Game Art and Animation | Callum Haydon on the art of networking

Callum Haydon student

Gaming is a world SAE can help our students plug into via our Game Art & Animation programme. 

The course offers students the chance to get to grips with the latest technologies shaping the sector as well as hone the collaborative tools needed to build a successful career. Get in touch with our team to find out more.

Callum Haydon is one of our Game Art students and recently attended a games talk in Leamington, managing to spark up a conversation with Phil Warner, CEO of Mediatonic, which resides under Epic Games. 

In our interview, Callum discusses what led him to study at SAE, his experiences on the course so far alongside his essential networking tips…

How did you start gaming?

My gaming journey started quite young, diving into sessions of RuneScape and the original Star Wars: Battlefront II on the family computer. I was always mesmerised by the visual aesthetics of games and how they can transport you into another universe. I’ve never been one for sitting down and reading a book so I suppose this was my way to immersify myself in otherworldly stories. It was only as I grew up playing more titles that I became serious about wanting to learn how games are made.

What led you to study at SAE?  

Leamington Spa is one of the leading locations for video game development inside the UK. The video game industry is something I have always strived to work in. Even before signing up for SAE, I would frequently send local companies letters to see if there would be opportunities for work experience or shadowing.

When I was informed about SAE opening here in Leamington Spa I was already in the process of applying to several universities to study Game Art (and Design). I felt like SAE’s Game Art & Animation course at Leamington Spa was the right place and right time for my own future aspirations.

What have been the key things you’ve learned so far?

Since starting university in September 2023, the key things that I have been taught are how to effectively self manage time in relation to production pipelines that match how the industry currently operates.

An example of this would be Photobashing: The process of taking several images and using them in a software such as Photoshop to produce a final image which can produce high quality concept artwork in a fraction of the time it would take to digitally paint all the detail.

3D modelling was a task that was daunting for me at first as I come from a traditional arts background. However, I have been finding myself enjoying the process of refining and optimising game ready assets such as a television that we had to produce in our first trimester.

What are your ambitions within this creative world?  

Probably not to my lecturer’s surprise, I’m quite an ambitious person which has always been a blessing and a curse. In the distant future I hope to be able to be a Lead Designer or Art Director for my own project either within a studio or by running my own independent game studio. In the near future, I hope to build my professional experience inside of game studios with a focus on either Technical Art or Environments.

What current and future projects have been keeping you busy?  

This trimester at university is focusing on 3D Animation fundamentals where we have been introduced to the process of rigging, animating and rendering a variety of different scenes inside Autodesk Maya with varying complexity. These have ranged from a bouncing ball, to a vehicle, and a character’s walking cycle. We are also focusing on digital sculpting using ZBrush to produce 3D models which also range in complexity from a chess piece, inspired by a mythological creature, to a Japanese Oni Mask and eventually a realistic character face.

I previously mentioned an aspiration of mine being to lead my own project. Outside university, I am currently laying down the framework for this project utilising the Games Programming Lecturer on campus, Nathan Flanary, and his expertise when it comes to video game design and how to produce a full scale game design document.

Could you talk about the event you recently attended?  

I recently attended a talk at 1 Mill Street as part of the Game Developers Group (GDG) which is a group of established, independant or want-to-be game developers. They meet up once a month in Leamington Spa, led by Nathaniel Head, as a way to promote industry engagement, network and circulate ideas.

At this event I was introduced to Phil Warner, VP of Art at Mediatonic Games by Nathaniel. Phil then asked questions about what software we are taught, graduation dates and what my future ambitions are in the industry. After this we both attended the GDG talk by Jaun Canovas, Rendering Engineer at Codemasters regarding Rendering Low Poly Worlds. 

What is next for you?  

Currently, I am focusing on utilising the learning resources, tools and opportunities offered to me as an SAE university student to ensure I am competent in a range of different softwares. These range from industry standard staples such as Autodesk Maya, ZBrush and Adobe Substance to newer tools being adopted in the industry such as Blender and Cascadeur. Not only to produce high-quality work while I study at SAE as a student on the Game Art & Animation course but also to produce a high-quality portfolio that will hopefully impress future recruiters.

I’m very passionate about travelling and seeing the world too. Taking Japanese lessons every week from September to December of 2023 and now continuing my studies independently, I would love to be able to work for a studio that offers the ability to work in different international offices. This is something that I would be very passionate about incorporating as part of my plans for the future.

What games are you currently playing? 

I’ve always had a competitive itch and the recent release of THE FINALS has re-ignited that fire that burns deep within me – currently working towards finishing this season in Diamond.

When I want to play a game to experience its world, story and gameplay away from the competitive nature of online shooters I’ve been finding a good amount of enjoyment playing Ghostrunner and Final Fantasy XIV Online.

Do you have any tips around networking?

As someone who’s been quite anxious in the past when partaking in real world social settings, my advice to people worried about starting to network or the daunting task of talking to strangers is:

  1. Start in a comfort zone – For me, I initially started building my network online through a multitude of different online hubs for students and industry to collaborate and talk. This was mostly on industry or study related discord servers such as Hitmarker and The Rookies.
  2. Eventually move outside of your comfort zone – Start meeting people in person, get better at talking face to face with people you’ve met online, or strangers for the first time, always try to strike up conversations using common ground.
  3. Stay true to yourself – I think in a world as interconnected as we are now there are a lot of people who try to present themselves in ways which are not true to who they naturally are. People will accept you for being you and you shouldn’t feel like you need to be someone else when starting to network with others.

Connect with Callum on social media:

LinkedIn | Artstation

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