Friday, January 31, 2014

ianimate Student Spotlight - Kevin Nguyen

Kevin Nguyen turned out to be one of my favorite students last block.  Every week he surprised me with more attention to detail and some of the funniest reference I have ever seen. Kevin is dedicated to becoming the best animator he can be and I believe he will not be a free agent for long with these new shots (the first and second shot he did in WS5 with me) on his demo.

More life drawing at Bucks - why should animators learn to draw?

For all our animators and digital artists who didn't manage to sign up with the Bucks Students' Union in January for their life drawing classes, or want second helpings of life drawing, the animation department will soon be teaming up with Mark Hudson's graphics students in the Timberlake Building to bring a series of new life drawing sessions.

Timberlake Building - Gateway to Graphics
We strongly recommend that our animators participate. Life drawing is an important skill to acquire and will help all our animators become better artists. Drawing skills help with design, storyboards, thumbnail sketches - all necessary parts of the animation process.

Life drawing classes will be run on Monday mornings from 10am until 1pm. We have four sessions scheduled, on Monday March 3, 10, 17 and 24th.

Where it all happens. Minus the table, of course

How do you get there?
The Graphics dept is located in the Timberlake building, just off the main car park.  You walk in the main front door from the car park (see photo above) and then take the first right into T0.05. You are now in Graphics. Once inside the double doors, turn left to find the life drawing classroom.

To make it all super clear, below is a short video showing how to get to T0.05 from the main Bucks car park.

Still can't find it?
Check out this map of Bucks below. The Timberlake Building is the building marked No9 on the map.

How does it all work?
We will supply the room, life models, instruction, and of course boundless enthusiasm. We will share the space with the graphics students - a great opportunity to see some of the fine work done by this excellent department at Bucks.

How do you sign up?
Let me know in advance that you're coming (email me at, so we have an idea of numbers. Then, all you have to do is show up. I strongly encourage all the animation students to come - sketching from life is a vital skill to learn.

Bring something to lean on
What should you bring?
You will need to bring the following:
  • pencils or charcoal. Pencils should be soft, 2B or softer.
  • rubber/eraser (preferably the soft kneadable kind)
  • plenty of paper. A3 size is ideal
  • Some kind of board to lean on. We don't have easels, so a light stiff board slightly larger than A3 size would be good.
soft pencils are best
We'll be doing quick sketches, trying to capture a pose in motion in just a few strokes, the kind of dynamic scribbles that can be used as a key pose for your animation. So this isn't a class where you'll be executing long, careful studies of a seated figure - it's all about action poses, speed and dynamism.

For more on life drawing and why it's a valuable skill for animators to learn, watch this video below.

Come along - it'll be fun!


Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Animation basics: The art of timing and spacing - TED-Ed

The most important facet of movement and animator can understand:  Timing and Spacing

JOBS IN CALI: Custom Animation, Supervisor - Dreamorks, Glendale, CA

Custom Animation, Supervisor

DreamWorks Animation
Glendale, CA, United States

Production Supervisor managing the work flow for DWA custom animation projects internally as well as projects that have been outsourced to a 3rd party for completion. 

 1. Bid projects - Upon delivery of creative boards, coordinate the execution of animatics, breakdown new creative asset needs, background plates and animation needs. 
 2. Supervise and manage the acquisition and delivery of assets between 3rd party vendors and DWA production on a daily basis. 
 3. Manage the day to day workflow between Custom Animation and internal or external production team. 4. Oversee the relationship between Custom Animation and the Editorial and Post Production Teams to ensure prompt delivery of creative under review and final delivery. 
 5. Work as the primary support of the Custom Animation Producer throughout each project from approval of creative through to final delivery. 
 6. Schedule and manage Custom Animation Reviews. 

 1. 7+ years experience in Animation, Visual FX, or Live Action Production. 
 2. Working knowledge of Commercial Animation and/or Visual FX production. 
 3. Strong organizational skills and attention to detail. 
 4. Advanced proficiency in Excel. 
 5. Self-motivated and pro-active. 
 6. Able to manage multiple jobs/tasks and work at a fast pace within a small team. 
 7. Great sense of humor a plus! 

 How to Apply To submit your information, send your resume and cover letter to: Please put the position name in the subject line Due to the volume of submissions, we're unable to personally respond to each applicant or inquiry. If your qualifications meet our needs, we will contact you.

The Art of Timing and Spacing - TED-Ed

So many great stuff found over at TED-Ed. I feel that timing and spacing are two of the most important aspects about animation and learning animation.


some more posts on timing and spacing:
Timing in Animation: Ken Fountain
More on Timing in Animation: Ken Fountain
Timing in Animation: Animation Mentor
Timing in Animation: FLIP

Animate like a Pixar Pro: 10 expert tips

Some great animation tips from the peeps over at Pixar Animation Studios.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Student Showcase - the art of Sabah Masood

Sabah Masood is one of our many talented students here at Bucks, specialising in 3D modeling - with a focus on design and architectural visualisation. She is in her final graduation year, but she has already established a successful freelance career doing digital 3D modeling for clients such as Pinewood Studios and many others. We asked her about her work, and about how she managed to launch a freelance career at such an early stage.

Bucks: You have already established a successful freelance career – who are you working for?

Sabah: I currently work for SpotMatik, one of the smaller companies intertwined with Pinewood. This department specializes in live stock footage (with Visual Effects) for health and the global environment.

My role is to model the props and models for the VFX artists to take them into their live footage and composite them. In addition to this, I am a freelance artist working on three other commisions; live projects related to 3D architectural visualization. 

For the last 4 years, the Amersham & Wycombe college hosts an end of year show that lasts for a week. This show is open to the industry and public. the purpose for this event is for students to display their work and make awareness of their skills to the industry. Sony and Pinewood Studios were among the VIP guests to appear at the show. They saw my work on display and left me their business card to get into contact with them. Soon I went for an interview and we agreed on a few projects. It's very important to make your showcase look professional with business cards. these cards can be used even outside of work. they will be passed around and eventually, your reputation will grow.

Bucks: What project has been the most fun to work on?

Sabah: Every project is fun and exciting as you learn new techniques each time as well as improving you skills. However, creating a virtual news studio for Centroid In Amersham College was the most fun to work on. This is because I was the test model to try out the virtual studio with real camera settings.

 My job was to create the virtual set, (concept, design, model, lighting and rendering). When the model was complete, virtual cameras were added into the scene using the Centroid Motion Capture system which allowed me be the news reporter in my environment. The time that goes into one Project is worth it seeing your work come alive!

Bucks: What have been some of the biggest challenges?

Sabah: Biggest challenges would be working in Live projects that require specific details and features to be completed. for example, I am currently designing a restaurant for a client in Chesham. As this is a live project, the client requires a photo-realistic scene with accurate furnishings and measurements. you have so much freedom when you are working on personal projects so it is easy to experiment and get carried away; but when you are working for a client, you are restricted to what you can do! but it is still an exciting experience.

Bucks: What advice would you give to any student at Bucks who wants to take on freelance work?

Sabah: My advice to students is this:

There is work out there. All the studios I have spoken to, they all say the same thing: "We are not always looking for someone who has a degree; if the person is good at what they do and have a strong passion for it... they are more likely to get the role".

Promote your work from a very early stage! get business cards, blog, website (pay the extra for a premium... its worth it) and speak to everyone about what you do. Even in situations you won't think of speaking about what you do, just do it... this information are passed around and you never know it might reach a person who wants something done. Don't be afraid to show your work to people, even if you don't feel its good, its still good to get a different perspective.

If you want to work on freelance projects whilst continuing your degree, make sure you are capable of working on a freelance project as well as your university projects. for a career in animation, we all know how complicated and time-consuming it can be - so just be aware that if you have a live project, you will need to put in twice the effort in order to make sure you can meet both your uni deadlines and your work deadlines. the last thing you want to do is become overloaded with work - which can lead to illness. So, be prepared and be willing! Your client may not be impressed if you decide to cancel your job half way through.

You can see more of Sabah's work at her deviantart page here.

(Editor's note: to see more work by our talented undergraduate students and recent graduates, check out the work of Andy Thomas here. Also see our latest commercial project for Rocketseed, our short film done for a global aid agency, and take a look at the excellent work of designer Monika Dzikowicz, architectural visualisation specialist Krsytof Michalski, Alex Whitfield and the 3D artwork of Mike Swan.)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Minuscule Valley of the Lost Ants

Antz, but this time they don't speak...

Animator's Eye book by Francis Glebas

Francis Glebas has come out with another book and it seems like a great book The Animator's Eye...haven't picked it up yet but have looked over the Directing the Story and it is an amazing book.

Have a look at his site and blog...impressive resume!

Freelance artists and taxes - what you really need to know

Render unto Caesar what is due to Caesar
The tax code in the UK runs to 10,000 pages, and there is no human being who knows the whole code. But, every freelance artist needs to know at least the basics. Below is a short introduction to how the system works, from a self-employed artist's perspective. It is by no means complete, and it is no substitute for paying a qualified accountant to give you proper advice (which is highly recommended), but it should explain some of the basic rules of tax survival for freelancers, and get you pointed in the right direction.

1. What is a freelancer? 
A freelancer is a self-employed person. It means you are running a small business, selling your services. For a more detailed view on what exactly a freelancer is and what they do, see our post here on Portfolio Careers. The key thing about being a freelancer is you work for many different clients. You are independent, you use your own equipment, you work in your own time. You are not an employee of a company (but see para 5 below).

2. Do I need to register as a freelancer? 
No. the UK Government is (generally speaking) very business-friendly, and the bureaucracy imposed on small businesses is minimal compared with many other countries. You don't need to register as a freelancer, though you must submit an annual tax return and declare all your freelance earnings.

3. Do I have to pay income tax on my freelance earnings?
Yes - but not immediately. Let's say you invoice a client for £100 for a small animation job. The client pays you £100. No income tax is deducted from that payment - yet. However, that doesn't mean the government doesn't want their percentage. They do, but they will generally wait until the end of the tax year to take it, when you file your income tax return. And you don't have to pay any tax at all until your earnings exceed £10,000 per annum. So, until you start to make proper money, your tax liability will be very small.

4. What is VAT - and do I have to pay it?
VAT stands for Value Added Tax. In plain English, it is a sales tax, levied on almost all the goods and services you and I buy every day. The good news is, you don't need to worry about VAT until your income exceeds around £79,000 per annum. Once you are earning over £79,000 a year, you will have to charge your clients an extra 20% on top of your existing fee, and the hand that 20% VAT over to the Inland Revenue. So, for most of us freelancers, VAT isn't really a problem, until your business grows to become seriously successful.

5. I have a day job at Sainsbury's - can I still work evenings as a freelancer?
Of course! You can combine a day job with freelance animation or digital artwork during evenings and weekends. Lots of artists do just that, while they are establishing their careers. So, you can be an employee during the day, and a freelancer at night.

6. Can I claim expenses against my income?
Yes. You can offset the legitimate costs of the doing business against your profits. Legitimate expenses might include a new computer, Wacom tablet, stationary, computer software and licenses. If you work from home, you can claim a modest part of the cost of heating, renting and lighting your home office. You must keep your receipts for any purchases which relate to the cost of doing business, so that you have proper records.
7. How does that all work in practice?
It works like this: let's say you buy a new computer for £1,000 and you have other legitimate expenses of around £4,000. When you file your tax return, you can offset this against your business income. Say you earned £20,000 in freelance income over the course of the year.  You subtract your expenses of £5,000, so you only have to pay tax on your profit of £15,000, not your gross income of £20,000.

Everyone needs a good accountant

8. Do I need an accountant to help me figure it out?
You don't necessarily need one - but it is highly recommended. A good accountant, especially one who is familiar with the world of artists and freelancers, knows which expenses are legitimate and which are not. They can save you a good deal of money, entirely within the law.


(Editor's Note: 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. For more on what studios look for in a great demo reel, try this link, hear what London's Blue Zoo has to say about finding work, and take a look at this video by Sony Pictures Animation. You can also watch Alex's ten minute video on creating a great reel, and read this post on the perfect demo reel. 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 the nuts and bolts of freelance life by reading our guide to invoicing clients, and don't forget to read our guide to putting together a great CV.) 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Bucks students visit Shepperton Studios

On wednesday our students at Bucks New University visited Shepperton Studios. Being a movie geek, I couldn't wait to visit the place where classic films like Kubrick's Dr Strangelove, The Day of The JackalRidley Scott's Alien and Attenborough's Ghandi were filmed. I mean, even empty film studios are full of atmosphere; a place to fill the imagination with dreams of stardust. Shepperton did not let us down.

Everywhere you look there is movie history. Even the streets carry the names of the great film-makers of the past. There is David Lean Drive and Peter Sellers Way - all there to remind you that you walk in footsteps of giants.

I spent ten years working in Los Angeles, so being in a film studio isn't a new experience. In fact, I felt right at home in Shepperton. Walking past the sound stages feels a lot like being in a Hollywood film studio - but rather more damp and considerably more grimy.

Shepperton also betrays its aristocratic past. Like Pinewood, it was once a stately home, a 17th century mansion named Littleton Park, built by one Thomas Wood. If you drive around the suburbs a while like I did, getting lost, you can see the overgrown remains of grand old gate houses, long disused. And, once you find your way in, Littleton park itself is still there - now playing host to weddings and Bartmitzvahs.

We were at Shepperton to spend the day at Centroid, one of the UK's leading provider of performance capture to the film, TV and games industries. Centroid have just moved here from Pinewood, in pursuit of an even bigger space to deliver their work.

Centroid's new MoCap stage
Motion Capture takes up a lot of space. And the more space you have, the bigger the range of motion you can record. We were capturing some dance performances for a student film project. The dancers got into the process fast - obviously having a great time.

Witnessing this fusion of academic excellence and private sector technology was the senior management team (SMT) of Bucks New University, there to explore possible public/private sector partnerships, and to figure out a way to bring MoCap to Bucks in a practical way that everyone can use. After all, it's not just about animation: performance capture can be used for sports, motion analysis and dance - it's a very flexible tool.

Centroid have now entered into an official partnership with Bucks. In the spirit of this cutting-edge new co-operation, we managed to persuade our animation students better to pose with our fancy new poster.

Vanya, Chris and Sabah get animated
 Even the SMT were persuaded to pose for a photo opportunity.

On the left is Deputy Vice Chancellor Derek Godfrey, Vice Chancellor Ruth Farwell, and Shan Waring, Pro Vice Chancellor. On the right is Frazer Mackenzie, who is our head of School. Sadly we didn't manage to persuade any of them to clamber into a motion capture suit, which would have been fun. Mysteriously they all forgot to wear their leotards and old sneakers.

For more about how Motion Capture works, check out this post about our trip to Pinewood in December 2012. And for even more tecchie detail, read this post about the new system we have just installed in the green screen space at Bucks.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Learn Flash with Andy Sykes - free online video tutorials!

Andy's in the house
Right now our first year students at Bucks are learning how to use Adobe Flash, creating 2D animation as part of their first Introduction to Animation Module. As with all of our classes (and with higher education in general), the formal instruction is just the starting point for an in-depth understanding of the subject. Animation is a complex craft that takes time and patience to master, and we encourage our students to make use of all the resources available.

Fortunately, students today are blessed with an astonishing variety and breadth of web content, including free tutorials in just about anything one could ever want to learn. Flash is no exception to this rule. Below is a link to an excellent website which hosts a series of excellent - and highly recommended - free tutorials in Flash.

The site was built by Andy Sykes and is a superb resource for students. It won't surprise you to learn that Andy is not just an experienced animator but he teaches Flash at Universities around the UK.  All the videos are completely free and can be found here.

As with any online content, you should start with the simple stuff and build up. At Andy teaches the basics, layering in more advanced material like walk cycles, lipsync, and other animation skills.

There is also a YouTube channel here where you can watch the videos.

Here at Bucks we believe that a good animator will have mastered the skills involved in doing both 2D and 3D digital animation. Most of the skills involved are highly transferable from one to another. A good animator must master timing and spacing, and must be able to give a performance. After all, we are entertainers, not robots. The software we learn is just a tool, not an end in itself.

On top of this, we're doing a growing number of small commercial projects, which by their very nature tend to be done in 2D, since there isn't time to build complex 3D assets. We've been using Flash for these paid projects, as a way of giving our students real-world experience, polished professional work for their demo reels - and a bit of extra cash.

All made in Flash
You can see our first film, for a global aid agency, here, and our second film, made for the tech company Rocketseed, here


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Calling all animators - time to fill out the National Student Survey!

The National Student Survey (NSS) is to higher education in the UK what Gallup polls are to politicians. The results speak volumes about the state of our universities and, in particular, which ones are giving students the kind of excellent experience that we ought to be delivering.

The survey opened on January 21st and runs until 30 April 2014. Bucks has set a target for 75% of eligible final-year students to complete their survey - you'll be seeing NSS helpers in red T-shirts around campus, ready to ambush you with a smile, a pen - and a form to fill in.

If encouragement doesn't work, there is always bribery. This year there is a new incentive for students to fill in the survey - a £5 voucher to spend either on printing or in the campus cafes.
To find the survey, click on this link.

And, to find out more, check out this short video: 

So go ahead and get yourself a free lunch, courtesy of the University, and then release all your pent-up rage in an online box-ticking rant. Or, hopefully, say nice things about us. It's all anonymous and it's all up to you.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Sign up today for life drawing at Bucks!

Calling all Bucks animators and digital artists! Today is the day to sign up with the Bucks Students' Union for their life drawing classes. We strongly recommend that everyone sign up. It's great skill to acquire and will help all our animators become better artists. Drawing skills help with design, storyboards, thumbnails - all necessary parts of the animation process.

Full details below. Sign up now and don't wait - these classes are popular and will fill up fast!

Life drawing classes will be running from Tuesday 28th January 5pm-7pm for 8 weeks. To sign up to the activity, students will need to email Kate Blythe ( with their full name, student ID and contact number on Tuesday 21st January from 9am.

The Rules:
1. Only one person and can sign up per email.
2. Spaces will be allocated on a first come, first served basis
3. Spaces are limited and, if there is high demand, there is a good chance that some students will not get a space.
4. If the student manages to get a space they will be asked to pay a £10 commitment deposit into the Student Union reception.
5. It is important that students can commit to 6 out of the 8 weeks as if anymore of the sessions are missed then they will not receive their deposit back.
6. Any students who do not secure a space on the course will go onto the reserve list therefore is anyone does not pay their deposit or drops out, then they will be offered the space.

For more information, contact  Kate Blythe, Student Activities assistant.

t: 01494 601 600 | e:
Bucks Students’ Union, Queen Alexandra Road, High Wycombe, Bucks, HP11 2JZ

Time to put down your Wacom tablets and sharpen your pencils!


Monday, January 20, 2014

Remembering Michael Sporn


I cannot remember exactly when I first met Michael Sporn.  In the mid-1970s I began attending events given by ASIFA-East, and I’m sure that’s where I met Michael, but I couldn’t name the event or the year.

Certainly, I knew him by the time he was working on Raggedy Ann and Andy in 1976.  I began working in the animation business that year.  Michael was 8 years my senior and while farther along in his career, he was close enough to my age to be accessible.  His love for animation was obvious from the first time I met him and he was always happy to share his knowledge.

While American animation was born in New York, its survival there was tenuous from the 1930s onwards.  The Fleischer studio left for Miami and later returned under new ownership.  The Van Beuren studio went out of business.  Paul Terry left the city proper for the suburb of New Rochelle.  As theatrical cartoons died in the 1950s and ‘60s, New York survived on TV commercials with longer projects appearing only occasionally.  The artists in N.Y. animation were older, pretty much all veterans of the theatrical studios.  Some had entered the industry as early as the 1920s and others as late as the 1950s, but the industry wasn’t steady enough to entice newcomers except for those who loved animation deeply.  There were many better ways to earn a living as an artist in New York when Michael entered the business.

By the time of Raggedy Ann, Michael had already worked for John Hubley, someone who influenced Michael deeply.  Hubley was a pioneer in breaking the monopoly of the Disney design style, which he continued to do at UPA and at his own studio.  He also gravitated to projects that were far from typical in animation.  His films with his wife Faith dealt with childhood from a child’s point of view and with the politics of nationalism and the arms race.  Michael continued the Hubley tradition of eclectic design and films that were socially aware.

I think the two best words to describe Michael were courage and determination.  It took both to brave the uncertainty of New York animation and to make films that he felt a personal connection to.  The majority of N.Y. studios were content to do service work and satisfied if they could keep their doors open.  Michael, from the beginning, sought out projects that were off the beaten track and that he could invest in emotionally.  At the same time, Michael was always aware of the audience.  While many artists succumb to self-indulgence, Michael was always interested in being heard.  His films were always accessible.

Many of the New York studios were prejudiced against younger artists.  Many of them also ignored the better veteran animators who were available.  Michael embraced both.  He was constantly giving young artists opportunities, many of whom went on to productive careers in and out of animation.  Animation lovers owe Michael a debt of gratitude for keeping the late Tissa David busy and giving her opportunities like The Marzipan Pig, a half hour special she animated in its entirety for him.  Other veterans such as Dante Barbetta also found work with Michael.

Like many young animators, I left New York after a few years in search of work, but I always kept in touch with Michael and visited him whenever I was in New York.  Michael threw me a lifeline in 1989 for a few years as I worked on many of his TV specials from Toronto.  The one I contributed the most to was Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, animating about a quarter of the film.  Looking back on my career, my work for Michael is easily some of my favorite.  He was a hands-off director, giving me more freedom as an animator than most other studios, and yet the resulting films always bore his stamp. 

Michael’s budgets were always low.  The animation I did for him had to be on three’s in order to stay within the budget.  Working for cable channels or PBS, it was a given that budgets would not be as high as those from the networks.  However, the freedom these outlets provided allowed Michael to make films that he cared about.  The Red Shoes, Happy to be Nappy and Whitewash all dealt with race.  The Little Match Girl dealt with urban poverty.  Abel’s Island, based on a book by William Steig, dealt with loneliness and the power of art.  That film and other Steig adaptations, Dr. Desoto and The Amazing Bone, are far more faithful to Steig’s work than DreamWorks was.

Michael always wanted to make a feature.  He came close several times.  His final project, based on Edgar Allen Poe, was plagued by problems; first the death of Tissa David and now Michael’s own.  It's ironic that Michael passed away on January 19, Poe's birthday.  At a time when animated features are proliferating, it’s a crime that Michael never had the opportunity to make one.  His uncanny ability to stretch a dollar meant that he could have made a feature for under $5 million, but because he stuck with drawn animation and because his taste was considered too different from typical animation, he never got the chance.

For all the box office and ratings success that animation has enjoyed recently in North America, I would not call this a fertile time.  Too many films and TV shows are imitating past successes.  Michael never gave in, though it probably would have been to his economic advantage to do so.  He managed to keep his studio going, always looking for projects he could love despite their tight budgets.  He stayed in New York, he stayed true to his own vision, and he provided opportunities for artists that nobody else would.  He took advantage of New York’s cultural scene by hiring actors and musicians from the theatre for his projects, tapping a talent pool that Hollywood has mostly ignored.  He made good films.  My favourite is Abel’s Island, though they all are worth watching.

Michael’s lack of profile with the general public will make his loss seem less than it is.  Make no mistake: we’ve lost a great film maker who managed to create art with the sparsest of resources.  Animation needs creators like Michael if it’s ever going to explore the full range of human experience. 

Those who knew and worked with him know what we’ve lost.  I’m sorry for those who aren’t aware of Michael’s work, but while they can correct that, they missed the chance to know a great animation artist and a generous friend.

HEY GANG - anyone interested in my starting this up again? I've missed you - and I'm ready if you are!!!

Rest in Peace Michael Sporn

Michael Sporn has died.  Michael Barrier and John Canemaker have put together an obituary for him.  I've known Michael for close to 40 years and this is a great loss.  I'll write more when I can collect my thoughts.

What does Bucks look for in an online portfolio?

Life drawing - excellent training for animators
One of the most common questions we get asked by students applying for the Animation and Visual Effects course here at Bucks is: What should go into my portfolio? The answer is - a bit of everything. Drawings, Painting, Life drawing, sketches, scribbles - and especially 3D digital artwork.

Our course at Bucks is increasingly digital, reflecting long-term changes in the industry, and we find that applicants with solid computer skills tend to flourish best. For a full description of what might go into a good application portfolio, check out this post.

Nowadays, we are doing a growing number of online interviews with Skype, generally for applicants from overseas. As a result, a new and slightly different question arises - what should go into an online portfolio?

The answer of course, is pretty much the same as if you were being interviewed in person. We are looking for candidates with good all-round art skills, including drawing, design and animation. You should also be familiar with computers and computer software, and be curious enough to want to know more.

It also helps if you don't get too frustrated when computers go wrong - which they do all the time - and see this as a challenge to be overcome rather than as a reason to stop work. of course, we also want to see signs of creativity and visual invention. Animation is not just about mastering the software, it's about having ideas, and giving a performance.

The best kind of digital portfolio is a website or blog showcasing your work. Check out our post here on how to create a free blog and/or website, and start uploading your work today. It's never too early.

However, if you're not ready to put your work online, or you simply don't have the time, email us your stuff. This could take the form or a JPEG or a PDF document; something that is easily opened with standard software. Movie files in simple formats like .avi or .mov are also welcome.

Quick sketches help to capture movement, and can be used for animation poses
What we don't want to see are specialist program files like Maya files or 3D Studio Max files, or Flash, or AfterEffects files. Specialist files like this take too long to load up and the person doing the interview may not have the software on their laptop.

So, just like if you were applying for a job, make sure you present your work in a format which is easily opened. Do a quick tech check before you send it out - do the files actually work? And can they be opened in standard software like QuickTime or Adobe Acrobat?


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Systems for 3D, VF/X and other specialized workflows

DSC Labs specialist range of charts combines the advanced camera matching capabilities of DSC's ChromaDuMonde series color chip charts with a range of unique tools and features for 3D, Visual F/X and other specialized workflows.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Monsters University pre-prod Animation Test

Carlos Baena posted a fun pre-production test from Monster's University.


New Arnold Renderer Free Trial

I met Marcos Fajardo at a Bunny BBQ on Easter in 2000. 
He is possibly the nicest guy in CG.

He also has been working very hard on his Arnold Renderer and after five years in semi-stealth mode, he has launched his brand new website:

check out their gallery

 You can download an Arnold trial, including a 15-day license to remove the watermarks from the rendered images.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

RIG REVIEW: ☆☆☆ 3 Stars - Animus Rig

Download the Animus Rig

☆ 3 Stars - I cannot give this rig any higher than 3 stars because I just cannot get over the IK foot.  No toe or ball roll makes animating the feet really difficult.  But!  This is a solid create rig with a lot of controls that is fairly easy to figure out.

PINS:  This rig has pins which is a standard in the industry but I rarely find in most free rigs.  +10 points.

SPINE: Nice Ribbon/Isner spine. The COG is in the middle of his tummy where it should be for a quad. Horns on the spine all have individual controllers too!

FOOT/LEG: I do not understand why there is no ball and toe roll for the foot.  It would take a lot of counter animation to get the foot to simply compress and roll up on the toe. The individual toe controls for the foot must be IK to be useful.  I hate attributes for fingers and toes.  Attrs make it really hard to pose and manage the curves.  I am not sure why riggers keep making attrs for these.  Nice offsets to the IK leg for more control. Bending controls -be careful you can go way off model.

THE TAIL: The tail is impressive.  Many riggers try to create a crappy spline tail that goes off model too much. There are some nice offset controls that you can use in addition to the FK.  If you are lazy and want to use dynamics to control the tail there is a switch for that too.  This will only give you the body mechanics that are reactive to the primary motion, but the emotive tail work will have to be keyframed of course.

EXTRAS: Breathing control. Facial.  Most creature rigs do not have facial.  I hate GUI facial rigs instead of controls directly on the face. But at least you do have some facial there.

The rig is robust and animation can be made with it.  I just wish it had FK toes and fingers and a IK ball and toe roll.  I look forward to seeing some animation made with this rig.  here is one I found online.

It gets the Redd the Clown stamp of approval!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Aaron's Art Tips - 16 Overlapping Action In Animation

Aaron Blaise spent over 20 years at Disney Animation Studios. He has a series of video's with Art tips in a range of areas. Check out his youtube page for more. This one is a great nugget on overlapping action.


his other links:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Motion Capture comes to Bucks

The "T pose"
Last week Motion Capture came to Bucks New University for the first time. The green screen room in the Gateway building played host to our latest, biggest and most expensive digital toy, extremely useful not just for animators hoping to capture excellent physical performances but also for students studying sports and motion analysis, helping to turn physical performances and actions into data that can be analysed, broken down, and used to improve the performance of athletes. It's cutting edge stuff, and it's happening right here at Bucks.

Our visitor and teacher was Jeff Shaw from Motion Analysis, one of the global leaders in MoCap technology. He came to Bucks for a week to set up the gear and instruct our “Power Users” in the new technology.

Raptor 4 cameras
The heart of the system is ten "Raptor 4" real time cameras, of four megapixels each, which were lined up in two rows of five on either side of the green screen room. The process of setting them up involves two stages - the setup, followed by camera calibration. The Green Screen room then becomes the Motion Capture stage on which pretty much any action or performance you can think can be acted out.

Jeff Shaw shows how it's done.
The Software used to create the data is called Cortex, and it is installed on the HP Z240 desktop PC used for the Green Screen Room. All the equipment is hosted at Media Resources, so it will need to be booked in advance and then checked out for use.

Motion Capture Marker
Everyone has heard of motion capture suits, but it turns out that this is something of a misnomer. The suit itself does not matter – it’s the markers that are important. The main characteristic of a good suit is that the markers sit close to the joints. So, a cheap leotard works well, or a tight fitting T shirt and jeans. Anything that hugs the body, so the markers don't float around.

It is also important to attach the markers correctly. Luckily, Cortex provides you with a checklist of the 42 markers that (generally speaking) go into capturing a piece of human biped animation.  In the image below you can see four markers being attached to the performer's feet, to get a full range of motion. The markers go on either side of the joint; in this case, the ankle.

Markers must go in the right place,

This is the critical bit, especially for sports bio motion analysis. It is less critical for animation, but still important to get right.  They need to be properly attached - you have to watch out for markers falling off shoes and other body parts.

For the motion capture hat (you need data on what the head is doing), Jeff used an inexpensive yellow hard hat, and attached the markers to it. In fact, you need quite a bit of kit to get underway. Luckily we now have the complete bag of tricks to get started.

Kitbag full of MoCap stuff.
None of it is cheap - even markers cost several pounds each, so they need to be treated with care.  We also have double sided sticky pads to attach the markers to clothing. It turns out you can also use toupee tape, available at Boots.

As for shoes, you will want inexpensive plimsoles or trainers, nothing that you might mind getting beaten up or damaged.

Anyone wanting to fire up the equipment will also need the dongle, which pops into the USB port in the back of the PC, and activates the Cortex license.  Plus, of course, you need to set up the ten Raptor cameras. It is not a quick process - you must allow a couple of hours at least for setup, and then time to take it all down again.

In fact, I counted ten distinct stages to the whole motion capture process, from setup to animator's desk:

1. Setup – cameras and equipment
2. Calibration of the cameras
3. Placing the markers on the performer
4. Capturing the performance data
5. Processing the data in Cortex
6. Cleaning up the data in Cortex
7. Exporting the data from Cortex into Motion Builder
8. Editing the motion capture data in Motion Builder, then exporting it to Maya
9. Importing the motion capture data into Maya
10.Taking down the equipment and returning it to Media Resources.

That said, MoCap has the potential to revolutionise animation at Bucks. It's a system that can capture large amounts of data and process it much faster than a key frame animator can. It is used for games, for TV shows, for feature animation. To understand this pipeline is to have a whole new set of skills that are highly desirable in today's competitive job market.

Over the coming weeks and months we'll be figuring how to incorporate this new system into our existing curriculum, so that we can give our students the best possible experience at Bucks, and get to grips with the very latest digital technology.

(Editor's Note: for more on how our students are working with motion capture technology, check out our trip to Pinewood Studios last year.)