Animation and CGI
Through the in-house development of CGI arthouse films, we're researching techniques, practices and concepts of CGI film making including motion capture, animation, VFX, otherness and narrative design.
Our research is practical, stemming from production, and much of our work is experimental. We're exploring a design aesthetic called 'alienating the familiar', similar to the surrealist style of films by directors such as David Lynch. And we’re trying to control aspects of the ‘uncanny valley’, where CGI is almost but not quite convincingly real, so can feel unnerving.
We're also exploring using photo-real CGI as a medium to create magical realism, as opposed to its traditional use of augmenting live reality. We're using narrative techniques rarely used in full CGI film's such as dream logic, where themes and ideas are presented in abstract and emotive ways. We're pulling arthouse into the mainstream and have published papers on how this impacts funding for arthouse cinema.
Our in-house, industry level, hyper-realistic CGI arthouse film called Stina and the Wolf is a pioneering project using photo-realistic CGI, which until now was only used in live-action films. We created the genre 'magical realist CGI horror' to describe the new type of CGI which Stina encapsulates.
Through the project, we're researching the use of the film production environment as a learning environment, which has never been done before. Students who work on the film emulate current industry practice using VFX, rendering, compositing techniques, design and storyboarding.
By working on the film, students get a realistic experience of industry practice and of working in a team, and improve their employability prospects. After working on Stina, 100% of our students have gone on to secure employment.
We also produced a short film called Uncle Griot to showcase Stina. Griot was developed from a single scene to distill ideas from Stina in a small and affordable format. The film was showcased at Cannes Film Festival and won Best Cinematography at the Fantasy/Sci-Fi Film Festival 2018. It also won Best Animation at the Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival in New York, and Best 3D Animation at the Florida Animation Festival.
Our research explores the following topics
- Motion capture
- CGI animation, VFX
- CGI art house cinema
- Otherness in CGI
- Narrative design in CGI
Partnerships and collaborations
Our Animation and CGI research is sponsored by Faceware Technologies Inc, who design facial animation and motion capture technology, and Vicon, the leading developer of motion capture products and services for life science, entertainment and engineering industries.
Our research has been featured in local, national and international media outlets, including:
- Times Higher Education: 'University of Portsmouth animators look to produce CGI feature'
- British Council: Study in the UK - Paul Charisse: 'Is Animation Performance Based Art?'
- CGMeetup website: short film – 'Uncle Griot'
- 3d Total: 'Paul Charisse and Alex Counsell talk about their work with University of Portsmouth students in creating a full length feature film: Stina & the Wolf'
- Dead Beats Panel: 'The world's most ambitious (and possibly most disruptive) student film needs your help'
- Animation Studies 2.0: 'The challenges in creating a CGI art house movie for the masses'
- One-reeler.net: 'Award of excellence: "Uncle Griot" (UK)'
- The News Portsmouth: 'University of Portsmouth short film to appear at Cannes film festival'
Proceedings of SIGGRAPH (2018), Charisse, P & Counsell
Stina & The Wolf' the Movie: feature film production in education (2014), Charisse, P & Counsell
Discover our areas of expertise
We're examining the theory, psychology and development of video games and contributing to the design, development and release of games.
We're investigating the impact and application of digital technology in the cultural and heritage sectors to improve visitor experiences and conserve cultural and historical sites.
We're analysing body and facial motion and cognitive signals to develop machine understanding of visual environments, through 3D reconstruction and modelling.
We're investigating music and sound and creating new tools to enhance performance and creativity.
Interested in a PhD in Digital & Creative Technologies?
Browse our postgraduate research degrees – including PhDs and MPhils – at our Digital & Creative Technologies postgraduate research degrees page.