Thursday, January 31, 2013

Paper Man Short

In case you have been living under a rock...

Digital Tutors now online at Bucks

We've just signed up ten floating licenses for Digital Tutors, an excellent resource for any student who wants to learn the digital arts online.

Here at Bucks believe that online study can be a very powerful supplement to classroom instruction, and we want all out students to have the best possible access to the widest range of study opportunities.

If anyone wants a username and password to login, ask me, Nick or Dave for details. Let the online training begin!


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Partnering with the animation industry

Here at Bucks we're proud of our contacts with industry, forging links with companies so that students get real-world experience of the job market and, hopefully, internships and actual jobs. For example, we're building a partnership with Centroid, the Motion Capture company at Pinewood studios which helped some of our students gather MoCap data for their film projects last year.

Part of the process of validating our new Animation and VFX course involves external review, and we're proud to have Kevin Spruce, the head of animation at FrameStore, as one of our external reviewers. Kevin is one of the most skilled animators in the country, and leads a team of digital artists on some of the most exciting and challenging film projects being done in the UK.

One of the problems that Framestore has experienced over the years is where to find animation graduates who can tackle the complex, highly technical creature animation which is needed to bring animals and creatures to life, in films such as the Harry Potter or Narnia series. Framestore pioneered animal and creature work when they did the ground-breaking Walking With Dinosaurs back in the late 90's, and they have been a world leader ever since.

One of the modules on our animation course is specifically focused on creature animation, making sure that our students can tackle animal and creature locomotion, accurately reproduce animal behaviours and, finally, create a compelling and believable creature performance that entertains and engages the audience.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Zarafa (2012) - Pencil Tests

Animation by Thierry Torres

Animation by Han Liane-Cho (from 01:54)

Animation by Jose Mansuy (from 00:38)

VFX Pencil Tests by Olivier Malric(from 02:26)

Salman Khan and the Khan Academy - a better way to teach?

Here at Bucks we're inspired by the work of Salman Khan, the American educator and entrepreneur who founded the Khan Academy, a not-for-profit online school which teaches every academic subject under the sun. Khan's philosophy is simple - traditional schools have got it all backwards. His mission is to change the way we learn, and make it better.
Khan's philosophy is simple - he argues that educators should "flip the classroom". Instead of having students listen to a lecture in the classroom, then go home and do their homework, why not do it the other way around? Students can learn at home, watching pre-recorded online tutorials, and then use time in class to do the homework, getting feedback from the teacher, fixing their work, and making improvements.

Khan's basic idea is that a lecture is no better for being delivered in a classroom than online. What really counts in education is personal feedback, one-on-one tuition.

Here at Bucks we want to introduce as much online and pre-recorded content as we can, so that students get the very best value from the course, learning at home on their own time. This way we can use precious classroom time for tutorials, feedback, and problem-solving.

Sal Khan is leading a revolution in the way schools teach, and we aim to be part of it.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Character Performance Workshop

Tom Bancroft
WORKSHOP #6 is on

Jan 29 at 05:00 PM - Jan 29 at 07:00 PM

(UTC -08:00) Pacific Time (US & Canada)

Location:  Franklin, Tennessee, United States

Event Summary:  A series of character design workshops that Tom Bancroft (Disney Animator - Lion King, Mulan, etc.) is doing. Worth checking out!

Character Performance

CHARACTER PERFORMANCE is job one as an animator/storyteller.  Giving your character a personality that you clearly communicate is the basis of all acting in animation.  With a character that ACTS, animation (movement) is secondary to establishing the personality of the character through its design, poses, expression and clear staging.  This subject will be discussed with many illustrations and reference.  Assignment draw over/ review will happen after the lecture. 

Come be part of the community of artists trying to make their characters the best they can be!
PLUS: a preview of Tom Bancroft’s new Kickstarter comic project coming in FEB!If we have time for Q and A, we will do that. Please email questions to Taylor before the webcast so we can review them. Her email is:

This week’s (optional) assignment:
Create a sketch (no color or inking needed please) using the character design of EMMA here:
Draw a full body pose of Emma looking at something in her hand.  -The goal here is to create a clear pose and expression that tells a clear story.  Is she scared of what she is holding?  Fascinated?  Enamored?  Mad?  Draw it big enough so we can see her face, but remember that her body language should push the attitude.

I am looking forward to seeing what you come up with!
Please make HIGH RESOLUTION scans at 300dpi and save them as jpegs.   Make sure your first and last name is part of the file name.  (Example: JohnSmith.jpg).  I would prefer if your email was somewhere on the artwork also.  The reason is that I am preparing a future book and I may ask to use some of these contributions at a later date.  Email those scans


Finding Work at Film and TV Pro

Film and TV Pro is a great website to sign up for. You can get updates on jobs, both paid and unpaid, and connect with industry professionals. Looking for that first job can be the trickiest part of launching your career, and being connected is part of the solution.

Also, once you are established in your career, the site can be a useful way of finding people to work with you on projects where multiple skills are required.

There are lots of websites nowadays which help you to stay connected with the industry. Others include The Animation World Network at, which also allows you to sign up for job alerts, and showcases jobs in animation all over the world.

Finding work is about refining your skills, having a great demo reel - and staying connected. Don't wait for jobs to find you - you have to get out there and hunt them down.


Sunday, January 27, 2013

More Animation Process from ParaNorman

Even this long after seeing Laika's ParaNorman, I am still extremely impressed every time I see some snippets of the process behind it. This one shows a bit about how all of the different departments worked together to make Angry Aggie.


found via spungella

Student Showcase: Michael Swan meets Tag Heuer

Tag Heuer watch by Michael Swan
Michael Swan is one of our talented animation students here at Bucks, who is working hard to become a skilled digital artist and an expert modeller. As part of his studies he has completed a project for the Swiss watch company Tag Heuer, accurately modelling one of their products and creating a short film set to music, shown below:

Good CG modelling is an important skill for a digital artist, but students often forget that one of the most important aspects of being a good modeller is being able to accurately reproduce existing products. There is plenty of well-paid work out there in advertising and commercials, creating accurate copies of products and bringing them to life. It may not be as much fun as building fantasy creatures, but it is a necessary part of any digital artist's portfolio.

Congratulations to Michael on an excellent piece of work.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Should you study online - or in a classroom?

Animation Apprentice - teaching animation online
Which is better? Studying online, or in a classroom? Until recently, almost everyone would have answered "in a classroom". But in recent years, as broadband has become cheaper and more universally available, and the cost of computer hardware has fallen, the possibilities for online study have grown. And, as tuition fees rise, so distance learning starts to look like a more affordable option.

Last year I founded Animation Apprentice , an online animation school designed specifically to teach the art of character and creature animation. It took 6 months to build the course, but now it almost runs itself, since most of the content is pre-recorded. Students gets bespoke feedback on their shots every week - which is the fun part of teaching, giving personal feedback and helping students to improve their work.

Here at Bucks we aim to combine the best aspects of distance learning with the best features of the traditional classroom model. Combining online content with classroom feedback is called blended learning, and the idea is that it offers the best of both worlds.

As the cost of higher education rises we think that blended learning will become an increasingly common way to get the very best out of higher education, using new technology to deliver education in a better, more efficient and more affordable way.


Friday, January 25, 2013

iAnimate: Being a Game Animator

A great in depth conversation with some great industry vets and instructors, about the game industry.

iAnimate Online Event - Being a Game Animator from iAnimate on Vimeo.


Animation Pro's visit Bucks

Commercials and idents by Mark Le Fevre
Mark Hudson, Course Leader at Bucks in Graphic Arts, has invited the following film-makers and animators to talk to his students in February:

Zac Ella is coming on 21st February.

Zac is a film-maker and animator who attended Leeds College of Art and Design "to chase his dreams of drawing naked people". Then, "having realised he wasn’t really that good", he pursued a career in film and video.
Video work by Zac Ella
Jim Le Fevre is coming on 28th February.

Jim Le Fevre is a BAFTA and British Animation Award winning filmmaker who has directed commercials and idents for Nickleodeon, Ambipur and Rowntrees as well as animated comedy sketches for cult TV series Monkey Dust.

Jim Le Fevre
The format for both visits will be a practitioner talk at about 10am, followed by a workshop. Talks like this can be a great opportunity to learn more about careers in animation, film and TV. We're proud to have such talented artists coming to talk to us at Bucks.
Any animators and VFX artists at Bucks who would like to go - let me know, as Mark will need to get an idea of numbers.


Re-animating the animation library at Bucks

The Animator's Survival Kit - now the standard textbook for learning animation
We're in the process of beefing up the animation library here at Bucks. Not just more books, but more copies of books. And we're after journals too - such as Animation Magazine, Imagine Magazine - materials that help students learn from the best sources and keep in touch with the latest news from the industry.

The number one book every animator should have on their shelf is The Animator's Survival Kit, Expanded Edition by Richard Williams. No other book comes close (not that I'm biased or anything) in terms of its depth of coverage of character animation.

There are lots of other useful books, and the numbers are growing all the time. Rather than list my recommendations here, check out this reading list here at my online animation school website.

Actually, there are lots of useful books on animation in the Bucks library, and the staff are super helpful and very willing to take time to explain to individuals and groups how best to access their resources. Ask for Elik or Roland, they'll be happy to give you a tour.

The only tricky bit is where to find the right books. Animation as a discipline is notoriously hard to classify. Are we an art? a craft? An offshoot of computer science? The library is just as confused as everyone else is, and as a result you'll find the animation books in three different places on the shelves. Obviously, you can search the online catalogue (super easy to use) to find the right books. But to make things even simpler, here's where to find them:

We'll start in the comics section at 741 on the 4th floor (see image below). You can see Preston Blair's excellent book tucked up against one on Tex Avery:
Animation and comics at 741 - 4th floor
For other books on animation - look on the film-making shelves at 778, on the 5th floor (see below). You can see Shamus Culhane's book next to some books on special effects and sound design.
Animation and film-making at 778 - 5th floor

Finally, there's a section on Digital Animation on the 3rd floor at 006 (see below), nestling with various other materials on computers, game design and Flash.
Digital Animation at 006 on the 3rd floor. Flash, 3DS Max and Blender.
So, the bad news is there are three areas to browse. The good news is we are well stocked - and we will be getting in more books and more copies of the most popular and useful books.

And, if you have any suggestions, leave them in the comments section below. We'll do our best to get all the books we need to give students the best possible resources.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Future of Animation Rigging?

Raf Anzovin of Anzovin Studios talks about his new breakthrough in rigging for animation - Anzovin Rig Tools. It looks awesome, but there's a catch. It's not fully developed yet and, in order to finish it, Raf wants your money!


Free Laptops!

We're giving away free laptops! Well...sort of. As part of the total annual Animation & VFX course fee of £8,000, we're hoping to build in a free laptop so that every student beginning our course gets their own personal workstation to do their animation, so they can work both at home and on campus.

Why are we doing this? Because we want you to be part of the digital revolution. Computers are no longer a luxury accessory, they are a relatively inexpensive and almost indispensible part of a career in media. Nowadays your laptop can be your home studio, the sole piece of kit required to make your own films and take on Hollywood at its own game.

We're training animators not just to get jobs but to create jobs, to be independent entrepreneurs who can build their own studios out of their bedrooms, take on freelance work and create a virtual career.

When you have your own workstation you can set it up the way you want it; you become your own IT department and your own problem-solver, not purely dependent on the university for access to the computer rooms.

We want to empower our students to become a new generation of independent digital artists, starting up their own companies and shaking up the industry.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Animation Internet Revolution

The Animation Internet Revolution: There is a revolution taking place in media and content creation. Any animator with talent, a laptop and a story to tell can now take on ...

FAQ's - what students are asking about our course

Industry standard software
We're getting a lot of questions about our new Animation and VFX course here at Bucks, so I thought I would compile a list of Frequently Asked Questions to make life easier for everyone. Here is a (not especially complete) list:

Q: What software will you be teaching?
A: The Bucks Animation course has traditionally been taught in Autodesk 3D Studio Max. However, while Max is excellent software, the reality is that for most Soho VFX houses and Games companies, the leading software is Autodesk Maya. So we will be teaching primarily in Maya, though possibly with some Max holdovers. Which isn't a bad thing, as you can't know too much software in this business.

Q. What makes your course unique?
A: What makes us special is our focus on animation. There are lots of courses that can teach you general 3D skills, but we focus on making sure that you can use those skills to give a compelling performance, bringing CG characters and creatures to life.

Q: At what point in the course will you allow a student to specialise?
A: The first year provides a general grounding in 3D (You can see our course outline here). In year two, we get  deeper into animation and broad CG skills, giving students the opportunity to specialise and focus on certain areas. The 3rd year focuses on self-directed projects so you have the chance to focus on the area you most enjoy.

Q: Will I get a job at the end of the course?
A: We can't guarantee anyone a job but we will do our level best to give every student industry-relevant skills. Whenever we hear about new jobs, internships or freelance opportunities we let our students know right away, such as this music promo animated by Paula Gillin. Our course is designed to give all our students skills which will make them highly employable.

Student Accommodation at Bucks
Q: Does Bucks provide accomodation?
A: First year undergraduates and international students, living outside a 25-mile radius of High Wycombe, are eligible to apply for the Halls of Residence. If you have any questions about this, email us at:

Any other questions - ask away in the comments section, and I'll update the list!


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Animation Workflow: Patrick Guisiano

I know I meant to post this a while back but anyways...great workflow from John Carter. He goes into great detail of the process he used from boards, reference video, layout and then blocking. A great breakdown to check out.

John Carter Evolution Reel from Patrick Giusiano on Vimeo.


What Does The Perfect Demo Reel Look Like?

What does the perfect animation demo reel look like? It's not an academic question. A good demo reel is the student's calling card, their shop front to the world and a public display of talent. No matter how good or talented you may be - you are only as good as your demo reel. It is what employers will look at when they decide which of ten applicants to hire for a vacancy. A good reel is the difference between getting hired, and not.

Above is an example of what I think a good animation reel should look like. This is the work of the very talented Richard Jeffrey, who took my animation course at Escape Studios in London. Rich has done a mixture of character and creature work, and shows not just technical skill but that most elusive of qualities - the capacity to entertain.

Any student with a reel like this will not struggle to find work.


Monday, January 21, 2013



Tue, 01/22/2013
What’s the outlook for careers across the digital media spectrum - from artists to technical directors to producers in games, broadcast, television, film and other media “yet to be invented.” Hear a panel of hiring managers and veteran recruiters share the inside scoop on where the jobs are….and where they aren’t.


What’s the outlook for careers across the digital media spectrum - from artists to technical directors to producers in games, broadcast, television, film and other media "yet to be invented". Hear a panel of hiring managers and veteran recruiters share the inside scoop on where the jobs are ... and where they aren’t.


6:30-7:30   Social Hour
- 6:30-7:00   Members only
- 7:00-7:30   Members and guests
7:30-7:45   Introductions
7:45-9:30   Panel Discussion


All LA ACM SIGGRAPH will be admitted free of charge. Non-members of LA ACM SIGGRAPH are admitted for $20.00. New LA ACM SIGGRAPH members who sign up on-site, and pay the $40 annual membership fee (checks or cash only), do not have to pay the $20 admission fee.

What's inside our new Animation Course at Bucks?

Bucks Animation Logo by Monika Dzikowicz
Our new Animation and VFX course starting in September isn't just a re-branding of our existing animation course, it's a whole new course, aimed at training animators and VFX artists to work in Soho, in games, in advertising - in any media that involves creating and animating characters and creatures.

Below is a brief summary of what we'll be teaching:

CGI Foundation - Year One
Year One
  • CGI Foundation. Core vfx skills. Modelling, cameras & lenses, UV mapping & texturing, lighting & rendering, and compositing a 3D object into a photographic plate. 
  • 2D Graphics & Animation. Motion graphics, animated text effects, and animated film & TV titles. 
  • CGI Animation Foundation. Animation principles, including locomotion, walk cycles, run cycles, weight and flexibility. 
  • Previs & 3D Layout. Design, storyboards, concept art, 3D layout, cameras, editing, sound effects, motion capture (“MoCap”) and directing.
Year Two - Animation 2 - Character Performance
Year Two
  • Animation 2 - Character Performance. Acting, dialogue, lipsync and performance. 
  • Animation 3 - Animals & Creatures. Photo-realistic animals including quadrupeds, birds, insects, fish, monsters, dinosaurs and other creatures. 
  • Intermediate CGI Modelling & Rigging. Modelling, rigging, texturing and lighting. 
  • CG VFX. Dynamics, particles & fluids.
Year Three - Short Film project
Year Three
  • Short Film Project - Pre-Production.  Solo or group project - a short film. Script, storyboards, visual development & design, and record voices into a full story reel or animatic. 
  • Short Film Project - Production. Modelling, texturing, animation, lighting, music and sound effects. 
  • Digital Practice. The job market. Take a close look at the industry, complete a live project for a client, work on a website or blog and polish your demo reel. 
  • Dissertation. Theory and practice. Research Methods, Film Theory, Design, Media, Lifestyle & Culture.
The goal is to give all our students well-rounded animation and VFX skills, so that every student is job-ready and able to compete at an international level on graduation. We want our course to be the best you can take anywhere in the country.

For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn about motion capture at Bucks. And find out about how our online video tutorials work.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

ParaNorman (2012) - Character Design

© Laika Entertainment © Focus Features

Pencil character drawings by Heidi Smith
Early Norman concepts (2008) by Guy Davis
Early Norman concepts

Christmas morning, a young Norman with his zombie toy by Heidi Smith
Norman in the woods by Heidi Smith
This is one of the first sketches I did for Norman's character.  His design was 
inspired by my former CalArts instructor Norman Klein. - Heidi Smith
Norman turnaround by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
Norman facial expressions by Pete Oswald
by Pete Oswald

Young Norman with his grandma
by Heidi Smith
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by Heidi Smith
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by Heidi Smith
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by Heidi Smith
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
My inspiration for Mr. Prenderghast's character was Tevye from the film 
Fiddler on the Roof. Here is my initial sketch for him. - Heidi Smith
Here is a finished drawing I made for Mr. Prenderghast.  The medium I used was charcoal 
and pastel.  When I was drawing this I imagined him at night, standing in the dark, only 
the cigar illuminating his face, I wanted him to have a ghostly essence. - Heidi Smith
This was basically the final look for Mr. Prenderghast. 
The directors wanted him to look like a hobo! - Heidi Smith
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
Here are the sketches I made for Neil's ghost dog Bob. - Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
A beaver concept by Heidi Smith that was used as the logo for Mr. Prenderghast's hat.
Character development for school play scene by Edward Juan
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
Daniel Day Lewis by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by Heidi Smith
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by Heidi Smith
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
Here are some of the early concept sketches for the 
look of the puritans and the zombies by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by Deanna Marsigliese
Early concepts (2008) by Guy Davis
by Guy Davis
by Guy Davis
by Guy Davis
by Guy Davis
by Guy Davis
by Guy Davis
by Guy Davis
by Guy Davis
Pitch poster concept (2008) by Guy Davis
Here are the sketches that were used for the more final look of the puritans and zombies. 
Sketch of living Judge Hopkins in a Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
Judge Hopkins with cloak open by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
Judge Hopkins head sketch by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
Judge Hopkins zombie concepts by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
Hungry zombie concept by Heidi Smith (?)
The James Dean and Humphrey Bogart inspired ghost by Heidi Smith
The Hippie ghost by by Heidi Smith
Amelia Earhart ghost by Heidi Smith
Victorian ladies by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
Smoking ghost. I thought it would have been interesting if one of the ghosts 
could have been made up entirely of smoke from a pipe. - Heidi Smith
Cement shoes by Heidi Smith
The Sea Captain by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
The civil war soldier by Heidi Smith
Civil war soldier turnaround by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
 I did this drawing with charcoal and pastel. It's supposed to be a generic zombie with a generic Norman.   It was used for one of the posters in The Art and Making of ParaNorman. - Heidi Smith
by Chris Butler, Heidi Smith, Trevor Dalmer & Kevin Dart
by Chris Butler & Trevor Dalmer
Ghost heads in the graveyard by Heidi Smith
Scared ghosts by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
Here are the sketches I did for the witch's curse in the sky. - Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
Mildred Prenderghast (Aggie's mother) concept drawing.
Aggie concepts by Heidi Smith
Here are the concept sketches I made for Aggie's  angry spirit.  The first sketch 
is basically  what the directors ended up going with. - Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
I thought it would be interesting if Aggie's hair could be a weapon, 
the hair becomes like zombie hands coming from the grave. - Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by Heidi Smith
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)
by David Vandervoort (design by Heidi Smith)

Facial expressions by David Vandervoort

A final Norman puppet