So...last week I did my work experience at Aardman Animation, Bristol! How did it go?
The first thing I saw upon entering the building was...an Oscar, and models of Wallace and Gromit themselves...It was at that point I realised this week was going to be something very special. As I fumbled around the building that day I was constantly running into various sets and artefacts, most of which I seemed to recognise from their films and television programmes.
Monday and Tuesday I ended up working on promotional stills with their Production Stills Manager. She was really nice and friendly and did everything she could to make my time there enjoyable. As it turned out, I didn't end up getting much work done these first two days, as she had gone out of her way to make sure I had a few guided tours of the building and their current projects.
The sets I saw there for 'Shaun the Sheep' were absolutely fantastic...you could really see the time and effort that went into these things...and it paid off. The models themselves were quite fascinating too...I'd never realised how much thought and technical considerations were involved in making these pieces, but they were very interesting to look at and play with. I can't give anything away (due to the confidentiality agreement), but I will definitely be looking forward to their upcoming work when it is finally finished! A lot of the staff hadn't even seen what I had, so I was very grateful.
Although the stills work itself was fairly monotonous, I still enjoyed every second of it, and I was far too happy and grateful to be there to have noticed the monotony at the time :) The work atmosphere in the building seemed fairly relaxed. I was quite surprised actually, as they had so much to do! It was amazing how happy they all seemed. In fact, the whole production process was not at all as I expected. From what I gathered by talking to everyone there, I got the impression that the animation industry is a little different from what us university students seem to believe sometimes...
On Wednesday I was carted off to the 'Timmy Time' Production Office. After bing stuck in traffic for three hours, I was anxious to start working, but first I had a quick tour around the Timmy studio. Once again the sets were fantastic, even if the design was so colourful I thought I might be at risk of getting diabetes :) As with 'Shaun the Sheep', I really enjoyed watching the animators and directors at work, even if it wasn't for long. They even let me hold some of the characters, including Yabba the duck...who happens to be my favourite :P After that, I spent the rest of the day organising storyboards ready to be put into animatics...and I made sure I stayed as late as I could to make up for the traffic in the morning :) I also made sure to leave a box of chocolates at reception for everyone there as a small 'thanks'...they were well-recieved, and had been completely devoured by the time I left for home, which was a nice note to leave on :D
On Thursday, I had to go to their new studio at Gas Ferry. It was an interesting experience entering that place for the first time. Everywhere I looked there were giant rabbits and gromits smiling up at me, apparently ignoring the rest of the staff who were sat at their computers, hard at work. It was a very surreal building, and actually reminded me of my university. The atmosphere there was a little different to their older studio, but everyone seemed friendly and happy enough and they were obviously all extremely talented.
I was soon set to work drawing up storyboards for 'Shaun the Sheep'. This was amazing for me, as I particularly enjoy making storyboards, so to do it in a world-class environment like this was a great experience, even if it was only a practice storyboard. Whilst I was doing them, I had a lot of help from some of Aardman's short film animators, which was good. One of them, in particular, was a very friendly and helpful woman (ex-'Hercules' animator I believe), who took the opportunity to approach me and ask if I needed any help whenever she could. I would have liked to get some more drawing advice from her actually, but I became so engrossed in my boards
that I neglected the opportunity.
I didn't manage to finish these in one day, so I was allowed to take them home to finish...which explains why they get a little sloppy towards the end :P Overall, making them was a good experience, and I learned a little about shots and composition, and tried to apply the advice I had recieved earlier in the week from the Aardman D.O.P (Director of Photography). I'm stll not convinced my drawings of Shaun look remotely like him...but hey...we all have our own styles right? :P
For my final day at Aardman, I was left to my own devices on one of their computers. Although I tried to break up the day by investigating the goings on in their short films department, I spent most of the day using their professional maya tutorials. I am a total newcomer to maya, having only spent a few days using it at that point. The most I had managed to accomplish was a bit of (ok-ish) modelling and some crude UV unwrapping, so I was keen to make the most of these tutorials. This is what I came up with:
I am very happy with this piece, as it more than rivals anything I had produced in 3ds max...and that is after a whole two years of experience! The entire thing was modelled, textured and lit by myself, so I had a nice sense of accomplishment when I finished it, and I also recieved some nice feedback from it too, which is always a plus :) I'm very happy I managed to light it in particular, as lighting in maya was something I was anxious to get a grip on.
To be honest, Friday afternoon seemed like a bit of an anti-climax, though I'm not sure what I expected. Although I said goodbye to the people I had been talking to during the week, the woman who had been in charge of me at Gas Ferry was in a meeting at the time, so I had noone to thank unfortunately. However, I was extremely grateful to have been given the chance to join the Aardman team for a week, and it truly was a fantastic and humbling experience. Throughout the whole week, I never met anybody who was anything other than friendly and extremely happy to be there. It was a wonderful working environment and if I have the pleasure of working anywhere half as good in the future I will consider myself an extremely lucky individual.
Coming soon: Art retrospective, and... a mermaid?
-Watch this space-