NewsUCA Rochester

Graduate takes on Game of Thrones at VES Awards

A Rochester graduate has been recognised for excellence in the field of visual effect after being nominated at the VES awards in California.

Amar Chundavadra, 29, who graduated from the Computer Animation Arts at UCA Rochester in 2008, has been nominated for the prestigious award for his work animating the character of Sheldon – a garden snail – who appears in the Freesat Freetime adverts.

Amar Chundavadra

Now in its 13th year, the star-studded Visual Effects Society Awards (VES) promote excellence in visual effects for film, television and video games. This year’s awards ceremony will take place on February 4 at The Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverley Hills. 

“It feels amazing. I honestly didn't think that I would ever get nominated for anything like that,” said Amar, who is originally from Watford but now lives in London.

Working as a Senior Character Technical Director for British VFX firm Framestore, Amar was responsible for creating the body mechanics of Sheldon, as well as designing and implementing an intuitive system for allowing an animator to control the character.

He’ll find himself up against stiff competition on the night, with the other characters nominated including Drogon the Dragon from Game of Thrones, and John Lewis’ Monty the Penguin.

“Sheldon was an interesting character as a design because he is hyper real but still characterised at the same time. He is essentially a blend between a snail and a smart older man going to the theatre which I feel is a very charming concept.”

Amar said the biggest challenge he faced was finding a hyper-realistic way to handle the way Sheldon – being a snail – moved on his sticky base.

“I carried out a lot of research and development on how to create believable anatomical characteristics of this portion of the character as well as how it will be controlled by the animator. I tried to pay close attention to the way snails preserve volume when they move along a surface.

“Adding features to the character such as volume preservation and sliding deformation modules to account for specific bio-mechanical traits that snails have in the nature really helped sell Sheldon’s disposition,” said Amar.

Amar said he hopes to be able to attend the ceremony, where this year director JJ Abrams will be honoured with the Visionary Award, although it would depend on his work load.

The nomination has been greeted with delight from the course team at UCA, where Phil Gomm, course leader for Computer Animation Arts said: “We were thrilled to learn of Amar's nomination at the VES awards - but not surprised - Amar first distinguished himself as a talented character animator during his time on the course.  

“He always had a real knack for creating funny, engaging performances from computer generated characters.  We wish him the very best of luck - our fingers are crossed!"

Computer Animation Arts at UCA, which has a student satisfaction rating of 100%, is renowned for graduating talented artists and animators into the visual effects industry, with recent alumni having gone on to work on such smash-hit films as Gravity and Guardians of the Galaxy