Tuesday, August 29, 2017

FAO Everyone: CAA Field Trip 2018 / Destination... Florence!


Okay... so how about a CAA field trip to Florence, Italy in Reading Week, February 2018?  The cost is likely to be somewhere between £350 - £380 - £400 (blame Brexit some more!) and, in common with last year's trip to Rome, I'll be pushing for the price to include admission to the top sights and some group meal opportunities too.  I'm at the very earliest stages of organising the 2018 Field Trip, and as always, it begins with your interest converting into student numbers, so I can get a more meaningful quote.  In the first instance, you have a simple job to do - year 1, 2, 3 or alumni - share this notification widely and register your interest by leaving a comment on this post.  We're going to need around the 40 persons mark to get this to happen as cheaply as possible, so I look forward to hearing from you all.  For you reference, the dates would be February 26th - March 2nd.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

"They're Here!" All-New First Year Blogs #1


And we're off!  Meet the first five of CAA's newest recruits.  Do the community-minded thing - add these guys to your Blogger reading lists and if they're posting their Summer project stuff already, go say hi and be a force for good!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

FAO CAA Year 3: Minor Project - Your Ideas Please (However Sketchy!)



In my ongoing attempts to awaken you softly to the reality of your imminent return to undergraduate study - and some of the biggest creative challenges of your lives thus far! - I'd like you all to put a blogpost together outlining your idea(s) for your minor project (and major project obviously, if you're considering a year long adventure in CGI).  Some of you have clear ideas about your year three projects, as they build on your Adaptation submissions - but nonetheless, I'd like to see your proposals - however 'half-built' or under-construction - way in advance of the start of term. 

Create a proposal post - ensure it's specific, in so much as it includes visual reference - and when you're done, email me at pgomm@ucreative.ac.uk to tell me you've got something ready.  I look forward to your proposals! Oh - and get them ready by Monday at the latest please :)



Monday, August 21, 2017

FAO CAA Year 3: You Need To Start Your Thesis Write-Ups Now!


Okay, I get it - you're still in the holiday mood, and the last thing you want is a prompt in regards to writing up your dissertation structures into a draft... but September will be upon us in no time, and the deadline for the submission of your drafts is Friday October 27th.

We have dissertation tutorials together - and I don't want these to consist of me asking you if you've made and progress, and you saying 'No'.  You've all got your chapter structures, you've had loads of feedback from Kath, Mavernie and myself, and really there's not a huge amount left to say about your intentions for dissertations.  We need to use our time getting into the nitty-gritty of what you've actually written and helping finesse your arguments further.  If you needed to be reading more in order to deliver the potential of your respective structures, I'm relying on the fact that you've been doing just that, as this is not the bit of this process with which I can help you.

So - yes, this is a poke.  Write-up your structures and start doing so now.  Remember, we're trying to balance your third year and create the conditions under which you can a) write an excellent dissertation with confidence and b) develop a successful final animation, without those two jobs impacting on each other unhappily.

Don't ignore this.  As if writing, you've got 12 weeks until the draft dissertation deadline - that's a very long time - and time enough certainly to produce your 8000 words.  Imagine that - a complete dissertation draft ready for hand-in!  This is the gift of time you need to give to yourself - and to your minor projects.

Oh yes, from this point forward, the Dissertation unit is called 'Thesis' - don't get confused when you hear me referring to it this way.  We're still talking about your 8000 words. Only the unit title has changed.

Please - commit to your write-ups now.  You'll be glad of it later, I promise.

Monday, August 07, 2017

CAA The Tune: Guardians' Inferno


Oh, what camp, ironic marvellousness is this?  For any soon-to-be year 2 students enjoying this, welcome to the wonderful world of postmodernism! (Now where did I put my flares?)

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Post With The Most 01/08/17



School may indeed be out for Summer, but here on on Planet CAA, time is of the essence as work continues on our adaptation of Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra ('YPGTTO') as part of our collaboration with an Orchestra Network for Europe (ONE), a network of classical symphony orchestras encompassing France, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic.

This special edition of the Computer Animation Arts' Post With The Most celebrates our work with ONE and catches up with all the latest from the production of the YPGTTO animation.  For those of you not already familiar with the project, a quick recap: Benjamin Britten's The Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra was written in 1945 and serves as a tour of the various instrument groups in the symphony orchestra and is the go-to standard for introducing children to classical music. Our animated adaptation of YPGTTO will be screened with live accompaniment by the participating symphony orchestras in venues across Europe as part of ONE's continuing mission to initiate new audiences into classical music.

CAA's adaptation of Britten's beloved piece has another title: Red & The Kingdom Of Sound.  The titular kingdom is a metaphorical representation of the orchestra as a series of fantastical cities, and 'Red' is our protagonist - a little boy new to classical music and thus a stranger to the world of sound of the symphony orchestra.  Our animation follows Red's journey though the various districts of Britten's kingdom of sound and in this way evokes those other extraordinary adventures into alternate worlds beloved of children everywhere: Alice into Wonderland, Dorothy into Oz, Lucy into Narnia...

The Wizard Of Oz 1939

Alice In Wonderland 1951

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 2005

Creating a seventeen minute animation comprising fifteen discrete kingdoms is its own epic adventure, but unlike Red's journey, it's not a solo undertaking.  At time of writing, there are twenty people on the YPGTTO team working together to complete the animation for its early October deadline, a team comprising course staff, graduates and current students. Some of these team members are working their day jobs as animators at games companies or as busy freelancers and finding us a few more hours of their precious time to create walk and run-cycles.  Others graduated as recently as June this year and are taking time out from job-hunting and cv-polishing to step back in and help us out.  Similarly, CAA's staff team are working doggedly to get through the seemingly endless to-do list - even as the sun shines outside and the rest of the world reaches for their flip-flops.

Getting Red & The Kingdom Of Sound from script-to-screen is a massive team effort; the PWTM is going to catch up with just a few of the talents involved, starting with Emily 'Class of 2015' Clarkson, whose role envisioning the various extraordinary districts comprising the Kingdom of Sound cannot be overestimated.


Emily Clarkson - YPGTTO's production designer

Emily"I am the production designer and 3D Artist on Red & The Kingdom Of Sound.  I've designed the environments and assets, and since built some of them in 3D.  My biggest challenge has been creating recognizable architecture that still evokes the instruments it’s supposed to represent. Some instruments really lend themselves to becoming architectural structures; a good example would be the flute, as its long tubular structures resemble towers - the  harp, however, was a more difficult shape to rework! I've also had to design oboe-based bridges, bassoon-inspired streetlamps, double-bass power conduits, cello shipwrecks and violin trains!


Red & The Kingdom Of Sound  / The Flute District buildings / Concept painting by Emily Clarkson

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound  / The Harp District buildings / Concept painting by Emily Clarkson

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound  / The Cello District buildings / Concept painting by Emily Clarkson

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound  / The Violin train / Concept painting by Emily Clarkson

Working on YPGTTO has forced me to draw an awful lot, reacquaint myself with Autodesk Maya and explore hybridization. It’s been a great mixture of 'interesting and tricky'! One exciting thing has been seeing my 2D designs appearing as 3D models. The next exciting moment was seeing our assets assembled into larger recognizable environments, showcased in full colour and then seeing cameras fly through the scenes, bringing the script to life.  That’s when the project became a whole new, living, breathing entity for me!  I’m really enjoying the project and I can’t wait to see the finished product in all its glory AND accompanied with live music! It’s going to be immense!"


Red & The Kingdom Of Sound  / The Overture / Concept painting by Emily Clarkson

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound  / The Overture / Digital set modelled by Samantha Niemczyk & Deanna Crisbacher

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound  / The Overture / Digital set textured, lit and composited by Alan Postings

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Overture / Digital set textured, lit and composited by Alan Postings


Emily describes the workflow underpinning the realisation of the environments of Red & The Kingdom Of Sound -  a 'handing on' of the baton from the scriptwriter to the production designer to the modellers, to the texture artists and to the animators and so on.  The animation is a celebration of discovering new sights and immersive spaces, and each of Red's explorations are underpinned by a group of talented individuals working hand-in-hand in to manifest Britten's music as built-environments.

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Clarinet District buildings production art / Emily Clarkson

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Clarinet District buildings 3D models / Samantha Niemczyk

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Clarinet District buildings 3D digital set  / Deanna Crisbacher

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Clarinet District buildings 3D models digital set textured #1  / Alan Postings

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Clarinet District buildings 3D models digital set textured #2  / Alan Postings

Let's hear from another member of the YPGTTO production team, current student, Deanna Crisbacher, who joined the project in June and has been burning the midnight oil ever since - much to our benefit!

Deanna Crisbacher 

Deanna / "My role on the YPGTTO team is digital artist, compositor and animator. So far I’ve done bits of 3D modelling, digital set building, rigging, animation, and some work in After Effects.

There are quite a few challenges with getting this project ‘from script to screen’. Each District is unique. They each present their own set of challenges.  The Clarinet District that had a scene where the buildings needed to squash and stretch…and another scene that was an abstract aerial shot of a sort of ‘inside out’ building with a spiral slide. 

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Clarinet District buildings 3D models animated  / Deanna Crisbacher

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Clarinet District 'Spiral' digital set textured #3  / Modelled by Deanna Crisbacher, textured by Alan Postings

Since YPGTTO is quite abstract and charmingly random in places, it can sometimes be difficult to picture and/or create what the environment is meant to look like as described, and sometimes interpreting the script can be a challenge. Some Districts also don’t have definitive concept art so sometimes we have to build the set based on the animatic, the script, and any designs available.  

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Viola District thumbnail drawing / Phil Gomm

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Viola District digital set #1 / Deanna Crisbacher

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Viola District digital set #2 / Deanna Crisbacher

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Viola District digital set #3 / Deanna Crisbacher

That said, I really enjoy the freedom we have to alter things if we need to. At first it felt a bit strange to change and manipulate a model or make something that wasn’t ‘officially’ designed, but it often works out for the best. I love seeing the digital sets textured after working on them because the colours really bring them to life and it’s easier to imagine the characters exploring the space. It’s satisfying to see how things develop as it’s passed from person to person. 


Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Cello District concept painting / Emily Clarkson

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Cello District digital set #1 / Modelling by Peta-Gaye Brown & Deanna Crisbacher, textured by Alan Postings

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Cello District digital set #2 / Modelled by Peta-Gaye Brown & Deanna Crisbacher, textured by Alan Postings

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Harp District concept painting / Emily Clarkson

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Harp District digital set #1 / Modelled by Jack White & Deanna Crisbacher, textured by Alan Postings

Collaborative projects are always a challenge since everyone relies on each other to get their jobs done.  There are times where some people aren’t available to work, so the team has to do what they can when they can to keep things moving. There are also times where guidelines (ex. Modelling or rendering guidelines) change as the project progresses, meaning some things need to be revisited and changed. I’ve really enjoyed working on this project with everyone because of the positive feedback and being able to see each person push us closer to the finish line."


Jordan Buckner - YPGTTO's cinematographer / previs artist

Jordan Buckner, CAA lecturer and YPGTTO's cinematographer and previs artist (amongst many other creative duties!) picks up on these same themes of the importance of staying flexible, embracing change and the transformative powers of teamwork:

Jordan / "Throughout the development of YPGTTO, my role has transitioned across a few different aspects. From early pre-production art and concept development to cinematographer and animatic / previs editor. It has allowed me to really see the project come to life - from the earliest script, to the now evolving animation. I'm currently working to refine the final edit of the previs, so we know exactly how the tone and mood of the film will hit with the music. It's been stressful and challenging, but as moments start to work and the music and image sync, I'm confident the final film will be something special.


Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Bassoon District previs scene / Jordan Buckner

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Harp District previs scene / Jordan Buckner

The sheer scope and grandeur of this project has been the obvious challenge - a daunting but enticing challenge! Bringing such an ambitious script to life hasn't been easy, but it's been a pleasure to see it develop through an amazing team of artists. As the animation begins to form we can begin to see the magic. The hard work from the team has really helped bring this world to life, and so despite these stresses, things are beginning to come together.

As an independent artist, and in truth, as someone who spends a lot of time in his basement office working alone, it's been great just to be part of a team project. The other artists have been producing amazing work, and working their arses off to bring these ideas to life. Just to be a part of that is hugely rewarding.


Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Cello District previs scene / Jordan Buckner

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Double-Bass District previs scene / Jordan Buckner

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Horn District previs scene / Jordan Buckner

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Horn District previs scene layout / Jordan Buckner

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Percussion District previs scene / Jordan Buckner

It's also exciting to work on a project outside of my own comfort zone. Most of my own work is all a bit serious, so it's been great to work on something more magical and energetic. All of this, of course, alongside an amazing musical score!"


Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / Character sheet / Designs by Julien Van Wallendael / 3D models by Ethan Shilling

Of course, the districts are just one element of our animated adaptation of Britten's The Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra - there are all the characters too!  Alongside Red and his companion, Yellow, there's the King and Queen, a horse, birds, and a whole host of extras for the film's many crowd scenes.  Longtime CAA collaborator, Ethan Shilling has been working out time-effective ways of populating our various cities with crowds of alternate Reds and Yellows...

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / Crowd simulation test / Ethan Shilling

... while a Scooby-Gang's worth of recent graduates and current students have been working on creating libraries of walk cycles to ensure our crowd scenes are nicely varied and suitably dynamic.


Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / Commuter Walk-cycle #1 / Charlie Serafini

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / Commuter Walk-cycle #2 / Charlie Serafini

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / Commuter Walk-cycle #3 / Charlie Serafini

Principle animator on the project, Nat Urwin, has her work cut out with a huge list of animation shots to ready for the film.  Nat's in charge of making audiences connect with our protagonist, Red - to feel what he's feeling as he journeys through the many districts of the Kingdom Of Sound... but she's also in charge of animating the musical note-derived horse that appears at one point to sweep Red off his feet and carry him through the Trumpet District!

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / Horse run-cycle breakdown / Nat Urwin
Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / Horse run-cycle  / Nat Urwin

The sudden appearance of a galloping horse is far from the only unexpected encounter for Red during his adventure in the Kingdom Of Sound.  Thanks to the precision and inventiveness of CAA lecturer, Simon Holland, Red can now expect to go head-to-head with the Percussion District's infamous 'conveyor belt of doom'! Working from Emily's original designs, Simon has created a formidable-looking array of lethal equipment - the practical purpose of which is anyone's guess!

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Percussion District's 'conveyor of doom' machinery concepts #1 / Emily Clarkson

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Percussion District's 'conveyor of doom' machinery concepts #2 / Emily Clarkson

Red & The Kingdom Of Sound / The Percussion District's 'conveyor of doom' animated 3D model / Simon Holland

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the work everyone has produced - and continues to produce - in order to get this animation ready for its premiere performance in Katowice, Poland, in October.  There's so much I haven't written about here or shown you - so many talented individuals working together to realise a single vision!  For the fullest picture possible of the production of this animation, you should visit the ONE blog, where you'll get a better idea of all the tiny creative decisions being taken on a daily basis.  

Usually the PWTM ends on some kind of 'last word' - some kind of motivational homily to stir the spirits and inspire greatness.  In this instance, I'd just like to conclude this celebration of our course community's abundant creativity with a personal thank you to all those working on Red & The Kingdom Of Sound, and to say too what a very real privilege it is to work alongside you in the realisation of this animation.  Thank you all for your hard work, your patience (with me!), and your total professionalism.  We're not there yet, ladies and gents, but we're going to get there, and when we do, it's going to be awesome.