Monday, March 31, 2014

Friday 4th April is Motion Capture Day at Bucks

On Friday 4th April we'll be testing out our shiny new Motion Capture system at Bucks. The Events Hall in the Gateway building will play 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. On Friday we are welcoming students with some experience of motion capture (and even those with none) to come along and help us get the system to work.

For anyone new to Bucks, the Events Hall is the big hall in the Gateway building on your left as you ascend the elevated staircase near the reception desk. It's where we have our open days, and where various sports activities also take place.

The Events Hall
Students who have used motion capture systems before are especially welcome. On friday we will be figuring out and properly documenting a dependable pipeline that can then be rolled out to anyone who wants to use the system. Friday will be a day for thinking, testing, collaborating and generally working out how we can use our system to best advantage.

The Gateway building, which houses the Events Hall, is marked number 10 on the map above.

Anyone student who thinks they might be able to help us out will be very welcome to come and lend a hand. You might even get to wear the MoCap suit and pretend you are Andy Serkis in The Lord of The Rings.

The session on Friday 4th April will run from 9am until 4pm.  9am to 11am will constitute set-up, and we will have to start packing down by 3pm.

(Editor's note: For more information about the Motion Capture system we have here at Bucks, read this post. And don't forget to check out our student's memorable trip to visit Centroid at Pinewood Studios in 2012.)

Friday, March 28, 2014

What Does a Producer Do, Exactly?

Jeffrey Katzenberg - the uber producer
What does a producer do, exactly? This is an important question for anyone who hopes to go into the entertainment business. Here at Bucks we teach students to animate. We teach art, design, computer skills, everything you need to become a digital artist. But we don't teach producing. As a result, most of our students have only a slender grasp of what actually is involved in producing a project. Arguably, we should teach producing. After all, when you go to the movies and watch the credits, there seem to be a lot of producers. And also sub-species of producer. Like associate producers. And executive producers. And line producers. And creative producers. And what do all these titles mean anyway?

Despite the big range of titles, there is typically only one producer on a project. That is to say, there is just one person who organises and runs the project, is responsible for it, and really gets it done. That person is the real producer, and they will work night and day to bring the project to life. These people are usually a blur - literally - because they are doing so many things at once that their feet barely touch the ground. They are, it goes without saying, energetic and well-organised people. They are also problems solvers. If anything goes wrong on a production (and things go wrong all the time), it is the producer who is expected to solve it.

But what about all the other titles? How many different kinds of producer are there, and what do all the different titles actually mean? See below for our handy guide.

1. Line Producer
On a big project, the line producer is the person who actually handles the day-to-day running of the operation. The line producer is in effect an operations manager, organising everything from the renting of premises to making sure that employees get paid, to making sure that deadlines get met. The line producer is a very busy person, who will often have help from...

2. Associate producer.
On a really big production,  the line producer may simply be too busy to handle everything that comes up, and they may delegate many day to day operations to an associate producer. The associate producer helps to tackle every day tasks that the line producer is too busy to deal with.
3. Executive producer.
As with so many things in Hollywood, the name is misleading. The role should really be described as "non-executive producer". Executive producers are usually people who were instrumental in getting the project made in the first place (such as the person who originally optioned the rights to the book that the film is based on), but then passed on the baton to someone else. An executive producer could be a powerful actor's agent who helped package the deal, or even a famous actor who wants a producer credit. The key point to remember is that Executive Producer is just a title. You might work for a year or more on a film and never meet them, because they often just aren't that involved, or aren't involved in a day-to-day way.

4. Visual Effects Producer
The visual effects producer, as the name suggests, produces the visual effects on a movie. They will make budgets, and project-manage the creation of digital effects. They are in reality line producers who specialise in visual effects work.

5. Production Manager
On a big movie, the production manager helps out the associate producer and producer to get the project done. They are typically responsible for deadlines, scheduling and keeping each shot on track. For an artist, this person is often your first point of contact if you need something done in a hurry.

6. Production Assistant
The production assistant is a dogsbody, a kick-me-in-the-backside downtrodden underling, a glorified runner who does the bidding of all the other production folk. They work long hours, running errands, getting tea and coffee for ungrateful clients, and ordering pizza for an even more ungrateful crew. You may pity their overworked and underpaid lives, but do not despise them. The job may be gruesome, but the canny and the talented often rise swiftly through the ranks.

Production assistants often emerge on the next project as production managers, association producers and even producers. Production Assistant is a tried and tested route to the top. So be nice to them - they may well be employing you in a few years time, and they are far more likely to retire to a villa in the south of France than you are. Kick them when they are down and they will remember - and pay you back one day.

7. Creative Producer
A producer who describes themselves as a creative producer is staking a claim to creative ownership of a film. They are in effect saying "I may not be directing this film, but I might as well be". Producers like Disney's Don Hahn, with a long string of box office hits behind them, have earned the right to steer the ship creatively as well as financially.

So there you have it. Now you know what these titles mean, and you can explain it all knowledgeably in the pub to your less fortunate comrades. Needless to say, the smaller the project, the more these various jobs tend to be covered by fewer people, or even by just one. If you're working on your own personal project, you will end up wearing every hat on the production.


(Editor's Note: for more on producing animation, see our post on what a visual effects producer does. Also see our rules for making group projects a success. Also don't miss our post about finding your first job in the animation industry.)

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Animators Resource Interview - Andy Conroy - Full Interview

I always have a really great time with these interviews. Here is my full interview with Andy Conroy over at Long Winter Studios. Andy gives some fun insight to his thought process behind creating appealing rigs and animation. We also chat about some of his workflow and he follows that up with a really nice eye and brow demo!

Animators Resource Interview - Andy Conroy - Full Interview from Animators Resource on Vimeo.

Hope you all enjoy!

What Would Oskar Fischinger Think?

Patatap is a browser-based abstract animation and sound package that works off a keyboard.  It was developed by Jono Brandel and the musicians at Lullatone.  You can read about it here and can try it here.  It's fun!  Instant animation gratification.

Student Showcase - Animation with Realflow by Kalim Momen, Georgia Nichols and James Hatton

Recently our first year animation students have been experimenting with fluid dymanics, using Realflow to produce animation effects. The results have been excellent, all of which goes to show that technology is rapidly changing what we think of animation, and the way that the medium can be accessed by students. Traditional key-frame animation is just one way to make things come to life. Dynamics and simulation software should be as much a part of an animator's toolkit as motion capture or motion graphics - all part of the way we breathe life into our work.

What is Realflow anyway? According to Wikipedia: "RealFlow is a fluid and dynamics simulator for the 3D industry, created by Madrid-based Next Limit Technologies. Currently at version 2013, the stand-alone application can be used to simulate fluids, water surfaces, fluid-solid interactions, rigid bodies, soft bodies and meshes. Victor Gonzalez, Ignacio Vargas and Angel Tena were awarded a 2007 Technical Achievement Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the creation of the RealFlow software application".

Below are two examples of our students' work which turned out especially well. The brief was to create an advertisement for a real product - showing how dynamics can be used in the commercial world. First up is an advert for Lush cosmetics by Kalim Momen:

Below is a commercial for for Powerade by James Hatton:

Finally, a commercial for hair colour by Georgia Nichols.

(Editor's Note: For more impressive work done by our students and recent graduates here at Bucks, check out the work of Jens KopkeBen Gray's Moonbeam, and the architectural visualisations of Sabah Masood. Also take a look at the work of Andy Thomas here, 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.)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Steve Burch on Producing Animation

Steve Burch

On Monday 31 March we are fortunate to have Steve Burch visit Bucks for a lecture and workshop on Producing Animation. Steve has 26 years experience in the industry, having worked on 11 animated features in Hollywood and Europe including Brad Bird’s modern classic The Iron Giant. His roles have included Special Effects Supervisor for Dreamworks and Warner Brothers feature films. Steve has worked with three Oscar winning directors and has produced and directed many commercials and animated shorts.

Steven has also worked closely with Pixar’s Oscar-winning Brave director Mark Andrews, creating workshops and lectures for students whilst a senior lecturer at Glasgow School of Art’s course in Digital Culture.

Steve will be coming to Bucks on Monday 31 March at 2pm to host a workshop on producing animation. Here at Bucks we teach digital art, computer skills, art, design and film-making, but we don't teach animation production - and we should. Anyone who has ever worked on a group project knows how vital it is to develop a successful work flow - a knowledge and understanding of the management of a digital pipeline is something that every digital artist should have.

Steve said "I’m really excited to be able to give a talk to Bucks New University. I regularly read the Bucks Animation Blog and think it’s a great resource for all animation and visual effects students. I’m looking forward to leading a talk and a brief student workshop that is aimed to enable students to help focus on how to develop their personal interests as well as to acquire practical skills that will be useful for the rest of their creative careers.”

Come along at 2pm on Monday 31 March in G1.13, where Steve will be hosting his workshop on "Producing Animation". All students are welcome.


(Editor's Note: For more on how Bucks is helping our students to succeed in the animation industry, read this post on finding your first job. Also check out what studios look for in a great demo reel, 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 our guide to putting together a great CV.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Aardman Animation Competition - Success against the odds

National Accident Helpline has teamed up with Aardman Animation to run an animation competition called 'Success against the odds'. Aspiring animators are invited to create a short animation on this theme, for a chance to win a tour of the Aardman studios, a 'Make a Morph' workshop, an original Morph artwork signed by Peter Lord, plus paid travel expenses and accommodation. The winner and shortlisted entrants will also get personalised feedback on their animation from Aardman.

The Brief to animators is as follows:
  • To create a short animation on the theme of 'success against the odds' 
  • Entrants can use any discipline of animation you choose (2D drawn, 3D CGI, traditional stop motion animation etc.)
  • Animations should be 10 seconds or under in length
  • Entries should be submitted by 18 May 2014 at 10.00pm
Anyone interested in entering should request an entry pack by entering their email address on this page:

The prize:
  • A personal tour of the Aardman Animations studios in Bristol for you and a friend including ‘Make a Morph’ workshop (approx. 2 hours in total)
  • Framed original Morph sketch signed by Peter Lord (Aardman co-founder and creator of Morph)
  • Accommodation the night before or after the tour (TBC), and travel to and from Bristol
More information and entry pack available here:

As ever, here at Bucks we strongly encourage our students to enter competitions such as this. You might win, or get shortlisted, and the experience of entering and competing is hugely useful in itself. nothing teaches you the skills of film-making like the focus of entering your project into a competitive race.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Alexis Wanneroy - Animation Reel Breakdown 2014

A great progression reel from Alexis Wanneroy an animator over at DreamWorks. Also check out some of the pre-production shots in the other video from Rise of The Guardians.

Alexis Wanneroy - Animation Reel Breakdown 2014 from alexis wanneroy on Vimeo.

Alexis Wanneroy - Rise of the guardians character development reel from alexis wanneroy on Vimeo.

It's always great to see process..especially some early character stuff.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Frozen- Shot Progression

Frozen-Shot Progression

An animation breakdown of one of my favorite moments I was fortunate to animate on Frozen=)

Sheridan Industry Day Trailer

This year, Sheridan Animation's industry day is Thursday, April 24.  Here's an advance peek at this year's student films.

Bobby Pontillas: Frozen - Shot Progression

Some good insight to Bobby Pontillas's shot on on Frozen.

Frozen- Shot Progression from Bobby Pontillas on Vimeo.
"An animation breakdown of one of my favorite moments I was fortunate enough to animate on Frozen! I don't usually shoot video reference extensively, but we were on an accelerated schedule so I had to work efficiently and had one week for this. Crazy but a lot of fun=)"


Applications for our Animation & Visual Effects course are up 37%

Universities across the UK are suffering a sector-wide fall in applications. But here at Bucks we are celebrating a big increase in applicants for our new Animation & Visual Effects Course, launched in September 2013. Why are our numbers up? We think it's because of our big ambition - to be the best Animation and Visual Effects course in the country.

That's a big ambition, and we don't pretend to be there yet. We have along way to go. But take a look at the work done by our talented undergraduates, and recent graduates and we think we're heading in the right direction. The business of animation and visual effects is highly competitive, but students with the right skills, proper motivation and good contacts can forge themselves a successful career and join one of the UK's most successful and thriving industries.

(Editor's Note: to see some of the impressive work done by our students and recent graduates here at Bucks, check out the work of Jens KopkeBen Gray's Moonbeam, and the architectural visualisations of Sabah Masood. Also take a look at the work of Andy Thomas here, 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.)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Last Belle

Graduate Panel Friday 21 March 2014 - jobs, careers, and how to make it in a digital world

From left, Jude Winstanley, Jaffar Ali, Beaumont Lowenthal, Stephen Partridge, Scott Humphries, Andy Thomas and Thom Day
Yesterday, friday 21 March 2014, was our latest Graduate Panel, a regular event where we invite Bucks Graduates to come back to their university and talk about how they forged their careers in digital media. They all studied here at Bucks and each one of them understands better than anyone how to turn the skills they acquired at university into a successful career in the entertainment industry.

The panelists were:

Jaffar Ali
Jaffar AliJaffar recently graduated with a BA (Hons) in Animation, Games & Interactive Media from Buckinghamshire New University. Having gained experience in creating photo-realistic 3D using post-production software packages to model, texture, light, render and composite, Jaffar recently got an internship with high end broadcast virtual set company Vizrt. Jaffar’s current skills base ranges from creating high quality still renders to having a fly through or 360° turn table camera animation.
Thom Day
Thom Day – Thom graduated in 2011 and is currently a Media Technician at ITV’s London Studios. As a Lead Assistant on a number of high-end productions, Thom is in charge of liaising with production and creating media logs for both production and post to follow media movements. This includes dealing with multiple workflows (Studio EVS, Live Broadcast and Entertainment fiction and non-fiction). Since graduating Thom has also worked at Molinare Post Production as an Edit Assistant, Platform Post Production as a Bookings Assistant and at Take One TVas a Production Assistant.

Scott Humphries
Scott Humphries - Since graduating in 2011 Scott has been touring as a live sound engineer. He is currently Production Manager at Little Touring and was previously FOH/TM for You&me Touring working with the likes of Charlie Simpson, Funeral for a Friend, Pop Will Eat Itself, We are Scientists and Wolf Gang. Scott has also worked as a Monitor Engineer and a Staff Engineer, and has worked for companies such as RNSS and SSE Audio Group.

Beaumont Lowenthal
Beaumont Lowenthal – At the moment Beau is working as a trainee editor on a remake of Far From the Madding Crowd, directed by (recently) Oscar-nominated Thomas Vinterberg and starring Carey Mulligan, Michael Sheen and Matthias Schoenaerts. Just before that Beau worked as a second assistant on POSH directed by Lone Scherfig, which stars upcoming actors Sam Claflin (latest Hunger Games), Max Irons (Jeremy's son) and Jessica Brown Findlay (Downton Abbey) and is coming to cinemas in September. Before that Beau’s first job was as an editing intern on The Look of Love directed by Michael Winterbottom, starring Steven Coogan. The next project for Beau is likely to be working on Joe Wright's Pan.

Andy Thomas
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. Andy runs a team of multimedia artists and technicians. They 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.
Jude Winstanley
Jude Winstanley – Jude has worked on a broad array of content from straight factual, factual entertainment, children’s, entertainment and observational documentary; from Who Wants to be a Millionaire? to Bremner, Bird & Fortune to X-Factor Australia.

Jude is experienced in pre-recorded and live transmissions, studio and location based programming and hostile environments. Specialist skills include negotiating contracts, fees and clearance rights with talent, crew, production staff, archive materials, locations, publicity, schedule planning for all areas of the project (prep, production, post and delivery), advising on Health & Safety procedures to ensure safe working environments, Risk Assessments and tapeless workflows.

Stephen Partridge
Stephen Partridge hosted the panel, and opened the discussion by asking the panelists the first big question:

How did the panel members get started in the industry? 

Jaffar Ali had been looking for 3D roles when Bucks sent him an email about an opportunity at Vizrt, a global provider of virtual sets for broadcast companies.  At interview, they asked him how he would solve a problem on production? Jaffar explained that he would seek help from others in the building - just as he did at Bucks, when he would ask his tutors for backup and support on group projects when things didn't always go to plan.

Beaumont Lowenthal talked about how important it is simply to ring up your contacts and ask if there is work available. He did a lot of networking, which led to some lucky breaks, and in his case, luck and persistence paid off.  He contacted "hundreds of people", and got "five or ten responses". One of those contacts led to his current career.

Thom Day talked about how his early jobs often cost him more in travel expenses than he received in pay. But he got work out of these early gigs and the commitment paid off in the end.

Andy Thomas
Andy Thomas talked about the difficulty of finding work when he graduated in 2002, and the frustration of getting rejected or, worse, hearing nothing. His first job he thought "was a bit beneath me", but this ended up being "the best thing I ever did". On his first job he learned "the reality of collaborating on a group project", and the difficulty of finishing things on time and on budget - meeting deadlines is vital.

He also talked about how keen he was in the early days to learn "everything there was to know" about digital media, and recommended that students should do as many online tutorials as possible. Andy eventually ended up at URS, a global company, and pitched them the idea of building a hub of digital artists in-house to do all the 3D development work for URS. Surprisingly, "they went for it" and he now "runs a team of fifteen artists".

Thom Day started as a runner, and tried to do the best work he could to get noticed, to meet editors, "sitting in during lunch breaks and after work", to "get his face known", and eventually "got promoted to Avid assistant". He said you've got to be "willing to do the crap jobs" to get started.

Jude Winstanley warned against "aiming too high". Be ambitious,  but be realistic as well. You can move up the ladder once you are in, but don't aim too high at the start of your career. She reminded us that film and TV production is a freelance business: "there are no staff jobs".

The Unit List - Jude Winstanley's website. Free!
Jude also talked about, a free website which helps place talent in jobs, and which she recommended all our graduates check regularly.

What makes a good CV?

Thom Day said you've got to get your CV to the right person, and make sure your CV looks nice, is short and punchy, and has all the main points at the top.
Make it good

Andy Thomas says he likes people who phone in and don't just email their CV. Three members of his current team got their job "by cold-calling". He does also run a test for candidates at interview - an AfterEffects test, to see if the candidates really know how to do what they say they can do. Lots of applicants don't really know how to do what is on their demo reel. Andy once interviewed a candidate who - astonishingly - showed him one of Andy's own online tutorials and presented it as his own work!

Scott reiterated that a phone call can be important. Sending out emails can be a "pointless" exercise.

Beaumont Lowenthal emphasised that you need to re-do your CV for each client; tailor it so that "you're not just sending out the same CV to each employer".  In the end though, "it's all about referrals". Recommendations count.

Jude Winstanley, who does a lot of recruitment, and is always on the lookout for fresh talent, complained about students with annoying answerphone messages, which made her want to move on to the next candidate. She said that CVs for TV production follow a certain layout - and that students should follow this. Key skills need to be right up there. Can you drive? Can you drive a lorry? Do you speak French? What cameras can you? Then, she wants to see your experience, in reverse order - most recent jobs at the top.

Should graduates accept unpaid work?

Jude Winstanley stressed the importance of not accepting unpaid work, which she described as "illegal" - although doing two weeks of unpaid work experience is permissible. Also, she added, students can be employed for free, but not graduates. Scott Humphries said he sometimes "took payment in microphones" when he started out, working for bands who he knew could not afford to pay him.
Learn to use it
What new technologies should undergraduates be aware of?

Thom Day said that a good knowledge of Premiere is increasingly necessary at ITV, not just Avid, which is gradually giving way to Premiere. Jude Winstanley said that Photoshop is now a requirement, and people don't get hired without it. She also recommended learning SEP, Avid, and After Effects.

(Editor's Note: For more on jobs and employability, read our guide to getting your first job. For posts 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 our guide to putting together a great CV.)

Friday, March 21, 2014

Stephen Silver Interview

"And you're right, the model is changing in many ways, and I don't want to keep doing work-for-hire, piecemeal stuff where you get your little bit of money to design, and then someone else owns the franchise, and you're creating everything for them, and you're just waiting for that next job, and hopefully that next job will come.  It's always chasing other people's ideas, and for me that's why it was so important to keep trying other things.  I realized we live in the greatest time ever, where if I want to create an app, I can do it.  If I want to publish my own book, I can do it.  That's what's exciting to me, and that's why I do it."

"That's why I'm a firm believer in entrepreneurship and building your own brand and creating something where you can deal directly with the consumer.  The consumer is the one with all the control.  They're the one who makes the choice whether they want to buy this drawing or that drawing, this book or that book, this T-shirt or that T-shirt.  It doesn't matter where they get it.  And more stuff is going online.  I can get whatever I want online, and I can go directly to the artist I like."
Character designer Stephen Silver is interviewed in the latest issue of Draw! magazine, now out in comics shops and available online (including a .pdf version) from the publisher.

The Bucks Learning Partnership Agreement

The Learning Partnership Agreement is a formal agreement thrashed out between staff and students here at Bucks. It sets out what you can expect from the staff, and what staff can expect from students. The document was produced jointly by students, the Students' Union, and the University, and gets reviewed and updated each year. Why is it important? Because it sets out in detail what exactly you can expect from the university.

Every felt badly treated by a member of staff at Bucks? Show them the agreement. The first line of "Our commitment to you" reads as follows: "Everyone working for the university will treat students and colleagues with courtesy and respect". Next someone gives you the brush-off, quote the Learning Partnership Agreement to them. Other staff duties include being "punctual and well-prepared", and to "provide a stimulating physical and virtual learning environment".

On the other hand, the agreement also sets out your duties and obligations as a student. Among these duties are: "to be punctual and well-prepared for all scheduled learning activities". Next time you stroll in late without having completed the assignment, consider that you might not be fulfilling your side of the bargain.

Late for submitting your work? Once again, the learning agreement states that you will "submit assessed work on time".

Here at Bucks we're trying out a new way of teaching. It's called "flipping the classroom", and it involves using precious classroom time for workshops, not for lectures. The idea is that you watch the lecture before coming to class, and then get the most out of classroom time for one-on-one feedback. We have literally hundreds of videos on animation hosted at Vimeo. Watch the videos, learn at your own pace, and you can't fail to master your craft.

But the system only works if you actually do the work in advance. Come to class without having done the work, and you are not really getting the most out of your time at Bucks.

Careers in media are competitive, and the digital arts are no exception. Standards are rising every year not just nationally but internationally, and to be able to compete for entry level jobs you need to be working at a professional level by the time you leave university. This means not just completing the assignments which are set for you, but going beyond the brief and absorbing as much as you can not only from the lecturers at Bucks but from your fellow students and also from online tutorials.

We want you to be the best you can be, and to graduate already deeply immersed in the professional world of the digital arts. But to do that we need you to practice hard, and commit to your studies.

For more on the Bucks Learning Partnership, follow this link.

And, to see the whole document, see below:


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Workshop 4 and Workshop 5 Feature Student Work iAnimate - Instructor Angie Jones

This is a collection of the best of the best work by my students at iAnimate in Workshop 4 - Close Up Acting and Workshop 5 Full Body Acting. Above is a sample of the past three years. Each student's name is located in the top left corner and workshop level in the bottom right.

I will be teaching my usual three Workshops this Summer, at starting in May... and the classes are filling fast!

Workshop 3 - Advanced Body Mechanics - 1 spot open
Workshop 4 - Close Up Acting - 2 spots still open
Workshop 5 - Full Body Acting - 4 spots still open

Click here to learn more about the workshops I teach at iAnimate

I like to combine the lectures for WS4 and WS5, since I teach both.  The energy from students is both workshops is similar and I like to house everyone in one place.  The WS5 students push the WS4 students and more time than not the WS4 students also inspire the WS5 work, too.  The only real difference between these two workshops is the camera is pulled back a bit in WS5 to incorporate more acting and gestures which can complicate the approach.  

Here is a sample of some of the topics I cover in lecture for WS4 and WS5:
  • Character Analysis
  • Maya How To's Advanced
  • Using Reference
  • Workflow
  • Workflow Checklists
  • Roadblocks
  • Eyes
  • Lipsych and Facial
  • Lipsynch Workflow
  • Pushing Poses
  • Hands and Gestures
  • Staging
  • Laban
  • Comdey VS. Tragedy
  • What is Funny
  • The Comic Hero
  • Career Strategies
  • Progress Reels
  • Moving Holds
  • Phrasing and Texture
  • Animation Styles
  • Polishing

Free Life Drawing classes at

Free life drawing at
Animation is a blend of creative and technical skills, and a good animator needs both to survive. It is true that digital animators don't need to draw with the same degree of skill as they did in the days of hand-drawn animation, but good draughtsmanship still helps a great deal, not just for design work but for storyboards, thumbnails, visual development and all the other related areas that a good animator often gets called upon to do

life drawing helps you to capture the line of action in a pose

We strongly recommend that our animators participate in life drawing classes at Bucks. For those who can't make it, for whatever reason, Pixelovely offers a radical, free online solution.

It is astonishing how much online content has developed for learning the past few years - much of it completely free. Take advantage of it, and join the digital revolution.

To sign up, follow this link:


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fallin’ Floyd

Fallin' Floyd - By Dutch animation studio Anikey

Superman With a GoPro

Free live animation webinar at Escape Studios on Wednesday 26 March at 6pm

I'll be doing a live animation webinar courtesy of London's Escape Studios on Wednesday 26 March at 6pm. We'll be tackling the animation of multi-legged creatures, and I'll be demonstrating a technique that allows you to animate apparently complex creatures in a simple way, creating sophisticated animation in a clean and efficient workflow. It's only an hour long, it'll be fun - and it's completely free!

Escape Studios describes itself as The Visual Effects Academy. They are in fact one of the leading providers of quality visual effects training in the UK. I know this from personal experience since I was both a student and a tutor there, and can personally vouch for the quality of the work that they do, and the excellence of their classes.

So sign up now! The webinar is completely free! To get started, all you have to do is follow this link and Register.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Summer internships at Framestore - time to polish your demo reel....

Framestore is looking for talented and creative undergraduate students to join their 2014 summer intern scheme. According to Framestore, "the Internship will give the successful applicants a unique opportunity to become important members of the creative team and gain valuable experience working for one of the largest and most respected special effects and computer animation studios in Europe".

Framestore say that they are looking for "individuals who share their passion for high-end visual effects and can demonstrate a genuine commitment to their chosen career path".

Summer internships are being offered in the following areas of visual effects work:

- 3D – Animation, Modelling, Technical Direction, Rigging, Texture/Digital Matte Painting, Art Department, Tracking

- 2D – Roto-scoping, Compositing

- Production

Who can apply?
If you are entering the final year of your degree then you will have the opportunity to join the internship scheme.

What kind of work will interns do?
Interns "will be exposed to a wide range of work and will be given a real-life view of what a career with Framestore would be like. Your learning will be through a combination of hands-on experience, scheduled presentations and informal get-togethers. You will have the opportunity to learn first-hand what a career in post-production would be like."

What kind of work did interns do last year?
In 2013, Framestore interns had the opportunity to work on many projects, including Jupiter Ascending, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Robocop as well as many other shows.

When does it start?
The 2014 intern scheme will run from 7th July 2014 till 29th August 2014

Is it a paid position?

When should you apply?
Now. You must apply online by Sunday 4th May.


(Editor's Note: For our guide to finding your first job in the animation industry, click on this link. For our guide to finding internships, read this post. 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 our guide to putting together a great CV.)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Getting your first job in the Animation industry - 12 rules for success

How animation graduates find work in the animation industry? There is no simple answer to this question. Jobs in the entertainment industry have always been highly competitive, and the supply of trained graduates competing for the best entry-level positions has never been greater. Official jobs postings, word of mouth, rumours in the pub, personal contacts, even cold-calling - all of these can be effective ways to find work in the business. Below are the twelve key rules we think are vital for success.

Rule No 1 - Get really good at what you do
Your first and most important task is to get really good at what you do. This is an obvious rule, but  the industry is competitive, and you need to be very, very good. At university, the pace of life can move slowly. But your life as an employee or a freelancer is a world of perpetual deadlines – any of which you will miss at your peril. You have to be on top of your craft, and be better than the rest. It takes a while to get really good, so you must use your time at uni to study hard and practice. Make your work entertaining and fun to watch.

Your demo reel is your shopfront - make it enticing

Rule No 2 - Have a great demo reel
Students worry a lot about grades, but the most important thing that any student will have on graduation is not their class of degree, but their demo reel. A graduate’s demo reel is their shop front, their display of talent. Nowadays it will be online at a website or blog. A great demo reel brings in work.

The number one rule of demo reels? – it should be completely free of mistakes. Most studios get piles of unsolicited demo reels. The good news is - they will probably look at your reel. The bad news is - they will probably look at your reel for ten seconds or less. So you have, in effect, ten seconds to impress. If there are any errors in your work, they will notice, and they will assume one of two things: either you saw the mistake, but could not fix it, or, worse, you didn’t see the mistake. Either way, you’re in the bin. Remember - no mistakes.

Rule No 3 - make your work easy to find.
Got yourself a blog or website? If not, why not? These days, employers won't wait for you to send them a reel - they want to click on your work. So make sure your demo reel and artwork is hosted online at your blog or website. If you don't have one, do it now. 

free websites!
A blog is quick, easy and free to start. You can also build your own website at, which might take a little longer to create. Which one you choose doesn't really matter, as long as it looks crisp and clean and is a good shopfront for your talent. For more on how to put together a free website or blog, see this post.

Quick, easy and free - a great way to showcase your talent

Rule No 4 - polish your CV or resume
The next thing you need is an up-to-date, short, and easily readable CV (or resume in the USA). For more on how to put together a great CV, read this post.

Insert your name here.

Rule No 5 - do your research - find out who is hiring
There are literally hundreds of animation, games and visual effects companies in the UK alone, and hundreds more around Europe. As a citizen of the UK, you have a right to work anywhere in the EU. Remember that most media companies speak English - wherever they are located. Make a list of companies, or - better yet - create a spreadsheet, so you track where you have applied and when. Try to find out who is looking for talent. Keep an eye on job forums, industry news websites, Facebook pages. There is always a company somewhere looking to hire fresh talent.

To start looking, check out this Games Development map. This map shows the locations of Games studios all over the world. Click on the red dots to find 'em. The same goes for the CG Studios Map. As above, this map shows the location of CG studios all over the world.

Rule No 6 - sign up for job alerts.
One method is to sign up with the jobs page at awn - The Animation World Network. I have personally found work through this site - my job on Robots at Blue sky Studios came from

Rule No 7 - Start applying for jobs
Now it's time to start applying. You will need to draft a good cover letter to send to each company you are applying for. Draft a standard letter, save it, and then start adapting it. Each letter must be tailored to suit the company you are applying for so that it doesn't read like a form letter.

What are your skills, and how are they relevant to the position you are applying for? Employers like to see that applicants have done their homework and can explain why they are interested in a career with their company. Be enthusiastic, and show that you know what that company does for a living.

Rule No 8 - Consider working as a runner or intern
Finding internships is easier than finding a job, but they are still competitive. And yet, in an increasingly tough world for graduates trying to break into the creative industries, it can be an important step on the ladder to a successful career.

Runners - first learn to make great coffee
A successful internship brings experience, contacts, and direct understanding of what is needed to get a job with an animation company. Equally, working as a runner can be a great way in to a company. You may end up making a lot of coffee and tea, but if you get taken on - it will have been well worth it.

Rule No 9 - Get ready for interview
Company recruiters want to know that you are enthusiastic and motivated for the industry and the job role you are applying for.  You must research the company, and find out what your likely job will be.
Recruiters often ask questions like: "What do you think this job involves?" or "what do you expect an average day to be like?".

They may also ask what your career goals are. This is a good opportunity to explain your career ambitions, but don't be too ambitious. Everyone wants to direct Hollywood movies and win Oscars, but the reality of most careers will likely be rather different. Being aware of what a realistic career in the visual effects industry looks like will win you the respect of the person interviewing you. Saying you want to be Stephen Spielberg will not. 

Rule No 10 - Work your connections
Personal connections count. If you know people who work in the creative industries, ask them about internships. There is no shame in this - many of the jobs you get in industry will be thanks to the sort of loose connections that make up what we call networking. Employers want to be comfortable with the person they are hiring, and if someone within the company can vouch for the applicant, then so much the better.

Make a list of people you know in the business and see if they can help you out. Lots of ex-students might well be willing to help out a Bucks undergraduate - if you ask nicely. Sending down the ladder to help give an opportunity to a newbie isn't as rare as you might think.

Keep your eyes and ears open

Rule No 11 - Keep your ears open!
Finally, keep in touch with your fellow graduates! Your graduating class is a little community of talent, you can keep each other informed about who is hiring and who needs bodies in a hurry.

Media companies tend to practice crisis-management, which is to say that when they need people, they tend to need them right away. So keep you ear to the ground, polish your online portfolio, and be ready to move quickly.

Be the rhino

Rule No 12 - Don't give up
Develop rhinoceros hide. Expect rejection.  Keep at it and you will be rewarded.

(Editor's Note: For more on what studios look for in a great demo reel, try this link, and read our guide to student demo reels. Hear what London's Blue Zoo has to say about finding work, and take a look at this video on portfolios 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 our guide to putting together a great CV. Also download the free Escape Studios guide to careers in VFX.)

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book Review: Directing for Animation

There are many books that describe the jobs in animation in a bloodless manner.  They lay out the procedures but do it as a mechanical process, devoid of human influence.  The truth is that the human element is embedded in every part of the process, and managing it is often the toughest part of the job.

Tony Bancroft is the co-director of Disney's Mulan and has also worked as a feature animator and animation supervisor.  His book, Directing for Animation, confronts the messiness that comes with the role of director.  While the public might think that the director is the one in charge, the truth is that the director is in charge of keeping everyone else happy.  Caught between the financiers and production managers on one side and the crew of artists and technicians on the other, the director has to keep all parties satisfied while trying to establish a vision for the film and keep it on schedule.

Bancroft takes the reader through the process of directing a feature, dealing with each stage of the production and the pitfalls to look out for.  In addition to his own experiences, he interviews other directors, most with feature experience: Dean DeBlois, Pete Docter, Eric Goldberg, Tim Miller, John Musker, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, Nick Park and Chris Wedge.  Bancroft is a good interviewer and it helps that he knows what questions to ask.  The interview subjects are forthright in talking about their experiences.  As they are talking to a fellow director, they don't sugar-coating their stories as they might for an interviewer from outside the field. 

These interviews add considerably to the range of experiences a director might face.  The interviews with Goldberg and Miller are particularly insightful, as their experiences are not limited to features.  Goldberg directed commercials for years and Miller, a founder of Blur Studios, has done commercials and game cinematics.  As they have worked on shorter projects, they have confronted a greater variety of artistic, technical, financial and political challenges.

This book is a good companion to David Levy's Directing Animation.  Bancroft's experiences are west coast, Levy's are east coast.  While Bancroft focuses on features, Levy talks more about television and independent films.  Between the two books, a prospective director has a wealth of information to draw on and a list of problems to watch out for.

Neither book, however, gets to the nitty gritty of how directors make their creative choices.  Those choices include story, casting, voice direction, art direction, staging, animation, lighting, editing, musical scoring, sound effects and mixing.  I hope that someday a feature director publishes a diary of a production or allows a writer to shadow the director so as to provide the thinking behind each  decision as it arises. 

Until that time, this book will give readers with the ambition to direct a feature a good grounding in the challenges that they will face.  Even casual fans of the medium will learn more about how the films they enjoy come together.

Who Will Succeed Robert Iger at Disney?

The names Jay Rasulo and Thomas Staggs don't mean much to animation professionals or fans right now, but the Los Angeles Times speculates that one of them may be Robert Iger's successor when he retires in 2016.

I wonder if they would consider Jeffrey Katzenberg.  I'm not joking about that.  While Robert Iger has been using Disney's money to buy everything in sight, Katzenberg has been building an organization from scratch and diversifying it so that it is stable enough to survive any problems.  Katzenberg also has his own record of success at Disney.  There are many worse candidates out there.

With the exceptional profitability of animated features, combining Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks makes sense from a business standpoint, if not an artistic one.  Who knows?  Since Robert Iger is running out of things to buy, maybe DreamWorks and Katzenberg are already on his list.

Graduate Showcase - Jens Kopke on animation, awards, motion graphics and careers in digital media

Jens Kopke is one of our talented animation graduates from Bucks, who has since found work in his native Hamburg as a motion design artist at DeliPictures. His short film (shown above) was completed right here in High Wycombe and combined live action with visual effects and motion graphics, winning an honourable mention at the D&AD Awards. We asked Jens to talk about his film, what he has been doing since graduating from university, and what it takes to forge a successful career in digital media.

Bucks: Your student film at Bucks won a D&AD award - how did that come about?

Jens: First of all - I'm not really sure if an "honorable mention" counts as an award.  But the project came about like this: One of the modules in Bill Schaaf's course at Bucks allowed students to get credits for non-course-related activities like building up skills or entering the D&AD awards.  So I teamed up with Yonca Yilmaz, since entering D&AD was part of her Advertising course. After first getting the approval of our tutors, our enthusiasm helped us to keep to a tight schedule of seven or eight days from first drafts to final product.

We progressed really fast, but we only managed to get very little feedback from our tutors due to our short timing. Relying much more than usual on our own intuitions and experience, we focused on a final product that we both really liked. Without worrying about things like - how to impress the D&AD judges. Which, in the end, made us even happier, when we got the honorable mention from D&AD.

Bucks: What software did you use to put it together?

Jens: We used a combination of After Effects, Cinema4D and Photoshop.

Bucks: Did you collaborate with students from the film and TV department or did you put it all together yourself?

Jens: We did not collaborate with students from the film and TV dept, but we did have help from another student from the Advertising course, Dunja Opalko. Her talent with photography (and her own privately owned equipment) helped us to get some nice footage to work with.

Bucks: Since leaving Bucks, what have you been working on?

Navigon // Garmin: "The Navigon App" from DELI PICTURES on Vimeo.

Jens: During my studies at Bucks I successfully applied for a job as a Motion Design Artist in Hamburg, Germany, at DeliPictures, where I still work today.

Since then I have mostly been working on commercial projects like Navigon ( or Weight Watchers ( Luckily, at DeliPictures we are encouraged to experiment and work on self-initiated projects during work hours, such as this St Valentine's Day card that I created with a co-worker. (

WeightWatchers Kampagne: Oliver Kahn from DELI PICTURES on Vimeo.

Bucks: What advice would you offer to any student at Bucks to get the most out of their time at University?

Jens: My advice would be twofold. Firstly, don't study to get a job, study to do something you really like to do. Secondly, what helped me most during my studies was getting out of my comfort zone and being interested in everything around me. Things like sitting in unrelated classes, using equipment you are afraid to damage, choosing projects that were way too big for me - and even failing from time to time - really helped to prepare me to handle difficult situations at work. In the end, Bucks New University had a lot to offer me.

(Editor's Note: For more impressive work done by our students and recent graduates here at Bucks, check out Ben Gray's Moonbeam, and the architectural visualisations of Sabah Masood. Also take a look at the work of Andy Thomas here, 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.)