Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The Five Key Rules of Animal Anatomy

Stuart Sumida
One of the highlights of today's Annecy film festival was the talk by palaeontologist Stuart Sumida. Stuart is a world expert on animal anatomy and creature locomotion, widely consulted for his technical expertise on animated feature films like “Spirit”- Stallion of the Cimarron”, "Beauty and the Beast" “Lion King”, "Zootopia" and and “How to Train Your Dragon”.

In a packed room on the third floor of the Imperial Hotel, with lines snaking out into the halls (and no doubt a few fire regs being bent in the process), Stuart gave a talk titled "The Five Most Important Anatomical Rules for Animators".  

Monday, 11 June 2018

Animation Apprentice Goes to Annecy

Annecy, France
I'm heading over to the Annecy Animation Festival next week, checking out the latest developments in our industry at what has become the world's biggest animation festival.

I'll be on a panel tomorrow, tuesday 12th June, talking about how to animate non-human characters, sitting alongside my fellow panelists Alonso Martinez from Pixar, Joeri Christiaen from Thuristar, and independent animator Nicolas Deveaux.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Thumbnailing Mrs Copperbottom from "Robots"

Robots - Mrs Copperbottom
Learning to thumbnail animation is one of the hardest skills for junior animators to master, but being able to do rough thumbnail sketches is a very helpful skill because it helps the animator plan their work.

You wouldn't build a building without architectural plans. And you shouldn't start animating a shot without a clear plan of where you are going.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

How Many Retakes?

Framestore's Andrew Schlussel, Oz Gani and Ross Burgess
How many re-takes does it take to make a shot perfect? Or, put another way, how many times might an animator have to re-do a shot until it gets approved?

The answer depends on what kind of project you are working on.

The bigger the budget, the higher quality the animation, and the more the studio will tend to expect perfection - or near-perfection - from the animation team.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Grey Screen Playback Problem Maya 2018



The video above addresses an odd grey screen playback problem with Maya 2018. You open up your shot, press play, and the screen goes grey - i.e. you can't seen anything. Scrub through the timeline and the same thing happens. It's like putting on a pair of blackout shades - you can't get any work done. The only solution I have found is to open up the same shot in Maya 2017, and, under the Renderer menu in the Viewport, select Legacy Default Viewport (an option which has been disabled for Maya 2018).

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

New Bonus Week: Butterflies

Learn to animate a butterfly
We've got a new free bonus week at Animation Apprentice - Butterflies.  Adding to our range of different creature animation techniques, and reflecting the growth in creature animation, (especially at the big VFX houses) our student animators can create a believable butterfly flap cycle and performance.

As ever, we break down an apparently complex exercise into a series of simple steps, giving students a feeling of success at the end of the tutorial, and helping them to learn a new technique. This bonus week is absolutely free for all of our students.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Animating Lipsync by Pixar's Aaron Hartline

Aaron Hartline
Lipsync is arguably the least important part of animating a great acting scene. As a result, most 3D animators tend to leave lipsync until the end, or near the end, of the shot, concentrating their efforts first on getting the overall acting and body poses right.

But at a recent talk at Escape Studios, veteran Pixar Aaron Hardline explained that, counter-intuitively, he actually does the lipsync first.

So, why does one of Pixar's lead animators apparently put the cart before the horse?

Friday, 18 May 2018

Free Anchor Transform Plugin Stops Feet Sliding

Anchor Transform by Robert Joosten stops feet sliding
Sliding feet can be a problem when animating a character walk or a walk cycle. Fortunately for Maya animators, Robert Joosten’s new Anchor Transform Maya plugin offers animators an easy solution.

Rather than manually tweaking your animation to stop the feet sliding, rigger Robert Joosten has come up with a script that lets you anchor a transform for any given time range in your animation.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Free Character Walks Webinar on 5th June

"Monty" character walks
I'll be hosting a webinar on character walks at Escape Studios at 6pm on Tuesday June 5th.

Character walks are one of the most important parts of the animator's toolkit. It's where you start building a character's personality - how we move says a lot about who we are.

I will be taking a basic walk cycle and showing how, with just a few simple tweaks, you can completely change the character's mood and personality.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Get Ready For Our May 7th Class

Kayla by Josh Sobel, animated by Joris Van Laar
Our May classroom starts next week on Monday 7th May.  It's not too late to book a place; all you need to do to start a conversation is head over to our main site and fill in a form.

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.

First, here is a short reading list to get you started. We've narrowed it down to just two key books that we recommend for all our students.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

How to Block out and Plan Creature Animation


This short video ten minute explains how to block out and plan an animal or creature animation shot.  What do animators mean by "blocking"? We mean the process of establishing the main key poses in a shot, using stepped curves (i.e., single poses without any smooth transitions), so that we can test whether or not the shot will work. Having a good, organised workflow is an essential part of the animator's toolkit. Long before you start making key poses in Maya, you want to plan the shot out in your head, on video, with thumbnail sketches and/or storyboards.

Friday, 27 April 2018

Framestore: Live-Action Reference & Animation

Ross Burgess and Oz Gani acting out some dinosaur action
Framestore are a London based animation and VFX company that keeps raising the bar for animal and creature animation.

Paddington 2, was animated at Framestore, and they out-did their own work on Paddington 1 in terms of the quality and believability of the animated performance.

Last week two senior Framestore animators (and the head of talent development) visited my classroom at Escape Studios, to check out our students' work and give us some insights into the Framestore animation workflow.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Joan Ashworth at London Animation Club 2 May

Joan Ashworth, filmmaker and former head of Animation at Royal College of Art, will show examples from her career in filmmaking and commercials at the London Animation Club on 2nd May.

Joan's work includes BBC Idents, the opening titles for Tim Burton's Batman 1, and her own films, including the multi-award winning How Mermaids Breed, The Web and Mushroom Thief.  She is currently in production of a creative documentary about the artist and campaigner Sylvia Pankhurst and she will show clips and experiments from this work in progress.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

How to Animate a "Two Shot"

Squirrels by Henry Fenwick
Animating two characters acting is, obviously, more complex than animating one.

One of the most common mistakes made by junior animators when they animate two characters interacting is to forget that the audience can only look at one thing at a time.

The basic rule is when animating two characters is to keep it simple, and try to avoid having too much happening at once.

Monday, 23 April 2018

How to Create a Face Camera in Maya


We recommend always creating a Face Camera when you animate characters in Maya. The reason for this is that you don't want to keep having to zoom in on your character in the viewport to find the facial controls. Constant zooming in and out will slow down your workflow and, worse of all, encourages the animator to neglect the facial expressions altogether. Good facial expressions are crucial to making good animation, because it's how we know what the character is thinking and feeling. And without an emotional underpinning, your audience won't connect to your animation.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Locksmith Animation Opens in Primrose Hill

Sarah Smith, Elizabeth Murdoch, Julie Lockhart
Good news for the London animation industry; the long awaited Locksmith animation studio, first announced back in 2014,  has opened its new premises in Primrose Hill, housing up to 70 artists.

Locksmith is backed by London VFX house Double Negative, and also supported by entrepreneur Elizabeth Murdoch.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Ross Anderson Pulls a Rabbit out of a Hat

Canadian author and animation historian Ross Anderson is putting the finishing touches on his forthcoming book - Pulling a Rabbit Out of a HatThe Story Behind the Making of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Ross's book aims to be the definitive story of the ground-breaking film which I, along with with many others, was lucky enough to have worked on back in the late 1980s.

Almost everyone who worked on the film now knows Ross - his many recent visits to London included trips to the pubs where we used to drink after hours, and Ross interviewed many, many people who worked on the film to tell the story as accurately as possible.

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Graduation Day 4 September 2018

Graduation Day 2017
Graduation Day is coming. Our newest MA animation graduates will attend graduation day at Buckinghamshire New University in High Wycombe, on Tuesday 4th September at 2.30pm.

On that day, Bucks will welcome all the online MA graduates to come and celebrate their achievement.

Of course, the event is something of a formality - no-one actually has to turn up, but we hope that many of our online animation students will come and celebrate their achievement - graduating as Masters of Arts on the world's first online MA in Animation.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Where are the Games Jobs?

Check out the excellent Gamesmith Dev Map of games development studios (and therefore games jobs) around the world. It's a great starting point for anyone looking to apply for work as an animator in the rapidly expanding games industry.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Blue Zoo Summer Internships Now Open

Applications for Blue Zoo's summer internships are now open. These 6-8 week paid placements in animation, storyboarding and visual development are described by Blue Zoo as "like a real job but without the demands & expectations, allowing participants to develop and learn how a big animation studio works and real projects are run".

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Thumbnailing Baloo by Frank Thomas



Continuing this weeks' theme on the making of animation thumbnails, in the video above I show how Frank Thomas thumbnailed a shot from The Jungle Book, way back in the 1960s. Frank Thomas was one of the greatest Disney animators, one of Disney's so-called "Nine Old Men" (the studio's animation elite), and the system of using thumbnail sketches to plan your animation hasn't changed a lot since then.  The trick is to create a plan for your animation so that, long before you start creating poses in Maya, you already have the shot figured out in your head.