I had a conversation recently with a visiting academic from another university who asked me about our course title - Computer Animation Arts. "Why not just Computer Animation?" he asked me.
The conversation took place as we stood outside the CAA baseroom, our backs against the vivid parade of character designs from Heidi 'Class of 2016' Grover's 'Legends Of Grimm' project. Meanwhile, in the baseroom, visiting lecturer, Dan Snelgrove, was putting a group of our year two students through a series of increasingly improbable improvisations in their 'acting for animation' classes. A few doors down, CAA first years were working with Jordan Buckner on the art direction and production design for their current Fantastic Voyage project. Elsewhere, third year students were continuing to put their various CG assets through their paces for animated shorts derived from their own original poems and scripts.
My answer to the visiting academic's question was simple: 'Look around,' I said.
And what better way to underline the course's relationship to traditional creative practices than to begin with a tiny selection of recent work resulting from our weekly life-drawing classes - mandatory for first years, and available to our year two and year three students, alumni and staff as and when the desire takes them for a bit of analogue inkwash and charcoal.
|Robin / Eleanor Spence|
|Robin / Eleanor Spence|
|Robin / Eleanor Spence|
|Alan / Thanachot Singsamran|
|Robin / Thanachot Singsamran|
|Sharon / Ellie Row|
|Sharon / Rachael Holyhead|
|Robin / Rachael Holyhead|
|Robin / Rachael Holyhead|
For CAA Yr 1, it’s crunch time. Since their arrival back in September 2016, they’ve seen a lot, learned a lot and produced a lot – and all of it in preparation for Fantastic Voyage – the final project of year one challenging them to pre-produce, produce and post-produce their first three minute animation for Dr Peter Klappa, lecturer in bioscience at the University of Kent. Dr Klappa asks students to choose between a series of bioscientific scenarios, and then use their burgeoning skillsets as storytellers and cg animators to communicate them to new audiences. This year, it's the cell-cycle, cell division (Mitosis), and Cancer - or 'when cell's go wrong'. Fantastic Voyage always generates a wealth of production art, and here's just a smattering...
|Early storyboard panels / Thanachot Singsamran|
|Concept painting / Thanachot Singsamran|
|Healthy cell & cancer cell character development / Thanachot Singsamran|
|Cancer cell character development #1 / Thanachot Singsamran|
|Cancer cell character development #2 / Thanachot Singsamran|
|Stages of mitosis concept painting #1 / Paris Lucke|
|Stages of mitosis concept painting #2 / Paris Lucke|
|Stages of mitosis concept painting #3 / Paris Lucke|
|'Cells as fish' concept / Greta Mongyik|
|Mitosis thumbnail designs #1 / Maddi Iden|
|Mitosis thumbnail designs #2 / Maddi Iden|
Adaptation is always an exciting and exacting project for our year two students. It’s not quite a blank-page brief, as they have to adapt an existing premise for CGI, but the scope is wide, and this is reflected in the breadth of current projects. Adaptation is always a revealing project, as students begin to develop into their third year selves and settle into their potential specialisms.
|Ludlow Fitch / Character development sketches / Katie Lima|
|Lilly / Character development sketches / Eleanor Spence|
|Sunflower / Character development sketches / Eleanor Spence|
|El Mutante De La Muerte / Character design #1 / Tom Smith|
|El Mutante De La Muerte / Orthographs / Tom Smith|
|El Mutante De La Muerte / Wireframe / Tom Smith|
|El Mutante De La Muerte / 3D Model / Tom Smith|
|Devil's Elixir / Character sheet / Mark Bridgland|
|Dysmorphia / Texturing test #1 / Deanna Crisbacher|
|Dysmorphia / Texturing test #2 / Deanna Crisbacher|
|Dysmorphia / Texturing test #3 / Deanna Crisbacher|
|Dysmorphia/ Texturing test #4 / Deanna Crisbacher|
There’s a growing sense of seriousness among our final year students. This may have something to do with the inexorable countdown posted here on the group blog first thing Monday morning, counting down the remaining days until the hand-in of their final projects. More likely, it’s due to the fact they’re getting results; all those long weeks setting things up are beginning to pay-off. At this stage of the year, each blog update is cause for some excitement, as some new asset is revealed, or pre-viz premiered. Take a look at what they've produced since you last had a read of the PWTM.
|Bloom / Bloom character development sketches / Eva Pinnington|
|Bloom / Cut scene storyboard panels / Eva Pinnington|
|Bloom / Concept painting / Eva Pinnington|
|Chickens / Treacle & Charlie character designs / Ashley Nwachukwu|
|Chickens / Charlie 3D model / Ashley Nwachukwu|
|Genghis / Render test #1 / Max Ashby|
|Genghis / Render test #2 / Max Ashby|
Genghis / 'Dark Matter' development (wip) / Max Ashby
Genghis / Pre-viz (wip) / Max Ashby
|The Secret Of The Mosquito Queen / Castle render test / Sankavy Balasingsam|
|The Secret Of The Mosquito Queen / Throne Room render test / Sankavy Balasingsam|
|The Secret Of The Mosquito Queen / Liver Cell 3D model / Sankavy Balasingsam|
|The Secret Of The Mosquito Queen / Merozoite 3D model / Sankavy Balasingsam|
|The Secret Of The Mosquito Queen / Trophozoite 3D model / Sankavy Balasingsam|
|The Secret Of The Mosquito Queen / Zygote 3D model / Sankavy Balasingsam|
|The Secret Of The Mosquito Queen / All 3D models / Sankavy Balasingsam|
Four / Juvenile Four turnaround / Mark Stamp
|Trimia / Xbox character test render / Jamie Wathen|
|Trimia / Mech test render / Jamie Wathen|
|Trimia / Xbox vehicle test render / Jamie Wathen|
|Trimia / PC Tank test render / Jamie Wathen|
|Moore's Law / Faai finalised character concept / Tumo Mere|
|Moore's Law / Faai concept painting t / Tumo Mere|
Stellar! / Norma Green Lip-synch 1st test / Tsygan Productions
Stellar! / Norma Green scene blocking / Tsygan Productions
Stellar! / Compositing test / Tsygan Productions
Stellar! / After Effects fire animation / Tsygan Productions
Stellar! / Matte painting compositing test / Tsygan Productions
Stellar! / Norma Green full demo test / Tsygan Productions
Bedtime Story / Blanket tentacle animation test #1 / Charlie Serafini
Bedtime Story / Blanket tentacle animation test #2 / Charlie Serafini
Bedtime Story / Pre-viz (wip) / Charlie Serafini
Bedtime Story / Animation test (wip) / Charlie Serafini
Meanwhile, in other news... If you were to visit Eastgate House, Rochester, in a few months time, you might be struck by the uncanny likeness of Sir Peter Buck - former mayor of Rochester - to a certain course leader for Computer Animation Arts. Well, there is a bit of a story there...
'Sir Peter Buck' / Kevin Clarkson / March 2017
Let's get Medway Council's Lisa Caleno to explain:
Lisa Caleno / "Eastgate House is currently undergoing major refurbishment as part of an exciting Heritage Lottery Funded project. This amazing Grade I listed building in the heart of Rochester’s historic high street dates back to 1590, when it was home to Sir Peter Buck. Buck was an important and wealthy man in Rochester who served in a senior role at the Royal Tudor Dockyard in Chatham. The building has also been used as an Elizabethan family home, a Victorian boarding school and the town museum.
|Eastgate House, Rochester, kent|
The works going on at the house includes sensitive conservation and greatly improved access– the upper floor will be open for the first time in more than 40 years. Our project is also about sharing the house’s amazing stories with visitors when it opens to the public later this spring.
As part of a series of displays and exhibitions, we will include an introduction by ‘Sir Peter Buck’ himself. We couldn’t have a voice without a face of course, and so as no existing portrait of Buck exists, we commissioned Kevin Clarkson to produce an amazing portrait of Buck which we will proudly display at the house when it opens. This will really help us to personalise the story and bring the history of the house alive for our visitors."
So, Sir Peter Buck is to have a portrait hanging proudly on the wall of Rochester's fabulously restored Eastgate House, but he has no face to call his own... Except now he looks a lot like some forty-two year old academic who works at the University for the Creative Arts the top of Fort Pitt Hill... Perhaps the artist, Kevin Clarkson, can shed some further light:
Kevin / "As a local artist I was recently invited to assist in visualizing the history of Eastgate House in Rochester, which is currently undergoing a huge restoration programme. The work involved illustrations of the original Tudor house and views from the house across the River Medway as it might have looked in 1591 and 1667.
The final element was to bring to life Eastgate House’s original owner, Sir Peter Buck. No image of Buck has survived so I was instructed to “Invent him”. No easy task since we have very little information about him!
We do know Buck came from a wealthy family in Portsmouth and became “The Clerk of the Cheque” - that is the civil servant in charge of the Dockyard at Chatham. He was also Mayor of Rochester and died in 1625. His date of birth is unknown.
The portrait, in a Tudor style, is to hang on a restored paneled wall in Buck’s main reception room.
I blitzed museums with Tudor connections; The V&A has the largest collection of Tudor costume in the world. The National Portrait Gallery was next, then the Queen’s House and National Maritime Museum. I had already plundered everything I could find online, Holbein was too early, Rubens and Rembrandt too late, Moroni too Italian!
But what did Sir Peter look like?
I had one of those “lightbulb” moments; delving through my daughter's UCA Graduation photos there he was - a Tudor visage if ever there was one!
|Sir Peter Buck look-a-like...|
To my relief, Phil Gomm - course leader for Computer Animation Arts - agreed to assume Buck’s identity for the purpose of his portrait and provided the photographic reference too. Now all I had to do was paint it! The rest of course is history!"
|Sir Peter Buck's portrait development #2 / Kevin Clarkson|
|Sir Peter Buck's portrait development #3 / Kevin Clarkson|
|Sir Peter Buck's portrait framed and ready for installation at Eastgate House, Rochester|
For my part, it's been a fascinating and quirky experience to be immortalised as someone else, and it's going to feel stranger still when I visit Eastgate House for a look at Kevin's portrait in-situ. I can't promise not to play any spooky tricks on visitors by manifesting next to Buck's portrait - the idea is surely too tempting! For more information about Eastgate House - including details of volunteering opportunities - visit www.thefriendsofeastgatehouse.org
When artist Kevin Clarkson referred to his daughter's graduation photographs, he was referring to Emily Clarkson, who graduated from Computer Animation Arts in 2015. Regular readers of the PWTM will know Emily is very actively engaged as our production designer for our animated adaptation of Britten's The Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra - talent must be in the Clarkson genes!
This brings the PWTM very neatly to the latest round-up of news from the YPGTTO production. It's been another very productive month. On Wednesday 22nd March, I travelled to Paris to meet with members of the orchestras who'll be screening our animation alongside live performances of Britten's favourite and share with them our progress-to-date. To say their excitement levels went up a notch would be an understatement - little wonder when you feast your eyes on this little lot!
Sam 'Class of 2015' Niemczyk continues to translate Emily's production art into 3D assets - everything from sunken ship-like structures derived from cellos to art deco-esque skyscrapers originating from flutes:
|YPGTTO / The Cello District 'ships' / Emily Clarkson|
|YPGTTO / The Cello District 3D models #1 / Samantha Niemczyk / Designs by Emily Clarkson|
|YPGTTO / The Cello District 3D models #2 / Samantha Niemczyk / Designs by Emily Clarkson|
|YPGTTO / The Cello District 3D models #3 / Samantha Niemczyk / Designs by Emily Clarkson|
|YPGTTO / The Flute District 3D models #1 / Samantha Niemczyk / Designs by Emily Clarkson|
|YPGTTO / The Flute District 3D models #2 / Samantha Niemczyk / Designs by Emily Clarkson|
|YPGTTO / The Flute District 3D models #3 / Samantha Niemczyk / Designs by Emily Clarkson|
|YPGTTO / The Flute District 3D models #4 / Samantha Niemczyk / Designs by Emily Clarkson|
Senior lecturer and Maya-maestro, Alan Postings, has turned Emily's conductor statue into an animation-ready character, who is rigged and ready to raise his baton at the climax of the animation...
|YPGTTO / The Conductor 3D model / Alan Postings / Design by Emily Clarkson|
|YPGTTO / The Conductor development / Emily Clarkson|
... which sees a Close Encounters-inspired finale, in which Red - our story's hero - gawps awe-struck at a mighty glowing facsimile of the Kingdom of Sound that rises Game Of Thrones-style into the air, as Britten's music builds towards its thrilling crescendo.
|YPGTTO / The Kingdom Of Sound extrudes concept / Emily Clarkson|
|YPGTTO / The Kingdom Of Sound concept painting / Emily Clarkson|
Meanwhile, CAA lecturer, Jordan Buckner is working on a detailed shot-for-shot breakdown of the entire animation, from which we'll derive specific technical recipes for each particular scene - the practical, technical and artistic 'how and what' of getting this epic musical adventure 'from script to screen' - and on schedule too!
|YPGTTO / 'Welcome to the Overture' storyboard panels / Jordan Buckner|
Meanwhile, Emily's production design 'to-do list' keeps on growing - as environments or scenes that existed previously as thumbnails or impressionistic vistas are worked out in more detail, and their aesthetics brought in line with the rest of the production.
|YPGTTO / The Overture concept painting #1 / Emily Clarkson|
|YPGTTO / The Overture concept painting #2 / Emily Clarkson|
|YPGTTO / The Overture asset sheet #1 / Emily Clarkson|
|YPGTTO / The Overture asset sheet #2 / Emily Clarkson|
Red isn't the only inhabitant of the Kingdom of Sound; the YPGTTO script also calls for a cameo by the Kingdom's ruling monarchs - a suitably snooty King and Queen, imagined here by final year student, Julien Van Wallandael, currently of Tsygan Productions.
|YPGTTO / The King & Queen character designs / Julien Van Wallandael|
And finally, CAA animation tutor, Nat Urwin, recently got her hands on Red and put him through his first provisional paces - and here he is, striding about the place with great purpose (but yes, we need to fix his nose!).
YPGTTO / Red walk-cycle (wip) / Nat Urwin
The Last Word...
"Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence." Henri Matisse