Present and Future

Teaching, Research and Service

My goal as a university assistant professor is to encourage the development of independent and critical thinking in my students, promoting a lifetime thirst for intellectual growth and personal development; to sustain a learning environment that supports self-advocacy and problem solving skills, while adjusting my classes to my students’ ability to learn, clearly stating my expectations. I strive to teach students what it takes to succeed in the animation profession, emphasizing the technical and emergent nature of the field and how it allows one to create new, exciting and novel works.

I wish to infect my students with my own enthusiasm for animation, and teach them to learn through personal creative reflection. My ultimate goal is to gain an understanding of what contemporary and popular animation design is in today’s global society, while pushing the medium into a more viable and global scene.

After working professionally in the animation industry for almost 25 years in the game industry, feature animation and live action visual effects film production studios, I decided begin looking for opportunities to share and expand upon my expertise and interests within an academic setting. I was recruited into my current position in Singapore, becoming a founding faculty member in Nanyang Technological University’s School of Art, Design and Media, the first school to offer a professional Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Animation in the region.

Within my area of interest, computer animation, digital sculpting, postproduction and story development, there is a significant requirement in placing significant emphasis on the technical processes rooted in the medium. Given that these techniques are ever changing, it is imperative that students learn how to find solutions to solve creative problems. In an industry where each creative project can be considered a prototype, the one important objective I try to teach is that it is imperative for students to become problem solvers. In teaching the student to efficiently actualize their creative vision I intend to inculcates a thirst for knowledge that only self-discovery and successful achievement can do.

I believe that by teaching through example students are come to understand more deeply the processes involved in expressing difficult artistic concepts. I attempt to teach the fundamentals of digital animation incrementally, eliminating the creative challenges that students face with assignments that build upon the previous in complexity. This encourages the student to create their works to the capacity and degree of which they are able. By fostering an understanding of a complex idea or technique in a simple way, students learn creative concepts that go beyond the ever-renewing techniques demonstrated to them. They learn to reform their approach and to solve problems with the most elegant solutions. I believe in the assertion that students learn best through active experimentation, critique, peer assessment and collaboration. With the end goal of encouraging students to explore the creative act, and learn to function outside of the instructional environment without the aid of a teacher; thereby becoming lifelong learners and innovative artists.

To thrive in the highly competitive animation industry artists must be cognizant of the need to keep abreast the constantly changing technical, creative and aesthetic trends of their field. My teaching along with my research and service aims to lead students into discovering that by making things that have contemporary relevance in digital animation, they must function outside of the currently established production and instructional environment and learn to innovatively explore the highly technical and ever changing area of digital animation. In my animation research I examine technical and aesthetic questions and using the impetus of creativity as a motivation for life-long learning. Why is it that some ideas succeed and others fail? The potential successful development of an idea bearing international appeal holds lucrative rewards. Developing artists, animators, film-makers and game designers that can reliably author creative content with unique and popular charm is a difficult goal to achieve and is something that holds the interest of many artists working in animation media. In Singapore, content development R&D for animation entertainment has not been embraced by the local industry mostly due to the cost of talent needed to support this effort. My future and current research tackles these issues in an attempt to create genuinely “Made in Singapore” creative animation IP.

My present research “Game Design for Entertainment: a content development think tank” has within it the availability to offer a scholarship for a PhD student under the Interdisciplinary Graduate School (IGS). Under this research, my current team, two Research Associates (former MSc students) and a two Project Officers (former BFA students of mine) we are investigating content development and appeal in the context of Talking, Thinking, Acting Characters. Currently these characters are deliverable through the internet to computers and mobile devices. We have a simple prototype called Barty hosted on the site Artificial Comedy.

In my research and teaching, I explore the theory and methodology of contemporary artistic creation and attempt to understand and teach what the dominant trends are in execution, delivery and conception. The goal is to understand through practice, active experimentation, review and revision the qualities that form comical appeal in animated characters. Because animation is such a labor-intensive art form, careful and strategic pre-production measures are taken when designing the visuals, sound and narratives used in the production of complex entertainment works. My research utilizes platform-based development focusing on conversational characterizations as a vehicle to test ideas in a rougher, and less developed stage; we are able to make the necessary revisions updating the online materials for further testing. Bringing these observations to my teaching  allows me to more easily explore with students the narrative structure of design.

The solution to establishing a firm direction for IP development in Singapore is to incubate animation concepts by developing a simple though robust pipeline for the development of content. Using this fixed production pipeline we will be able to focus our efforts on creating and testing a diverse range of popular content focusing on a youthful consumer demographic. With industrial partners that are already in place, my research team is launching tests to evaluate our material directly in the open market. With this facility my research will gauge the popularity of our work and appropriately target our IP development. This work will directly impact my former students who have set up companies and help make Singapore a creative and vibrant place for animation.

In a content development model where a culture of innovative and collaborative relationships match and propel’ the larger goals such that I have now in MAGIC, creative ideas will result in unique and entertaining ideas ready for the market with tested outcomes. With established partners our efforts will have immediate impact on the Interactive Digital Media environment here in Singapore. With proven outcome as demonstrated by the awards received on work conducted in earlier funded research and with subsequent local industrial engagement I believe that my teaching, research and service to the local industry will result in tangible successes. Artistic thinking is the brains of innovation. Having our research surrounded by people with their own innovative ideas and enthusiasm guarantees our success.