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Summer school teaches teens film animation skills

23 July 2013

Tech-savvy teens keen to pick up digital animation skills are creating their own films at a UCL-based summer school.

Participants in the 2012 3Dami summer school

Image: participants at the 2012 3Dami summer school

The UK has one of the world’s largest digital arts industries. It is responsible for big films, such as James Bond, the recent Batman trilogy and Harry Potter. Famous games include the GTA series, Batman: Arkham City and the Total War series. All of this depends on 3D content creation, which is responsible for the special effects in films and the visual content of games.

3Dami is a summer school that helps 15-18 year olds make a short animated film, giving them the skills to work in these industries. It was run last year with a team of 11 students and this year it is running at UCL from July 25-August 2 with twice as many participants.

The students arrive having submitted a small portfolio (just to prove they can use the software, Blender) before spending the first day scripting and storyboarding their short film. On the following days they model, animate and ultimately put together a short film that is entirely their own creation. On the Friday evening they present it to an audience. During the week they get a tour of a film effects or computer game studio, various university-style lectures, and an incredibly intense learning experience.

Dr Tom Haines, who is leading this year's summer school, says: "Digital art exists at the intersection of art and computer science. To rise to the top you need to be both technically proficient and artistically capable. A degree in Computer Science (as offered by UCL) is just one of many qualifications that can lead to a job in this area, as studios are looking for bright people with both of these aspects."

He continues, "Problem-solving is a key part of such a project, very much in the computational thinking sense, so students who show strong skills here are well suited to a degree in Computer Science. Most of the teaching occurs in a simulation of a real studio environment. Studio heads are chosen from among the students, by vote, the room is set up with the same technical resources available to a studio, such as a render farm, and we push them to manage their project using the same methods that a real studio would. Teaching is then one-on-one, in the same style as a computer lab seminar. The experience of a realistic, high-pressure team project can be invaluable to their future careers."

Tom and the 3Dami team are keen to hear from people who would like to know more or potentially help out in future years, especially as they plan to expand the project to other universities. To contact the team, email

Page last modified on 23 jul 13 13:15

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