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Post With The Most 30/09/2016

There's a posh word - interstice - that means the gap between things, which characterises this month's Post With The Most.  Computer Animation Arts has just welcomed thirty-one new first years into its community.  Everywhere is busy again as briefings abound, but it's early days and everyone is re-finding their feet.  We're in the moment just before an explosion of creative activity lights up our community of blogs.  It's like the intake of breath before some fabulous aria or the second-or-so before a firework opens out so brilliantly against the night sky...

The first year experience kicks off with our perennial summer project challenging incoming new recruits to conjure 101 original creations from a miscellany of otherwise inanimate objects.  It's always a joy to see the sheer diversity of outcomes and this is a tiny selection of what our newbies came up with...

It all starts here - the original object sheets

Thumbnails / Dave McCleery

Final life-form / Dave McCleery

Final Machine / Dave McCleery

Life form thumbnails / Michael Brook

Final machine/ Anastasija Stelcova

Ruth Cann

Final machine/ Ruth Cann

Thumbnails / Alex Cornwell

Our returning year two students have just commenced their respective studio projects, wherein they collaborate in the creation of an original animated short - with all the creative to-and-fro endemic to a bunch of creative types working together - and compromising - for the first time.  It's very early days, but I can share their studio blogs, where you can follow the incubation of their animations from inaugural ideas to final realisation.

Hecate Productions / Becky Stapley, Eleanor Spence & Danielle Gibbs

The Barber Shop / Lewis Punton, Manisha Dusila & Mark Bridgland

PixiePixels / Krissy Botinova, Pip Harris & Katie Lima

Sugarcube Studios / Dee Crisbacher, Tom Smith & Joe Crouch

D4C Studios / Ian Garling, Aureo Antonio, Brad King & Hannah Kubias

Dinamica Art Industries / Almu Diaz, Beckie Ryan & Tom Ward

Stride Animation / Danni Foley, Tom Mayfield, Rhys Wadmore & Sam Johnson

And while we're on the subject of collaborations... year three students Cat Barber and Julien Van Wallandael will be working together as Tsygan Production for the duration of their final year-long project. 

Last month's PWTM introduced us to Poma, an all-new character featuring in an all-new strand of Year 2 Maya tutorials focusing on alternate approaches to facial animation.

Poma model sheet / Charlie Serafini

Poma expression sheet / Charlie Serafini

Poma was designed for the course by current year three student, Charlie Serafini and readied for dissemination via our online tutorials by senior lecturer and resident Autodesk magician, Alan Postings.  Now all our second year students had to do was bring Poma to life themselves... and so they have!

Poma set-up #1 / Deanna Crisbacher
Poma set-up #2 / Deanna Crisbacher
Poma expresses herself... courtesy of Deanna Crisbacher

Poma expresses herself... courtesy of Mark Bridgland

Poma expresses herself... courtesy of Tom Smith

Poma expresses herself... courtesy of Becky Stapley

Three months sounds like a long time.  It isn't.  It was only three months or so ago that CAA's Class of 2016 threw their mortarboards in the air at London's Royal Festival Hall.  It was only three months ago we took up residency at New Designers 2016.

CAA's Class of 2016

But even in this short time, our recent grads have been working hard at getting the next stage of their lives off the starting blocks.  The transition from student to graduate to employed is never easy and rarely straightforward.  The PWTM caught up with some of our recent graduates and asked them to talk about their experiences of life 'post-UCA'...

First up is Rosalyn Fenton, who's final year film, The Bog-Goblin so delighted younger audiences at New Designers 2016.

Rosalyn 'Class of 2016' Fenton

The Bog Goblin / Rosalyn Fenton / July 2016

Rosalyn / "Since New Designers it has been difficult to stay 'encouraged' about the industry. I can easily say that out of 50 applications I probably received 5 responses all apologising and saying no. This strategy of waiting for a reply wasn't getting me very far and I needed to know why. I was questioning the value and worth of my work and skillset.  So instead I researched a number of studios, finding out who the managerial people were, then finding out their personal email or number.  We got much further with a phone call (or just knocking on the door), just asking for 5 minutes of their time to talk about our employability and any advice they could offer. All studios gave different advice about what to expect and what to do next but everything was positive - we are employable.

During these studio visits, and emailing the contacts made at New Designers, I started to delve into more personal work. I went back to my 2nd Year project 'Character Design' and am currently reinventing Jagteres, now Fauna.  I've also joined a community called Artella - it's a site where people want to make a game/film/animation and need a team to help them produce it. A lot of the work is free but one thing I miss about being a student is being involved with an artistic community.  Being a part of Artella has given me work to do, enriching my CV.

I have done a number of small freelance jobs.  I worked with a Masters student to help storyboard and animate a part of her project.  I actually got that job through those annoying UCA student emails: 'take this survey/ I need help with...!'  I replied, not thinking twice about anything and she hired me.

I know somebody who works at AXA Insurance and they needed me to storyboard and animate a 'Customer Service Lesson', which was incredibly boring but I appreciated the help.  

At New Designers, I met a lovely lady who was a part of the Feather and Black stand (a children's furniture company) and I got chatting and she shared with me that she's interested in making some story books for children that encourage them to sleep.  Since then she has stopped responding but I'm taking the 'commissioned' work and making it my personal work and will go further with it in the future.

Lastly, I am currently freelancing for Infinity House - a virtual reality studio.  For the role I applied for I wasn't actually qualified enough, but they liked how varied I was in terms of skill and software and I got the job. I have just worked on a project for quite a large client I'm not allowed to reveal but it was good fun. I've since done a range of jobs for them, from researching to storyboarding, to making CG Elements in Maya and After Effects.

Overall, I haven't had much of a continuous work flow, but being involved with a art community has helped so much. Employers liked I was constantly doing work, both commissioned and personal and even though the money hasn't been flying in I'm in a happy place!

Below are some links I visit regularly.

Oatley Academy Podcast. I listen to Paper Wings and Stories Unbound to hear how the pros do it and the struggles they went through. It's good to know you're not alone. 

Artella - a number of projects, all weird and wonderful. You can apply for particular positions.

YouTube - Find artists/animators you like.  They sometimes provide playlists of who they listen to too.  For me, it's Happy D ArtistBobby ChiuAaron Blaise and Chris Oatley.

I also subscribe to these sites and e-mags:

Creature Art Teacher -

I'm also going to a story conference in Rome with Chris Oatley and Claire Keane -"

Siggraph 2016, Anaheim, California

Just a few days after finishing at New Designers, Nadia Yadallee flew off to California to participate in the Student Volunteer Programme at Siggraph 2016 in Anaheim.  Siggraph is "the world’s largest, most influential annual event in computer graphics and interactive techniques: Five days of research results, demos, educational sessions, art, screenings, and hands-on interactivity featuring the community’s latest technical achievements, and three days of commercial exhibits displaying the industry's current hardware, software, and services."

Nadia 'Class of 2016' Yadallee

The Siggraph Student Volunteer Programme is highly-selective, and Nadia joins the ranks of other CAA alumni who were successful in their applications to participate at the conference.  I asked Nadia to share her experience with the PWTM:

Nadia / "I had the great opportunity of being a part of the Student Volunteer program this year for Siggraph 2016 in L.A. With a little help from Phil, and UCA for helping towards my travels, I was able to be a part of the amazing experience Siggraph offers.

As a SV, I had to provide assistance for visitors, e.g. handling tickets, directions etc.  I also worked in different departments such as E-Tech and Virtual reality (which was awesome!).  I helped visitors put on motion capture suits, goggles for VR games and even got to try it out for myself! Siggraph was kind enough to provide for SV's special/private talks with Disney and Dreamworks, and even a talk with Liam O'Donnell - writer/producer known for his works for Alien vs Predator: Requiem, Iron Man 2 and Skyline! 

Siggraph also organised a luncheon where you could sit down and eat with the Pixar team members - Initially it was as nerve-wrecking it sounds. However I found enough confidence to engage with some of the team members, who were very friendly and helpful.

There were lots of social events too, such as Siggraph conference parties, meet ups for SV's.  We got free tickets to see the Pixar Renderman Art & Science fair, where Pixar talked about their new release of the rendering software 'Renderman'. We even got free Pixar teapot collectables! 

Nadia Yalladee at Siggraph 2016, Anaheim, California

Ultimately, Siggraph was a great, inspiring experience. It's great for networking and to gain a better understanding of what it's like to be working in the CG industry.  I encourage everyone to sign up, you won't regret it!"

Watch the group blog; when the next call for SVP applicants goes live, I'll share it on here. I suggest you go for it!

Ruby 'Class of 2016' Newland

Ruby Newland tickled audiences at New Designers with her Taxonomy Of Laughter.  Since then, Ruby's been out and about making a name for herself, and when she emailed recently to share some good news, I asked Ruby if we could shout about it on here...

Taxonomy Of Laughter / Ruby Newland / July 2016

Ruby / "I applied for an internship when we graduated and this motion graphics and animation company Grizzle got back to me at the end of July saying could I work on a project for them on Saturdays and Sundays. For the last month I've been animating premiereship football goals every weekend - and they're really popular on social media.

Grizzle recently got back in touch asking if I could work on another project for Max Factor. So I'm kind of working freelance for them now.  So far it's been fun and enjoyable and I hope this little job will help me gain experience for bigger and better things."

It's inspiring to know our most recent graduates are establishing themselves so speedily; what a talented, determined and proactive bunch you are!

Red expression sheet / Julien Van Wallendael

We're not exactly twiddling our thumbs ourselves!  Work on our animated adaptation of Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra continues, with current year three student, Julien Van Wallendael, creating these adorable expression sheets for our protagonists, Red and Yellow, so that Sam 'Class of 2015' Niemczyk could commence the not-inconsiderable job of storyboarding their adventures in our Kingdom Of Sound.

Yellow expression sheet / Julien Van Wallendael

Sam Niemczyk / "Working on the YPGTTO project has been exciting so far. I've always been rather fond of collaborative projects, as I believe a well balanced team stays motivated. In the storyboard/animatic department though, there is a lot of "sitting in silence and figuring out the camera angle" kind of times, but seeing it all come to life later is always very rewarding. 

My initial reaction to the YPGTTO script was very positive. The character, Red, is really charming and easy to relate to. I got the sense of attachement to him from this first appearance and I believe his journey will be very exciting and interesting to follow. 

The project is a big one, with the plan for around 17 minutes of the animation. Sounds overwhelming, but it's important to get over the initial fear of "that's way too much!" and get down to working on it. 

The way I work on such projects is I read a little bit of the script and then close my eyes and imagine it as a final film.  I look for specific reference pictures or try to think about existing movies that give a similar visual feeling and then get down to sketching rough frames. How would the camera move, where would it go and would it be a good and easy to follow experience for a viewer who has not read the script? It's important to make sure it actually works outside of my imagination. 

There is still a lot of work to be done but the thought of this big project, completed by a group of motivated and talented people, in the future seen by hundreds of people, keeps me excited about it and ready to give it 100%!"

Sam has been asked to get her head down and just blast through the process of getting the YPGTTO script onto screen, so that more forensic discussions can begin about composition and type of shot once we can grasp more fully the complete flow of the action.  I'm sharing here five sequential episodes of 'Red & The Kingdom Of Sound' and the script from which Sam has been working so busily.

YPGTTO aka Red & The Kingdom Of Sound
Episode 1 - Outside The Overture & Episode 2 - The Overture

"In this sequence, lifts arrive to take the new arrivals off to the various cities: just listen to the music; you hear 3 booms of the drum; that’s the sound of three elevators dropping with a thud into position. Next you hear a crash of symbols – that’s the sound the doors of the 3 lifts make as they flip open in unison – the crash of symbols is followed by a ‘military-style’ rat-a-tat-tat sound, and that’s the sound of queues of notes marching quickly into each lift. You’ll hear this sequence of musical queues repeat, and then become faster. Think montage editing here; we see a complete repeat of the action described above as it aligns with the repeated motifs (lifts drum down into position, their doors ‘shoosh’ open in unison, the awaiting queues file inside), and then a quicker compression of this action; more lifts, more doors opening, more notes filing into their lifts. This sequence ends, with a final lift opening its doors; we’re now back with red note and his companions. They file inside; as this sequence concludes you hear a last drum roll and shingle-sound of cymbals – and this is the lift door closing – a POV shot from inside the lift, as the door closes…"

Animatic / YPGTTO Episodes 1 & 2 / Samantha Niemczyk 

Episode 3 - Descent & The Flute District

"…The camera exits the clouds to show us the elegant silvered spires of the aerial Flute City. We spiral past them. It’s beautiful here! Below us, we can see some of the notes we arrived here with circling the spires, platforms and steeples as they continue to drift downwards. We can see too how the valves on the sides of the spires are opening and closing in quick succession, mimicking the action of the instruments which they so closely resemble. At around the 15-second mark, you hear the first of two musical flourishes. They remind us of the whistles on steamships or the spouts of water from a whale’s blowhole – indeed, fountains of silvery musical notation are produced suddenly from the tops of some of the city’s spires!"

Animatic / YPGTTO Episode 3 / Samantha Niemczyk 

Episode 4 - A River Ride Through The Oboe District

"It wasn’t a platform or balcony on which red note alighted; it was a gondolier or something very much like one. Red is now drifting between the towers of the Oboe City and we, like the gondolier’s occupant, are given the time and space just to relish the peace and quiet and serenity of this not-quite awake metropolis. 

The sun is rising; the air is golden and gauzy – as impressionist and as gilded as the light in a Thomas Moran-painting. This sequence is a fantasia on a theme of parallax and wipe-cuts, as we move seamlessly and in an unhurried way between a variety of different shots – aerial shots, in which the towers and shimmering waterways abstract effortlessly, become long shots in which red note and his craft are dwarfed by the glinting tube-like structures of the Oboe city’s architecture. Long shots become mid-shots, mid-shots become close-ups, close-ups become abstractions of surfaces and details – and everything feeling dreamlike and silky-smooth."

Animatic / YPGTTO Episode 4 / Samantha Niemczyk 

Episode 5 - Hide & Seek In The Clarinet District

"This short, melancholy sequence tells us that Red is lonely. He sighs and turns his back on the city…

… and sees another musical note – a yellow one – a friend? The yellow note acknowledges Red shyly and then a game of hide and seek commences. The music here is telling us two things: the first is that this is a ‘back and forth’ of shots suggestive of our two characters interacting playfully, the second is that our two characters are climbing upwards as they play. This tells us something about where this sequence is taking place: when Red left the Oboe District and found himself up-high with a view across the Clarinet District he was standing on the terrace-come-balcony of one of the clarinet-like-chimneys. The chimney has a spiraling staircase running around the outside of the structure. It’s up and around this staircase that Red is now following Yellow, with Yellow always a few steps out ahead and always just disappearing around the next curve… By the end of this sequence, Red is at the very top of the chimney and Yellow has vanished. The music here creates a ‘sliding’ sensation, as the spiral staircase becomes suddenly smooth and Red slides all the way back down to street level helter-skelter-style! 

Yellow is back! Red glimpses her disappearing around a corner. The hunt is back on – and again the music tells us that this is a game of cat and mouse, with Yellow always just out of reach. The sequence ends with Red following Yellow into an alleyway or corner, only to discover Yellow has vanished again, but that there is a rather ominous-looking door…"

Animatic / YPGTTO Episode 5 / Samantha Niemczyk 

Episode 6 - Rush Hour In The Bassoon District

"Immediately Red goes through the door, the mood changes: he’s suddenly in a new space dwarfed by other, much larger musical notes that march past him rather threateningly. It’s like he’s walked without warning into the path of some very serious, rather grumpy commuters or city-workers – all huffs and puffs and self-importance (a bit like the bassoon itself!). It’s the morning rush hour in the busy Bassoon District and everyone is too busy and too important to notice the new arrival. The music here is characterized by a series of ‘impacts’ or strikes (as sounded by the violins) and this tells us that this sequence is an opportunity for some arresting montage-edits by which to evoke Red’s disorientation. Imagine that you’re a football and you’ve suddenly materialised on a busy station concourse swarming with city workers who only have eyes on the clock and you’ll have some idea how Red is currently experiencing his abrupt change in surroundings! This sequence ends with the commuters exiting the scene leaving Red literally spinning on the spot!"

Animatic / YPGTTO Episode 6 / Samantha Niemczyk 

The Last Word...

"Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe