UTS Animal Logic Academy Wins Big Again
For the second year in a row, students from the UTS Animal Logic Academy have won BIG
Out of 3,458 inspiring entries spanning 89 countries, UTS Animal Logic Academy students (UTS ALA) have picked up multiple accolades at the 2019 Rookie Awards. The second time this has happened in as many years.
The Rookie Awards are an annual celebration of the best aspiring design and media entertainment artists from across the globe. With an extensive winner criteria list looking at everything from skill, work complexity, raw talent and employability potential, Rookie Award winners represent the crème de la crème of up-and-coming talent.
Two student-led projects from the 2018 Master of Animation and Visualisation (MAV) cohort at UTS ALA took out first place in two separate categories. Xploro – an educational history game for iOS which brings together mobile augmented reality technology and spatial multiplayer game-play mechanics to teach children in a fun, engaging way – won Game of the Year in the Mobile Category. And Soundbender – a virtual reality experience that explores communication barriers via light and sound interactions with a surreal ecosystem – won Game of the Year in Immersive Media.
It’s a testament to the standard of work and level of skill our students put into their projects,” said Chris Ebeling, the Creative Lead at UTS ALA. “Winning it in consecutive years, across multiple categories, speaks to the innovative, creative and technical approach we put into our projects. Our goal every year is to better the year before. And so far, this is happening.
Each year, the MAV cohort brainstorms and pitches potential project ideas to a judging panel, who then decide the final project to be built by the students. For the 2018 cohort, Xploro was chosen as the winning idea, becoming the main project focus with Soundbender picked as a secondary project to be undertaken simultaneously. For the past year, Chris and his co-leads Daniel Flood (Technical Lead) and Matt Estela (VFX Lead), have used their wealth of industry experience to guide and challenge students to make these projects a reality.
“Every project we have ever worked on in industry has never run smoothly,” Chris laughs, “we provide that re-assurance and real-world support to help our students deliver their projects at a high level and on time.”
“The work produced is all 100% student work. However, when the wheels start to fall off or momentum starts to slow, we Leads are present every day to help mentor, motivate and push the students and their projects back on track.”
As a result, both projects met and often exceeded expectations throughout the build. For Xploro, it was a stretch goal to have the program available on the app store, with the team not only reaching this goal, but reaching it three weeks ahead of schedule. And with Soundbender, despite many of the resources being thrown at Xploro as the main student project, the small but exceptionally strong teamed formed to champion it were able to reach great heights.
“They worked very hard to get a working experience going, and achieved this almost against all odds,” Chris said. “It’s a true testament to their resilience and work ethic, which is something we take pride in fostering here at the Academy.”
Some of the students and leads just loved the idea [of Soundbender] so much that we didn’t want it to die,” explains Illia Statevych, one of the student champions of Soundbender in the 2018 graduating class. “And so, the team of two ‘Soundbenders’ was born!
“But we weren’t left alone,” he notes. Even though the cohort was split into separate projects, “more and more people were lending their hand when needed, working as a unified VFX production studio helping and supporting each other.” In the end, “being able to create together with a great team in a family-like environment” become the most memorably moment of the project for Illia.
This, creating a resilient, connected community, is something Chris echoes is at the core of UTS ALA. On top of creating practical, industry-standard opportunities to learn, the Academy aims to “teach students to be good people.”
“We create a culture of transparency, honesty and equality,” he explains. “Everyone has a voice and opinion and is encouraged to use it. We create a safe environment for our students to be who they are while also being the best digital, technical and creative artists that they can be, so they can go out into the industry and lead by example.”
And leading by example they have been, despite only graduating earlier this year.
Take Illia and the rest of the Soundbender team. In the six months since finishing up at UTS ALA, on top of scooping up a 2019 Rookie Award, the project has joined UTS Startups and recruited new team members; including from the UTS 2019 MAV cohort. The Soundbender team’s next goal is to become a fully sustained, independent game development studio.
As Illia puts it, the support and opportunities provided to students throughout their time at UTS ALA haven’t stopped since class wrapped up.
Even after our graduation, [the teachers keep] pushing us even further to try to reach above and beyond.
“The course definitely brought us together, and we feel strong and more determined than ever to keep trying to make Soundbender a reality, even if it’s only a virtual one,” he adds.
“With our passion and support from UTS, we grow reassured that it might just happen.”
Congratulations again to the UTS Animal Logic Academy and the Master of Animation and Visualisation student teams who worked on Xploro and Soundbender for their 2019 Rookie Award win. To learn more about the UTS Animal Logic Academy, visit animallogicacademy.uts.edu.au