Across the Channel again for VFX and Stereo 3D

Le Groupe Ouest headquarters, a former union parking shed now a pretty luxurious home for story development. (But with a bunch of onions hanging from the rafters for old times sake)

The Cross Channel Film Lab (CCFL) has been part of the life of AnimationVFX again this year, with a successful visit this summer where our students helped with concept work and, just last week, a return visit to France where course lecturers Derek and Rosa helped shape stories and gave a seminar.

The aim of the CCFL, which is supported by the European Media programme and Creative England, as well as Falmouth University and Le Groupe Ouest, is to develop low budget films from early career film makers who want to use VFX or Stereo 3D. A number of consultants give advice on story, in its own right and as it relates to VFX/Stereo, and on the ways these technologies can be used without breaking the bank.
Film makers come from across the continent of Europe and discussions take place in English (which is a relief to the Falmouth contingent since Derek's schoolboy French would not cut the mustard in deep story analysis).

Peter Rogers, Producer at Bait Studios and VFX consultant, reaches out to the Stereo3D camera to see the effect on the screen (below).

It looks great with the glasses.

In June the action is on our Penryn campus where participants have to resist the pull of the sunshine and the beach but November sees a return trip to Brittany and the premises of Le Groupe Ouest; still by the sea but with much less chance of sun, and therefore little to distract from the work that needs to be done.
There were two Stereo3D projects and ten requiring VFX and Rosa and Derek each worked with a group of five VFX projects alongside a VFX and a script consultant. By the end of the week, ideas that had seemed a little unfocused had found a real shape and drive and the final pitches held the promise of good things to come from the final scripts.

During the week Rosa and Derek used their industry experience of being, respectively, motion graphics designer/vfx producer and animator/director to give a presentation that looked at the path a project takes from script to screen.
Industry experience didn't include acting for either speaker, but the role-play worked well enough to give an idea of how a good concept designer and vfx producer can help get things done in an affordable way. Derek used the example of work done on one of his current projects, 'Deep', to show how a live action and vfx sequence can benefit from animation industry techniques, such as storyboarding and animatic, to make sure that major decisions are made at the cheap end of the process rather than when the work is being done at the FX house.

The final session, with consultants, vfx and stereo groups together.


Mads for Success

'I am Dyslexic' a success story

In spring 2015 director Mads Johan Øgaard pitched the idea of creating a student film about dyslexia based on his childhood at school in Norway. He wanted a style inspired by the illustrator Quentin Blake. He wanted to achieve a mix between a sketchy style and simple style.  For him Blake´s style represented his childhood.
He soon set to work on developing the story and the characters, which he said was easier said than done. Even though he wanted to use Blake´s aesthetic, it took a long time for him to find something that he was satisfied with.
Early Concept Work - 'I am Dyslexic'

More frustrating was the story aspect; the idea of the book mountain was there from the beginning but Mads struggled to find a solid story around it. He also realized that he had to go more and more away from telling his own story and more towards telling a story that most dyslexic people could relate to.
Over the summer of 2015 he determined to come back with a clear and strong idea, and collaborated with a friend of his, Mari Hajem to create the music for the film. However, over time Mads found himself getting more and more frustrated with the story and the visuals, to a point where he was getting anxious about ever finishing the film!
His dyslexic struggles took over and at this point he decided not to pitch I AM DYSLEXIC to the Industry Selection Panel as a final film idea. Everyone was against him giving up until one of his classmates, Leonie, said to him a week before the pitch, “Mads! Let’s brain storm!”
So following some intense brainstorming and the occasional scratching of heads Mads got the good news that I AM DYSLEXIC was one of the selected films that year. He was shocked, exited end terrified. Senior Lecturer Georg Finch encouraged Mads with these wise words “Do yourself a favour and create the world in CGI, otherwise you will never be done!” And so they did.

First to join the project was Katie Wyman, who co-directed and co-produced.  Mads has no recollection of asking more than ten people to work with them, yet to his surprise they ended up with over sixty people helping out. They told him that they loved the idea and eventually Mads & Katie figured out that many of the crew also had a different range of learning differences. This was helpful and the film improved dramatically with their help! They created not only a film but a safe environment where they could be themselves, share their stories and struggles without fear of being judged.

It was a real challenge to work flat out and full-time, making sure that day crew and the night crew got feedback and guidance, and finding time for storyboarding and eventually animating.
At the last screening of the year at the Animation & Visual Effects hugely prestigious award night, the ‘Cecils’ the whole room was eager with excitement to see it screened properly for the first time. It was a huge relief for Mads who didn’t expect that the film was so going to be so popular!
This is what a year on 'I am Dyslexic' did to Mads!

After the film
The film is now in the middle of its festival run and Mads and Katie aim to publish the film online by the end of summer 2017. And the pair are attending as many festivals and screenings as possible! Over the last four months the film has been selected for screening in seventeen festivals around the world! It has also been screened at numerous educational talks in Mad’s home country, Norway.

So far the films has been shown at:
Selected for screening and nominated for the Best Animation Award 2016 - Crystal Palace international Film Festival, Animation category.
Selected for screening at the Marano Ragazzi Spot Festival, Italy
Selected for screening at the Short & To The Point Festival, Romania
Selected for screening at the 3rd International Coventry Film Festival
Selected for screening at the Southampton International Film Festival
Selected for screening at the Tahoe Underground Film Festival 
"Award of Recognition" for Animation Student Short at Hollywood International Moving Pictures Film Festival
Presentation and screening at Dysleksi Norge and other educational events/screenings in Norway 

Early on in the production Mads posted some of the early concept art for the film. Only a few hours later he recievedt an email from Åsne Midtbø Aas who works with Dyslexia Norway.  She asked if Mads wanted to illustrate a book about dyslexia for children and teens together with Of course he said yes! The book will have a book launches next March.
In addition to this he was invited to meet with Dyslexia Norway to show the film and talk about giving a number of presentations. These were for Dyslexia Norway’s annual Teen Meeting, and for the 40 years’ Celebration of Dyslexia Norway. Again he said yes to it all!
The amount of feedback was and still is insane! He has been able to achieve what he wanted with the film. So many ipeople with dyslexia and other learning differences have given him wonderful feedback of how successfully the film illustrates their feeling and frustrations.

Thanks to Dyslexia Norway, the Animation & Visual Effects course at Falmouth, former schools, family, friends and the many festivals/screenings Mads has been inundated with emails pretty much every day from teachers, parents and students thanking him for making the film, asking if they can show the film, or just see it again. He is always happy to help, so now the film is being used for educational purposes and awareness in Norway, England, Finland and Iceland.
Mads said that “This year I have learned so much, in so many different ways! My life has changed a lot this year and I am grateful for that! I thank everyone who created the film with us, promoted the film, given feedback. I meet so many fantastic people this year, I am so grateful for all of you, and I hope to meet, see, and work with you in the future!”

“Thanks you so much to everyone who have helped me to be who I am today, encouraged and allowed me to do what my dreams! My dream is to help as many as possible getting through the education system, without being emotionally destroyed or left behind! YOU ARE NOT ALONE! THANK YOU SO MUCH!”
Having spent a his whole life dealing with dyslexia, helping others with learning diffrences and then making a film Mads has continued with his education and is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Special Educational Needs (SEN) at Exeter University.
The whole course team at Falmouth’s Animation & Visual Effects are immensely proud of both Mads and Katie.

For more info about the film and contact information:
Mads & Katie
Mads Johan Øgaard

Katie Noel Wyman


Fresher's Week: The 2016 Great Animation Quiz and the 2016 Animation & VFX Hunger Games

As our new cohort of first year students settle into the work at hand we take a moment to reflect on the week that was... that is the week that was the week before last.... that is week that was the week of The 2016 Great Animation Quiz and The Animation  & VFX Hunger Games!

Our new cohort of eager animation and visual effects artists spent the morning putting their sleepy grey cells to work answering some of the worlds toughest animation questions. They were expected to not only recognise some very obscure and rare animation characters, but we also expected them to remember dates, names, and even the significance of "A113".  Like true troopers they took hold of their sleepy selves and gave themselves a metaphorical shake, rising heroically to the challenge. By the end of the quiz they were ready and raring to go for the next task. A big well done to the winning team for their display of superior brain power in this event.

This was followed by The Great Animation Pitch event. Each team was required to deliver a pitch for an animated children's TV series that was "extremely unlikely to ever be made." Some topics were, very wisely, off limits. The students were given a handful of plasticine and 30 minutes to come up with their winning ideas. The teams presented their pitches to the judges, together with accompanying visual aids, which were sculpted in perfect detail using quality clay products. Congratulations to the winning team for their inspiring and very topical pitch.

And then they thought that the fun was over... but it was not... not quite... not yet.

As the afternoon approached ripples of excitement and trepidation resonated throughout the campus as word got around that the students would later be required to compete in the 2016 Animation and Visual Effects Hunger Games.

At a little after lunch-time the the tributes gathered in the studio and listened patiently while they were briefed on the highly-complex-and-convoluted-but-nevertheless-really-really-well-thought-out rules of the game.

Each team was required to retrieve items of food (not real food, heavens no, the students would never come back if we did that) which had previously been cunningly placed in strategic locations around the campus. The winners would be the team who returned to the studio at the end of the game with the ingredients for the best sandwich.

The base teams sat anxiously around the game map in the studio and were given clues which they passed, via social media, to the foraging teams who ventured forth holding their team sigils aloft... well mostly aloft, some of them held them at a little below chest height.

Teams were permitted to acquisition items of food from other teams via a system known as 'tapping'. There were tears and there were cheers as the game's twitter feed started to fill up with images of foraging and tapping successes. Half way through the afternoon the heavens opened as thunder and lightning ripped through the Penryn skies, and many of our new recruits found themselves having to swim for their lives (or at least that's what it looked like they had been doing when they returned to the studio.)

There was excitement and there were thrills, and at around half past tea-time the teams returned to the studio with their foraging spoils The winning team had the (pictorial) ingredients for a rather scrumptious Daffy Duck sandwich, with salad, accompanied by a Pingu chocolate bar.

I suspect that it was largely the chocolate bar that swayed the judges.


And the winner is...

Falmouth Goes for Gold at BFX 2016 

This October one of our undergraduates, Third Year George Quelch, took part in the BFX competition with Sean Bone, a recent Falmouth Graduate. The two met virtually through the Falmouth Animation student Facebook group. As well as the Alumni group, the student group keeps graduates in touch with current students on the course, providing great opportunities like this. And what an opportunity as the guys brought home the bacon by winning the Best FX & Simulation!

BFX is a visual effects festival based in Bournemouth that showcases the visual effects and animation industry. More importantly BFX showcases fresh talent from all around the UK as well as educating and inspiring the next generation of artists. At the heart of the BFX festival is a summer competition for visual effects and animation students from around the country. This year it took place over summer, and the winning team walked away with an internship at a leading UK film and visual effects studio.

The Winners! 

So for our plucky George and his partner Sean the game was on. Only eight teams were selected from those that entered and they competed over a gruelling seven weeks. This was certainly no cake walk for our plucky pair! Each team was tasked with creating a unique 30 second promotional short for two charities. This year the charities were Create or Refuge.

George’s team was truly a collaborative one bringing together students from other Universities. Alongside Sean, George found himself working with three new colleagues, Meg, Shandis, and Jean.

Their piece focused around mixed media, combining live action footage of a set, 3D and 2D animation, as well as 3D simulation. George’s job was compositing, lighting and look development, which involved him bringing all the elements together in post production, and working out the render and lighting setup to achieve a very flat "2D look" to a 3D animation.

A mammoth job and critical to the success of the piece.

Sean, who graduated from Falmouth in 2015 and has been working as a VFX artist at Spider Eye animation took the role as the principle FX artist. He was tasked with creating several complex simulations to interact with the 3D character. It was this work that won us the award for Best FX and Simulation. Take a look at Sean's website here.

George, who is now hard at work on ‘Big Top’ a final year film-noir stop motion and CG project, as well as an outside project for London VFX company Cherry Cherry said of the BFX experience “It was a really fun project and I would really recommend it. It was a good experience and both me and Sean got to put into practice what we had studied at Falmouth”.

See George and Sean's award winning work here.

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