HomeTICE Creative AreasAnimationWacky Characters, Emerging Tech and Stop Motion Giggles

Wacky Characters, Emerging Tech and Stop Motion Giggles

Explore Stage of the TICE Programme is all about meeting industry, seeing the industry and having a taste of being in the industry. So what exactly did Animation mentor, Chloe Rodham, share with students from Boldon School, Churchill Community College and St. Wilfrid’s R C College?

Day 1

The team met outside Gateshead College, eager for the day ahead and with no idea what was in store. For many, it was their first look at the top performing college in the region. It was down to Senior Student Recruitment Co-Ordinator, Scott Brown, to give a whistle-stop tour of the facilities and showcase what courses are available to young people. They explored the performance theatre and film studies classrooms as well as the specialised animation and games design department. The variety of opportunity in one building was incredible. What stood out most to students was the significant lifestyle difference in comparison to school, such as having more responsibility with their learning and having access to fantastic facilities like the gym.

Once students were settled in their workspace, it was time for some skills development. Chloe, with help from two other members of staff from Gateshead College, challenged all to create a character, using images of everyday objects on a graphics tablet. They were provided with the most bizarre photos – from teapots to cacti along with a set of features like googly eyes and headphones! Once the characters were drawn, it was now time to bring them to life. Short loops and GIFs have recently become an appealing marketing technique for companies on social platforms, so Chloe showed them how to make a frame by frame animation with the photoshop timeline and export them. Before they knew it, they had created Instragrammable potato and doughnut models.

After a well-earned lunch break, the group split up with half remaining at Gateshead College and the other half heading over to PROTO – a building dedicated to emerging technology. After a tour of the building hearing about the kinds of businesses that work there and the facilities like the sound recording room, they also had a look in the digital catapult room, dedicated to the different headsets used for VR technology. Students also saw a VR body suit, for haptic experiences, so you can experience environments using your body as well as through the visuals and audio. Fascinating stuff.

Then in the main hall, usually used for motion capture for films and games, students began to think about their own ideas of VR experiences. From being in an empty room, VR can take you anywhere. What could we design that would lend itself to be a virtual experience rather than just a normal film or game? There were some great ideas, ranging from a virtual walk the plank out of a lift to a historical world war experience that would show you what life was really like in the trenches.

We then had a very special visit from Shaun Allan, an independent specialist in XR (a collective word for all virtual/augmented technology experiences). A standout point was him discussing job roles in that sector, particularly sharing how you can get involved with developing experiences from so many different avenues like the sound design or project organisation. It showed that there is truly a role for everyone!

Day 2

Students were back at the scenic Quayside, this time visiting the ever-so-wonderful Northern Design Centre – the hub for creative and design-led businesses in the North East region.

Students settled in for a morning of chats from some of the best in the business. First up was Ben Ayling, Audio and Animation specialist from Coatsink – a gaming, VR studio and publishing company based in Sunderland. With their impressive portfolio, it was shocking for the students to find out that a company that cool is only down the road.

Ben gave the team some insight on how the company works when developing, supporting and/or publishing work as well as sharing specifically what his job entails. He also touched upon his own journey into the gaming industry and offered some insight into available networking events and courses in the UK. For Ben, it was all about the contacts, experience and simultaneously building a portfolio to show off to employers. Most importantly, however, he stressed that having a genuine passion for what you do is the key to success.

“Just keep playing and have fun with it. The best feeling is someone smiling or enjoying a game I made.”

Next up, Marc Runkee from Digital Sidekick stopped by to share his story, showcase some of his work and answer some burning questions from students. He mentioned that his job was a very different side to the industry compared to Ben, as his ‘day in the life’ is more varied. One day he could be doing a public speech, next he could be working on a project or he could be pitching it. Even when looking at the projects themselves, there is a noticeable variety in what challenges they are and how long it will take to complete. It was a fascinating perspective and a career path which particularly appealed to students.

They were thrilled to find themselves back at Gateshead College for a brief moment, heading into the classroom for another creative task – this time being challenged to make an animal shape on Illustrator! After all, it’s all about honing in on those skills and becoming Adobe pros…

Before they knew it they headed back to Northern Design Centre to hear from the last guest speaker of the day, James Taylor – Co-Founder and Animation Director at Arcus Animation. The company is based in the Northern Design Centre alongside many other agencies and studios so it was a joy to hear from a representative of the building. With a portfolio ranging from BBC Bitesize to the likes of E4, James had plenty of valuable tips up his sleeve. He explained his role in further detail and how he got there, sharing that he went from not having enough confidence in his own work to being convinced into building his own business. James used to have a dream of having a Pixar desk but now having a desk at Arcus is his greatest accomplishment…and that just shows that one’s definition of success can change over time.

It was then time for a series of exciting and somewhat challenging creative tasks…

Physical Stop Motion

Working in a group, students were expected to create a very quick stop motion film and were assigned the roles of actors, camera operators and even directors. Of course, the directors had a bit of fun and caused some laughs along the way…

What would you have on your dinner plate?

Inspired by the iconic viral video, ‘Western Spaghetti’, students were asked to stretch their creativity and come up with a meal replaced by different objects. We were pleased to find that many people went beyond expectations and were coming up with some pretty quirky meals…well, probably not edible but that’s beside the point.

Move your lips!

Remember Nick Park’s award-winning film, Creature Comforts?

Chloe wanted students to consider this very intricate part of Animation. How do we get the character to talk realistically and pronounce it as we would? With a phrasing guide in hand, students managed to pick a well-known phrase and create it on a series of post-it notes. By the time they finished, they were able to flick through the notes and see their phrase come to life.

What an incredible two days! Students had an insight into Further/Higher Education, visited some of the best media companies in the North East and were one step closer to becoming pro Animators. A massive thank you to those who shared their words of wisdom and offered their facilities – you have left many students feeling inspired and motivated about a creative future. Next stop…Create Stage.

See more photos from TICE Illustration Explore Stage here:

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