Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Bradford Animation Festival 2012: Neil Thompson

Recently, our course took a visit to the animation festival held at the Bradford media museum over four days. There was a variety of animation reels, guest speakers including industry professionals as well as indie developers, and also topical panels. Through various posts, I will be discussing some of my personal highlights which I felt were most relevant in my own area of development within the industry.

Perhaps one of the most exciting talks was given by Neil Thompson of the Triple-A game company Bioware. He spoke about games as a creative and expressive art form, originally leaving his job at a carpet shop in Manchester to become a traditional illustrator. Attendees of the talk were given insight into the birth and development of cinematic gaming, an industry that has only existed around thirty years.

Thompson spoke about the ever changing technology within the industry, originally working with 32 by 32 pixel monitors and software allowing for a limited colour pallet. He showed exclusive footage which had been developed for Lucas film mixing live action with 3D animation. After working on various titles with large game companies, Thompson began an indy venture called 'Curlymonsters'. The team produced a 'Wipeout' style racing game for the xbox console, a project Thompson took great pride in. Eventually Thompson rejoined 'Sony' (once Sygnosis) as Senior Artist. He worked on the Formula 1 franchise which boasted realistic lighting and reflections, as well as detailed and realistic damage. After also spending time working for Bizarre creations, he eventually joined  Bioware as Director of Art and Animation.

Thompson also spoke about some of the obstacles present for someone who is interested in working within the game industry.

Firstly, the technology is always changing, meaning that it is important to be able to adapt and learn new software on demand. This means that there is a re-training overhead. There is also the issue of maintaining artistic integrity, something which can be difficult when working collaboratively with larger companies who are focused on marketing a product. Also, as the game industry is still in its early stages, poor management can still be an issue present even in the more established practitioners.

Thompson explained that it is important to:

Become proficient in your core discipline.

Learn how to translate your work into the media of games.

Practice diversity and allow room to specialise.

Critique your work based upon an Industry bench mark.

And finally absorb and embrace inspiration from a wide pallet (traditional art, film, photography).

As a hopeful concept artist, I find the points raised in this talk very helpful. I must draw in visual inspiration to better inform my ideas and broaden my creative potential. Also, on top of personal accomplishment, I must constantly compare my work to that of industry professionals if I ultimately wish to aspire to that level.

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