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Chance, cave paintings and a lucky red sock win prizes at Abertay computer arts degree show

A light-hearted interactive personality test based on chance, a recreation of Ice Age cave art, and an animation about one character’s hunt for his lucky red sock are among the prize-winners in Abertay University’s Computer Arts Degree Show 2007.

Final-year honours students on the BA Computer Arts degree are displaying their achievements in the University’s Hannah Maclure Exhibition Centre from this week.

The exhibition is open until 24 July, giving members of the public the chance to see some of the freshest and most innovative young computer arts talent in Scotland.

This evening (Friday 25 May) as prize-giving ceremony and reception will be held to celebrate the variety and creativity of the 24 students in the computer arts “class of 2007”.

Unlike traditional graphical arts, computer arts includes not only pictorial work but also animation, live action, sound sculpture and music – in fact, all forms of artistic expression that can be created using computers and digital technology.

Among the works on display at the Abertay degree show, for example, is a project by Peter Carr entitled “Illusion”, which has won the £150 Best Visual Style prize, sponsored by Realtime Worlds.

Peter said: “Illusion is a fast paced adventure thrill ride through different worlds that are actually created right before your very eyes. It uses 2-D and 3-D imagery combined to create stunning environments that are bursting with detail. The main goal of the project is to use illusions and tricks as foundations in building very detailed and stylised worlds.

John Duthie, Head of Human Resources at Realtime Worlds said: “We are always on the look out for exceptional talent to join us – there is a dearth of talent in the industry at the moment so it is reassuring to see so many talented people being developed on our doorstep. We work closely with Abertay on many levels and we were delighted when we were approached to sponsor a prize for this course.

“Selecting the winner of this prize was a very difficult decision given the diversity of work on show. It took several visits to decide, but in the end there was one that kept drawing us back. Peter’s work is an eye-catching piece that combines the simplicity and starkness of line drawings with a dynamic 3D environment resulting in a hypnotic journey that completely draws the viewer in. It cleverly merges both 2D and 3D art to create a seamless, mesmerizing flight through buildings, tunnels and forests that left us dizzy yet clicking on the play button again for more.”

The £100 Interactivity prize, sponsored by 4J Studio, was won by Jonathan Foot with “Mr Magic 8 Ball”, an interactive personality test designed for internet use.

Jonathan said: “We all take our lifestyle choices for granted because we made them so long ago. In my project, however, you can re-visit these choices through the character of Terrance, an indecisive no-hoper with appalling fashion sense. You follow Terrance through a comical animation in which you are given various options for what he should do next. The choices you make during this animation determine – with tongue firmly in cheek - what personality type you are most like.”

The £100 Project Planning prize, sponsored by Walker Harris Accountants, was won by Christopher Knight with ‘Red Sock’ an animation about a character who is accidentally thrust out of his familiar world.

Christopher said: “My character finds himself plunged into a mirror world through the back of his washing machine, while trying to retrieve his lucky red sock. I made the animation as a practical exploration of the themes of my dissertation research, which focussed on the aesthetic construction of animated shorts and feature films.”

The £100 University of Abertay Dundee Prize for Best Overall Student was won by Martin Harvey with his evocative computer-generated re-creation of how, 25,000 years ago during the last ice age, prehistoric man created paintings on the cave walls of Europe.

Martin explained: “Experts believe that many of these paintings could have been inspired by images seen during trance visions. My animation, with music and sound effects, gives an interpretation of how those people looked, the environment in which they lived and the sort of visions they may have experienced.”

Paul Chambers won the £100 Hannah Maclure Prize for Best Creative Expression, with his 2D animation influenced by the works of Gennady Tartakovsky, the creator of the TV cartoon series Dexter’s Laboratory and Samurai Jack.

Paul said: “It’s a simple story exploring two-dimensional animation techniques, following a day in the life of a man having a bit of a breakdown, though it’s all in good fun.”

The prizes were presented by Professor Mike Swanston, Vice-Principal (Academic Development), who praised all the students for their creativity and hard work.

“This exhibition showcases the work of our honours graduates and provides a window on the future of digital art. As such, it is a key event for all the participating students, whose display at the show may open the door to a future career. It is also an opportunity for those in the industry, which has a major presence in Tayside, to access some of the hottest skills and talent.

“Digital imaging, audio, modelling and animation are being used more and more in diverse areas such as film and television, interactive media design, culture and heritage sectors. The computer arts course at Abertay focuses strongly on the application of computer artistry to the new media, computer games, film and television industries.

“The Show displays a wide diversity of projects from Martin Harvey’s studies and visualisation of prehistoric trance states, to Paul Chambers’ minimal, yet witty and highly stylised animation and Jonathon Foot’s amusing modern take on life’s game of chance.”

Professor Swanston said that since the computer arts degree was launched by Abertay in 1999, the vast majority of its graduates had gone on to be employed in the creative and media industries.

“The course goes from strength to strength. Last year, it was one of only four courses in the UK to be formally accredited by the new skills development council for the audio-visual, games and broadcast industries. Abertay’s computer games technology course was also accredited, making Abertay the only university in Britain with two accreditations.

“This year, for the third consecutive year, Abertay received all the nominations for the BAFTA Scottish Students on Screen Interactive Awards. BAFTA recently announced that the winners of our Dare to be Digital computer games design competition will be the sole nominees for a new “Ones to Watch” talent prize to be presented at the BAFTA Video Games Awards in October.

“2nd-year student Andrew MacDonald designed the statuette that is to be presented for this new award, and he has also won a coveted year-long placement with Disney Interactive Studios in London.

“Meanwhile, a team of our students from computer arts, games production management and computer games technology are currently working on a major brand project for BSkyB.

“Another group of computer arts and games production management students was commissioned by the Scottish Executive’s Youth Justice Team to produce ‘Rewind’, a prototype of an interactive program focussing on contemporary social issues relevant to a young audience and aiming to encourage positive decision-making.”

The Abertay Computer Arts Degree Show is open to the public until 24 July between 10am and 5pm, and admission is free. As well as the prize sponsors, the Show is also being sponsored by Kallkwik, Tesco, WBB Minerals and Interactive Tayside.

Kevin Coe | alfa
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