Thursday, 18 October 2018

Why Animators Leave Lipsync Until Last

Marvin the Martian
One of the most common mistakes made by junior animators approaching their first dialogue shot is  to start with the lipsync, focusing on the mouth shapes first of all, and leaving the acting and body poses until later.

At Animation Apprentice our first dialogue shot uses a character rig with no mouth (think Warner Bros' Marvin the Martian), a deliberate approach that forces the animator to think about the acting and the body poses, and to make sure they hit the accents in the dialogue.

Almost without exception, experienced animators tend to leave the lipsync until last.  Lipsync isn't exactly an afterthought, but it is a lot less important than getting the acting and body gestures right.

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

When Should Animators Spline Their Curves?

Graph Editor in Maya - when to press Spline?
Finding a dependable workflow is the most important thing every student animator needs to learn.

You need to be able to plan a shot from start to finish, and know that you have the tools to tackle pretty much anything a producer can throw at you on monday morning, knowing that you will have something ready for approval by friday afternoon.

Most students get the hang of blocking out their shots, pose to pose, on stepped curves, reasonably quickly.  But the next stage - knowing when to spline your curves, is much harder to get right. So, when should animators spline their curves?

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

How to Avoid "Motion Sickness" Camera in Maya

One of the challenges of learning 3D animation is knowing not just how to animate characters, but also where to put the camera, and what to do with it.  3D animators have to be cinematographers too.

The art of cinematography is complex and has many pitfalls for the unwary. The most common mistake made by junior animators is to over-animate the camera.

The general rule for animating the camera in Maya is this: Don't do anything you wouldn't do in live action.

Monday, 15 October 2018

IK -v- FK: Which is Best?

IK - v - FK - which is best?
One question that student animators often ask is about the merits of Inverse Kinematics (IK) vs Forward Kinematics (FK).  The IK -v- FK debate sounds rather abstract - a bit of a techie question. After all, at first, it's not immediately obvious what these terms even mean, let alone how to explain which option you should choose.

The question is really about hierarchies. Usually, animators are trying to decide whether to set the hands on a character to IK or FK.  If the hand controls are set to IK, then you are controlling the hands from the bottom of the arm hierarchy, from the hand control.  If you set the controls to FK, then upper arm, shoulder and body is in control of what the hands do.

In a walk cycle, you usually set arms and hands to FK, because the arms are swinging, controlled from the shoulders. But if you were to animate a sword fight, where the position of the hands is vital, then you would almost certainly choose IK.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Why Do Animators Need Clean Curves?

Graph Editor in Maya - keep those curves clean
Recently a new student at Animation Apprentice asked this question: "Why it is necessary to have clean curves [in the Graph Editor]? Can we just ignore them as long as the animation looks good?"

This is a good question. After all, the audience will only see the final result, not the curves in the Graph Editor.  So, why bother keeping the Graph Editor clean? What is the point?

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

How Do Animators Time Animation?

How to time animation?
Recently a new student at Animation Apprentice asked me this question: "How do you decide on the number of frames you use for each shot?" Which is really a way of saying "How do you time animation?".

This is a good question, very commonly asked by junior animators - and a tough one to answer. The short answer is that it takes time, and patience, as a thorough knowledge of timing and spacing takes a while to acquire.

However, one simple approach is time out an action with a stopwatch, or the timer on your phone, to get an idea of how long an action will take. Some animators will count out "one one thousand, two one thousand"... to figure out how many seconds an action might take.

But the best system of all for newbies is to use live-action reference.

Friday, 28 September 2018

The Fifteen Minute Rule

Take 15 minutes to solve the problem
What is the The Fifteen Minute Rule? It's a rule I learned while working at Sony Pictures Animation, on Open Season. It's a simple rule, and way of keeping production moving ahead.

The rule is this: if you get stuck on a problem, spend 15 minutes trying to figure out the solution. Google it, Read The Manual, check out online forums - whatever works.

But, if you still can't figure it out after 15 minutes, ask for help. Someone next to you might be able to solve the problem quickly and simply, so you don't want to spend a lot of time trying to fix a problem that has already been solved.

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Richard Williams at BFI on 25th November 2018

A Moment in Time
Richard Williams' unfinished masterpiece The Thief and the Cobbler - A Moment in Time - is to be screened at the BFI on Sunday 25th November, with a Q&A afterwards.

To buy tickets to see this rarely-screened film, follow the link to the BFI website here.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

What Kind of Laptop Should I buy?

"What kind of laptop should I buy?" is a question that gets asked whenever we start a new class at Animation Apprentice.

It's a tricky question to answer, because computer specifications change all the time and - of course - it all depends on exactly what you want to use the laptop for.

But, let's say you want to buy a decent laptop capable of running Maya well, for doing computer animation and rendering out your shots.

What sort of laptop should you buy, and how much do you need to spend? Animator Amedeo Beretta offers some advice to new students.

Friday, 14 September 2018

Demo Reel Advice at Skwigly

Last week I did an interview at Skwigly, the online animation magazine, with my top 12 tips on how to make a great animation Demo Reel.

"What should go in my demo reel?" is one of the most common questions asked by students.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

BAFTA Guru Live Starts 15th September

BAFTA Guru Live, two days of masterclasses, is taking place this weekend on Saturday 15th &16th September in central London.

We strongly encourage our students to apply - tickets are very inexpensive (just £6 for each masterclass) and are aimed at students and rising industry talent.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Bring Your Own Animation on Monday 17th Sept

Calling all London-based animators - "Bring Your Own Animation" is taking place on Monday 17th September.

BYOA is an animation event that takes place every month at a pub in London, generally on a Monday night. This month the event is taking place at a new location - the Smugglers Tavern in London's Fitzrovia.

If you are a student who is working on a shot or an updated reel, bring your work on a USB or hard drive and get feedback from professional animators. You'll also hear the local gossip and find out the word on the street; there is often useful intel like - who is hiring?

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Free Rigging Tutorial by Michael Davies

We don't teach rigging as such at Animation Apprentice, the reason being that rigging is a deep rabbit hole, and there just isn't the time to explore it fully. However, one of my colleagues at Escape Studios, rigging expert Michael Davies, has recorded this free tutorial; an introduction to rigging human and humanoid characters.  Mike's impressive film credits include The Hobbit, where he rigged Smaug, and also Despicable Me, where he rigged The Minions.  Mike gets great reviews from students for his well-paced methodical style of delivery, breaking down complex processes into simple parts in a clear and transparent way.  This video is a great introduction to the art and craft of rigging - perfect for complete beginners.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Character Walks by Alexander Savchenko

Walks and loops from Alexander_Savchenko on Vimeo.

Above is a great video on character walks by animator Alexander Savchenko. It's a great example of the amount of character and personality you can get into a character walk, and also shows how much fun you can have with simple character rigs. Student animators often think that a walk cycle shouldn't go on your demo reel - but it can, and should. Multiple different walks, runs and other gaits help to show a diversity of skill and showcase the animator's flexibility.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Get Ready For Our September 3rd Class!

Kayla by Josh Sobel, animated by Joris Van Laar
It felt chilly in London this morning for the first time this summer; a reminder that Autumn is coming and school will be starting soon.

Our September classroom starts in ten days on Monday 3rd September.

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.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Producing Animation Webinar on 23 August

Learn from the producer of Ultramarines
Veteran animation Producer Bob Thompson is hosting a webinar on Producing Animation on Wednesday 23 August.

The webinar, which is completely free, is titled "An Artist's guide to Animation Producers".  

Bob Thompson is an industry veteran with a long and successful track record of producing animated feature films, commercials and VFX projects, including Ultramarines and the Bionicle series.

The purpose of the webinar is to introduce artists to the business side of animation, which artists often don't understand, or tend to ignore.

But a good artist needs to get the business side of animation. After all, producers need artists who can be relied upon to deliver quality work, on time and on budget.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Free Webinar in Motion Graphics Tonight

Thiago Maia - head of Motion Graphics
Motion Graphics guru Thiago Maia,  founder of Cookie Studios the hosting a free webinar in Motion Graphics tonight.

Motion Graphics isn't something we teach at Animation Apprentice, but some knowledge of After Effects never did any of us any harm.

The webinar is all about applying the 12 Principles of Animation to motion graphics work, to get more fluid and believable motion graphics.

The webinar takes place at 6pm, and is free. To sign up, follow this link.

Monday, 30 July 2018

Find a Job in Animation at

One website we're liking a lot for finding work in the creative industries - and animation in particular - is It's a comprehensive site, well organised and easy to search.

You can sign up for their weekly jobs newsletter, and use the keyword "animation" to search for new job listings all around the world.

Anyone looking for work in our industry should be checking this website regularly - ideally every day, along with (of course) the jobs list at

Friday, 27 July 2018

Monday, 23 July 2018

Pixar Animation Workflow

Incredibles 2
Pixar animator Royce Wesley was in London recently, talking about his experience working on Incredibles 2, and also explaining his own personal animation workflow.

Royce is an experienced character animator whose credits include Brave, Coco, Robots and Inside Out.

Understanding how to plan your work is one of the key parts of the animator's skill set. Every animator has their own unique approach, and it's important to develop a workflow that you can rely on to get your shots approved without too much stress.