international conference and exhibition on computer graphics and interactive techniques. We invite your students to come and experience astounding images, and learn how they were created. Interact with tomorrow's digital systems, and understand them. Meet the leading international innovators in computer graphics and interactive techniques, and share their knowledge.

The SIGGRAPH 2015 Student Volunteer Program is a unique opportunity for students to engage in all areas of the conference while contributing behind-the-scenes to the overall success of this prestigious event. The benefits of being a Student Volunteer extend beyond the free full conference registration and include:

  • Networking with thousands of peers and industry professionals
  • One-on-one demo reel, resume, and portfolio reviews
  • Exclusive Student Volunteer Special Sessions with leading companies
  • Chances to see advance screenings of some of the best animated shorts in the world
  • Fun events that provide the chance to meet new friends

We seek students who demonstrate leadership, enthusiasm for service, and a passion for computer graphics and interactive techniques. Please encourage the industry's future leaders to apply!

For information on eligibility requirements, how to apply, benefits, and more, please visit In addition, please feel free to visit the documents page on our website.

We hope to see your students at the Xroads of Discovery in Los Angeles!

Star Wars VII Trailer - 'George Lucas Special Edition' Parody

Wow, these guys are fast!  Check out this witty piss-take, which takes aim at Lucas's reputation for fiddling digitally with this own franchise...

Post With The Most 30/11/2014

It’s a sign I’m getting old that I feel compelled to begin this latest edition of the Computer Animation Arts Post With The Most by articulating my amazement at the swift passing of time. Can it really be just a short matter of weeks until the end of the autumn term? It seems but a matter of moments ago that our new recruits arrived nervous and watchful, as timid as mice; to look at them now, as chatty as sparrows, close-knit and meeting new creative challenges with admirable gusto, you wouldn’t believe they’d only been with us for ten weeks.

My guess is they’re feeling the pressure, as things accelerate towards their final crit at the end of term. They’re busy working on their What If? Metropolis project brief, a creative challenge in which they were asked to work closely with another artist in envisioning a Calvino-like city. Students selected their respective collaborators randomly from the course’s infamous ‘mysterious blue box’, and so it is we’ve cities inspired by the work of Miro, Miyake, and Louis Comfort Tiffany; by Lucienne Day, Jeff Koons and Barbara Hepworth.

Ultimately the students will be turning their architectural flights of fancy into digital sets created in Autodesk Maya – software most of them didn’t know when they arrived. I’m including here a selection of their developmental work and concept art.

In common with previous editions of the PWTM you can easily visit an individual student’s blog by clicking on their name.

Sankavy Balasingham - Nuam Gabo's City

Cat Barber - Alberto Giacometti's City

Frame Phrommet  - Henry Moore's City

Emma Morley - Issey Miyake's City

Ella Pinnington - Alvin Lustig's City

Vlad Yankov - Heath Robinson's City (key assets)

Max Ashby - Joan Miró's City

Charlie Serafini - Jean-Paul Gaultier's City

Kayliegh Anderson - Max Ernst's City

Julien Van Wallendael - Lucienne Day's City

While year one are up to their ears imagineering entire cities, our Year 2 students are managing the not inconsiderable task of juggling three very chunky units; a collaboration studio project, a character design project and a 3,000 word assignment on the hydra-headed conundrum that is Postmodernism!  One of the big transferable skills the course seeks to impart is the ability to spin multiple plates with confidence, in recognition that life and its demands are rarely linear or queuing politely for your attention. 

What follows is a selection of creative work from across the year two experience:

Maya model

Maya model

Heidi, Livi & Sam @ Voodoo

Josh, Tom & Hannah @ Hidden Studios

Rosie, Scott & Ayunie @ Lunar Ink Productions

Adam, Danny & Sukhi @ Screw Loose Productions

Megan, Will, Scarlett & Gemma @ Cogworks Studios

Ant, Ruby & Candice @ Blind Badger Studios

Our third year students have just handed in their draft dissertations; you won’t see that mighty effort represented here in the PWTM, but the dissertation represents a significant aspect of the year 3 experience. With subjects ranging from the disaster movie as fetish to Jungian archetypes, our final year students are wrestling some big ideas to the ground, and when not wrestling Freud or Judith Butler to the ground in a Harvard headlock, the third years are fiendishly busy with the production of their minor projects.

Franklin character development sheet

The Father - 3D model

Expression comparison: storyboard/3d model

The Son - 3D model

The Erl-King - orthographs

Big expression sheets

Big & Small orthographs

Death character design

Lucille character development 1

Lucille character development 2

Lucille character development 3

Lucille character development 4

Preparing Piranesi's drawings for translation into 3D

In other news... Belated congratulations to CAA Yr 3 student and Piranesi expert Kym Mumford, who applied successfully to the Student Volunteer Programme at the SIGGRAPH ASIA 2014 conference in Shenzhen, China, which kicks off on December 3rd.  Best of luck, Kym - happy travels! - and we look forward to hearing about your adventures soon.

Since 2011, the ACT projects have been bubbling alongside the everyday activities of the course – exciting, speculative collaborations culminating in exciting and unexpected outcomes. In July 2012, our ‘crowd-sourced’ animation for Darius Milhaud’s La creation du monde was screened live alongside an orchestral performance of Milhaud’s ballet to mesmeric effect. In July 2014, we turned Verdi’s Requiem into physical forms via data capture, Autodesk Maya and an industrial laser-cutter – the resulting seven sculptures first exhibited on the lawn of the Royal Opera House’s High House Production Park, and then, this month, in the Zandra Rhodes Gallery here at UCA, Rochester. 

The Requiem Seven (well, six of them) as photographed in the Zandra Rhodes Gallery, Rochester, November 2014

A motion curve becomes a 3D model becomes a laser-cut sculpture

'Agnus dei' (aka the big pink one)

In addition to the physical sculptures, we showcased the process via a number of computer-generated turnarounds screened alongside the exhibition.  In this collection, the seven movements of the Requiem are expressed in their original wire-form state, resulting Maya model, and the Maya model's translation into a final manufacturable shape.

The third and final ACT project has seen us developing, designing and visualising a series of kinetic props for a production of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde. Britten’s opera was written to be performed by children and amateurs, with an ad-hoc, lo-fi approach reminiscent of school hall Nativity plays. With this in mind, we looked at the simple mechanics of paper-play and pop-up books as a visual concept. 

Once again, we’ve had the pleasure of working with CAA graduate Ethan Shilling, whose mastery of Maya and eye for invention makes light-work of problem-solving. These visualisations were created by Ethan as discussion points for a recent meeting with all the participants in the production. We’re now working with Karl Longbottom – kite-maker – who is working to fabricate real-world versions of the various props. Unfortunately, due to the very particular restrictions of the various performance venues, our fold-up paper-boat ark is to be created much more simply, but we got the greenlight in terms of everything else, so I'll be updating our progress on here as the project continues.

Ark Test

Rainbow Test

Fold-out hand-held Sun prop test

All props etc.

Ensemble visualisation

As promised, I’m continuing to share my adventures as a published author of a series of children's books.  As promised too, I’m sharing both the bouquets and brickbats in terms of the books’ reviews, if only to prove that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, only some of the people some of the time (and sometimes no one at all!).

This review was posted on the UK Amazon site recently by 'Ilikecats60'"Towards the end of the book I was on the train home from work, I got off the train and had to stay on the platform reading until I reached the end. Thank you for transporting me to another world."  What a lovely image!  The idea that someone had to stop and sit just to finish the book is a bit thrilling... but another reviewer, who'd got as far as the third and final book, had this to say after turning the 'last' page:

"WHY.... JUST WHY..... The end was perfect, why did you have to keep going........... The third book of Chimera seems to start losing steam. The endless betrayal, plot twists, and constant use of deus ex machina to get out of crazy situations is starting to wear me out. By now, I’m just done with the endless circles that Gomm puts the user in. I have no clue who to trust, who’s speaking the truth and it leaves the reader feeling more annoyed than compelled to figure out more. After 3 books of the series, I’ve come to the conclusion that power of plot is really what drives these books. Without the constant plot twists and bizarre encounters, this trilogy would be lackluster. With them, the books are a lot more readable, until the gaping issues become obvious. The book continued to be a nice quick read and it felt just right to be a trilogy. Another book? Seriously? I can’t do it anymore..."

Not exactly a satisfied customer then, and I'd be fibbing if I said this feedback didn't sting (not least, because I haven't been referred to as 'Gomm' like that since I was at school and got caught trying to bunk off PE...).

A few days later,  these reviews were posted by 'M Pollard' on the US Amazon site...

"Book One: I found the characters and storyline to be well-developed, but some (if not most) of this story was predictable for adults. I have a son who did enjoy the story and is eager to read the next book. So although this may not appeal to adults too much, my son would give it a 5 star review."

"Book Two: This book, for me, was better than the first. The twists and turns and the unexpected were page turners. This book seemed to have more violence than the first - which gears this book more toward an older audience than the first."

"Book Three: This series kept getting better for me. This third book seemed to answer a lot of questions from the first two books and rounded out the series. This series kind of snuck up on me. At first I had mediocre feelings but by the end of this book I was completely immersed."

... which proves the age-old adage about the unpredictability of personal taste.

It can’t be said enough, so I'm saying it again; to wish for yourself a creative life is to court rejection. Upstairs in my attic, I have a very sturdy brown trunk, inside which resides my various manuscripts zipped safely into sandwich bags. There’s the original copy of Loving Mr Tumnus, my largely autobiographical first novel, completed back in in 1998 - all gay angst and magic realism - and then Portmanteau – a 400,000 word door-stop of a novel, which is postmodern and meta (and possibly unreadable).   The trunk also contains the very earliest drafts of Chimera (and there are many), and, as cherished, my multiple rejection letters and near-misses from agents and publishers.  I could have given up long ago (I think some of my reviewers wish I had!).  To be creative is a strange mixture of listening and ‘not-listening’ – or rather knowing what to listen to and what to not listen too.  It is having the courage and self-knowledge to recognise useful or truthful feedback, while tuning out the opinions that seek only to express personal taste as 'the word of God'.  Discerning the difference can be tricky!

Still from Owl by Tom Beg (2014)

Regular readers of the PWTM will know that CAA graduate and former artist-in-residence Tom Beg has been working on an animated music video for Collectress – a musical group that self-describes as "a cross between the Elysian Quartet and possessed Brontë sisters... Collectress are a quartet of long-term musical collaborators from London and Brighton. Their music treads a joyful line between the intricate and organic, with a nod to everyone from Philip Glass to Bach to John Adams, improvisors like The Necks to lo-fi chamber groups such as Rachels. They play and write with a sense of narrative, drawing the listener into a thoroughly distinctive and beguiling world of experimental chamber music."

We’ve been bringing you scintillating snippets from the film’s creative process, and which of us haven’t been intrigued by those strange monochromatic tableaux of fields and pylons, and farmyards bristling with buoyant entities?  

Now completed, Owl was released officially at 9pm on Thursday 27th November, and I’m sharing it here as a fitting finale to this month’s edition of the PWTM.

Owl represents an extraordinary fusion of techniques, from simple instinctive drawings made in fat black permanent marker to analogue medium format photography combined with otherworldly cg models. If you haven’t done so already, you should take a moment to watch Tom’s previous films: The Garden of Earthly Delights, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Life Cycle of A Mushroom – taken together, Owl’s creative genealogy is clear; sculptural organic forms of ambiguous matter, pared down compositions, and a cinematographer’s sensitivity for lighting and mood-making. 

For this viewer, Owl teems with childhood memory and exemplifies what Freud refers to as the ‘return of the repressed’; it returns me to childhood shocks at the natural uncanny: lifting a paving slab to witness, in a moment of shock and awe, the frenzied activity of an ant colony or looking up in sudden fright to marvel at the murmuration of starlings against drab autumnal skies.  Well done, Tom - this is an extraordinary achievement.