Archive for November, 2011

Photogenic Glasgow

November 26, 2011 Leave a comment

I took a trip to Glasgow this weekend to see Bill Bailey at the Clyde Auditorium and also decided to visit some of my favourite places in the city, The Lighthouse and Street Level Photoworks.

Street Level Photoworks

Street Level was showing  an exhibition entitled The Obsidian Isle by Gayle Chong Kwan. Inspired by the tales of Ossian, the 3rd century blind poet, the images are of a fictional island off the west coast of Scotland that contains the remains of various real structures that have fallen into dereliction or have collapsed.

The images are made from photographs, models and found objects that have been constructed into dioramas in a studio and photographed. These fascinating images, all dark cloudy skies and dereliction, are the very anithesis of today’s composite, digital, Photoshopped artwork. The images appear false and constructed, cut out and combined, but remain powerful and intriguing.

The exhibition comprises 10 large format prints, several smaller prints and some small sculptures constructed from found objects. It runs until December 11th.

The Lighthouse, centre for architecture, design and creative industries, houses a number of exhibitions and galleries and also has a fine selection of art & design periodicals in its shop. I visited City Visions 1910 I 2010 Exhibition: Urban Planning in Berlin, London, Paris and Chicago 1910 and 2010. My interest in this was the process of architectural design, as I’m teaching 3D Design Skills and wanted to have some examples to show my students. The exhibition featured details of past, present and future plans for the urban landscape and consisted of architectural plans, concept sketches, photo-realistic mock-ups, 3D graphics and models.

View from The Lighthouse

Visitors to the Lighthouse shouldn’t miss the chance of seeing Glasgow from the rooftop viewing platform.

During my visit I also picked up the new copy of f22 magazine which is a free magazine dedicated to the fine art of photography. This superb magazine, bundled with its sister mag, State, is an excellent read, and I recommend it to anyone with an interest in photography.

Categories: Photography

End of Block 1 – the 3 block system

November 24, 2011 1 comment
Empty classroom

Photo by James F Clay used under CC.

It’s the end of the first block of 12 weeks and many subjects are coming to an end. This is the first year we’ve ran a three block system instead of a semester system and I think the results have been positive. Some of the main reasons for changing include:

  1. Assessment / subject load is reduced for staff and students – each student studies less subjects per block and staff teach less subjects, reducing load.
  2. Students achieve results more quickly – in 12 weeks instead of 18, and the timing of assessments work out better – avoiding major holiday periods.
  3. Some students admitted that they spent 6 weeks learning, 6 weeks doing nothing and a few weeks at the end on assessment. Reducing the block length reduces the wasted period.
  4. 18 weeks is an unrealistically long time for project work. Most workplace projects take place over a much shorter timescale, so lengthy projects led to students learning bad habits such as procrastination.

The system isn’t without fault, for example, if a student is ill for a week they miss 8% of their course instead of around 5%. This has an impact on the students’ learning and ability to catch up, however I firmly believe this is outweighed by the benefits of the 3 block system.

The proof will be in the student results, however staff are already claiming that achievement has improved and that many more students are completing their work early. There seems to be a better pace and urgency to the courses, which carries the students through.

The only students I have heard complaining are a minority of existing HND students who have been used to an 18 week semester. Some students complained they didn’t have time to complete their work, however many others felt the opposite.

There is also a division amongst staff, but again the majority are in favour of the 3 blocks. The negative comments from staff have been that they felt the block was ‘rushed’ and that there wasn’t enough time for students to digest the subjects properly.

Not all subjects have been compressed to twelve weeks. Some units that have proved problematic in the past are running over two blocks. These subjects are mainly ones that require projects to be completed over a period of time or have complex requirements that need special arrangements. An example of this is Documentary Photography which requires students to undertake a photographic project over a period of time and with many variables that can often cause delays.

To be continued…

Categories: teaching

Video special effects

November 10, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I did any video special effects with my students, but a project which came up recently has prompted me to get back into it.

My students are making some animated / video scenes for the upcoming production of Aladdin at the Alhambra Theatre in Dunfermline.

We’ve storyboarded the scenes and have been experimenting with some of the special effects and animation techniques we will need for the final production. We’ve been using a variety of tools including Flash, Premiere Pro, Photoshop, Illustrator, LS maker and Particle Illusion to make effects.

Here’s a little taste of what we’ve been doing…

Games Design

November 7, 2011 Leave a comment

With a couple of weeks left until the end of the block we’re tying up some loose ends before progressing onto the Media Assets unit. I’m not actually delivering the 3 NPA units as discrete entities, so we haven’t finished everything for Game Design yet, but we have started on work for Media Assets and Game Development, which balances out in the long run.

This week we’re making video reviews of games using Screenr. This is an alternative to writing a report on a game. The students analyse different aspects of a game, it’s narrative, interface, characters, gameplay and environment, but are doing so as a screencast instead of using a traditional written report.

Here’s an example I made to demonstrate Screenr.


We’ve also been using the Annotation features of Youtube to make simple tutorial videos for Blender. Here are some examples:

Sculpt mode

Animation basics

Categories: Game Design, teaching