Interview with Stu Bayley, Director at REALTIME, United Kingdom

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Stu Bayley

Stu’s creativity is inspired by anything and everything, where his inquisitive mind is naturally fascinated with many things.

Interview with the 2021 Vega Digital Awards Winner - Stu Bayley

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

Hey, I'm Stu Bayley and I am a Director working at REALTIME. We are an animation and VFX studio based in the north of England. I have a foundation in concept design and illustration and have worked my way up through the studio from concept artist to directing projects. I have been in the industry for near twenty years and have always had a passion for movement and flow of action alongside what I hope is a decent visual eye. I feel that has allowed me the progression from 2d design to directing performance in a 3d space, it has felt quite natural, though I'm always aware of how much is still to learn!

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a digital designer/artist?

Honestly it is the only thing I am truly passionate about, apart from my family of course ; ) As with most people at art college and university I had many part time jobs, from call centres to warehouse type work. While working there I just remember thinking that I have to make this art thing work because I can not do this for the rest of my life. Becoming an artist is difficult and if you don’t have crazy drive you won't go far, the talent pool around these days is insane. But for me when I work its like I'm in a time machine, a whole day can fly by and I'm just absorbed in what I'm doing, I'm fully immersed. That is a gift and I don’t take it for granted, I work my butt off but I love it, that’s why I do what I do.

3What’s your favorite kind of digital design and why?

Wow, that’s a big question! I love work that combines strong images with flowing movement, for me there is some stunning work being done in title sequences. They combine that sense of the graphic and symbolic imagery with creative transitions and camera movement. I would love to direct a title sequence for a movie or TV show one day, I almost did with a TV show we worked on but my design got side-lined when the budget was used in other areas of production... so close!

4To you, what makes a “good” design?

Something that answers the question posed as simply and elegantly as possible, just like this answer.

5Describe your design style and its main characteristics.

I'd say ‘graphic.’ Growing up I was obsessed with comic books, so strong silhouettes and dynamic angles appeal to me. I'm also a child of the 80s, so soft bloom and lens flares are my guilty pleasure and I often need to keep them at bay! I love nonlinear editing and juxtaposing imagery to create new meaning, abstract and edgy but beautiful at the same time. As with all artists, my brain is a mush of everything!

6Tell us about your design process.

I'm not going away on a weeks holiday or anything, I just take short breaks to process naturally as my brain works better that way. It's that thing of a flash of inspiration, when in reality it's not, it's your brain that’s been working away the whole time in the background and you're not even conscious of it - such an amazing machine. Then once you have various big themes or concepts I go back to brief and see if any truly answer the questions posed. When I'm happy I have the bigger questions answered, it's time to create a story structure, just the main beats as a framework for the script. Here you can plan for any creative edit choices and have a birds eye view of the trailer. Finally, its time for the script. If you have a solid framework then this can be pure creative fun, adding the flesh to the bones! Of course, this is just the tip of the whole production process but this is the process for the creation of the ideas.

7Where do you draw inspiration from?

I think all artists are naturally fascinated with lots of things, it’s the inquisitive mind that defines us I suppose. So what I'm trying to say is that I take inspiration from anything and everything.

8Congratulations! As the winner of the 2021 Vega Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

For me the advancement in realtime game engine technology is so exciting. The reason I say that is because as someone who generates CG animation, this makes the process much more like the live action filming experience. What I mean by that is traditionally CG animation is an extraordinarily complex and slow process, with some single frames taking hours to render. Now imagine being able to walk around a stunning-looking scene with characters animating in realtime! As a director this is huge leap towards a much more creative and collaborative way of working. Currently, there is a step down in quality of the final image to enable this but it's catching up fast.

9Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2021 Vega Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

So the trailer is for the open world game Subnautica, which is developed by Unknown Worlds. It is the third trailer we've created for this client and it is such a great IP that we have been privileged to play with. This trailer called ‘Below Zero’ focuses on an artic region inside the Subnautica world. What made this trailer particularly appealing was the dry humour that ran through it, the basic premise being a guy going about his working day, and encountering increasingly stressful situations. We felt we really nailed the subtle humour and that the trailer had a great feel that would appeal to a wide audience. Also the visual quality the team achieved really supports the storytelling, just giving the trailer a real quality feel.

10What was the biggest challenge with this project?

Humour is so difficult to pull off, it's so easy to play for laughs and end up creating something contrived. We had to find the balance of creating natural scenarios that play out to create humour rather than slapstick moments. In order for this subtle humour to be successful, the animation and simulation work had to add to the realism of the trailer. The combination of these factors proved to be the key challenge.

11What are your top three (3) favorite things about the digital industry?

One / Collaboration with a great client that pushes you to create great work

Two/ Constant innovation in the industry

Three/ Variety of subject matter

12What makes your country specifically, unique in the digital industry?

The UK is a powerhouse in the Games industry with some of the most iconic IP ever created coming from this country. I feel we have a specific humour and perspective on the world that gives content from this country a unique feel. Also we are leaders in innovation, both creative and technically.

13Where do you see the evolution of digital industry going over the next 5-10 years?

As I commented on before, realtime game engine technology will allow creators to generate CG content as if filming live action. It's already being used in preproduction in the movie industry, but it will get good enough to be used through the whole production very soon.

14If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring Vega Award submitter, what advice would you give them?

Just do what you love and be as focused on that as you can be. If you apply yourself to your passion good things will naturally come your way.

15What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the digital industry?

There are so many online resources these days that that I could fill an article with just that! What I will say is spend more time doing rather than researching, the act of repeating the thing you want to master will get you there. Your greatest resource is time so use it wisely.

16Who has inspired you in your life and why?

I'm inspired all the time by the amazing people at our studio and in the industry. On a personal level, my children drive me to be the best I can be to try and inspire them, bit of a cheesy answer but it's true.

17What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

It's simple. Be humble and work for the team. The most talented people you will encounter in the industry are always that.

Winning Entries

Subnautica: Below Zero | Vega Digital Awards

Subnautica: Below Zero | Vega Digital Awards

The launch trailer for ‘Subnautica: Below Zero’ is the third cinematic trailer created for this much loved open world survival action-adventure game. Set...
(read more at Vega Digital Awards)


REALTIME is an acclaimed CGI animation studio based in the United Kingdom.