Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tombola Of Dreams 2015: Hurry!

Tickets are still available for the Tombola Of Dreams Prize Draw 2015! 

Go here to get yours - but don't be late: the UCA Online Store closes for TOD ticket sales at 4pm on Friday...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

FAO Year 1/2: Social Media Focus Group / Tuesday 5th May @ 10am

Emma Dermott - UCA's Social Media Officer - is organising a focus group on Tuesday 5 May to find out how students are using social media and what they want to see – the aim being to improve what UCA is doing online and to inform the new website. Emma knows you lot are very savvy in terms of social media (blogging etc) and she's keen for your input. If you're interested in taking part, could you email Emma directly at to confirm and discuss your input further. 

Tombola Of Dreams 2015: 20 Tickets Left!

Hurry! 20 tickets left! Go here!

"Animators have to break computers' instincts" - Brad Bird

"Some people don't appreciate that [computer animation] is an art form. They think that there's a button that's like 'Make Movie' and that it just gets done. The computers want to do everything exactly and cleanly and evenly, not organically. If you wanna do that they can do it no problem. But if you want them to present anything that approximates the natural world, they will fight you any step of the way. Less so now. But all of those flaws that you see on 'Ratatouille' on the kitchen floor, each one of those tiles is on a slightly different level. Somebody had to do that because the computer wants to do that exact; everything perfect in its place. If you want imperfections you have to tell the computer, I don't want them to match, I want them to be asymmetrical. And that was done because, through research, when you have actual tiles that have been around in a kitchen that long, they're different, so light hits them differently."

Read more insightful stuff from director Brad Bird here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Tombola Of Dreams 2015: Just 30 Tickets Remain!

Just 30 tickets remain for Friday's Tombola Of Dreams Prize Draw!

Quickly - to the online store with you...

FAO CGAA Year 1: Maya Tutorial Checklist and Submission Guidelines

As if there wasn't enough pressure on you guys Monday is the deadline for your Maya tutorials. Below, for your perusal is an up to date checklist for your tutorials.  I have tried to find all the tutorials on your blogs but I may have missed one or two, hopefully if you present you final submission correctly I should be able to pick them up.

By Monday any red boxes in your line should be able to be swapped to green. In some cases this is going to mean that you are going to have a fun filled weekend, others however will be able to relax a little. In terms of presentation you will need to create a post on your blog titled:

CGAA Yr1: Maya Tutorial Submission 2014/2015

In the post you will need to include links to all your Maya tutorials.  Don't forget that I have included Fur Presets and Santa Hat in one column so if you see 0.75 (blue) that means you still need to post the hat onto your blog. Where there is a 0.5 that indicates that you have posted an incomplete tutorial.

So I will just sign off by wishing you the best of luck for the next few days and Friday in particular. I look forward to seeing your final pieces which should be a joyous culmination of the past year.


Tombola Of Dreams 2015: Only 40 Tickets Remaining!

Hurry! Only 40 tickets remain for the Tombola Of Dreams 2015
Go here to get yours now!

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Rendering Season: "There May Be Trouble Ahead"

This is a message for all our students...  The 'rendering season' is once again upon us; all those little scraps of paper cluttering the keyboards and heightened levels of stress.   As Sinatra observes 'There May Be Trouble Ahead' - but not if we work together calmly and with consideration for the little creative community of which we're part.

Some basic house rules:

If you leave a computer rendering overnight (in whatever room), you need to ensure you're logged off again by 9.30am at the latest the following day.   As many machines as possible should be available for use during office hours.

When you leave a rendering notice on a computer, please include your name and contact mobile number; this means that staff can contact you if and when necessary.

Please don't hog computers: no, it's not okay if you're using five all to yourself!  Please be considerate.  Please be proportionate.

If your scene is taking 1 hour per frame (for example), chances are there's something awry!  Please don't commit a computer to rendering a scene that is blatantly dysfunctional, thus putting it out of commission for days on end.   Seek help to optimise your rendering times where possible!

Somewhere, at some point, a bottleneck is inevitable - tears, tantrums and fisticuffs are not!  Can I suggest that, over the coming days, we 'face the music and dance' and seek to get everyone where they need to be as best we can...

Please use your social networks to spread the word; all over-night renders off machines by 9.30am at the latest.  Many thanks for your co-operation and calm :)

FAO CGAA Year 1: Fantastic Voyage - Final Crit & Submission Checklist & Final Crit Requirements 01/05/2015

What follows are instructions for your crit presentations and reminders of what you need to present and submit. Please use your network of creative partners to ensure that everyone has seen this information and understood it. Any queries, please leave a comment and I'll clarify where necessary.

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).

Format Requirements

• PAL 25fps
• 16:9 ratio
• Mpeg or Avi

Please note: only royalty-free music is to be used and voice-overs must be professionally produced (Sam Niemczyk's talents excepted!) The use of inappropriate formats and codecs may result in viewing problems. 

You are required to produce a deluxe ‘Making Of’ publication showcasing your creative methodology. Your ‘making of’ should provide a complete record of your project work and should include your research and development, supporting concept art, storyboards, a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at your models and animation - from wire-frame through to finished renders – and your sound-design and post-production. Your ‘Making Of’ should be designed graphically, engagingly and presented professionally. 

You are asked to produce a comprehensive blog archiving and annotating your creative development during the duration of the unit. You should use the blog to reflect critically upon your own creative practice and the wider cultural and thematic context of the unit.

Important! Your blog must include:

1) Your final animation
2) Your ‘Making Of’ publication (as Scribd Presentation)
3) Your Pitch presentation (as Scribd Presentation)
4) CG Pre-vis
5) Animatic
6) Final storyboard
7) Final script
8) Concept art (16:9)

9) Final Production art (16:9)
10) Matte paintings (if applicable)
11) Final textures (and development).
12) Your sound design archive: (Original SFX/Processed SFX)
13) Your cg pipeline;

Wireframe Models, Untextured Models, UV Maps, Texture Maps, Textured Models, Lighting Tests, Rendering Passes (Beauty, Ambient, Occlusion, and Effects),

14) All supporting artwork (thumbnails, preparatory drawings etc.)
15) Supporting research/Influence maps
16) Market/audience research
17) Your Creative Partnership Archived
18) Your submission disc artwork/branding

You will present on crit day from a single presentation blog post comprising your final animation onlyOn this day, it’s all about the animation.

While you will present at the crit from your blog, you must also submit a submission disc to me on Tuesday 5th May @ 2pm (before the film screening in L1), which must include:

  • Final Animation
  • Deluxe ‘Making Of’ publication
  • PDF archive of blog. For instructions on how to export your blog as pdf. go here.

*As announced, your Deluxe Art Of publications should be uploaded to your blogs by 10am on Monday, May 4th.  I want the final animation and the Art Of together in a single post, so you'll need to edit/update your Crit Presentation post to include the Art Of publication.

Important: please note, your Fantastic Voyage crit starts at 10am sharp in Lecture Theatre 1. The order in which you'll be presenting your work will be randomised, which means any one of you may be presenting first!

If circumstances beyond your control* prevent you from attending on time, you must contact Natalie Holmes before 10am.  Lecture Theatre 1 will be open at 9am. Students should seek to arrive in advance of the start time to ensure they are prepared. Your project management and professionalism counts. Please prepare for your crit as you would for an interview or pitch. For some 'Rough Guide' style advice re. the stuff of engaging crit presentations, please go here.

And finally...


And a note to any 2nd/3rd years - your input on crit day, as always, is welcome.

*But not issues in regard to last-minute technical problems (including writing of discs etc.) that reflect poor project management. No student should be rendering etc. on the morning of crit day. Thursday is your deadline, not Friday.

FAO CAA Yr 1: Submission Announcements!

Okay, my hard-working and ambitious years ones... I have some notifications for you which should put a little more spring in your otherwise weary step!

1) Hannibal Lecter can wait until next week!  Yes, no film screening on Tuesday afternoon, as I'm sure you'd all rather be wrestling with your animations instead, and as much as I like Lecture Theatre 1, it won't be the same if I'm sitting there by myself!

2) CG Artist Toolkit: Maya Tutorials: your submission deadline for getting your Maya tutorials on your blog as requested is now Monday 4th May* @ 5pm.  Your Drawing and Animation submissions must be on your blog as per original schedule (May 1st).

3) Your Fantastic Voyage 'Art Ofs': our expectations around your FV Art Ofs is that they're beautifully designed, exhaustive archives of your creative development during this final project.  I want them to radiate care, attention and professionalism.  For this reason, I've decided to extend your submission deadline for your Art Of publications to Monday 4th May @ 10am.

4) I'll be publishing crit and submission details re. Fantastic Voyage this evening - so keep your eyes open and watch this space.

Please use your social networks to ensure your classmates have seen this information.

* Monday May 4th is a Bank Holiday, which means UCA will be closed.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Tombola Of Dreams 2015 - Final Week!

Tombola Of Dreams 2015 - Final Week!

You've only got one week left to purchase your tickets for the Tombola Of Dreams 2015.  The prize draw will take place on Friday May 1st @ 5pm in the CAA Baseroom.  Tickets are available from the Online Store until 4pm on Friday.  Your support is invaluable in terms of ensuring the Computer Animation Arts graduate show impresses all the right people!  If you're a final year student, it's time to throw your hat into the ring; if you're a year one or two student, remember, your time will soon come and it will be your stint at New Designers for which we're fund-raising!  Any student-raised funds not spent on the show are rolled over to the next year's fund, so you're already funding your futures!

You can purchase up to 3 tickets - go here to purchase yours now for your chance to win from this little lot!

Post With The Most 26/04/2015

At time of going to press, the student community of Computer Animation Arts is electric with pre-deadline activity.   In just a matter of days, our year one and year two students will submit their final work of this academic year.  One week after that, our third years cross the finish line.

Next month's PWTM will therefore be a celebration of our students' final works; this month's edition is like a juicy teaser trailer, a preview of coming attractions; a veritable cornucopia of WIPs, dailies, renders, and rushes.  That said, we are celebrating one goal completed, as our three year involvement with the ACT project comes to an end. We'll be looking back over our Interreg-funded  adventures in applied-CGI and revisiting our successes - and exploring too how the legacy of the ACT projects transformed the ways in which our students make work.

Let's begin with the latest exploits of our busy final year students, with projects including a painstaking recreation of Piranesi's doomy and gloomy prisons, an autobiographical animation on a theme of bereavement, films inspired by tragic legends and creepy fairy stories, and another animated short situated in an Vegas-inspired purgatory!  It's a vibrant clutch of creative undertakings from a talented, ambitious and hardworking cohort and as you explore their work, keep your fingers crossed that their final days of craft and graft are transformative and gremlin-lite.

If you want to explore a student project further, all you need do is click through from the student's name and you'll arrive at their respective course blog.  Happy browsing!

Kym Mumford - Piranesi's Prisons


Anass Moudakir - The Beggar

The Beggar development sheet

Rigging the beggar in AfterEffects

The Beggar - Turnaround

George Nwosisi - The Silent Story

Test render

Animation progression - 'Cigarette smoke'

Emily Clarkson - Morrigan

'Morrigan in the forest' concept painting
The Forest - Digital set (WIP)

The Forest  - Pre-vis tracking shot 

Dynamic crow tests #1

Dynamic crows test #2

Animated crows & 'Hills Of the Dead' - Pre-vis

Crow test render

Erl-King lighting development

Erl-King scene breakdown

Erl-King lighting tests

Animation progression - 'Will play them with thee'

Animation progression - 'The King appears in the distance'

Alex Edmonds - The House Always Wins

One armed-bandit test render

'La Vegas Limbo' digital set

Vikki Kerslake - The Koi & The Crane

Butterfly pond texture development

Cherry tree environment texture development

Up next, a behind-the-scenes look at the progress of our year 2 students, who have been adapting existing sources for various CG contexts.  We've got digital sets, game concepts and a wealth of character designs inspired by literature, psychology, corporate culture, the periodic table...

Tom Boothby - The Witch's Cottage (from Hansel & Gretel)

Concept painting
Digital set progression #1
Digital set progression #2

Rosie Fenton - Rottcodd (from Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast)

Rottcodd UV-layout

Ant Faulkner - 'Murphy' (character design inspired by Irish heraldry)

Murphy model completed

Murphy model turnaround

Will Huntley - Corporations as Wacky Races-inspired vehicles (assets for game)

Coca-Cola as a 'Monster truck' #1

Coca-Cola as a 'Monster truck' #2

Coca-Cola as a 'Monster truck' #3

Sam Cannon - Pinocchio

Modelling Pinocchio from orthographic drawing
Pinocchio model complete

Sukhvinder Ghai - King Azaz (from Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth)

King Azaz final character design

Modelling King Azaz

King Azaz completed model

Ruby Newland - A Spell Goes Boom (asset for game)

Witch orthographic

Witch model textured

Scott Turner - Rachman's Fear Acquisition Theory (as side-scrolling game concept)

Level design

Concept painting

Danny Rollings - Helium, Carbon & Hydrogen (the Periodic Table as characters)

Helium, Carbon & Hydrogen model sheet

Animation Progression - Helium's eye movement tests

Heidi Grover - Briar Rose

Briar Rose final orthographic drawings

Modelling progress #1
Modelling progress #2

Modelling progress #3

By way of prefacing this PWTM's showcase of current year one projects, I'm including the creative challenge as outlined by their Fantastic Voyage brief:

"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 revisualisations), production (modelling, UV layout, texturing & lighting, and animation), and post-production (compositing, digital editing, sound design, publication and promotion)." 

The Fantastic Voyage commission brief is no small undertaking: not only are the year one students liaising with a client for the first time (Bioscientist Dr Peter Klappa from the University Of Kent), they are also challenged to consolidate a year's worth of skills and experience into a complete animation.  The difficulty of this shouldn't be underestimated, for alongside all the creative rigours so required, the students are negotiating the cunning and caprice of Autodesk Maya.  There will be tears, scars, and lessons learned, but there will also be some astonishing outcomes, as this sneak peak should illustrate!

Ryan Brand - Influenza Lifecycle

Environment test render #1

Environment test render #2

Ella Pinnington - Bud (Slime Mold lifecycle)

Environment test render #1

Environment test render #2

Animation progression - Bud's expressions

Animation progression - Bud walk-cycle

Vlad Yankov - Slime Mold life-cycle

Test render #1

Chelsea Butler - Malaria lifecycle
Creating an 8bit-style asset in Autodesk Maya
Animation test

Charlie Serafini - Malaria lifecycle

Texturing pipeline

Blendshape sequence

Animation - Liver cell blend shape test

Anderson Moshi - Malaria lifecycle

Test render #1

Test render #2

Jack White - Slime Mold lifecycle

Test render

Julien Van Wallendael - Hookworm lifecycle

Adult hookworm animation test

Pre-viz - Opening scene

Cat Barber - Hookworm Holidays (Hookworm lifecycle)

Mrs Hookworm thumbnails

Mr Hookworm thumbnails

Mrs Hookworm maquette

Mr Hookworm maquette

Mr & Mrs Hookworm 3D models

Mr & Mrs Hookworm animation tests

Matte painting #1

Matte painting #2

Jamie Wathen - Influenza lifecycle


Emma Morley - Influenza lifecycle

Influenza virus model complete

'Face House' concept painting

'Face House' digital set & matte painting

Kayliegh Anderson - Influenza lifecycle

Body cell 3D model

Body cells animation test

Mark Stamp - Infiltrate Exploit Spread (Malaria life-cycle)

Hepatocyte Infection - Pre-vis

Merozoite Entry - Pre-vis

On the afternoon of Thursday, April 16th, I stood before an assembly of orchestra directors, theatre directors, peers, teachers, youth workers and musicians and made my last presentation of the three year ACT project. It was an opportunity to reflect on all the ways in which our course’s involvement in ACT had shaped and changed Computer Animation Arts for the better – and to look forward with excitement to similar collaborations in the future. 

ACT stands for A Common Territory – and acronym encompassing the core values of the project. As far as the course is concerned, ACT has since come to stand for some other things too.

A is for animation / ACT 1 2013 / Darius Milhaud's La création du monde

Still from La création du monde (2013)

On Friday, July 12th 2013 at Grays Civic Hall, Essex, the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne performed a programme of music on the theme of 'rhythm'. The programme of music explored ideas of rhythm in classical music and in the celebrated jazz of the late Dave Brubeck. The director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne, Marc Feldman, challenged Computer Animation Arts to work collaboratively to create an original work of animation designed to accompany his orchestra's performance of Darius Milhaud’s ballet, La création du monde.

Original speed paint, Phil Gomm 2013

Original speed paint, Simon Holland 2013

Original speed paint, Jake Bryant 2013

Over a period of ten consecutive week days, the students, staff & alumni of Computer Animation Arts were challenged to produce abstract digital paintings in synesthetic response to segments of Milhaud's ballet. The CAA community were asked to listen to each musical extract and then respond to it visually through the creation of original digital paintings in Photoshop. CAA alumni Tom Beg and Jordan Buckner then created the animation from the digital paintings using Autodesk Maya and After Effects.

La création du monde (2013)

The animation was rear projected onto a large screen measuring 8.5m wide by 6.2m high, in front of which the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne performed live.

Preparing for projection at the Maison de la Culture, Amiens, December 19th 2013 - Photograph by Tom Beg

The July concert was a great success and the animation lauded by the audience and project co-ordinators alike - so much so we were invited to participate in a second performance of Milhaud's ballet - this time at the Maison de la Culture in Amiens, France. A little after 9.30pm on December 19th, after a very long day of set-up and back-stage preparation, the house lights dimmed and the musicians of the Orchestre de Picardie began to play the first, melancholy notes of Milhaud's ballet. Behind them, rear-projected onto the theatre's pristine twelve metre screen, our animation began to play too - with an audience of 600 people looking on.

Anita 'Class of 2014' Gill graduated from Computer Animation Arts last year. Anita's involvement with the Milhaud project directly inspired her final animations, in which she combined music, speed painting and abstract impressionism to first produce a fantasia on an avian theme, and then a sensorial evocation of a relative’s childhood memories of India.

Anita Gill - Avis (2014)

Anita Gill - Yatara-Nu (2014)

C is for conversion /ACT 2 2014 / Verdi’s Requiem

Our second ACT adventure began in earnest when conductor Arie van Beek agreed to wear motion sensors for the ninety minutes of Verdi’s Requiem, as performed by the Orchestre de Picardie. The data produced from Arie's moment-to-moment movement was captured and enlisting the planet-sized talents of CAA alumni, Ethan Shilling, the numercial data was converted into seven 3D curves representing the seven movements of the Requiem.

The Requiem's Dies Irae movement as a motion-captured curve

The seven movements of the Requiem expressed as 3D synesthetic forms by the students of Computer Animation Arts

The Dies Irae curve converted into a 3D model (left) and final form in readiness for laser-cutting

Our students were then given the seven curves as starting points for the creation of their own CG forms, modelled in Autodesk Maya after their synesthetic impressions of the Requiem.  A selection from the student outcomes was made, which were then translated into seven physical sculptures, laser-cut from steel by Tim Hall and sited in the gardens of the Royal Opera House's High House Production Park, Purfleet.

Requiem (Photograph by Jonathan Simms 2014)

Dies Irae (Photography by Jonathan Simms 2014)

Offertorio (Photograph by Jonathan Simms 2014)

Sanctus (Photograph by Jonathan Simms 2014)

Agnus Dei (Photograph by Jonathan Simms)

Lux Aeterna (Photograph by Jonathan Simms)

Libera Me (Photography by Jonathan Simms)

It was a truly exciting departure for the course to convert CG forms into tangible art forms. Our using CGI as a means to explore different kinds of creative disciplines in part inspired Emma 'Class of 2014' Foster to use her skills and vision as a CG artist to envision the sculptural forms and kinetic installations imagined by Felice Azari in his manifesto, The Futurist Garden.

Emma Foster - The Futurists' Garden (June 2014)

T is for Transference / ACT 3 2015 / Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde.

Our third and final creative ACT exploited the special ability of CGI to transfer ideas from one discipline to another. Sometimes, the most exciting CGI isn’t an end in itself, but is rather the connective tissue between the imagination and fabrication; between the pencil sketch and the prototype. 

By way of a fitting finale to the ACT project, the course worked alongside a multiplicity of different collaborators in the staging and performance of Benjamin Britten's mini opera, Noye's Fludde - an opera intended for largely amateur performers.  Think of it as being a little like a school nativity play - a performance not characterised by high polish or showy stagecraft, but rather by lo-fi charm and ad-hoc energy.

With this in mind, we approached our brief (the design and execution of a flat-pack, fold-up ark, rainbow, and various celestial bodies), with an emphasis on keeping things simple. We wanted the various objects to look as if children might have created them at school in an arts and crafts lesson, so we looked at simple folding mechanisms and paper boats.  Ethan Shilling created a series of visualisations that were sent to kite-maker, Karl Longbottom, whose job it was to turn our proof-of-concepts into performance-ready physical props.

Noye's Fludde was performed first at the Cirque Jules Verne in Amiens, France, followed by performances at the Théâtre impérial, Compiègne, and Comberton Village College, Cambridge. Tom Beg captured ACT's last hurrah in a series of evocative photographs.  You can view Tom's photographs from the original Amiens performance here and here and from the UK performances here.

The 'pop-up' ark created by Karl Longbottom

The ark in performance at Cirque Jules Verne, Amiens, France, January 2015
The 'fold-out' celestial bodies

The celestial bodies at the finale of Noye's Fludde, Comberton Village College, Cambridge, March 2015

Karl Longbottom with the fold-out rainbow

The rainbow in performance at Cirque Jules Verne, January 2015

From the outset, our involvement with ACT has been an invigorating creative adventure. It has changed the way we think about CGI and its applications and opened up fascinating discussions about the breath, depth and diversity of our students' skillsets.  I've never been more convinced that the staff, students and graduates of Computer Animation Arts represent a real creative force to be reckoned with; we can make animations, we can make art from data, manifest physical entities from vertices and polygons, we can collaborate and join forces - we can communicate, visualise and 'imagineer'.  In short, we can accomplish extraordinary and surprising things.

So, the curtain has closed on ACT, but I can announce another great big speculative project-in-the-offing.  The ONE project stands for the 'Orchestra Network Of Europe' and represents a new adventure for Computer Animation Arts in cross-discipline collaboration.  Very soon, we will be working again with some of Europe's finest orchestras and musicians, devising new and  fascinating relationships between art, music and performance.  Watch this space, ladies and gentlemen; something tells me you ain't seen nothing yet!

The last word...

To all our students - the very best of luck for the final push! 'Be Amazing!'

'Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort.' John Ruskin.