After building knowledge and awareness, it was then time to explore specific skill sets in each sector. As aspiring creatives, we seem to always aim to tick every single box. Arguably, we don’t spend enough quality time on each skill set and rush ourselves to success. So, at Ladders we wanted students to take their time and spare a few hours to explore something in the industry that could benefit them more than they’d imagined. Here are some highlights:

Software Development

24th October 2018 – 7th November 2018. Newcastle City Library:

Section 2 of the Ladders course saw participants put our brains hard to work as we sunk our teeth into some programming! Mentor Phil Jeffes of Electrocat Studios brought in some brilliant and interesting examples of mini projects for us to work on during the sessions, each of which tested our skills and eased us into the world of programming without being absolutely terrifying! Believe me when I say programming looks scary, but it really isn’t!

Week 1 – introducing HTML and CSS:

HTML is a coding language more commonly used in web development, partnered with CSS – a coding language used to apply designs, colours and layouts to web pages. During this session, we looked at creating a simple page where we flicked through images of the outside courtyard area facing Trillian’s from the City Library as if we were standing in the middle and turning around to face different directions. We learned to create links to click on to move through the images and how to apply different backgrounds and colours to the pages to make the pages look more attractive.

This is an example of some HTML code – the code here would open a webpage and display the words “Hello World

CSS code looks way scarier than HTML but when you take a closer look it kind of makes sense!

Here is an example of CSS code! Scary right? Well look closer and you will see the sizes of objects, colour codes and other things to make a page look really nice!

Week 2 – introducing JavaScript:

JavaScript is a coding language used in making video games, Web pages and Applications. During this session, we got to grips with the JavaScript coding language and used it to explore how it is used in web development and we also had a look at how it can be used in a video game.

An example of some JavaScript code! This is a small section of code known as a game loop, it controls things such as game controls and animations in the game.

A small example of a game created using JavaScript. We had a brief look at this during the session and learned about the components used to make the spaceship move around the screen, the code that you can see in the picture above is some of the code used to control this.

We looked at four different tutorials which allowed us to explore JavaScript coding for games and I found that a lot of the coding conventions used were very similar to other coding languages, but they all seem to have slightly different effects on the objects used in games.  For example, the word Boolean also known as bool is a word used in many different coding languages, the term means that whatever you are adding a Boolean to can only be either true or false, this is very good for coding triggers for things. These sessions have taught me that once you have learned one coding language you might then find it easier to learn others especially when there are a lot of terms used in several different languages.

Week 3 – Introducing Python:

Python is a coding language used in the production of Video games and can also be used in making web pages, an example of a commonly used website coded in Python is YouTube!

This week we had a look at Video games coded in Python. We took the opportunity to download all the necessary software, input some basic code and see what the code did to the console! Once we got to grips with some easy stuff, we were then talked through how to access something known as a Library, the specific library we looked at was Pygame which is where developers and coders can access components needed to make games in Python. For this, we had a look at making an asteroids kind of game. We followed an instruction sheet given to us on the steps to take to make changes to the game each task slightly more difficult than the last to really start to get us thinking about the code we are putting in and how it might affect the game.

Out of all the languages we have learned over the last few weeks I have found that Python has been the most challenging but most rewarding. I have enjoyed looking at how to programme for games and I think this might be a language I will revisit again in the future!

I was very sad when Stage 2 came to an end. I was enjoying getting to grips with programming, I once thought that it was very difficult and frustrating trying to learn to programme through online tutorials, with the assistance of the Ladders course and a very well clued up mentor, the door was opened for me to begin to take what I learned and expand upon it. I feel very well equipped to begin to produce my own work and to learn other coding languages. As a result of the Ladders course so far, I have begun to learn a new language that we haven’t explored on the course and I would like to take this into Stage 3 to use on my project. I am hoping that this will help me begin my career in the games/tech industry. I am very much looking forward to producing my own game and showing it off at the showcase!

A very special thank you to our mentor Phil Jeffes, who is currently uploading his tutorials and other stuff on YouTube. They’re very interesting and insightful and I urge you to have a look if software development and technology takes your fancy! You can find them at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1m6P72nySpB3lKWDYGVipw go ahead and show the channel some love. He uploads very regularly. Most of the topics covered on the channel are the ones we explored during this stage of the Ladders course.

Onwards to stage 3!

– Lee Porter

Film

Based at the Armstrong Building, Newcastle University, Film/TV students were ready to learn about the skills behind making a moving image. It’s something we use a lot nowadays whether that be a title to the song on a music channel, a promotional logo or an animation. Undoubtedly, mentor Chloe was about to offer them a very important and industry-relevant skill to carried forward.

To kick things off, Chloe gave a general overview of animation and compositing software, Adobe After Effects. Firstly, why is this software so important? What is it for, and is it useful for editing? For Chloe, it’s her primary tool for her own work so she was the perfect person to teach them the secret tips and tricks. But she wanted to give them that foundation of understanding first, which is why they began with motion graphics. Certainly not easy, but very handy for any filmmaker and a great way to begin the skills development course.

The next session focused on another aspect of After Effects, and Mocha, to track footage so that elements can be added to a live action screen. They used a piece of footage of a man holding a phone and added motion graphics to the phone display. They also looked at 2.5D (…almost 3D!) scenes and made a layered landscape which appears to move in 3D space. Amazing stuff.

Then it was time to level up. The students were expected to explore how to make a character walk across the screen in After Effects. They also looked at how you can still illustrations appear as if they are being drawn onto the scene. So, as you can see, there were huge leaps of achievement made over the course of only a few weeks. Every session gave an element of skill that makes a filmmaker/animator stand out instantly, so thanks to Chloe and After Effects, students left with a very special, employable quality.

Music

The first day was spent at Gibside, an old country estate now managed by The National Trust. The idea was to take students out of their typical surroundings and instead be inspired by external stimulus – looking out as opposed to within. The emphasis of the day was on how to come up with the initial inspiration for songs. Several activities found the students wondering the old buildings, discovering the turbulent history of Gibside and documenting sounds and striking visual elements. They then began to put this inspiration into the first lines and titles of potential songs.

The second day was at Loft Studios where the focus would be on developing the song seeds of the previous week into more fully-fledged songs. It began with Sam giving a talk on the craft of songwriting and covered many things, from chord progressions to rhyme schemes. The students then split into songwriting pairs and worked up the first lines and themes of week 1 into verses, choruses, melodies and harmonic structures.

The final day took place at Blank Studios and was concerned with turning the songs into recordings. It began by analysing some great recordings and a basic introductory talk about recording and production. The songwriting duos then split off and finished their songs with this in mind, before finally making some good quality demo recordings ably assisted by Chris, one of the studio engineers, who provided additional tips on using microphones.

If you’d like to read more about Ladders and would like to apply for Cohort 6 starting on Jan 16th, click here.