2013 – year in review

Some of my extended family - members of the Peterson clan in Christmas, 2013

Wishing a happy new year in 2014 to my Clients, Family and friends!

As we wave goodbye to 2013 and begin the new year, I’m excited to put together a quick review of my highlights over the last twelve months.

Getting engaged

My most exciting moment this year by far has been proposing to my Girlfriend Ivy. I proposed to her 4 years to the day we first met, and 3 ½ years after we first started our romance together. It has been the greatest 4 years of my life – Ivy has given me so much love and support and has made me a better person in countless ways since the day I met her. I am very lucky to be spending the rest of my life with this amazing and inspiring woman!

My proposal to Ivy - 4 years to the day we first met

I proposed to Ivy at sunset at the top of Mt. Dandenong, Melbourne. We walked down the Kyeema track to the main lookout point and Ivy was shocked to find a large ring of fairy lights circling the vantage point. As we approached the fairy lights I laid down a picnic blanket in the middle of the circle and 2 of my closest friends, James and John, appeared from behind the trees playing the Beatles’  ‘And I Love her’ on acoustic guitar.

I sang the song to Ivy as they provided the backing music. I then picked up a 3rd acoustic guitar to perform the guitar solo before the song finished. I then knelt down and proposed to her. It was the greatest moment of my life, and I was quite embarrassed because there about 10-15 people standing by watching – I hadn’t realised the lookout was such a popular spot!

The whole moment was captured on video and with photos by my Boss and friend Alf Kuhlmann, who I have had a relationship with longer than Ivy haha. I owe my friends a lot of gratitude for their support on that special day.

My proposal to Ivy - 4 years to the day we first met

Earlier this year I was extremely happy to see my best friend get engaged to his long-time partner and my sister celebrate her engagement with my soon-to-be brother in law. Many Close friends have become engaged and have become married throughout the year. It’s been a big year for love and one i’ll always look back on with fond memories for the rest of my life!

Full time role at Reel Pictures

I have been very lucky this year to be offered a full-time position at Reel Pictures. One of my first industry roles was at Reel Pictures in 2010 via the Swinburne industry placement program. After that 1 year placement I returned to Uni to finish my degree, but have continued to work for Alf Kuhlmann as a freelance motion graphics artist and 3D generalist. Early this year I was given the opportunity to work full-time with Alf and was very happy to accept it.

I have been able to work on some very exciting and technically demanding projects this year for a variety of clients. We have created motion graphics and 3D animation for TVCs, corporate videos, accident re-enactment/use in court cases and created 3D content for permanent installations.

The most exciting highlight has definitely being a part in creating a large ‘Wonder of Gold‘ animation for the Perth Mint. We used RealFlow extensively for this project and it was the perfect opportunity to learn this extremely powerful software.

Screenshot of the 'Big Bang' Sequence
Above – a screenshot from the ‘Big Bang’ Sequence. This was created 100% in 3DS Max using Particle Flow. A big thanks goes to Allan McKay – as part of this explosion, we used one of his fantastic ‘Particle Flow Presets’ which have shipped free with 3ds Max for the past few years.
A screenshot of an Egyptian themed sequence using the D-Spline daemon to direct the fluid along a path.
Above – A screenshot of an Egyptian-themed sequence using the D-Spline daemon to direct the fluid along a path.
Gold nuggets glittering amongst the pebbles in a stream. Gold nuggets glittering amongst the pebbles in a stream. Gold nuggets glittering amongst the pebbles in a stream.
Above – Gold nuggets glittering amongst the pebbles in a stream. This sequence was around 650 frames long and averaged about 4GB of data per frame. This data footprint includes the Realflow Sim data for Core fluid, foam, splash and Meshes, Rayfire Cache sim data and Open EXR renders. The Realflow simulation data filesize is definitely an issue that needs proper management on behalf of the FX artist! If you’re not careful, and accidentally enter the wrong setting when running a simulation, it’s easy to completely fill up a 4TB RAID drive overnight! Artists have written scripts to avoid just that!
Golden Artifacts circle liquid Gold that is frozen in time
Above – Golden Artifacts circle liquid Gold that is frozen in time
Golden Artifacts circle liquid Gold that is frozen in time Golden Artifacts circle liquid Gold that is frozen in time Golden Artifacts circle liquid Gold that is frozen in time
Above – Screenshots from scene 5 in the Wonder of Gold animation. This sequence was the most technically challenging and took a lot of R&D as the entire planet earth was made up of a liquid golden ocean. We ended up using RealWave on a flat polygon plane and the realflow 2013 Graph feature to conform the Plane to a 3d sphere. Also extensively used the fantastic HOT4MAX plugin. There was a lot of steps and but the client was very happy with the final result and I would love to make a tutorial about it one day!

Lecturing – Motion Graphics

This year I have also been offered a role as a sessional lecturer at Swinburne University of Technology. I helped teach the ‘Typography for Screen & Motion subject in Semester 2. The subject is an overview of Typography and it’s application for screen apposed to Print via an introduction to Motion Graphics using Adobe After Effects. This subject is taken by a range of design students. Our class had students from Digital Media Design, Communication Design, Interior Design, Film & TV and Industrial design!

It was great fun helping deliver this subject to students and introducing them to After Effects. After Effects is extremely popular in motion graphics but there are so many opportunites to use it in many design & digital media disciplines. it’s a very important program to add to your toolset, that’s for sure!

I had the opportunity to update the coursework and contribute 5 new tutorials to the subject. This was the last time this subject was offered as part of the faculty of Design before Swinburne changes the Design Campus from Prahran to Hawthorn and the subject will be revised into 3 new After Effects subjects at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. This is an exciting time to be involved with the course and I hope to continue to be a part of its evolution in the future.

Digital Lode

2013 has been a good year for my own design practice – the Digital Lode. Due to my new roles at Reel Pictures and Swinburne, I have scaled down the amount of projects I am taking on. I have found this to be a very good arrangement because I am able to choose & commit to projects that really interest me. I have worked on a variety of different projects this year, but my main focus continues to be 3D design for print. I have worked on various posters, websites and other promotional materials. In the coming year I hope to continue to work on exciting projects via the Digital Lode!

Travelling Overseas

Earlier this year I traveled overseas with my partner Ivy and spent a month visiting Hong Kong, Mainland China and Thailand. I had an incredible time visiting Ivy’s extended family and celebrating Chinese New Year with them in Ivy’s hometown of Chenzhou.

Celebrating Chinese New Year with my Partner and her extended family Fireworkds during Chinese New Year

I cannot wait to visit Ivy’s family again in early 2014. This time my parents are coming also – the first time my Dad will have left Australia. Norfolk Island doesn’t count!


Buchanan – Human Spring

One of my favorite projects of 2013 at Digital Lode has been creating the cover art for Buchanan’s debut album, Human Spring. I worked on this project over a period of 6 weeks at the start of 2013. The album was official unveiled and released in April/May and is now available in both digital and print over various music services. To find out more about the album and their music, check out the official Buchanan Site.

Buchanan - Human Spring - Cover Artwork

This was a challenging and incredibly fulfilling job. I had a fantastic experience forming a working relationship with the band’s front-man Josh Simons, who came up with the original concept for the cover art, and helped Art Direct the artwork over the course of its creation.

It was through this artwork that I received an invitation to join the 3ds Max beta program. This is a community of Autodesk 3ds Max users that test and evaluate early versions of the software. I was able to road-test Autodesk 3ds Max 2014’s ‘populate’ feature during it’s development and provided feedback based on my experience creating the Human Spring cover art. There were over 400 Populate people used to make up the crowd in the cover art.

I created this video overview of the Human Spring project which was used as a ‘sneak peek’ video for the Populate feature in the leadup to the release of 3ds Max 2014.


New Skills – Realflow, DT, Coursera

2013 has been a year of continued learning, which anyone working in industries like this will be doing for the rest of their lives! Much of the fundamentals of design and animation stay the same, but most of the technical skills that I remember learning when I first started studying 3D Animation have changed drastically or been completely superseded!

To keep up with the fast past developments in this industry, i’ve signed up for a few different services this year.

I signed up for the free university ‘Coursera’ at the start of 2013 and enrolled in a few subjects. Coursera is an amalgamation of tertiary level degrees, subjects and classes that are offered by top universities from around the world, including Harvard, Stanfard and Melbourne University. It’s completely free and accessible to anyone with an internet connection and is therefore an extremely important and generous initiative!

I’ve enrolled in a few different classes this year. The first class was the Introduction to computer programming with Python. This is an amazing 12~ week crash course in computer programming offered by Rice University. Other classes i’ve enrolled in include an Introduction to Public Speaking and the extremely interesting subject Internet History, Technology and Security.

As well as Coursera, i’ve been subscribing to Digital Tutors on-and-off throughout the year. This site is fantastic with over 4000 hours of digital media and visual effects courses for all the industry software. There are standard ‘software tutorial videos’ and project based ‘creative development’ courses that are presented by top professionals in the industry. Finally, there are learning paths that arrange all these key videos into playlists to guide you through learning a software from scratch. I used the 60+ hour RealFlow learning path to get up to speed with RealFlow while working on the Wonder Of Gold Animation with Reel Pictures.

Finally, I found the lecturing job at Swinburne has been a fantastic opportunity for me to stay on top of the industry and keep my finger on the pulse of all the latest trends and workflows in motion design. A lot changes in just 12 months and by teaching a motion graphics subject I force myself to be refining my craft and learning the very best techniques.


Growth Partnership Course

I attended a week-long Growth Partnership course for the second year in a row. ‘GP’ is organised and run by the multi-talented Andrew Chua. The main portion of the course is a 72 hour stint in French Island accompanied only by a partner of your choice. I went with my best friend James and we spent the time setting up a basecamp, exploring the swamps, playing guitar and talking about the big issues in life. Half-Life 3 – is it coming? Is it true that there is a place in someone’s brain that if you shoot it, their head will explode? Etc.

Fireworkds during Chinese New Year

It was a fantastic rare opportunity to escape your normal life, switch off from everything and focus on The island 20km x 12km island has no running water, electricity, sealed roads, law enforcement or council. There are 95 residents and 2 ferries to/from the island operating everyday. The perfect setting for this course.


Thanks for reading!

These are some of the highlights I’ve had in relation to my work and personal life in 2013. Thanks for your interest in me and for reading this post. A very big thanks to all the people who have helped and assisted me in work and personal life over the past year.

Thanks to the people who have offered me so many fantastic opportunities and to everyone i’ve had the chance to work with. I look forward to what the next 12 months have to bring and I wish you all the best in 2014!


About the author

Michael Wentworth-Bell is a Melbourne-based 3D generalist and Motion Graphics artist. Michael started the Lode in 2012 as an online Portfolio and blog.

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