Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Blue Zoo Animation Recruitment Tips

Blue Zoo's Bader Badruddin
Animation Apprentice students who attended the recent VFX Festival at London's South Centre had the chance to meet recruiters from Blue Zoo Animation, one of London's animation powerhouses.

Among the Blue Zoo staff looking for fresh talent was Bader Badruddin, one of their lead animators (pictured left).

Bader chatted to animators about the kind of work Blue Zoo is looking for, and to make things easier still the company have also put together a very helpful blog post titled "Top Ten Recruitment Stand Tips" for students and graduates hoping to impress the company at a recruitment stand.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Meet Dana and David - New Rigs from Artstation

Meet Dana and David
Meet Dana and David, two new character rigs created by Gabriel Salas and downloadable from Artstation.com.

Dana and David were created by Gabriel to help create more diverse content for animation exercises in Maya.

Both rigs are attractive designed and visually appealing, and present a full range of facial expressions as well as body mechanics. There are a few glitches but these are fairly minor (see below for details).

On the whole we're recommending both rigs as a welcome addition to the growing range of reasonably priced character rigs for student use.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

The Importance of Anticipation

Anticipation - Illusion of Life
Anticipation is one of the 12 Principles of Animation, and it is one of the key principles that every animator must master.

Every action tends to have three components: an anticipation, an action, and a reaction. If you make the anticipation clear, then the rest should follow effortlessly.

Consider the anticipation drawing of Donal Duck on the left, taken from the classic Disney instruction manual "The Illusion of Life" - still a must-have book on every animator's shelf.

It's absolutely clear what Donald is about to do - even though he hasn't done it yet.

The trick with a good anticipation pose is that it is made so clear that the audience knows what the character is going to do, before he or she actually does it. 

Friday, 8 March 2019

Free Hare Rig for Maya

Hare by Arman Musovic
We're liking this free Hare Rig for Maya by Arman Musovic. It's a fun rig, available for free download from CGMeetUp, and can be used to create some entertaining cartoony animation.

Hare works best in a cartoony, Tex Avery world, and can be combined with other cartoony characters such as the free squirrely rig, or perhaps Keith Osbourne's excellent Mr Buttons rig.

You could also consider downloading a cartoony landscape, such as this one from Turbosquid, or one of the free landscapes created by Truong for cartoony animation.

To see what can be done with Hare, check out the animation by Animation Apprentice student Dave Novis below.

Friday, 1 March 2019

How to Build and Block a Scene

Mr Buttons
One of the biggest challenges encountered by student animators is how to block out a shot from scratch, starting off with nothing but a blank screen and a character rig.

In animation you get nothing for free. You start off with a digital puppet, usually in a stiff "T-pose", and you have to figure out the rest yourself.

In a new series of videos, we show how to take a reaction shot - a cartoony "take" - from zero to hero.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Why Animators Should Do Facial Expressions 1st

Planning out animation isn't an easy process. In theory it is simple, but in practice there are many pitfalls for the unwary.  One of the most common errors made by novice animators is to leave the facial expressions until last.

You might think to yourself "I'll save time by blocking out the main poses, and then work on the facial expressions later", but the danger with this approach is that you might never get around to doing the facial expressions at all, and your animation will be lifeless and flat.

One of the early lessons I learned at Blue Sky Studios on "Robots" back in 2003 was how to block out the character's main facial expression from the very beginning, thus determining the main acting beats in the shot.

What is the character thinking and feeling? This is a choice you should make at the very start.

Monday, 25 February 2019

Why Animators Should Avoid Jump Cuts

A jump cut
What is a jump cut? and why should animators try to avoid them?

A jump cut is a cut in film editing in which two sequential shots of the same subject are taken from camera positions that are almost the same.  The result of the cut is to "jump" from one shot to another, in a way that can be disconcerting and can take the viewer out of the story.

Friday, 22 February 2019

Download Paragon Assets Free

Paragon from Epic Games
Epic Games and Unreal Engine have released their "Paragon" online assets for free. Any student at Animation Apprentice who wants to use these photo-real characters in their projects can use "$12 million worth of assets" for no charge.

The online game Paragon was cancelled in March last year. Developer Epic Games (owners of Unreal Engine) announced that they would release all $12,000,000 worth of game assets for free use by anyone working with the Unreal Engine 4, via the Unreal Engine Marketplace.

The first wave of released content included 20 characters, with their respective skins, animations, VFX and dialogue, along with over 1,500 environment components.  To find the Paragon assets online, follow this link.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

DJV View - Frame by Frame Playback

Animators need to be able to play back their shots frame by frame, in order to analyse what needs fixing. One very useful (free, and open source) tool for previewing image sequences is Djv. You can find Djv at http://djv.sourceforge.net/. Djv Djv runs on all the major platforms and is easy to use, though it has one big drawback - no audio.  

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Online MA at Bucks New University

"School Run" by MA student Lee Caller
Animation Apprentice and Buckinghamshire New University are now taking applications through UCAS for the September 2019 intake of our part-time online MA in 3D animation.

The online MA is a unique degree which can be undertaken by students anywhere in the world, leading to a formal qualification in the field.

You will not only learn how to animate, but you will engage at Masters' level with the underpinning theory and structure behind the art form.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Why Animators Should Never Cross The Line

The 180 Degree Rule. Wikimedia
What is "Crossing the Line?", and why should animators never (or, almost never) cross it?

"Crossing the Line" is also known as the 180-degree rule, and it is one of the fundamental rules of cinematography.

Like most rules of film-making, the only way to really understand the 180 Degree Rule is to break it, figure out what went wrong - and then work out how to fix it next time.

Let's say you have a shot with two characters talking to one another. Draw an imaginary line between the two characters. This is the "line" that we should not cross.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Film Freeway - How to Enter Film Festivals

Film Freeway is a great way for students to enter short films into international competitions.

Rather than enter your film individually into lots of different festivals, film-makers can create one upload to a single portal, and then apply through Film Freeway for as many competitions as you like.

Film Freeway has over recent years come to replace IMDB's Withoutabox, which is being discontinued and will close down in October 2019.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Why Animators Should Learn to Be the Rhino

Durer's Rhino
Why should animators be like a rhinoceros? Because rhinos have thick hides, and animators need thick hides too, because applying for work in the animation industry is not for the faint-hearted.

Even though the animation industry is booming, and there are many opportunities, searching for work can be a dispiriting process.

Once upon a time you'd get a rejection letter; nowadays the most common outcome is silence - just being (and feeling) ignored.

But it remains true that the single most common reason why animation graduates don't get jobs is a very simple one:

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Meet AZRI by Matthew Bachnick

Azri
We're liking the look of the new free AZRI Rig, a new animation rig for Maya 2018 and above, created by Matthew Bachnick.

AZRI is aimed at game animation, allowing users to achieve a high frame rate even when working on older or lower-spec machines.

The license allows for educational and non-commercial use.

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Spring Class Starts 4th March 2019

Car animation by Lee Caller
Our Spring classroom starts on 4th March 2019.  You don't need to know Maya beforehand (we teach everything from scratch), but it's always a good idea to do a little preparation.

Below is a brief list of stuff to get you under way. You don't have to do all of it, but tick off a few of the things on this list and you will be a making a great start on your animation career.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Mend the Gap on Monday 4th February

Next week on Monday 4th February Film London is hosting an event in our capital city titled: Mend the Gap - a debate on animation training and employment.

There are over 100 university courses in the UK teaching animation, but few of them prepare students with the practical skills they will need to find work in industry.  Instead, many (possibly most) courses tend to focus on academic content, writing essays on animation rather than actually doing it.  As a result, many animation studios recruit entry-level talent from European animation schools, not from the UK. So what can be done to fix the problem?

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

Don't Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater

One of the most common mistakes made by junior animators is to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

It's very tempting, mid-way through a piece of complex animation, to want to start again from scratch. Problems with animation can be hard to solve, especially when you're new to the game, and sometimes a blank screen can feel like a tempting solution.

It can be especially hard to dig into the Graph Editor to manipulate the curves when everything seems a bit like a mess of coloured spaghetti.

Monday, 28 January 2019

VFX Festival Lineup 6-7 February 2019

Escape Studios' 2019 VFX Festival is taking place next week at London's South Bank Centre, on February 6th and 7th.

The VFX Festival hosts many industry speakers coming to talk about the latest developments in Animation, Games and VFX.

This year participants include Framestore, MPC Film, Jellyfish Pictures, Blue Zoo, AXIS animation The Third Floor and Creative Assembly, all coming to talk about their latest work.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Why Every Animation Needs an Idea

Animators need an idea
Every Shot Needs an Idea. One of the most common mistakes made by junior animators is to animate a scene of dialogue without clearly thinking through what the shot is really about.

Animators are actors, with a pencil, or a mouse. Like stage or screen actors, animators must always think carefully about what their character is thinking about. Who is the character talking to, and what is the scene about? What do they want, and what do they fear?

These things are important because unless these questions are asked, and answered, the scene will tend to feel empty of meaning, and lack compelling interest.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

What is "Head Muppeting"?

What is "Head Muppeting" in animation? It's a term I first heard used by veteran animator Sydney Padua when she was teaching an animation class at Escape Studios.

"Head Muppeting" is a similar concept to that of "hitting the accents", developed by Richard Williams in his book The Animator's Survival Kit.

It means that, when you are animating a dialogue shot, you need to keep the character's head in motion, to make the audience believe that the character is saying the lines.