Studying at NABA, Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti

Studying at NABA, Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti

Mirko Torrente, a recent Game Development graduate from NABA, Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti, shares his insights on "learning by creating", at the Academy.

Mirko Torrente is an Unreal Engine Generalist who has recently graduated in Game Development at NABA, Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti. In this article, Mirko provides insights into his time at the Academy where the main focus is to learn by to our ears!

Can you introduce your school to us and share what you think makes it special?

NABA is an academy of fine arts that I would call "unconventional", where the main purpose is to learn by creating.

Combined with this educational concept, being in daily contact with a large number of international students allows you to sharpen your sensitivity and get in touch with different cultures, greatly facilitating the creative process.

What makes NABA, in my opinion, the perfect choice for those who want to start an artistic journey is not to be limited by professors who, on the contrary, are the first to encourage students to experiment and approach problems from different perspectives.

It is mainly thanks to the many stimuli that can be found in the classrooms of NABA if the passion for video games that I have had since I was a child has been added to the one for Cinema, leading me to try to understand how to approach these two worlds more and more.

What made you choose to study at NABA?

I chose NABA after participating in a week of workshops for high school students, where we worked in small groups to develop mini-games with Voxatron to be inserted later in custom made cabinets.

What I was looking for was the possibility of expanding my artistic abilities without setting limits, and seeing a predisposition to research immediately convinced me.

NABA (Milan) entrance created in Fortnite

Over the next three years I have always been more convinced of the choice, especially for the variety of roles I had to fill during the various examination projects.

Most likely, if I had followed another path I would not have discovered my passion for lighting and colour grading.

How do students and teachers interact and what kind of mentorship can a student expect?

From the beginning we were treated as Juniors and not as students, and as the lessons went on, we were able to establish excellent relationships with the teachers, as well as a relationship between colleagues, both in teaching moments and during breaks.

Crucially, by the way, the teachers have always been super helpful and I have managed to stay in touch with them constantly, especially during the most challenging phases of our final project.

The impression I had was that the professors were genuinely passionate about their work and eager to give all the tools necessary for the students to grow and improve day by day.

NABA Virtual Studio with a student is wearing MoCap equipment

What have you found most valuable about your learning experience so far?

What I consider fundamental among all that I have learned can be contained in two key concepts: knowing how to listen and striving to look at things from different points of view.

It often happened that I was faced with a problem that seemed insurmountable, especially during the first projects using Unreal Engine, and what I did (and still do) was to ask my colleagues, teachers, or even people completely unrelated to what I was doing for an opinion.

Being open to dialogue and questioning, in an area such as video games where collaboration is fundamental, allows you to not only to avoid a lot of stress, but also to learn to work with other people, and it was fundamental especially during the first year, being almost entirely online because of the pandemic.

Always questioning and trying to figure out what’s wrong, instead of hiding, made me realise that the project I was working on was too ambitious for me, but it also allowed me to be effective in finding alternative methods and choosing which content to cut and how to rework it properly.

Can you tell me about a school assignment where your teachers gave you helpful feedback?

During the realisation of the thesis project, being my first solo work, there was a period in which I wanted to reach a level of extreme photorealism, having only a laptop that would never be able to process everything.

This is where my supervisor and lecturer Marco Secchi suggested using focus to make some details less visible, allowing me to use lower quality assets and optimise overall project performance.

This advice both helped to lighten the project, but it also made me do the reasoning that led me then to learn the process of film simulation and reach the final look.

What opportunities does NABA provide outside of regular classes?

From my experience I can say that the offer of extra curricular experiences is well diversified: from the week of the Workshops, in which you can attend courses on the most diverse topics, often together with students from other classes, at various events and conferences where you can come into contact with industry professionals.

Personally, I had the opportunity to take part in two of the many initiatives of NABA, which are the DaVinci Resolve end user certification course and a week as a press officer at ViewConference.

Being two very different experiences, a course and a field activity in the midst of great talents in the industry, make it clear how much work is done to offer as many opportunities as possible to students.

NABA Open day

Can you describe any collaborative projects you have been a part of during your studies?

During the third year I collaborated as a Lighting Artist on a prototype of a Third-Person Shooter that used the combat system of Lyra, a template project of Unreal Engine.

It was the first time I had a very specific role in a pipeline. Previously, within group projects, we all did a bit of everything. Understanding how to manage various tasks during development and being organised can facilitate the work of colleagues.

It was also the first real occasion when I had the time to understand the fundamental concepts of lighting, from an aesthetic point of view, and both optimisation and integration with the gameplay.

Have you had the opportunity to work with industry professionals or participate in real-world projects during your time at the school?

On the occasion of Milan Design Week we had formed a group of students from New Technologies for Applied Arts and Design to realise an AR experience inside a restaurant in Milan.

What we had to do was to optimise 3D models to make them appear correctly by scanning QR codes through an application developed with Unity.

During the process the biggest challenge was to learn how to communicate with Design students so that the 3D models provided would facilitate optimisation, since there was a need for lightweight files with few polygons so that problems with the app would not arise.

How does the NABA promote diversity and inclusivity within its student community?

Honestly, it’s something I’ve never thought about, since I’ve never heard on campus about discrimination or lack of support for students who need it.

Anyone has always been free to be himself, the large presence of foreign students facilitated a bias-free and inclusive mindset for everyone, while the various buildings on campus are suitably equipped so that people with disabilities can move freely and enjoy together with other students all the moments of academic life.

What are your future goals, and how do you feel NABA has prepared you for them?

My wish is to be able to work as a Lighting Artist and experiment with various creative approaches both within film productions and in the video game industry.

One thing that I think could be the glue between movies and video games is the use of tools such as lights and coloUrs to make even more impactful the story that is being told, and this is exactly what I learned during the courses and that pushed me to deepen the Lighting.

Having had the opportunity to learn Unreal Engine has allowed me and my classmates to discover different applications of technologies born for video games, showing us how the freedom to be freely creative that has been granted to us will be important in the future to adapt to an ever-changing inlay industry.

You can reach out to Mirko Torrente via LinkedIn.