Student's Graduation 2020

News / 12 April 2021

Huge congratulations to my art students of 2019-2020 who graduated today! even though I couldn’t make it in person due to being on long service leave, I was able to record my graduation speech from the beach and impart some advice on entering the industry.
Best of luck with the future and can't wait to see what they get up to.

This picture was snapped by Saxon, (Thanks for sending it to me!)

If you were interested in the speech it's self it wasn't something amazing, Just a short video I recorded on my phone on the beach during the first weekend of my Long service leave of 6.2 weeks. This was the second take, not scripted but what was on my mind at the time.

I wanted to express that, getting a job in the industry is hard. And that if they break down their goals and keep at it, They can break down any nearly impossible goal.  They can do it if they put the time and energy into it. The important thing is persistence, things won't be easy. Keep at it, and keep pushing forward.

You can check out their final year major productions for 2020 here in a previous blog post.
 
All the best,
Finn

First Year, Production (Games/Projects) - AIE Canberra 2020

News / 08 December 2020

Hello Everyone again,

Writing up a blog post for the Academy of Interactive Entertainment Canberra First Year projects for 2020, my responsibility was to teach the art students along with the assistance of Ryan ware over the duration of 2020. If you are interested in the second-year projects click this link.

The First-year of AIE is about teaching all the basics, 3d art pipeline, Modelling and texturing, character sculpting, Animation principles, Digital Lighting and Composting, Storyboarding, and finally... Production. We had a rocky start to the year, Australian Bushfires, Hail Storms, Dust Storms, and from March Covid-19, which threw the entire class into an online setting within ZOOM.

Overall teaching-wise, not a whole lot changed for me. I previously worked at AIE's online campus for 5 years delivering Advance Diploma Art courses online and about 3 years ago I moved to in-person training at the Canberra campus. I continued the tradition, of recording lectures and sessions and everything I did in class which I typically had to do for an online classroom. When covid hit and Canberra went into lockdown, I still had to attend on-campus due to terrible internet connections at home, because I had to compete for bandwidth with housemates and just wasn't feasible to teach a class.

Although my overall my covid experience has been okay, it wasn't for the students. I could see a lot of strain on the students... anxiety, depression, the isolation you name it. It has been incredibly difficult for the students and such a momentous task for them to all overcome. As lockdown restrictions eased, it was a very long time before we started seeing students come back to school. My biggest concern from an educational perspective for the students was the students missing out on the typical bonding experience they get when in a physical classroom/campus. (Which for final year projects is invaluable). From teaching online for such a long time previously, I always noticed teamwork and group dynamics are always on a thin knife-edge when working remotely. If communication and expectations aren't clear among the team. A promising successful team can easily tumble and fall within a week when previously they were going really well. 

For these students, for a lot of them, it was the first time they had to work in teams. A common problem from a teacher's perspective when students work in teams is some students work incredibly well solo, but when in a group scenario they might not perform as well. And require a lot of mentoring and practice to improve these soft/team skills. This was a challenge this year but they all overcame that obstacle.

For 6 weeks, 2-3 days a week, I myself along with the help of Tony Oakden, Rik Lagarto, Kay Byrd, and Sean Fenemore, have been mentoring the students of first-year AIE Canberra Campus (Designers, Programmers, and Artists). Students were divided up into teams and given a genre and a pre-defined brief of deliverables to meet. We had 3 games this year, FPS, Hack'n'Slash, and a Sidescroller. We also had one VFX team doing a production at the same time headed by Ryan Ware. Ryan shared the load of the teaching to the art students over the duration of 2020 (Both Games and VFX), without him I don't believe it could have been pulled off. Thanks again, Ryan.

Below are the projects, keep in mind these students still have a year of study to complete. And this was the first time doing a production together for a long period of time across disciplines. There are some bugs and problems visible in these projects but all n all to pull this together during a global pandemic, they did really well. Congratulations to all. 

'Project Red' 

Elevator Pitch: "Project Red is a wave-based first-person shooter, where the player must survive the onslaught of evil cultists inside a decrepit Castle".

Credits:
Art: Aiden Ross, Elliott Richards, Monika Haselhuhn, William Minter & Riley Harvey
Design: Jibrill Murphy
Programming: Zander Blount, James Bobier & Jason Hastings

Download Project Red: https://red-team.itch.io/project-red

'Elucid' 

Elevator Pitch: "Elucid is a 3rd person Hack 'n' Slash, set in the fictional world of cyber-enhanced Japan where the player can activate a lucid state to stun/grapple enemies".

Credits:
Art: Hannah Levi, Ricky-Lee Hudson-Stephens, Sean Spek & Jordan Condipodero 
Design: Luke Schlesier & Rhys Adams
Programming: Jonathan Nemec & Evangelos Ghikas

Download Project Elucid: https://teamelucid.itch.io/elucid 

Developer Commentary: https://youtu.be/E--dYO-WKFY

'Project Latch'

Elevator Pitch: "Project Latch is a 2D, pixelated, side-scrolling, puzzle-platformer for the PC. The player uses a magnet to beat enemies, solve puzzles and traverse the harsh environment of a post-apocalyptic world".

Credits:
Art: Tom Stonehouse, Chris Ottey, Lachlan Smith & Hannah Lamb
Design: Finn Mahoney & Sean Brady
Programming: Callum Mcdermott & Blake Tighe

Download Project Latch: https://project-latch.itch.io/project-latch

'VFX Production' - Team Black

Logline: "An infinite looping video passing through multiple low/mid poly environments."

Credits:
Art: Rebecca Gibson, Madeline Harrop, Conor Joyce, William Minter, Ashleigh Murrell, Timothy Sixt & Ebonie Struss.

son

Thanks for reading this far and checking out these first-year projects.
If you have any feedback, make sure to let them know.

Next year, there should be a follow-up post showcasing what they did for the second year. Can't wait.

Finn 

Second Year Student Major Projects - AIE Canberra - 2020

News / 07 December 2020

Hey everyone,
While I am still teaching at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment in Canberra, I like to do an annual Artstation post for the final year graduate major project. You can also check out the 2019 student graduates post I did last year here and additionally, you can also check out the first years of 2020 here.

This month we see another bunch of students concluding their study here at AIE Canberra. We had quite the start this year, with the crisis of Australian Bushfires, Hail Storms, Dust Storms, and from march Covid-19, which threw all the students online for a large portion of the year. Luckily Canberra wasn't hit as bad compared to the rest of the world for Covid-19 and the students were able to resume face2face study for the majority duration of the production.

For 15 weeks, 2-3 days a week, I have been helping mentor the students for their final year major projects along with Tony Oakden, Rik Lagarto, and Kay Byrd. The Students developed pitches that were presented to a digital Industry panel, which then went under multiple culling processes before it arrived at the 6 games we have today. Tim Duck collaborated with us with CIT, to provide music and sound effects from his wonderful students. And finally a huge shout out to Ryan Ware, who covered me throughout the entire year and provided additional art support to the students when needed. 

It was great to see these students, improve and overcome the challenges they faced during the 15 weeks, it was a pleasure seeing them evolve and develop these 6 little titles. Be sure to click on the itch.io links as there is more content/screenshots to check out. If the group included a public version of their developer commentary, I also included that under the trailer for each game as a separate link to check out.  

Other than that, check out the games below. 

'Bosky' 

Elevator Pitch: "Bosky is a relaxing PC & Mobile game where the player creates miniature forests in a personal plant pot ".

Credits:
Art: Alexander Murphy, Erin Biskup & Sie McEachern 
Design: Idris Hunt
Programming: Idris Hunt & Pip Jadric
Audio: Diego Aparicio & Jack Rankin

Download Bosky: https://teambosky.itch.io/bosky

Developer Commentary: https://youtu.be/wu9RforAXQc

'Me Myself & Die' 

Elevator Pitch: "Me Myself & Die is an isometric puzzle game where the goal is to orchestrate and manipulate your death to progress. Each time you die, you leave behind a block. Arrange these blocks to solve the puzzle."

Credits:
Art: Martin Widdowson & Sie McEachern
Design: Jason Marsh, Mateusz Solle & Dean Subritzky
Programming: David Flintoft
Audio: Lachlan Willacy & Yan Parums 

Download:
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.MeMyselfAndDie.MeMyselfDie
Itch.io: https://memyselfanddie.itch.io/memyselfanddie



Martin has written a fantastic blog post breaking down me myself & die over the 15 weeks, Check out Part 1 and Part 2. Additionally, you can check out the team's Developer Commentary here: https://youtu.be/uqZR1Ni2xzA

'Malfunction on the Orion Express' 

Elevator Pitch: "Malfunction on the Orion Express is a Hidden Object & Text Adventure Game. Agatha Christie meets Firefly in this thrilling Sci-Fi detective story. Solve mysteries by interacting with compelling characters and investigating the luxurious carriages aboard the Orion Express."

Credits:
Art: Frances Adams, Nguyen Pham & Brea Fox
Design: Gavin Lee & Dana McKay
Programming: Jim Phimphravichith
Audio: Tim Duck

Download Malfunction on the Orion Express: https://absconditusvox.itch.io/malfunction-on-the-orion-express

Developer Commentary: https://youtu.be/9fFU3jo_Aws

'Slimelight' 

Elevator Pitch: "Slimelight is a third-person wave-based shooter with a Roman theme where you play as a slime fighting other slimes.".

Credits:
Art: Samuel Bartlett
Programming: Ryan Pallesen

Download Slimelight: https://slimelightdev.itch.io/slimelight

'Planet Unknown'

Elevator Pitch: "Planet Unknown is a retro-inspired Sci-Fi 2D pixel platformer. Play as a stranded adventurer who has crash-landed on a hostile alien planet that must find their ship’s missing hull to escape. Traverse the strange environment, solve puzzles, fight enemy creatures, and gather as many ship pieces as possible with the aid of special abilities. ".

Credits:
Art: Elise Allan, Angela Stevens &  Sebastian Tuckwell 
Design: Chris Selleck, Tristan Duggan & Matt Solle
Programming: Sian Sallway & David Flintoft
Audio: Lane Stoddard & Rhys Cronin 

Download Planet Unknown: https://the-planet-unknown-team.itch.io/planet-unknown

'Meltdown VR' 

Elevator Pitch: "Meltdown VR is a game, in which a player must stop a nuclear power plant from exploding be performing a series of seemingly innocuous tasks."

Credits:
Art: Charles Spall & Martin Widdowson
Design: Connor Jack & Rowan Brown
Programming: Tarn Cooper
Audio: Mark Campbell 

Download Meltdown VR: https://meltdownvrteam.itch.io/meltdown-vr

Developer Commentary: https://youtu.be/QDgnfkAO7MU

This year we had a collection of interesting games developed for multiple platforms. We had more groups compared to last year with more students shared across multiple groups. Project management and task distribution were the major things a lot of the teams struggled with, Especially when the pandemic hit, Everyone did pretty alright but there was some room for improvement for all the games posted above.
However watching these students come from their very first day to the last day here at AIE, proud to see how far they have all come. Look forward to catching them at their graduation.

Congratulations to all the students involved, and best luck with the future.

Finn 

Augmented Reality Project - For Australian Science Exhibition - Part 2/2

Making Of / 08 October 2020

Hello Everyone,
This is blog post is Part 2 of 2, if you would like to see Part 1 click here.

Back in 2018, I had the opportunity to work with Questacon through AIE on an exhibition called Born or Built. Questacon is Australias national Science and technology centre with more than 200 Interactive exhibits. 

"The Born or Built exhibition is all about what is it meant to be human. It examines the similarities and differences between humans and machines, explores our overlapping shared future, and questions the choices we will make to get there." 

You can check out a visual summary of the exhibition in the video below:

So more or less it is an exhibition for kids exploring ethics regarding AI and machines, with a whole bunch of interactive displays, and I was brought in to finish a project that was already in development.

The installation was an interactive LCD display using augmented reality, which allows whoever is interacting with the display/webcam feed to switch out different body parts with Human or robotic features. Works very similar to how Snapchat filters work, with the 3d Mesh or shapes being tracked ontop of a live video feed. You can check out more about the technology from the company's website Magic Mirror. The Idea is as you replace body parts, you will be prompted with the question "Are you still human? Yes? or No?".

Here is a short video from Magic Mirror showcasing it in action:

Having not a lot of time allocated to it during the week while teaching full-time, it was a tight deadline with only a few weeks to pull it off. I was also picking up the project from a former colleague Dylan Young, who moved on from teaching to greener pastures. Dylan made an awesome 3d model of a robot leg that ended up in the final product which was used to flesh out the rest of the character in the end. 

My responsibility was to deliver 6 remaining body part assets. to which I modeled, retopo'd/baked, textured and rigged. I ended up using , Substance Painter, Maya, and Marmoset toolbag 3 for this project.

I also utilised some free models from Turbo Squid which were a great help:

These images below are the final assets in Unity's 2018 Beta viewport. The goal was to make robotic parts that resembled human parts while also not being too scary and fun for kids to interact with.

Chest Piece with human Heart Top Left, Leg Piece - Bottom Left, Arm - Right

Brain Cap - Top Left, Full Body - Bottom Left, Robot and Human Heart - Top Right, Chest w/Robot Heart - Bottom Right

Full body Kit - Left, Robot/Human Heart - Top Right, Robot Legs - Bottom Right

Below are some images from the opening day back in 2019. The kids really enjoyed the display and turned out quite popular. 

All in all, it was a fantastic experience, and congratulations to everyone involved, you can see everyone else who was involved in the photo above.

Catch you next time. 

Finn 

Stelarc Head Scanning - For Australian Science Exhibition - Part 1/2

Making Of / 07 October 2020

Hello Everyone,
Back in October of 2018, I had the opportunity to work with Questacon, AIE, and University of Canberra. I was also lucky to be able to be involved with 2 projects for the same exhibition. This blog post is part 1 of 2, It will become too long to discuss it in the same post, so it will be separate.

I was called in to scan the head of a performance artist "Stelarc" for an exhibition called Born or Built. The Exhibit is now open to the public and is cleared with any art embargo so I can talk about the behind the scenes and how I have been involved.

Here is a summary of what the exhibition is about from their website:

"The exhibition is all about what is it meant to be human. It examines the similarities and differences between humans and machines, explores our overlapping shared future, and questions the choices we will make to get there."

The location is of this exhibition is at Questacon (The National Science and Technology Centre), which is located in Canberra Australia. However, the exhibition is designed to travel and be moved around to various locations in Australia and internationally. 

I was brought in during the first initial stages of the project to assist in capturing a 3D Scan of Stelarc's head when he was in town. These files were then processed to be passed onto the talented character artist Gene O'Reilly. Who undertook clean up, facial rigging, and blend shapes. John Millard who played the programming role put it all together and gave it life within Unity.  

The above picture is what the final result came out as, where the digital head will be running within Unity3d on an LCD screen mounted to a robotic arm that can detect movement and sound in relation to its own location and therefore interact with the people around it. Additionally, the head will respond to questions inputted via a keyboard somewhere located next to the art installation.

Jumping back to BTS, 

With the assistance of Damith, we used a handheld scanner called Go!SCAN 3D which was borrowed from the University of Canberra engineering department to do initial scans and capture the mesh and texture. Because of my previous experience regarding photogrammetry, I was tasked to make sure the data was collected correctly and we had multiple options to pursue if one of the capture methods failed. 

I only had a small time frame to test the equipment, 30 minutes before Stelarc arrived, so I made sure to capture images with the Canon 5D to support the scan if the texture resolution wasn't good. This ultimately was a good idea as the texture resolution and mesh integrity wasn't all the best  (Lighting conditions were quite poor).

These were some of the results, Go!SCAN 3D produced, with very varied results. not exactly ideal for high-resolution texture capture however the overall mesh capture seemed to work. I did about 3 captures of the face, each had severe mesh tearing. Although it was a cool learning experience to try out the laser scanning setup and see how everything comes together. 


At this point in the project, it was handed over to Gene O'Reilly, which he worked his Zbrush and substance painter magic and repaired the model. You can check out his post on Artstation here, where you can see a breakdown of the final model.

Here are some photos from when the exhibition opened. Unfortunately, I am still yet to see it in person, it was traveling around Australia at the time of these photos.

Credits above ^

Overall it was fun to work on this project and help contribute to the overall exhibition and congratulations to everyone involved,

In part 2, I will talk about another project for Born or Built. An augmented reality project that raises questions on what makes you human.


See you all next time,

Finn

AIE - ACT Training Provider of the Year.

News / 15 September 2020

Hey Everyone just a short post.
Academy of Interactive Entertainment, the campus I teach at here in Canberra just won the ACT Small Training Provider of the year for 2020.
Pretty awesome feeling, to be a part it, alongside everyone else who was involved.

The ACT Training Awards is an annual opportunity to showcase the commitment, innovation, and outstanding achievements of all those involved in the ACT vocational education and training (VET) sector.
Due to Covid-19, the event was live-streamed here, https://youtu.be/iEIvf3Ambl8 I just cut the video to highlight the section we were mentioned.

All n all, huge congratulations to everyone involved, and congratulations to all the finalists and winners tonight.

Photogrammetry Zephyr Pipeline Tests

Work In Progress / 16 December 2019

Doing some quick, photogrammetry pipeline experiments with Zepher.
The objective was to blast through the pipeline, to experiment how quickly can an asset be created using this pipeline.

The Pipeline:

Photos -> Zephyr (Computing) -> Agisoft Delighter (Delighting) -> Maya (Retopo) -> Marmoset (Baking) -> Substance Painter (Cleanup) -> Engine

Using the tutorial video and the images supplied. (https://youtu.be/17UTelgZqBg)
Threw them through Zepher Free Trial, which allows 50 free images. 

Alignment: 5 Minutes
Pointcloud/Meshing: 15-20minutes
Export and Texture: 5 Minutes. 

Dropped the raw scan from Zephr into De-Lighting tool and painted a 20-second mask identifying shadow and lit areas. 

The final results for such a quick job turned out great. The delighting tool works wonders compared to other workflows I've used in the past.
Delighting: 4-5 minutes

Here are some more quick breakdowns. 

I mocked up a low poly model in Maya, which took about 5 minutes. And baked it it marmoset toolbag. 

Stock standard preset settings so far are alright, seeing how much effort is put into the process. 

Finally threw it through. Substance painter to remove the baked grass and other artifacts. (This took another 10 minutes, due to fiddling with some normals from the projected grass). 

Cleaned up the model in substance painter ^ 

Finally, here is the Sketchfab model to check it out. I've chucked it up for free to download. The final texture res is 2k.

Final thoughts:
The pipeline is unbelievably quick, and affordable considering the other options out there. Zephyr, allowing 50 images free, 8k export is amazing. considering the other free alternative 'Meshroom', which is open-source. It takes double the amount of time process and there is a lot of cleanup involved before you can even consider baking.
The Agisoft delighting tool which is free is a game-changer, as the direct sunlight that was present within these tutorial images would have easily been too much effort for what it was worth. 100% introducing this into my pipeline, however, considering the texture did become a tad bit overexposed in this test so it would be good to explore if there are ways tweaking it.
Substance Painter's clone stamp tool was essential in covering up the projected grass on the stump. However, the normals were the most challenging as I ended up painting over a generic normal intensity over problematic areas. So There's probably room for improvement there.  

All n all pretty successful took just under 1.5 hours in total. with some experimentation in-between stages within the pipeline. *coffee etc.

- Finn 

Second Year Student Major Projects - AIE Canberra - 2019

News / 14 December 2019

Another year has wrapped up. and another year of students wrapping up their two years of study. 

For 15 weeks, 2 days a week at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment in Canberra. I have been helping mentor the students for their final year major projects along with Tony Oakden and Rik Lagarto. Students developed pitches that went under multiple culling processes and then pitched it to an Industry panel which the teachers filtered down to four games to be green-lit.

It was great to see these students, improve and overcome the challenges they faced during the 15 weeks, it was a pleasure seeing them evolve and develop these 4 little titles. Be sure to click on the itch.io links as there is more content/screenshots to check out. 

'Flank' 

"A Top-Down, Retro Arcade, Shooter.  Where you can rotate the map to fire upon enemies from different angles".

Credits:
Art: Jonah Bauer & Anna-Rose Barrett 
Design: Jonathan Hosking
Programming: Francisco Romano

Download Flank: https://flank.itch.io/flank

'Child of the Night'

"A casual top-down 3D stealth game where the player - a vampire - must sneak around the town and consume their victims before the sun rises".

Credits: 
Art: Meg Groeneveld, Lani Parker, Molly Trehy & Anna-Rose Barrett
Design: Blayne Cuzner
Programming: Justin Cragg & Callum Burden

Download: https://overlordentertainment.itch.io/childofnight 

'Legion Fall'

“Legion Fall” is a 3rd person, historical-fantasy game, where the player fights barbarians while exploring a mysterious valley to find the Legion’s lost messenger.

Credits:
Art: Sarah Staley, RJ O'Sullivan, Robert Dickson, Aaron Lalor & Chris O'Neill
Design: Saxon Hutchinson
Programming: Thomas Wooster 

Download: https://legionfall.itch.io/legionfall 

'Mellowmares'

"A 2.5D puzzle platformer where you play as a marshmallow trying to escape the appetite of humans"

Credits:
Art: Jaymie Sibree, Alyssa Barry &  Cassandra Zanin
Design: James Wilson & Jackson Lello 
Programming: Sean McCarthy & Reece McIntyre 

Download: https://mellowmares.itch.io/mellowmares 

Benjamin Roach - [Q&A] (Level Design & Founder, Upsurge Studios)

Article / 22 August 2019

Hey Everyone, 

AIE had their open day last weekend. I was in doing two Animation workshop's for the general public. But Benjamin Roach was our Industry Speaker for the general public and shared some advice of his career pathways and how he got into the Japanese games Industry with Square Enix, Sega and FromSoftware.  

Craig Brown organized, interviewed and edited the video and Tom Magill who was in charge of capturing the event on camera. Without these two, this video wouldn't exist!

Make sure to check out Benjamin Roach's Artstation and check out the great stuff he has been working on.  

Hope its handy for any prospecting peeps. 

- Finn

James Lucas - [Q&A] Interview & Experiences within the VFX Industry.

Article / 22 May 2019

Hey Everyone,
James Lucas was in town last weekend, to do an interview with Craig Brown at the AIE Canberra Open day. The Q&A, was mainly about James experiences he has had within the Australian VFX industry and advice for prospecting students who are eager to enter the industry.  And what it was like to work as a Texture/Environment artist.

James has worked on Aquaman, John Wick 3, Men In Black International, IT Chapter 2 and now is currently working at Quixel.

It was an absolute pleasure to finally meet James in person. I've known him for a while, but only in the digital form. I helped teach the AIE Online courses back when James was a student. And I was luckily enough to have had James in a few of my classes. Though the sheer credit to his successes is himself, with dedication and commitment he has put to his craft. :)

If you are reading this James, keep up the stellar work! I look forward checking out the adventures you embark on next. Especially that which involves with sweet sweet... Megascans and other awesome texture goodness! haha

Make sure to check out James Artstation, it has lots of pretty artworks to check out and goggle at.

I also want to shout out, Craig Brown who organized, interviewed and edited the video and Tom Magill who was in charge of capturing the event on camera. Without these two, this video wouldn't exist!

- Finn