Team Rocket?!

Ok the group projects are over.
First thought; 'thank god!'
Now that isn't to say I didn't enjoy it, because it did (for the most part).
Everything started great, lots of ideas bouncing round, loads of energy and optimism. All the best bits of working with others. This lasted for a while but soon people started to drift, myself included.
I think this might have been due to us not nailing down a firm concept early enough. It left people abit unsure what to do and where to take it.
Once we had the concept sorted and more importantly the area we wanted to portray, I settled down and began my bitter sweet love affair with Unreal.
Initially it was great, I was making good progress and had new stuff to show everyone on an almost daily basis.
Then. Then the learning curve took a sudden upward dive and I was getting bogged down and demoralised.
This happened around the time the rest of the group were completing their first assets. So I was constantly torn between importing assets testing them re-importing them ect, and trawling through online tutorials on topics from lighting to triggers.
The situation was totally of my own construction however, and in hindsight I should have done a couple of things differently:
First I'd have made a much more official asset list with clear precise naming conventions. This would have saved me loads of time renaming peoples work etc (which leads me onto my second point.)
In future mi going to have to be a little more forceful and learn to say no, so i dont take on more than i can cope with. Maybe abit of delegation would have helped instead of trying to tackle everything myself.

However, I am pleased with what we ended up with. The level looked great and showed a real consistency with the great concept work Cherrelle and Blair did. We really pulled it together in the last few weeks. Although that kind of make me wonder what we could have achieved if we started like that.


In a previous blog I wrote that I had applied for BMW's internship in Munich. After completing the brief and sending off my work. Nothing. I waited for ages and ages. Finally I decided enough was enough and trying to sound as polite as possible sent an email asking how everything was going.
A little more waiting and Gareth (the boss) said he would like a telephone interview with me the next day and a CV. I hate writing CV's! I can manage my details and past experience, but what makes me right for the job? Erm, give me a job because I am awesome? Maybe not.
So, the phone interview. Telephone voice at the ready. Everything seemed to be going well, then I compared myself to a fifteen year old Ford escort (my awful car).... I don't need to say any more than that. After asking him not to write that down, it picked up a bit and ended with a request to see more of my work. Gareth was really impressed at my model of the BMW X6 I made and he was actually one of the team that worked on the development of that car and referred to it as 'a beast.' Sent my portfolio and a couple of weeks later after another follow up email or two and one internship at BMW thank you very much :)
I was so excited that I had managed to get the internship that I was jumping around doing cartwheels (not quite- I have no balance). After a few days it suddenly sank in that I would have to leave my home and move to Germany. For a year. Its such an amazing opportunity, but hell I am scared. There is so much that I have to sort out and so much that I have to think about. Let alone trying to understand at least a little of the language!

3D engine design isn't rocket science – it's far more complicated than that.

I vaguely remember Mike mentioning in one of our group therapy sessions that, he thought 'software programmers are like the industrial revolutionary engineers of our generation'. (probably horribly misquoted, but they were words to that effect.)

The cause of this flashback was an article on This one to be precise

Although around five months old now it is still fairly current for a mainstream newspaper, who often tend to treat video game articles as a novelty. Rather like the a story of a German Shepard becoming a surrogate mother to a trio of piglets, you'd expect to hear at the end of a news broadcast.

“Today some of the most brilliant minds in the world – physicists, mathematicians, architects, aerodynamics experts - are working on video games” The question is why? Turns out that the amount of programming and the difficulty that it entails means that this may be even more challenging than there chosen professions.
Software used for games companies has been used to power everything from the New York Stock exchange to a democratizing tool, so if someone in a village in Suffolk doesn't like the bench the council want to put in the park they can design a new one.

So it seems that software is the new iron and steel, not only of this country, but of the whole world. Anything is possible.

“John D Carmack, the programming legend behind the Doom and Quake games runs an aerospace company as a relaxing diversion from his role as technical director at games developer id. Which goes to show that 3D engine design isn't rocket science – it's far more complicated than that.”

3D cinema

Having just gone out and bought James Cameron's Avatar and recently going to see Clash of the Titans at the cinema, I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog about 3D Cinema. 3D cinema has been around for quite a long time, however it has quite rapidly come to our attention in very big ways.

After seeing Avatar at the cinema Clash of the Titans didn't seem to be anywhere near as good. I began to wonder why and after researching the film I found out that the decision to make the film available in 3D came at the last minute. It is quite clear that the premium rate charged for a 3D film was too much of a lure. It seems that I am not alone as the film itself seems to have picked up solid reviews its just the 3D aspect that doesn't seem to have been so popular. If Clash Of The Titans has proved anything though it is that if a studio is keen to release a film in 3D, it should be committed to from day one of filming. That way, we don't get a boardroom decision at the last minute that demands a hasty tack-on that doesn't really work.

Opposing this though Cameron's Avatar, which was intended to be 3D from the first day of filming, has been a great success. I was genuinely impressed at the films technological accomplishments. The narrative seems to be lacking slightly, but the whole concept of Pandora, another planet in space inhabited by strange and wonderful creatures, gives the opportunity for creativity. Inevitably it has led the industry towards a brave new world of stereoscopic film production.

Unfortunately I was unable to go and see Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland or any other films recently out in 3D, but I am assured that it is very good in that aspect. The two films I saw at the cinema seem to be at either ends of the spectrum. Really amazing and truly a failure.

Twenty years from now, we are assured, all movies will look like Avatar. No doubt it is the fate of all cutting-edge technology to eventually turn blunt, dull and outmoded, but that is a concern for another day, another era.


“Well it'd be stupid not to try right?” this is pretty much what went through my mind when I read Tom's Brief for the BMW internship. I immediately started drawing up a 'master' plan to secure the place. I initially intended to do both options and produce and vehicle and place it in a scene I had created. The vehicle would be a BMW X6-M, chosen purely because I thought it an interesting design, a sort of mix between a 4x4 and a saloon car. The scene I had in mind was a quarry, full of mud and dust. Mud and dust that I intended to spray all over the car.
So with a great deal of excitement and anticipation I began modeling the X-6. I started very low poly around the front wheel arch, there were maybe 6-8 sides to the arch at the start. I then built the front wing, with most of my concern on keeping good clean flow lines. I built the rest of the car using this method, following the lines of the car in a smooth and effective manner. Once this was complete I deiced to try and up the poly count and improve the over all silhouette.

I used the turbo-smooth modifier to achieve this. Usually I wouldn't use turbo smooth but since this model was only being used for production and final renders, not games I felt justified . Initially turbo-smooth caused many problems and seemed very messy. After some reading online I refined the mesh by chamfering edges to achieve the hard lines and smooth curves I required. However the chamfering required a lot of forward planning and fine tuning to make sure is was left with clean topology. Once I had gotten to grips with this method the car really began to take shape and I started work on an interior. I didn't want to spend too much time making the interior super detailed, as the main focus would be the outside.
After I'd got the interior out of the way I began fine tuning the outside.
I had a lot of trouble with the shapes in and around the rear bumper. It has a lot of hard edges and changes in direction, which when chamfering and smoothing can get a bit confusing. After sorting that the front bumper was less of a challenge, and with that done most of the challenging shapes where complete.
I did quite a few test renders just to see how it was looking. These highlighted a few areas that needed work, the door handles for example were not smoothing in the right shape.
I want through this process quite a few times until I was happy with how the car was looking.
I had quite a bit of trouble balancing the brightness and contrast. It was either coming out too dark and undefined or too bright and washed out.
For the final renders I tried to place the camera in positions that replicated advertising images used by car firms. I think the low angel shots were particularly effective at making the car look aggressive and imposing.

I wrapped up my 5 best renders in a PDF and sent an email with all my fingers crossed.

John Hilliard

John Hilliard is an artist that uses photography and explores the ways a camera can distort your perception of a scene. This is quite interesting as it is commonly perceived that a photo tells no lies, whereas traditional painting can be easily distorted or changed especially when representing a scene. Photo's can often be seen as 'fact' were as paintings a mere 'interpretation'. ‘Cause of Death’ is a perfect example of this. This is one photograph of a body lying in a field, but the cause of death is open to interpretation. The photograph has been cropped in four different ways and each time there seems like there is an obvious explanation for the death. Drowned, Crushed, Fell, Burned. This questions the truth of a photograph and also could be a comment on the impact media manipulation can have on our understanding of events. They also also show how important composition is in how we understand an image. This is something I want to try and really begin to explore in my visual design work.

‘Camera recording its own condition’ is another work by Hilliard consisting of 70 photographs of a camera. Each photograph is slightly different according to the conditions under which the camera’s settings have been changed. Many of the photographs are under exposed contrasting with many that are overexposed. The aim with this piece is to show that an image can be manipulated and distorted even with just the use of light and the lens. There are many possibilities for error when taking a photograph and a photograph can never be a true representation of an image or object. Colours especially can vastly change. This in particularly becomes important to remember in visual design, there is no substitute to on site observational drawing. (happy now Chris?)

I find Hilliard’s work very interesting because, maybe previously I have rarely ever questioned the truth of a photograph. Perhaps a little naivety on my part, but now that I can see how manipulation can be so simple and have such an effect.

Turner and the Masters

On a very cold and very snowy day in London last week I got the chance to go and see the Turner and the Masters exhibition at Tate Britain. In the words of Stephan Deuchar, the director of the Tate, “In exploring how a nineteenth- century painter forged a new and distinctly modern form of landscape painting rooted in an understanding of and critical independence form past art, the exhibition seeks to broaden our understanding of the concept of artistic originality and reveal how a sense of history can shape artistic production.” This large gathering of so many of Turner's works and those of artists that influenced him is extraordinary and has been carefully thought out from beginning to end.
Throughout his career Turner never tired of matching his talents to those forerunners whom he most admired. The great thing about the exhibition is that these are displayed next to Turner's own work and you can see the links that they have with each other. Some of the artists include are Rembrandt, Canaletto, Poussin, Constable, Gainsborough and Ruebens. When Turner was apupil at the Royal Academy, the institutions then president Sir Joshua Reynolds in his Discourses said “Study therefore the works of great masters, for ever. Study as nearly as you can in the manner, and on the principles, in which they studied. Study nature attentively , but always with those masters in your company; consider them as models which you are to imitate, and at the same time as rivals with whom you contend.” I think that this is still relevant today and this is a good approach for myself to use in my own art work.
Poussin's “Winter, or the Deluge” 1662-4 and Turner's “The Deluge” 1805, they are displayed side by side and are a brilliant example of how Turner tried to emulate and challenge the work of old masters. In this example I think that he was particularly successful. Turner's painting portrays a real sense of drama and energy the figures in it appear to be in great agony and peril. Whereas in Poussin's 'Deluge', the emotions of the figures are not portrayed as you would expect in a catastrophe. Turner's version appears a lot more apocalyptic and fits in with the narrative much better.
Rembrandt's “Christ and the woman taken in adultery” 1644 and Turner's “Pilate washing his hands” 1830 were also shown together. However, in this case I do not think Turner has challenged or improved upon the style of a master. In my opinion Rembrandt's painting is better because it has much more defined colours and depth, and more dramatic lighting.
Overall I found the exhibition very interesting and found that being able to compare and contrast so many paintings with one another was a good way to learn more about art.