BAF 2012: pop-up books, soap carts, power stations and Chuck Jones. Not your average animation festival. – Part 1

What a festival! I guess it may just be because I managed to make it to more sessions than in recent years, but I thought this year’s BAF was one of the finest. The quality of the sessions and the variety of the subjects covered made it a fascinating week. I made it to most of BAF Game for a change, and a few of the main festival down at the Museum. So here are some of my highlights.

The festival kicked off with Stewart Gilraytalking about resurrecting the Oddworld brand. Abe’s Oddyssee was one of my all time favourites on the original Playstation. The charaterisation was superb and I had real empathy with the character, to the extent of getting very upset when there was a particularly nasty plant that kept eating Abe!

The reworking looks superb, and it was pleasing to hear that they were shying away from producing a touchscreen edition for tablets as the control system doesn’t suit. I can understand the desire to produce tablet and phone versions for a lot of classics (not least to make some money, but also as a challenge), but unless you revise some substantial parts of the interface, they just don’t work. Yes, GTA is playable on an iPad, but it’s nowhere near as easy or fun to play as on a console. It was also fun to hear that there were five games in the original vision, each of which added a new character to those of previous games, resulting in five playable in the last one. Let’s hope they all come into existance!

Either way, the re-imagining of Abe’s Oddysee, Nice ‘n’ Tasty, looks ace.

Jennifer Schneidereit and Philip Tossell from Nyamyam talked about Tengami, a beautiful Japanese-inspired game that has its game mechanic based on the ‘pop-up’ book.

This has some really original ideas in what was basically a platform/adventure cross-over, and the design tools that they demonstrated showed some creative problem solving to get this game into a playable state. Whilst the game looked great, and the playable sections they showed were great, I guess my question is longevity. How do you keep up the wonder of the the initial ‘page-turn’ with the pop-up mechanice, and how do you keep it from becoming repetitive? It’s clearly aimed at touchscreen devices, and games for these tend to be a bit more cerebral than action-based, so I’m sure it will find a market, but I’d want to play more before handing over my cash I think.

The ‘pop-up’ book metphor continued into the next talk from Joel Smith from Sony. He talked about the harry Potter Book of Spells game that uses the Sony Eye and Wonderbook to create an augmented reality game that changes the ‘Wonderbook’ into the Book of Spells from the Harry Potter stories. Players then take on the role of apprentice wizards and use the Move contollers as wands to cast spells, etc.This looked like a great deal of fun, I just need to find an excuse to get this as I’m not exactly in the target age group! It will be interesting to see how well the interface works, the children in the demo that they showed seemed to be engaged with it, but I guess they wouldn’t be shown otherwise.

Well that covers the pop-up books, but what of the soap carts, power stations and Chuck Jones. You’ll have to wait for those…

Bradford via Bournemouth, London and Salford. Quite a couple of weeks.

Busy, busy, busy. Good job Nicki’s not about to have our second child any day (oh, hang on…).

First of was a trip to Bournemouth for the Media Education Summit, which helpfully dovetailed rather nicely with the Bridging the Gap conference, rather well summarised in this video yes, I know it says Teesside University, and they did indeed organise it, but it was held in Bournemouth).

Both events were blessed with some great speakers, from Ian Livingstone once more extolling the virtues of a good education in coding to the Guardian’s Paul Lewis giving an insight into the new connected world of journalism and how social media has radically altered the role.

We were there to present the Media Working Academy at Bridging the Gap, specifically a case study of how some of our students (with some valuable guidance and input from Darren Bristow from Quba) helped GfK try out some ideas for their e-magazine and produced a tablet version of a paper-based publication. The best thing about this project (besides the nice things that GfK’s Aoife McArdle said about the work) was that the students have gone on to work for GfK. You can’t get a better recommendation of quality than that!

Once that was fully absorbed, it was off the the BBC Trust for the Audience Council England meeting. It’s the start of a ‘new year’ for this, so it was mainly to catch up on what the pattern of work will be over the next year, but it was interesting to hear how Ben Cooper‘s decision to replace Chris Moyles with Nick Grimshaw would hopefully stop old fogies like me listening to the Breakfast Show and get that average age of the listener back where it should be! Ralph Rivera and Andy Conroy gave an insight into Future Media at the BBC, and suffice to say there’s some exciting stuff coming off the back of the excellent developments across all four screens for the Olympics. It’s one of the few parts of the BBC that has escaped relatively unscathed from DQF, and although (as Anthony Lilley said at Bridging the Gap) the iPlayer “isn’t enough”, there’ll be more things in the pipeline that will made similar step changes in the way people consume the BBC’s outputs. Watch that Red Button!

Finally it was over to Media City to kick off the Audience Council part of the Trust’s review of the BBC online provision. We again heard from Andy Conroy, this time abley supported by Laura Ellis (Head of English Regions New Media) and Saul Nasse (Controller of BBC Learning). It will be intersting to see how this goes, with such a diverse spread of content and users covered by the generic term ‘online’.

The launch of the SCIM OB truck

Tom Ingall interviewing Ian Palmer It’s a week on since the launch of the SCIM OB truck and time to reflect on the event. It was great fun to be interviewed by Bradford SCIM graduate and BBC Look North celeb Tom Ingall.

Then it was back down five floors to see the truck itself and for Tom to cut the ribbon to formerly ‘open’ the truck for business.

It’s great to have this facility, which is the only facility of this size and capability at any university in the UK. Giving the students the chance to learn what working on a real outside broadcast is like will really given them an edge.

With more and more ‘event’ television programmes driving the ratings (the Olympics would be just a small example of this of course!) the ability to go out in the field and capture events from wherever they happen is a key skill that they can develop to the fullest.

You can see some more about the truck and the launch here.


Graduation – another celebration of success!

The highlight of the year, our graduation is tomorrow. It’s always fantastic to see everyone get their degrees, and the friends & families pleasure in seeing them walk across the stage is always great to see and hear.


Here’s my bit about the School from the brochure:
It’s been another busy and successful year for the School. Our students have won prizes from the Royal Television Society and from the BBC in its Developing Talent Awards, showing that our courses continue to produce graduates capable of working to the highest standards.

We started a new initiative with the BBC to develop the skills of their software engineers, who will be trained by our staff at the BBC in Salford and London with a view to working towards a masters degree. We developed a ground-breaking new Masters degree in Music Video Creation in collaboration with the world famous Mute Records. We created the Digital Working Academy to provide work experience for students and recent graduates, resulting in 98 students working on commercial projects worth £108k, with some of these students already finding work for the companies who commissioned the projects.

Our research continues to develop and grow, with income attracted in areas including modelling of toxicity to help avoid animal testing of substances, the digitisation of archaeological bones to help understand medical conditions and creating a 3D model of the cornea. And we are now the university in the UK to have a full high-definition outside broadcast truck.

It’s a pretty good summary of the year.  We’re on first tomorrow at 10am, and there’s a reception for gradautes afterwards, invite repeated here in case you missed it:
Following the ceremony, you are invited to a free drinks reception with live music at the Norcroft Centre from 11.30am–1.00pm
(prizes presentation at 12.15pm)
Graduation Photograph in the Student Central Lecture theatre
1.15pm Department of Computing and Maths
1.45pm Bradford Media School
2.15pm Creative Technology
(please arrive 15 mins beforehand)

I hope all goes well tomorrow. And for those of you graduating, well done, good luck and when I pronounce your name wrong tomorrow (and although I’ve practiced, I WILL get some of them wrong), please forgive me!

So what happened to March?

It seemed to fly by and I have no idea where it went. The last time I posted it was all about struggling to pull together the proosal for the new academic calendar (that’s been to ASPC, LTC and Senate and been approved), the impending academic review (we’ve had the panel meetings and are waiting for the report) and the BCS accreditation visit (which went well and we await the written feedback).  And of course the City Park opened, which whatever you think about it has transformed the city centre and it’s a joy to see so many people out there enjoying the recent good weather.

If that’s not enough for one month, we’ve had the opening of the excellent Life Online gallery and TedX Bradford at the NMeM, another BBC RAC meeting, and Spurs have gone from Champions’ League certainties to Europa League hopefuls and back again.

In the middle of all this, we’ve moved offices. As you may know, I was in a shared space with the staff support team in the basement of Horton D (hence the original title of this blog). With the reclading of the building (which has gone very smoothly and looks great), we had to find temporary accomodation for the Student Support Office. This gave us an opportunity to rethink how we use our space. The position of the recruitment office was far from ideal (up some stairs and along a corridor), especially given the amount of traffic on applicant visit days. Given where we were located, i.e. in the ‘basement’ which of course is actually at ground level (don’t ask, it’s one of the challenges of labelling floors in buildings that are built on hillsides) and so had easy access, it made sense to use this forced temporary move to use that space more effectively. Hence the Recruitment Office is now using that, both as office space and to hold receptions and recruitment events. We’ve now moved to the fifth floor. So time to rename the blog. The Student Support Office is temporarily where Recruitment were, and when they move back we’ll continue to use that space for supporting our partnership work (someting that was originally located with us in the basement).

As with all these things, the disruption is substantial, but the move seems to have gone very smoothly with all parties happy with their new space. Which is something that is often tricky to achieve. So thanks to all involved, both in terms of those moving and the tech support team that made it happen, for such a slick operation.

As well as the cladding operation, those of you who used the small entrance door facing the Richmond Building will have seen our new ‘porch’ being constructed. The ‘official’ entrance to Horton D is round the back up the curved steps facing the Chesham Building. No doubt this fitting perfectly in the architect’s vision at the time, but now that we get a lot of traffice to and from the Richmond Building, and in these days of more awareness of access for those with mobility problems, it really didn’t make sense. Now the building work is complete we need to populate that space to make it more interesting, which will hopefully happen over the next few months.

Besides hoping that the warmer weather will drive away any more snow, there’s much to look forward to in April. The Bradford International Film Festival has a superb line up this year, with a wide variety from the obscure masterpieces to classic cartoons. If you’re in Bradford while it’s on, there really is no excuse not to pop along to something. There’s another ACE meeting, which are always interesting and lively. And of course there’s the usual day-to-day expected and unexpected challenges.

I expect come May I’ll be looking back asking ‘what happened to April’?!

So little time to blog, so many things to blog about…

It’s quite frustrating that I seem to have so much to say, and so little time to be able to say it. Of course, that’s all a matter of opinion.

What with the ongoing work on the academic calendar, the impending academic reviews, etc., etc., it’s a busy time. Then there’s the recent reviews of the Asian Network and Syndication that I chaired for the BBC Trust’s Audience Council England, and a thousand other things that I didn’t have time to write about. I think the report should say ‘must try harder’.

From the archives: Internet Gallery Advisory Board, National Media Museum

I also found this in the drafts for this, from2010. And rather than waste all that effort I put into writing it…

Of course, the Internet Gallery is now the soon-to-be-launched ‘Life Online’, and there’s been another advisory board since, so this is mainly of historic interest now! I think given some of the challenges outlined here, they’ve done a fantastic job of representing the story of the internet in a physical space. Of course you’ll have to wait until next year to find out for yourselves.

It was an interesting meeting yesterday [well, over a year ago actually now, ed], both to hear the plans that are currently in place to develop the ‘Internet Gallery‘ at the NMeM and also to hear people’s take on the idea. Whilst we did seem to get side-tracked by the debate around sponsorship and its potential influence on the content, there were some interesting ideas about what a ‘gallery’ of the internet should strive to achieve and how it should be presented.

I’m sure that in future there’ll be the opportunity to put some more meat on these ideas (not in a Lady Ga Ga way you understand), but at least we’ve made a start. Exploring the ideas that float somewhere between the concept of the internet and a physical gallery space is one that could take many different twists and turns, and it may well be that the gallery ends up being as fluid and evolutionary as the internet itself.

I was good to see the demo of the concept linkage work from Peter Cowling and Stephen Remde.  This is a very slick demo now, and whether or not this ends up as an exhibit in the gallery remains to be seen but it’s an interesting piece of work in its own right.

It was also good to catch up with people who I only get to see in person on rare occasions, but follow their digital lives regularly (yes, that means you Rob, Steve and Imran!).

It looks like you’re trying to create a new academic calendar…

It’s been so long since I put anything on here, I don’t expect many people will still be reading. However, one of the proposals at the last ‘BOG’ (that’s the Bradford Offer Group in case you don’t know, I still get strange looks when I say “I’m off to the BOG”) was that we should improve communications by keeping a blog of what we’re doing. So until something else gets written I thought I bring this out from its state of suspended animation.

As the title suggests, I’ve been tasked with looking at the structure of the academic year, something Nigel Lindsey did a huge amount of work on previously. As Nigel found out, this is quiet a challenge to say the least (hence the title, I’m hoping a friendly paperclip will pop up with some suggestions). The Bradford Offer made a number of proposals about all sorts of things, but one was about a change in the structure of the year. To cut a long story short, the main points were around seeing if we could start the year later (to give more time for preparation and for students to get here) and to fit in supplementary assessments in before the end of July (mainly to allow students to plan better for September). Clearly, starting later and ending sooner are not necessarily compatible aims!

The biggest issue with this is the ‘crunch’ time between the end of the first assessments and the start of the supplementaries. Work needs to be marked, checked, the marks entered on the system, formally ‘approved’, then taken to exam boards to make decisions on the individual students.  This, together with the sheer volume of examinations that we have, makes it quite a challenge.

Of course, other institutions mange to do this, and claim that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, and although there’s some ‘pain’ in moving from one model to another, they are very adamant that they are in a better place now than before.

So work goes on. There’s a target of having a revised proposal to got to ASPC/Senate in the new year. How exact we can be about the impact and resources needed to do this remains to be seen as there’s the small issue of the Christmas break between now and then, but we’ll do our best.