Sunday, 29 December 2013

Collaborating on Group Projects - how do you pick the right people?

Animators need sound designers
One of the most important aspects of studying any form of film-making,  whether it is animation or live action - or any other media - is learning to collaborate with other people. As a film-maker, you cannot possibly hope to become an expert in everything; you will always need help from other departments. Animators may need help from modelers, designers, texture artists - finding people with the skills you need to finish your film is all part of getting the job done.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

How do you pick the best place to study animation?

Life at University
One of the most important decisions that any of us will ever make is what to study at University, and where. How do you choose? Even if you know you want to study animation and the digital arts (good choice!), there are at least 80 courses in the UK to select from. So how do you pick the right one? The simple answer is - pick the best. But how you tell which courses are the best? There are a number of ways of making the right decision, but we think that there are two that are by far the most important.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

MPC is hiring!

One of London's leading visual effects houses, the Moving Picture Company (MPC), is hiring! They are looking for artists not just for Canada and Bangalore, but also for London, which thankfully suggests that Soho isn't quite finished yet.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Life Drawing Comes to Bucks! - Sign up with the Student Union on January 21st

Figure drawing - great training for animators
Animation is a blend of creative and technical skills, and a good animator needs both to survive. It is true that digital animators don't need to draw with the same degree of skill as they did in the days of hand-drawn animation, but good draughtsmanship still helps a great deal, not just for design work but for storyboards, thumbnails, visual development and all the other related areas that a good animator often gets called upon to do.

We've been working with the Student Union at Bucks to organise life drawing classes for our students, and we strongly recommend that everyone sign up. It's great skill to acquire and will help all our animators become better artists.

More storage space for our animation students!

Our new Animation & Visual Effects Course has been running for three months now, and we're still ironing out some of the kinks. Recently our students gave vent to their frustration at the rather stingy data allowance of just 750MB for personal storage, barely enough to run all the software we use, let alone store high resolution images and video.

Luckily, the Bucks IT department has come now to the rescue. From now on, starting in the New Year, all our students will get 5 gigabytes of storage; still not a massive amount - but a huge improvement, and enough to run all the software we use and also make some decent renders.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Bucks Animation & VFX Demo Reel

An animator's demo reel is never done. It is a constant work-in-progress, always being refined and updated to include your best work and weed out the less impressive material. Over the years a great deal of excellent work has been done by animators and digital artists here at Bucks.

One of the challenges of putting together a compilation reel of our best student work has been trying to track down all the films done in recent years. Here, for the first time, is a compilation of some of our students' best work, cut together by our first year animator Anton "Alfy" Alfimenko.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Breaking into the Creative Industries

We're famous again! Today the Daily Telegraph has run a piece on how students can muscle their way in to the creative industries, how to sustain a career in what is still a challenging job market, especially for recent graduates. It's a good piece, full of useful insights into what students need to learn in order to make it. Click here to read all about it.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

What Exactly Does a Visual Effects Producer Do?

Here at Bucks we teach the craft of animation and visual effects. One thing we don't teach (but perhaps should) is how to be a producer. Producers are vital to any production. They are organisers, leaders, people who make stuff happen. While the rest of us collect a paycheck, producers are out there beating the pavement, pitching, bidding, and raising money.

Below is an interview with VFX Producer Martin Gabriel, reprinted from Alex's blog FLIP. It's one of FLIP's most popular posts ever, probably because it explains the workings of a job that is, to non-producers, somewhat mysterious. So, if you've very wondered how the VFX industry really works, read on, and get educated.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

The Perfect Workstation - How to be an animator and not ruin your health

A student watches a tutorial on his iPad, and does the exercise a separate screen
A good workstation is not a luxury - it's a necessity. The dirty secret of the animation and visual effects business is that sitting still and clicking away at a video workstation all day long is very bad for your health. Carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injury (RSI) are serious health problems which affect many, many people working in the industry.

Why don't we hear more about it? Because people don't like to talk about it. Employers don't talk about it because they don't like being sued. Employees don't talk about it because they fear if they admit to having problems they will lose their job and perhaps their career. So get educated, look after your health, and make sure it doesn't happen to you.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Counselling Services at Bucks - Help When it's Needed Most

Over the course of your three years at University there will inevitably be things that will go wrong. Personal problems, health crises, a crisis in the family - all sorts of things can derail the best laid plans and throw you off course. When bad things happen, you are not alone. The university provides counseling services free of charge and you will never be turned away if you need help, or just want someone to talk to.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Daily Telegraph ranks Bucks in top 14 Creative Universities

Art and Industry - what Bucks is all about
Recently the online magazine Huffington Post ranked Bucks in the top 12 Creative Universities in the UK. Now the Telegraph has weighed in, including us in a list of the 14 most creative universities in the UK.  So why are we in this list? The answer lies in the massive £40million investment made a few years ago in our shiny new Gateway media building - an investment that is now beginning to pay off handsomely.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Bucks Animation featured in Digital Arts Magazine

We're famous! Today's edition of Digital Arts Magazine online has run a piece all about our new course at Bucks, focusing specifically on our revolutionary technique of "flipping the classroom", inspired by the work of American educator and entrepreneur Salman Khan. Click here to read all about it. We're at Computer World too!

Monday, 9 December 2013

How do you write a script? - five simple steps to a great story

Titles to Love Me Love Me Love Me by Richard Williams
Every film starts with a story. One of the most common mistakes made by rookie film-makers is to start making the film before the story is figured out. In fact, it's not just novices who fall into this trap - Hollywood does it all the time. But with a little forethought and planning, you can start off your project with a great story. After all, story is the most important part of any film. As John Lasseter often says, the three most important ingredients in a Pixar film are: 1. Story, 2. Story, and 3. Story. So, how do you make sure you get it right?

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Six Rules for a Good CV

Source: Wikipedia
CV stands for Curriculum Vitae - literally the story of your life. In the USA it's known as a résumé. Whatever the name, its purpose is to summarise your education, life history and skills as clearly and concisely as possible, and to put the best possible gloss on your achievements.  Employers will expect one, so it's worth spending some time on it to get it right. Once you've done it, all you need do is edit it regularly and update it.

Below are some rules for putting together a good CV.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

How Do you Research a Project?

The Library at Bucks - a huge resource
What is research and why do we do it? For animation students, working on animation and visual effects projects, research can seem like an exercise you are made to do just for the sake of it, part of the rite of passage to earn those magic letters BA (Hons). But there is much more to it than that. Research has a practical as well as an intellectual purpose. It's about figuring out what you are trying to do, by identifying artists whose work inspires you and then setting out what your own creative goals are. In short, it's about analysing and thinking.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

BAFTA Scholarships for graduate study - worth up to £20,000

 BAFTA has just announced a new post-graduate scholarship program for UK Nationals and Hong Kong residents, looking to study in film, television or games. The BAFTA Scholarship Programme in Hong Kong is the latest addition to BAFTA’s established scholarship programmes in the UK and the US for those in need of financial assistance, and is designed to support UK-Asia cross-cultural exchange.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Your First Client Project - 8 Rules to Ensure Success

OK, so you have got your first freelance job. You've pitched the idea, you've agreed a price for the job, the client is shiny-eyed with excitement about the amazing work you're going to do for them. Now all you have to do is deliver what you promised. What can possibly go wrong?  Plenty!

Below is our simple guide to getting it right and making sure that your first client is not only so happy that he or she comes back for more, but also tells everyone they know what a great job you did. Over the course of your media career, almost every job you get will come to you on the strength of a recommendation - it's how the business works.

Monday, 2 December 2013

How to adjust levels in Photoshop - making your artwork crisp and clear

Some of our students' early submissions have a common weakness - sketches and artwork which have been digitally photographed or scanned, but are not well presented. Out there in the real world, clients will expect any digital artwork you submit to look stylish, clear and attractive. Raw scans with grey shade pixellation or blurry edges just don't cut it.

The good news is, it is super easy in Photoshop to adjust the levels of your scanned artwork so as to reduce the greyshade and make your images look more crisp and professional.

Sunday, 1 December 2013 launches Student Film Competition - with a £3,000 prize have launched a student animated film competition titled ‘Filmed with Happiness’. Anyone who is studying or working in film making, animation or television is invited to submit a children’s short film based on the theme of "happiness".  The winner gets £3,000 in cash - and the chance to boost your profile with a little help from their PR agency.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

How Do I Get My Name onto The IMDB? - How the System Works

Insert Your Name Here
The Internet Movie Database, or IMDB, is the principal portal for finding people who work in film and broadcast media. It's where you go to look people up. Gone are the days when you had to dig through back copies of Variety to find out someone's track record - knowledge is now just a click away. Being listed is important. Anyone who isn't listed, effectively does not exist.

But how do you get onto it? Specifically, as a recent graduate, trying to building yourself a reputation and an online presence, how do you get your name included in their database? Here's how the system works:

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

How Do I Find a Job in Media? - Our Graduates Reveal the Secrets

How do graduates in digital media find that crucial first job? And the second? And how do you build a career? Last friday a dozen Bucks graduates who are currently working  in the creative industries came back to their alma mater to talk to our undergraduates about what it takes to find work. They They discussed many things, but the recurring theme was employment - and how to find it. Below are some of their tips for graduates looking to find work.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

How Do I Get My Book Published? - Ten Rules to Make a Success of It

So you've got a great idea for a book - now you want to know - how do you get it published? The good news is, it has never been easier to get into print. The bad news is, the economics of publishing have never been worse. Plus, writing a whole book is going to be a major effort, so you don't want to waste your time on something that no-one wants to read. So what is answer? Like so many things in media, what you need is a good pitch. Below is our simple guide to getting it right and ensuring that a good publisher will (hopefully) pick up your first book.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Student Showcase - Our Talented First Year Animators

Every animation course begins with a bouncing ball
Our new Animation & VFX course has been up and running for just six weeks now, but our freshmen animators are already doing excellent work. Their first formally assessed brief was to do a short piece of abstract animation set to music. In order to pass, the students had to be able to demonstrate that they had mastered all the basic 3D skills: modeling, texturing, camera, animation, lighting, render and final output.

Below is a small selection of some of the films which came out particularly well.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Graduate Panel on Friday - Who's Coming?

Some of the companies our graduates have worked for
Friday 22 November is the launch of our brand-new Graduate Panel - aimed specifically at careers in the creative digital arts. The panel will take place on Friday November 22nd from midday until 15.00 in the General Lecture Theatre (GLT).

Who will be there? Our guests are all Bucks graduates, all working in digital media, who will be returning to the Uni to share their insights into how they forged their careers. They were themselves students at Bucks, so they know better than anyone what it takes to turn a degree into a career. Below is a complete list of who's on the Panel. Bring a notepad, and get ready with your questions.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Open Day today at Bucks!

Open Day at Bucks New University - come and see us!
Today, Wednesday 20th November 2013, is 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.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Seven Rules to Make a Group Project Work

Group projects always sound like a great idea, in theory. In practice, things rarely go to plan. Why do they go wrong?  Usually it's due to a lack of individual responsibility. Everyone in your group will tend to think that, where there's a job to be done, someone else will do it. The result is paralysis - nothing happens.

This is a problem for all group projects, and students film projects are no exception. So, save yourself some pain and heartache by following this step-by-step guide to making a group project work. These are the rules to live by.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Bucks Graduate showcase - the digital art of Andy Thomas

Andy Thomas is a talented artist who graduated from Bucks New University in 2002 and, since then, has forged a successful career in the digital arts. He now works for the global multi-national URS, running their digital media team. We asked him to talk a little about how he got started, and what students need to do to get hired in today's competitive job market.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Hair Simulation in Maya 2014

Rapunzel - great hair!
One of the best new features of Autodesk Maya 2014 is a big step forward in its hair simulation capabilities. The new tool is called XGen, and it comes free with Maya 2014. It was developed by Disney/Pixar and was used on their recent film Rapunzel, to generate the heroine's gorgeous, bouncing tresses.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

HOW DO I GET A JOB? Graduate Panel, Friday November 22nd

How do graduates find work? Getting that first job is always the toughest step, and also arguably the most important. Next week on Thursday 21st November is the Jobs & Careers Fair, and the very next day is our brand-new Graduate Panel - aimed specifically at kick-starting careers in the creative arts. The panel will take place on Friday November 22nd from midday until 15.00 in the General Lecture Theatre (GLT).

Who will be there? Our guests will be Bucks graduates, many of them working in animation and digital media, who will be returning to the Uni to share their insights into how they forged their careers. They were themselves students at Bucks, so they know better than anyone what it takes to turn a degree into a career.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Cartoon Movie - pitch your animated film idea

Cartoon Movie is the main international forum for independent film-makers to pitch their animated film ideas to producers, distributors and sales agents. In other words, it's where talent meets money to make great movies. The deadline to pitch an idea in concept is fast approaching - November 22 is the last day for submissions.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Jobs and Careers Fair at Bucks on Thursday 21 November

Next week, on Thursday 21 November the annual Jobs and Careers Fair is coming to Bucks. It is a big event, aimed at putting graduates and employers together, part of the University's focus on employability. The fair, which runs from 11am to 3pm, is not aimed specifically at Animation & VFX but it is sill well worth going along to find out what kinds of jobs are out there, and also what employers are looking for in graduates.

You can read more about it at the official page here:


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Student showcase - the animation of Jack Strood

Animation by Jack Strood for GPSL
Jack Strood is one of our talented animation students here at Bucks. During this past summer he worked on a series of animated videos for Global Publishing Solutions, a company that commissioned some short films as part of a marketing campaign to get its message out to prospective clients.

Lots of companies find it hard to explain exactly to clients what it is that they do - especially in the technology sector - and animation can be the perfect medium to make complex ideas seem clear and easy to understand. We asked Jack (who did the animation) and Alex Hudd (who did the audio work) to talk about the project and how they got involved.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

How to Go Viral on YouTube - Anton Alfimenko shows how it's done

Anton Alfimenko is one of our talented freshmen students here at Bucks, having come all the way from Kazakhstan to study on our new Animation and Visual Effects course.

Anton impressed us at all his interview last Spring, for which we used Skype to reach him in distant Almaty. One of the most impressive parts of his digital portfolio was a short film he made titled "Super Fergie", a Nintendo games parody starring a digital Sir Alex Ferguson as a cartoon character winning endless football competitions and prizes. Needless to say, Anton is a huge Manchester United fan.

Monday, 11 November 2013

How do you make an animated TV series? - Blue Zoo reveal the secrets

Q Pootle 5 by Blue Zoo
Last week Bucks New University students went to the Blue GFX Expo at London's South Bank - a treasure trove of visual effects industry lectures and workshops. Among the excellent presentations was a talk by Adam Shaw of London's Blue Zoo, who created the animated TV series Q Pootle 5. In effect, his lecture was a fully-fledged workshop in how to put a TV series together from start to finish. So, if you have ever wondered - how do you get your own TV series off the ground? - here's how they pulled it off.

Sunday, 10 November 2013 - Online Training Videos - Free for our students! supplies a huge range of online training videos - which are now free to access for all our students at Bucks New University! All you have to do is log in to Blackboard, click on the tab - and you're in.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Framestore's Diarmid Harrison-Murray on Skyfall, Daniel Craig and Adele

Diarmid Harrison Murray was the keynote speaker at last week's BlueGFX Expo at London's South Bank. He was there talking about the title sequence for Skyfall, which he directed, tackling the project with a small team at Framestore, one of London's leading visual effects houses.

Below is a rough (and hopefully accurate) transcript of his talk, in which he explained how he managed to pull off the animated titles for the latest installment in the world's most successful film franchise.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Movember Animation Challenge

Salvador Dali shows off his Mo. Photo: Wikipedia
It's Movember! Animators, it is time to start growing your Mo! Movember is all about raising awareness of (and money for) men's health. So, see if you can get your friends and family to sponsor your efforts.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Assignment Hand-ins - an Animator's Guide

E4.08. The Helpdesk of Doom
Confused about how to hand in your first assignment? Worried you will miss the deadline or fail to fill in the right form? Check out our step-by-step guide to make it all painless and super easy.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Bucks ranked in top 12 among "Creative Universities" in the UK by Huffington Post

Gateway media hub - opened in 2010
One of the best things about teaching at Bucks New University is the huge range of media disciplines that are gathered around our High Wycombe campus. In recent years Bucks has been re-inventing itself as a major creative hub, following the huge £40million investment in the Gateway media building that houses a wide variety of creative arts. That investment is now beginning to pay off, and recently the Huffington Post recognised this by ranking us number 12 among creative universities in the UK.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

What Does an Invoice Look like?

Universities like to talk about employability but we have not always been very good at preparing students for the practical nuts and bolts of the world of commerce. Here at Bucks we're changing this, providing practical guidance for the world of work not just in terms of creative and technical skills but also important practical ones like - how do you invoice a client? Of course, it's obvious when you know how - but terribly confusing when you don't. Below is brief summary of what's involved.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Meet Blue Zoo - Britain's largest TV Animation Company

At the recent BlueGFX Expo at London's National Film Museum on the South Bank, Blue Zoo founders Tom Box and Adam Shaw gave an excellent presentation about their BAFTA-winning young company - now the biggest TV animation co. in the UK.

Tom and Adam were very enthusiastic presenters, clearly excited about their company and about the future of TV animation in Britain. They also offered some excellent insights into how animation graduates might go about getting a job with their fast-growing studio. Below is a rough transcript of their talk, plus some of the questions they answered at the end.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Rocketseed - our latest commercial project

Recently we have been tackling short commercial projects, working with some of the recent Bucks graduates, such as Monika Dzikowicz, Lydon Fleisig, Dave Berry, Paula Gillin and Allan De Leal.

Our latest film follows from our most recent project: "What is Wrong with the Global Development Oragnisation?", which is now competing for prizes in festivals around the world.  This short film - about the problems faced by all organisations trying to help out in faraway places - has now got an IMDB entry, so our students can now link to their own IMDB profiles.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Bucks Animation students visit Blue GFX at London's South Bank

Blue GFX Expo is the annual London showcase for the visual effects industry and the software that drives it, sponsored by (among many others) the software-wizards Autodesk - who make Maya and 3DStudioMax, and much of the other software that we use in the VFX industry.

Housed slightly incongruously in the vast and rambling Edwardian County Hall building on London’s South Bank, the Expo was marvelously hard to find, but highly rewarding to attend.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

How to Animate - It's Easy!

animation tutorial part. 1 AKA "the secret of animation" from giovanni braggio on Vimeo.

Above is a very short and very funny video by Giovanni Braggio, revealing the hidden secrets of computer animation. Giovanni explains how easy it is to animate. Forget the complicated business of learning timing and spacing the hard way - you just pick your language, and ask the character to perform for you.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Summer School at Bucks - new emerging talent

Summer students at Bucks show how it's done
Every year at Bucks we run a free summer school for school-age students who want to pursue a career in visual media and the digital arts. Over the course of a week in July, these aspiring film-makers from all over the country collaborate on a project, learn the nuts and bolts of film-making, and create a film which they can be proud of. In just four days these novice students achieved some amazingly accomplished results. This is their work.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Meet our Tutors - Rob Kelly

Rob Kelly teaches Camera, TV production, Design and Motion Graphics at Bucks
Rob Kelly is a vastly experienced commercials director with a long and varied career in advertising and branding, and has numerous awards to his name. He has also worked as a creative director and graphic designer for some of the top branding, advertising and design agencies in London. We asked him to tell us about his remarkable career - and what brought him to teach here at Bucks New University.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

London International Animation Festival - Starts October 25th

Friday October 25th is the opening night of the London International Animation Festival. We highly recommend that all our students at Bucks attend. Attending festivals like this is a way of finding out what is happening in the industry, what kind of skills are in demand, who is hiring, and what sort of work you might look forward to doing over the course of a successful career in the animation business.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

All You Need to Know about Animation at Bucks

UCAS - still the principal hub for University applications
Thinking of applying to Bucks to study Animation & VFX? Well, now is a good time to make a decision. All across the country, students are starting to fill out their UCAS forms - still the primary gateway to accessing higher education here in the UK. So, given that there are around 80 courses across the country which offer animation, why choose Bucks? Here are some good reasons why we think we offer the best animation course in the country.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

What do studios look for in a great demo reel?

Getting hired is diffuclt in the current climate, and finding that first job can be the hardest leap of all. The most vital thing that every Bucks graduate will leave with is a demo reel or portfolio that showcases their talent and will - hopefully - get them a job. One question that tutors get asked a lot is - what should go into a demo reel? It's a good question.

Below are some excellent notes on demo reels from Jinny Hinkle, a "wannabe animator" who attended Disney's "Inspire Day" in Los Angeles. The rules for demo reels were handed down by Disney but they apply to finding work at any studio.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Meet our tutors - Dave Creighton

Dave Creighton  by Monika Dzikowicz
David Creighton is one of the two Course Leaders on the Animation & VFX Course, and has long been the mainstay of digital media at Bucks New University. A 20 year veteran of teaching in High Wycombe, Dave has done and seen it all.

He can help with pretty much anything to do with animation and visual effects at Bucks; with two decades of experience he knows how the University works (or sometimes doesn't). We asked him to tell us about his work, and what students on the new Animation & VFX course can look forward to.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Mentoring at Bucks - what is it and who needs it?

Mentor's old pal Odysseus
What is mentoring? and what is a mentor? According to Wikipedia: the original Mentor was a friend of Odysseus. He looked after Odysseus's son Telemachus, acting as his guide and teacher, when Odysseus sailed off to fight in the Trojan Wars. Hence the term mentoring.

At Bucks, mentoring is a way of offering students one-on-one support from (usually, but not necessarily, older) people who have been there, and done that. If you feel like you would like to find a mentor at the university, or have a bit of wisdom and experience you would like to pass on to others, then the man to talk to is Paul Wilcock, who is one of two dedicated staff at Bucks who look after the mentoring program. We asked Paul to tell us what, exactly, mentoring is, and why students might be interested in getting involved.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

What is a Portfolio Career?

We hear a lot about portfolio careers these days, as the old model of a job for life becomes something that fewer and fewer graduates can rely on. Outside of the public sector, it has virtually disappeared, replaced by a much looser and more fluid relationship between employee and employer.  But what is it, really? Is "Portfolio Career" just a fancy new way of saying freelancer? After all, freelancers have been around for years, haven't they?

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Free computers for our freshmen students!

Completely free! Well, sort of.
As promised, all of our freshmen students have now been given free laptop computers at the start of the new Animation & VFX course. Of course they are not really free, they were paid for with student tuition fees, but nonetheless we are delighted to be able to give something back to our new students which will help them to become self-sufficient digital artists over the next 3 years.