Monthly Archives: December 2015

Animating Paddington

UP for Uni are very excited about the fact that James Hickey, a former University of Portsmouth student, worked on the Paddington movie. Here’s what he has to say about it…

What was your job on the Paddington film?

I was an animator, using 3D Computer Animation software to make Paddington move around.

What did it involve?

Paddington was a fully computer-generated character, which meant placing him into scenes that were shot live-action with real people. We made him move, walk and talk, so that he interacted with the Brown family and became part of the film. The actors would be filmed first with a person standing in to represent Paddington and then we would place Paddington into the scene after, as if he was really there, making him act along with everyone else.

How long did it take and how many animators worked on it?

I worked on the film for a year. In the beginning there were roughly 15-20 animators, but as the production picked up pace the number grew to about 60.

Does the bear’s character affect how he is animated?

Paddington is a child and in the film he comes from darkest Peru. His idea of England came from an explorer and old records. As such, when he arrives he is completely out of his element and doesn’t understand how things work (e.g. a bathroom). Originally, the actor Colin Firth was supposed to voice Paddington and we began animating to his voice. But the director felt Colin sounded too old and so Ben Whishaw took over. Paddington became much younger, so the performance had to be adjusted to match Ben’s voice.

What was your favourite thing about working on the film?

The best part was seeing the bear come to life for the first time. My first shots on the film were in the scene where Paddington destroys the bathroom and climbs up the toilet. Seeing those finished and in the trailer for the first time was very exciting.

What are the best and worst things about your job?

I get to work on exciting projects. Sometimes the hours are long, but they are definitely worth it

What skills are useful for a career in animation?

Drawing is very useful as well as learning to understanding composition, timing and weight.

What advice would you give someone interested in working in animation?

  1. Learn how to draw
  2. Study composition
  3. Learn about timing and spacing

Was going to university useful?

I learned a lot and made a lot of good friends there. University helps you get ready for going out into the world and pursuing your dreams. I don’t think I would have got very far without a university background. Lots of companies and employers insist on a university education and if you want to be successful it certainly helps.

Do you like marmalade sandwiches?

The first time I had a marmalade sandwich was at a cast and crew screening of Paddington; they were giving them away for us to eat. It was tastier than I expected.

James Hickey studied animation at the University of Portsmouth.

How a tweet can save a life


By Gemma D’Souza

When you are in your last year of university, you normally do a big final project called a dissertation.

I did a geography degree and my dissertation took me about nine months to complete. The final word count was just under 10,000 words. Sounds daunting right? I thought the same, but then I realised it actually wasn’t. Most courses allow you to choose the topic of your dissertation. You can find something you enjoy, make yourself familiar with it, do lots of research, collect data or interview people and then write up what you have found.

I’m really interested in natural disasters – earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and so on. I’m also a big social media fan – I love Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and could spend hours scrolling through them all each evening. So I decided to link them together and make my dissertation about how Twitter can possibly help save lives after a natural disaster has taken place.

How is Twitter useful?

Twitter lets you post a comment, add an image and also add the location of where you are when you send that tweet. When a disaster happens, aid agencies (like the Red Cross, for example) need to get to the victims affected by the disaster as soon as they can. If victims still have access to a phone or computer, they can send a tweet directly to these aid agencies, asking for help and receiving assistance more quickly.

For example, someone could send a tweet saying how many people are injured or lost, what sort of help they need and most importantly, where they are. Using the Twitter App they can even attach their exact location and pinpoint it on a map.

In March 2015 Cyclone Pam hit the South Pacific (to the east of Australia and the north of New Zealand). It ruined hundreds of boats, roads and homes across thousands of miles and on different islands. Tweets and photos were collected from victims on these islands, particularly Vanuatu, and were responded to. It’s good to know that social media can be used to help people in emergencies.

Gemma D’Souza graduated from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a degree in geography.

Find out how to become an aid worker.

Facts on the fly

By Ryan Badham

Most people think flies are disgusting but many don’t realise how fascinating they are. Did you know they can taste with their feet and breathe through their bottoms? You can even study flies at university. Here are fourteen incredible things you probably didn’t know about them…

  1. Flies are the only insects with 2 wings; all others with wings have 4. They are known as Diptera (di-ptera” = two wings in Greek) or ‘true flies’ and include blue bottles, house flies, mosquitoes and midges.
  2. A fly has a 4-stage lifecycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult. This means it undergoes complete metamorphosis (like a butterfly).
  3. Flies are found all over the world except Antarctica.
  4. Larvae (commonly known as maggots) clump together to keep warm. This helps them develop faster.
  5. Maggots can breathe through their bottoms, allowing them to continue eating without pausing for breath.
  6. Maggots have been used in medicine since ancient times to help heal wounds by eating dead tissue and killing bacteria to fight nasty infections. They’re still used in some hospitals today.
  7. A fly feels with the hairs on its body. Those on its mouth and feet are used for tasting, so they taste what they walk on. If they step on something yummy, they put down their mouth and slurp it again.
  8. A fly can hover, fly backwards, land upside down and beat its wings up to 200 times per second.
  9. Flies have sticky pads on their feet that act like glue and help them stick to glass and ceilings.
  10. Flies don’t bite (they suck, spit or stab) and can only feed on liquids. They sip nectar from flowers, drink liquefied dung (animal poo), or spit saliva on their food (which has enzymes to liquefy it) and suck it up. Female mosquitoes’ pointed mouthparts pierce skin and they drink blood.
  11. Flies have compound eyes containing many facets. The house fly has 4,000 facets in each eye and can see a light flickering nearly seven times faster than we can. Flies don’t have eyelids, so rub their eyes with their feet to keep them clean.
  12. Flies help solve murder cases by establishing time of death, and DNA has been extracted from maggot guts to identify badly burnt or decomposed victims.
  13. Whilst some flies are pests that spread disease, others are beneficial. They prey on other pests; pollinate plants; are food for other animals; and help break down organic matter, recycling it back into the soil.
  14. There are over 100,000 species (about 1 in every 10 animals is a fly); with at least 5000 in Britain and more being discovered every year. So, next time you see one, don’t dismiss it is as ‘just a fly‘, it could be one of thousands of possible varieties.

Entomology is the scientific study of insects.

Forensic entomology uses insect biology to help us with the law, including crime.

Ryan studied forensic biology as a degree at university, followed by a research based Master’s in Forensic Entomology (*A Master’s is more specialised study after your degree) using blue bottle fly genes to try to estimate how long someone has been dead. He likes insects because there are so many different kinds and even closely related species can be dramatically different and unique. Caddisflies are Ryan’s favourite (even though they’re not true flies) because their protective casings can be used to make jewellery.

Here’s Ryan (standing furthest to the right) with some of his university colleagues, showing how interested they are in flies!

Lab picture



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