Lindsey Howell, Aardman Animations, 23 Feb 2015
My research was about the development of technical tools for traditional stop-motion animation production. Technological methods must ensure that the traditional hand-crafted look is ...
My research was about the development of technical tools for traditional stop-motion animation production. Technological methods must ensure that the traditional hand-crafted look is retained. My work involved researching and developing computational tools that could be used to make improvements to the production pipeline.
Aardman Animations was my host company. They create films, short-form animation, television series and commercials using both computer-generated and stop-motion animation. Their most famous characters are Wallace and Gromit and Morph. I was based in the commercials computer graphics department and my supervisor Philip Child is a Senior Technical Developer within that team. The main areas that I researched during my EngD were:
The experience of working on industrial research and working towards academic goals helped to develop a number of skills:
Overall, I am much more confident in my abilities to rigorously research a project and I feel capable of discussing research projects in both academic and industrial environments. It has developed my ability to articulate my ideas clearly and to think on the spot.
I now have a much deeper understanding of the complexities of industry-university partnerships. It is a complicated balance and I feel well informed about the benefits and the challenges involved. I have learnt that conferences and meetings with like-minded people can really help and I found it important to engage with others.
Aardman Animations has gained an insight into conducting large research projects within the company. Prior to this scheme, they had not completed in-depth research projects in-house and they were keen to explore how this might work. They now have a detailed knowledge about several of the research areas that they were keen to learn more about.
Jake Hobbs, WÖNKY, 16 Feb 2015
WÖNKY are an award-winning animation studio founded in 2006. WÖNKY create content for a variety of media including online, television, mobiles and games, working ...
WÖNKY are an award-winning animation studio founded in 2006. WÖNKY create content for a variety of media including online, television, mobiles and games, working for clients including BBC, British Council, and UNICEF. This research was designed to strengthen the studio's positioning in the digital environment and their ability to efficiently create original content.
I have grown as both a practitioner and researcher. Within my practical work I have seen considerable development in my technical skills, which have been advanced through numerous practical projects.
One of my key results was an animation community project, where I have also been responsible for organising events, and developing the website. It led to new relationships with other organisations to help grow the community. This included establishing an AniJam event with Encounters Short Film Festival.
My academic writing has greatly improved, as has my confidence in public speaking. I presented two papers, one at the 8th CyberCultures Conference, and one at the 9th Arts In Society Conference. One of these papers has since been developed and has been provisionally accepted for the Internet Research Journal.
Being in WÖNKY revealed the truly competitive world that companies have to face. Through being embedded in the company I have developed an appreciation for the level of work and commitment that goes into their creative output.
I have learned to become less pessimistic and self-deprecating about my own work, and learnt that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
For WÖNKY my research has meant the company has been able to strengthen its positioning in digital environments. The company now has an increased online presence through the digital delivery of short films and social media networks. My practical role has been in commercial projects that strengthened the company's digital portfolio. These projects, along with the creative artefacts produced within the research, increase the company's portfolio of digital work and provide a foundation upon which to grow this side of the company.
There has been wider impact through the Show Me The Animation project. This has established itself as a valuable part of the Bristol animation scene and has a growing online reputation. Attendees have received commissions and offered employment within the industry. The website and app developed for of Show Me The Animation provide a valuable platform for animators to showcase their work to a global audience.
My advice would be identify the core aspect of what you research is answering and make that perfect first. Also make sure you are open about your research and talk about it as much as you can. Unless other people hear about it you can’t make an impact and your work won’t develop or improve.
Alastair Barber, Double Negative, 16 Feb 2015
Founded in 1998 with a team of just 30, Double Negative (DNeg) has grown to become one of the industry's success stories and is ...
Founded in 1998 with a team of just 30, Double Negative (DNeg) has grown to become one of the industry's success stories and is now Europe's largest provider of visual effects for Film. The Company now operates from locations in London, Singapore and Vancouver. It has received awards from the Visual Effects Society (Inception and Sherlock Holmes), BAFTA (Inception and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2) and the Academy Awards (Inception).
Working with DNeg has given me a great insight to the types of problems faced in trying to introduce new techniques and technologies into the film making process. Nothing could be further from a well-controlled laboratory with ideal conditions than a live feature film set. Throughout the EngD program I have been engaged with a small team in the Research and Development department at DNeg with the primary focus of automatic gathering of data on set. Through this I have been able to learn a great deal about software development practices, such as agile development and test driven development in a practical, results-driven and often time sensitive manner.
Just as the academic aspect of my work has been able to draw upon the unique challenges faced in industry, I’ve been fortunate to work with DNeg who have an excellent in-house training program for staff across all departments. It has been excellent to be able to take advantage of this and learn a great deal about the industry, and I have also taken the opportunity to give several presentations of my work and even just areas of personal interest in the computer vision domain to staff from all across the company.
One of the most significant benefits to the industrial partner is the ability to try new and unproven techniques to solving significant pain-points in the industrial process without the risks associated with running them on live production data. The ability to both develop, and also quantify and evaluate new techniques and specify situations in which they may be useful is extremely valuable to the company and also increases the confidence in, and the chances of the work I produce being used in production and hence saving artist time and costs. I have been able to implement parts of my work in such a fashion that they can already be used to produce results using standard working practices and data.
I have attended many conferences, and recently presented my first paper at a prestigious European conference on visual media production, and have an extended version of this paper accepted for publication in an international journal. Networking within the computer vision, graphics and visual effects communities has made me valuable contacts, not to mention great friends, which will certainly be invaluable throughout my long-term career.