Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Back and Forth… and Back again.

So it seems like I’ll be using the blog again, although not completely sure of it’s relevance this time around, with Facebook, Skype and a ton of other ways of keeping in touch around now that weren’t used as much “back in the day” (2005).

This time it’ll be a little different though, because Saima will be coming with me…  I’ll be heading back to Canada but this time it’ll be Toronto rather than Montreal.  Should be really exciting, and especially since I’ll be working with Ubisoft again, and some of the team I worked with back on the original Assassins Creed.

It was a really tough decision to go back in some ways, but in others it was by far the best solution.  I feel that the industry in the UK for the time being at least, is in flux and it’s hard to offer stability which as most of you know is what I’m looking for now.  If it wasn’t for Saima opening the doors to this opportunity we would likely be staying in the UK, but it would be on a job to job basis which at the moment I’m not comfortable with.  Ubisoft Toronto is a new studio with some big ideas, they have offered me an amazing opportunity to get involved with some great projects and knowing the team that I’ll be working with as I do, it’ll be one hell of a ride and I am looking forward to starting work again, but this time as an Animation Director, a step up but one I feel ready to tackle head on, but this time, with the support of my Wife!!!

It’ll be easy to keep in touch with me if you want to, and I’m going to miss everyone (again) but I hope to see you soon.  If you board/ski, see you out in Canada for a trip, or just come and visit, we’ll have plenty of room in the place we find.

Skype Nickname: zadgeman

See you soon Canada.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

San Francisco – Day 3 & 4 GDC lectures and expo

Contrary to some friends and family’s belief I’m here for work, Wednesday saw us speaking to all the other teams in Activision about the work they do, we were there to learn off of each other but it seemed to be more of a sales pitch than anything else, so it isn’t really worth talking about here.  Although one talk was about SFX and how they could be applied to games and the work we do.

Anyway the main reason I’m here is for the Game Developers Conference and Expo highlighting some of the experts in the industry and giving us an insight into some of their working practices.

GDC_2010 001

The 1st day of lectures were really interesting for me, with a talk about Storyboarding from Pixar, followed by a talk about the Cinematics in the multi award winning Uncharted 2, as well as a post mortem, but that seemed more like chest bumping than informative.

I’ll not bore you with the details but suffice to say I’ve been taking pictures left, right and center as well as feeling like I’m back in school with all the note taking that I’ve been doing.  It’s been really interesting getting to speak to some of these developers, business cards have been swapped, emails exchanged, meetings arranged along with drinks, drank.

GDC_2010 016GDC_2010 040

There isn’t much to say that won’t be said once I get back to Liverpool, some of the talks have been validating, just confirming things and working practices I am already aware of and others have been completely eye opening.  Plenty of meeting people from different companies, mostly forgetting names but in-between has been some really interesting conversations about work.  As after all, that's what I’m here for.  I’m hoping to meet up with a couple of friends out here, from Montreal and from back home, and I feel like I need to hit the gym hard when I get back… Damn red meat!!!

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

San Francisco – Day 2 Alcatraz and Barings

Day 2 would see us finding our way around, with us mostly getting over our jet lag but still waking up early we decided to go to breakfast a little French cafe, again not surprised by the size of the portions but happy with the value for money.  Neil had a meeting with Autodesk later on in the afternoon but didn’t need us to be there so he pointed us in what he thought was the right direction for Pier 33 and Alcatraz.  It turns out that we should of taken the directions he gave us and flipped them 180 degrees and we would of been closer.  But at least we managed to find our way around San Francisco and if Neil is with one of us he won’t get lost.

San Francisco Album

So we missed our original boat but managed to get on the 11.30 with no problem and then after a short one way conversation with the guy running the tour where he let us know all the things we couldn’t do on the Island we were good to go.

Alcatraz 010 Approaching Alcatraz from the Bay

Arriving on the Island we get another orientation speech, but this one is interesting and gives us a little bit of history about the Island, from it’s beginnings as fort, then as a military prison, then onto it becoming a state penitentiary in 1943 to it’s closure in 1963, followed by it’s occupation but Native American Indians for political activist purposes and then finally it becoming a national park with full blown protected status.

Alcatraz 017 The sign welcoming you upon arrival

We were then pointed in the direction of the Audio Tour, this involves you walking around in silence with your headphones on following the directions on the tape, this was a really good way of taking the tour at your own pace as you could stop the tape when ever you needed too, although very strange when you take your headphones off and look around and everyone is quiet, it’s a little creepy.

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D Block with the full isolation cells at the far end

We are led through the prison via general population, with the tape recounting all the events in Alcatraz’s history including the riots that saw a number of guards and inmates killed whilst foiling an escape attempt, to where Al Capone and the Birdman of Alcatraz were housed in D block aka Isolation.

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A selection of the famous inmates held here, notice Al Capone looks quite happy to be there.

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Inside one of the Isolation blocks known as “The Hole”

Once out of isolation we are taken outside and this shows you just how tantalizingly close these inmates were to “freedom”, where you can see and even hear San Francisco on a good day.

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The view just outside of D Block’s doors near the control room

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The burnt out shell of the warden’s house on the Bay side of the Island

It came as a surprise to me that inmates weren’t the only ones that stayed on the Island, over 70 guards and their families also lived full time here, in a different part of the Island, but that means that this was some children’s first home.  Apparently it was a really quiet and safe place to live as inmates would only be allowed outside for 2 hours every day in the recreation yard on the other side of the Island to the families, that would also be during the day when the children were on the main land at school.  The Warden would also live full-time on the Island in a mansion, with a few trusted inmates doing all his chores whilst under guard.    

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The cell with the head and escape route at the back of the picture

Back inside we are told the story of the supposed escape from Alcatraz, when 3 inmates dug our the back of their cells with spoons, climbed up the pipes in the wall out escaped to freedom, they also made fake heads out of toilet paper, soap and hair to fool the guards.  Although no one actually knows if they escaped or drowned on the crossing over to the Bay, either way Alcatraz records maintain that no one has ever successfully escaped the maximum security prison.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

San Francisco – Day 1 Arrival for GDC 2010

GDC or to the uninitiated the “Game Developers Conference” is essentially a time when a load of people in the industry get together to talk about games.  Sure it’ll probably be a little geeky, but it’s in San Francisco Baby!!!

SanFran 035 San Francisco by Sunrise from the Hotel

Bizarre have kindly offered to send me out all expenses paid with a bunch of other people from the company as the Animation/Art representative, but at the moment I’m sat in the hotel room watching NCAA basketball and drinking a coffee whilst looking out over the city and trying to adjust my body clock to the fact that I’ve got a whole 10 extra hours of the day to do something with as it’s 4.30 pm on Monday here but 12.24 on Tuesday back home.  For the first time I can remember I actually slept on the plane, but I think that might have something to do with the 3 mini bottles of red wine and the sleeping tablet.  Then through the always friendly and helpful US customs, although this time no full cavity search, just the regular full hand prints, retina scan, duplicate visa application and credit check, the funny thing is that when ever I do this I can’t help but smile, which doesn’t go down well.

Neil the Head of Art knows San Francisco pretty well so he decided that we should all head out for a Steak at one of San Fran’s well known steakhouse, I had forgotten just how big American portions of EVERYTHING are, with just a massive plate of Porterhouse Steak appearing in front of me, followed by mountains of mash and vegtables, topped off with a overly large portion of cheesecake.  Great food which is a good sign for the week, I’ve also heard that there is an all you can eat sushi resturant around here.

Anyway, tomorrow we have some downtime, assuming that I’ll of gotten over any jetlag a bunch of us are heading over to Pier 33 to do the Alcatraz tour, and then I might go and do a little bit of recreational shopping, that may or may not include a present or two for Saima.  Then hopefully meet up with some people I know that live here and a couple of people we know that are also out here.  I’ve also been told that you don’t come to San Francisco if you are trying to loose weight, and with the wedding in less than 8 weeks, I might have to hit that gym a little harder when I get back.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gisburn Forest…

What did we do on Saturday?…

A few of us headed over to Gisburn forest, 22k, and 2 and bit hours later of the badly kept secret, where I found out that my pedalling is massively inefficent, so the uphills were pretty hard for me making me look like a duck, but I’ll sort that out I think it’s my saddle position.  The downhills MORE than made up for it though.

This is the most fun run for me so far since I started riding.  I knew it was going to be tough, but it’s one hell of a lot of fun if you have the kahonas.

This is a video of the new black section that opened last year and although this isn’t us as we didn’t have a camera on us, it give you a taste of how much fun it was.  Note the drop at 1.20, this is where I nearly came off and into the ravine on the right, it caught me by suprise, but managed to save the bike as well as myself, lesson well and truely learnt.


We’ll definately be heading back here.  IF we can find it again.


The view from the halfway point just before the black run


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Naughty's Retrospective :2000 - 2005 What did I do?

So there has been radio silence on the blog for quite a while, I can only put that down to laziness if I’m honest.  It was mainly a record for me and my family of my time in Canada.  But I thought that it would be fitting to post an end of year/decade retrospective, after all everyone else (on telly) is doing it.

2000, the year of my graduation from Newport with a 2:2 in animation the all grey suit, shirt, tie combo that made it look like the photograph was taken in black and white.  It’s so far back now that I can’t find any pictures in digital form that I can put up here.  I do remember how amazing we thought our student house was, even if the front room was held up by scaffolding, we thought it looked “artistic”, is a wall of porn artistic?  I remember playing Goldeneye in the front room with the “No Boris, No oddjob” rule, I also seem to remember winning a lot with slaps.

This was also the year that I started my first job at Hothouse in Bristol, I didn’t even want to work there originally.  I had actually refused to go for an interview 3 times.  I only decided to go because I was going to be down in Newport for my graduation ceremony anyway and thought that I might as well.  It was also smack bang in the middle of the petrol crisis of 2000, when petrol reached crazy levels of 80 whole pence a litre!!!

This was the true transition from student to professional if you can call developing computer games professional, it turned out that I had talked so long in my interview that I think I was just given a job on the condition that I would shut up.  I had no idea where it was going to take me, there were plenty of people I was leaving behind that I didn’t want to but I was hungry, ambitious and willing to move anywhere (except London) to become a professional animator.  I had no idea whether I could sustain a career with it.  But it would prove to be fun finding out, no more working in a bar at least.


2001 The year of Who Wants to be A Millionaire, over and over again, all I remember doing this year is working, having constant deadlines but not caring because I was working in computer games, that and getting bonuses for seemingly doing a very simple task I thought I had it made.  I blew my first bonus on a state of the art Multi Region DVD player which I still have now and plays anything as long as it’s disc shaped.  I also went out and bought Gangster No1 and American Psycho as my first films as I had a fascination with gangster films and the lifestyle, that and they weren’t out here yet made me feel like I was getting something that no one else had.  I also bought a computer that lasted me a good few years and my salesman's car, a 1997 Vauxhall Vectra in what I thought was silver… It wasn’t, Mike Devereux called it “Golden Shower”, I hate to admit it but he was right.  I threw in decent stereo and alarm that I think was probably cosmetic and made a nice weep weep sound when activated.

I thought I had hit the big time, with regular bonuses coming in fromWWTBAM, it seemed like a licence to print money, it had sold over a million copies in the UK, the Germans went nuts for it and it seemed like everywhere else was going to follow suit.  So why not blow some cash, after all I was only just out of Uni.


Yeah so the bonuses dried up, I had moved into a flat with my mate Lee Dowesett another animator, although he was actually getting to animate as for some reason Steve Goss my “producer” a 1950’s throwback with slicked back hair at the time didn’t think I could animate to a level he thought was appropriate.  He basically didn’t want to admit that he had hired me for work on Who Wants to be a Millionaire that required no animation, so made out that I wasn’t good enough… Yeah, we didn’t get on.  I “think” he was let go and found another job somewhere, but certain bridges I’m quite happy in burning, that's one on them, I had no interest in ever working for or with him again, nice guy a person, but as a professional…  Useless.  I could see that within 9 months of becoming professional and my opinion hasn’t changed since.

Dscf0031Gina (Became Lee Dowesett’s wife) and I 


Matt, Ian, Pete, and Bill Barna

DSCF0037Ian’s party piece, that he can still do now 

Anyway there was the flat in high rolling Clifton, the parties with endless open bars, the jumping into the Avon for a laugh (and a pay rise), hanging out at the Mud Dock with work buddies, drinking over expensive Jack and Cokes, travelling over to Cardiff to see Andy and Sharon and basically living like a student with a bit of cash.  Life couldn’t get much better.

2002 – 2005 I’m sure plenty more happened but I’ll summarise, 2002 was world cup year, England got knocked out by Ronaldino and Brazil, I saw the game in Crete where I had my first (and last holiday) with my then girlfriend, we split up a couple of months after but I should of seen it coming, It just wasn’t meant to be and it hit me pretty hard so I threw myself into my work finishing off work on the last of the WWTBAM gravy train games, with the bonuses completely dried up.

Now that my old producer had “left” the company I managed to get a chance to animate on Casino Inc, Hothouses next project, having a great time making people throw up, dance, play blackjack, flirt, chat and various other things.  I’m sure loads of other things happened, but I can only remember the work things, that shows you how much of a work-o-holic I turned into around this time.  Although I did meet Al and Dunc and started playing basketball with them, that would lead onto me moving in with them and having the best time in a huge house in Southville, Al and Dunc invented “Cork” the game you could play in your kitchen with a cork and washing machine…

S4010071 Al “The Cork Magician” in our kitchen


Redcliffe 84 Basketball team, great guys had a ton of fun with

DSCN0325 Al and I in the same kitchen, looking “Buff”

I enjoyed being single for a bit, but then met another girl who I thought I was really serious about, but things changed as they do and I ended up wanting to move on, but this time it was my decision.

Hothouse released Casino Inc in 2003 and was one of the most fun games I’ve ever worked on to this day, the team was really tight, but the idea wasn’t solid enough, and Konami eventually buried it with no marketing, I became Lead Animator, but this was a case of being too much too young, sure I was good at my job, so I naturally thought that becoming a Lead was the way forward, problem was I knew nothing but thought I knew it all.  We had some great ideas for Pop Idol for Codemasters, but it was ultimately… Crap, due to us trying to do everything, from make the engine, animate hours of singing, create an original soundtrack, the Lead Programmer was only lead because no one else wanted to do it, so the project was doomed from day 1, I do remember pulling many an all nighter to prove the concept with Mike Baker, then getting annoyed when my producer said that it was just OK, obviously working until that late doesn’t make a quality project… In fairness he was right it was rubbish!

Hothouse bought by Zoo Digital a DVD production company in Sheffield in 2004 we moved into town, and we kept working on another project called Crimelife – Gangwars… That was also rubbish (there seems to be a pattern emerging), no one really knew what the game was supposed to be and then it was decided that we were going to compete with GTA for a fraction of the cost, we managed to get D12 (Emenim’s Crew) involved, to the point where they recorded a song for us specifically for the game.I had wanted the game to work so much I ended up in Hospital, it was at that point I had had enough, and focused my efforts into finding another job.  I produced my demo reel with what animation I had, produced a website, and worked on a couple of other pieces and sent them over to Ubisoft Montreal, where I didn’t expect to hear anything from them.  In the mean time I forgot about it and a good friend introduced me to my future fiancée, of course I didn’t know that at the time, we tried to keep it casual as I was looking to move to Canada, but we would stay in touch (obviously).

Overall though I would say that the first part of the decade consisted mainly of me working, which I don’t regret as It’s paid dividends now, but considering they tend to be the things that I remember the most that must mean I did a lot of it.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Silence… 2 years to the day back in England

Although things have been quiet regarding all things blog, I can assure you that there has been plenty going on.  Work and Personal, but more about that later.  I just haven’t had time or to be honest the inclination to get any of it documented.

I’d love to tell you all what I am working on at the moment, but due to the way things work you’ll all just have to hazard your best guess.  I can say that it has tremendous potential, and if things end up going the way I hope they will, we should have something I’ll be extremely proud to put my name to.  The problem is I can’t help but look at it with the “difficult 2nd album” point of view, after the huge success of Assassins Creed (*cough* 8 million sold and counting) it’s hard to top that.  Sure there will still be a fair wack of my old animation in there which is great but it’s a whole new game now, of course I’ll still be proud of it when it comes out, but indirectly.  Hey if any of the team are reading, just give me my head butt and I’ll be happy!

It’s fair to say that work wise I don’t feel I’ve achieved as much in the 2 years since I left Canada, than the 2 and a bit years I was there.  But I have learnt a lot about what I’m capable of achieving given the right opportunities.  I want to prove that Assassins wasn’t a fluke and that I can do it again.  Maybe the project with Pivotal would of been it, maybe that trailer will see the light of day who knows (I know it’s out there somewhere) but if I’m being honest I don’t think we would of gotten the backing even if the game was published.  But at Bizarre with Activision, there is no question about the backing, the animation is starting to come together and there are moments of absolute genius, we just need to make that more consistent.  If the meeting I had with a certain stuntman this week is anything to go by, I have a feeling that, that might be one of the many things that could push this project over the edge.

Anyway I am bursting to say something and I best stop before I do, I’ll update back here once something is officially announced, but I think Bizarre could surprise a lot of people.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Business in Oxford

Bizarre sent me to direct a motion capture shoot in Oxford on Friday, and as a result would put us up in a hotel so we could be ready bright and early Friday morning, usually you get put in a Holiday Inn, not that there is anything wrong with that, but there is no denying that it’s functional and that's it.

So when you find that you are being put up in the Malmaison (there was a deal on, making it the cheapest option) in Oxford you can’t really complain, and it does make it a little more interesting especially when you find out that they filmed parts of The Italian Job and Porridge there.  Wait a minute what scenes?


The prison scenes, turns out that the Malmaison in Oxford not only is it next to the castle but it’s built in a refurbished prison, it’s a very strange experience, especially when outside your room you have a tour guide letting you know how many executions happened in the grounds and at times, in the rooms.  A little worrying.

I obviously can’t talk about the shoot, but I can say that I always have a good time with the guys at Audiomotion and hopefully I’ll be able to talk about it later on in the year, maybe even show some of the moves we captured, this shoot was by far the most interesting I’ve directed especially considering the subject mater and the guys we used on the day.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Boarding in Bansko (Bulgaria)

BoardingBansko 030

My (rented) snowboard for the week

Early 2009, and time to get fit and Andy, Justin, and Gary invited me on their snowboarding trip to Bulgaria, and a relatively new resort in Bulgaria called Bansko, apparently a load of money has been pumped into the resort and you can see why.  Bulgaria is fast becoming the snowboarders destination of choice and we wanted to visit before everyone else jumped on the bandwagon.  It felt very much a confused place, wanting to be the finished article with bars, hotels and ski runs up and running, but with so much unfinished it almost felt cheeky that people running the resort were charging so much for everything.  I say “much” but it was actually only the same prices as here in the U.K. but you got the impression that you were only being charged those prices because you were IN the resort.

BoardingBansko 032The mountain we would be frequenting for the week

So after a long journey from Liverpool – Bristol – Gatwick – Sofia – Bansko (12 hours), we arrived with enough time to have a quick look around, quickly finding the best deals on the equipment that we needed and saving ourselves over 100 lev (50 GBP) by simply crossing the road to another rental company, the only price that wasn’t going to budge was the lift pass price, but at 280 lev for the 6 days that wasn’t too expensive, and after all no one said that snowboarding is a cheap past time.

BoardingBansko 014 I’m top o the world ma… (2600 m above see level)

So we are up early to try and catch the first lifts up, and after a 20 minute ride up about halfway, we thought it best to get some practice in, call it a refresher course.  The last time I was boarding was whilst living in Montreal in March 2007 so it was a wise decision to do a little bit of catch up, strangely though I found going up the slight incline on the button lift the hardest part and kept tripping on my board.  But that problem was soon fixed and with our confidence restored somewhat we headed up to the top of the Pirin Mountain where many photo opportunities await.

DSC00214Gary in contemplative mood

That first day was tough!  I think we all got a little carried away, and instead of pacing ourselves, we went flat out boarding without breaks all day, and then decided to board down to the bottom (that took 2 hours), but this was mainly because it was so flat if you lost your momentum you were done for.  I think we definitely deserved a few beers after that though…  Early night!!

BoardingBansko 009On our way down

The next few days were spent improving on the slopes, morning would consist of the same Michael Caine film on one of the Bulgarian channels that seemed to be on at the same time as us having breakfast every morning, then the walk down to the lifts through the building site (good warm up) followed by some confidence building slight inclines halfway up, then we would tackle the rest of the mountain.


Justin halfway up… 

Justin caught my first “proper” run on camera… One linked turn at a time

I’ve well and truely caught the snowboarding bug now, and all was going perfectly until late Friday on our last run of the day, when I was getting smoother with each run, but bit off a little more than I could handle on a turn, and flipped over on a ridge in the snow/ice that saw me land square on my chest, which knocked the wind out of me and meant that I had to give Saturday our last day a miss as I couldn’t even lift myself out of bed I was hurting that much, so I’ve been popping painkillers like jelly beans since.


Boarding in Bansko Picture Album

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happy 30th Doctors Nawaz and Bills

With Saima’s 30th birthday this close to christmas we weren’t sure how many of our friends would be available the weekend before christmas, but they all came through as Saima and Vic had arranged a fantastic cottage in the North of Wales for us all to celebrate.  A luxury cottage with a pool table 6 double bedrooms loads of space for extras and a bar, which I intended to make my own domain…

Misc 112 Everyone and me looking like a bouncer…

The place was amazing, on the Saturday day we all went our separate ways with us heading up to the castle in Ruthin, and Vic and her crew heading to the go-karts.  This gave me a chance to stretch my itchey trigger finger and attempt to take plenty of arty pics.

Misc 064

Misc 075The girls… 

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Saima with one of her Cosmo’s

and to top it off we had hired a chef to come in on the Saturday night and cook for us, how very civilized, Saima decided everyone needed Cosmo’s, I started churning out the Mojito’s and very quickly a civilized night turned into Rock ‘N’ Cock that’s Rock Band and Cocktails, just incase you wondered?

Misc 115

Misc 120

Misc 106Misc 105Happy Birthday Saima x   

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