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PWTM 31/05/2015

Welcome one and all to this latest edition of the Computer Animation Arts Post With The Most, which has an end of term feel about it; the computer suites are certainly quieter - though our tenacious third years remain welded to their respective work-stations, as they prepare for their stint at New Designers 2015 (more about this later) - and the corridors and stairwells have lost some of their bustle.  You can still find a smattering of year two students camped out in front of our computers, as they complete work for their internships with Butch Auntie, and recent ad-hoc film screenings of The Silence Of The Lambs, Twelve Monkeys and The Goonies have even enticed some first years back on campus.

All the way back in February, my first year students had their first encounter with the always exuberant Dr Peter Klappa, bioscientist at the University of Kent, who commissioned them to devise and execute their very first CGI animation.  It was a daunting task - not least because Dr Klappa had challenged them to pick from a series of text book biological life-cycles and from them create original animations likely to engage new audiences who might otherwise turn up their noses at the prospect of learning science.  Dr Klappa's enthusiasm for our students' work was rapturous - and shared by the course team; it never ceases to amaze how a cohort of creatives can a) soak up and then disseminate successfully bioscientific information not in anyway linked with their own discipline and b) resolve so many diverse and imaginative ways of translating the science into engaging, animated content. Our year one students enjoyed many personal triumphs during this final project, and I'm sharing here a small selection of their work.

Jack White - Lifecycle Of Slime Mold

Julien Van Wallendael - Tales From Under The Skin / The Hookworm

Bud / Rendered still / Ella Pinnington

Charlie Serafini - Life Cycle Of Malaria

Lifecycle of Malaria / Rendered stills #1 / Charlie Serafini

Lifecycle of Malaria / Rendered stills #2 / Charlie Serafini

Lifecycle of Malaria / Rendered stills #3 / Charlie Serafini

Lifecycle of Malaria / Rendered stills #4 / Charlie Serafini

Ryan Brand - The Invasion

Emma Morley - Influenza

While our first years wrangled with hookworms, viruses, and the reproductive habits of slime (and not forgetting the vagaries and vexations of Autodesk Maya!), our year two students were wrestling with their most ambitious and technically sophisticated project to-date.  Adaptation is a project that truly augurs the increased level of creative and technical challenge posed by the Minor and Major projects of year 3.  It is a big, heavy-hitting and exacting project in which our students begin to feel their way towards their specialisms; one-to-one tutorials encourage students to revisit their weaknesses and acknowledge any bad-habits standing between them and greater success. Adaptation champions quality over quantity and requires students to screw their courage to the sticking place and exceed their own expectations.  It's a difficult, demanding project, but one that turns second years into third years.  Enjoy this small selection of work from a particularly hard-working year group - all of whom have the potential to achieve great things in their final year.

Tom Boothby The Witch's Cottage

The Witch's Cottage / Rendered still #1 / Tom Boothby

The Witch's Cottage / Rendered still #2 / Tom Boothby
The Witch's Cottage / Rendered still #3 / Tom Boothby

The Witch's Cottage - excerpt

Ant Faulkner - Murphy

Murphy / Turnaround / Ant Faulkner
Murphy / Rendered pose / Ant Faulkner

Danny RollingsPersonifying The Periodic Table (Helium)

Personifying The Periodic Table - Art Of

Ruby Newland - A Spell Goes Boom

Sukhvinder Ghai - King Azaz from The Phantom Tollbooth

King Azaz / Rendered still #1 / Sukhvinder Ghai
King Azaz / Rendered still #2 / Sukhvinder Ghai

King Azaz - Turnaround

Will Huntley - Wacky Races / Corporate Edition

Coca-Cola Monster Truck / Rendered still / Will Huntley

Monster Truck turnarounds

Heidi Grover - Briar Rose

Briar-Rose development #1

Briar-Rose development #2

Briar-Rose test renders #1
Briar-Rose test renders #2

The Making Of Briar-Rose

New Designers is the UK's most significant showcase of newly graduated talent, and as of writing, our final year students (and soon-to-be-graduates) have returned to their final year work in readiness for the London show.  It takes courage, perseverance and impressive levels of professionalism to go back to a creative project with a view to enhancing it, and our current third years have these qualities in spades.  So not yet for these hardworking individuals the euphoria of having nothing whatsoever to do or no deadline to meet.  It's back to the grindstone to tweak, polish, and refine.  I can however share a selection of prime cuts from our third year submission - initial edits, showreels and stills - and in this way, whet your appetites for next month's PWTM - a New Designers Special Edition, showcasing the very best from our Class of 2015 and previewing what visitors to ND2015 will see on stand number VC12 from Wednesday July 1st to Saturday July 4th.

George Nwosisi - The Silent Story

Edwin Nwosisi from The Silent Story / Rendered still / George Nwosisi

Samantha Niemczyk & Peta-Gaye Brown @ Misty Road Studios - The Erl-King

The Erl-King

The Erl-King - Art Of

Samantha Niemczyk - Character turnarounds

Peta-Gaye Brown - Character turnarounds

The Erl-King / Rendered still / Samantha Niemczyk

The Erl-King's daughter / Rendered still / Samantha Niemczyk

The Son / Rendered pose / Peta-Gaye Brown

Kym Mumford - Piranesi's Prisons

Piranesi's Prisons / Rendered stills #1 / Kym Mumford

Piranesi's Prisons / Rendered stills #2 / Kym Mumford

Emily Clarkson - Morrigan

Morrigan / Rendered still #1/ Emily Clarkson
Morrigan / Rendered still #2 / Emily Clarkson

Emily Clarkson - Showreel 2015

Vikki Kerslake - The Koi & The Crane

The Koi & The Crane / Rendered still / Vikki Kerslake

Koi turnarounds

Crane turnarounds

Steven Payne - Franklin

Franklin / Rendered still #1 / Steven Payne
Franklin / Rendered still #2 / Steven Payne

Franklin / Rendered still #3 / Steven Payne

Franklin - Making Of

Steven Payne - Showreel 2015

Shannon Mason - The Aqua Marines (for game)

Patch from The Aqua Marines / Render + wireframe / Shannon Mason

The Aqua Marines - Characters & Environment 

Saucy postcards are a traditional fixture of the British seaside resort - and none more so than in Whitstable on the Kent coast, where the PostNude 2015 exhibition is celebrating the naked human form in all its shapes and sizes.  Regular followers of the Computer Animation Arts blog will know that our students are well-represented at PostNude 2015, many of whom submitted one or more postcard-sized portraits to the show.  Life-drawing is a key element of the course and creating work for PostNude represented a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the diversity of drawing talent on Computer Animation Arts.

PostNude 2015 / Horsebridge / Whitstable

PostNude 2015 / Horsebridge / Whitstable

PostNude 2015 / Horsebridge / Whitstable

PostNude 2015 / Horsebridge / Whitstable

PostNude 2015 / Horsebridge / Whitstable

In my ongoing commitment to demonstrating the importance of 'making work and putting it where people can see it' and likewise making peace with the inevitability of criticism (constructive and otherwise), I've got some new reviews of Chimera to share.

Published exclusively as ebooks with Troubador back in October 2014, the Chimera series chronicles the continuing adventures of Kyp Finnegan, as he negotiates the pitfalls and perils of an alternate universe populated by a walking, talking menagerie of lost property.

Students reading this - current and prospective - should take comfort and courage from the fact that their tutor is in no way privy to some secret level of expertise or knowledge guaranteeing the superiority or otherwise of his creative output.  It doesn't matter how old you are or how experienced, creating work and letting it go always involves risk and the opportunity for failure - and very probably the likelihood of 'unspecialness' - i.e. the thing you've worked hardest on for the longest time failing to resonate with other people as perfectly or as completely as you might have hoped.

The first book in the series received a fulsome and honest review courtesy of Portugal-based blogger Ana at Ana's Lair, who obviously took time and effort in writing up her responses to the book. You can read the complete review here - but I've extracted the gist of it here:

"Chimera Book One succeeds in transporting the reader to a wondrous world reminiscent of The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland, with a dash of Coraline and Narnia in the mix. The imagery is absolutely stunning... But then I started finding the pace a bit too rushed. There was a lot of running and the characters were constantly almost being caught; I wanted to take a breather and get to know a bit more of the world, so I wished they could have come up with some diversion or something, that would have bought them time to talk about it. This fast pace would then be countered by massive descriptions. They were lovely – part of the strength of this book is precisely those crazy sounding critters and scenarios – but it just caused me to get distracted once I was past that initial awe..." 

As I read Ana's review I found myself nodding phlegmatically: I know the pace of Book One is intense and disorientating (I did it to reflect the confusion experienced by Kyp, and not everyone likes it), and I know too that vivid description is a big part of what I like to do (and what I like in other writers' books).  Truth be told, during the editing of the three Chimera novels, hacking back my own descriptions was a constant battle (Stephen King once said 'The road to hell is paved with adverbs'), and it's clear I wasn't always the victor.

Over at Amazon, reviewer Jamie E. struggles with Chimera's hectic, head-over-heels opener even more so:

"There is no real intro into this book. It is a Wham! Bam! you are in the thick of it and it does not let up for an instant. So it is very fast paced and with short chapters. Lots of action and adventure. It seemed like an odd mix of 'Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium' meets 'Labyrinth,' meets 'Paprika (anime).' All of which I love but it is too much mixed together. Lots of strangeness in a world of Lost Things... Overall, it could have been good had the pace slowed down just a bit and there was less thrown out too early on in the story. There was no building up into anything. We are just tossed right into the thick of things with no end in sight or sense of direction and that just doesn't work for me when I cannot wrap my head around what is happening until over halfway through..."

That said, if I was looking for a bit of reassurance that Chimera isn't so off-putting, I can always take comfort from Ana's review, which summed things up like this:

"In conclusion, the first book of the Chimera trilogy was highly enjoyable, and I will be diving into the next two shortly. This is a world which will suck you right in, and I wish it would be made into a movie or even a series – these critters are just begging to come to life in a screen! Read it, you won’t be sorry."  

This isn't the first time readers have suggested Chimera would make a great film or animation - so, if anyone from LAIKA is reading this...

On July 1st, our final year students will be taking a collective deep breath and likewise opening themselves up to the scrutiny of the big, wide world when they exhibit their graduate work at New Designers 2015.  We always make a bit of an effort to make the very most of this industry-facing opportunity to ensure our graduates and their work make an impact in what is a very busy and highly-competitive showcase.  Last year, we went all 'Summer Exhibition', to reflect the wide-range of creative outputs produced by the graduates of Class of 2014:

New Designers 2014, Business Design Centre, Islington, London

New Designers 2014, Business Design Centre, Islington, London

This year, our stand takes its inspiration from the Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner cartoons - or rather from the fictional mail order corporation beloved by the vexed predator, from where he orders his various ill-fated contraptions in his ongoing attempts to ensnare that speedy blue bird.

The ACME Corporation is your one-stop-shop for rocket-powered roller-skates, instant tornadoes, and kegs of dynamite, and we thought it only appropriate that this proven supplier of animated antics should provide a fitting back-drop to the all the animated antics of our own graduates.

As of writing, the course team and our soon-to-be graduates have a huge amount to organise and make-ready prior to the opening of the ND15 on Wednesday 1st July - until then, here's a sneak peak at what we're hoping to achieve; the 'crates' on the conveyor are housing 40" plasma screens, on which the work of our graduates will play-out - to the delight, we hope, of our hundreds of visitors!

Thanks must go - once more - to CAA alumni, Ethan Shilling, who has been working doggedly behind-the-scenes to visualise our exhibition space in 3D.  Many thanks, Ethan - you're one talented guy.

Stand No. VC12 / Computer Animation Arts @ New Designers 2015 / 3D visualisation by Ethan Shilling

Stand No. VC12 / Computer Animation Arts @ New Designers 2015 / 3D visualisation by Ethan Shilling
Stand No. VC12 / Computer Animation Arts @ New Designers 2015 / 3D visualisation by Ethan Shilling

The Last Word...

To Put One Brick Upon Another

To put one brick upon another, 
Add a third and then a fourth, 
Leaves no time to wonder whether 
What you do has any worth. 

But to sit with bricks around you 
While the winds of heaven bawl 
Weighing what you should or can do 
Leaves no doubt of it at all.

Philip Larkin