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Maya + ZBrush + Blender + Cinema 4D + 3ds Max

June 2012


“I got into VFX to do big monster effects like this” WORLD


FOR 3D ARTISTS + + + + + Epic scenes + Secondary animation + Scene management with containers + Wrath of the Titans


How secondary animation can transform your characters

FREE VIDEO Disc inside with

complete exterior rendering course See page 114





Produce amazing environments with our in-depth tutorial!





Improve your in-game animations with Maya

Water simulation tips for C4D and Houdini

JUNE 2012

UK £6

Contents Issue 156 June 2012




Be inspired by our selection of CG artwork from 3D World readers

018 In Focus

Ognyan Zahariev shows you how he created his painterly portrait

022 Short Cuts

Director Mike Cawood talks about his short Devils, Angels & Dating

024 Inbox

Your views on why Poser is cool and replacing worn-out magazines



Discover how to automate secondary animation in Antony Ward’s rigging tutorial for Maya

070 Tips for game artists

Antony Ward shares his industry expertise with advice on getting the most from your animations

074 Exterior renders

Training company Digital-Tutors shows you its top techniques for creating better outdoor images

076 Manage your scenes

Work smarter with containers as Paul Hatton sheds light on this underused feature of 3ds Max

080 Create epic landscapes

026 The suite smell of success

Cloud computing is a major theme at Autodesk’s 2013 product launch

Follow Conrad Allan’s environment creation workflow to bring your World Machine terrains into Vue

030 The Filter

086 Questions & Answers

New software including updates to Photoshop, Mari and Quest 3D


Meet the studios who created the creatures, monsters, and gods for this special effects spectacular

042 Squint/Opera

How one London-based creative agency is transforming its traditional production process

048 Media Design School

Why this CG school attracts students from all over the world


Your questions on topics including configuring the ZBrush interface for your workflow and animating falling dominoes in Blender


Newtek’s modelling, animation and rendering package gets an update

098 modo 601

This upgrade makes Luxology’s software an all-in-one application

102 IKinema Action 2 for Maya

The IK solver for Maya receives a rebrand and improved features

104 Workstation Specialists WS 2850


Intel’s latest eight-core Xeon processor shows huge potential

052 Projects

106 Armari Magnetar X32-AW1275D4 (3DW)

This issue’s work includes a new look for the Animal Planet channel and a spot for PlayStation Vita



| June 2012


Beneath this custom chassis lies a content creation powerhouse




In-depth tutorials for making CG landscapes and exteriors Cover image

Find out how Drea Horvath created this scene on page 3



Make your exterior renders look photo-real with the help of Digital-Tutors’ free video


Build massive landscapes by taking World Machine terrains into Vue to populate

Get 3D World delivered direct and save up to 45%! See page 40


Simulate oceans in Houdini and Cinema 4D in this issue’s Questions & Answers






108 Freeze Frame

112 On the disc

How the team at Framestore created an ambitious waterfall sequence for Guy Ritchie’s stylish action film Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows


On this issue’s disc you’ll find a complete 77-minute video course from Digital-Tutors on exterior rendering techniques, plus video tutorials on secondary animation and using containers in 3ds Max

Turn to page 114 to grab your packed free disc

003 Cover Artist 005 Editor’s Intro 006 Advisory Board 024 Letters 040 Subscriptions 060 Competition 092 Back issues 111 Mental Roy June 2012 |




The director chose Maya as the primary application, knowing it would be popular among animators

Short Cuts

The best new animated shorts from outside the major studios

Heavenly repercussions

Devil, Death and Cupid are up to new tricks in short film Devils, Angels & Dating. Mike Cawood talks to Kerrie Hughes about the film’s production process verything happens for a reason, doesn’t it? Or is life what we make it? It certainly isn’t the latter in short film Devils, Angels & Dating. Human lives are in the hands of three characters – Death, Devil and Cupid – who use high-end technology to carry out their work. When Death disposes of Devil, the new replacement causes quite a stir. Finding themselves in the middle of a complicated love triangle, the trio misuse their technology, which causes some serious cosmic repercussions. The idea for the film first came about when, after spending almost a decade working in games and animation, Mike Cawood decided it was time to try his hand at directing again. “The last animated project I’d directed myself was back in my student days when studying traditional 2D animation,” he says. “I felt it was time to have another go, this time taking advantage of my years working in CG.” Cawood spent time developing the concept based on recent personal experiences. “At the time, I’d been having a go at modern forms of dating, including speed and internet dating,” he says. “It was


VITAL STATISTICS Title Devils, Angels & Dating Duration 8:00 Website devilsangels anddating.ning.com Budget Zero (or roughly $300,000 to $500,000 of volunteer man hours) Director Mike Cawood Production time Five years, five months Software Maya, Photoshop, Premiere, After Effects Synopsis Death, Devil and Cupid cause chaos on Earth when they find themselves in a complex love triangle If you like this, watch… Pigeon Impossible, Lucas Martell, 2009



| June 2012

an incredible experience that I wanted to comment on and share with the world, and one that I felt hadn’t been explored much in animation. So I used that as a starting point to build my story ideas from.” It was during a long flight back to the UK from Australia that things started to fall into place. “I conceived the core idea on the plane, so maybe it was looking out across those clouds that inspired the heavenly setting. Once this was established, I naturally starting playing with all kinds of ideas around Death, Heaven’s Gates, angels, and, logically… Cupid.”

Social networking

Although fully armed with a narrative, Cawood was well aware of his own skillset and realised he’d need help to bring his idea to life. With no budget, the director started to do some research to find out what his options of finding help were. “I knew I needed to find other talent because I didn’t have much experience in modelling, so I started finding out about how other short makers had run their projects through forum threads,” he says. “But I also found that they almost all faded away before they were

complete, so I knew I needed something else to make it work. Social networks were beginning to grow in popularity and I’d seen another project run its own fan-like dedicated social network to get something made. I explored numerous alternatives and settled on the Ning network.” With an easy and organised way to communicate sorted, the next challenge Cawood faced was actually attracting talented artists. “It was hard to find people in the early storywriting stages,” he explains. “Ultimately I have Ryan Hagen to thank for taking a huge risk on the project, and diving in early and modelling the Devil character. Once we had one character starting to take shape, and a small team of supporters, attracting the rest of the talent was something that just accelerated much more naturally.” Reaching out to a global audience meant that Cawood had to think carefully about what 3D software to use to create the film. “We did most of the 3D in Maya,” says Cawood. “I knew it would be the software of choice for most animators and it was important that I’d have access to the largest pool of talent I could find.” He also chose After Effects as the compositing package due to its popularity in the industry.

Characters went through many revisions before the final designs were decided upon 3dworldmag.com



See Devils, Angels & Dating now at the 3D World website 3dworldmag.com/ devilsangels

Artists from around the world, specialising in different areas, were involved in creating each of the film’s characters

Compositing package After Effects was used to bring all of the short film’s assets together

“I had been a Digital Fusion guy in the past but I chose After Effects for the compositing and 2D effects as it was so widely known and supported, at the time. I knew I needed to choose something that I could find volunteers for and lots of free technical help.” Lastly, Cawood carefully organised the end of the pipeline, opting again for popular software and putting processes in place to maintain the film’s production. “We used mental ray simply because it was easily available to anyone that already had Maya,” Cawood says. “It was all about finding the most common software. RenderPal was used to manage the render farm and that proved very effective. I’ve not used a lot of render farms but have experience with this one from a couple of previous productions and it’s pretty close to perfect.”

KEY TECHNOLOGY Director Mike Cawood used Anzovin Studio’s The Setup Machine and The Face Machine plug-ins for Maya to form the base of the character rigs. “I wasn’t a dedicated rigger when I started the film, so when I saw Setup Machine I knew it would be a smart way to get a good rig done,” he says. “Having this in my box of tricks gave me confidence that an unrefined rig wasn’t going to be a problem to the animation process. A perk is that by using an auto-rigging system you get a consistent rig across all the characters. So once an animator learns where everything is on one character, they can transfer their skills to other characters with a much shorter learning curve.” The facial rigging tool also saved valuable production time. “With Face Machine, the rig you get is much more complicated to set up than the body, but it’s time well spent as you get good muscle deformations and layered levels of controls that allow you to go from preset face poses from a library all the way down to resculpting smaller areas of skin.”

Welcome reception

After nearly five and a half years in production, Cawood and the global online community of artists involved completed film the fi lm and it was released onto the festival circuit early this year. “It’s only just started the festival run, so it’s too early to say how it will be received,” Cawood says. “It’s won an award at AniMazSpot already though.” This early positive reaction has proved to the director that all the years of hard work and effort have paid off. “I’m really pleased with the result,” he says. “At the end of the day, this is a labour of love for a great many people coming and going through different phases in their lives. Along the way I’ve met so many interesting people, made new friends and found myself in the precious position of helping them out in their most critical life-changing periods of creativity. I know I’ll look back on this with a great deal of pride no matter where it all leads.” 3dworldmag.com

The artists collaborated via social network Ning to nail down final character designs

Send us your short

To submit work for inclusion in Short Cuts, contact us at the email address below, attaching a brief synopsis and at least three stills enquiries@3dworldmag.com

June 2012 |




Golaem Crowd 1.4

The Filter

Our pick of the latest 3D software and training resources includes your first chance to try Photoshop CS6. Visit 3dworldmag.com for more product stories and all the breaking news SOFTWARE

Quest3D 5.0 DEVELOPER: Act-3D WHAT IS IT? New version of the tool for creating real-time 3D applications MAIN FEATURES • Incorporates QFramework – an open-source render framework supporting procedural sky and clouds, screen space ambient occlusion, deferred lighting and volumetric fog • Support for Newton 2.0 physics engine • New file import system, including better support for OBJ, FBX, 3DS, MAX, DXF and DAE files THEY SAY: “We’re really pleased with this release, as although it’s taken around two years to develop it, it’s by far the biggest upgrade for Quest3D ever” WE SAY: The new Quest3D release comes with some significant additions and improvements – but they’re accompanied by a pretty hefty price tag PRICE: Power Edition, €2,999; VR Edition, €9,999 AVAILABLE: Now MORE ONLINE: quest3d.com SOFTWARE


Photoshop CS6 Beta

Ozone 6

Golaem Crowd 1.4

DEVELOPER: Adobe WHAT IS IT? Free time-limited beta of this major update to the leading image-editing software MAIN FEATURES • Content-aware tools • Improved Crop tool • Video editing tools • New blur types THEY SAY: “Photoshop CS6 will be a milestone release that pushes the boundaries of imaging innovation with incredible speed and performance” WE SAY: There’s everything from small tweaks to major additions in this release. The new and updated features in CS6, including a new graphics engine and streamlined interface, will save professionals a lot of time on day-to-day tasks. A must-have update PRICE: TBA (beta is free to download) AVAILABLE: Now MORE ONLINE: adobe.com

DEVELOPER: e-on software WHAT IS IT? New version of the atmospheric plug-in MAIN FEATURES • Interactive cloud control • Localised cloud layers • Enhanced atmosphere preview THEY SAY: “Ozone 6 implements the Spectral 3 cutting-edge technologies developed by e-on software for simulation and rendering of atmospheric effects. Ozone 6 atmospheres provide an accurately simulated environment that affects all scene elements and behaves according to nature’s rules” WE SAY: This release builds on the plug-in’s existing Spectral 3 engine, which produces ultra-realistic environments. The new features will assist artists in perfecting the look of their scenes PRICE: $295; upgrade from 5.0, $95 AVAILABLE: Now MORE ONLINE: ozone-plugin.com

DEVELOPER: Golaem WHAT IS IT? Update to the crowd-simulation software for Maya MAIN FEATURES • mental ray support – both mental ray standalone and mental ray for Maya are supported • Geometry instancing THEY SAY: “Golaem Crowd 1.4 adds mental ray to its list of natively supported renderers. It also allows rendering huge crowds even faster thanks to geometry instances” WE SAY: Although already compatible with many industry-standard renderers, support for mental ray makes this tool accessible to a wider audience. The artist-friendly, cheaper alternative to Massive will find favour among smaller studios with a Maya pipeline PRICE: $4,799 AVAILABLE: Now MORE ONLINE: golaem.com/crowd



|| June Month 2012 2010

3dworldmag.com 3dworldmag.com



Mari 1.4v3

Nuke and NukeX 6.3v7

DEVELOPER: The Foundry WHAT IS IT? Update to the 3D paint package MAIN FEATURES • Expanded customisation settings – preset navigation modes now allow users to replicate the feel of other familiar packages including Maya, Houdini and Nuke • Linked patches allow users to easily replicate texture data automatically across patches • Brand new Tint and Stencil mode THEY SAY: “The latest version of Mari is designed to remove awkward barriers and monotonous manual tasks from the mix so that artists can really focus their time on being creative” WE SAY: The extensive list of new and improved features in this release makes it a pretty substantial update from The Foundry PRICE: $1,980 AVAILABLE: Now MORE ONLINE: thefoundry.co.uk/mari

DEVELOPER: The Foundry WHAT IS IT? Upgrade to the compositing package MAIN FEATURES • Support for PSD files • Improved RenderMan integration • Implemented industry standard colour management through the integration of Sony Pictures Imageworks’ OpenColorIO THEY SAY: “This update is all about improving the workflow between the different software applications that users want to use. It’s now more flexible and open than ever before” WE SAY: The latest release of The Foundry’s flagship application doesn’t add any groundbreaking new features; it merely builds on the already comprehensive compositing application PRICE: Nuke node-locked licence, £2,950; NukeX node-locked licence, £4,800 AVAILABLE: Now MORE ONLINE: thefoundry.co.uk/nukex



PD Pro 7.2 Howler

RealFlow RenderKit 2.5

DEVELOPER: Project Dogwaffle WHAT IS IT? Update to the digital paint tool MAIN FEATURES • Support for multi-monitor setups • Overhauled timeline • New motion prediction module • Numerous bug fixes and performance updates THEY SAY: “PD Pro 7.2 Howler is loaded with numerous features used in the visual effects and film industry for post work, matte painting and traditional animation. This release continues our recent development of tools for motion FX artists” WE SAY: With the team’s focus on creating tools most relevant to animation and VFX artists, and the price being a fraction of the cost of other packages, this is an option many creatives will find attractive PRICE: $139 AVAILABLE: Now MORE ONLINE: thebest3d.com

DEVELOPER: Next Limit WHAT IS IT? Update to the toolkit for generating procedural geometry from RealFlow scenes MAIN FEATURES • RFRK plug-in for Cinema 4D • Enhancements to the viewport mean that RenderKit can now be used with any renderer • New method to compute mesh normals to reduce flickering issues THEY SAY: “With this release, the RenderKit is now available for Cinema 4D users and enhancements to the viewport mean that 3ds Max and Cinema 4D users can now use the RenderKit with any renderer” WE SAY: This release will be a very welcome update. The new features and enhancements go a long way to aid in the task of rendering fluid simulations PRICE: Free with standard RealFlow licence AVAILABLE: Now MORE ONLINE: realflow.com


Model fantasy characters with Digital-Tutors’ training course

Training product of the month Modeling a Fantasy Character in Maya PUBLISHER: Digital-Tutors This course consists of 18 tutorials, totalling just over five hours, in which instructor Pat Imrie explains the skills needed to model a detailed character. The training covers creating functional, efficient topology and takes an in-depth look at some mixed-polygon modelling techniques using Maya 2011. Much of the focus is on creating animation-friendly topology for a fantasy style character that not only deforms correctly but showcases detailed anatomy. By the final stages of the tutorial, you will have learned how to model clothes, props including books, candles, and a human skull using various techniques. It’s ideal for artists looking to develop their techniques in character modelling. PRICE: Subscriptions to Digital-Tutors start from $45 a month MORE ONLINE: digitaltutors.com

June 2012 |




“The top section view of the waterfall was challenging,” says Sirio Quintavalle. “To get the right sense of scale we increased the particle count to bursting point. We also worked with individual tiles of water simulation, building them up to give us a very efficient way of increasing the volume”

Freeze Frame

Images © Warner Home Video

Key moments in VFX and animation history revisited on DVD and Blu-ray

Hero takes a fall

Framestore reveals that the creation of the waterfall sequence in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was far from elementary. By Mark Ramshaw

VITAL STATISTICS Title Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows Released UK: 14 May US: 12 June Formats Blu-ray/DVD Distributor Warner Home Video (UK), Warner Bros (US) Watch for… The key moment at the centre of the waterfall sequence, in which Holmes’ absolute calm contrasts with Moriarty’s look of fear

yebrows were raised when it was announced that Guy Ritchie would be resurrecting Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved defective detective for the 2009 film Sherlock Holmes, and then stretched to breaking point when it was revealed that Robert Downey Jr would be taking the lead role. In the event, that first movie’s ‘Victorian Lethal Weapon’ take on the mythology proved inspired, and a sequel was immediately lined up. Ritchie’s approach for Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows has been to ratchet up pretty much every element, with more laughs, more hyper-stylised action, and a more ambitious plot featuring Holmes’ arch-enemy James Moriarty. The climax is perhaps the most ambitious element of all, putting as it does a fresh spin on the duo’s legendary tussle at Switzerland’s Reichenbach Falls. The task of constructing this audacious sequence fell to London’s Framestore, which ultimately worked on around 500 shots for the film (with The Moving Picture Company and also BlueBolt tackling the rest of the movie’s shot count of approximately 1,000).


| June 2012



“It was obviously going to be the film’s key moment, not least because it’s famously where Sherlock Holmes dies in the original literature,” explains Framestore’s visual effects supervisor Sirio Quintavalle. “We did start out looking at the real Reichenbach Falls, but it was immediately clear that we’d need a bigger drop. The difficulty was that we didn’t want it to look like a

arms. Traditionally used for assembly line work, they offer very high precision when performing repeatable actions that involve moving between specific points in space. “We got some harnesses made up and began testing to see if it would work, both in terms of the performance and also whether it would be practical with live actors,” says Quintavalle. “At the same time we started to look for liveaction waterfall reference.” This initially involved trips to Norway and Switzerland, dangling out of helicopters while snapping away with Canon EOS 5D cameras. However, further trips to Yosemite and finally Hunlen Falls in Canada were required to accrue all the necessary stills reference data and find a waterfall suitable for recording some appropriately dramatic live footage (which was filmed using a suspended, fin-stabilised Phantom camera rig).

“We did start out looking at the real Reichenbach Falls, but it was immediately clear that we’d need a bigger drop” Sirio Quintavalle, visual effects supervisor traditional rig-based cinematic fall. And on top of that Guy wanted to have the camera also falling, as well as a time-ramping/slow motion effect.” With that in mind, Chas Jarrett, the overall VFX supervisor on the show, began looking at the idea of using Kuka robot

“We then set about doing pre-viz of the move in-house to make sure we’d be able to get the key moments of Holmes and Moriarty falling to camera and then time ramping to slow-motion shots of their faces,” says Quintavalle. “It was important to capture that look of terror on Moriarty, 3dworldmag.com


“The actors wore harnesses, which necessitated a lot of clean-up,” says Sirio Quintavalle. “Then there were objects on set that the greenscreen couldn’t cover, plus replacements to take Robert Downey Jr’s head from one bit of footage and put it onto the body of another”

“By the time of the digital double takeover at the end of the sequence, the camera is just about locked off,” says Sirio Quintavalle

KEY TECHNOLOGY Bringing the Reichenbach Falls sequence to life required the use of Maya, Houdini, RenderMan, Naiad, bespoke particle tools fCloud and fMote, and 28 terabytes of data – plus an unorthodox method for controlling the movements of the two principal actors, with Robert Downey Jr and Jared Harris strapped onto Kuka robot arms via custom harnesses. “The Phantom was shooting at 432 frames a second, 18 times slower than standard film, which meant we could tackle the slow motion without having to worry about interpolated frames,” notes visual effects supervisor Sirio Quintavalle. “We also set up a bunch of witness cameras to track the whole thing.” For this part of the sequence, live waterfall footage was used as the basis for the backdrop, with multi-planing effects and atmospheric water mist. “The other key elements were the ‘frozen’ water droplets, created using Nuke’s new particle system. We thought it would be interesting to try out, using it to drop in some rough elements to help with timing in shots for approvals. While we were waiting we thought we might as well try to push it a little further, placing some live droplet elements onto the particles, and then trying to distort and refract them. We kept pushing the boundaries – and before we knew it, we had droplets that were good enough for the final sequence.”

and then have the viewpoint spin around to show Holmes looking calm, before they both fall away from the camera.”

Capturing the scene

The next step was to transfer the Maya animation setup to a Cyclops motion control rig and program the correct movements into the Kuka robot arms. This, says Quintavalle, took seven days to complete. “One problem was that some moves were just too fast to be physically possible. And for key moments when the camera was going to be close to the actors’ heads it was obviously critical that we had everything right! The other issue was that there wasn’t a good method for inputting the animation data into the Kuka arms. The engineers we worked with were great, but the arms are designed to go from point A to B as efficiently as possible. In terms of setting keyframes and ramping in and out it was very hard to find a common language.” The scene was shot with Downey Jr and Jared Harris (playing Moriarty) acting 3dworldmag.com

together, as well as individually, making it possible to later assemble the shot from multiple performances and facial expressions. “Using the reference we’d taken we were also able to get a rough playback directly after each bit of filming,” says Quintavalle. “It was essential to make sure everyone was happy with the footage, as obviously it would have been very difficult to replicate at a later date.” As well as orchestrating the complex interplay between the two actors and the camera’s viewpoint, the Framestore team had to find a way to create a convincing kilometre-high waterfall for the sequence. “The Canadian footage, shot in slow motion using a Phantom camera, provided the bedrock both for the look and also for the central section where the background is pretty flat,” says Quintavalle. “But that still left the top of the waterfall, for which we had nothing, and we also needed to somehow link up the middle section with the end of the sequence.” Each required a slightly different

approach. For the upper section they went with a Naiad-based approach, with Houdini used to add mist elements. “Further down it became more vaporous, until by around 300 metres it changed completely into a V-shaped cascade with dragging edges and white spray coming off,” explains Quintavalle. “For that we switched to a bespoke approach in Maya, creating specific shapes to match the footage plus particle emitters for the mist.” “It was always the scene we were most worried about, and was the first one we started and the last we finished,” he admits. “It was quite an anxious moment when we first showed it to Guy. He’s a very instinctive director and so it all boils down to a question of does it work or doesn’t it. If not he’ll always say ‘that’s a bit fishy’, and if it does then he’ll use rather more colourful language.” Needless to say, Framestore’s efforts ultimately ensured that the balletic action sequence is another from Guy Ritchie’s much-celebrated ‘blue period’… June 2012 |



3D World Promotion



| June 2012

It’s all about CG at this Auckland-based institute that gives students the practical skills they will need in the 3D industry 3dworldmag.com


Media Design School offers a dynamic learning environment for students to develop their skills Student Jason Wong recreated a still-life photo (inset) in photo-real CG for an MDS assignment

ometimes it’s in those less obvious places, off the beaten track, where the exciting work is happening. For students aspiring to be tomorrow’s filmmakers, animators and visual effects creatives, with a strong understanding of the fluid relationships between their disciplines, New Zealand is such a place. Auckland’s Media Design School (MDS) was established in 1998. “What’s interesting is that the school has grown alongside the New Zealand film industry,” says the institution’s marketing director



Jackie Young. “New Zealand has established itself as a global production hub and we’re now a part of that ecosystem.” The school, then, has the distinct advantage of being based in a country where a lot of high-profile visual effects and animation work has been produced over the past decade – notably for the Lord of the Rings films, Avatar, The Adventures of Tintin and the forthcoming The Hobbit and Avatar sequels. “We work very closely with the industry,” Young says. “We quit counting the number of our graduates on the Avatar credits. Our graduates are all over the world.” Furthermore, the institute has won over 300 national and international awards for 3D animation, creative advertising, graphic design, game development, and more – and it also offers masterclasses for practising professionals. The school’s industry links include connections with leading game studios, creative agencies, production houses, and digital studios, including Weta Digital, Animal Logic, DDB, Lucasfilm, Framestore, Industrial Light & Magic, DreamWorks Animation, Gameloft and Saatchi & Saatchi. Further enhancing its education remit, the Media Design School is also part of Laureate’s Centers of Excellence in Art, Architecture and Design.

Degree course

The school has recently started adding degree qualifications to its offerings. “For some time we’ve been offering one- and two-year diploma programmes,” Young explains. “In February 2012 we launched the first of our degree programmes in 3D Animation and Visual Effects.” The degree is the first of its kind in New Zealand and has been accredited by the New Zealand

Qualifications Authority (NZQA). The BA provides students with a comprehensive grounding and detailed knowledge of the creative industries of visual effects and 3D animation. Underpinning the students’ creative practice is critical thinking and reflection on work in progress, through collaborative and individual projects. As such, students learn about various production pipelines and engage, too, with film history, visual design principles and aesthetic traditions. “MDS is the leading school in NZ for industry-standard 3D training,” says Andrew McCully, a student at MDS – and this was one of the major factors in his decision to apply to the school. “The productions developed by students are fantastic and I wanted to be involved in these. I definitely haven’t regretted my decision. Working on my first individual production was a great experience. I tried to recreate a lot of visual ideas from cinema that I love. I also learned a lot about the production pipeline, which has naturally progressed into working on the team production.” In the first year of the degree, students learn foundation skills such as drawing, colour, character design, computer applications, and knowledge of 2D and 3D animation principles. Story development, storyboarding, digital »

June 2012 |



Artwork created by Andrew McCully, a student at Media Design School

Free event

Find out about studying at Media Design School

Hub Westminster, London 6.30-8.30pm, 14 June 2012


To attend, RSVP to events@ mediadesignschool.com

» environments, scene layout and the

creation of special effects are introduced. Over the first year, students also achieve a high level of proficiency in industrystandard technical tools and software. In the second year of the degree, all students undertake the first of their group projects in addition to their core classes. The group project provides an introduction to the various roles within a production team that are required to create a short production. Towards the end of the second year, students pursue their chosen specialisation in Visual Effects and Motion Graphics, Technical 3D Studies or 3D Animation Studies. The students retain a specialist focus for the remainder of their studies, but all core subjects – including tutorials, theory classes, and art classes – are taught collectively. In the third year, students participate in group projects that bring together people from each specialisation and combine their skills. Across the degree there’s a 20:1 student/teacher ratio. “The faculty are very focused on student interaction,” Young says. “We’re a teaching institute, not a research institute.”

Andrew McCully, an animation student, was attracted by the standard of the school’s 3D training

Students at the school are taught in terms of developing both generalist and specialist skill sets. “With the degree, you need to be a generalist – adaptable and when needed a specialist, as things change so quickly,” says Young. Tellingly, student work has recently secured a range of prestigious awards – and not necessarily in student categories. At the 2011 Los Angeles Movie Awards, students from the school won in 10 categories including the First Place Animation Award, International Best Production Design and International Best Special Effects.

Getting there

We’ve seen the industry here in New Zealand mature. Students want degrees to position them in the industry and we’re seeing young people who know what they want from an early age Jackie Young, marketing director, MDS

So how do you apply? Prospective international students should hold the equivalent of the Cambridge International Examinations or have successfully completed a Media Design School Qualification, Level 5 or higher. Applicants who are 20 years old or over may apply for entry through presentation of a professional portfolio and an interview.

Students first study traditional art, then move to digital pieces like this one (left) by Is ak Edström



| June 2012

International students must be at least 18 and will need to allow at least one month to apply for a visa. For students who have English as a second language, a minimum IELTS score of 6.0 or equivalent (or 5.5 for foundation study) is required. Young emphasises that everyone requires a portfolio and also good use of the English language, because “essentially, it’s all about communication”. For portfolio submission, students should include a range of work, such as paintings, illustrations, photography, 3D modelling or visualisation, graphic design, CAD drawing, and evidence that they have knowledge of software such as Photoshop. Experience with 3D software is an advantage but not essential.

Industry links

Young describes a “virtuous circle” of education and industry links – one that’s backed up by specific examples of collaboration. “We’re in an environment with a lot of high-end industry contacts and teaching tools,” she says, “and a major, recent industry-connected project has been the production of a short film based on the universe of Weta Workshop conceptual designer Greg Broadmore, Dr Grordbort Presents: The Deadliest Game. The film was directed by Media Design School 3D programme leader James Cunningham, with 3D and visual effects produced by a team of 11 students.” As well as maintaining these links, in the future MDS aims to expand its games courses. “We plan to offer two game development degrees (programming and art) from August 2012,” says Young. “The gaming industry is developing in New Zealand now, and the IP industry is top of the New Zealand government agenda.” To understand the true value of taking a course at MDS, you need to place the school’s work and the student experience within the bigger picture. “We’ve seen the industry in New Zealand mature,” says Young. “Students want degrees to position them in the industry. We’re seeing people who know what they want from an early age. We’re proud of our studio-like environment, which replicates real-world conditions, and because our origins are in working with industry we’re able to give this kind of reality check.” More than anything, though, Young and her colleagues are looking for one thing in prospective students: potential. 3dworldmag.com

Profile for Future PLC

3D World - June 2012  

Sampler for 3D world magazine, june 2012.

3D World - June 2012  

Sampler for 3D world magazine, june 2012.