Friday, December 27, 2013

Buddhist organisations

The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT) is an organization which was founded in 1975 by Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, who began teaching Buddhism to Western students in Nepal. The FPMT has grown to encompass 165 Dharma centers, projects, and social services in 37 countries.

Buddhist Geeks is born out of a conversation between two friends and Naropa University students, Vincent Horn and Ryan Oelke, at a coffee shop in Boulder, Colorado. They see an opportunity to combine their geeky skills together with their passion for Buddhist practice.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. He frequently states that his life is guided by three major commitments: the promotion of basic human values or secular ethics in the interest of human happiness, the fostering of inter-religious harmony and the preservation of Tibet's Buddhist culture.

Thich Nhat Hanh’s key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.

Buddhist Books

Tao te Ching -Lao Tzu

The Tao Te Ching, Daodejing, or Dao De Jing (道德經: 道 dào "way"; 德 dé "virtue"; 經 jīng "classic" or "text"), also simply referred to as the Laozi,[1][2] is a Chinese classic text.
.........The text is fundamental to both philosophical and religious Taoism (Daojia, Chinese: 道家, Pinyin: Dàojiā; Daojiao, Chinese: 道教, Pinyin: Dàojiào) and strongly influenced other schools, such as Legalism, Confucianism and Chinese Buddhism, which when first introduced into China was largely interpreted through the use of Daoist words and concepts. Many Chinese artists, including poets, painters, calligraphers, and even gardeners have used the Daodejing as a source of inspiration. Its influence has also spread widely outside East Asia, and is amongst the most translated works in world literature.

Guide to the bodhisattva's way of life

is a famous Mahāyāna Buddhist text written c. 700 AD in Sanskrit verse by Shantideva (Śāntideva), a Buddhist monk at Nālandā Monastic University in India.āvatāra

Siddharta by Hermann Hesse

Siddhartha is a novel by Hermann Hesse that deals with the spiritual journey of self-discovery of a man named Siddhartha during the time of the Gautama Buddha. The book, Hesse's ninth novel (1922), was written in German, in a simple, lyrical style.

Mind beyond death - Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

An indispensable guidebook through the journey of life and death, Mind Beyond Death weaves a synthesis of wisdom remarkable in its scope. With warm informality and profound understanding of the Western mind, the Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche makes the mysterious Tibetan teachings on the bardos--the intervals of life, death, and beyond--completely available to the modern reader.

The Universe in a Single Atom
-The Dalai Lama

The universe in a single atom
In the book, The Dalai Lama creates exigency for the peaceful relationship between Buddhism and science. The goal is to mitigate human suffering from both Buddhist Philosophy and Science.[3] Scientists and Buddhists acknowledge that Buddhists use sensory perceptions and introspective thinking requiring cooperation of the body.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Great Buddhist Films

Here is a collection of films I find very inspiring:

Unmistaken Child (Documentary 2008)

In Nepal, a venerable monk, Geshe Lama Konchog, dies and one of his disciples, a youthful monk named Tenzin Zopa, searches for his master's reincarnation. The film follows his search to the Tsum Valley where he finds a young boy of the right age who uncannily responds to Konchog's possessions. Is this the reincarnation of the master? After the boy passes several tests, Tenzin takes him to meet the Dalai Lama. Will the parents agree to let the boy go to the monastery, and, if so, how will the child respond? Central to the film is the relationship the child develops with Tenzin.

The Yogis of Tibet (2002)

For the first time, the reclusive and secretive Tibetan monks agree to discuss aspects of their philosophy and allow themselves to be filmed while performing their ancient practices. -- IMDb Plot: The Yogis of Tibet (2002)
Kundun (1997)

From childhood to adulthood, Tibet's fourteenth Dalai Lama deals with Chinese oppression and other problems.

"Is Consciousness Produced by the
Brain?" by Bruce Greyson

"Many of the cases that we have are unexplainable with the help of Western Medicine, but they are also unexplainable in terms of the reincarnation hypothesis. Sometimes you will see two children who seem to remember the same past life. Sometimes you will see a child that remembers the life of someone who died when the child was 6 months old. So the experiences overlap and there is no clear model that we can follow.
When I talk to near death experiences they will always start first with : "Words cannot explain my experience. I cannot describe it for you." Than I say:"That's great, tell me all about it!"
So we force them to tell us what they experience while we know they can't tell us what they experienced. They're fitting into words what they can't fit into words. The same is true for these rebirth memories: what actually happens us something that we, our brain can't understand.
So the models we can come up with do not really approach the reality. So if you ask me what I believe is after death, is something I can't possibly understand while I am in this brain."

Wheel of Time (2003)

1 h 21 min - Documentary

Wheel of Time is Werner
Herzog's photographed look
at the largest Buddhist ritual in
Bodh Gaya, India.

Carl Sagan interviews the Dalai Lama on the subject of science (video is a bit poor quality, but audio is clear)

(Oscar winning short)

It tells the story of one shepherd's long and successful singlehanded effort to re-forest a desolate valley in the foothills of the Alps in Provence throughout the first half of the 20th century.

Merry Christmas !

Thought I draw my own Santa for my Christmas card this year, here's the result:

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Get Lucky: The best cover versions in one mega mix

Things you do on your phone when you are waiting at airports and train stations.


Get Lucky Beat Coverversions MegaMix

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Yes there is money in Comic books!

My first customer!
Pop in at Comiket today, here until 19:00h!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lead artist on a "Christmoose story"

Check out the trailer for this lovely Dutch film I worked on in the summer for Filmmore Brussels!

As a lead artist, my work included concept art, modeling, rigging, animation and a bit of particle work.

A christmoose story

Original title: Midden in de Winternacht

When his father cannot make it home Max is convinced that Christmas will be extremely boring this year. But then Mr. Moose crashes through his roof and he is not so sure anymore. This is a giant talking Moose with a big mouth, a warm hearth and a tendency for drama. He claims he was on a test-run with Santa Claus, lost control over the sleigh and crashed, injuring his leg. And now he has to find Santa Claus, otherwise nobody will receive their Christmas gifts. Is Max able to get Mr. Moose and Santa flying again?

Check out the trailer here:

Friday, October 4, 2013

Meet me at Comiket on 2nd of November!

Pop by at Comiket London (1 Min from Liverpoolstreet) on the 2nd November 2013 and check out some of my Graphic Novels :

The 120 page Graphic Novel "Brixton Knight"

and "A Path to Happiness for young Minds" by HH the Dalai Lama, published by Hayhouse, that I edited and illustrated.

Check out the Comiket site. More info on my work at

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The original Yoda

What an inspiring man:

"Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche was a massive man – a monk with shaved head, red robes, and a deeply lined face that made him look more ancient than his years. His humble, wise manner and gentle humor made him appear like the archetypal sage of fables. This quality did not escape the notice of Westerners who met him. Upon seeing him in Dharamsala, for instance, the makers of the popular film Star Wars decided to use him as the model for Yoda, the spiritual guide of the epic. Rinpoche never saw the movie, but would undoubtedly have been amused at the caricature."

Find out more here:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Maya lead for Ace Imagefactorie's "Luminus commercial"

Worked on a very sweet commercial for "Luminus" with the great people at Ace Image Factory in Brussels earlier this year.
My task was to model, light and texture.
Watch the final commercial and a making of here:
Making of Luminus

Monday, August 12, 2013

As the website recently experienced some problems I decided to post his teaching schedule as a sign of support. Feel free to share.

Apparently there have been some problems
with the Dalai Lama's site last night.

That's why I decided to post his schedule here.


Note: Below is the public schedule of His Holiness the Dalai Lama both in India as well as abroad. Please note that for many of these events, tickets are required in order to gain entrance. People are requested to contact the organizers directly or visit the websites given below for further information on tickets. In general, most of the events in India are free where as the majority of events abroad require paid tickets. For your information, as a long-standing policy His Holiness the Dalai Lama does not accept any fees for his talks. Where tickets need to be purchased, organizers are requested by our office to charge the minimum entrance fee in order to cover their costs only.Please note that the below dates are subject to change.
Teaching in Leh, Ladakh, J&K, India on August 21: His Holiness will confer a White Tara Long Life Empowerment (drolkar tsewang) in the morning at Shewatsel Teaching Ground.
Teaching in Dharamsala, HP, India from August 25 to 27: His Holiness will give a two and a half-day teaching on Tsongkhapa’s Concise Treatises on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (lamrim dudon) & An Overview of Tantra from Tsongkhapa’s Stages of the Path of Mantrayana (ngakrim chenmo chishe) at the request of a group of Koreans at the Main Tibetan Temple.
Teaching in Dharamsala, HP, India from September 3 to 5: His Holiness will give a two and a half-day teaching and continue from Chapter 8 from Shantideva's A Guide to the Boddhisattva's Way of Life (chodjug) at the request of a group of Southeast Asians at the Main Tibetan Temple. Contact Website: 
Public Talk in Riga, Latvia on September 9: His Holiness will give a public talk in the afternoon at the Arena Riga on The Culture of Compassion. Contact
Public Talk in Vilnius, Lithuania on September 13: His Holiness will give a public talk on The Path to Peace and Happiness in a Global Society in the afternoon at Siemens Arena. Contact 
Public Talk in Prague, Czech Republic on September 14: His Holiness will give a public talk onCompassion and Respect in Today's Society in the afternoon at Tipsport Arena. Contact Website:
Public Talk in Hanover, Germany on September 18: His Holiness will give a public talk onStrength Through Compassion and Tolerance in the afternoon. at Swiss Life Hall. Contact
Public Talk in Steinhude, Germany on September 19: His Holiness will give a public talk onStrength Through Compassion and Solidarity in the afternoon. Contact Website: 
Teaching in Dharamsala, HP, India from September 30 to October 3: His Holiness will give a three and a half-day teaching on Nagarjuna's Sixty Stanzas of Reasoning (rigpa drugchupa) & Tsongkhapa's Concise Treatises on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (lamrim dudon) at the request of a group of Taiwanese at the Main Tibetan Temple. 
Public Talk in Atlanta, GA, USA on October 8: His Holiness will give a public talk on The Pillars of Responsible Citizenship in the 21st Century Global Village in the morning at The Arena at Gwinnett Center. Contact Website:
Panel Discussion in Atlanta, GA, USA on October 8: His Holiness will lead a panel discussion onSecular Ethics in Education in the afternoon at The Arena at Gwinnett Center. Contact  
Lecture in Atlanta, GA, USA on October 9: His Holiness, a presidential distinguished professor at Emory University, will teach a class titled Secular Ethics101 for students at the campus of Emory University. Contact Website:
Symposium in Atlanta, GA, USA on October 9: His Holiness, a presidential distinguished professor at Emory University, will lead a symposium with faculty and graduate students in religion and ethics on Secular Ethics at the campus of Emory University. Contact Website:
Teaching in Atlanta, GA, USA on October 10: His Holiness will give a teaching on the root text ofMahamudra by the 1st Panchen Lama, Losang Choekyi Gyaltsen at the campus of Emory University at the invitation of Drepung Loseling Monastery, Inc. Contact Website:

Teachings in Mexico City, Mexico from October 12 to 14: His Holiness will give a three-day (four sessions) teaching on Shantideva's A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life (chodjug) at Arena Ciudad de México. Contact Website:
Public Talk in Mexico City, Mexico on October 13: His Holiness will give a public talk on Beyond Religion: Ethics for the Whole World at Arena Ciudad de México. Contact
Talk in Mexico City, Mexico on October 14: His Holiness will give a talk to the student community of Mexico on Human Values in Contemporary Education at Arena Ciudad de México. Contact Website:
Public Talk in San CristobalLeon, Mexico on October 15: His Holiness will give a public talk onCompassion in Action at Centro Fox. Contact
Public Talk in Zacatecas City, Mexico on October 16: His Holiness will give a public talk on Art of Happiness at Convention Center "Conferencia Magistral". Contact
Teaching in New York, NY, USA from October 18 to 20: His Holiness will give a two and a half-day teaching on The Heart Sutra (sherab nyingpo)The Sutra of the Recollection of the Three Jewels (kunchok jeden) & Shantideva's 9th Chapter of The Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life (chodjug) as well as bestow an initiation into The Buddha Establishing the Three Pledges (thupa damtsik sumkoe) at the Beacon Theater. Contact Website:
Teaching in New York, NY, USA on October 20: His Holiness will give a public talk on The Virtue of Nonviolence in the afternoon at the Beacon Theater. Contact Website:
Teaching in Dharamsala, HP, India from December 2 to 4: His Holiness will give a two and a half-day teaching on Tsongkhapa's Three Principal Paths (lamtso namsum) & Tsongkhapa's Foundation of All Good Qualities (yonten shekyurma) at the request of a group of Mongolians led by Lamiin Gegeen at the Main Tibetan Temple. 
Teachings in Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India from December 25 to January 3: His Holiness will continue his teachings on the 18 Great Stages of the Path (Lam Rim) Commentaries at Sera Monastery at the request of H.E. Ling Choktrul Rinpoche and Gaden Shartse Monastery. Contact Websites: and 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Article in DV user about my involvement in the Oscar nominated "Pirates! In an adventure with scientist"

“Some people think you can improve children's minds by playing them Mozart. I think you could treble the IQ of any child, or indeed adult, by putting them in front of an Aardman product like this. “

Peter Bradshaw
The Guardian, Thu 29 Mar 2012

In January 2011,Ben Lock, VFX producer on Aardman's "Pirates! In an adventure with scientists" asked me to come down for an interview to Aardman Animation’s Feature Film studios in Aztec West in Bristol. The tour of “Aztec West” I was given, simply made my jaw drop: Miniature pirate cities filling whole soundstages, a miniature Pirate ship the size of a normal boat and a miniature size stop motion puppet of Queen Victoria…. in her underpants!
This was the best state of the art stop motion studio in the world! All set up to shoot stereoscopic, including Motion Control rigs, work shops for the sets and characters next to the sets. All high end, in a nice atmosphere, with a little lake nearby to relax, graffiti inside the studio and great canteen.
But it didn’t stop there: the DIGITAL SIDE of production was also next to the sets.
Previs, editing, sound, 3d, mattepainting and compositing- this was light years away from your normal postproduction set up where you rarely feel part of the team that shot the movie.

Ben kindly agreed to have me on board as a Senior sequence TD.

What a loose term that is! For the next six months I was on roller coaster ride through the Pirates digital part of the production:

All of the film had been storyboarded, so one of my tasks was to help translating the “animatic” based on the scanned drawings, with some sound effects into a 3d animatic with basic animations of the characters, sets and the camera. This is a process called Previsualisation (Previs). I mainly helped designing the showdown sequence, with the Pirate Captain chasing after Queen Vic (in her underpants) who manages to fly off on her airship. It involved character and particle animation plus a good knowledge of film language. Because all the digital versions characters, sets and cameras inside the 3d package Maya are to the real scale, it helped enormously designing the set up for the stopmotion sets for the real life shoot. I was also helping with a process called “Post Vis” wherby you take the plates shot on the day and roughly match in CG elements to allow the directors to see how they work together in Nuke.

On Pirates most of the foreground sets were models and puppets, beyond the real sets they were extended with CG sets and characters. Adding whole landscapes, the sea, cities and shots with hundreds of (CG) characters allowed for the creation of images never really done on a stereoscopic stop motion project.
The combination of live action and CG for a stereoscopic project though is rather tough work : First, 2 pictures are taken of the set, one for each eye. But you have to do a lot more to make it work: I spend quite some time shooting hundreds of pictures of the set that were than fed into a propriety software that would in return create a scan of the set, a particle based cloud scene in Maya. This scene plus various other data taken on the set, would allow to match the virtual camera perfectly to the real camera. The cloud point also helps positioning 3d objects into the right space.

Next for me was the texturing and shader setup of some digital doubles including the pirate “Gout”, with his little Blue Peter Badge on his hat and some more. These models were only used in shots were the character was quite small in frame, otherwise the stop motion puppet was used.

The rest of the time was filled with tracking shots, animating CG objects like leaves, carpet clippers, fluid chimney smoke, modeling some trees , animating seas and a surprise concert of “The Ukulele orchestra of great Britain”!(They were playing their version of Isaac Hayes’ “Shaft” on their ukuleles in our lunch break. Peter Lord had organised this for us.) Also, I shall not forget the great “Family day” when we were allowed to show our loved one the sets of the movie.

I am going to close the article with an entry on Facebook by my good friend Jesus Diez (who was a Nuke compositor on Pirates), wrote enthusiastically in his very own “Spanish style”, one day after the premiere in Bristol that we all attended.
I think it conveys more than anything else the atmosphere I would like to have on EVERY movie I work on (trust me, quite a few production companies, don’t invite you to the premiere, deny you your credits on the movie and sometimes you don’t even get paid).

Anyway, here you go:

“It was an amazing event. Everyone was dressed smart or as a pirate (some as a smart pirate). It was great to greet some friends in the queue, all of them looked gorgeous. We had to queue and then leave our phones/cameras at the entrance, so graphic documents were going to be tricky. At the entrance, Peter Lord was greeting the visitors and I had a picture taken with him, actually two. Then, after seeing some suspicious trays with drinks, we found out that they were giving wine and beer for free. They said "one per person" so I went once, took my wine, then took my glasses off (so that they wouldn't recognize me) and got another glass (easy!). Some girls dressed as pirates (very good looking) were giving shots of rum (no need to use tricks here). Ten minutes before the show we went up to the screening room with our 3D glasses. More friends here and there, it was really nice. Then the lights went off and there he was, Peter Lord walking to the mike, dressed as the Pirate Captain with Polly the Dodo under his arm. He gave one of his glorious speeches (I realized than I missed them a little). After saying that Spielberg would never give a speech dressed like this, thanking everyone for the hard work and having some problems with the echo in the mike, he introduced... Hugh Grant! That was great! People say he is a grumpy character but he seemed really funny to me. He said things like: “At last I can do some action acting, something I was never able to do” and wished to be animated for the rest of his movies. Also, he made fun of Peter Lord saying things like "I don't really like him" or "his nose is too small for his face".
Then the movie started. Glorious, you have to go and see it, you get out with a smile on your face. And at the end, the credits! With our names on them, a really special moment. After this, some more wine, rum, beers, more friends and off to London to work the next day.

A night to be remembered...”

Pirates received an Oscar nomination for “Best animated feature” and is out on DVD now. Including the underpants.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A path to happiness

Everything is connected: New Delhi teenagers, a London freelance animator and the Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

(Or how my pet Illustration project suddenly got published)


In 2010 I discovered a YouTube video of the Dalai Lama called a "A path to happiness" which laid out the principles and difficulties of achieving happiness.
It made a lot of sense to me, I wish I would have heard it earlier in my life, it would have probably saved me and some other people some painful experiences.
That's why I wanted to share it with my friends and family.
I felt though that it needed to be presented in a slightly different form in order to appeal to them.

Firstly, I thought it would be essential to present it in a secular way, with added scientific examples plus some lighthearted illustrations.

The first step was to write it down which in itself proved to be a challenging process.
The Dalai Lama was teaching in his "broken English" as he himself calls it, so as I am not a native speaker either, this was a first hurdle. A Tibetan teaching in English and a German trying to make sense of it!
The teaching is very much rooted in an alien culture to me; the 2000 year old Indian and Tibetan way of thinking and living.
At the end of 2010, I finished a first draft and started to think about a style for the illustrations.

For my last 2 books, "Winning Ways" (written by Roy & Carol Gillett) and my 120 page Graphic Novel "Brixton Knight", I had developed a style similar to traditional woodcuts by scanning ink drawings and refining them in Illustrator. This time I was keen to experiment with a combination of 3d Maya renders and ink drawings.

By mid 2011, I had a first version of the 40 page booklet. I asked my friends at my local Buddhist Center, Mike Murray and Gabor Reder to give this version a first proof read.

The result was not really what I had hoped for: both pointed out that the illustrations were too upsetting and in this context not appropriate. In addition to this, I had misunderstood some of the concepts.

A long process of fine tuning started, re-editing the text, coming up with new ideas to illustrate the complex ideas in a simple way.
Also, other work left me little time to work on the project; "Sherlock Holmes: A game of shadows", Aardman's "Pirates!In an adventure for scientists" to name but two.

By August 2012, I finished my 6th version of the book. Little did I know how many more there were to come.
But at that time I was quite happy with it: in the end it was just a little book that I was to give to a close circle of friends and relatives.

I thought it would be a nice gesture to send a copy to the gentleman who produced and directed the original film I saw in 2010 on YouTube.
Searching the web, I finally found his contact details: His name is Rajiv Mehrota, he lives in New Delhi.

I sent him a copy and included a letter expressing my gratitude for producing the film and inspiring me.

Some weeks later Rajiv send me an E-Mail telling me that the Foundation wanted to publish the book.

I was glad I sat down while I was reading!
Over the next month I worked feverishly on the proofreading and fine tuning of the book, alongside the Indian publisher Hayhouse in close collaboration with CEO Ashok Chopra and Rakesh Kumar.
Aeshna Roy designed a cover especially for the Indian market.

Sometimes I had to do this process in rather surreal circumstances, like in December 2012, when I was on a freelance job in the mountains of Switzerland: having no computer or Internet in the rental flat, I was using the Free Wifi on the local buses to proofread and send off files on my phone to India and London.
Luckily with a bit of help of my friends: I could not have done the proofreading without the tireless feedback of my friends Gloria Churchill, Michael Raasch and Katie James.

On the last weekend of April 2013, the Dalai Lama gave a teaching in New Delhi (pictures below) and a couple of days later, I received these two E-Mails :

"..........The event was a huge success. We hosted 500 children who were each given a copy of your book. We are distributing a further 3000 copies.........
Rajiv Mehrota Trustee & Secretary for the "Foundation For Universal Responsibility of HH The Dalai Lama" ( "

"Each student was given a Foundation's bag with reading materials including the book.

My fiancée, Rinzing Doma, who is a teacher at "Cambridge International School" in Kolkatta, is already experiencing the popularity of the book among her students for class 3 and 4. She has kept the book in their library and each student is eager to take home to read in turn. One of the parents also called her saying their son was reading with so much eagerness.

Thank you for such a wonderful book.

Kind regards
Thupten Tsewang
Director - Administration
General Manager - Programmes
Foundation for Universal Responsibility of His Holiness the Dalai Lama"

You can order a copy of the book here:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Kesha tour graphics

Lovely Jasmin Jodry invited me to help her with tour graphics for Kesha. More at

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Luug 2-2013

Game developers Unity(ed) at MoshiMonsters

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Germanic London

Posted by Christian

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Norbert Nowotsch's farewell party

Students still working on the camera I helped donating 20 years ago.

Who's gonna fill these shoes?

Kerstin Fielstedde, Juergen Janssen, Holger Eltze, Christian Jelen, Johannes Kalsow

Improvised speech. Nobody fell asleep....pheew.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Thursday, January 3, 2013

DV user mag article on "Making a musical" for BBC (I was VFX sup on this)

Here is the article I wrote for issue 20/2012 of DV user mag:

Making A Musical

Earlier this year Martin Wright, MD of London's Gamelab asked me to join him to supervise the VFX for the musical "I know me" that he started to produce and direct for the BBC Learning Zone.

The concept is fascinating: "A bully and his victim find themselves lost in a fantasy world. Bemused and scared, the travelers are calmed by the spirit who will take them on a journey to help them understand anger, fear and loneliness.”

The musical featured in this program was developed and performed by groups of pupils with special educational needs. All music is original and has been composed, arranged and directed by Rebecca Applin. The production was devised over several months working with pupils from Abbey Hill School and Performing Arts Academy, Haringey Sixth Form Centre and College Park School. Other than the role of the Spirit taken by Kali Perkins, all other parts were performed entirely by pupils from the participating schools.

Most of it was live action, but a 5 min sequence is set in a fantasy world, the world of joy. Lead artist Steve James Cassar had started roughly blocking out the look of the world and the different shots. The idea was to shoot the children actors green screen while the backgrounds would be rendered out of Maya and finally composited in After fx.
The shoot was only days away, so I suggested creating some storyboards from the existing Maya scene that would help us to capture the correct plates. Just to remind myself: A storyboard should give clear indications of the objects and characters (at the right scale), light and shadow as well as the camera lenses and camera angles involved. If you do this homework properly, in a simple drawing or in a 3d package you will find yourself well prepared. Very often this is overlooked though and the value of the boards therefore diminished, leaving the poor cameraman with only a vague idea how to set up his camera lights and objects. In this case though it seemed to have worked!

It was a fast paced, one day shoot in a small studio off Waterloo; still, we managed to shoot some nice plates including shadows being cast at the right spots onto the children: by well positioned real flags, mimicking the shadows of the virtual huge arcs towering over the children.  2 shots needed to be match moved, so we managed to add some tracking markers and I placed some additional microphone stands in areas of the frame that wouldn’t be crossed by the children. These microphone stands are sure to be picked up by the tracking software like PF Track and are easy to position during the shoot. If you ever had to track a shot with nothing to track on, you know how valuable this sort of stuff can be. 

Another problem with shooting, especially in very small studios, is the spill light from the green screen. Depending on what environment the actors/objects are supposed to be in, it can be very tricky to get a convincing light onto them - without any spill light.

With the shoot done we went into post production.
The main danger with setting up any project in 3d is to not spend enough time thinking about the production pipeline.  Martin asked for a stylized fantasy landscape with abstract flower shaped trumpets and candy like arches.

The easiest way to do this is to render all background plates for the green screen out of one Maya scene, but this needs to be carefully prepared. First of all from my experience, no design gets ever signed off until the very last second. So it is handy if you create a scene that will automatically allow to replace old designs with new designs. In this case an environment with a 100 flower shaped trumpets and arches. It also helps to think about the hardware involved first. All the flowers had a soft body simulation attached to it that made them bounce smoothly in the (virtual) wind. The animation caches for these can very easily very big, plus the loading of the files can be time consuming. Next thing are the render times: The production asked for a 3 minute HD seq, so careful planning of render times, the exact time frame ranges of frames to be rendered plus potential reuses of backgrounds needed a thorough thought.

A lot of work for a very small team with limited resources: I pull my hat for Steve James Cassar for doing the main work on this. As it always seems to be the case, everything got delivered very last minute, but in time and the client was happy.

By the way, at the end of the musical itself there are a few short workshops which can help classes who would like to try to produce the musical themselves. The intended audience is similar schools with SEN provision and is designed to encourage such schools to produce the musical themselves. The program will also appear on BBC Learning Zone Class clips in due course and will be supported with downloadable scores, lyrics and MP3 backing tracks.

Working on this was a very satisfying experience. I hope that it will inspire children in a positive way!

It seemed to have inspired the judges of the very prestigious Japan price, a film festival for educational films: “I know me“made it into the official selection!