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BU makes real impact on virtual world of Avatar

20 January 2010

Avatar © 2009 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved. © Fox 2009 Avatar’s success at the box office and on the awards circuit is owed, in part, to the work of some amazing BU graduates.

Graduates from BU’s renowned Media School have helped to make cinematic history through their involvement in James Cameron’s epic science fiction blockbuster Avatar.

The film is poised to become the highest earning of all-time and, after taking two Golden Globes, is beginning to win its fair share of this year’s major awards.

At the heart of Avatar is a magical blend of live action and computer-generated imagery and it is here where BU graduates have made their mark on the film. Staff in the BU-based National Centre for Computer Animation (NCCA) have identified over 50 graduates and former academic colleagues who played a part in bringing Avatar to the screen.

Most of these graduates completed undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in Computer Visualisation and Animation, 3D Animation and Digital Special Effects over the last 20 years, since the NCCA was originally founded at BU. Today, the Centre remains the leading place in the UK to study animation and digital effects and ranks among the top 10 in the world.

Of the major production houses which contributed to Avatar, the majority of BU graduates on the film worked for three in particular - Weta Digital (WD) in New Zealand, founded by Peter Jackson; Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) in California, started by George Lucas; and Framestore (FS) in London, emerging as Britain’s leading animation company.

Among the impressive list of BU graduates on the Avatar credits are the likes of Animation Supervisor Paul Kavanagh (ILM), who completed his Masters degree in 1991 and worked on Star Trek, another of last year's big films.

A more recent graduate, Ben Frost (FS) earned his MA Digital Effects in 2008 and worked on Avatar as a Junior Effects Technical Director.

In between, there are a host of others from BU who contributed to Avatar including CGI Animator Tim Waddy (ILM), 3D Modeler Romain Segurado (FS), Shader Supervisor Martin Hill (WD), Lead Compositor Ben Morgan (WD) and Creature Facial Lead Technical Director Steve Cullingford (WD).

"Most of the graduates we've traced to Avatar have been formally credited as being part of the film while others worked further behind the scenes,” said Sofronis Efstathiou, Programme Leader for the University's MA 3D Animation and a BU graduate himself. “Within this list we have BU graduates who have become lead people in the industry as either supervising animators or modeling supervisors with others gaining further experience as mid-level artists or compositors.

“A few are still junior people starting out in the ranks who can at least say they 'touched' a project like Avatar which will be great for their CVs and excellent experience for their future careers,” he continued. "The animation industry certainly recognises the talent and skills we have here in Bournemouth which is probably best evidenced by the high employment rates our graduates enjoy.”

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