Debbie Williams, Computer Science, IT and Creative iMedia Subject Advisor
For our Cambridge National in Creative iMedia you have to choose one optional unit. All the optional units are non-examined assessment (NEA) where students are required to complete a set assignment.
All the units follow the same process where students plan, make and review – it is only the product that is different. The only difficulty you should have is choosing which one to deliver – I would love to teach them all!
Unit R095 requires students to create an original character and a multiple page comic. Students will need to develop an understanding of features and conventions of comics and characters in them as well as knowledge of pre-production documentation. They will also need the technical skills to create both the character and the comic and publish them. Finally, they will need to be able to check and review their work and offer improvement and further developments.
Comics use a number of different types of characters; for example cartoon, doodle and photorealistic. In this unit, students will need to have studied examples of each and explored the features of them. They will study their characteristics and how non-physical characteristics are represented in character design – how do we know which character is the villain or hero?
They will also need to understand how emotions and personality can be shown through facial characteristics. Students should explore this through studying characters in iconic visual styles such as Marvel and DC Comics as well as Disney and the Manga genre.
Students need to explore comic design and layout and be familiar with the terminology and conventions of storytelling within comics. They should be able to identify, and more importantly understand the use of conventions of comics. They need to be given the opportunity to review comics from different genres, such as horror, comedy and children’s, and understand how the colours and typography used impact the reader.
They also need to look at how comic panels are used to convey the story flow, the content and the passage of time. They also need to recognise conventions and the purpose of items such as communication bubbles, narrations, captions and use of onomatopoeia.
This teaching content is vital to their success in this unit, but students do not need to be able write about the theory of the conventions. As it is a Cambridge National qualification they need to be able to apply their knowledge and show it within the character and comic they produce as part of the NEA. They need to have exposure to a wide variety of comics to inspire and enthuse them to be able to create their own original, creative products.
The mandatory examined unit R093 includes synoptic topic areas such as client requirements and audience demographics as well documents used to support ideas generation and planning media products. This needs to be taught before or as part of this unit. Without it, students will not do well in the NEA as it forms the basis of task 1.
Much of the content of R093 applies to all media products but then needs to be applied in this unit. For example, the teaching content for topic area 3.2 in R093 covers mind maps and mood boards. Students should have the understanding and skills to create a mind map, for example to identify ideas for the character to meet the client brief or storyline ideas for the comic. They may choose to use a mood board: for example, they could use one to portray their vision or character profile for their character.
When it comes to the pre-production planning for the character, the NEA will ask them to use a range of techniques to plan. They should be able to choose from thumbnailing, hand drawing drafts, using physical models for digital capture and digitally created drafts. Therefore, in the teaching phase it is important they have had chance to practice these methods. You could give them a simple client brief for a character and ask them to produce pre-production documentation using each method – I am sure they will soon develop their own preferences and way of working. They will also need to be confident in creating character profiles to plan who their character will be, again supporting them to be creative within the expected conventions of roles.
In the NEA the students will be expected to independently generate pre-production documents for the comic. You will need to teach storyboarding, plot structures, story arc plans and well as script conventions. Students will need time to practice and refine their skills in each of these. They will also need to be familiar with panel shot types and confident in when and why to use different shots.
Students should also be taught to source assets and provide details in an assets table. We provide a template for this and students should be taught to complete it and strongly encouraged to use it in their NEA task. A well completed assets table for a range of assets should be awarded the top mark band in strand 1c.
There is no requirement for project management, such as Gantt charts, in this unit. All the planning students need to produce is around showing their creative ideas. Within the marking criteria for the NEA, students will be rewarded for what they have done.
This topic area requires students to demonstrate their skills in using techniques in the software to create their character, edit or create assets and then create the comic.
There are a number of options when it comes to which software application to use. We recommend using image editing software to create the character, the same as is used for the mandatory R094 unit. The skills and techniques students need for both units are similar, so whether you teach here or have already completed R094 it will save teaching time. Software you may consider using includes:
When creating the comic software you may consider using:Specification - Creative iMedia - J834
There are lots of other software applications available. If you aren’t sure whether the one you want to use is suitable, you could check the specification for the skills and tools listed and see whether the software has the tools needed. If you are still unsure you could contact our support centre.
The specification (page 40) lists the tools that support effective character and comic creation. You would need to teach students how to use these skills. Good practice would be to provide students with a copy of the specification during the NEA so they know which skills they need to evidence through screenshots to get higher mark bands. They don’t need to use them all, but we would expect that they would demonstrate a wide range within their creation of both the character and the comic.
The way that the tasks and the mark criteria have been designed requires students to edit all their component parts in strand 2a. This means that they should create/edit each of the parts of their comic as separate assets (files), including each image, conversation bubble, title etc before combining them together in the comic creation software. Their technical skills for combining and creating a product suitable for the audience is then assessed in strand 2b.
It is not always clear what tools and techniques have been used during the creation of the product. If a student only provides their finished character and comic it would is really difficult to award marks above MB1 in strand 2a and 2b, so again teaching how to use screenshots to evidence techniques used (but not a step by step guide) would be worthwhile skill.
Students will also be required to save and publish their character and comic in a suitable format to meet the client requirements such as for digital distribution or print in the NEA. This again links back to R093 and topic area 2.2 properties of digital graphics, so teaching for this needs to be done early on in the course.
Once the character and comic are complete, the final task of the NEA is to check and review them before offering improvements and further developments. The expectation is that students will use the checklist template to list things they need to check such as suitability of the resolution, size of assets and design conventions and then use this to assess whether it is suitable.
They are then required to write a review assessing the appropriateness for the audience, purpose and client as well as conventions of the product. This shouldn’t be a lengthy document. The final part of strand 3 is to identify areas for improvement (ways to make the content that is already present more effective) and further developments (what could be added, done differently or reformatted differently in a future product). Students are not expected to correct any areas for improvement or make any developments, just identify and comment on them.
I hope this has given you an idea of what R095 is all about. We have a scheme of work that could provide further guidance on planning this unit.
We also have blogs for the other optional units, R096-R099.
If you have any questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @OCR_ICT. You can also sign up to receive subject updates information about resources and support.
Debbie joined the Computing team in September 2022, bringing her knowledge as a teacher and subject leader for IT, Computing and Creative Media. She has over 20 years’ experience of education working in various settings including state schools, private specialist provision, local authority, and as a marker and moderator for exam boards. She has a degree in Technology Management, a PGCE and a Masters in Teaching and Learning.