Vol Libre (1980) created by Loren Carpenter is an extremely well know example of early computer animation. It used fractal terrain generation of create a flythrough of a three dimensional landscape. This would in turn lead on to the development of the Genesis Sequence in Star Trek II the Wrath of Khan (1982) (IMDB).


Another good example of computer generated imagery is the Light Cycle battle from Tron (1982) (IMDB).

Tron Legacy (2010) (IMDB) features an updated Light Cycle battle.

Flight of the Navigator (1986) (IMDB) demonstrates the first use of image mapping the surrounding environment on to a surface. In this case it is mapped on to a Trimaxion Drone ship from Phaelon. It also features some nice scenes whereby the Drone ship morphs from “Class 3” mode to “Class 1” – thereby allowing it to efficiently cut through the Earths atmosphere.

Going back to Fractals – its interesting to see how Fractal Graphics seem to crop up in film’s from time to time such as the Mandelbrot Fractal paint job of a car featured in a desert scene from Transformers Revenge of the Fallen. This can be clearly scene at time index (0:35) in the following video clip.

Fractal techniques were again used to generate the lava spewing forth and landing upon a platform, on which Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker were engaged in a lightsaber battle, located on the volcanic planet Mustafar in Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith (2005) (IMDB).

Another nice example of fractals being mentioned in a film comes from Star Trek First Contact (1996) (IMDB), whereby the Sovereign Class USS Enterprise NCC1701-E is being taken over by the Borg. The Borg are trying to reroute main control to Engineering where they are based. Upon hearing this Captain Picard asks commander Data to “Lockout the main computer”, after some interaction with a console, Data responds by saying that “I have isolated the main computer with a fractal encryption code, it is highly unlikely the Borg will be able to break it”. Hence as you can see even in the 24th century, fractal techniques still prove to be very useful.

Wikipedia has a nice list of computer animation in film and television available (online). Do you know of any other interesting examples of computer graphics / animation featured in films.


Global Game Jam at Birmingham City University

For the last five years, Birmingham City University has opened its doors as host to the annual Global Game Jam (GGJ), a 48-hour game development event aimed at bringing those with a passion for games together to create a game from scratch. The diversity the jam promotes is indicated by its 36,000 jammers, 7,000 produced games and the involvement of 95 different countries this year alone.

I had the pleasure of organising this year’s event with the help of Dr Andrew Wilson, programme leader for Computer Games Technology. While I have planned other events in the past, the GGJ is particularly special to me as it promotes a platform that encourages developers of all abilities and experience to collaborate and produce something that they can be proud of, in just a weekend.
Being surrounded by an ocean of other passionate developers offers a unique opportunity to get instant feedback from those in similar roles, but with a range of diverse backgrounds. Whether there is an issue with code, a creative block or you’re just particularly curious about something, there is always someone around that can offer their input.

While news spreads across the University year-by-year, the quality of our events attracts students from around the country. From Nottingham to Cambridge, from Reddit to Twitter, the event has spiked in popularity this year, reaching a record-breaking 100 attendees – making this year by far the most attended GGJ event hosted at Birmingham City University.

team shot

There was a consistently positive atmosphere, partially lit with the excitement of glow sticks and neon bracelets, even with the wave of exhaustion hitting those attempting to iron-man the 48 hours without any sleep at all.

We also had the honour of receiving Jake Parker and Adam Kaye from fishinabottle as well as Andrew Hague from Very Good Friend. Having their expertise in the judging process was a great asset and allowed our developers to ask questions, receive feedback on their games and expand their professional network. There are links at the bottom of the page to their studios.
For those who were awake, we also conducted live interviews, even being featured on the official Global Game Jam “Twitch.tv” channel. It was great to see live progress of the games being produced and the differences in workflows between teams.

student at computer

After a fantastic weekend of game development and collaboration, I’m incredibly proud of how well the event turned out. It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Dr Wilson, our volunteers, and our fantastic guest judges from fishinabottle and Very Good Friend. Most importantly however, we managed to cultivate a space where our many attendees could work creatively and do so with the support of a local development community.
Here’s to GGJ 2018!

Liam Sorta

If you are interested in getting into computer game development, check out our new BSc (Hons) / MSci Computer Games Technology 

We are grateful for the support of these organisations:
Fishinabottle: www.fishinabottle.com
Very Good Friend: verygoodfriend.weebly.com

10 tips for keeping safe online

Today (14 February) the Queen opens a new National Centre for Cyber Security. With more and more of us living our lives online, are we really aware of the dangers of cyber-attacks to businesses and individuals? Ron Austin, Associate Professor of Networks and Security, shares his tips for keeping safe online.

The Internet is a powerful and wonderful tool that allows people to communicate and share ideas, however just as you would not leave your home without locking the doors and windows, you should not venture out on to the Internet without understanding some of the rules and best practices.

1. Keep your systems up to date.
The most popular operating systems (Apple, Microsoft and Linux) provide automatic security updates.

Windows 8 and Windows 8.1
To turn on Automatic Updates yourself, follow these steps:
1. Open Windows Update by swiping in from the right edge of the screen (or, if you’re using a mouse, by pointing to the lower-right corner of the screen and moving the mouse pointer up), then tapping or clicking Settings, tapping or clicking Change PC settings, and then tapping or clicking Update and recovery.
2. Tap or click Choose how updates get installed.
3. Under Important updates, select the option that you want.
4. Under Recommended updates, select the Give me recommended updates the same way I receive important updates check box, and then click Apply.

2. Do not click on unknown links in emails from people or companies that you don’t know or have not subscribed to.
Don’t believe the offers you may receive online. If it looks too good to be true, it’s normally a scam. These types of scams are looking to gain access to your P.C and network via a virus.

3. If you have your laptop or P.C in a bedroom, cover up the webcam.
There are a number of remote access Trojans (RATS) that allow an attacker to view you from your webcam.

4. Passwords need to be different for every site you use.
I would recommend a password manager. 1password (https://1password.com) or lastpass (https://lastpass.com/) are very good password managers. These applications and sites will generate and store a password that is both long and random, so that you don’t need to remember all your different passwords. This reduces the risk of using the same password across different sites. And if one site is compromised and your details are released, you are not allowing an attacker into other sites.

5. When shopping online make sure the site is https and shows the padlock icon in the browser bar.

6. Use a credit card for online purchases as this offers more protection from fraud.

7. Change the default password on your home routers and wireless hub.
The passwords on a home router are set up for you, but the default passwords are easily broken, so you need to change them to something more secure. Log in to the router (the password is normally on the back of the router) and then follow the guidance from your ISP (Internet Service Provider) for changing the password.

8. Change the firewall setting on your wireless router.
The firewall on a router is normally set to low, which means it is not looking very deeply at the traffic, so isn’t giving you full protection. You can reset this to either medium or high. If you are a gamer and play online games you will need to review this as it will stop games from playing.

9. If out and using an open hotspot, make sure you use a VPN (virtual private network).
Opera offers a free VPN but there are many very good paid for services. The question to ask yourself is: how much would I lose if my data was compromised? The VPN adds another layer of security to your data traffic as it crosses the network. This makes it harder for anyone else to look at your traffic and be able to read it. The VPNs available are normally an option on your smartphone as shown below:

cyber security

10. Finally, back up your data, either to a hard drive or cloud provider.
Google or Carbonite are possible providers. All it takes is simple mistake or a malicious ransomware virus and you could lose all the files on your computer forever. By backing up you can restore your system if this happens to you.

There are several ways to back up your PC in Windows.
1. Select the Start button, then select Control Panel > System and Maintenance > Backup and Restore.
2. Do one of the following:
• If you’ve never used Windows Backup before, or recently upgraded your version of Windows, select Set up backup, and then follow the steps in the wizard.
• If you’ve created a backup before, you can wait for your regularly scheduled backup to occur, or you can manually create a new backup by selecting Backup now.
• If you’ve created a backup before, but want to make a new, full backup rather than updating the old one, select Create new, full backup, and then follow the steps in the wizard.

These tips should help to keep you safe online and remember – make sure you backup your data!

Ron Austin