Wednesday, November 30, 2016

CAA Cinema: The Squibbening

Some of you may recall how, as a child, I was fascinated by prosthetics, creating my own blood and gore effects, and faking my own gruesome death... Looks like I'm not the only one!

Post With The Most 30/11/2016

And so it begins - first comes the John Lewis Christmas advert, next, the John Lewis Christmas advert parodies.  Sofa companies everywhere are promising you can have that hateful marshmallow of a three-piece suite delivered to your home in time to accommodate grandma's Port and Lemon-induced coma. It can only mean one thing: November is over, December is here.  

As another month is consigned to history, another spankingly new edition of the Computer Animation Arts PWTM goes live.  Despite the efforts of John Lewis and co, it's still too soon to break out the Christmas similes, so I won't yet be comparing the PWTM to an over-stuffed christmas stocking brimming with eye candy, but I will say that it's all much more exciting than a dog on a trampoline!

We're focusing on our year three students this month, who are all motoring along quite nicely. You'll meet Cat Barber and Julien Van Wallandael who, working together as Tsygan Productions, are creating an animated musical short about a luminous extra-terrestrial starlet.  Tumo Mere is devising assets for a gaming concept wherein obsolete technologies must work together to win the day.  A small throw-away remark about insomnia was all Charlie Serafini needed to originate a macabre idea for an animated short in which a pyjama-ed little boy does battle with his bed, which he's convinced is trying to devour him.  Emma Morley - CAA final year student and busy mother of three - has put her youngest to work, whose audio-recorded musing are the basis for her final film. Sankavy Balasingam's final project introduces us to the irascible and vampish, Vadrastreia - Queen of the Mosquitos, who will be guiding her captive audience through the whys and wherefores of the lifecyle of Malaria. Beccy Patterson's protagonist is Curi - a sophisticated AI unit, abandoned by its human masters for being 'too human', who is preparing to soliloquize. Ghengis the space-pug is the star of Max Ashby's animation-in-the-offing, a plucky, if accidental cosmonaut who, in his quest to save his chew toy, makes an altogether more profound discovery.  Julia Mason is re-visiting childhood memories, requiring her to re-materialise potent objects from her past - including her grandmother's trifle - while Jack White continues his adaptation of Roger McgGough's strange, sad and slightly sinister poem, The Sound Collector.  Eva Pinnington is bringing to fruition her epic vision of an alternate Dune-like universe, where feisty young women straddle giant beetles and ride them fearlessly into battle, and Mark Stamp is giving life to Four - an amphibious quadruped born from a cocoon.

The Mosquito Queen / Concept painting 'The Queen's Castle'  / Sankavy Balasingam

The Mosquito Queen / Concept painting #1  / Sankavy Balasingam

The Mosquito Queen / Concept painting #2  / Sankavy Balasingam

Stellar / Development sketches #1 / Tysgan Productions

Stellar / Development sketches #2 / Tysgan Productions

Stellar / Development sketches #3 / Tysgan Productions

Stellar / Development sketches #4 / Tysgan Productions

Stellar / Development sketches #5 / Tysgan Productions

Stellar / Development sketches #6 / Tysgan Productions

Stellar / Development sketches #7 / Tysgan Productions

Bedtime Story / Boy orthograph / Charlie Serafini

Bedtime Story / Boy 3D model progress #1 / Charlie Serafini

Bedtime Story / Boy 3D model progress #2 / Charlie Serafini

Bedtime Story / Boy 3D model progress #3 / Charlie Serafini

Bedtime Story / Boy 3D model progress #4 / Charlie Serafini

Bedtime Story / Boy 3D model UV layout completed  / Charlie Serafini

Bedtime Story / Boy 3D model rigging / Charlie Serafini

Moore's Law / Faai concept sketch / Tumo Mere

Moore's Law / Environment concept sketch / Tumo Mere

Moore's Law / Faai meets  the original machine concept sketch / Tumo Mere

That's all / Lions & Cows animatic (wip) / Emma Morley

Soma / Bastet development #1 / Eva Pinnington

Soma / Bastet development #2  / Eva Pinnington

Soma / Bastet development #3  / Eva Pinnington

Soma / Mada development #1 / Eva Pinnington

Soma / Mada development #2 / Eva Pinnington

Soma / Poachers development #1  / Eva Pinnington

Soma / Poachers development #2  / Eva Pinnington

The Last Curiosity / Female AI development sketches / Becky Patterson

The Last Curiosity / Male AI development sketches / Becky Patterson

The Last Curiosity / Curiosity character design / Becky Patterson

Mark Stamp

Four / Four creature development sketches #1 / Mark Stamp

Four / Four creature development sketches #2 / Mark Stamp

Four / Four concept painting / Mark Stamp

Four / Four 3D Model #1 (wip)  / Mark Stamp

Four / Four 3D Model #2 (wip)  / Mark Stamp

Julia Mason

Big Red Hand Print / Trifle test render / Julia Mason

Genghis The Space Pug / Genghis expression sheet / Max Ashby

Genghis The Space Pug / Genghis model sheet / Max Ashby

The Sound Collector / Animatic / Jack White

In and amongst all this feverish activity, work continues on CAA's seventeen minute animated adaptation of Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra.  Our ongoing progress is always updated on the CAA/ONE blog, but here's a few recent highlights.

YPGTTO :Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / Red expression sheet / Julian Van Wallandael

CAA alum and all-round Maya-marvel, Ethan Shilling has been very busy translating Julien Van Wallendael's charming character design for Red into an animation-ready 3D model.  If you want a proper insight into the effort it takes to make Maya look effortless, then go here for a full explanation - suffice to say, turning a squashy-stretchy line art character into a 3D asset has been far from straightforward, but Ethan has prevailed (yet again!).

YPGTTO :Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / Red 3D model / Ethan Shilling

YPGTTO :Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / Red 3D model turnaround / Ethan Shilling

Elsewhere, CAA lecturer, Jordan Buckner continues to hone the look of YPGTTO's respective districts, where the architecture mimics the instrument groups that give each district their name.

YPGTTO :Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / Oboe District towers / Jordan Buckner

YPGTTO :Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / Bassoon District towers / Jordan Buckner

Samantha 'Class of 2015' Niemczyk has been working tirelessly to turn the YPGTTO script into a working animatic.  It's been no small task, but Sam's nearly there.  I'm sharing the penultimate episode here while Sam puts the finishing touches to the big finale!

Episode 15: The Percussion District – Red & The Construction Site

"Red is all alone on a detail-free background, when, from directly above him a large hook descends. It’s the sort of hook you might expect to find on a construction site – i.e. not scary, more slapstick! The hook drops behind Red. The hook now lifts Red from the floor – much to his surprise! – and winches him out of frame..."

YPGTTO :Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / Episode 15: The Percussion District – Red & The Construction Site animatic  / Samantha Niemczyk

In other news...  A few days ago, CAA Yr 2 student, Joe Crouch approached me to say he would be unable to attend one of our scheduled film screenings, something about him having to attend the premiere of Fantastics Beasts & Where To Find Them...  When I enquired further, it turns out he'd been offered free tickets to attend on account of his secret double-life as film-reviewer and podcaster.  "Tell me everything!" I insisted excitedly, and Joe very kindly obliged...

Joe / The Werd is a Film, TV, Comic & Culture site, a project I’ve wanted to embark on for the best part of the year, and one that has been active since March. It’s a blog that spawned out of an informal film and culture debate podcast I’d been running with a friend/bandmate/old colleague, and as such, is a mix of disciplines and tastes, ranging from Pulp and B-Movie reviews to arthouse cinema. Blogging is a culture I’ve been part of for about 5 years. I’d been freelancing for two sites prior to joining UCA, and had always liked the idea of creating my own blog and effectively “Working for myself”. So that’s exactly what I went out and did. 

It really stemmed from two reasons; one, my need to have a writing gig over the summer so that I could continue to develop different styles of writing and develop my skills with critiquing a different array of media. And two, because the idea of getting given free stuff just for writing about them sounded great! I could pay for things with words - in theory.

(And I have been, I get weekly emails from companies like 2000 A.D, OniPress & Alterna Comics, plus I’ve been invited to several premieres for films - including an impromptu trip up to Blackpool when I was given tickets to the Star Trek experience and a showing of Star Trek Beyond with a champagne gala preceding it. And I’ve also had the good fortune to be offered interview opportunities with filmmakers/actors. Most recently I’ve been offered tickets to the London BFI film festival. I’m bragging a tiny bit but mostly I’m in total shock that any of this has happened.)

So I allied myself with a few people who had run a site of this nature before, learned all that I could about marketing, and the correct way in which to approach the right companies in order to get on their radar and develop a working relationship with them and continued from there. At the blogs height I had a team of 4 people including myself, and it became apparent that I’d have to adopt a role with more responsibility in order to ensure that I had content coming out each week as it was determined that in order to create a following for ourselves, we had to be present in the community. 

To me, the essence of why I review things is that I have a compulsion to orate, the need to write, but more innocently, to connect with people and share the things that I’ve enjoyed with them. Though secondarily there seems to be this troubling trend in contemporary reviewing technique where a film, or any piece of media for that matter, is not judged on its own merits, or indeed any of the content inside the actual film, but instead by issues surrounding them - or which counterculture they’re offending this time. This is certainly interesting academically, but it also serves to dissuade the audience for reasons that might not matter to most. This is perhaps best seen in the “Ghostbusters” reboot, where it suffered this strange ‘meta’ conversation around the creative choices Paul Feig had made and annoyed a lot of people before anyone had even seen it etc; It’s anomalous writing like that where the focus is misplaced that pushes me to shed light on what - in my opinion at least - paid reviewers should be focusing on - the film itself. 

In terms of total content of The Werd, we focus just as much on Comics as we do on Film, and this has been particularly useful for me in terms of seeing how a scene is laid out on a page, and how a story is paced within the context of a traditionally short form of storytelling. Comics (and in a lot of cases not necessarily the ones concerning Superheroes) are an extremely useful tool in developing your cinematic understanding as much as films are. We’re my understanding at least, one of the only blogs out there that critique movie posters like fine art - this feature, dubbed “WERD/ART” started off as a complete joke, but ended up being quite informative once I’d begun to pull apart these posters to see what made them succeed or fail. 

I don’t think I would have ever dreamed of creating had I not also been part of CAA; before the course I wasn’t equipped with the confidence to take charge on something like this. Even thinking about micromanaging a small team in order to get the best out of them would have seemed daunting back then. It’s no secret that the course has fostered a growing voice in me, and it’s something that is continuing to grow.

The entire experience of creating The Werd has brought with it some benefits to my work on the course. There are tricks that I’ve learned through doing this that can be adopted in order to maximise your reach on twitter and other social media feeds in order to get your work out there and seen. And when thought about in basic terms, growing a brand for a site like this is no different to growing a brand for your own art blogs, save for the audience you’re catering for, and it’s something that I remember was very important and stressed by Phil multiple times in Year 1 - You must get your branding sorted; so there’s this weird little co-dependency and growth of skills that transfer between university life and separate projects and in pursuing both ventures I’ve learned a lot. It’s also instilled in me the confidence to go out there and talk to people in the industry, doing this has really dispelled the myth around talking to professionals and boosted my confidence in that regard. 
My advice to anyone thinking about getting into blogging is this - Don’t review TV shows - I spent two weeks watching 60 episodes of The Flash, Arrow & Legends of Tomorrow, and I don’t think my mind has recovered quite yet. 

If you’re interested in writing for The Werd, send me an email over at

Still from La création du monde / Tom Beg, Jordan Buckner from an original painting by Emma 'Class of 2014' Foster.

And finally... on the 4th December, CAA course leader, Phil Gomm is off on a road trip to Slovakia, reunited once more with Keith Burden of Clever Projections, as together, they take CAA's muti-collaborative animation, La création du monde, back on the road.  Originally created as part of a previous European-funded projectLa création du monde was last screened in concert venues in Abbeville and Hirson, France in December 2015.

Preparing for the screening at Abbeville, France, December 7th 2015

This time, we're working with the Slovak Sinfonietta and screening the animation to their live accompaniment at the Concert Hall, Zilinia.  Look out for next month's PWTM for a full showcase of the event.

Concert Hall, Zilina, Slovakia

La création du monde / Tom Beg & Jordan Buckner 

The Final Word...

“Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from - it’s where you take them to."

Jim Jarmusch

Monday, November 28, 2016

FAO CAA Year 2 and 3: Staff Absence

Year 2 & 3 Students

Unfortunately I'm not well and therefore will not be in the University tomorrow (Tuesday 29th November). Justin's classes however will take place as normal. Any students needing urgent advice please feel free to email me or leave and '@Alan' post on your blog. 

Thanks Alan

Sunday, November 27, 2016

FAO Everyone: Phil Not Around On Monday

Dear all - just letting you know I'm not around on Monday (tomorrow), as I'm chugging through the Year 3 draft dissertations before my UCA trip to Slovakia at the end of next week.  In again on Tuesday, as per normal.  See you then!  If you let people know via your respective social networks, I'd appreciate it.  Many thanks.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

CAA One-A-Day: Grand Theft Auto for Kids (Adaptation inspiration?)

Animated short mashing GTA with the style of Dora the Explorer, with amusing and frankly twisted results. Could even be a little bit o fun inspiration for upcoming 2nd year Adaptation projects :)