Monday, September 30, 2013

Late Night Work Club presents GHOST STORIES

Animating Your Career

I review Steve Hickner's book Animating Your Career at Cartoon Brew.

The Good Dinosaur is pushed

Bad news, everyone! As the LA Times confirms, Pixar has pushed back the release date for The Good Dinosaur to November 25th, 2015. The movie had its director replaced not too long ago. Currently, The good Dinosaur ix helmed by Pixar studio heads and former directors John Lasseter, Lee Unkrich and Mark Andrews and the film’s original co-director Peter Sohn.
This new release date was the original date of the Finding Nemo sequel, Finding DoryHowever, Finding Dory will now also be pushed back to the Summer of 2016. We don’t know if this means there won’t be a Pixar film in 2014, but as Ed Catmull says in the article: “Nobody ever remembers the fact that you slipped a film, but they will remember a bad film. Our conclusion was that we were going to give the [dinosaur] film some more time.”…If we have to wait, we’ll wait. 

What exactly is a Character TD? Karen Halliwell reveals all...

Karen Halliwell on the panel at Bucks New University
Karen Halliwell is a very experienced Character TD who appeared on a panel discussion at Bucks this past week to talk about some of the latest trends in the business. Karen has worked on countless film projects including World War Z, John Carter, Rango, and Golden Compass. She told us a little about what it is that a Character TD actually does for a living.

Bucks: So...what is it that a Character TD does, exactly?

Karen: A Character TD is usually called a rigger. The work is really a kind of digital puppetry. You are creating the architecture for a character, creating the skeleton (known as a "rig") that holds it all together and permits it to move. Visual Effects is a very specialist business, and digital artists tend to specialize in one area. 
Rigging a human hand. Source: Wikipedia
Bucks: How has the industry changed in recent years?

Karen: Back in the old days you did a bit of everything. Rigging didn’t really exist as a separate discipline. Digital artists tended to be generalists, doing a bit of modeling, rigging - even the lighting. But, as the business of VFX got bigger and more sophisticated, everyone got more and more specialized. I chose to specialise in rigging.

Bucks: Where did you train?

Karen: Mainly at Jim Hensen's Creature Shop in London. I did a lot of facial rigs, basically doing Jim Henson’s creature work. Later I worked on Rango at ILM, and then at Framestore.

Bucks: what are your favourite projects that you have worked on?

Karen: I have lots of favourite projects but among them are World War Z (which, actually, I haven’t seen), and also John Carter, which is actually a very good film, even though audiences stayed away. I also enjoyed Rango, which was an amazing project. And Golden Compass. I have worked on a lot of talking dog movies, such as Marmaduke, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua, which were fun to do. I also worked recently on the animation for Maclaren; I did the rigging for that. It was a great project - sadly all the work is now done in India.
John Carter
Bucks: How can graduates break into the business?

Karen: Well, you may have to start as a runner. Don't despise these entry level jobs - they are good ways to begin.  And most companies will honour their commitment to you; they will progress you.

(Editor's note: We're hoping to get Karen to visit Bucks regularly and do some rigging masterclasses - so that we can all benefit from her huge industry experience.)

Friday, September 27, 2013

Facial Rig - Jane Porter (Tarzan)

Pretty gorgeous facial rig...

"Flipping the Classroom" - Our new Video Tutorials at Bucks

Sal Khan - the man who flipped the classroom. Photo: Wikipedia
Here at Bucks we believe in the power of online training - and in the idea of "flipping the classroom", a philosophy of teaching pioneered by Sal Khan's Khan Academy. The idea is that, instead of taking notes during class and doing the homework later, you watch the lectures in advance, online, and then use precious classroom time for workshops and feedback. Best of all, each student gets to learn at their own pace, so no-one gets bored or, worse, falls behind and can't keep up.

Over the coming semester we'll be rolling out this new technique, giving our students access to hundreds of online videos, teaching you everything from how to make a ball bounce to full character and creature performances.  The idea is that you watch the lecture before coming in to class, and the classroom time itself becomes a workshop, rather than an information download. Better for everyone, and more fun as well.

So, to get started, and to find the videos, start by logging in to your Blackboard account. Find DA405 - the animation basics course, and scroll down to the Video Resources tab - and click on that link. You will now be taken to a series of weblinks to copy and paste in your browser window. Make sure you use Explorer - for some reason the videos don't play well in Firefox or Chrome.
The videos play best with Internet Explorer
Once you have pasted the links, you will be asked for a password. You can find the password at the announcements tab at Blackboard. Enter the password, and you should be able to access the videos.

Watch them in this order:
  1. Theory Videos
  2. Technical Videos
  3. Tutorial Videos
It will take you around 2 hours to watch the videos, and at least 4 hours to do the exercise, so make sure you budget plenty of time before class. Don't leave it until Monday morning!
Two screens. Video tutorial on the left, Maya on the right
The ideal way to learn is to use two screens at once, and do the exercise as you go along. On the left hand screen you watch the videos, on the right hand screen - you do the exercises. Follow the videos carefully step by step, click by click - and you won't go wrong. One of our students watches the tutorial videos on his iPad, then does the work at his desktop computer. A perfect combination (see below).

iPad below, desktop display above
Once you're done, drop your Maya file onto a USB stick, or you can even email it to yourself and pick it up when you next log in back at Bucks. Make a Quick Time of your animation, upload it to your YouTube account, and then embed it at the Facebook page, for in-class review.

Welcome to the future of education!


Thursday, September 26, 2013

The future of filmmaking

Lucasfilm shows off the future of filmmaking? 
Scenes get rendered out in real time, removing the need for post-production

New theatrical trailer for Disney’s ‘Frozen’

Frozen Trailer 2 on Disney Video

 Frozen is set for release on November 27th.

Find a job with MARQme - Alex Whitfield's awesome new iPhone app

MARQme app for the iPhone
Bucks animation student Alex Whitfield graduated this summer and has just completed an excellent new iPhone app, designed to help recent graduates find employment. In a job environment that remains a continual challenge, recent grads can use all the help they can get to kick-start their careers. We asked Alex to tell us all about his new creation, and how to take advantage of it.

Bucks: You have just created a new app - what does it do and why did you create it?

AJW:  I’m a recent Graduate, and as such I have a couple routes to employment: a non-specialist job in the public or private sectors, or my specialist Degree route. Finding a way into employment is quite tough, and it’s harder when you live ‘out in the sticks’, where you rely so heavily on local sources and the internet. Even for me, where I have major recruiters located fairly locally, it’s still difficult to know if I’m getting the best opportunities from them.

The other reason the app came about is because is interested in eliminating paperwork, speeding processes up, making life easier for the end user, and creating a unique autonomous platform that secures your information. Much wizardry there, but what this means in this instance is, as students:

• We fill in our information once;
• Grant access to it once;
• Then update it once if need be.

You don’t need to resubmit, you don’t need to make appointments, you don’t need to incur travel costs, and you don’t need to waste time or be caught out.

In principle, this is how it works: you go to your online profile, fill in your CV/Covering Letter details (copy & paste from your recent application), and save it. Over time, Universities will populate your education section themselves so you don’t need to. Then you open up the mobile app, select your chosen agencies of interest, select from a list of information to which you want agencies to have access, and then grant that access. Job done. Whenever you make a change online, it updates for everyone you’ve chosen to have access to your details.

From there, what it does is standardise the input format on the agency’s side, populate the recruiter’s form, and match you to appropriate jobs. They always ask for the same information: name, age, date of birth, address, NIN, etc., so we wanted to do it once. Call us lazy, but why do the same task twice?

To help answer your question, I just asked why I was involved in this process and they replied:

“Because your skills and needs help give insight into the product which refines the process from a user's perspective”.
Visual Development art by Alex Whitfield
Bucks: What technical skills went into making it?

AJW: The core programs: Photoshop, AfterEffects and Premiere Pro were all used to create this app demo. Individual assets were created in Photoshop; AE was used for the animation, which, after all the assets had been imported, took the better part of 2-3 weeks solid to complete.

I used Premiere Pro for the final output and for syncing the audio.

The technical skills involved were Corporate Web Design, UX (User Experience), animation and ‘User Journey’/Storyboarding. UX played such a massive role in this app demo, because when combined with animation we felt like we were designing an interface for an upcoming movie! A lot of our inspiration comes from films like The Island and Minority Report, so we had to get the transition timing right, while remaining faithful to the media, to achieve an engaging video.

Another technical skill would be communication. It’s one thing talking to colleagues and even clients, but we had to outsource the voice over section to a local studio, and it was my job to oversee the process to get the right output. That was definitely technical – the terminology in that industry is very different from my usual Photoshop design work! After that, all audio editing happened in Premiere Pro.

Digital Landscape by Alex Whitfield
Bucks: How difficult is it for graduates to find work in the current climate?

AJW: It really does depend on the line of work you’re pursuing I’d say. For me, I’ve chosen a specialism that has almost no base in my local area, which opens some options to me: relocate or start the base.

I would say the current climate has been pretty constant for a good decade; the competition has always been there. But now, with online applications growing, the scope is broader so the chance of rejection letters increases with it. It is difficult, and it can be truly disheartening for those who live far from a multitude of resources.

Design by Alex Whitfield

Bucks: What advice would you give to students at Bucks in making themselves employable?

AJW: As the Irish say, ‘Have a bit of brass cheek’! Meaning talk yourself into places, get chatting with people who seem ‘high up’ because they’ll remember you, and go for things that others would not. I’m often accused of ‘talking the hind legs off donkeys’, but it pays to leave a positive, lasting impression through your enthusiasm.

You must be real about your direction, flexible about how you get there and with whom, confident you can adapt (most jobs require a very similar set of skills, so find some patterns!); seriously push yourself to learn a specific skill and you MUST develop a repeatable method to produce a given outcome. A big failure of mine at Uni was not having a strong method, which I identified and have since resolved. Do it early!

Lastly, whether you’re in a heaving city, a quaint little village or out in the middle of nowhere, remember to keep looking to tomorrow, play the system, and believe in the things you have achieved. Take advice, and always remember: 'if they can do it, then so can you'.

(Editor's Note: You can see Alex explain how the app works in detail, here at YouTube:)


For more impressive work done by our students and recent graduates here at Bucks, check out SuperFergy in 3D by Anton Alfy, see the work of Jens KopkeBen Gray's Moonbeam, and the architectural visualisations of Sabah Masood and Anton Alfimenko. Also take a look at the work of Andy Thomas here, see our latest commercial project for Rocketseed, our short film done for a global aid agency, and take a look at the excellent work of designer Monika Dzikowicz, architectural visualisation specialist Krsytof Michalski, Alex Whitfield and the 3D artwork of Mike Swan. And don't forget to see the simulation work of our students done in RealFlow. To see our student demo reel, click here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Open Day at Bucks! - Saturday October 12th October

Gateway to your new career
Saturday October 12th October is our next Open Day at Bucks. Open Days are a great way to meet the Tutors and Course Leaders (for Animation & VFX - that's me and Dave Creighton) here at Bucks, find out about our courses, and also explore our campus.

We guarantee you'll be impressed by the state-of-the-art technical equipment we have in the brand new Gateway Building; the result of a £40m investment program completed just a couple of years ago.
Got questions about Animation? Or about visual effects work? Curious about careers, the kind of jobs available for animators and digital artists? - We have the answers.

Higher education is a big step and it's even bigger now that course fees are going up. We want to make sure that all our students get excellent value for money, and receive an inspiring top-quality training that will ensure a successful career in industry.

So, come along on Saturday October 12th and find out if Bucks is for you. The official page, which has more details, can be found here.


All About Blackboard

The Blackboard Interface
What is Blackboard? Blackboard is the main digital interface which students and staff use to access information about the courses at Bucks, including timetables, assessments, messages - in short everything you need to keep up to date. This means that, like it or not, you will need to access Blackboard regularly throughout your three years at Bucks.

Below are some common problems experienced by Blackboard users - along with some possible solutions.
Q: Where is Blackboard? 

A: You can find Blackboard here.

Q: I can’t log into Blackboard at all - what can I do?

A: Are you enrolled? If not go to your faculty office. That is E4.08, telephone 01494 603050.

Also, make sure you are accessing Blackboard via Mozilla Firefox, Chrome or Internet Explorer 8 and above.

Check you are entering your password and username correctly. Your username is your 8 digit ID number on your ID card.

Your default password default is your date of birth in this format 18-SEP-87. This password will only work for a maximum of ten times, so you should change it as soon as possible.

If your password needs to be reset contact IT or this can be done by clicking on the ‘Password’ tab in Blackboard or going to

You may have been locked out – If this happens go to the IT Service desk in the Library or contact them on ext 5000 then option 1 or 01494 605000 then option 1 or

Debt sanction? If you are a debtor you will not be able to access Blackboard or receive emails until the debt has been paid or a payment plan organised. Please contact the Student Centre on 01494 603020 or

Q: I logged into Blackboard but I can’t see my modules. What shall I do?

A: Make sure you are accessing Blackboard via Mozilla Firefox, Chrome or Internet Explorer 8 and above.

For referred students you may not be able to see your modules until the referral exam board has sat in mid September. Once you receive your results letter you should be able to see your modules.

Check that the module has not been hidden. Click on the cog to the right of ‘My Modules’. Check the boxes making sure you select the right academic year. We suggest you check JUST the boxes to display the module names and ID

Have you returned from suspension, changed course or forgotten to choose your options or are you a Direct Entry student? If so please contact your Faculty Office

If some of your modules are empty it means the module tutor has not added any content. Contact the module tutor.

If after this no modules show at all please contact your Faculty Office

Q: I can see modules but they are not my modules. Where are my modules?

A: This may occur if you have not been enrolled on your modules. Contact your Faculty Office.

Q: What does SB/S1/S2 etc mean at the end of the module code?

A: 13S1 = A module starting in September 2013 (academic year 2013/14)

-13S2 = A module starting in February 2014 (academic year 2013/14)

-13SB = A module starting in September 2013 (academic year 2013/14) that runs over both semesters

-13S1A = A module starting in February 2014 for students who start in February 2014 (academic year 2013/14)

-13S2A = A module starting in September 2014 for students who started in February 2014 (academic year 2013/14)

Q: I am not receiving emails from lecturers or other University staff. How can I get them?

A: Have you set up email forwarding? Emails are sent out from Blackboard via your student ID number. You won’t receive them if you have not set up email forwarding to your personal email account.

Go to or click on the Forward email tab in Blackboard.

Q: What is an Organisation?

A: Faculty Departments also use an Organisation under ‘My Organisations’ to provide course or year specific information eg timetable, results. If you cannot see an obvious course or year Organisation relating to your course please contact your Faculty Office as you need to be enrolled on the organisation to receive emails.

Very occasionally a module may be set up via an organisation. If you cannot see a module under ‘My Modules’ check it is not under ‘My Organisations’.

Organisations also contain information about the service areas like the accommodation service, disability service, the LDU, chaplaincy and the student centre.

Finally, there is (apparently) an iPhone app for Blackboard, for the busy student on the move. But you'll have to go to the Apple Store to find it.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Medium? A Genre? Does it Matter?

Scott Mendelson in Forbes takes a view I've long held.  Animation may be a medium, but Hollywood treats it like a genre.
"It can be argued, and has been argued by the likes of Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille) among others that one shouldn’t discuss animated films as if they are all to be lumped together, since technically the only thing they should have in common is the fact that they are not produced via live-action.  I wish that were wholly true. But when it comes to discussing mainstream animated films in America, it is unfortunately a question of genre. Artistically and especially financially speaking, films like Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 and Turbo are indeed cut from similar cloth in that they are basically targeting the same audience. We might decry this fact, but American animated films are still considered child’s play, a notion that heavily influences who they are aimed at and how they are made."
Unfortunately, when we get something animated aimed at adults, it's because it's unsuitable for children, not because it should be taken seriously by anyone mature.  Today's announcement of Sausage Party, an R-rated animated feature by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, does nothing to advance the cause of animation for adults.

We can argue over the terminology, but it doesn't change the facts.  North American animation is kid stuff.


One of my students at iAnimate did this little test and I think it's SUPER!

Animsquad’s Masterclass with Zach Parrish and Brent Homman

AnimSquad is offering a download of one of there Masterclasses with Zach Parrish and Brent Homman for $299. This Masterclass is 17hrs of goodness. Many of you that follow this blog know of Zach from my interview, so I know there are some great things going on in there. If you head on over to the site you can check out there super appealing rigs in that Disney style and it makes sense since most of the instructors are at Disney. There are some rig demos and even a blog to follow. Here is a snippet from the Masterclass.

Great stuff!

Circus Passion Comes to Bucks - 12.30pm today!

As part of the Bucks Welcome for our new students, Circus Passion's Ignition Crew will be performing outside the Gateway building (that's the big blue one that looks like a TV set) at the High Wycombe Campus, at 12.30pm today.

This will apparently be followed by circus workshops, whatever that means. Perhaps your opportunity to learn to juggle flaming torches and exhale fire?

For more information about Ignition, check out their website here. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

CTN T108!

If you're goin to CTN,  come by and say hey! 

I'll be here with Katia!

JOBS IN CALI: Character Designer- Dora and Friends

Job Description:
  •     Receive & understand Character Design assignment from Art Director/Design Supervisor.
  •     Ask appropriate questions to understand & complete the task.  
  •     Review Storyboard to ensure continuity of character designs.
  •     Complete all character designs.  
  •     Make any changes or revisions and re-submit to Art Director/Design Supervisor for approval.  
  •     Communicate with Design Supervisor & Production Manager regarding status of work and any problems that arise.  
  •     Ensure quality & style of show is achieved.
  •     Complete work on schedule.
Basic Qualifications:
  •     Must demonstrate proficiency in style of show
  •     Strong character design and construction/mechanical skills
  •     Must be proficient with Photoshop, & Illustrator.
  •     Strong time-management skills
  •     Work well under pressure
  •     Ability to multitask a plus
  •     Should have strong artistic skills as well as technical skills.  
  •     Relevant drawing experience necessary
Desired Qualifications:
  •     BA in Fine Arts or equivalent work experience highly desired
PLEASE NOTE:  Will require a test.

You MUST submit a portfolio in order to be considered for artistic positions!

Online Portfolio Instructions:
Do you have a website/blog you’d like us to review as your portfolio submission? If so, please be sure to upload your resume and website link in the online application process. Please include the website link on your resume. You MUST upload the portfolio release form to your application. You can add additional attachments in the resume section.
To download the form, please go to:

Physical Portfolio Instructions:
Will you be mailing your flat book to us as your portfolio submission? If so, you must complete your online application and then submit a flat book along with your portfolio release form directly to the animation studio. Before we can review your portfolio, you MUST fill out the portfolio release form.
To download the form, please go to:

Mail the completed form along with your portfolio to:

Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Attn: Portfolio Submissions
231 West Olive Avenue
Burbank, CA 91502

Please allow 4 - 6 weeks for processing, local candidates will be called when your portfolio is ready for pick-up. Out of state portfolio submissions will no longer be returned.

How to Use the Library at Bucks - an Animator's Guide

Shedloads of books - we got 'em
The animation shelves of the library here at Bucks are now groaning with fresh titles. The University has bought us more books, and more copies of the key books, so there are more to go around. And we have journals too, such as Animation Magazine - materials that help students learn from the best sources and keep in touch with the latest news from the industry. Below is some general information about to library for our new animation students.

Where is the library?
In the Gateway building - that's the big blue one that looks like a TV set.

When is the Library Open?
Monday to Thursday: 8.30am until 11.30pm.
Friday: 8.30am until 9pm
Saturday & Sunday: 11am until 6pm

Has it got WiFi?
Yes! Hurrah! Ask for a login at the help desk.

How do I find the books I need?
You can search old-school by browsing the shelves (see details below) or you can search the online catalogue, by going to the Library tab at Blackboard. The library staff will also show you how to search the catalogue.

How many books can I borrow?
Undergraduates can borrow up to ten at a time.

How long can I keep the books I borrow?
Mostly you get to keep them for 7 days, or sometimes 28 days. A few hot items are just loaned for 24 hours. Keep 'em too long and you will have to pay fines. Fines are 10p a day last time we checked.

What is the best book to start learning animation?
The number one book every animator should have on their shelf is The Animator's Survival Kit, Expanded Edition by Richard Williams.

Where are the animation books?
In three sections. If you want to browse the shelves, here they are:
  • 006 Computing - 3rd floor
  • 741 Comics - 4th floor
  • 777-778 Animation and film - 4th floor
Start with the Digital Animation section on the 3rd floor at 006 (see below). Books on computer animation nestle with various other materials on computers, game design and Flash.
Digital Animation at 006 on the 3rd floor. Flash, 3DS Max and Blender.
Now let's go to the comics section at 741 on the 4th floor (see below). Here, animation books are mixed in with books on comics, cartoons and graphics.
Animation and comics at 741 - 4th floor
Finally, look on the film-making shelves at 777-778, on the 4th floor (see below). Here the animation books are to be found alongside books on film-making, cinematography, editing and so on.
Animation and film-making at 777-778 - 4th floor

So there are three main areas to browse. If you need a book that isn't there, ask the library staff. If they don't have it, leave a request in the comments section below, or email me at I do my best to get our students all the books they need to give them the best possible resources.

Can I scan a document?
Yes, at the multi-function printers. You can email the scans to yourself, then download them later.

And, finally, here's a link to the official library web page at Bucks.


Saturday, September 21, 2013


Abe, about a robot who becomes a serial killer. 
Now MGM is turning it into a full-length feature.

What Is Wrong With The Global Development Organisation?

Back in June we blogged about a new film project here at Bucks, a collaboration among some of our recent graduates on a short film with a worthy goal - to tell the story of how organisations that set out to do good work can lose sight of their guiding principles.

The film was directed by Monika Dzikowicz, and animated by Lydon Fleisig, Dave Berry, Peter Nicholson, Paula Gillin and Allan De Leal. Sound design was done by Kris Allen - showing how different departments at Bucks can combine forces to do great work. Everyone spent a good chunk of their summer toiling over their laptops, with the result that the film is now - at last! - finished.

Our film is a two minute micro-documentary about a fictitious aid organisation with some very big problems. Bureaucratic capture is a potential hazard of all companies, but is especially dangerous when the organisation seeks to remedy urgent social needs in the developing world. 

What would such an organisation look like if development experts and management worked together co-operatively to help make the world a better place?

Our goal is to do many more films like this, short documentaries that can be made on very small budgets, and which utilise our students' exceptional talents. We want to make Bucks a hub for talented film-makers and animators, showcasing their skills to the world.

Below is what the client had to say about the project:
"I owe you a very large thanks for the great work you and your team did on the animation.  The feedback was incredible. Our No2 summed it u well…."iconoclastic….irreverent…..hilarious……us."


Friday, September 20, 2013

Where am I supposed to be on Monday?

Welcome to High Wycombe
Term starts on Monday and Induction Week is the first of many pleasures awaiting our new students at Bucks. By now, Admissions should have sent everyone an email with all the necessary information including the miriad forms that need filling in. There is also plenty of information here about how term gets under way:

Scroll down the page and look for ‘Joining Instructions’ and a link for ‘undergraduate courses’. Then follow the instructions and choose our course from the list.

On that page the induction week timetable can be found, plus a welcome letter.

Welcome to Bucks!


World War Z VFX Breakdown

Live Motion Graphics at Bucks - Broadcast Technology and Virtual Sets from ChyronHego

Live Graphics in Real Time - Your Logo Here
One of the best things about being a student at Bucks New University is the sheer range and quantity of media that gets produced here. Not just Animation and Visual Effects, but Film & TV, Dance, Acting & Performance, Games, Music, Live Events, and Sound Design. What this means for students is an incredible array of talent that can be sourced to collaborate on a huge range of productions and projects.

Earlier this year we blogged about the excellent Bucks Media Collaboration page at Facebook – where you can post a call-out for talent, and get the skills you need to make your project happen. It's a huge resource, and a vital way of getting the people you need for your project. You can't be a specialist in every field, but you can get access to specialist talent and get them involved.

This week we were treated to a workshop by Mark Bowden From ChyronHego, a company which provides "the world's most advanced graphic creation and playout systems available".
Mark introduced us to the amazing technology that can now be used to produce live graphics for TV broadcasts. Imagine you are broadcasting a football match, sponsored by a client whose logo isn’t featured on the stadium billboards. No problem – you simply project their logo onto the football pitch.

Live Feed, before and after tracked graphic
The software tracks the corporate logo (or whatever; it could be anything) on to the pitch in real time. You can create huge pop-up ads - giant Coke cans can appear in Wembley stadium, as if they were really there. You can create all kinds of live motion graphics, such as an arrow or a dotted line which follows and highlights the path of action of a football as a striker scores a goal.

So how does it work? The Hego software tracks the pixels on screen and moves with them in x y and z space. It’s a real time render, keeping the digital image fixed on screen. The software looks for anchor points, and then drops the graphic into the anchor points. The practical result is - the logo moves with the video.

And you can create a live digital matte, so you automatically matte out the logo, so that the players  appear to run in front of the graphics, for all the world as if the logo is really there in actual physical space.
Live graphic with digital matte

The same technology can be used to create virtual sets, again broadcast in real time. Let's say you want to shoot some footage of a bunch of talking heads in a studio, chatting about an event taking place in some other location, like, say, Old Trafford.
Green Screen Studio at Bucks
You start by filming your guests in front of a green screen (which we also have here at Bucks, available for student projects).
Studio Talking Heads - filmed live in front of a green screen background
So now all you have to do is track your location onto the green screen.In the image below, the software has tracked the logo (the black pointy arrow on the yellow background) onto the green screen background.

The result is that your studio guests appear in front of the location (say, Wembley Stadium, or Wimbledon Centre Court) in a live feed, for all the world as if they were really there.

So what has all this got to do with animation? Well, maybe not that much. But the range of opportunities for collaboration here at Bucks is one of the best things about the university. Everyone needs to have their own area of specialisation, but it is also vital to learn to collaborate with others - almost all successful media projects are collaborations of one kind or another. Good directors are usually cheerleaders, gathering the best talent and encouraging everyone to do their best to deliver an excellent performance, greater than the sum of its parts.

So the message to our students at Bucks is to aim as high as you can. Need a sound designer for your project? Acting talent? Dance performance? Motion capture? It's all here - waiting for you to get involved.

(Editor's Note: For more on the range of digital services available at Bucks, check out this guide to recording voice talent, read about why sound designers want to collaborate with animators, find the Bucks Media Collaboration Page, and check out our Motion Capture facilities. )

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Star Wars director JJ Abrams to defy bosses over shift to London

He said earlier this year that Disney's decision to shoot upcoming Stars Wars: Episode VII in London "really does make me insane". Now it appears JJ Abrams is looking to minimize the amount of time he is forced to spend in the UK after the film-maker reportedly began building new post-production facilities in California. 

Star Wars: Episode VII Production year: 2015 Country: USA Directors: JJ Abrams More on this film A source told the Hollywood Reporter that Abrams is building a green room, sound studios and other upgrades specifically for Episode VII at his Bad Robot production company's headquarters in Santa Monica in Los Angeles county. The move means the film-maker would be able to complete a large portion of necessary post-production work in his home state. 

The Super 8 director has shot all his previous films in Los Angeles, where he lives with his family, even covering costs out of his own pocket to remain local for this year's Star Trek Into Darkness. Disney and LucasFilm ultimately opted to keep faith with tradition, however. All six previous Star Wars movies have included UK production time, in studios such as Elstree, Shepperton, Leavesden, Ealing and Pinewood. Abramssignalled his irritation with a decision that would force him to uproot his young family in June, remarking of his children's reaction: "When you're 13 and 14, it's like, fuck that, I don't care what the movie is."

Welcome to Bucks! - A Brief Guide for our New Students

Gateway building - home to animation and many other media resources
A big, warm welcome to our new cohort of animators and visual effects artists! Your first days at Bucks will likely be a little confusing and overwhelming, with a complete overload of information to digest in a big hurry. To make it all a little easier, here is a selection of links that will help you find your way around campus, so you can find the information and resources you need:

First piece of advice - get yourself a map. You can find handy plans of the campus at reception. Grab one and carry it with you for the next few weeks until you get the hang of the geography.

The Library
Here's a handy guide to how the library works and where you can find the books and other resources you need. The library staff are super helpful, and we have recently stocked up considerably on the latest animation and digital media books. If there is a book you need that isn't there - let us know - we'll put it on our order list!

Top of your reading list

Reading List
Here is a list of useful books to get you started. Number one is The Animator's Survival Kit - every student should have a copy. By Richard Williams, and published by Faber. The library has multiple copies.

Where are my tutors?
Myself (Alex Williams), Dave Creighton and Nick Brown are all located in E.402, which is on the 4th floor of East Block. Find our very scruffy office and say hello!

E.402. Winner of the Scruffiest Office on Campus Award 2013
If we're not around, email us at or

Where are the online resources?
Online content is a big priority for us at Bucks. You can access our online tutorials at our Vimeo site here - but you'll have to log in first. We have well over 100 videos to watch, taking you through the essentials of digital animation, step by step. You will find Theory Videos, Technical Videos, and Tutorials, on every aspect of animation.

Our teaching philosophy
You can also read about our philosophy of blending learning - that is combining classroom time with online content - here. At Bucks, as at any University, classroom time is a precious resource, so the more you can learn through online tutorials the more you can get the most out of classroom time. To read more about how long it takes (10,000 hours!) to become an accomplished animator, click here.
Corkboards in G1.13 - showcasing our students' awesome work
Where are the classrooms? 
Most of our teaching is done in G.113, G.112 and G1.11 in the Gateway Building (that's the big blue building pictured above). You'll find rows of PCs, Macs, and even (finally!) some nice artwork on the walls, to keep you inspired. You should never find yourself without the tools to do your work.

How do I book a study room?
Need a quiet room to study in? Perhaps you need to have a private meeting about a project with some other students? You can book a study room simply by going to Reception and presenting your ID.

I need a bit of extra help - how do I get it?
The Learning Development Unit (LDU) is here to help with all kinds of challenges including general academic skills. If you find it hard to take notes in class, do library research, or write essays, or if English is not your first language - they can help. Find out more about the LDU here.

Can I get a mentor to help me out?
Bucks has a dedicated mentoring find out more, visit this page.

What do we expect of our students?
To find out more about what we expect of our students, and what you can expect from us, see this article here.

I need to scan a document - where can I find a scanner?
We have photocopiers in the library which will scan an A3 document, and then email it to you. Click "scan to email" and you should be sorted. There are also some scanners available in the Timberlake building.

Get inspired! checking out some of the awesome work done by our recent graduates, such as Monika Dzikowicz, Krzysztof Michalski, Lydon Fleisig, Jens Kopke, Mike Swan and Clare Hunt. Take a look at our page at YouTube and have a look at some of the videos. Your job is to study hard, learn your craft and do even better.

Check out the Bucks Welcome page
The Bucks Welcome page is a good place to start to find resources at Bucks, including timetabling and other important practical stuff.

Once again, welcome to Bucks! We want this to be the beginning of the best three years of your life.