Monday, 14 January 2019

Animating Dialogue: Avoid Famous Actors

Animators: avoid lines like "go ahead punk..."
One of the most common mistakes junior animators often make when selecting their first line of dialogue to animate is to pick one of their favourite lines from a movie.

The reason that this is a bad idea is that famous lines spoken by famous actors tend to come with too much baggage.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Mend the Gap with Film London on Feb 4th

On February 4th 2019 Film London is hosting an event in London titled: Mend the Gap: a debate on animation training and employment.

Here in the UK we have something of a disconnect between what industry needs, and what a lot of animation degree courses actually teach.  As a result, many animation studios often recruit young talent primarily from European animation schools, not from the UK. So what is the cause of this problem, and what can be done to fix it?

Monday, 31 December 2018

Seven New Year's Resolutions For Animators

Bong! Happy 2019!
What should an animator's new year's resolutions be? The animation business is growing fast, offering jobs and opportunities to well-trained talent. Whatever happens with Brexit in 2019, it is likely that our industry will continue to expand.

That said, the world of animation and visual effects is a competitive one, and animators need to be smart to stay on top of their game. Animators need to be good, and easy to find and hire.

So, apart from (obviously) going on a post-Christmas diet,  what are the best ways to maintain your edge in 2019?

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Apply Now For Our Online Master's Degree

The world's first online MA in animation
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.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Winter Class Starts on Monday 7th January

"School Run" by Lee Caller
Our New Year classroom starts on January 7th 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.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Stuart Sumida to London on Wed 12th December

Paleontologist and animal locomotion expert Stuart Sumida is in London next week, and will be giving at talk at Escape Studios at 190 High Holborn on Wednesday 12th December at 4.30pm.

Stuart occupies a rare cross-over space between science and entertainment, having advised countless Hollywood studios on the development of movies such as "The Lion King" and "Spirit - Stallion of the Cimarron".

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Christmas Carol at BFI on Sunday 9 December

A Christmas Carol, 1971
For all our students in the London area, why not come along on Sunday (that's this Sunday, 9th December) to the BFI on London's South Bank, for a rare screening of Richard William's animated Oscar-winning adaptation of Charles Dickens' novella A Christmas Carol.

The 22 minute short is will be screened along with two other British animated classics: Raymond Briggs' The Snow Man and also Father Christmas.

It's an opportunity to see some beautiful home-grown animation, and after the screening there will be a Q&A with directors Dave Unwin and Richard Williams.

And, you might even get a chance to have your copy of "The Animator's Survival Kit" signed by the author. 

Monday, 3 December 2018

How to Delete Mental Ray Nodes in Maya

Heavy - Mental Ray nodes
Some animators are experiencing unexpected crashes in Maya, a problem which can be caused by legacy Mental Ray nodes being opened up in a version of Maya (2017 and up) which doesn't support Mental Ray.

For example, the Heavy rig, downloadable from creative crash, is a great rig for animating walk cycles and other actions. But, it does come with Mental Ray nodes, and this may cause Maya to crash unexpectedly.

Generally speaking, it's good housekeeping to delete any legacy Mental Ray nodes from your character rig when you open up Maya. 

So, how do you do this? Fortunately, the solution is a simple one.

Friday, 30 November 2018

Bring Your Own Animation 3 December 2018

Calling all London-based animators - "Bring Your Own Animation" is taking place on Monday 3rd December,

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 the Smugglers Tavern in London's Fitzrovia. You can sign up here.

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? This month is also the BYOA Christmas party, with free drinks provided by The Foundry.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Animation Demo Reel 2018

Check out some of the great work done by our students over the past year. Congratulations to Lee Caller, Joe Gamble, Joris Van Laar, Julien Rashti, Lora Dunning and Olavo Lins on their excellent work. To see previous student work from Animation Apprentice, follow these links to our reels from 2014, 2015, and 2015/16, And don't forget 2017 (Animals & Creatures) and 2017 (character animation).

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Faster Playback Promised for Maya 2019

At yesterday's BlueGFX Expo in London, Autodesk's Morgan Evans gave the keynote speech, an introductory talk promising animators plenty of new goodies in the newest release of Maya.

In particular, Evans heralded much faster playback in Maya, through a new "cached playback" feature, ensuring that the Maya Viewport doesn't have to grind its way through every polygon in order to give the user real-time playback.

It should also give animators much faster Playblasts, so that Maya animators can test their work much faster. When will this be coming? "Soon", said Morgan Evans.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

How to Animate Dinosaurs

Jurassic World
One of the highlights of October's VIEW conference in Turin, Italy, was Glen McIntosh's presentation on  the making of Jurassic World, and Fallen Kingdom.

Glen was the animation supervisor on both projects. His talk was a masterclass in creature animation, showing just how much research goes into the creation and animation of the dinosaurs.

McIntosh described the Jurassic Park series of movies as a "balance between science and entertainment", as the film-makers try to keep both audiences and paleontologists happy.

No animator knows how dinosaurs actually moved. But, dinosaurs have plenty of living relatives, such as birds,  and animators can find useful reference material in many corners of the natural world.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Why Animators Should Keyframe Everything

"Mery" rig in Maya
One common question asked by student animators is this: "Should I create keyframes for everything, or just for the control curves that I am actually going to animate?"

It's a good question, and doesn't necessarily have a simple answer.  To create a tidy workflow, it can be a good idea to be quite selective about what you keyframe, especially on big, complex production rigs.

However, in the beginning, when students are first learning the craft of 3D animation, the best (and simplest) answer to the question is this: "keyframe everything".

Friday, 16 November 2018

Samson Horse Rig by Joel 3D

We're liking this Samson Horse Rig by Joel 3D, available for free download here.

The horse rig is based on the character "Samson" from Disney's 1950s classic Sleeping Beauty.

The rig is an elegant design, with few major weaknesses. We've tested it in the classroom and it works well.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

"Indominus Rex" Dinosaur Rig by Truong

Indominus Rex by Truong
We're liking this "Indominus Rex" Maya Rig made by Truong, free to download and use for non-commercial animation.

The IRex is fan art, based on the character from Jurassic World, a genetically engineered monster hybrid between the T Rex and the raptors. Because of this, the copyright in the rig vests in the Jurassic World creators; hence the need to use a rig like this for learning purposes only.

Like all of Troung's rigs, the IRex is very well modelled and rigged, and for the most part sufficiently light to give you at least a close approximation of real-time playback in your viewport.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Two Ways to Make a Walk Cycle - Which is Best?

One of the most common questions student animators ask when they tackle their first walk cycle is this: is it better to animate the walk cycle "on the spot", as if on an imaginary treadmill, is it better to animate the character physically walking across the screen, taking two steps? Both methods of creating a cycle are effective approaches to the problem of character walks, and at animation Apprentice we teach both methods. Both, however, have their advantages and disadvantages. Watch the five minute video above to understand the difference between the two approaches, and decide for yourself which one suits you best.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Cheetah Rig from HighEnd3D - Handle with Care

Cheetah rig for Maya by Vikram Verma
It's hard to find a good cheetah rig for animation in Maya, which is a shame, as these big cats are beautiful animals, and there is plenty of excellent live action reference available for animating a cheetah run cycle.

The best rig we have found is the free Cheetah rig by Vikram Verma, available for download at

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Alex Williams Animation Demo Reel

Recently a producer I've been working with asked me to cut a new demo reel - a single reel showcasing a selection of the best work I have done over the years.  Since I've been in the business so long, cutting an animation demo reel feels a bit like watching my life flash before my eyes. In my case, I started animating in the mid 1980s, so watching clips from older films like "Rollercoaster Rabbit" (1989) brings back a lot of great memories.  The best part is recalling some of the great projects I've been lucky enough to work on - such as The Lion King, The Iron Giant, and the Harry Potter series.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Ray Rig from CGTarian

Ray from CGTarian
We're liking the Ray rig from from CGTarian. It's a very useful rig, adaptable and easy to use.

Ray has plenty of controls, and is especially good for facial animation, and therefore for character performance.

Best of all, Ray doesn't seem to have any odd bugs or weird behaviours.

On the downside, it's a little bit high poly, and for that reason it can be hard to get real-time playback in the Viewport.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Joris Van Laar Animator at Little Chicken

Little Chicken
Many congratulations to Animation Apprentice graduate Joris Van Laar, who is working as an animator at the Little Chicken Game Company, an Amsterdam based studio that has been designing award winning games since 2001.

Joris got his start in games working as a producer, where he gained valuable experience about creative team leadership.

Working in games, Joris spent long nights working on his animation reel, and finally broke into the industry as an animator.