Isolated, yet free with their stories.

It is remarkable that the animation industry is so prominent in the Northeast, yet very few are actually aware of it. There are quality courses, very successful studios and companies as well as freelance animators hidden in their home offices. But that is the purpose behind TICE Explore – to showcase to young people the opportunities available on their doorsteps and presenting the skills that they would need to develop if this a route they would like to go down themselves. 

This tends to be the most jam-packed part of the programme – countless inspirational people to meet and places to visit. So, you could imagine the disappointment when we were unable to complete this stage due to COVID-19.

However, instead of sitting in our disappointment, we adapted. As many creators have shown over the past few months, there is always room for more creativity and that was certainly the case for TICE Animation. So, here’s what happened on TICE Animation Explore 2020 with 18 students from Whitley Bay High School.

Think Like a Computer

Bright and early, students arrived at Apple Eldon Square where two staff members welcomed them to their incredible new space for the #TodayAtApple workshops. For this workshop, students were expected to think like a computer.

TICE Animation students arriving at Apple

To begin, they were introduced to a video created by Sarah Rothberg, all about using VR in art. This would be their inspiration to work from, as students were paired up and one individual was expected to give instructions whilst the other carried it out. They were expected to write a 3-letter word by only using instructions like ‘draw a parallel line,’ then ‘draw a horizontal line next to it’ – it really made everyone think about using clear language to create instructions. One pair took it one step further and managed to write ‘zebra!’. It’s safe to say that they could potentially be half-human, half-computer…

Students given tablets to work on.

To finish off, students were introduced to coding – writing a set of instructions to determine a pathway for an animated character. It was impressive to find that the team had mastered it rather quickly and before they knew it, they were using AR (augmented reality), adding animated elements so that we could see them in-camera. 

Getting stuck into the challenge.

After a colourful, refreshing morning at Apple, students got a taste for education at Northumbria University. Students were given an insightful tour of the campus by master’s animation student, Ben. Whilst wandering through hallways, they stopped by one of the animation classrooms and heard from animation lecturer Dr Hugo Glover. They even watched an animation by a recent graduate of the course, Steven and heard from some of the first years who showcased their first projects using 3D software.

Adobe software training started!

After a packed morning, the rest of the day was dedicated to skills development with Animation mentor, Chloe. Students were learning how to use two incredibly important Adobe programmes: Illustrator and After Effects. Continuing from the theme of TICE Insight, they learned how to draw and animate a sausage dog as a taster of what it is like to use the software. Once again, everyone got into the swing of it really quickly despite the sheer amount of content. Chloe was impressed, to say the least.

Isolation Inspiration

At this point, the TICE Programme came to a sudden halt due to the COVID-19 crisis. In response, we created ‘TICE-olated’ – an online platform for students to continue their journey from the comfort of their homes. First, we were lucky enough to schedule in Zoom chats with some wonderful creators, working in various roles in the industry:

Merlin Crossingham – Creative Director of Wallace & Gromit at Aardman Animations, Brandon Murphy – TICE Alumni, Working in TV & Advertising, Chris Folwell – Participatory Artist, Loukia Kyriakidou – Games Artist, Rich Alderson – VFX Animation, Aaron Lambert – Animation Student, Newcastle College, Billie-Jean Heslop – Animation Student, Northumbria University, Russell Atkinson – Animation Student, Northumbria University, Steven Haggie – Animation Graduate, Northumbria University.

An insight to some of the interviews from animation professionals.

I think that I would enjoy Steven’s job, as I like the idea of having some part in the creation of a movie, even if it is cats. I like the idea of this as the film would be watched by many people and that would give the feeling that I had contributed in some small way to the finished product. As well as this, I would enjoy the method of working in groups, but on different things as this would relieve some stress caused by having a single task given to you, by separating one task in into small but different areas that make it much easier to complete. 

James Carson, Whitley Bay High School. 

The most interesting thing I heard was when Aaron Lambert commented on how wide the art industry is and I want to see what he means by that and explore the different options that you can do in art because I do really like art and if I continued it I would want to know what type of art I could do. 

Aaliyah Smart, Whitley Bay High School.

We are somewhat relieved that we had scheduled a software tutorial in Day One, as it certainly came in handy for our online tasks. Ultimately, it was all about using the lockdown experience to inspire storytelling.

  • FlipBook Fun. For this task, students were encouraged to rely less on their digital devices and go old school with the classic flipbook method. The theme to was to reflect on COVID-19. What activity do you miss during this period of isolation? What are you looking forward to doing when this is over?
  • Stop Motion Storytelling. Set by our friend Brandon Murphy, students were challenged to make a stop motion animation using an object in their home that has been important to them during isolation. Could they make the object into a character? How could an object be used to tell a story?
Submission of the Stop Motion Storytelling by Aaliyah Smart

*If you are interested in hearing more about the TICE programme, listening to interviews and exploring challenges, please get in touch.

Thank You!

Day One of TICE Explore was such a special one, all thanks to the team at Apple Eldon Square as well as Steven, Ben, Dr Hugo Glover and the rest of the team at Northumbria University. As for Day 2, although it didn’t go to plan, we were so excited to visit Gateshead College, Proto and hear from the likes of Justine Colla at Atomhawk. Thank you all for supporting what we do, and hopefully, we will be able to reschedule very soon.

All thanks to the wonderful people who contributed to TICEolated:

So, it was certainly an interesting turn of events for TICE Animation, from an introduction to Adobe software to thrown into the deep end, with only their home environment to inspire them. Despite it all, students were isolated yet free with their stories. It is an experience which will enrich their future work, and we can’t wait to utilise these skills even further later on in the year.

I think that the TICE-olated programme has been really helpful because if the TICE programme had just been stopped, I wouldn’t have learnt anything or done anything new with animation, but TICE-olated has encouraged me and gave me new ideas and other things to try and do, and I also enjoyed hearing from the professionals.

(Millie Nugent, Whitley Bay High School)

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For further information on the creative, design and digital industry programmes provided please get in touch.


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