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MA 3D Computer Animation students collaborate on short film, ‘Shut Down’

A collage-style image representing a man and his robot.
  • Written byChloe Murphy
  • Published date31 May 2022
A collage-style image representing a man and his robot.
Image credit: Wanxuan Liu.

With new and emerging technologies changing the ways in which audiences make, understand and experience animation, it’s important for screen-focused creatives to discover and innovate, pushing boundaries as they explore different critical and professional perspectives within a broader context.

This emphasis on imagination and experimentation underpins MA 3D Computer Animation at London College of Communication (LCC), which enables students to create, explore and play with 3D digital technologies while supporting them to shape their own specialist personal practice.

At a time of unparalleled opportunities for skilled visual players and sequential image-makers, the course responds to a rapidly evolving animation industry, bringing together established approaches with new developments in real-time animation and immersive digital world-building.

By exploring both the theory and practice of digital 3D animation across media ranging from film and television to games and interactive applications, students are encouraged to develop innovative approaches driven by critical understanding and self-reflection, preparing for exciting careers in the contemporary screen industries by gaining skills within a collaborative environment.

One of the most crucial ways in which they’re supported to gain such skills is through practice-led projects which provide opportunities to co-work with industry contacts or peers from across their course, College and the wider landscape of UAL.

We caught up with current students Guanze Wu, Wanxuan Liu and Zhenzhong Liang to discuss the advantages of collaboration throughout the production of their short film, Shut Down, along with the inspiration that comes from working with others, and the importance of developing ideas within a creative environment.

Shut Down | MA 3D Computer Animation

Tell us about your creative practice.

Guanze: I specialise in character rigging and visual effects. I tend to apply the newest techniques that I’ve learned into my work to test whether they can improve elements such as visual performance and narrative.

Wanxuan: I specialise in character and scene design. I'm more interested in exploring stylisation, and I think it's very interesting to experiment with different styles of work.

Zhenzhong: My expertise is in modelling, rendering and compositing, as well as project management. I mainly explore different visual styles to traditional, photo-real 3D animation by using tools such as Unity Toon Shader.

Why did you choose to study on MA 3D Computer Animation at LCC?

Guanze: I’m a huge fun of CG films and visual effects, and also enjoy creating CG films and animations. I decided to study on this course because I wanted to become part of the industry while learning something and challenging myself.

Wanxuan: I'm a big fan of Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse. Once I’d watched that movie, I firmly chose my future in 3D animation.

Zhenzhong: I chose this course because I wanted to become more professional and experienced in this field. Our course complements my skillset by focusing on aspects like animation and rigging.

Concept art of the animated lead.
Image credit: Wanxuan Liu.

What inspired the idea behind Shut Down?

Guanze: At first, we just wanted to make a cel shading animation film as we’d never done that before. However, we gradually added more details when we started working on the script - several ideas came out of our mind around things like sci-fi themes, the relationship between humans and robots, and computer viruses. After changing the script several times, we finally built up the background of our film.

Wanxuan: We just really wanted to explore stylised rendering for animation - cel-shading - as this was something we had never tried before.

Zhenzhong: At the beginning, our group member Guanze wanted to do something that was more like a robot science fiction film, while another group member Ziyin - a professional animator - preferred satirical works with strong, contrasting effects.

I thought that we could combine those elements with the current status quo of pandemic, so was able to put everyone's ideas together in order to complete our story.

What did you aim to achieve through the project?

Guanze: I wanted to strengthen my rigging techniques while also developing my cooperation and collaboration skills.

Wanxuan: I think collaborative projects can produce better work than when you’re working alone, and certainly when everyone is working well together. Everyone is good at different areas, so I hope that my team members would be able to teach me a lot of technical knowledge.

Zhenzhong: I just wanted to work with a group which wanted to combine different ideas together and create something new. (And that's exactly what we did!)

3D renders of the film's robot character.
Image credit: Zhenzhong Liang.

What role did you play in developing Shut Down?

Guanze: I was responsible for rigging, texturing, lighting and VFX.

Wanxuan: I was mainly responsible for character concept design, scene design, editing and some texturing.

Zhenzhong: I had 2 important roles in the project: production and management. I was in charge of modelling 2 characters, and then working with my teammates to build our scenes, create lighting, and finally, rendering and compositing.

I was also responsible for managing the entire project, and set up weekly tasks and schedules for each team member to ensure that our project could achieve the best effect within the limited time. (Assigning tasks and time was really important work!)

What were your highlights of the experience?

Guanze: I think my highlight was being able to solve problems. It’s inevitable that you’ll face some unfamiliar troubles when exploring new area; therefore, being able to analyse and solve problems can be quite important.

Fortunately, we managed to overcome most of our problems, which were quite challenging but also interesting to think about.

Wanxuan: While some areas of our film feel as though they need a bit more practice, I think the character design and the pacing of our editing were both pretty good.

Zhenzhong: I think I did a good job on the modelling, rendering and compositing, and I think our harmonious team atmosphere made everyone feel at ease.

We always encouraged each other, and that makes us believe that we could be our best selves.

Concept art for the full animated film.
Image credit: Zhenzhong Liang.

What have you most enjoyed about your time as an LCC student so far?

Guanze: I enjoy the atmosphere of creation. What’s more, I have great opportunities to work with other students who are professionals in their field, and we have a chance to transfer different concepts into solid work which makes me feel excited.

Wanxuan: As a student, we have time to find out what really interests us, and I’ve really enjoyed the process of trying different things.

Zhenzhong: I like that I can create anything I'm interested in without any restrictions, and I love the freedom we have in the action of creating.

What advice would you give to prospective students who might be interested in applying to your course?

Guanze: Be creative, passionate and professional: these are the basics of all kinds of creation.

Wanxuan: I think it’s particularly important to practice your film-shot analysis.

Zhenzhong: I think the only advice I have is to always have plenty of energy to learn - animation is a very complex subject and requires a lot of time to practice on your own. The rest is about following your heart.

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