Wednesday, May 31, 2017

PWTM 31/05/2017

As anyone who teaches will tell you, the process of equipping young people with the skills and attitude by which to accomplish great things and realise their potential is no Hollywood-style montage of quick-cut, quick-fix gratification.  It's an uglier business than that, involving pushing, prodding, coaxing and no small amount of arse-kicking!  It is a battle of wills between past behaviours and future potential, between demons and destinies (which is already sounding a bit too Hollywood for a process that is often indescribably prolonged and frustrating). The rewards, however, can be huge - and this edition of the PWTM, which showcases the end results at the close of the academic year, is always a favourite of mine - not least because it reminds me of why we bother and why we need to go on bothering.

First up, a small sample of completed films devised by first year students in response to their Fantastic Voyage brief, challenging them to pre-produce, produce and post-produce their first animation for a client. Dr Peter Klappa, lecturer in bioscientist at the University of Kent, instructed our students to find new and engaging ways by which to communicate the nuts and bolts of the cell-cycle, and this is what they came up with...

Anastasija Strelcova / Apoptosis

Apoptosis / Art Of / Anastasija Strelcova

Apoptosis / Rendered still #1 / Anastasija Strelcova

Apoptosis / Rendered still #2 / Anastasija Strelcova

Apoptosis / Anastasija Strelcova

Paris Lucke / Mitosis

Mitosis/ Rendered still #1 / Paris Lucke

Mitosis/ Rendered still #2 / Paris Lucke

Mitosis/ Rendered still #3 / Paris Lucke

Mitosis / Paris Lucke

Thanachot Singsamran / Cancer: When The Cell Cycle Goes Wrong

Cancer: When The Cell Cycle Goes Wrong / Rendered still #1 / Thanachot Singsamran

Cancer: When The Cell Cycle Goes Wrong / Thanachot Singsamran

Alex Park / A Cell's Cycle

The year 2 Adaptation brief has prompted a fascinating range of ideas and methodologies, with students generating work in response to a satisfying miscellany of original sources and approaching their respective adaptations with imagination, experimentation and a dab of cross-pollination.  I'm featuring two of their projects because they help me celebrate the course philosophy, the first of which exemplifies the traditional character design pipeline as embodied by CAA's core curriculum, and the second showcasing the more speculative and interdisciplinary potential of CGI as a creative media in its own right.

Mark Bridgland's Devil's Elixir is a loose adaptation of Neal Thompson's Driving With Devil, transposing Thompson's tale of illicit hooch and fast cars to a George Miller-esque milieu of road-runners and stick-up kids.

Mark Bridgland / Devil's Elixir

Devil's Elixir / Art Of  / Mark Bridgland

Devil's Elixir / Redrum final character #1 / Mark Bridgland

Devil's Elixir / Redrum final character #2 / Mark Bridgland

Devil's Elixir / Redrum turnaround  / Mark Bridgland

Deanna Crisbacher's 'text' for Adaptation is something more personal - her own formative experiences of Anorexia Nervosa and estrangement from the corporeal reality of her own physicality. Be sure to take a moment to familiarise yourself with the ways in which Dee developed her final piece and what it tells us about the potential for CGI to be its own clay, and how students of CGI can use its technology to create non-commercial, non-narrative and more interdisciplinary outcomes.  In a universe where cost is no barrier, Dee's work might just as easily be encountered physically in a gallery, her melancholy deformations made 'flesh' through the technologies of 3D printing.

Deanna Crisbacher / Dysmorphia

Dysmorphia / Art Of / Deanna Crisbacher

Dysmorphia / Rendered still #1 / Deanna Crisbacher

Dysmorphia / Rendered still #2 / Deanna Crisbacher

Dysmorphia / Deanna Crisbacher

You might think the final hand-in of our year threes is a day of fanfare and celebration, but counter-intuitively, it's often a bit of a lacklustre affair, not least because everyone is so pop-eyed with sleep-deprivation and weary in the marrow of their bones they can barely find their way back out of the building.

Another reason why this 'day-of-days' is most often a little muted is because our students know they're not quite finished.  Tweaks and glitches haunt their submissions, often invisible to the uninitiated, but lurking there all the same.  There are always things they want to finish, scenes they want to improve, renders they want replacing - and the truth is we want these things too.

I'm sharing a selection of final work here - in the knowledge that 'final' is a misrepresentation of these students' films.  There are also films I'm not sharing in this edition of the PWTM because their makers aren't prepared to let them go just yet. Our next edition is our New Designers special, which gives our soon-to-be-graduates a few more weeks to wrangle with their renders one last time...

Jack White / The Sound Collector

The Sound Collector / Art Of / Jack White

The Sound Collector / Rendered still #1 / Jack White

The Sound Collector / Rendered still #2 / Jack White

The Sound Collector / Jack White

Ryan Brand / Hem

Hem / Art Of / Ryan Brand

Eva Pinnington / Bloom

Bloom / Art Of / Eva Pinnington

Bloom / Sawa final render #1 / Eva Pinnington

Bloom / Sawa final render #2 / Eva Pinnington

Bloom / Sawa final render #3 / Eva Pinnington

Bloom / Sawa turnaround  / Eva Pinnington

Jamie Wathen / Trimia

Trimia / Molphosse 'wheel' / Jamie Wathen

Max Ashby / Genghis

Charlie Serafini / Bedtime Story

Bedtime Story / Art Of / Charlie Serafini

Bedtime Story / Rendered still  / Charlie Serafini

Bedtime Story / Charlie Serafini

As mentioned previously, the next edition of the PWTM is our annual showcase accompanying our graduate exhibition at New Designers at the Business Design Centre, Islington, London.  There's been a lot going on behind the scenes in readiness for this year's show, not least the design and sourcing of a two metre helium-filled brain!  The concept for this year's stand is part-inspired by 1950s medical textbooks plus a generous dash of sci-fi hokum: behold the cg artist's brain with its many creative regions clearly labelled! See how how the cg artist's brain powers the five mighty monoliths of ravishing animation excitement! (Or something like that).  Thanks must go once again to the mighty Ethan Shilling, who has the patience and latent telepathy to work with me every year, as we hatch our cunning plans for our no-so-little 6m x 6m patch of graduate gloriousness at Islington's BDC.  We'll be exhibiting there from July 5th - July 8th, so get it down in your diaries and come pay our Class of 2017 a visit.

CAA @ New Designers 2017 / Visualisation by Ethan Shilling

CAA New Designers 2017 / Visualisation by Ethan Shilling

I can tell you exactly where I was when I wrote the script for Red & The Kingdom Of Sound, an animated adaptation of Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra - or YPGTTO as it's come to be known in on Computer Animation Arts.  I was sitting in a large empty room with thick stone walls and a stone floor in a very old house in France.  It was August 2016, it was hot, and I was seated by the aptly named French doors looking up across the meadow at an old stone bakery and a flowering albizia tree covered in soft pink bristles.  Lovely though this view was, I I wasn't seeing the stone bakery or the albizia tree. Neither was I fully alert to the drone of bees or the clucking of the chickens in the neighbouring farmyard. No - I was listening instead to Britten's musical tour of the orchestra on repeat and seeing only extraordinary visions of fantastical cities, their architecture derived from the valves, strings, reeds and bells of musical instruments...

It's one thing to dream up such a grandiose vision in the gauzy day-dream heat of a long Summer holiday - and quite another to bring that vision from script to screen.  Fortunately, the YPGTTO production team are a supremely talented bunch and I do not exaggerate when I say my excitement levels increase with every bit of progress we make together.  There's loads going on, and loads left to do, but enjoy this round-up of recent 'jobs-jobbed' from the clever people at Geek Boutique - CAA's very own creative agency...

"The camera is now on Red’s left, as if on the outside edge of Lane 2. It’s a little bit behind him and looking across at Lane 4 – which is temporarily empty of runners. What you hear/see at about 1 minute 27 seconds is the Kingdom of Sound’s King drawing level Red in the 4th Lane and pushing forwards. The King is being carried aloft on a palanquin by unfortunate lesser beings, who are running as fast as their legs can carry them! Subsequent shots include some comedy close-ups of the King being bounced about on his seat etc., his crown slipping over his eyes etc. At 1 minute 31 secs, the King glances across at Red – (they’re still neck and neck) – and his expression hardens. At 1 minute 33 secs, Red looks across at the king, and his determination intensifies too. At 1 minute 35 seconds, you hear a kind of musical ‘swerve’ or ‘skid’ – this is the sound/action of the King’s palanquin lurching across into Red’s lane to try and slow him down or trip him up. At about 1 minute 37 seconds you hear the King try it again. What ensues is a quick-fire montage of good old-fashioned car chase argy-bargy. At 1 minute 40 seconds, the camera (tracking backwards along the running track) is looking at Red, just as we see the King and his palanquin take a tumble and fall back into the distance. You can even hear the crash itself at 1 minute 42 seconds. Hah! That’ll teach you not to play fair!"  from Episode 16: Behold The Kingdom Of Sound – Reunion & Finale

YPGTTO / The Tuba King's Palanquin developmental designs / Emily Clarkson

YPGTTO / The Tuba King's Palanquin orthographs / Emily Clarkson

YPGTTO / The Tuba King's Palanquin scale chart  / Emily Clarkson & Julien Van Wallandael

YPGTTO / The Tuba King's Palanquin modelled  / Simon Holland

Samantha Niemczyk has been busy again this month turning more of Emily Clarkson's fabulous YPGTTO production art into 3D assets, ready to be assembled into immersive digital sets...

"Red now turns and looks at the view, the Harp District laid out before him in all its celestial glitter and lightness-of-touch. It’s all rather heavenly. Perhaps that’s why at 36 secs to 38 secs we actually see two bird-like musical notation characters flutter into shot holding a Welcome To The Harp District scroll between their beaks before fluttering out of shot again. Any resemblance to cherubs and seraphims is purely intentional! It’s late afternoon in the Kingdom of Sound; the Harp District is golden in this magic hour!"

YPGTTO / The Harp District concept painting / Emily Clarkson

YPGTTO / The Harp District models #1 / Samantha Niemczyk / Design by Emily Clarkson

YPGTTO / The Harp District models #2 / Samantha Niemczyk / Design by Emily Clarkson

YPGTTO / The Harp District models #3 / Samantha Niemczyk / Design by Emily Clarkson

YPGTTO / The Harp District models #4 / Samantha Niemczyk / Design by Emily Clarkson

YPGTTO / The Harp District models #5 / Samantha Niemczyk / Design by Emily Clarkson

YPGTTO / The Harp District models #6 / Samantha Niemczyk / Design by Emily Clarkson

CAA lecturer, Simon Holland, has a penchant for modelling vehicles - how fortunate then the YPGTTO script calls for speeding trains traversing the Violin District - or rather how fortunate we are to have Simon on the team!

"The train now speeds into the Violin District proper, and the camera continues to track it, but it ascends simultaneously, so we’re treated to an expanding aerial view of the district. As the camera moves upwards, we’re travelling past other railway lines on higher bridges, trains rushing past. The camera likewise moves past and through vibrating networks of power-lines and the suspension cables of bridges. Everywhere there are tensioned cables and wires and more railway tracks with locomotives sawing backwards and forwards..."

YPGTTO / The Violin District train / Design by Emily Clarkson, modelled (and rigged!) by Simon Holland

Another district to which Simon has turned his attention recently is the Percussion District, a location imagined as closer to a construction site than a completed metropolis and characterised by the crashing and banging of the instruments from which its structures originate.

"This next sequence, which starts with a wide shot – shows Red being winched up very high, past cranes, scaffolding and industrial machines. At about 8 seconds, a distinct volley of drum beats can be heard; these beats align exactly with the rhythm of massive hammers hammering and pile-drivers driving etc. At about 12 seconds, the drums return for a second volley, which again relates to on-screen action of machines and apparatus. It goes without saying that the machines and apparatus should bear close and apparent resemblance to instruments and components of instruments we recognize from the percussion section of an orchestra."

YPGTTO / The Percussion District models #1 / Simon Holland, designs by Emily Clarkson

YPGTTO / The Percussion District models #2 / Simon Holland, designs by Emily Clarkson

YPGTTO / The Percussion District models #3 / Simon Holland, designs by Emily Clarkson

Oh, and did I mention there's a a bit with a horse... or rather a musical note that gallops like a horse?

YPGTTO / The Horse / Model by Ethan Shilling, design by Julien Van Wallandael & Emily Clarkson

Elsewhere, CAA's senior lecturer, Alan Postings, continues to develop and refine the 3D workflow for ensuring we can emulate the look and feel of the YPGTTO production art.  Alan's experiments continue, and with each iteration, we move closer to clinching the desired aesthetic!

YPGTTO / Texturing tests (no outline) / Alan Postings

YPGTTO / Texturing tests (with outline) / Alan Postings

The YPGTTO production team welcomes another recruit into its ranks - current Yr 2 student, Deanna Crisbacher, who is currently devising the workflow for one of the necessary quirks of the animation, where any text element within a particular scene needs translating into various different languages to reflect the European countries in which the animation is ultimately to be screened. We're looking for 'quick wins' that don't necessitate lots and lots of re-rendering of scenes, and thus far Dee is coming up with some very promising results.

YPGTTO / Signage tracking tests #1 / Deanna Crisbacher

YPGTTO / Signage tracking tests #2 / Deanna Crisbacher

CAA animation tutor, Nat Urwin, is once again putting YPGTTO's hero through his paces. In this short sequence, we see Red at the very beginning of the film, as he first arrives at the entrance to the mighty Kingdom Of Sound and tries to see over the heads of the gathering crowd...

YPGTTO / Red run and jump (wip) / Nat Urwin

The Final Word...

“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.”  H.E. Luccock


  1. some really stunning stuff here, well done! good luck with new designers!