Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Excellent Work by Our Online MA Students!

Our brand-new online MA in 3D animation (the first of its kind anywhere in the world) has only been up and running for a few months now, but we are already starting to see some excellent results. The short clip above was created by MA student Neil Whitman, and shows perfectly how important it is for animators not only to master the technical side of our craft, but also to entertain an audience. Neil does this perfectly, creating an imaginative use of different walk cycles to create an interesting and funny story.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Steve Woodhouse Starts His Career as a Freelance Animator

Coral Windows & Conservatories (Animated TV Advert) from Stada Media on Vimeo.

Take a look at this sixty second animated TV Advert for Coral Windows - with some great work by Animation Apprentice student Steve Woodhouse. Steve did all the animation on the fish (Coral's logo is a clownfish) and the girl, for this commercial project.  Steve is now well on his way to establishing himself as a freelance animator, with some excellent production shots for his demo reel. Congratulations Steve!

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Recommended Free Rigs - Squirrely!

This squirrel rig is a nice cartoony rig that can be used for some fun character animation. It was created by the very talented Josh Burton and can be downloaded for free at Creative Crash.

The only tricky part about animating with the Squirrely rig is the enormous tail - which is almost a character in itself.

Lots of your time will be spend doing overlapping action and follow-through, to make the tail feel natural.

Still, what did you expect - a squirrel with no tail?

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Merry Christmas from Animation Apprentice - and Tiny Tim!

Spot the Difference
Way back in 1971 I was the voice of Tiny Tim - age four years. It was the beginning (and pretty much the end) of my voice-acting career.

The reason I got the job was because my Dad's old animation studio in  Soho Square in London had taken on their first really big project - a TV adaptation of Charles Dickens'  A Christmas Carol, and they needed a little kid to do the voice-over.

By chance, I was just the right age.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Why Not Become a Volunteer at SIGGRAPH 2016?

Time for our students in the USA - and especially those in California - to sign up for the SIGGRAPH 2016 Student Volunteer Program! The deadline for team leaders is 12 January 2016, and the deadline for student volunteers is 9 February 2016.

But wait, why would students want to volunteer for SIGGRAPH? Simple - it's all about who you might meet.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

How To Get Ready For Our January 4th Class

What kind of preparation should students do before starting with us  at Animation Apprentice in January?   We don't want to spoil your Christmas holidays, but it's always good to do a little preparation and get a bit of a head start.

Below is a brief list of stuff to get you under way. 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, 18 December 2015

Meet Nico!

Meet Nico!
Nico is an excellent creature rig, free for download for student use at Creative Crash.

Nico is described as "a quadruped rig of a fantasy creature ready for animation. It's got all the standard controls you would expect in a quadruped rig along with a facial shape rig".

This is what makes Nico particularly useful for creature animation - you have access to facial controls. So, if your goal is to produce creature animation and get some personality and acting out of the rig, Nico fits the bill.

Like all rigs, Nico has its quirks. So how can our students get the best out of Nico?

Thursday, 17 December 2015

"More Stuff" by Blue Zoo Animation!

More Stuff by Blue Zoo Animation from Blue Zoo on Vimeo.

Animation Apprentice graduate Marc Godfrey worked on this excellent short film by Blue Zoo animation, one of the UK's best indie animation houses and a studio that takes seriously the business of keeping its creative juices flowing. One of the ways they do this is by making short films, involving their staff creatively and ensuring that their work is experimental, fun and interesting. Congratulations to Marc on another great piece of animation.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Animation Apprentice Student Demo Reel!

We're proud to showcase the newest work done by our talented students here at Animation Apprentice. Above is our latest demo reel of student work, featuring excellent animation done by  students including Henry Fenwick, Charlie Aitken, Ian Green, Lee Caller and Steve Woodhouse.  As you can see, our students learn both character and creature animation, preparing them for a future career in 3D feature animation, games, visual effects and all kinds of animated digital media. If you would like to see work of this quality on your demo reel, register now for our January 2016 class.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Cinematography, Stanley Kubrick and One Point Perspective

Kubrick // One-Point Perspective from kogonada on Vimeo.

This excellent 90 second video is titled "Cinematography, Stanley Kubrick and One Point Perspective". It's all about the work of legendary director Stanley Kubrick, showing how Kubrick uses camera angles with single-point perspective to enhance the story telling of his films. Cinematography, of course, is a whole discipline it itself, and can involve a lifetime of study to master. But animators need to understand at least the basics of cinematography, knowing how to compose a shot and get successfully from one shot to another. The camera can, and should be, a part of the storytelling process.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Tank -v- Scorpions! By Lee Caller

Above is some excellent creature animation by Lee Caller, one of our students at Animation Apprentice. Lee has mastered not just the art of creature locomotion but also managed to give a convincing and believable performance. The set design and sound design are excellent, and the shot leaves the viewer wanting more. The robot scorpion rig is by the very talented Kiel Figgins, and can be found here.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Steve Woodhouse Brings Spiders To Life

Check out this excellent piece of spider animation by the very talented Steve Woodhouse, one of our students here at Animation Apprentice.  Part of the challenge of doing any kind of creature animation is mastering not just the mechanics of the animation, but also making it fun to watch and giving a performance which is entertaining and interesting. The spider is Raa, and can be downloaded here.  For more about how the rig works, see this blog post. And to see more work done by our students, follow this link.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Flour Sack Rigs!

Rockin' Rooster Flour Sack
Meet the flour sack! The free flour sack rig is one we like to use in the early stages of learning animation, so that students can get used to the idea of creating the illusion of weight, and also getting a performance from an inanimate object.

The idea of making a flour sack give a performance dates back to the early days of the Walt Disney studios, when lead animators would test the mettle of aspiring juniors by getting them to do thumbnail sketches of sacks of flour, to see if they could get an emotional and interesting pose that communicated an idea clearly.

The idea was, if you can get a great pose out of a sack of flour - you can do it with anything.

Friday, 4 December 2015

MPC Software Developer Marco Romeo Creates a Better Facial Rigging System with Fabric

At the recent BlueGFX Expo at London’s South Bank, Moving Picture Company (MPC) Software Developer Marco Romeo talked about some of the recent work done by MPC on the film Terminator Genisys.  In particular, he described how MPC painstakingly rebuilt a digital version of the young Arnold Schwarzenegger, using a better facial rigging system with Fabric, and using new facial simulation research.

We encourage all our students to attend events like BlueGFX Expo; not only are they often free for students to attend, they are an excellent window into where the industry is heading, and what the latest techniques are that make up the digital animation pipeline.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

How Framestore Brought "Pan" To Life

At the recent BlueGFX Expo on London’s South Bank, students of animation and visual effects were treated to a wide variety of lectures and workshops - all of of which were completely free.

One of the most interesting talks was by Stuart Penn from Framestore, where he explained how the visual effects house pulled off the exceptional challenges of creating the animation and VFX work for Warner Bros’ latest blockbuster fantasy adventure: Pan.

Events like BlueGFX are a great way for students to get a deeper understanding of how the industry works, and to stay on top of the latest trends and technology.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

December 11 Second Club Competition Now Live!

Here at Animation Apprentice we encourage all our student animators to enter The 11 Second Club, the monthly character animation competition in which aspiring animators practice their skills and get their work noticed.  Animators from all over the world participate, animating a character speaking (or sometimes singing) a line of dialogue, which is provided every month by the club.  This month's theme is a musical number from the hit film "Les Miserables".

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The Cinematography of The Incredibles - at Floobynooby

In this excellent blog post at Floobnooby, the Cinematography of The Incredibles is explored in detail, showing how the camera was used by director Brad Bird to facilitate the story-telling and bring the characters to life.

Cinematography is an art form in itself; too big for us to explore in great detail at Animation Apprentice.  But we can't ignore it either; every time an animator sets up a shot, we make choices about what the camera is doing. And those choices inform how our shot works - or doesn't.

We highly recommend all our students take ten minutes to read this post and get educated on Cinematography by the master - Brad Bird.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Blue Zoo Explains the Challenges of Running an Animation Studio

Tom Box is one of the founders of Blue Zoo, one of the UK’s leading TV animation studios.  Blue Zoo does animation in a broad range of styles, both 2D and 3D, for many different clients.

All their work is done in CG, and almost all of it is made in Maya - they describe themselves as doing “CG character animation with a bold quirky style”. At last week's Blue GFX Expo at London’s South Bank (we highly recommend that our students attend events like this whenever possible), Tom talked about the eight biggest problems involved with running an animation studio, and how Blue Zoo goes about solving them.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Escape Studios Launch New Animation Course in February 2016!

Here at Animation Apprentice we believe in the power of online learning, a flexible tool which allows our students to fit their studies around busy lives.

But, for some people, classroom study can be a more attractive option. We don't run classroom courses ourselves, but I'll be teaching a new three month animation course at Escape Studios in West London next year.

Starting on 15th February, the  course includes twelve weeks intensive classroom tuition plus a further three months on-line mentoring, so that students can practice in their own time and polish their skills.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Meet Heavy from Team Fortress!

One of the rigs we recommend for learning animation is the Heavy Rig, based on the Team Fortress character, and free for download at Creative Crash. He is particularly good for learning the early stages of animation - locomotion and mechanics.

Heavy is a relatively low poly and hence will likely give you real-time playback in your view port. So, no hanging around waiting to playblast. The controls are simple and easy to use, and all the curves are in logical places. It's also pretty stable and tends not to cause Maya to crash.

All rigs have their quirks and foibles.  So, how can our students get the best out of Heavy?

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Simon Otto (How to Train Your Dragon) Explains How the Animation Process Really Works

In this excellent video recently released by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, DreamWorks animator Simon Otto (How to Train Your Dragon) explains how the animation process really works. It's only seven minutes long, and Simon shows succinctly and clearly how animators actually work together in a big studio to create huge projects. Animators are actors, giving a performance.  As he puts it: "Creativity is about searching for something, and when you know it's good, you need to catch hold of it and not let go".

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Stuart Sumida Reveals the Secrets of How Animals Move

Stuart Sumida
Stuart Sumida is the go-to guy in Hollywood for animal locomotion. He has worked on many feature films, including “Spirit”- Stallion of the Cimarron”“Lion King”, and DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon”.

Stuart says he is “a paleontologist who gets to work with animators” and, while his day job is to teach anatomy to medical students, he also consults on movies for Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks. I was personally lucky enough to work with him both on "Lion King" and also on "Spirit". On both pictures he helped the animators to push the levels of realism in our work.

At last week's VFX Festival in Dublin, Stuart showed what makes him such a unique resource for animators dealing with the complexities of animal locomotion.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Physical Sun & Sky - Maya's "Make it Cool" Button

Above is a short video explaining how to use Maya's "Physical Sun and Sky" to light your animation. Physical Sun and Sky is the closest thing that Maya has to a "make it look awesome" button - it's a cheap and quick way to light your shots.  Here at Animation Apprentice we focus primarily on animation, not on lighting, but students still need to light their demo reels to make them look cool. Physical Sun and Sky is a great way to get a quick and polished result.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Great Dane Dog Rig - Excellent for Quadruped Locomotion

This Great Dane dog rig, available for free download at Creative Crash, is one that we recommend for learning quadruped locomotion.

It's quite cartoony, and not ideal if you are aiming for the hyper-realistic visual effects end of the industry, but it's a good stable rig and well-suited to a broad cartoony style of animation.

It has straight forward, simple controls, and it has squash and stretch. The only drawback is its long tail - which means you will have to animate the overlapping action manually.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Try Before You Buy! 3D Animation Taster Day in London on Wednesday 2 December

Escape Studios, London
Not everyone is sure if 3D Animation is right for them, so why not try it out first?  If you are in the London area on Wednesday 2 December, I'll be doing a one-off "taster day" for 3D animation at Escape Studios.

I'm hosting a one-day class to introduce students to the key tools for 3D animation, and get to grips with some cool character and creature animation. The day costs £25, and is bookable through the Escape Studios website. It's gonna be awesome!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Amazing! Fantastic! Incredible! - The Biography of Stan Lee Is Out!

Amazing! Fantastic! Incredible! - The biography of Stan Lee is out! Titled "A Marvelous Memoir" (Geddit?), this new book chronicles the extraordinary career of comics legend Stan Lee.

In fact, Lee was on Radio 4 this morning, talking about his career, and telling great stories (clearly much told, but with no loss of enthusiasm) about turning points in his life like the birth of Spiderman.

Spidey and the other Marvel characters have since gone on to found what is apparently the most successful film franchise in history, bigger even than Harry Potter or James Bond.

So what about the royalties? Mr Lee must be rolling in gold, right? After all, he created the characters. Well, apparently not. Stan Lee was, as he put it: "a writer for hire". It was the company he worked for that got rich on the royalties, not him. And this is an important lesson for all our students:

Don't sign away the rights to your creations, unless you absolutely have to. 

Monday, 16 November 2015

Cool Cyborg Spider Rig Free at Creative Crash

We're liking this cool cyborg spider rig, free at Creative Crash and very good for learning to animate multi-legged creatures.

The zoologists among you will spot that real spiders have eight legs, not six, but this is nonetheless a cool rig. It works well and is simple but effective, with easy-to-understand controls.

Cyborg Spider was created by the very talented Xiong Lin and is available for free download - for student and non-commercial use.

Friday, 13 November 2015

2016 Escape Studios VFX Festival - Tickets Now On Sale

Tickets are now on sale for the 2016 Escape Studios VFX Festival. The Festival takes place in London from February 23rd - 25th next year, and brings you the latest in VFX, games, animation and motion graphics.

This year the speakers include MPC - talking about their work on The Martian, and The Mill talking about augmented - and virtual - reality.

We recommend that any of our students who are in the London area should come along and find out the latest in animation, Games and VFX.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

BlueGFX is Coming on 19th November....and It's Free!

Blue GFX Expo is taking place in London on 19th November 2015, an event we highly recommend for any of our students who are in the neighbourhood.  This year speakers include Tom Box from Blue Zoo, the UK's biggest TV animation company, Stuart Penn from Framestore, and representatives from Autodesk showing the latest Maya tools.  For all our students, this is a great chance to catch up with new technology and meet in person people from the UK's top animation and visual effects houses.  And best of all, it's completely free.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Recommended Rigs - Raa the Spider!

One of the rigs that we recommend for student use in the early stages of learning creature animation is the Raa Spider Rig.  Raa is free, and can be downloaded at CreativeCrash.com.  He is an eight-legged arachnid, perfect for learning creature locomotion.

Like most rigs, Raa has his quirks and foibles. So how can our students get the very best out of Raa?

Friday, 6 November 2015

Meet Oscar Winning VFX Supervisor Paul Franklin on Thursday December 10th

Oscar Winning VFX Supervisor Paul Franklin is being interviewed in Stoke Newington, near London, on Thursday December 10th, to talk about some of his work in visual effects.

Paul Franklin has collected Oscars for films like Inception, which broke fresh ground in the VFX industry, creating extraordinary effects.

He is also an excellent and entertaining speaker, and we highly recommend that any students who are in the area attend what will be a fascinating evening.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Meet Pixo Jr - The Animator's Favourite Lamp!

Pixo Jr - a great training rig for Maya animators
Pixo Jr is an excellent rig, free for student download at highend3d.com.

We recommend Pixo Jr. for the early stages of learning animation - it's a great way to get used to the Maya animation controls without things getting too complex, too quickly.

Pixo Jr. was created in homage to Pixar's pioneering animated short - Luxo Jr. - the film that made the studio's name and proved that CG animation could connect emotionally with audiences.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Still Time to Submit Your Idea for an Animated Feature Film to Cartoon Movie!

Cartoon Movie - pitch your project!
Do you have an idea for an animated feature film project you'd like to get off the ground?  If so, you should submit it to Cartoon Movie!

The Deadline to submit a feature film project to Cartoon Movie is 25 November 2015.  If your project gets selected, you will be able to pitch it to almost 1,000 animation and industry professionals from forty countries.

Present at Cartoon Movie will be around 200 buyers, including 120 distributors & sales agents.

But why should animation students want to pitch their feature film ideas? Because we think all our students should aim high - you could be the next Walt Disney or Jeffrey Katzenberg - an animation mogul!  Most of all...you'll never find out if you don't try.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Andreas Deja on Disney's Nine Old Men

Check out this wonderful podcast from The Bancroft Bros (Tom and Tony) with legendary Disney animator Andreas Deja (Gaston, Hercules, Scar) on his new book about Disney's Nine Old Men.

But who were the Nine Old Men? And why should we still care? The answer is, these were the animators who created, developed and nurtured the original Disney style.

It's not an exaggeration to say that they created the medium of animation and made it what it is today.  

Monday, 2 November 2015

Time to Enter the November 11 Second Club Competition!

Yoda speaks. Copyright Disney
What are you doing this November to polish your animation skills? Here at Animation Apprentice we encourage all our students to enter The 11 Second Cluba monthly character animation competition in which aspiring animators practice their skills and get their work noticed.

Animators from all over the world participate, animating a character speaking a line of dialogue. Entry is free, and this month's competition continues with the recent Star Wars theme.

So what are you waiting for?  Let's get started!

Friday, 30 October 2015

Animation Taster Day at Escape Studios on Wednesday 2 December!

Not sure if 3D Animation is for you, but you'd like to try it out?

Anyone in the London area who would like to do a one-off "taster day" for 3D animation should come along to Escape Studios on Wednesday 2 December.

I'll be hosting a one-day class to introduce students to the key tools for 3D animation, and get to grips with some cool character and creature animation. The day costs £25, and is bookable through the Escape Studios website.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Still Time To Sign Up For Our 2 November Class!

There is still time to sign up for our new class beginning next week on Monday 2 November 2015.  We believe that we provide the very best animation training that money can buy, for the lowest possible price.

Our students at Animation Apprentice are finding jobs with leading studios like Blue Zoo and Jellyfish Pictures, proving that our teaching methods work. We are helping our students to find paid work at a high level in our industry.  So what's stopping you? Sign up now to kick-start your animation career!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Recommended Free Rigs - Meet SimpleBot!

Simple Bot. Cute and Funny.
One of the many rigs that we recommend for student use in the early stages of learning animation is the SimpleBot Rig.

SimpleBot was created back in 2009 by Alex Puente and can be downloaded at CreativeCrash.com. He is a two-legged robot character, perfect for learning animation.

Like most rigs, SimpleBot has his quirks and foibles. So how can our students get the very best out of SimpleBot?

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Virtual Colouring Book from Disney

In this superb video from Disney, you can see children colouring a virtual colouring book - bringing characters to life in virtual reality - or "augmented reality" - even as they colour in the pages of the book in the traditional way.  It's a remarkable piece of technology, which shows just how fast the world is changing in terms of the way that children learn traditional skills. Hats off to Disney for re-inventing the colouring book - and making it better than ever.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Why Not Enter the VES Student Awards?

The 14th Annual VES Awards are fast approaching, and we encourage all our students here at Animation Apprentice to enter Category 23: Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project. 

The award is sponsored by Autodesk, who make Maya, the leading animation and VFX software, and is a great opportunity for any ambitious student to kick-start their career. Of course, you'll need some serious VFX skills to make it happen, but if you're an animator with good all-round digital skills (or some techie friends whose skills are complementary to your own) this could be a competition for you.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Animation Apprentice At The Irish VFX & Animation Summit 20-22 November 2015

The third Irish VFX + Animation Summit opens on 20 November in Dublin and kicks off with a screening of Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur.  We'll be at the Summit, hosting a masterclass in how to create entertaining animated characters.

This year’s speakers are some of leading figures in VFX and Animation, talented artists who have worked on films such as The Martian, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ex Machina.

Best of all, the summit absolutely free! So what are you waiting for? Book your ticket now!

Friday, 23 October 2015

Recommended Rigs - "Monty" The Green Pea

One of the many rigs that we recommend for student use in the early stages of learning animation is the Monty Rig, created back in 2007 by the very talented Raveen Rajadorai, and free for download at CreativeCrash.com

Monty is a simple character who is described by his creator as "a simple ball with legs. You can control his eyebrows, eyes and do squash and stretch on him".  We would also add that he's very cute, easy to learn, you can easily change his colour and he looks very nice wearing a hat.

Like most rigs, Monty has his quirks. So, how can animators get the most out of the Monty rig?

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Animation Reading List for Our November 2nd Class!

What books do we recommend that animators read before starting our winter class on Monday 2 November?

Books may be a bit old school these days, but a good book is still a great place to start learning about and exploring the world of character animation.

We're also very selective; we won't make you buy a ton of books you won't have time to open, let alone read.  So, what is on our animation reading list?

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Download the Free Escape Studios Careers Handbook!

Escape VFX Careers Guide
Escape Studios has long been one of the best places to get a first class training in VFX. Among the many free resources offered students is the annual Careers Guide, an invaluable handbook for any aspiring visual effects artist - including animators.  Escape Studios track the latest trends in the digital market, focusing especially on the skills that are currently in high demand.  We recommend that all of our students download a copy.  Best of all, it's absolutely free.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Recommended Free Animation Rigs - Rhett The Clydesdale

Rhett The Clydesdale. Free at StockCG.com
Rhett The Clydesdale is a great rig for learning to animate horses. Created by Noxlabs and available for free download at StockCG.com, Rhett is perfect for student reels and quadruped locomotion. Just don't use Rhett for commercial use - his license is strictly for education and personal learning.

One of the great features about Rhett is what he doesn't have - a tail. Not having to deal with overlapping action frees you to concentrate on the main event - quadruped locomotion. However, like most rigs, he does have some odd quirks.  So how does Rhett actually work?

Monday, 19 October 2015

Cake-O-Mation is Here at Last!

Some say 3D Animation is the best, others argue for a revival of hand-drawn 2D Animation.  Others still argue that Stop Motion rules.  But here at Animation Apprentice we are loving the work of French animation Alexander Dubosc, who makes animated cakes - both extraordinary and delicious.  Dibosc creates spinning zoetropes, a technology that goes back to the mid 19th century (and, arguable, ancient China), which he has re-invented as the Caketrope.  Or, as we're calling it, Cake-O-Mation.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Free IBL Lighting Tutorial for Animators

Here at Animation Apprentice we focus primarily on character and creature animation - we don't dig deep into the rest of the 3D pipeline.  But we do expect our students to master the basic skills in Maya - such as modeling, texturing and lighting.  Students need these skills so as to be able to make a killer demo reel, or even make a short film of their own.  Fortunately, for those who want to expand their skills beyond animation, there are now many, many free resources on the web, especially at YouTube, to learn many of the basic disciplines in Maya.  Above is a great little free tutorial on Image Based Lighting (IBL), which is a great way to light your shot using beautiful images, such as a seascape or a sunset.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Body Mechanics Mega-Pack - 12 Great Rigs by Joe Daniels for just $40

Joe Daniels describes himself as a Character Animator, storyteller, and cg generalist.  He is also a pretty hot rigger, and has put together a "Body Mechanics Mega Pack" of different animation rigs, perfect for animators learning motion mechanics.

The pack costs $40 (around £25), which isn't bad considering it includes twelve different characters.  We're recommending Joe's rigs for our students here at Animation Apprentice, at least for the early Modules where we concentrate on body mechanics rather than acting and facial expressions.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Teach Yourself Basic Rigging in Maya for Free!

Nowadays, every animator should know a little bit about rigging.  Here at Animation Apprentice we encourage our students to spend a little time mastering the basics, so as to be better acquainted with the problems and challenges of creating a great character rig.  It's harder than it looks, and a little time spent on this will give you a new respect for what riggers have to deal with.  The video above by James Thompson is a clear and straightforward basic introduction to the art of rigging. If you'd like to give it a go - this is the video we recommend for absolute beginners.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Free Virtual Reality Showcase at London's BFI IMAX until 18 October

"Virtual Stories" is a Virtual Reality Showcase currently exhibiting at London's BFI IMAX until 18 October.  Sixteen projects from some of the world’s greatest VR creators are on display.

Virtual reality has been "the next big thing" for some time now, but somehow has never quite fulfilled its potential.  Now, technology is at last catching up with the ambitions of VR pioneers, offering an immersive experience for games and storytelling that could just change the way we experience media.

For our students who live in London or nearby, this is a chance to see the very latest in virtual reality at this free exhibition at BFI IMAX.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

How To Get a Job as an Animator - By Tom and Tony Bancroft

Check out Tom and Tony Bancroft's podcast on How to Get a Job as an Animator.

I worked with both Tom and Tony Bancroft back in the days when the Disney Studio in Orlando, Florida was just a feldgling startup - long before it produced movies like Brother Bear and Mulan. We worked together as animation rookies on the short film "Rollercoaster Rabbit".

Both Tom and Tony excellent animators who went on to have a great career at Disney.  So what, exactly, do they say is the secret of getting a job?

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

BFI Explains - How to Become an Animator

BFI is the UK government body which promotes film in the UK, often financed by grants from the National Lottery.  They also run the BFI Film Academy, which seeks to help young people break into the film industry.

In this five minute video titled "How Do You Become an Animator?", leading animators in the UK talk about how they got started, and how they made it in the business.

Interviewees include Aardman's Peter Lord, who created "Morph", and indie animator Joanna Quinn, whose unique animation style has won her dozens of awards.  So what are the secrets of their success?

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The October 11 Second Club Competition is - Star Wars!

May The Force Be With You
What are you doing this October to polish your animation skills? Here at Animation Apprentice we encourage all our student animators to enter The 11 Second Cluba monthly character animation competition in which aspiring animators practice their skills and get their work noticed.

Animators from all over the world participate, animating a character speaking a line of dialogue, or, sometimes, a sound effect - this month is a chance to animated a jedi light sabre battle!  Best of all, entry is free! So what are you waiting for?  Let's get started!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Learn Basic Texturing in Maya for Free!

Here at Animation Apprentice we focus primarily on character and creature animation - we don't dig deep into the rest of the 3D animation pipeline - there just isn't the time. But we do expect our students to master the basics of the Maya pipeline, so as to be able to make a killer demo reel (or even a short film).  Fortunately, for those who want to expand their skills beyond animation, there are now many, many free resources on the web, especially at YouTube, to learn many of the basic disciplines in Maya.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Remembering The Iron Giant

In this excellent blog post, animator Stefan Franck reflects on  what it was like to work on The Iron Giant under the leadership of the supremely talented Brad Bird.

Iron Giant has just been re-released in theatres in the USA, a fitting tribute to a film which under-performed at the box office when it was first released in 1999.  For those of use who worked on the film, this was a huge shock. How could such a great film perform so poorly? Why did no-one want to see it?

Conspiracy theories grew. The studio wanted to kill it (because giant corporations love losing money!). The marketing department screwed up.  "They" wanted to close down Warner Bros Feature Animation. "They" wanted to teach Brad Bird a lesson.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Escape Studios VFX Festival 23-25 February 2016

Increasingly, animators are finding work and building careers in the visual effects industry, bringing animals and creatures to life. It is challenging work, creating photorealistic moving images that feel completely believable. Accurate motion and a proper study of live action are essential.

For our students who are in London early next year, mark your calendars for the annual Escape Studios VFX Festival. The Festival takes place from February 23rd - 25th 2016, and brings you the very best in VFX, games, animation and motion graphics.

To sign up for the mailing list (and benefit from an early-bird discount when tickets go on sale), go to the official site here.  So what exactly is in the festival, and what can you expect to see?

Monday, 28 September 2015

Success! Animation Apprentice Student Benn Garnish Lands a Job on Cinesite's "Charming"

Charming is due for release in 2016
Animation Apprentice Student Benn Garnish has landed a job as a senior animator a Job on Cinesite's debut feature film "Charming"

Charming is produced by John Williams (one of the producers of "Shrek") and is being directed by Ross Venokur (Animal Crackerz).

The film has begun production at Cinesite’s Montréal studios.

Charming describes itself as "an irreverent animated comedy that re-imagines the tales of three iconic princesses: Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, who find they are all engaged to the same Prince Charming".

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Marc Godfrey Takes the Magic of Disney Animation Tour at Disneyland

Marc Godfrey was one of our first students at Animation Apprentice and is now working as an animator at Blue Zoo, one of the UK's leading independent animation companies.

Marc recently went to Disneyland where he took the Magic of Disney Animation Tour. He had taken the tour before, but this time he visited as an animator in his own right, thriving and succeeding in the industry.  Here is what he wrote:

"Four years ago, on the Animation tour at Disney, I decided to train as an animator (left pic). It's kinda overwhelming and lump-in-throat-ish coming back, knowing that this time, I am an animator (right pic)."

To see how Marc Godfrey succeeded in realising his dreams in the animation industry by studying at Animation Apprentice, follow this link.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

A Warm Welcome To Our New Students On Our Brand New Online MA in 3D Animation!

The world's first online MA in animation
We're excited to welcome all our new students who have just started the journey with us on our brand-new online MA in animation, launched this week here at Animation Apprentice in partnership with Buckinghamshire New University.

This is a unique degree - the first of its kind - 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. So, what is this degree all about, and what can our new students expect?

Tom Sito Reviews Richard Williams' Prologue

A still image from "Prologue"
Animation director Richard Williams recently completed his long-anticipated short film Prologue, premiered at Annecy this past June and recently released in selected theatres in Los Angeles.  Tom Sito, Animator, Director, Historian and President Emeritus of the Animation Guild, wrote a review of the film. 

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Troubleshooting Shelf Tabs in Autodesk Maya

Autodesk Maya has many useful tools, some of which don't always work the way you want them to.  One super-useful tool is the Shelf Editor, which allows animators to select parts of an animation rig quickly and efficiently.

But a common problem occurs when you import an animation rig into a new shot, and all your carefully created Shelf Tabs don't work anymore.

So, what is the solution to this annoying problem?

Monday, 21 September 2015

The Max Rig - and How to Use It

Max is a free animation rig, created for student use by Peter Starostin and James Hunt. It's a good, stable rig, very well tested, and one that we recommend for use at Animation Apprentice. It's also on the list of approved rigs at The Eleven Second Club.

However it does have a few quirks. Below are some of the known issues and bugs - and how to solve them.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Perils of Freelancing in Los Angeles - The Taxes You Never Knew You Didn't Owe

LA City Hall. Wikimedia
Any animator who lives and works in Los Angeles needs to be aware of  the laws relating to freelancers in the City of LA.  These local rules are not well known and very easy to fall foul of, as I know myself from personal experience.

In a nutshell, if you do any freelance work at all while you live and work in LA, make sure you register with City Hall.  If you don't, scary penalties will follow.  Here's how the system works.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Master Animator Glen Keane Introduces Nephtali

Ever wondered what master animator Glen Keane has been up to since he left Disney back in 2012? "Nephtali" is what. In this beautiful short film combining live action with animation, Glen shows why he is regarded as one of the best animators alive. I was lucky enough to have worked with him on Pocahontas back in 1994, and the animation notes he distributed for newbies like me are still among the most valuable training materials I use in the classroom today.  In this film, Glen shows us why traditional 2D animation still matters.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Walt Disney Biography at PBS

Walt Disney at PBS
PBS has just broadcast a major new documentary on the life of one of the greatest Americans - Walt Disney.  If you missed the original broadcast you can now catch up at the PBS website here.

Why should animators learn about Walt Disney?  Because he was the founder of our industry, and the man who above all others defined the medium we work in today.  His methods have never been surpassed and even today animated films are still made essentially the same way he made them - though with better technology.  The PBS download is absolutely free.