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Post With The Most 31/07/2016

After its brief stint as a workshop-come-warehouse, the CAA baseroom has been restored to its more usual serene self.  As I write this preface to the July 2016 edition of the Computer Animation Arts Post With The Most, I'm sitting quietly in the baseroom enjoying the cool and the quiet.  With but a few short days before the CAA course team retire to their cryogenic pods in readiness for the onslaught of the new academic year, I find myself in reflective mood.  We've just waved off our most recent graduates, a moment of the yearly cycle that always gets me thinking about former students and their post-UCA adventures.  Accordingly, this PWTM reunites with a few of our alumni, as we learn about their lives as busy creatives, but before that here's a gratuitous Game Of Thrones-themed portrait of our Class of 2016 at their Sky-sponsored New Designers show - and a look back at our week's residency at the Business Design Centre, Islington, as part of the country's biggest annual showcase of the very best in graduate design from universities around the UK.

CAA's Class of 2016 usurp the Iron Throne at New Designers 2016

CAA's show stand at ND16 #1

CAA's show stand at ND16 #2

CAA's show stand at ND16 #3

CAA's show stand at ND16 #4

CAA's show stand at ND16 #5

CAA's Class of 2016 plus lollipops!

CAA's Class of 2016 vamp it up! A nice bunch and a talented year - you'll be missed.

Sometimes we come back from New Designers with a bit of nice silverware for the Computer Animation Arts' trophy cupboard - and sometimes we don't. This year we didn't garner any of the ND16 gongs to put alongside our trio of wins for Best Stand and previous Screening Award successes, but Sam 'Class of 2016' Cannon's animated short The Daydreamer came runner-up in both categories of the ND Screening Award - the Judge's Choice and the People's Vote. The ND judges visited the stand and took Sam to one side to congratulate him on his film and to offer up some valuable face-to-face careers advice. Later, following the announcement of the People's Vote, Sam was reassured there were 'just a few votes' between his film and the winning entry. No posh certificates then in smart black frames, but we're very proud of Sam, so I invite you to journey again with Sam's daydreaming commuter as he encounters traffic light giraffes and postbox jellyfish! Enjoy.

Sam Cannon / CAA Class of 2016 / Runner-up ND Screening Awards / Judges' Choice & People's Choice

Concept painting / The Daydreamer

Concept painting / The Daydreamer

One of the fun jobs following our return from New Designers is always putting together the new course showreel in readiness for the 2017 application cycle, and while not every student is represented by this year's reel (my selection process is predicated largely on 'what does the music want?'),  I hope it goes someway to communicating the vision, ambition and dynamism of all that we're out to achieve here on CAA at UCA Rochester. 

Even before New Designers, 2016 graduate Will Huntley had applied successfully for a position at London's Ignition Creative.  Will's graduate film Espial impressed tutors, external examiners and audiences alike, so it came as little surprise that an employer had spotted his talents too.

Espial / Will Huntley / June 2016

Will's life has changed very quickly, what with the realities of commuting back and forth to London five days a-week and adapting to new colleagues, workflows and environments. The PWTM caught up with him recently and asked for the low-down on his new job:

Will / I am currently working as a part of a graphics team at Ignition Creative in London, a creative agency specializing in film advertising campaigns. The work ranges from creating full theatrical trailers for films, adverts and TV spots for television programs and worldwide digital outdoor campaigns such us billboard screens and posters.

My work days start at 9am and finish at 6pm from Monday to Friday. During these days there is a constant workflow of multiple projects all running at the same time, each one being sent back and forth from the clients with continuously changing requirements for each job. There is a wide range of different creative processes I have to take on for each job, some of these include editing features to get ‘the good bits’ in order to sell the film, creating titles and logos to be used in the job’s trailer, shooting original footage to be used in the campaigns and also occasional prints and posters. The work is heavily After Effects-based but programs such as Photoshop and Cinema 4D are also used from time to time.

At the moment the work is pretty quiet as we have just come out of a very busy period.  There are still a few ongoing projects at the moment, some that I can’t talk about, but others include The Magnificent Seven, War Dogs and the London Film Festival. The main type of work I've been doing is something called 'Digital Out Of Home'. This includes any form of advertising shown in public places such as video billboards at stations and moving posters at shopping centres. 

We have just come out of an extremely busy period working on some massive campaigns for Independence Day Resurgence, The Purge 3 and The Conjuring 2. Just like the projects I’m working on at the moment, my main role revolved around Digital Out Of Home. I was required to edit trailers and sequences from the films into 10, 15 and 20 second mini trailers to be shown in a whole range of locations around the world. This meant creating multiple versions of the edits in different languages to suit each country.

I got my job through directly emailing the company with a copy of my CV and links to my work, asking if they had any openings or internships available. I found that searching for individual companies and locations produced better results than just searching for job titles. A few days after sending the email I was offered an interview. Being a creative agency, the interview was very relaxed. It was more of a casual chat about general interests, ambitions and previous experience than a formal meeting. After a second interview with the head of the London company I was offered the job and started a few days later.

We asked Will about his time on Computer Animation Arts and if he had any advice for CAA's current crop of students, and also for his fellow alumni who might be feeling a bit demotivated by the ups and downs of searching for jobs:

Will / I think some of my fondest memories from UCA is the feeling of accomplishment when finishing a project. It’s a great feeling to look back and see how an idea for a project has developed and evolved over time into a finished piece of work. It’s also nice to watch other people’s work grow and appreciate how far everyone’s come since their first projects on the course.

My advice would be to not nit-pick if you don’t have time. It’s good to have a high attention to detail but don’t get hung up and waste time on unimportant elements when there are a lot more pressing sections that need doing in your project. Create your own deadlines and be strict with sticking to them. Then, if you have time at the end go back and try to improve the things you’re not quite happy with.

One of the things I was discussing with the people who interviewed me was that one of the main reasons they hire the people they do is based on their personality and if they are the type of character who would fit into their company.  They’d rather employ someone who is going be a part of the team than someone who is going to sit in the corner.  My advice would be to not totally rely on your work to get the job; big yourself up as a person as well.

Patience is a virtue. Stick with whatever problem or difficult time you’re in and push through until you’re out the other side and where you want to be. Nothing's forever; whether it’s searching for jobs, battling through Maya issues, or learning new skills. I’ve learnt that eventually all the hard work and perseverance pays off.

Emily Clarkson & Churchill Ongere / Greener Pastures and the Colours of Youth / February 2016

The last time Emily 'Class of 2015' Clarkson was featured in the PWTM it was by way of showcasing her participation in the MASK project, which saw Emily and five other CAA grads collaborating with young Kenyan artists in order to bring their prizing-winning drawings, paintings and collages to life. The resulting animations were first exhibited at UCA Rochester's Zandra Rhodes Gallery and then at the prestigious Turner Contemporary, Margate.  Since then, Emily has been keeping very busy indeed and the PWTM grabbed some downtime to find out a little more.

Emily Clarkson / CAA Class of 2015

CAA / What have you been up to, Emily?

Emily / I have been working as a freelancer recently with visual artist Pete Wallace, who produces bespoke audio-visual shows and projection mapping services.  I have been creating 2D animations for various client events.

Projection mapped visuals at London's Natural History Museum #1

CAA / Describe a day in the life of 'CAA alumni Emily Clarkson'...

Emily / So far my freelance roles have meant that I work from home. I start work at around 9am, checking all messages via text, voicemail or email.

I’m usually given a short brief of what my particular tasks are on the project and just set to work. I’m occasionally required to research and pool relevant information or imagery before getting to any designing, animating or compositing. Quite often I am asked to create animations using existing imagery or assets provided by the client. I then transform those resources to fit the needs of the project before animating them into a final clip.

The length of the working day is dependent on how urgently the job must be completed and the scale of the project. The level of responsibility varies from job to job. There have been a number of late nights and occasionally non-existent weekends.

CAA / What are you working on at the moment?

Emily / I’m currently illustrating an infographic for projection on a company building's atrium wall.  I am also on alert for a larger project, which is due to start soon.

CAA / Tell us about some of your previous projects.

Emily / So far I have worked on a few private functions in which animations are projected as DJ set backgrounds. More recently I worked on a vintage circus themed animation to go behind a live band. I helped take part in animating backgrounds for a theatre production. I also helped create a few segments of animation to be projected on the back wall of the Natural History Museum! And most recently I animated a nighttime storybook-like environment for an extra wide screen (8000 pixels wide) at a disco for toddlers.

Projection mapped visuals at London's Natural History Museum #2

Projection mapped visuals at London's Natural History Museum #3

Projection mapped visuals at London's Natural History Museum #4

CAA / What was it like just after you graduated?

Emily / Following New Designers 2015 I took a holiday.  Toward the end of August I was hit with the fear of ‘Am I good enough to get into this industry?’ I had no idea where to start; I find trying to ’get out there’ really quite hard. I sent my showreel to a few companies before getting an offer to hop in on a project with Pete.

I have enjoyed an array of projects, though the work hasn’t been constant. Jobs have ranged from a week to a month long and all have been paid work. One difficulty working from home is the lack of physical communication and general interaction while working. You end up stuck in your head in familiar surroundings for very long periods. Differentiating between work time and personal time can get a bit blurry. I rather miss the studio environment.

Being a freelance animator can be like waiting for a bus in the beginning when you haven’t got many clients. You might have one client sending you work fairly frequently, then it dries up for a bit, at which point you start to worry whether this is a sustainable way to live. Other times you can receive several job offers at once!

CAA / What are your fondest memories of your times on Computer Animation Arts?

Emily / One of the coolest moments for me on CAA is the ‘its ALIVE’ moment. Whenever I completed a character rig and animated them for the first time and they appeared to take a life of their own, it felt like an achievement. The end of term ‘Tombola of Dreams’ and pub have always been fond memories. I was incredibly lucky with prizes on a few occasions. And it was great knowing all donations would pay forward into the New Designers fund for the year groups ahead. Going to New Designers is one of my proudest memories. It was an incredible week commuting the Business Design Centre in London, with our award-winning ACME factory stand, talking to the public about our work. The whole team was so supportive of one another.  My favourite memories were the trip to Barcelona in Feb 2015. We crammed A LOT into four days. There are inside jokes that still make me smile now. And the sights and the places we visited were absolutely amazing. The Pixar exhibition in particular was incredibly inspiring.

Circus visuals for projection #1

Circus visuals for projection #2

CAA / Any advice for our third years as they contemplate their final year project?

1 / Create a realistic project schedule and stick to it as best you can.

2 / If you hit a problem, don’t sit on it.  Find help straight away.

3 / If you choose to do a year long project, don’t be complacent. You NEED to power through your pre-production phase early on. It might seem like ages, but Christmas comes around ridiculously fast and you’ll find yourself with two weeks or less to do a LOT of work for the minor project deadline.

4 / Try not to leave the sound design till the last second. Sound design heightens your visuals!

5 / Start building your ‘art of’ before the final weeks. The ‘art of’ inevitably takes FAR longer than you expect. Also, this time, operate on the assumption you’ll have your art printed into a book for New Designers. Put in the time to create your own professional looking ‘art of’ layouts.

CAA / Any advice for our recent graduates?

Emily / If you’re lucky enough to land freelance work, always over-deliver. It’ll be the extra stuff you brought to the table clients and employers remember.

Network and stay disciplined about it. Be persistent. Wave to the companies you’d like to work for to show them you’re out there. Send work and ask for feedback, not necessarily a job straight away. And don’t just do it once. Every so often make contact and let them know what you’re up to. You might send them something that one day they’ll want to emulate and give you a ring.

CAA / And if you had one golden rule for life-after-UCA what would it be?

Emily / I have two golden rules. Keep learning. Keep practicing. Speaking from personal experience, when you have a lull in creativity it can be really hard trying to get back into the swing of things. Don’t stop trying to learn new skills. Keep up the creativity- drawing, digital paints, Maya experiments. Have a little doodle each night. In the long run these little experiments could be a winning piece in your portfolio.

Character Blocks  / Anita Gill

CAA alum Anita Gill graduated in July 2013 and her final year animations were distinguished by their celebration of pattern, of decorated surfaces and clean, graphical abstraction.  Avis was a fantasia on a theme of birds and Yatara-Nu evoked childhood memories of India.  Anita's talents enriched CAA's ACT collaboration, wherein a good number of her Photoshop speed paintings informed the design of our La Création du monde animation.  The PWTM recently caught up with Anita and asked for the low-down on her busy freelance life and requested too some pearls of wisdom for our current students and recent graduates...

Anita Gill / CAA Class of 2013

Anita / I'm currently working as a freelance motion designer, both in-house and remotely. I rent a desk in London alongside other designers and animators. I was lucky enough to find this space and meet these people through a motion design internship last year. I was always pretty certain I wanted to be in a full-time creative job rather than freelancing, but being in this environment feels like you are part of an encouraging, creative community whilst still enjoying the perks on freelancing. We break up the days by running around with nerf guns, so it's a really fun place to be!

The studio where Anita rents a desk

My days can be very different from one day to the next. It all depends on what projects are on the go. Most days I'm in the studio working on personal projects and on the hunt for new opportunities. I also work with the guys in the studio on any current projects. Other times I can be working in-house at a motion studio. It's really great to always be working on something new but it can also be tough and challenging at times.

At the moment I am working on new GIFs for my portfolio. GIFs are perfect for creating short little experimental loops or narratives rather than getting caught up on one animation for months on end.

Faces / Anita Gill

Earlier this year I was working as a designer and animator for 'A live re-staging of The Beatles at Abbey Road Studios' arena tour. We were required to create animations for 60+ songs that were projected onto gauzes around the performers. I was part of the project from idea generation through to working on-set at rehearsals. It was so rewarding to be able to see my work projected and to see the reactions of others on set. Another, was animating a TV ident for Turner's new pop-up children's channel, Hoolee. This was one of my first experiences with Cinema 4D and I had no idea where to start with the technical side of the brief. It was really challenging but I learnt a lot and the client was very happy with the outcome.

Animated visuals at The Beatles at Abbey Road Arena Tour #1

Animated visuals at The Beatles at Abbey Road Arena Tour #2
Even though I was excited for the start of my new creative journey, the first year was very tough. I spent most of my time unsure of what direction I wanted to go in or what to create for my portfolio. I was spreading myself thin between creative fields, so even though I was applying for creative roles, it didn't lead to much apart from a few freelance opportunities. I worked through it and finally got an internship exactly a year after I exhibited at New Designers. From then, I have worked on some exciting projects, met inspiring creatives and I feel constantly motivated to work on my portfolio.

Tentacle / Anita Gill

I always loved being part of a community during my time on Computer Animation Arts.  The social aspect was fun but more importantly, it was comforting and encouraging to know that people were supporting each other regardless of what year they were in.

Be open, confident and experimental. It is the perfect time for you to explore a specific area you are interested in, so enjoy it and make the most of the help and feedback from those around you.

There will be points when you can feel a little down and start questioning your career choices as it can initially be tough not having the routine of uni. Those thoughts are completely normal, so try not to feel disheartened and stick at it! Things will start falling into a place, whatever direction you choose to go in.

Character Heads / Anita Gill
Keep creating! Experimenting and pushing yourself keeps you creative and constantly improving. Share your work on social media platforms, follow other artists you like and let them know why you like something. There’s a community out there for most creative specialisms. 

Find and follow Anita via her website, via Instagram and on Behance.

Denoria (after Richard Deacon) / Deanna Crisbacher / December 2015

It makes an old tutor very happy when students return to their projects in their own time, thus disproving the idea that students somehow stop being creative or driven the moment term ends and Summertime begins.  Soon-to-be-a-second year Dee Crisbacher revisited her What If Metropolis project this Summer, turning a single Maya render into a short animated sequence, allowing us a closer look at her Richard Deacon-inspired settlement, Denoria.

Denoria animated / Deanna Crisbacher / June 2016

CAA Yr 1 concludes with students commissioned by a bioscientist to transcribe bioscientific scenarios into engaging, dynamic animations.  Disappointed that he was unable to more completely bring his vision to life for the end-of-year submission, Mark Bridgland spent a good part of his Summer putting the finishing touches to Invaders From The Outside World - his sci-fi skewed iteration of the 'how the body fights infections' scenario, which is presented here for the first time.

Invaders From The Outside World / Mark Brigand / July 2016

Above and beyond all the regular challenges of the CAA academic year, our creative community began work on our collaboration with the Orchestra Network for Europe by undertaking a 'speed paint challenge' by which to visualise the instrument groups identified within Benjamin Britten's beloved Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra as a series of extraordinary cities.  This imaginative undertaking is phase one of our creation of a seventeen minute animation to accompany live performances of Britten's YPGTTO in venues across Europe, beginning in Summer 2017.  Phase two is two-fold; a script is being written by which to structure more completely our intentions for the animation, and research and development is underway in terms of identifying the animation's technical DNA.  CAA lecturer, Jordan Buckner and CAA graduate/freelancer Ethan Shilling are currently devising a series of explorations using Maya to emulate the art-style of some of the original speed paintings - including this example by soon-to-be-year-three student, Julien Van Wallendael, whose 'mid-century modern' abstractions for Britten's Harp section we found so exciting.

The Harp District Speed Paint / Julien Van Wallendael

Julien Van Wallendael's Harp District speed paint as a Maya set #1 / Jordan Buckner

Julien Van Wallendael's Harp District speed paint as a Maya set #2 / Jordan Buckner

Harp District Maya test #1  / Jordan Buckner

Harp District Maya test #2 / Jordan Buckner

Harp District Maya test #3 / Ethan Shilling

In what amounts to something of a course tradition, the moment CAA winds down for the Summer is the same moment that its course leader winds up in a creaky dark house in his ongoing efforts to bring about phantasmagoria using the simplest of means.  In previous years, I've worked in the velvety dark of the 'old French House' - a location conducive to long exposure photographic high-jinx on account of the complete lack of light pollution.  This year, I was fortunate enough to be granted access to another 'old dark house', in Kent this time, its many empty derelict rooms effortlessly atmospheric with their peeling floral wallpapers and crumbling brick.   I was rather up against it in terms of the short nights - dark at 10pm, light again at 5am - so I locked myself in and pulled off an intense all-nighter, subsisting on a diet of Red Bull and handfuls of almonds...  The house's large, shutterless windows meant 'light pollution' from street lights was unavoidable, but I knew immediately this was going to be a big plus in terms of image-making, and that I could exploit the mosaicking of orange light to my advantage.   I'm sharing here a small selection of some of the resulting photographs taken during that one wild-eyed night, some of which may go forward to be part of Semblance at Whitstable's Horsebridge, in which I'll be exhibiting once again with artists Philip Cooper and Phill Hosking.  Meanwhile, you can see a more complete set of photographs here.

Phil Gomm / July 2016

Phil Gomm / July 2016

Phil Gomm / July 2016

Phil Gomm / July 2016

Phil Gomm / July 2016

Phil Gomm / July 2016

Phil Gomm / July 2016

Phil Gomm / July 2016

Phil Gomm / July 2016

The Final Word...

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time."
John Lubbock


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