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With the availability of 3D rendering options and the complexity of traditional 2D cel animation, it is not surprising that a lot of new cartoons’, such as Star Wars: The Clone Wars; Iron Man: Armoured Adventures etc… are being made in 3D as opposed to 2D.  However 2D animation has a certain charm over pure 3D, such as the use of squash and stretch techniques and the general stylised look.

However there are less and less pure 2D animations nowadays.  Where complex elements are needed, that would take too long to draw by hand, frame by frame, a composite is used.  The one of the earliest examples (1992)  to composite 3D CGI to create the carpet ride through the Cave of Wonders, the intricately patterned carpet itself, and the tiger head cave. (Disney Archives)

3D has become more of an influential part in animations since then, often trying to imitate the imperfections of hand drawn imagery.  Such as Warner Bros 1999 adaptation of The Iron Giant.  To achieve an imperfect look of the lines, a programme was created to generate imperfections.

Dreamworks Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron used 3D predominantly for landscapes and special FX, including the opening shots of the Grand Canyon.

The Futurama series also combines 2D and 3D graphics using a software called PowerAnimator.  The style of Matt Groening creates challenges for rendering in 3D due to the off-perspective stylised nature.  The characters are rarely if ever seen from front view, so to create fully 3 dimensional characters would just not maintain the look of the series

To say that pure 2D animation does not have a place in the future of animation would be sad, although sometimes the combination of the two can look  slightly awkward it is the inevitable future to sustain a level of complexity expected by a modern audience.  With hundreds of TV channels and internet shows, media needs to be created quickly, which is something that traditional 2D animation would have a hard time doing, 3D animation is simply quicker and more easily edited; a single model can be reused instead of every frame being drawn one by one, sets, props and characters can be viewed from any angle, textures easily changed and different rendering styles can apply a whole new treatment and mood to the composition; sending out a whole different message extremely easily.


Digital 3D Design by Simon Danaher covers a complete range of topics and aspects of 3D, covering mostly the basics and intermediate levels of working with 3D.  The book covers the history of 3D; 3D graphics in the working world; the links between 2D and 3D design; core concepts and theory; recommended tool set; and some advanced tips and tricks, and an analysis of existing works such as a storm scene (Chapter 6 p162-163) and compositing 2D and 3D imagery (Chapter 6 p166-167).  The book also previews works such as Russian artist, Pavel Fedorchuk’s Golden Grifon [sic]

The book starts by giving an overview of the history of 3D animation, including the importance of motion blur in the first successful animated movies. One of the first movies to use 3D graphics was Disney’s Tron (Directed by Steven Lisberger, 1982), although the movie was a ‘flop despite huge investment’ (Digital 3D design Chapter 1, p12).  Danaher goes on to say that the movie was held back by its highly stylised treatment due to poor 3D technology at the time.  What would have helped the film was motion blur, it was only in 1993 that Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park featured fully photorealistic CG dinosaurs, complete with motion blur, that 3D was a fully viable option.

Although Tron was not a visual success, it is still a major landmark in the development of animated computer graphics, originally inspired by the also iconic Pong game, a sequel of Tron is set to return to screens in  stereo 3D during 2010.

The book also explores the use of 3D graphics in games and for use in broadcast, then goes on to suggest some future advances in the field such as overhauled workflow in Modo and the possibility of virtual reality, and real-time photorealistic rendering (Chapter 1, p22).

The book also briefly explains how stereoscopic 3D, such as what we are seeing in current films and selected TV programmes today, works.  However a more in-depth explanation of how it works and history can be found in issue 14 of 3D Artist, p36-41. This article details how the technology works currently, and looks into the possibility of 3D TV without the need for glasses.  This is a very exciting advancement for the 3D artist and all eyes will be on how this technology develops.


Digital 3D Design by Simon Danaher

Chapter 1 page 12, 22

Chapter 6 pages 162 – 163, 166 – 167

3D Artist issue 14, “Get Set for Stereo” pages 36-41

Channel 4 Ident

The original storyboards for the Channel 4 ident called to preview Channel 4’s groundbreaking programming as they are renowned for challenging perceptions and pushing the boundaries, with shows such as Cast Off’s; Skins; Shameless; Facejacker etc…  They are also committed to championing new talent and getting the best out of people (Channel 4 International) .  The proposal was to showcase these programmes inside of the pieces of the 4 logo as they explode from the TV; this was to be done with target light projection maps, as seen in the Cleveland Show projector, and to a lesser extent in the final version, the old 4 ident displayed on the TV screen prior to the explosion.

For this effect I looked at a tutorial to achieve this effect by mapping an animated texture onto the screen and set a target light with a custom falloff and attenuation to achieve the effect of a more concentrated light source which would have a greater impact on the environment.  The effect of this is somewhat lost in the final version due to the environment being changed to include textured walls in the background.

The original had a black background which emphasised the projected light, antenna lights and reflections to a greater extent, however this was a rather boring and lazy backdrop.

target light projection

target light projection

I managed to achieve a better effect on the DVD cover for the project, but was unable to replicate this success in the animation.

The main elements of the composition were modelled using a variety of techniques using splines, such as bevel profile for the 4 logo and a surface modifier applied to cross-sections of the TV set.  The legs were modelled using a loft function and mirrored on 2 axis’.  Spline modelling is a very good way of modelling an object accurately with the control of an editable poly.  To give the TV set more of a cartoon like appearance, modifiers were placed on it to deform the shape such as taper in xy.

The omni lights on the antennas also used a custom attenuation to give the light more volume and to make them appear as if they had a glow effect on them.  Lighting is a very important factor in making a model look realistic or stylised.  Light and shadow affect our environment and change constantly throughout the day and year in real life, so we cannot avoid its effects.  Light and shadow define 3 dimensional form and how the eye perceives depth and distance.  without the effects of lighting, the brain just interprets the image as a 2D shape.

Essentially how humans interpret the light arriving at the eye into an image is based on the amount of light arriving at any 1 point.  Without lighting effects we would see a flat image as all of the light we see arrives at what is more or less a flat surface at the same time.  3D is really only an illusion.  Bats and Dolphins can investigate 3D space using echolocation, measuring the change in wavelength and time taken for the return of the echo in the same way we hear the doppler shift of a passing vehicle etc…

An interesting application of 3D effects applied to fractal images.

Overall the ident could have done a far better job of previewing breakthrough programmes and challenging perceptions as it was a rather ‘safe’ idea to go for with a weak concept, which was hampered along with the other projects with a severe lack of motivation.

Flash Banner

The Flash Banner for the new MA in 3D animation can be found as a pop up on the YDP homepage; this was the most successful of the projects, and unlike many other banners contained interactivity for the user.  It seems very inapplicable for a banner advertising an advanced course in 3D animation to contain no trace of either 3D or animation.

The pitch called for a high standard of animation to prove to potential future students that the course would offer an appropriate level of course material.  Many of the other banners were purely typography and imagery which does not provide a good footing for a successful advertising campaign.  According to a study by The Advertising Council and PhaseOne Communications in 2001, the most successful banners used a 4-based pyramid approach to increasing hit numbers.  These are drawing the eye, engaging the mind, creating a desire and facilitating action.

The above banner engages the eye with a simple animation which subtly draws the user’s attention.  In the study, 35 percent of the least clicked group were motionless.therefore animation is a key way to draw the eye and engage the viewer.  82 percent of ads with high hit-rates are of a relevant benefit.  For example, an advertisement for Samsung TV’s would not do well if it advertised with an image of a can of soup.  One could argue that an iconic advertising campaign doesn’t necessarily have to have an obvious link with the product directly, such as the Sony Bravia campaign with the exploding paint, however, these ads have to be special in some other way.

The banner attempts to engage the user by hinting to the text with the character’s eyes, as if to suggest there is something interesting to be discovered.  There would then be a link to the MA’s information page with information on how to apply.  Out of all the projects the banner was of the most professional standard.  Some limitations of note during the making of it was orthographic rendering due to the shape and size of the banner.  This meant that the ‘Dog Look’ interaction had to be rendered separately and overlayed, hence there is some pixelation in this section.

The animations in this composition would have been a lot easier with the knowledge of set keys in the key info tools rather than the use of anchoring feet and hands.  These allow you to key frame the anchoring more easily.

Title Sequence

Originally the title sequence was meant to include more events from the book and include ‘Easter Eggs’ for fans of the book, such as the reoccurrence of ducks and the use of locations.  However due to time constraints it was impossible to do full justice to this novel.

The texture used for the models was based on a type of modified cel-shading, adapting ideas found in this tutorial, as Holden Caulfield, the main character and anti-hero of the book wants to prevent himself from ‘falling’ into adulthood, so the texture is trying to represent a child-like treatment and style.

The material uses a variety of maps and masks with varying parameters to retain a 3D look without the full effect of cel-shading.  Shown below are some examples of experimentation with cel-shading and some of the models which were not used in the production.

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The majority of the work on the titles was done in After Effects using 3D layers, cameras and lights, and the typography would have been suited better within the 3D environment, such as floating within the drink etc…  The typography also needed to be much more prominent within the composition and engaging with the viewer.

The titles would have been far more successful with the original storyboards as it would have offered far more of the story and had its own narrative, whereas on its own, the composition is short  and not very visually impressive due to the lack of backgrounds.

Good typography is an important aspect of design “The fact that it appears on a screen and not on a piece of paper is immaterial; it should still be pleasing to look at and easy to read… In every situation where type is used — in publishing, signage, packaging, television, etc. — designers have to adapt their techniques to suit the medium” (Web Page Design for Designers)  There is such a thing as a bad font, whether it be legibility of suitability.  Sometimes a particular typeface carries a certain stigma, such as Helvetica, which is renowned as a co-operate font, which is discussed in the feature-length film of the same name by Gary Hustwit.  The shift in perception over this typeface proves that there is no such thing as constant good design.  What may be perceived as good design one day, may be viewed as too cliché the next.

To conclude over the whole project, time management could have been better, there was an extreme lack of motivation towards the projects which affected the quality of the final outcome.  However this is also due to skill with the programmes, for instance, the use of set keys and better Photoshop skills would have made the look of the models and animations look better.

Render time on these projects was adequate, the flash banner sequences took around 20 minutes with Mental Ray and final gather enabled for between 100 and 200 frames using skylight to achieve a clay render with soft shadows.  However now I would be more inclines to use MR spot lighting with advanced area parameters to achieve soft shadows which also have more definition than skylight, as this has worked very well in another project.

Everyone has their different strengths and weaknesses in a field, in industry there would be many different departments working on projects such as these.  For instance, modelling, texturing, environments and animation.  Personally I would consider myself more of an animator with texturing and environments being a personal weakness and this shows in the projects.

My feelings towards the projects as previously stated was lack of motivation because of commitments with other projects, in industry there would be many projects on the go at once.  Alexander Kiesl, CEO, Head of VFX at Unexpected GmbH said in an interview for 3D Artist Issue 14, page 30-35, that his company now has the ability to pick and choose their projects due to demand for their services.  However they, uniquely, like to take care of the entire projet in-house with a team of 7 artists and hire additional freelancers when needed to keep the project personal.  “We pretty much work as a team and anyone from our team can come up with ideas and proposals and is allowed to be creative if it leads to a better result.”

In my original evaluation of the projects I mentioned about how there are endless possibilities working with 3D.  Results that are achievable today by average users were almost impossible to achieve by professional standards 10 years ago.  This is thanks in part to Moore’s law, stating that computing power doubles every 18 months, and affordability of processors has come down dramatically as silicon-based technology gains in performance.  The aim of 3D digital media is to achieve realism and then achieve the impossible in a believable manner, simulating real-world physics, cloth dynamics, hair and fur simulation etc… and then doing it with characters such as the Na’avi of Pandora, getting an audience to associate and empathise with a fictional character, and believe that they can exist in their fictional environment.

This is where secondary animation and attention to detail come into play, this worked better in the banner with the tail, ear and eye movement, but was markedly harder to achieve in the other projects and was compensated for with the 3D camera movement in After effects, which made the compositions more interesting than they would have been had no extra movement been added.


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3D Artist p30-35 – an interview with Alexander Kiesl, CEO, head of VFX, Unexpected GmbH

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“One of the most prestigious distribution brands, bringing the best of independent production to a global audience” – Channel 4 international.

One of the important aspects in marketing and manufacturing is competition.  This is what drives forward technological improvements and drives down prices.  Everybody wants either the smallest or the most powerful, with the most online features or the most innovative electrical product, and games consoles are no different.

There have been many console wars throughout the development of games consoles.  Some die out, unable to compete, others join too late to be of any threat and some manage to overtake the competition and remain top sellers due to their innovative gameplay experience.

The first console war started between the ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64. These were both part of the 2nd generation of home computers; prior to these, you would have to buy the parts and build it yourself; they are both still popular and iconic systems today and there is much debate on who should claim the title of the best, however they both ultimately lost out as have many others over the years.  The Sega Saturn was forced into extinction by the N64 and Playstation; Sega would then go on to make the Dreamcast, but never recovered afterwards.  Atari also switched their operations towards software manufacture from 2001, leaving the market open for Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.

Currently the top-selling console of all time is the PS2 with 142.8 million units sold (according to Sony in 2004), and the top seller of the current generation is the Wii with 67.45 million units sold (according to figures released by Nintendo, 2010) compared to 39 million Xbox 360’s and 34 million PS3’s, Sony hoped to have sold a total of 75 million by Autumn 2010 in an article written by James “Dela” Delahunty in Jan 2007; but this estimate seems unlikely in the present economy.

3 PS3’s

History of games

An article written for ClickFire by Emory Rowland in 2007 explores the future of games consoles.  They will be more social, they are already connecting with online social networks and integrate with their own points, trophy and virtual avatar systems such as Xbox Live and Playstation Home.  There will also be more innovation with alternative means of control, such as motion capture and 3D displays to fully immerse the user in the gaming experience using all 5 senses.

Project Natal: Xbox’s full body motion capture

With regards to motion capture being the future of gaming, I am not convinced; we’ve seen it in the PS2’s Eye Toy, released in 2003 with Sony’s Eye Toy Play game; SIXAXIS and Playstation Eye for PS3; The Wiimote and Wii Motion Plus, closely followed by Natal for Xbox 360; PS3’s new motion controller to be used in conjunction with the Playstation Eye.  Myself, I have performed motion capture for use in a project recently, and even with multiple optical data points and cameras , the ability of the hardware and software was still very limited.  Not only this, there was an enormous amount of data cleanup in this controlled environment, we had to deal with stray or missing points, which caused the models to react in an unnatural manner.

Imagine then, for a single camera or dual infra-red detector to recognise and interpret, in realtime, up to 4 people in an environment populated by multiple inorganic objects.  Then the programme has to interpret the motions into usable actions; in a fighting game for example, the interpretation of an attack and defence has to have certain boundaries, and to the software, may look very similar.

For a full range of motion capture, there would need to be several cameras to remove blind spots and ideally, the user would have to wear multiple data points for reliable tracking, computers can easily be confused by clothing and objects in the environment.  Motion Capture may be a viable application for gameplay in the future, but not to the extent of the claims at the moment.

The Consoles Wars may be a thing of the past thanks to cloud computing and advances in internet speed.  Personal hardware can be made obsolete due to the launch of OnLive in June 2010 according to The BBC, IGN, CNET and Wired amongst others (OnLive News reports March 2010).  Imagine being able to play any game whenever you wanted on any PC, Mac or a TV.  Consoles have always played catch up to PC’s – they are generally cheaper long-term, have a wider range of peripherals, and can be upgraded easily

OnLive’s presentation for GDC 2009


Computers have become the primary tool in any workplace let alone in the Media Industry, without computers society would almost certainly collapse.  Even on a social level, computers and the internet have played a massive part in the way we communicate.  During March 2010, the amount of fits on Facebook overtook Google in the US for the first time, with a rise of 185% on the same week in the previous year compared to a 9% rise for Google (Nick Clark, The Independent 18th March 2010) other statistics can also point to a figure of 400 million in March 2010 compared to 20 million in April 2009 for Facebook according to Hitwise (Carrie-ann Skinner, Network World, 18th March 2010).  Together they contributed to around 14% of hits in both the US and the UK.

The principle of a computer being a programmable machine is not a new idea, water clocks have been round since ancient times, being developed in Greece, Arabia and India.  The Monumental water-clock designed by Badi’ al-Zaman Abu-‘l-‘Izz Ibn Isma’il Ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari, was one of the first time keeping devices, not only would it keep the passage of time from hour to hour, it would also record the phase of the moon and serve a drink from a reservoir.

Water Clock design by Al Jazari

Water Clock design by Al Jazari

Arabic science and mathematics have played a major influence in the fundamentals of computing, Leonardo Fibonacci introduced the Indo-Arabic numeral system in 1202 in his book The Liber Abaci, this numeral system was far simpler than traditional Roman numerals for multiplication and division, and this breakthrough has been important to the development of binary.

The concept of nothing in a mathematical sense is also important for computing.  As computers work on either true or false, as 1’s or 0’s.  The number 0 was invented by an Indian astronomer named Aryabhata, among other things he manged to calculate the value of Pi to 4 d.p. and suggested the Earth spins on its axis.

According to Charles Seife, in his book, Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea “…with the division of 0, you can prove mathematically, anything in the universe. You can prove that 1+1=42, and from there you can prove that J. Edgar Hoover is a space alien, that William Shakespeare came from Uzbekistan, or even that the sky is polka-dotted. (See appendix A for a proof that Winston Churchill was a carrot.)”

In programming languages the numbers start at 0, which is important for the use in arrays.  However causes problems when we start to think of numbers in terms of nth value, with 0 as the 1st term, the 15 would be the 16th term, therefore zero has to be thought of as the zeroth term.

Computers are very good at doing complex mathematics that humans cannot do, however they are very bad at doing things we can do well, for instance, walking and improvising in situations, computers do not cope well with paradox, they must be told exactly what to do and exactly when to do it.  This can be controlled by programming, using if statements, arrays etc…

This can be seen in Isaac Asimov‘s laws of robotics

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey any orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

It is ultimately up to humans to provide the laws that computers will abide to, setting up a foolproof system, this is ultimately down to understanding how human’s function and making decisions, after all our own moral code is based on a set of boundaries; rules; exceptions; decisions and processes.  The future of computing may be based on an organic model with the ability to adapt and act on new information based on learning and current situations, simply the future of computing is not artificial intelligence, but actual intelligence.


I’ve always admired the London transport system, it’s easy to navigate, reliable and quick.  From someone who’s lived in the South East of England, going into London was maybe a once or twice a year event; you live around London, but don’t go there until someone visits.

More recently however, I’ve been travelling into London at least once a week and have been experimenting with different ways of getting from London Bridge.  Admittedly going by rail would be cheaper and quicker, however using tube/DLR/bus certainly has its charms, if anything, it’s better than waiting at London Bridge for a rail connection; when you can almost certainly guarantee you get on the tube within a minute or two of arriving on the platform.

But have you ever thought about the success of the underground, would it be so easy and convenient without the famous London Underground map?  Perhaps its most iconic trait is that it uses a topological form, lacking scale, geographical reference and detail.  Not a good map in a traditional sense, but the tube owes its success to that and of the designer Harry Beck.

This map has inspired many designers to create their own interpretation of the Underground map, to either as a parody or to make a statement. Such as a designer by the pseudonym of Barry Heck, who used anagrams of station names.  This was circulated on the internet in February 2006, but consequently  being requested to be removed by TFL.

The original parody of the Underground, entitled ‘The Great Bear‘ by Simon Patterson ( April 2009)

The Great Bear

The Great Bear

Transit Maps of the World

Transit Maps of the World

The design of the original map by Beck was first developed in 1931 based upon electrical circuit diagrams.  The design has continued to either be ‘perfected’ or tampered with by people such as; The Underground’s publicity officer, Harold Hutchinson or Paul Garbutt before the map developed into the form we see it today.  The map is so renowned that it was voted as one of Britain’s top 3 designs of the last century, in 2006 alongside Concorde and the Spitfire (The Culture Show BBC2 3rd March 2006).  Similar formats have also been applied to a partial network of London busses, Thames waterways nd other Subway/Metro systems around the world often copying the 45 degree angles and circular stops of the original.   (see Spin-offs and imitations)

However due to the Oyster card system being extended to now include Tube, Busses, DLR and portions of the National Rail, the map as we know it may become redundant as an underground only form, as travellers will also need to see the entire Oyster network.  As it stands the topological format cannot support an overground network, and the system would be far too complicated and cramped with the amount of networks combined.

What would Beck himself have done? A man of vision as well as courage – and a pragmatist if ever there were one – he might well have recommended something drastic, even iconoclastic: tearing up his own Underground map, and suggesting that we begin again from first principles.” (Guardian, culture November 26th 2009)


Creativity in Digital Media is one of the most important aspects in the success of a design, composition, animation, game etc… There is so much material available through the Internet, TV and Advertising; that it has become commonplace.  According to Brand Republic (Mar 17 2010, 02:08 PM by Danny Morris) advances in CGI have dramatically reduced the cost of advertising, which is especially advantageous in the current economic climate.  This has also been fuelled by advances in technology such as 3D TV and Films.

There are many aspects of digital design such as Motion Graphics; Special effects; programming; typography that all contribute to the overall experience, and achieving high-end results has become far more accessable over recent years.  For example, software such as After Effects, Photoshop, 3DS Max, AutoCAD etc have made it possible for the average user such as myself to produce work of a decent standard.

There is no ceiling on the work we could do, take James Cameron’s Avatar for instance, we’re always striving to reach beyond realism, create effects to achieve things that can’t be done in reality in a completely believable way.  The only ceiling there is, is the one we put up for ourselves.  There is no limit on creativity, only the boundaries we ourselves put in place.  The ultimate goal is to create a reality beyond realism

In the following video for The Discovery Network, James Cameron discusses the effect of character attraction to an audience with the extent that character looks like a humanoid.

Even though Avatar was a visually amazing; heralding the coming of serious 3D visuals and becoming the highest grossing film of all time at $2 million (Worst Previews Jan 26th 2010), the storyline was cited questionable and clichéd by some. (Davie Cook, 29th Dec 2009).

If this feature had not spent 14 years in the making it would have not been such a success, it had to allow for technology to catch up before the creative aspects could be achieved.

Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010); although receiving a rating of  52% compared to Avatar’s 89%; was in my opinion a far more creative film.  Alice achieved both aspects of creative narrative and amazing visuals, you can’t get a better example of creativity than the works of Lewis Carroll.  The use of nonsense words, dragging you into this make-believe, impossible world and then making it real through the special effects.

It’s the little details in any piece of media that make it special, it’s the things that someone has thought about, got involved with and has been enthusiastic about.  I loved the way that the people who surround the Red Queen use false ears, noses etc…to make themselves appear like the Queen.  That little detail doesn’t necessarily add to the story, but it adds a certain embroidery to the atmosphere of Underland, as it is actually known.  (The reference to Wonderland is made when The Hatter says to Alice that she got the name wrong, calling it Wonderland during her first visit as a child)

Certain references to Lewis Carroll’s other works are made throughout the film; Depp recites part of the Jabberwocky poem, from what was actually Wonderland’s sequel, ‘Through the Looking Glass,’ (1872)  in a Scottish accent, as it was written; in fact, most of what we know from previous adaptations are in fact a mixture of events and misconceptions from both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the looking Glass.  Tweedledum and Tweedledee are often depicted as characters in the original story, however only appear in the sequel.  This version also includes characters and events from both works, but tell more of a separate series of events, which is far more rewarding than another retelling of the original story we all know.

There’s not much justice I can do for all of the little details that have filtered through from the imagination of Lewis Carroll and then the brilliance of Tim Burton, as it is such a layered story, hundreds of references to social factors and pieces of trivia, it is definitely a film that you can analyse.

Usually when watching 3D films, I end up analysing the creative process,  thinking  about render settings, lighting and materials, poly counts etc… You know when you’re a 3D student when you’re admiring the reflections in a material…  Alice was no different, but I was also admiring the creativity at the same time; it was more about the small details like actor interaction with CGI characters, composition, and the level of detail that makes the characters so believable in the environment. And that’s what I love about the media industry.