Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Animation Apprentice is Going to VIEW

VIEW Conference 2109
Animation Apprentice is going to VIEW, the 20th International VFX & Computer Graphics Conference that takes place every year in Turin.

This year the VIEW conference runs from Monday 21st October until Friday 25th October.

We'll be there, participating in panel talks and also running a one-day masterclasses in Maya demonstrating some creature animation techniques.

Our classes are aimed at complete beginners and require no prior experience with Maya.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Ross Anderson Pulls a Rabbit from his Hat

Ross Anderson
Canadian author and animation historian Ross Anderson has finally finished his book - Pulling a Rabbit Out of a Hat - The Story Behind the Making of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Ross was first interviewed by animation blog FLiP back in 2013, about writing of the book, which has taken six years to bring to fruition.

Ross's book has finally hit the bookshelves; he was signing copies this week at this year's Annecy film festival.

Ross's book aims to be the definitive history of the making of the film. I've been looking forward to buying my copy for years. Among the highlights are Tom Sito's hilarious sketches and scribbles that documented the roller coaster ride that was the making of the film.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Pixar Advice for Graduates

Check out this excellent just-released video from Pixar on tips for animation graduates, offering some great advice on how to break into the industry. Among the most interesting comments from Pixar employees: "I applied....three times; friends and family told me to give up, saying, 'they're just not that into you'." (she made it in the end).  Another one says "Every time you get rejected...is an opportunity for you to improve yourself". And also "the learning didn't stop in college, there are still opportunities to improve yourself".  Great advice from some great talent. To see why animation graduates need to be the rhino, read this blog post.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Nickelodeon Explains the Art of the Pitch

David Steinberg at Annecy
Animation veteran David Steinberg from Nickelodeon made a great presentation at this year's Annecy animation festival on how to pitch animation ideas to Nickelodeon.

Nick does most of the design and creation in house, but the "meat and potatoes" of animation is usually subcontracted out to other studios, often overseas, around the world.

So, what does Nickelodeon ("Nick", for short) look for in an animation pitch?

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

MPC and a Flying Elephant

At last week's VFX festival at Escape Studios, MPC lead animator Oliver Dale explained how MPC approached the Making of Dumbo, the 2019 re-make of the 1940s animated Disney classic.

The starting point for the animators was to begin with live action reference. Dumbo is a baby elephant, so his motion has been based on real footage, and he has to fit into the real world of live action photography.

The animators began the process by animating walk and run cycles, and then added their own embellishments, to make the process "as efficient and as refined as possible".

Bringing Dumbo to life was a big challenge, in part because of the high expectations of this re-make of a much-loved film.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

ILM & "Fallen Kingdom" at the VFX Festival

Fallen Kingdom
One of the highlights of today's VFX Festival at Escape Studios in London was the presentation by Jance Rubinchik, animation supervisor at ILM on the making of Jurassic World, and Fallen Kingdom.

The talk was a masterclass in creature animation, demonstrating how much careful research goes into the creation and animation of the dinosaurs.

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

From the point of view of animators looking to tackle realistic dinosaur animation, the lesson is simple: use as much reference as you can, and make sure you use live action reference that is as close as possible to the anatomy of the creatures you are trying to animate. 

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Why Animators Have Too Many Poses

Art Babbitt & Richard Williams, c1973
One of the most common mistakes made by student animators is to have too many poses, making the overall performance feel too busy, too over-animated.

Veteran Disney animator Art Babbitt used to say that junior animators had too many poses, and veteran animators had too few. When we start off young and enthusiastic we tend to throw in the kitchen sink.

The trick is to have the right number of poses for a shot, and let the characters stay a while in the poses we have chosen. The best way to do this is to draw clear thumbnails at the beginning, with clear poses, and not have too many poses for the shot.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

VFX Festival June 5-6 in Central London

The VFX, Games and Animation Festival 2019 is back again, this time taking place 190 High Holborn WC1 in central London.

This year the VFX festival has been split into three separate but overlapping events. All of the events are well worth attending, and we strongly recommend that any of our students in the London area attend.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Getting Feedback at Animation Apprentice

One of the hardest skills for animation students to learn is how give and receive criticism.  We all tend to be shy about our work (especially when we are learning something new) and, when our work is criticised, that criticism can feel very personal.

There are a number of ways in which students at Animation Apprentice can get feedback and critique. First and most obvious is directly from me - I personally tutor all the students at Animation Apprentice.  But we also have a dedicated Facebook Classroom, where students post their work to get feedback.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

What Goes into an Animation Bible?

Shorescripts.com is an excellent resource for aspiring writers and creators, not just for traditional scriptwriters but also for anyone interested in pitching their own  animated TV series.

Best of all is this link to a full page of animation bibles, including classic TV shows like He-Man and Batman, showing how writers and animators go about putting together the all-important animation "bible", the crucial part of any animation pitch.

Monday, 13 May 2019

AniMates: Thurs 13th June in Tunbridge Wells

Animation Apprentice graduate and Motion Graphics expert Neil Whitman is organising a meet up of animation folks in Tunbridge Wells, Kent.

The idea is to get animation professionals (and aspiring animators) together to associate, talk shop, and help each other out.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

How to Plan Animal & Creature Animation

Kiwi animation by Oliver Canovas
Our master's degree animators, studying at Buckinghamshire New University, are currently working on their third animation assignment, DA703 PR1, which involves the creation of a piece of animal or creature animation, combined with a performance.

Animal and  creature animation is among the most challenging work an animator can tackle, because it involves creating believable animation - usually based on live-action reference - and also an element of anthropormisation - making the animal or creature act in a believable way, perhaps including dialogue and lipsync.

So, how should our students plan out a piece of animal or creature animation? Start by watching the 10 minute video below.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Animator's Resource Kit

We're liking this handy blog - The Animator's Resource Kit, a useful one-stop-shop for lots of animation-related stuff.

It has plenty of information on subjects like links to animation forums, communities, animation competitions, Maya rigs, tools - and places to submit work.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Cartoon Forum 2019: Deadline 8 May

Cartoon Forum: 16-19 September 2019
What is Cartoon Forum? And why should animators know about it?

Cartoon Forum is Europe's biggest TV pitch-fest for animation, so if you have an idea for a TV series in your head, Cartoon Forum is the place to pitch it.

The deadline to submit your series project this year is 8 May. So, you have a little more time to sharpen your pencils, fill out some forms - and make your pitch perfect.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Why Animators Need Sound Design

Sound Designer at work
Animators need sound design. If you're animating a shot, remember that the visuals are just 50% of the experience; the rest is audio.

Audio is made up of music, sound effects, dialogue and - sometimes - narration.

Occasionally, good sound design means having no sound at all, or very little. But there is usually some work to be done, and animators neglect sound design altogether at their peril.

Monday, 15 April 2019

How to Write a Cover Letter

How do you write a good cover letter? And what does one look like anyway?  Everyone knows you need to write a cover letter to get a job, but lots of students get stuck at the point of actually writing one. So, to make things simple, check out our sample cover letter below.

A cover letter is like any normal letter. You put your own name, address, telephone number and email address at the top. Make it easy for them to contact you. Add the url of your website and/or demo reel (if you haven't done that yet, do it first).

Below that, you put the company's name and address. Address the letter to the person who does hiring at the company - most likely their head of recruitment or HR.  Below is our suggested template; feel free to edit it and personalise it to make it your own.

Friday, 12 April 2019

April 11 Second Club

This month, our masters' degree student animators are working on DA702, their character animation Module, with a view to entering The 11 Second Cluba monthly character animation competition in which aspiring animators practice their skills.  The Master's students practical assignment for the module is due on Monday April 22nd.

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Summer Class Starts on Monday 6 May

"School Run" by Lee Caller
Our Summer classroom starts on Monday 6th May 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.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Why Animators Should Always Tell a Story

Animators are story tellers. Every animation should have an idea behind it, one that tells a story.

Junior animators focus on learning technique - and technique is very important. But it is also important to think carefully about the story behind your shot.

Who is your character, and why are they doing what they are doing?  What is the scene about? What do they want, and what do they fear?  These things are important because if your shots forms part of an interesting story, it will be much more interesting to watch.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

What is "Successive Breaking of Joints"?

Art Babbitt & Richard Williams in Soho c 1973
What is "Successive breaking of Joints"? It's really another way of talking about flexibility and overlapping action, which are very similar concepts.

The basic underlying premise is that in any action, everything shouldn't happen at the same time.

It was an idea developed by Disney animator Art Babbit, who gave a series of animation lectures at Richard Williams Animation in Soho in the 1970s.

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Blender -v- Maya: Which is Best?

Which is better: Blender or Maya? It's a question we often get asked here at Animation Apprentice, and the answer depends on what you need to do.

Both software packages are very good, and both can be used to create excellent 3D animation. But there are some important differences which students should be aware of.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Timothy Stam Talks Houdini Tomorrow Night

For all our students and recent graduates in the London area, why not come along tomorrow night to Escape Studios for one of their free "Evening with.." events. Tomorrow night features a talk by Tim Stam, Houdini Expert at Goodbye Kansas productions in London.

Animation with Houdini is a growing part of the business, and we strongly recommend that anyone interested in animation should come along.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Pete Nicholson's Animation Job Tips

Pete Nicholson
Pete Nicholson graduated from Animation Apprentice a while back and, thanks to a strong demo reel and plenty of perseverance, he quickly found work in the animation industry, starting his animation career at Nano Films and later at King Bee.

Today he is working as an animator at Dead Ready Productions, where was recently involved in hiring a new After Effects animator.  What he discovered, going through the applications, was pretty striking.

You might think that the competition for animation jobs is intense - and it is. But you might also be surprised how many applications go into the bin because of simple, basic (and very easy to avoid) mistakes made by the applicant. 

Monday, 25 March 2019

How to Animate a Reaction Shot

Timing for a classic "take" with Monty
How do student animators approach the business of animating a Reaction Shot? Reaction shots are the bread-and-butter of junior animators.

On a feature film, once you have graduated from walk cycles and crowd shots, you get given reaction shots to test your mettle.

A reaction shot is where animators first start to get to grips with acting and performance. Just like live-action actors, animated characters on a screen must listen - and react.

Friday, 22 March 2019

What is the Best Free Editing Software?

Editing - how it used to be
What is the Best Free Editing Software? Animators need to understand editing, even if only to be competent enough to assemble a demo reel.

The most commonly used editing software these days is Adobe Premiere, part of the Adobe Suite of software and now available through the cloud at reasonable subscription rates.

But if you are on a tight budget and you need a very low cost option, there are a number of free alternatives.

Thursday, 21 March 2019

BAFTA Scholarships for MA Study Now Open

Interesting in enrolling on our MA in animation - but lacking funds? Why not apply for a BAFTA scholarship?

BAFTA has opened applications for its scholarship programmes, worth up to £12,000. The scholarships are open to UK nationals for both undergraduate and post-graduate study.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Keith Lango Tutorials Available Free

Keith Lango YouTube Channel
Animator and teacher Keith Lango has made his animation tutorials free for everyone to learn online.

Keith's animation tutorials include animating a James Brown dance, rigging and skinning animation, and how to approach the business of animating a scene.

It's a great resource, and a very useful supplement to the growing body of online resources available for learning animation.

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

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.

Monday, 21 January 2019

Free Maya Character Rigs at Nelson Hurst

We're liking this very useful edit of Maya character rigs, free for student use, hosted at Nelson Hurst.com.

Nelson's collection of Maya rigs is a very helpful edit because it breaks down the free character rigs into sections, such as simple, intermediate, complex and creatures.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

What is a "One Sheet"?

What is a "One Sheet"? And who needs one? A One Sheet is a movie poster, and you need to make one if you've got a movie or short film to sell.

A "One Sheet" is a single image that encapsulates what your film is about and - hopefully - will make people understand the film and also want to go and see it.

Think of the posters you see on the wall as you leave the movie theatre. You walk down a hallway, past a wall of posters, and you think: "that movie looks cool, I might just go and see that".

2019 VFX Festival 6-7 February

The UK's annual VFX Festival, hosted by Escape Studios, is taking place in three weeks from 6-7 February at London's South Bank Centre, in the Purcell Room.

The 2019 VFX Festival is a great place to find out about the latest developments in Animation, Games and VFX, and we encourage all our students, past and present, to attend if they can.

This year the VFX Festival kicks off with the "Emerging Talent" event, aimed at students and recent graduates, which runs for two days, from February 6th to 7th.