Thursday, November 28, 2013

Critique from AnimSquad's Marlon Nowe

A good look at some feedback on how Marlon would construct shapes in the face and emphasizing pushing poses.


link to Marlon Nowe's Tangled Reel

More Character Rigs from Long Winter Studios

Long Winter Studios has been busy creating an array of new and exciting characters. It seems there is now so much range in the different characters and they all have so much appeal. If you haven't visited the site yet head over and check it out! Meet Tom, Argus and Claire. Testing in the works so I'll put an update out soon! Oh and if you head over now they are offering a 20% off everything! Not sure how "Long" it will last.!store/c1w84!store/c1w84!store/c1w84

Also have a look at The Monster Showreel!

The Monster Showreel from Long Winter Studios on Vimeo.

**Update** Claire and Tom Demo

Tom and Claire from Long Winter Studios on Vimeo.


How Do I Get My Name onto The IMDB? - How the System Works

Insert Your Name Here
The Internet Movie Database, or IMDB, is the principal portal for finding people who work in film and broadcast media. It's where you go to look people up. Gone are the days when you had to dig through back copies of Variety to find out someone's track record - knowledge is now just a click away. Being listed is important. Anyone who isn't listed, effectively does not exist.

But how do you get onto it? Specifically, as a recent graduate, trying to building yourself a reputation and an online presence, how do you get your name included in their database? Here's how the system works:

First, you need to attached yourself to a project which is actually listed on the IMDB. This can be a student film, or a short project which is deemed worthy of inclusion. IMDB don't list every project that gets made - there are simply too many. So, you have to get past their gatekeepers. You have to prove yourself worthy. The best way to prove the worth of your project is to enter it for competitions.

But how do you enter it for competitions? It's easy, though it does take a bit of time, and you may have to spend a little money. One of the quickest, simplest methods is to list your project at The site allows you to upload your film, fill in some (rather long) forms, and then - hey presto - you can enter film competitions all over the world. Withoutabox is free. As for competitions, the fees vary from nothing to quite a bit. It's up to you as to how many you want to enter. For a complete survey of how withoutabox works, check out this post.

Once you have your project listed at withoutabox, an IMDB listing is more or less automatic. Why? Because IMDB will now assume that you are serious about making and promoting your film to as wide an audience as possible.

Your next job is to add the names of yourself and your cast and crew to the database. You do this through the IMDB tab marked "update" or "edit page". Again, it takes a little while, and the interface is a bit fiddly. But once you get the hang of it, it works great.

Submission of names is not automatic, so be patient. IMDB will review your submissions and, assuming all is well, post them around a week later. Now, with any luck, your name and those of your colleagues are listed online. Now you can start editing your profile, to add your CV, your demo reel, links to your website, your agent or lawyer if you have one - anything else to help make your profile as "real" as possible. Remember, your goal is to create an online space for yourself as an industry professional.

Sometimes you will see a project at IMDB that should have your name on it, but doesn't. Don't feel aggrieved - it's not personal. All you have to do is go to the project page and update it by adding your name. The system runs on the honesty principle, and it works pretty well overall.

Of course, getting on the IMDB won't get you a job in itself. But it will make clients and employers feel more confident, seeing that you already have a track record and an industry profile.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Listening is an Act of Love

Storycorps presents it's first half hour special, animated by the Rauch brothers.  It will air on PBS stations on Thanksgiving night, but check your local listings.  From what I can see, the Buffalo affiliate, WNED, will not be running this, so Toronto is out of luck.

Greg Kelly has pointed out to me that starting November 29 until December 28, the special will be online at PBS, so everyone will get a chance to see it.  Thanks Greg.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Frozen tomorrow!

Frozen finally hits theaters tomorrow!

 I went with a few of the animators to catch an advanced screening at the El Capitan last weekend.

My friends Julia, Clarinha, Lorelay, and I in front of the Frozen-ified hat building.

Just a few of the amazing animators I got to work with on the show.

They made it snow after the premiere in the Dolby Theater!

The animation crew, taken right after we wrapped animation.

Vfx Soldier Blogger ‘Outs’ Himself

Vfx Soldier blog revealed his identity today to lead the visual effects protest outside DreamWorks Animation in conjunction with President Obama’s visit. The identity of the anonymous VFX Soldier blogger has been revealed to be technical director Daniel Lay. Lay, who has worked at DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks, and Digital Domain, has spent the last three years writing about problems within the visual effects industry.

more here...

How Do I Find a Job in Media? - Our Graduates Reveal the Secrets

How do graduates in digital media find that crucial first job? And the second? And how do you build a career? Last friday a dozen Bucks graduates who are currently working  in the creative industries came back to their alma mater to talk to our undergraduates about what it takes to find work. They They discussed many things, but the recurring theme was employment - and how to find it. Below are some of their tips for graduates looking to find work.

1. Turn up on time 
A number of members of the panel mentioned good time keeping as important, which is as much as to say - be reliable.

2. Don’t be a d**k
No-one wants to work with people they don't like. Be nice!

3. Don’t smell bad. 
Try not to smell like a hangover. 

4. Learn to blag it – but not too much. 
Be confident, and try to say "yes, I can do that". But don't promise to do anything you know you can't pull off. No-one likes to be let down, and Producers will not forgive you if you make them look foolish. Be protective of your reputation - it's a small industry. 

5. Surround yourself with people who like doing the same stuff as you do
Be part of a community of artists who enjoy doing the same kind of work. You will learn from them, and they will learn from you. You might even set up a company together.

6. Work for free or for low wages – but not for too long 
Be willing to do work for modest sums, or for travel expenses, or just for the experience - in order to break into the industry. Unpaid internships can lead to a job. 

7. Contact as many companies as possible
Expect rejection, don't take it personally. Do your homework, research companies that need your skills; offer to help them out for low wages or for work experience - it may lead to a job.

8. Offer to help out on a shoot
Film shoots always need bodies - offer to help out. Again, you'll probably be doing it for free, or for travel costs, but this can be great experience.

9. Create your own mystique.
Find the thing that you do well, and get known for it. Make people feel confident in what you do. Like the sound guy who walks into a room, taps on a table and listens for the echo. It means nothing – but it looks good

10. Watch out for what’s on your FB page
People looking to employ you will check you out, so make sure your public profile isn't embarrassing. Your hilarious views on politics may make your friends laugh but it might cost you a job.

11.  Be really good at what you do
This is the obvious one. If you are not confident in your work - who else will be? 

12. You’re only as good as your last job – and your next job.
As a freelancer you will be judged on the last thing you did. Make sure everything you do is completed to a high professional standard. 

13. Ask not what your client can do for you, ask what you can do for your client.
Clients are looking to you to solve their problems, not create more. Try not to be too needy or high maintenance. Be a problem-solver not a problem-creator.

(Editor's Note: To see more about how we're taking active steps to help our graduates find work, check out our latest commercial project for Rocketseed, and our short film done for a global aid agency. For more information on working as a freelancer, check out our recent post on Portfolio Careers.  For advice on careers, check out our guide to animation careers here, and also take a look at this map of digital studios - a great place to start your search for work in the business.)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Disney Women

These are the women of Disney's animation studios. Jennifer Lee, front right, one of the directors of Disney Animation's "Frozen" and Lauren MacMullan, front left, director of "Get a Horse," a short film coming out soon, are surrounded by other women who work on animation projects at the Walt Disney Studios.

because there are so few of us...

( Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )
These are the women of Disney's animation studios. Jennifer Lee, front right, one of the directors of Disney Animation's "Frozen" and Lauren MacMullan, front left, director of "Get a Horse," a short film coming out soon, are surrounded by other women who work on animation projects at the Walt Disney Studios.,0,

How Do I Get My Book Published? - Ten Rules to Make a Success of It

So you've got a great idea for a book - now you want to know - how do you get it published? The good news is, it has never been easier to get into print. The bad news is, the economics of publishing have never been worse. Plus, writing a whole book is going to be a major effort, so you don't want to waste your time on something that no-one wants to read. So what is answer? Like so many things in media, what you need is a good pitch. Below is our simple guide to getting it right and ensuring that a good publisher will (hopefully) pick up your first book.

Rule 1 - Write the first Chapter
A good pitch to a publisher should always include the first chapter of the book (at least). People want to know what they are getting. If they like the first 5-10 pages, you will have secured their interest. If they don't like the beginning, they probably won't read the rest. So, edit and re-edit your opening and make it fabulous.

Rule 2 - Describe the book in a simple, clear way
What is the book about? Include a "one sheet" in your pitch which sets out very briefly what the book is about, in a way that grabs the reader's interest. Keep it short and sexy. This is what you will send to your publishers - your first chapter and the "one sheet" - like this one below:
Page one of a two page pitch to a publisher
Rule 3 - Explain who your book for is for
Who is your book aimed at? Men? Women? Children? If the latter, what age range? How big is your target audience? Remember that no book is aimed at a universal audience. Who is actually likely to buy it?

Rule 4 - Make it easy for the publisher to say yes.
Explain how hard you are going to work to promote the book. Let them know you love nothing better than doing book signings in Wolverhampton, blogging endlessly and Tweeting about it all to your 25,000 followers. Publishers love social media and they will expect you to promote your own work. You may think that publishers do the promotion for you - get real. They don't.

Start blogging, tweeting, and promoting your book's Facebook page. You will hate it. Your publisher will expect it.

Rule 5 - Understand the economics of publishing
Hardly any writers make a living from writing. A few mega-stars make a fortune, the rest just get by or they do it for fun. Be realistic about what you will get paid. Almost no-one gets a big advance these days. Don't give up the day job.

Rule 6 - Find the publishers who publish your kind of book.
Go to a bookshop (yes, they still exist), and look for books similar to your own. Make a list of the publishers who publish those books, find their addresses, and send them a copy of your pitch. You don't need an agent (but see rule 7).

Rule 7 - Find the literary agents who publish your kind of book
A literary agent is no longer necessary to get published, but it can definitely help. Get online and find out who represents authors who write similar kind of work to yours. Make a list of the agents you want to approach, and send them a copy of your pitch, by email and by hard copy. They will read it, eventually. Everyone is looking for the Next Big Thing.

Rule 8 - Stop worrying about copyright. 
The minute you write down your idea, copyright automatically vests in you as the creator and owner. You don't need to trademark it, or assert copyright, or anything else. Relax, it's yours from the moment you start writing. If in doubt, watch this video.

Relax, you own it from the moment you write it
Rule 9 - Don't send in anything you want to get back and don't expect replies
The vast majority of publishers and agents are overwhelmed with submissions. Everyone is busy, and few will have time to respond to you personally, let alone return your manuscript to you. The days of rejection letters are over - most will never reply. Don't take it personally. Develop rhinoceros hide - you're going to need it.
Be the Rhino
Rule 10 - Consider self-publishing.
Self-publishing used to be known as "The Vanity Press", but no longer. In the era of Amazon kindles and digital downloads, plenty of authors self-publish. If you do your homework, you can make more money than you would from a conventional publishing route. By-pass the middle man and become your own imprint!


(Editor's note:  Alex has published nine books - his most recent book is The Queen's Counsel Lawyer's Omnibus, published in October 2013 For more information on working as a freelancer, read out our post on Portfolio Careers.  Also, check out our guide to animation careers here, and also take a look at this map of digital studios - a great place to start your search for work in the business. Learn nuts and bolts of freelance life by reading our guide to invoicing clients, and our guide to managing your first client project.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Student Showcase - Our Talented First Year Animators

Every animation course begins with a bouncing ball
Our new Animation & VFX course has been up and running for just six weeks now, but our freshmen animators are already doing excellent work. Their first formally assessed brief was to do a short piece of abstract animation set to music. In order to pass, the students had to be able to demonstrate that they had mastered all the basic 3D skills: modeling, texturing, camera, animation, lighting, render and final output.

Below is a small selection of some of the films which came out particularly well.

Georgia Nicholls - Benny Hill Bouncing Ball

James Hatton - Abstract animation to music

James Mdhluli - abstract animation to music

Congratulations to all of them on their great work. The standard overall was incredibly high, especially given that all of them have only just begun their studies. In fact, it was tough to make the selects - there was so much good work submitted. I am thrilled with the high standard this year and look forward to seeing more excellent animation in the future.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Graduate Panel on Friday - Who's Coming?

Some of the companies our graduates have worked for
Friday 22 November is the launch of our brand-new Graduate Panel - aimed specifically at careers in the creative digital arts. The panel will take place on Friday November 22nd from midday until 15.00 in the General Lecture Theatre (GLT).

Who will be there? Our guests are all Bucks graduates, all working in digital media, who will be returning to the Uni to share their insights into how they forged their careers. They were themselves students at Bucks, so they know better than anyone what it takes to turn a degree into a career. Below is a complete list of who's on the Panel. Bring a notepad, and get ready with your questions.

Rob Brandon
Since graduating in 2008 Rob has worked on award winning short films and music videos, following his undergraduate Exposures Film Festival successes both in 2007 and 2008.

Both long and short form work has been shown on terrestrial and digital television channels across the UK, Austria and Germany, including the BBC, Channel 4, ORF, Red Bull TV, Propeller TV, MTV & NMEtv, as well as work featured on prestigious websites and blogs including BBConline, and FakeDIY. Most recently Rob has worked as a full time Video Editor (2.5 Yrs) for the Red Bull Media House in Salzburg, Austria.

Chris Church
Chris is Senior Producer, Commercials at ITN Productions.

Film by Monika Dzikowicz

Monika Dzikowicz
graduated from animation last year and has worked on a short feature, and is now working on an animation for the Animation Talent Award. <>

George Hambleton
George graduated last year and is a freelance sound engineer, currently working on Channel 4's Stand Up for the Week and preparing for a tour with ChainSka Brassika. Worked artists such as Happy Mondays, The Beat, The Selector, The BlockHeads, Kids in Glass Houses, to name but a few. .

David Rolfe
David is a highly respected and experienced Producer and Director. As MD of Screenpro Films Ltd in the 1970s David was engaged in the Middle East filming specialist with contracts in Saudi Arabia, The Emirates, and The Oman. This was followed by a spell as a feature film post production supervisor for Paramount, Warner Bros., EMI
and other major distributors. During this period David was also Producer and Director of The Silent Witness – and Investigation into the Shroud of Turin, and was winner of BAFTA and Gold Awards at San Francisco, New York and many others. David was also a founder member of PACT and consultant to BBC Worldwide at this time.
During the 1980s David was Senior Producer London Weekend TV. He produced and directed series and episodes of:
Credo (ITV’s regular series on religious issues)
The London Programme
Weekend World (ITV’s flagship weekly current affairs programme) including award winning specials on The Underclass, The Collapse of Communism and The Threat of CFCs to the Environment
The Thatcher Years (Three hour studio special to mark her 10th anniversary as Prime Minister)
Jesus – The Evidence (3 hour special for Channel 4 on revelations in New Testament scholarship)
20th Century Box
The Walden Interviews
The Skag Kids
Family Affairs, and many others.

David also jointly oversaw LWT’s transition from film to video for factual output.
During the 1990s David took on the role of Senior Producer and Chairman of The Performance Group, an independent partnership comprising:
Performance Films, (Broadcast Commissions)
Performance Communications (Corporate Commissions)
Performance Consultants (Coaching based training for industry and commerce.)

David was responsible for establishing Performance Coaching, a business that pioneered the use of coaching skills in all areas of the workplace, took turnover from £60,000 to over £2m in 2 years.
David also undertook the following roles during this period:
Series Producer of Wild Islands 26 part film series on British and Irish Wildlife for ITV
Producer of Postcards from the Country (4 of 8 episodes) for BBC Natural History Unit
Panoramas for BBC 1 on AIDS, Satanic Abuse in Orkney and Horse Racing & the Jockey Club.
Gorbachov’s 5th Anniversary Event live from Moscow.
Executive Producer - Fight Again – A History of the Labour Party. (Three Parts) For BBC 2 Recorded at TLS.

During a 2000-2002 - Sabbatical David invented and patented an amphibious vehicle, now in production. (See
Between 2003-2006 David worked again with Performance Films Ltd, filming and editing sensitive and confidential subjects in the UK and abroad for Johnson & Johnson, Roche, Seiko and the World Health Organisation and developing film projects.
Between 2007-2008 David Produced and directed Shroud of Turin, presented by Rageh Omaar for BBC2 and RAI.
We are delighted that David will join the Graduate Panel on Friday November 22nd from 15.00 in Gateway Lecture Theatre.

Radek Sienski
Radek graduated in 2010. Since then Radek went on to win a few awards for my short films (such as Yobi Filmmaker of the Year 2010, Best Young Filmmaker at the Fastnet Short Film Festival 2010 and best film at Campus MovieFest 365, London 2011 (A Question of Time) and worked as a VFX supervisor on comedy/horror feature 'Kill Keith'.

 Radek studied editing at the National Film & TV School in January 2011, and is currently involved in various documentary and TV projects.

 He recently worked as an Editing Tutor/Advisor at BFI Film Academy teaching the technical and creative side of Avid.

Recent credits include 'Recession' directed by 3 time Bafta winner Beryl Richards, Sky Living's drama 'Talking to the Dead' (assistant editor) and BBC1's documentary 'Fox Wars' (audience: 2.4m).

Tom Wynn
Tom graduated last year and set up RiseMedia Ltd. in late 2011 with three friends who studied Digital Film and Screen arts at Farnham UCA. Tom took the role of Production Coordinator and location sound recordist. Clients to date have included FIXI Crescent Suzuki World Superbike Team, Lloyds British GBmoto British Superbike Team, The King Blues, The Institute of Hospitality and many more.

Cathy Valve
Cathy graduated in 2013 and is now working at Red Bee Media (


(Editor's Note: To see more about how we're taking active steps to help our graduates find work, check out our latest commercial project for Rocketseed, and our short film done for a global aid agency. And don't forget the Careers Fair at Bucks on November 21st.)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Miyazaki Manga

While he has seemingly retired from directing animation, Hayao Miyazaki has returned to creating manga. Above are two photos of many from a recent Japanese documentary on Miyazaki, as reported by Crunchyroll.

The manga is a period piece dealing with samurai during the Warring States period of Japanese history.

Miyazaki already created one major manga work, Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind.  Having read and admired that, I look forward to reading more Miyazaki when this is completed.

Open Day today at Bucks!

Open Day at Bucks New University - come and see us!
Today, Wednesday 20th November 2013, is Open Day at Bucks. Open Days are a great way to meet the Tutors and Course Leaders (for Animation & VFX - that's me and Dave Creighton) here at Bucks, find out about our courses, and also explore our campus.

We're sure you'll be impressed by the state-of-the-art technical equipment we have in the brand new Gateway Building; the result of a £40m investment program completed just a couple of years ago.

Got questions about Animation? Or about visual effects work? Curious about careers, the kind of jobs available for animators and digital artists? - We have the answers.

Higher education is a big step and it's even bigger now that course fees are going up. We want to make sure that all our students get excellent value for money, and receive an inspiring top-quality training that will ensure a successful career in industry.

So, come along today and find out if Bucks is for you. The official page, which has more details, can be found here.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Animating a Quadruped Walk CycleTutorial: Samy Fecih

Samy Fecih has a long history in the animation industry. He is currently a Lead Animator over at Dreamworks India and has put up a tutorial on animating a quadruped walk cycle. It's a great insight to his workflow and some great tips in there as well.

Quadrupede Walk Cycle Tutorial from SamyOddjob on Vimeo.

Always great to see workflows!

found via lesterbanks

Seven Rules to Make a Group Project Work

Group projects always sound like a great idea, in theory. In practice, things rarely go to plan. Why do they go wrong?  Usually it's due to a lack of individual responsibility. Everyone in your group will tend to think that, where there's a job to be done, someone else will do it. The result is paralysis - nothing happens.

This is a problem for all group projects, and students film projects are no exception. So, save yourself some pain and heartache by following this step-by-step guide to making a group project work. These are the rules to live by.

Rule 1 - Make sure everyone has a job for which they alone are responsible

At a minimum, you will need to decide who is responsible for the following jobs: Producer, Director, Art Director/designer, Writer, Editor. If it's a CG project, you will need a digital supervisor as well. Each role must be filled by one person (never divide roles) who is responsible for this part of the project getting done.
Someone must be King. Or Queen.

Rule 2 - Decide who is the boss

Film studios, even small ones, are not democracies. Someone must be in charge. On any film project there are usually two people in charge - Producer and Director. Each job is different.
  1. Producer. It is the Producer's job to organise the show, to set deadlines, to make sure deadlines are met. The Producer is organiser-in-chief, the project manager. 
  2. Director. The Director's job is to provide creative leadership. The director must make the key creative decisions, working with the rest of the group, coming up with fresh ideas, inspiring the team. The Director is problem-solver in chief. 

Rule 3 - Set deadlines.

Without deadlines, projects don't get done. When will the script be done by? When will the mood boards be done? The storyboards? The animation? The final edit? The Producer must make a spreadsheet (learn to love Excel, or Google calendars) so everyone knows what the schedule is. Without a schedule you will struggle to get anything done.

Rule 4 - meet your deadlines

Deadlines are there for your own protection - you must make them on time or your project will hit trouble. Treat deadlines with respect. Meet them every week. Be disciplined.

Rule 5 - Have a plan B

If someone on your team isn't working out, replace them. You cannot have a smooth running machine with components that cannot or will not work.  If any individual won't deliver, replace them or do their job yourself. Nothing must stop the train.

Rule 6 -  Know how films get made. 

Understand how film-making works. Every project starts with a script, closely followed by visual development, storyboards, animatic (usually with voices, music and temp sound effects), then animation, lighting and rendering (if it's CG), post production (eg final sound design), and final output. Watch this film here to get you started. Know the process thoroughly and don't try to re-invent the wheel.

The cartoon at the top of the blog is from For more on Group Projects, try this link.


Monday, November 18, 2013

The Congress (2013) - Line Tests

Sequence 34 animatic
Seq. 34 animationSeq. 40 animatic
Seq. 40 animation
Seq. 47 animatic
Seq. 47 animation
Seq. 50 animatic
Seq. 50 animation
Animation by Christian Retzlaff
Animation by Victor EnsAnimation by Paul Williams

Bucks Graduate showcase - the digital art of Andy Thomas

Andy Thomas is a talented artist who graduated from Bucks New University in 2002 and, since then, has forged a successful career in the digital arts. He now works for the global multi-national URS, running their digital media team. We asked him to talk a little about how he got started, and what students need to do to get hired in today's competitive job market.

Bucks: What did you study at Bucks?

Andy: Computer Aided Design (BSc hons) 1999 to 2002. The course was a bit of a mix of disciplines; including mechanical engineering, product design and multimedia design. This was back in the days where AutoCAD was the very latest thing, and careers in 3D digital media were few and far between.

The latest thing - in 1999

Bucks: Who taught you?

Andy: My tutors included John Sadler, Dr Tim Coole,  Lyndon Buck (he took us all to New York in the 2nd year, this was definitely a highlight of my time at Uni!). Also, Christian McClennan, Peter Shine (his lectures were amazing, he was basically a stand-up comedian posing as a Uni lecturer!), Steve Ferguson, Roger Pocock, and Martin Freeman.

John Sadler
Bucks: What is your current job?

Andy: I am the Multimedia Manager for URS Corporation, a leading provider of engineering, construction and technical services for public agencies and private sector companies around the world.
I run a team of multimedia artists and technicians. We produce 3D Visualisations, animations, graphic design and photomontages for various sectors including Architecture, Landscape Design, Planning, Mechanical & Engineering, Ports, Railways, Roads, Aviation & airports, and Defence & Security.

Bucks: What are the best and worst aspects of what you do?

Andy: The best part of what I do is producing creative work that is different for every job. Working in a huge organisation (URS has more than 80,000 employees worldwide!) enables you to find work in a lot of different sectors and industries.

The worst thing about the job is that the deadlines are always tight, and clients tend to change their minds at the last minute. As a result, it is very important to have your scope of work and your brief nailed down as early as possible. Having to work tightly to budgets is very important, though it sometimes means you have to sacrifice time on a project, in order to get it out the door on time and on budget.

Bucks: How did what you learned at Bucks prepare you for a career in digital media?

Andy: University gave me the base skills I needed to get a creative job in 3D / multimedia. I knew I didn’t want to become a product designer or a CAD Technician. I wanted to create stunning 3D images & animations for a living; I just had no idea how to get into this industry.

My first job out of Uni was a 3D modeller. I secured this job in my final term at Uni, as I didn’t want to leave Uni without something to do. I remember phoning every single company in the yellow pages that looked like they may use CAD or anything 3D and eventually found someone who would take me on for 6 months.

My task was to recreate a whole heap of 2D CAD data in 3D models – mainly medical equipment and engineering parts etc… Not the most exciting job, but someone was actually paying me to sit there, and model stuff. It was great and I had no complaints!

This gave me my first real taste of the working world and having real deadlines. It also taught me to be very accurate with my modelling, as these models were being manufactured straight from my 3D data, so it had to be spot on, or I would be to blame.

I then moved on to Scott Wilson, an engineering practice, as a graphic designer. Later I worked at PRP Architects as an Architectural Visualiser, and at the contractor KIER as a multimedia designer. Now I am at URS as the Multimedia Manager.

Bucks: What do you look for in a graduate who is seeking a job?

Andy: I look for two things:

1. Great portfolio, and a solid skillset and grounding in 3DS Max / AutoCAD & Adobe suite, and VRAY / After Effects. A good knowledge of these software packages would give them a definite advantage over other candidates.

2. Being a problem solver. A good attitude is the key thing here. The last thing I would want to hear one of my team say is ‘I don’t know’ when a client asks something of us. The correct answer should be ‘we’ll look into it, I’m sure we can come up with a creative solution’. This directly links into your skillset, as you need a good base of knowledge to fall back on, especially with tight deadlines.

Bucks:  If you could do your time at Bucks over again, what would you do differently?

Andy: Spend a bit less time at the Student Union, and more time practicing rendering & modeling techniques! No, seriously I don’t have any regrets; I loved my time at uni; I got the grades I needed to get my first job, and then I moved on from there.

Bucks: What advice would you give to students at Bucks so they can make the most of their time at University?

Andy: Use your tutors for advice and for their great knowledge base. My final year mentor was Dr. Tim Coole (most amazing name ever by the way!). He was instrumental in me doing well in my final year.

John Sadler was another tutor who had a fantastic knowledge of everything AutoCAD & 3ds max (or 3ds Viz as it was called at the time). They are there to teach and see you develop, so don’t be afraid to ask for their advice on anything.

Most of all though - enjoy it! It’s the only time in your life where you can spend as long as you like on your projects with no budget restraints. Use this time wisely and make your portfolio amazing, and different to everyone else out there.

(Editor's Note: For more excellent work done by graduates, check out our latest commercial project for Rocketseed, our short film done for a global aid agency, and take a look at the excellent work of some of our recent graduates, such as designer Monika Dzikowicz, architectural visualisation specialist Krsytof Michalski, Alex Whitfield and the 3D artwork of Mike Swan.)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

JOBS IN CALI: Scanline VFX LA is currently seeking Maya Previs Animators

Scanline VFX LA is currently seeking Maya Previs Animators, starting immediately. Applicants should have past previs experience and the ability to try out many ideas and  iterate quickly  to give the director choices. Applicants should have a firm grasp of storytelling, Maya animation, framing and camera work. Previs animators will be expected to design shots with and without storyboards to start from. Ideal candidates would have 3-5+ years professional experience. 

Hair Simulation in Maya 2014

Rapunzel - great hair!
One of the best new features of Autodesk Maya 2014 is a big step forward in its hair simulation capabilities. The new tool is called XGen, and it comes free with Maya 2014. It was developed by Disney/Pixar and was used on their recent film Rapunzel, to generate the heroine's gorgeous, bouncing tresses.

At the BlueGFX Expo in London last month, Autodesk demonstrated their new hair simulation tool, giving us a step-by-step tutorial in how to go about creating great hair effects in Maya with this new instancing system. So how exactly does it work?

XGen is found under the Dynamics tab in Autodesk Maya. You go to Create/XGen/description, and give it a project name. Pick groomable splines/create to create your new hair map.  You can use the Density slider to add to or reduce the density of the follicles.

Using the brush tool you can paint the hairs to make them bigger or smaller. You can pose them too, grooming the hair to make it follow the contours of the body, growing out in different directions, just like real hair.

On a facial rig, you can add stubble, a moustache, a beard. You will generally do this on a separate mesh. Underneath the hair mesh will be the original mesh, which will have its own skin shader.

You can also use XGen to create other effects, such as long grass waving the wind. You can use the same system to propagate trees in a landscape, or grass over a field, or roof tiles on a roof.

So, next time you're working on a character rig, have a go at XGen and see what you can create.


For more about free online tutorials, see our post about Andy Sykes' excellent tutorials in Flash, and check out the free Maya tutorials at Animation Apprentice. Be sure to take advantage of free life drawing classes at 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.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

HOW DO I GET A JOB? Graduate Panel, Friday November 22nd

How do graduates find work? Getting that first job is always the toughest step, and also arguably the most important. Next week on Thursday 21st November is the Jobs & Careers Fair, and the very next day is our brand-new Graduate Panel - aimed specifically at kick-starting careers in the creative arts. The panel will take place on Friday November 22nd from midday until 15.00 in the General Lecture Theatre (GLT).

Who will be there? Our guests will be Bucks graduates, many of them working in animation and digital media, who will be returning to the Uni to share their insights into how they forged their careers. They were themselves students at Bucks, so they know better than anyone what it takes to turn a degree into a career.

The graduate panel has been devised to give our students direct insight into how they might go about finding work. It was set up following suggestions which raised by third year students last year.

Some of our most successful graduates have been invited back to explain exactly how they have managed to find work, focusing on the sorts of approaches and processes that actually work in what continues to be a very competitive market place.

Don't miss it! Come along, ask questions - and take notes!


(Editor's Note: To see more about how we're taking active steps to help our graduates find work, check out our latest commercial project for Rocketseed, and our short film done for a global aid agency. And don't forget the Careers Fair at Bucks on November 21st.)

Friday, November 15, 2013

Long Winter Studios: Crash Series Rigs

Long Winter Studios has just released Crash, a news series of rigs. There is a wide range of super appealing characters!

From the site:
"These characters are solid. Bulletproof rigs with tons of functional appeal. They look great in every pose and have every rig feature you will want! These characters play back at real time and make an agile addition to your animation arsenal. They won't be up forever so you better grab 'em now!"

Looks like they won't be up forever so head on over and check them out!

Cartoon Movie - pitch your animated film idea

Cartoon Movie is the main international forum for independent film-makers to pitch their animated film ideas to producers, distributors and sales agents. In other words, it's where talent meets money to make great movies. The deadline to pitch an idea in concept is fast approaching - November 22 is the last day for submissions.

If you've got a great idea for a feature film - Cartoon Movie is the place to pitch it. Even if you don't get in, what you will learn by going through the process of applying will be huge. Every time you enter a competition, a festival or a pitch forum, you get a better understanding of how the industry really functions.

For more on how Cartoon Movie works, see our post earlier this year.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jobs and Careers Fair at Bucks on Thursday 21 November

Next week, on Thursday 21 November the annual Jobs and Careers Fair is coming to Bucks. It is a big event, aimed at putting graduates and employers together, part of the University's focus on employability. The fair, which runs from 11am to 3pm, is not aimed specifically at Animation & VFX but it is sill well worth going along to find out what kinds of jobs are out there, and also what employers are looking for in graduates.

You can read more about it at the official page here:


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Student showcase - the animation of Jack Strood

Animation by Jack Strood for GPSL
Jack Strood is one of our talented animation students here at Bucks. During this past summer he worked on a series of animated videos for Global Publishing Solutions, a company that commissioned some short films as part of a marketing campaign to get its message out to prospective clients.

Lots of companies find it hard to explain exactly to clients what it is that they do - especially in the technology sector - and animation can be the perfect medium to make complex ideas seem clear and easy to understand. We asked Jack (who did the animation) and Alex Hudd (who did the audio work) to talk about the project and how they got involved.

The project was executed by Firebird Films, a company founded by Ross Mackenzie. Ross and Jack did the animation together, choosing a hand-drawn style, using stop-motion techniques and narration to tell the story in a simple but clear way. You can see one of the films below:

GPSL ANIMATION. 1 of 4 (stop-motion on the Sony FS700) from firebird films Ltd. on Vimeo.

Bucks: How did you come to work for Global Publishing Solutions?

Jack:  Global Publishing Solutions (GPSL) was a client of one of my company partners. They recommend me to GPSL.

Alex: Ross Mackenzie of Firebird Films contracted me to do the sound design on the GPSL films.

Bucks: Who came up with the idea for the videos?

Jack:  The client wanted to do a mockumentary but I talked them out of it, as I wanted to try animation instead. I had seen some other great animation which really inspired me, and I wanted to have a go myself. 

Alex: Ross I think oversaw the visual design of the films. It was left pretty much up to me to sort out the sound design of them.

Bucks: How did you figure out the style of the films?

Jack: After watching series of animations done for the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Art (RSA), I really loved their work and I wanted to adapt their style and also put my own twist on it.

Alex: I wanted to match the sound design to the slightly quirky - but endearing - visual style. And I think we achieved this, in the end.

Bucks: How did you make the films - from a technical point of view?

Jack: The whole idea was really simple. We only used one table, white board markers and some cardboard that we managed to put together. The animation was shot on a Sony FS700 and the lighting we used was simply two defused 800 watt red head bulbs. Oh, and we had a radio.

Alex: I look at the end edit (or work in progress) and decide what needs to be sound-designed. It's important to remember that you don't need to sound-design every little movement or thing that happens. Sometimes the old adage, "less is more" applies! It's all about looking at the whole picture and deciding what would happen at a particular moment in order to bring emotion and a sense of pace to the visuals.

Quite often, sounds will occur in my head just by watching the film, which I then attempt to recreate in the studio using whatever materials I need. Failing that I just use my own mouth to mimic the sounds I need. Once the sounds are recorded I might then need to edit them to fit the picture or re-time it slightly - I try to record the sounds in real time with the picture as this saves time editing; but it's not always possible. I then go through a mix process to level and position the sounds as appropriate in the stereo (or 5.1) space. The final mix is then 'married' with the master picture to make the comp to deliver to the client for review.

Bucks: What is your next project?

Jack: We have just finished 8 animations for Carillion PLC. This project is a bit like the work we did for GPSL but we used lots of different materials instead of just pens.

Alex: We are just finishing off a series of sound designs for a building company called Carillion. My next project is sound design for some Dolby Atmos demos, however there are several more projects in progress that I cannot talk about due to client confidentiality agreements. 

Bucks: What advice would you give to students at Bucks looking to take on freelance work?

Jack: One of the most important part of this was the sound design. Alex Hudd designed all the sound on this project and has worked on films like Hot Fuzz. He is 50% of this project as without sound & voice-over there would be no films.

Alex:  Whatever you do, make sure you communicate well with the people you are working with and try not to give false promises on delivery times - it usually takes longer than you think! Never take anything for granted - I'm always learning something new about sound (and the industry!) every day and that for me is the way it should be. Which is why I'm still working in this sector, I guess. Finally, take a pride in your work and make sure you get paid in the end - if you want to make it your career!

I wasn’t an animator before and I had no experience animating. I had shot a lot of films but nothing like this. But I always wanted to give it a good go. Working with Jack on the drawing and animating side has really helped. Two eyes are better than one and we have worked a really good routine working together. Anything is possible if you give it a good try. Just make sure the film is well planned out. And what ever amount of time you think you will need to get it done -  double it.


(Editor's Note: For more excellent work done by our students here at Bucks, check out our latest commercial project for Rocketseed, our short film done for a global aid agency, and take a look at the excellent work of some of our recent graduates, such as designer Monika Dzikowicz, architectural visualisation specialist Krsytof Michalski, Alex Whitfield and the 3D artwork of Mike Swan.)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Purchase Double Takes

Hello Everyone
In the toolbar to the right, I've put up a PayPal link to purchase my new book, Double Takes.  I'll also be selling them at CTN.

100 percent of the proceeds made from this book will go directly to the MercyCorps' Typhoon Haiyan Survivors Fund.

Last Friday, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded in history, hit the Philippines leaving 20 provinces devastated. An estimated 4 million people were affected.  Thousands of families have lost their homes and loved ones.  We need all the help we can get. Here’s a condensed list of how you can help and where you can send your donations:

Mercy Corps is preparing to deliver food, water, temporary shelter and other basic supplies to devastated areas throughout the Philippines. You can support the organization by donating through their websitePayPal, or by calling 1-888-747-7440.