Wednesday, 31 December 2014

New Year's Resolutions for Animators

Happy New Year from the Float Folks - animated by students at Animation Apprentice
What should an animator's new year's resolutions be? Animation is a huge and growing business, a far cry from the cottage industry it used to be even twenty years ago. But it is a competitive world, and good animators need to be smart to stay on top of their game. So here's a checklist for some simple ways to maintain your edge in 2015

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Where Does Creativity Come From? John Cleese Explains

John Cleese knows a thing or two about creativity, which is presumably why he was invited to give this talk in the video above. Trouble is, identifying where creativity comes from is like trying to analyse what makes a great poem. We all know it when we see it - but how to define it? And what does the great man conclude? I'll leave you to watch the (short) video to find out the answer.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

What is the Euler Filter in Maya?

Dr Leonhard Euler
Look under the Curves menu in the Graph Editor in Maya and you will see a button marked Euler Filter. Not knowing what it does (or even how to pronounce it), you have probably never used it - why would you?

But don't be deceived by the odd name. The Euler Filter is a very useful tool in Maya, one which can solve - almost magically - some of the most common problems we get in the rotations of curves, problems which can seriously mess up your character animation. If the rotations on your character's arms are going wild, and no amount of keyframing seems to help - you probably need a little help from Dr Euler.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Not Too Late to Sign Up for Our Class Starting on 5th January!

The clock is ticking to sign up for our new class beginning on Monday 5th January 2015. To sign up, simply go to the Register and Get Started page, and follow the steps. We'll be glad to welcome you on your journey to become a great animator.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas from the Float Folks!

The Float Folks
Merry Christmas from the Float Folks! And, of course, from all of us at Animation Apprentice.  To see more about the Float Folks, and their watery world of bobbers, dragon flies and dogfish, created by our students here at Animation Apprentice, follow this link.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Maya Won't Save Due To "Unknown Nodes" - What To Do?

Autodesk Maya is a big and complex piece of software, full of traps and pitfalls for the unwary. 

The "Unknown Nodes" error sometimes occurs when you are trying to save your work, but Maya won’t let you save. This can be frustrating, and the solution is not obvious. What is an unknown node anyway? And what should you do when this happens?

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Five Steps to Write a Great Story

Titles to Love Me Love Me Love Me by Richard Williams
How do you write a great story? You can't make a great film without one, and yet one of the most common mistakes made by rookie film-makers is to start making the film before the story is figured out.

In fact, it's not just novices who fall into this trap - Hollywood does it all the time. But with a little forethought and planning, you can start off your project with a great story. After all, story is the most important part of any film. As Pixar's John Lasseter put, "the three most important ingredients in a Pixar film are: 1. Story, 2. Story, and 3. Story". So, how do you make sure you get it right?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Why Has Mental Ray in Maya Disappeared?

Mental Ray - free with Maya
Mental Ray is a renderer that comes free with Maya - but sometimes it goes missing. One of the most common questions new Maya users ask is "Where has Mental Ray gone?!?"

Every Maya user faces this problem at least once, and the solution is not always obvious. You look in the Render Settings menu and - Mental Ray has vanished!

So, what to do to bring it back? And why does Mental Ray disappear so often?

Sunday, 14 December 2014

How to Create the Ideal Animation Workstation

An animation workstation
A good workstation is not a luxury - it's a necessity. The dirty secret of the animation and visual effects business is that sitting still and clicking away at a video workstation all day long is bad for your health.

Carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injury (RSI) are serious health problems which affect many people working in the industry.

So why don't we hear more about it? Because people don't like to talk about it. Employers don't talk about it because they don't like being sued. Employees don't talk about it because they fear if they admit to having problems they will lose their job and perhaps their career. So get educated and make sure you have a healthy workstation.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Where Can Animators Find Free Sets and Props?

Where can student animators find free sets and props for animation? You don't always want to spend time modeling the things you need for your animation shot - sometimes you just need some free stuff in a hurry. The best places to begin are and Both sites have plenty of free resources for animators to use; you can import sets, props, all sorts of useful items that will help bring your animation to life. Of course, you should always give credit to the creators - professional artists always give credit where it's due.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Thumbnails by Ruben Aquino for The Little Mermaid

The secret of great animation is in the planning. Open up a copy of Maya, the leading 3D software, and you just get a blank screen. With CG animation (or indeed any animation) you get nothing for free. So how do you fill this blank space with creative, entertaining animation? The secret of good work is to thumbnail - that is to say, to plan out your work with sketches and scribbles which create a kind of road map of where you want to go.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Aspect Ratios Made Simple

Standard aspect ratios: SD, HD and super HD
Which aspect ratio should you pick for your shot?

A basic understanding of aspect ratios is necessary for all digital artists - it's how we configure our work for the screen. 

When you render your shot, and when you edit your work in Premiere or Final Cut, you will have to make choices as to what aspect ratio to select. 

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Blue Zoo Are Hiring Junior Animators!

Blue Zoo Animation
Calling all Animation Apprentice Graduates! London's leading TV animation house Blue Zoo are hiring fresh talent. Getting that first job is always tough, and it's relatively unusual for studios to be looking actively for juniors. So, time to polish that demo reel, make sure your best work is online and free of mistakes, update your CV, and send it all in with a nice covering letter.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Getting Ready for Our January Class - How To Get Started

Winter Draws On. Photo: Wikipedia
What kind of preparation should students do before starting with us at Animation Apprentice on 5 January 2015?  Needless to say, we don't want to spoil your holidays, and it's always good to have a proper break, but it's worth casting half an eye forward to the New Year and thinking about some of the things you might do to get ready for our new course. Below is a brief checklist of stuff to get you started. It's not comprehensive, and 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, 3 December 2014

Meet The Float Folks! - our Latest Commercial Project!

The Float Folks - Coming Soon!
Our student animators have recently finished work on our newest commercial project - The Float Folks - a teaser for a new TV Series which is the brainchild of creator Ian Foyle. The Float Folks invites the viewer into a world of fishing floats; a small town by the reed beds where everyone gets along (mostly) - and the only way to travel is by dragonfly or dogfish. The project was animated by a number of our recent graduates and current animation students. We're excited to see this project come to life, and thrilled to have been a part of making it happen.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Brown Bag films are Hiring!

Brown Bag Films
Fancy moving for Dublin for a spell? It's not a silly question. Dublin is one of Europe's most vibrant capital cities, and regularly appears high on the list of places you might actually want to live in. Brown Bag Films are looking for a broad range of animation talent to join their thriving studio in Dublin's Fair City. If you would like to join the team behind shows like DocMcStuffins, Octonauts, Henry Hugglemonster and Peter Rabbit, then send an email attaching your CV, a well-drafted covering letter and a link to your demo reel.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Mathilda - a New Free Rig for Maya Animators!

Mathilda, courtesy of SCAD
Mathilda is here! This new free rig, now available for use by Maya animators, has just been released by SCAD - The Savannah College of Art and Design.

It's a great rig - with a really nice range of facial expressions.  Mathilda looks very attractive, well designed, and we're excited to see what our students can do with this latest addition to the now very wide range of freeware available to those learning to animate in Maya.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Phil Loeffler Talks Freelance Graphic Design and Illustration

Artwork by Phil Loeffler
Phil Loeffler is a talented designer, artist and animator, who came to Animation Apprentice to broaden his range of artistic skills and master the art of character and creature animation. Before he began studying with us, he had already established a successful career as a freelance graphic designer. We asked him to talk a little about his work, and what is involved in making a living in such a fascinating but competitive field.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Animation Apprentice Becomes Official Autodesk Partner

Animation Apprentice has recently become an official Autodesk Academic Partner. That means we are now formally authorized by Autodesk - the makers of animation software Maya (and much else besides) to teach their software. We are proud to be partnering with the leading industry software for digital animation, and delighted that Autodesk have accepted us as an official partner.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Giuseppe Candido 3D Artist at Cityscape Digital

Cityscape Digital
Giuseppe Candido is now a freelance 3D Artist at Cityscape Digital, a leading architectural visualisation company. Giuseppe is a talented animator and 3D artist, who developed a killer demo reel after studying with us at Animation Apprentice.

Cityscape Digital is a London-based company that describes itself as "a creative visual company providing architectural visualisation, simulation and animation for architects and developers in the property sector." Giuseppe's blend of animation talent and all-round 3D skills makes him a perfect candidate for this kind of highly technical work. Congratulations to Giuseppe on his new job!

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Animation Apprentice Founder Alex Williams Talks About His Design Work on Paddington Bear

Paddington Bear comes to the big screen in November
Animation Apprentice Founder Alex Williams was an early contributor of design work for Paddington, the new feature film about the much-loved bear created over 50 years ago by author Michael Bond. We asked Alex to talk about what he did on the film, which will be released in theatres on November 28, and how he managed to work on a major motion picture while teaching at Animation Apprentice.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Two weeks to go until Cartoon Business

Cartoon Business
Cartoon Business is the finance and business counterpart to Cartoon Movie and Cartoon Forum. If you are interested in the business side of producing animation, but don't know how to assemble, package and sell an animated TV series or feature film, then Cartoon Business is the place to learn. Supported by MEDIA, the EU fund for the creative industries, and backed by the French Government, Cartoon Business will walk you through all the steps needed to bring your ideas to the market. And you don't even need to speak French - the event is conducted in English, the international language of media and animation.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Animation Apprentice Goes to Blue GFX

Blue GFX

Last week Animation Apprentice went to the Blue GFX Expo in London – a massive annual visual effects event sponsored by Autodesk, and a great opportunity to find out about the latest developments in our industry. There were presentations about Autodesk Maya, 3D Studio Max, a chance to try out the latest Cintique tablets, and best of all a talk by Framestore about the work they did on Gravity, a film that looks and feels like a live action movie, but is entirely animated. OK, George Clooney and Sandra Bullock were real – but the rest is CG magic.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

How to Create a Great Animation Pitch

Learning to pitch is an important skill for any artist. Sooner or later you will be called on to persuade a client that you have a great idea to sell their product, or perhaps try to sell your own idea for a TV series or feature film to a network or production company. Either way, you're going to need to learn how to pitch your ideas. Pitching is not just about standing up and delivering a persuasive summary of your awesome idea, it's also about what should go into it in the first place. How much character work and design do you need to do? How well thought out does your story need to be?  In this excellent blog post, Disney designer Chris Oatley explains what goes into a great animation pitch and bible.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Assets at Animation Apprentice - What Rigs Do We Use On Our Course?

Morpheus - endlessly flexible
We do not design and build our own rigs here at Animation Apprentice - there are just too many excellent free rigs and sets provided by Maya enthusiasts for student use. This helps keep our costs down - savings which we pass on to our students. We point our Apprentices to the very best freeware rigs from the web and show you where to find them. In the end though, it is up to our students to find the rigs that they most enjoy animating with. There are so many; all have their strengths and weaknesses. Below is a list of some of the best, and where to find them.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Should Freelance Animators Operate as Sole Traders or Set Up a Limited Company?

A freelancer
Part of our job at Animation Apprentice is to teach our students to be working professionals, which includes not only the ability to do excellent work at a high level of professional skill,  but also the ability to run a small business and tackle freelance work.

Almost all digital artists take on freelance work of one kind or another, and we help our students out by bringing in small commercial projects at our virtual online studio at, giving our students paid experience on live briefs.

Being a freelancer involves learning a lot of new business skills, and one of the most common questions asked by students is: "Do I Need to Set Up a Company before I become a freelancer?" The short answer is "no", but it's not quite as simple as that - it all depends on your personal circumstances.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

How Does an Animator Become a Character Designer?

BoxTrolls - designs by Luis Grane

How do animators break into character design? Character design is one of the most fun and the most desirable jobs on an animated film, entitling the artist to give free rein to their imagination, come up with great ideas - and even get paid to do it. We asked Luis Grane, an animator and character designer whose work can be seen on dozens of animated films including Prince of EqyptHotel Transylvania, Ratatouille, and Open Season, to talk about this work and how he broke into the industry. Most recently Luis did character design work for The Box Trolls, recently released worldwide in theatres. So what is involved in working as a character designer at a big studio - and how do you get there in the first place?

Saturday, 8 November 2014

How to Use Audio Files in Maya - A Guide for Animators

Maya is a wonderful piece of software but its audio tools are not especially sophisticated. You only get one audio track, and it will only accept certain kinds of audio files (wavs and iffs).

So, how exactly should an animator approach the use of audio files in Maya? Below is our handy guide which answers most of the vital questions.

Friday, 7 November 2014

How Does Animation Apprentice Work?

What's Under The Hood? Image: Wikipedia
What, exactly, is in our course at Animation Apprentice? The full 30 week Course (plus a free bonus week!) includes 5 Modules, each of which builds on the one before, gradually improving your skills as you grow in confidence as an animator. The idea is that learning should be incremental, and that at the end of each exercise you should have a "eureka" moment that takes your work to the next level. By the end of the 31 weeks, our animators should have the skill and confidence to tackle any animation challenge.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Sign Up Now For Our Free Newsletter!

Sign up now - it's free!
You can now sign up for our free Animation Apprentice newsletter by following this link and entering your email address - you will receive our fortnightly mailshot in your inbox without having to check here at the blog for updates. We'll keep you posted on our next classes, the latest free rigs available online, jobs we think are worth applying for - in short anything and everything you need to know to kick-start your career as an animator. Our newsletter is completely free, and you can opt in or out at any time.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Animation Masterclass at the BFI on Nov 22 - for just £6!

The British Film Institute (BFI) is running a session on animation titled "Raw Shorts" for aspiring animators and film-makers, on Saturday November 22nd in London, at 12.30pm. There will be lectures, workshops and Q&A panels on all aspects of animation production. We highly recommend that our students attend - at just £6 per head this is the perfect way to learn about the industry and maybe even meet some movers and shakers in the business.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

How to Animate with the Morpheus Rig - Problems and Solutions

There are plenty of free rigs available these days for the use of students. One of the best is Morpheus, created by the very talented Josh Burton. It is used extensively by student animators hoping to polish their skills and get better at their craft.

Morpheus is an excellent rig but, like most rigs, it does have a few quirks. Below is a guide for animators to some of the main problems that we have come across, and how to fix them.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Escape Studios VFX Festival on January 28th 2015

Escape Studios VFX Festival 2015
Escape Studios are running their latest VFX Festival on January 28th at the VUE Cinema in London's Shepherd's Bush. To find out more, and sign up, follow this link. The event is an excellent way to find out about careers in animation and visual effects, what jobs are out here and how to break in to the industry. The secret to finding work is to have a great demo reel, and to be available when studios are hiring. The best time to apply is when a big new operation is crewing up - and that means keeping your ear to the ground, and being prepared to move to where the jobs are.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Is It Worth Taking a Job as a Runner? - Henry Fenwick Reports

Prime Focus

Working as a runner doesn't sound glamorous - but it can be a great way to break into the industry. Last year Animation Apprentice student Henry Fenwick finished a three week work experience at Prime Focus Film in London's Soho. We asked him to share his experience and advice, with a view to helping other animation students know what to expect when becoming a runner at a Soho studio. In short - is it worth being a runner?

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Free Animation MasterClass from Brown Bag Films

Brown Bag Films

It's amazing how much free material is available online nowadays for learning animation. Studying at at a course like Animation Apprentice gives you a formal curriculum, a properly thought out program for your studies and your eventual maturity as a well-rounded digital artist. But we thoroughly support students who like to do other tutorials online - broadening the scope of your studies is a great way to learn and improve your work. Below is a free animation masterclass by Jason Ryan, offered through Brown Bag Films from Ireland. Jason Ryan is a gifted animator who is also a great teacher - a superb combination for any student.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

What Makes a Great Animator? Director and Animator Mike Nguyen Offers a Personal View

Korean Goshawk - animation by Mike Nguyen
Mike Nguyen is a veteran animator who has worked on many classic Hollywood feature films such as "Beauty and The Beast" and "Space Jam".  He was a lead animator on Brad Bird's classic "The Iron Giant" and also on "Osmosis Jones", and has been working for a number of years on his own independent animated feature film  "My Little World".  We asked him to talk about what makes a great animator.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Still Time to Sign Up for Our Class Starting on Monday 3 November!

The clock is ticking to sign up for our new class beginning on Monday 3rd November 2014. We are working hard to make sure that we provide the very best animation training that money can buy, for a price that is far more affordable than traditional education. We're even cheaper than the vast majority of our online competitors. If you find someone who offers a better deal - let us know. We'll beat it on quality and on price.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

VFX Legend Paul Franklin Explains the Work of a Visual Effects Supervisor

VFX Supervised by Paul Franklin

Paul Franklin gave a free lecture at Escape Studios in London on 15th October about the work of a visual effects supervisor. He talked about what goes into the making of the sophisticated films he has supervised, such as Dark Knight, Inception, and Interstellar - coming out this November. Franklin is an Oscar nominated VFX supervisor with two BAFTAs on his shelf. Clearly, he is a man who knows VFX inside out, offering a unique insight into how big budget visual effects blockbusters get made.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Industrial Light and Magic Opens New UK Studio in Covent Garden

Coming to London
Industrial Light and Magic is opening a brand new UK studio to work on a new Star Wars trilogy. Disney’s special effects firm was founded by George Lucas back in the early days of VFX, and now ILM is coming to London even as Pinewood Studios' filming of Star Wars VII nears completion.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Get Ready for Our November Class by Watching Our Free Videos!

What is Animation all about? And what should our students starting with us in November do to get ready? For a general introduction to the medium, and a beginners guide to the language and the basic principles of animation, watch this series of free videos at Animation Apprentice. Start with The Twelve Principles of Animation, and move on to Keys, Extremes and Inbetweens - the Language of Animation. Like all art forms, animation has its very own special jargon, and you will need to know the basic grammar and some of the key terms. Plus, you'll start to get a good feel for what our course is like and how it all works.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

My Haunted House App is launched!

Yesterday Animation Apprentice founder Alex Williams' indie animated feature film My Haunted House hit a major milestone - the release of the first official iPad game. The game is completely free - you can download it now from the iTunes store. If you beat Level 1 you can unlock and watch the award winning short animation teaser - Charlie and Yip. Hats off to the whole team who pulled this off, especially Producer Nathan Erasmus and Phil Menni for the programming. Here is the link to download

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Animation Student Who Created His Own Job in The Theatre

Marc Godfrey is an animation student with a passion to work in the entertainment industry. At a time when finding work can be hard even for seasoned professionals, let alone students with less well-established credentials, an entrepreneurial approach to finding work is more important than ever. Marc was one of the first students to learn with Animation Apprentice - he is currently doing an animation masterclass at Aardman Animation in Bristol. We asked him how he managed to create his own job in the theatre.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

VFX Supe Paul Franklin (Dark Knight, Inception) is at Escape Studios on Wednesday October 15

Heath ledger in Dark Knight - VFX supervised by Paul Franklin
On Wednesday 15 October at 10am VFX Supervisor Paul Franklin, who has worked on Inception, the Dark Knight Trilogy and most recently Interstellar, will be giving a talk at Escape Studios in London. The event is completely free, and is a unique opportunity to meet one of London's leading visual effects experts. A VFX Supervisor has responsibility for all the visual effects on a film - these folks really know their stuff, and can give a unique insight into how the visual effects on a film actually gets put together.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Free Zombie rig from Sony Pictures' Hotel Transylvania

Free zombie rig from Sony Pictures
Sony Pictures have released a free zombie rig from Hotel Transylvania - created in Maya.

This is a great opportunity for animation students to use a production-quality rig, one which has been used on a beautifully animated Hollywood blockbuster.

Production rigs are more complex than the training rigs that we use at Animation Apprentice - so it is strictly for experienced animators.

The biggest weakness of this rig is that Sony have removed the facial controls, so it is only really useful for walk cycles or wide shots.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Got an Idea for a Feature Film? Submit it to Cartoon Movie by 26 November

Cartoon Movie 2014
The Deadline to submit a feature film project to Cartoon Movie is 26 November 2014. Are you looking for co-producers, financing and distributors for your animated feature film project? If so, you should submit it to Cartoon Movie! If your film gets selected, you will be able to pitch it to almost 1,000 animation and industry professionals from forty countries. Present at Cartoon Movie are 200 buyers, including 120 distributors & sales agents.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Animation Apprentice Founder Alex Williams Talks About His Indie Film Project

My Haunted House

Alex Williams is an animator, cartoonist and the founder of Animation Apprentice. He is also working on an independent film project, My Haunted House, which is currently in development, aiming for a 2016 release. We asked him to tell us about the project, and what still needs to be done to bring it to the big screen.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

What Makes Animation Apprentice Different?

Welcome to Animation Apprentice
Nowadays there are lots of places where you can learn animation, both online and in the classroom. So what is it that makes Animation Apprentice unique among animation schools? The answer is - it's all about the way our course is structured, and the personal feedback you get. We don't just give you general notes on how to fix your shot and make it better - we fix it for you. It's like taking your car to a mechanic and getting it back mended, with a video showing you how it was done, so that next time around you can do it yourself, getting better and better all the time.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Studio ILION is crewing up in Madrid

Madrid based animation studio ILION is currently crewing up for a big new project. To find their jobs page, go to When a studio is looking to recruit large numbers of digital artists for a new film, this creates big opportunities for students and graduates looking for entry-level positions. Time to polish your CV and make sure your demo reel is as good as it possibly can be. Remember that a great demo reel is your calling card - it is how employers will judge your work. And don't worry about not speaking Spanish - almost all studios speak English nowadays - the international language of new media.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Calling all UK animators - Blue GFX is on 6th November

Blue GFX - in London 6th November
Blue GFX Expo is taking place in London on 6th November 2014. Last year's event was superb - in attendance were the founders of Blue Zoo, the UK's biggest TV animation company, the guys from Framestore who did the animation for the Skyfall title sequence, and representatives from Autodesk showing the latest hair simulation tools. There were so many talks on cutting edge CG tools that it was hard to choose which ones to attend. For all our students, this is a not-to-be-missed chance to catch up with the latest technology and meet in person the people who run the UK's top animation and visual effects houses. And it's completely free.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

How Can You Tell If Our Course is Right for You?

free 3D software - yours to try at no cost
A career in 3D animation is not for everyone. A lot of what animators do day to day involves solving software problems, trying to make stuff work on a PC or a Mac, and cursing our computer when it doesn't. Being a digital artist isn't for everyone. One way of finding out if this is something you would like to do for a career is to do a couple of tutorials online. A great place to start is with the 3D software Blender - it's completely free, and there are many free tutorials out there to get you started.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

How to Get Ready for Our November Class

Get ready for November. Photo: Wikipedia
What kind of preparation should students do before starting with us at Animation Apprentice on  November 3?  It's worth casting half an eye forward to November, and thinking about some of the things you might do to get ready for the course. Below is a brief checklist of stuff to get you started. It's not comprehensive, and 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, 26 September 2014

UK Creative Industries are "Worth £71.4 Billion per Year"

Creative industries are worth £71 billion a year
UK Creative industries are "worth £71.4 billion per year", according to the UK's Business Secretary Vince Cable. In an article in Wired news today, the British Government announced a big new investment in a NextGen Skills Academy to help close the skills gap in creative industries in the UK.  The story was also covered by the BBC.