Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Calling all Bucks Graduates! Your alma mater needs your help....

The Wheel of Fortune
Bucks New Uni is looking for help from our graduates on the subject of career progression following graduation, with a focus on "Exploring the role of unplanned events". In plain, English - the role of luck.  How important are luck and chance in guiding the progress of our graduates' careers?

Participating in the project will involve taking part in an audio-recorded interview lasting approximately 30-40 minutes. You will be asked about your own career progression since graduating, and asked to reflect on the role of unplanned events in how your career has progressed. How much has your career depended on good planning - versus unplanned serendipity?

The project is being conducted by Dr Matthew Smith and Dr Piers Worth of the Department of Psychology at Buckinghamshire New University.

If you are interested in taking part in this study, or would like to find out more information, please contact: Dr Matthew Smith Tel. 01494 522 141 ext.4323

For more about the project, follow the link below:


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

12 Principles on Tumblr and Vimeo

Head on over to and check! Super fun. I put a few on the link to see the rest.


Secondary Action

Found them put together on Vimeo

The illusion of life from cento lodigiani on Vimeo.


The illusion of life - Animated

Cast of Star Wars Episode VII

Cast of Star Wars Episode VII: Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, and Max von Sydow will join the original stars of the saga, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, and Kenny Baker in the new film.

Production on Episode VII starts next month, and the movie is slated for release on December 18, 2015. It's directed by J.J. Abrams, and written by both Abrams and Empire Strikes Back screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan.

Book Review: Creativity, Inc.

Most managers have holes in their knowledge.  Some people are promoted to management based on their skills.  They're the best at what they do in the company, so they are put in charge of other people.  The problem is that these managers have no training in how to handle people.  This is as true of assembly line managers as it is of college presidents.

Other people study management in school, but are ignorant of the processes they are managing.  They are in charge of people who know more than they do, though sometimes they won't admit it.  The world is full of MBAs who are incapable of producing any part of their company's product or service.

This is why there are so many books on business management.  The usual approach is to list things that should be done: Do this and you'll be successful.  Business books often differ in their recommendations, but the authors are convinced that their advice is sound.

Ed Catmull, one of the founders of Pixar and now President of Pixar and Disney Animation, takes a different approach in Creativity, Inc.  As he started out in computer science writing software, he is analytical about solving problems.  However, rather than declare the right way to do things, Catmull instead writes about things to beware of, including things that are unknowable.

Don't measure people by their current skills, but by how much they can grow.  Don't be afraid to hire people smarter than you are.  Understand the reasons behind a disagreement rather than focusing on the disagreement itself.  Try to find the causes of fear in an organization and root them out.  Don't believe you can prevent all errors by planning.   Don't punish failure or no one will try anything new.  Don't measure people by their mistakes, but by their ability to fix their mistakes.  Don't let the organizational structure prevent communication between departments and people.  Don't let one department's agenda override other agendas.  Don't confuse the process with the goal.

Catmull writes about the above using examples from his own career and from Pixar.  On the surface, it reads as if Pixar has managed to overcome problems common to large organizations and has found ways to encourage the staff to focus on the success of the company.   But while Catmull is not shy about Pixar's failures and close calls, I think that there's a gap between the Pixar of this book and the Pixar of reality.

For instance, Catmull talks about having to keep product moving through the pipeline in order to use the staff efficiently, but the need to "feed the beast" in his words often results in going with the tried and true rather than taking chances on new ideas.  As an example, he mentions The Lion King 1 1/2.  "This kind of thinking yields predictable, unoriginal fare because it prevents the kind of organic ferment that fuels true inspiration."  However, Pixar is as invested in sequels these days as any other animation studio.

At times, Catmull is disingenuous.  He implies that Pixar's influence was responsible for the crew of The Princess and the Frog taking a research trip to Louisiana, when in fact Disney had been making research trips for earlier films like The Lion King and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  He gives credit to a Pixar developer for giving his crew time to pursue personal projects at work, while Google was widely reported to have been doing this for years.

Catmull praises Steve Jobs' design of Pixar's building, saying that it was constructed to force people from different departments to interact with each other.  Yet he also discusses a 2013 internal event called Notes Day, and one of the emails Catmull received after it was over said, "I met new people, got completely new points of view, and learned what other departments struggle with and succeed with."  Clearly, the geography of Pixar's building was not enough to fulfill Jobs' intention.

There is also a bit of a Pollyanna attitude.  While there are undoubtedly personal and legal reasons to avoid speaking about some staffing issues in specific terms, the pain and disruption of firings and layoffs is glossed over.  With one exception, the fate of the crew of Circle 7, the studio Disney created to do its own Pixar sequels, goes unmentioned.  There's nothing about the opening and closing of Pixar's Vancouver studio, either.

Catmull implies that directors are only replaced when stories are not progressing or when a director loses the confidence of the crew.  While no replaced directors are mentioned by name, it leaves a shadow over the heads of Jan Pinkava, Brenda Chapman and others who are criticized by implication, but without specifics and without the ability to refute the charges.

Catmull talks about personally delivering bonus cheques to each crew member on Tangled, talking about how important it was to acknowledge each person's contribution to the film.  And yet, after Frozen, now the most financially successful animated film in Disney history, those people laid off after completion have been denied bonus cheques though they contributed as much to the film as the people who were retained.  Disney will undoubtedly rehire some of these people in the future, and their commitment to future projects will be tempered by a knowing cynicism.  So much for team building.

There is much that is valuable in this book.  However, the contradictions in this book underline that no company is perfect and no matter how hard managers try to avoid or eliminate problems, there will always be some.  Catmull is to be praised for acknowledging this, but like everyone else, he's unaware of some of his own mistakes and blind spots.

Godzilla - Asia Trailer

Don't Pitch to Buyers, Pitch to the Audience - Addendum 2

Courtesy of student Luke Coleman, here is a series of articles by Disney character designer Chris Oatley entitled "Will Your Personal Project Make Money?"  The articles describe a variety of motivations for doing personal work besides income, and all of them are great reasons for taking your work directly to the audience.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Student Showcase - Kalim Momen explains snow simulation using After Effects

Kalim Momen is one of our talented first year animation & VFX students here at Bucks. One of the first year modules that all our students must complete in order to graduate to the next academic year is Broadcast Animation, which tackles the part of our industry that used to be known (rather dismissively) as flying logos. By definition, Broadcast animation counts as animation, just as important as character animation, creature animation - or any other kind of animation. Broadcast animation is where many of the biggest modern digital VFX houses got their start. The brief for Kalim and the other students was to create a title sequence, using Adobe After Effects, for a famous movie - using titles, animation and design to create a sophisticated piece of work, something that could have been used for the movie itself.

Kalim animated a title sequence for Edward Scissorhands
Kalim chose Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands, a film that helped to define the director's style and also launched the career of led actor Johnny Depp. We asked Kalim a few questions about his project, and how he came to create it.

Bucks: Why Edward Scissorhands?

Kalim: The reason why I chose Edward Scissorhands for the assignment is that it was one of my favorite movies from my childhood.

Bucks: What software did you use to create it?

Kalim: The software I used to create my first broadcast title creation assignment was Adobe CS6 After Effects

Bucks: How did you create the snow effect?

Kalim: The snow effect that I used is located in Effects and Presets, in a tab called Simulation. It is called t2_snownight2. What you do is you go to the tab called Layer and then scroll down to New and then scroll down and click on solid. When you have clicked on Solid, make the new Solid black After you have done this, drag and drop the t2_snowynight2 trap code SD presets effect on the Solid. When you do this, you will be able to customize your snowflakes to be big or small and you have the perfect background that never ends. 

For the snow effect for the text in the video, first you will need a text: so you go to Layers, scroll down to New and click on Text.  When you have clicked on Text, a box will appear.  You write in any random name and, make the text colour white because you want the snow effect to look real before adding in the effect. 

After you have done those steps, you go to the tab Effects and Presets, type in the search bar "card wipe", and then click on Card Wipe Pixel Storm. When you have dragged and dropped on to the text, the next stage is the hard part - making it look like snow. To do this, first you go to the Effects window on the left side of the screen. Go to the card wipe master control and set the Transition Completion to 100.0%. Then go to the brackets (Card wipe) and go to Rows, and set it to 104, and then set Columns to 161, set Timing Randomness to 0.10. After you have done this you must add in the key frame for the transition completion, so you set a key frame at 0 and make the transition completion to 0.0%. Then, set another key frame at 20 or 30 and set the transition completion to 100.0% - and you will get a snow effect. 

Bucks What tips would you offer to anyone trying to do an exercise like this one?

Kalim: Stay calm and and keep trying again and again. Making this effect was not easy;  there will always be some problems in After Effects that can be difficult to overcome, but stay calm and you will eventually find the answer to your problem. 

Bucks: What were the biggest challenges in getting it done?

Kalim: The biggest challenges in getting this assignment done were the technical issues in After Effects that kept being a problem. For instance, when I was applying Effects in After Effects, the software kept on being difficult by closing itself down or sending up error messages. But I got through it all by remaining calm and, where necessary, asking a friend of a teacher for advice.

(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 and Anton Alfimenko. 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. And don't forget to see the simulation work of our students done in RealFlow. To see our student demo reel, click here.)

Friday, April 25, 2014

Ken Fountain Podcast: Getting Story From Your Still Images

Head on over to Splatfrog and check out Ken's podcast. He just uploaded another one showing part of his workflow we uses to extract his initial key poses from his reference video.

Some great stuff as always from Ken! And if you have Quicktime Pro you can download it!

The Art of "Frozen" comes to London on 28 April

The Art of Frozen is being showcased by Disney in London on April 28th. For full information see this link here: Here at Bucks we strongly recommend that our students do their best to attend events like this if they can - you will always learn something new about the animation industry and - who knows - you might even meet someone looking to hire an animator.

Curzon Soho - in the heart of London's West End
Panel discussions with the creative talent behind leading films like Frozen also provide an opportunity to ask questions about how movies get made, and how you might go about finding work with companies like Disney. You won't regret going.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Summer placements and graduate opportunities in the creative industries has published a list of Summer placements and graduate opportunities in the creative industries. You can find it here: Not all of these opportunities will be of interest to animators, but the list is long and there are many and varied positions available in creative media.

Take a look and see if any of them seem worth applying for. As ever, the process of applying for a position is invaluable in itself - even if you don't get the job. One of the most important skills you will learn at university is how to find work, and how to present yourself to a potential employer in a way that makes you attractive and employable.

(Editor's Note: For more on finding work in the animation industry, see our post on finding your first job, and how to find your first internship. Also, see 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 about demo reels 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 post on starting your own animation business,  read our freelancer's survival guide, and see our guide to invoicing clients. For an insight into managing your taxes as a freelancer, see this post, and read our guide to putting together a great CV. Also see our rules for success when dealing with clients, and find out what goes into a portfolio career.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Daniel Peixe: Frozen Shot Progression

Another great shot progression of Frozen from Daniel Peixe over at Disney Animation.

ShotProgressionGrandPabby from Daniel Peixe on Vimeo.

If you watch his reference video you can see some of the stuff he uses as his base and then pluses and pushes the animation. Great insight on how to use reference video effectively.


What is the best platform for animation in Maya - a Mac or a PC?


One question we get asked a lot at Bucks is this: "What should I use for animation - a PC or a Mac?" The good news is - you can use either one. The bad news is - you should really use a PC. Here at Bucks our classrooms have both PCs and Macs, but in general we recommend our students use a PC for several reasons.

Firstly and most importantly, the vast majority of animation and visual effects houses work on PCs. Secondly, a number of free (and very useful) Maya plug-ins will only work on a PC. In particular, the Parent Master plugin, which is seriously useful for attaching and un-attaching objects in Maya, does not work on the Mac. Finally, audio playback in Maya can be troublesome on a Mac. All in all, the PC wins because it is a broad-backed platform that will help prepare you for a successful career in the animation and visual effects industry.

The ZV Parent Master Plugin
None of these reasons mean that you can't run Maya on a Mac. Maya works fine on a Mac and you can certainly aquire the skills you need to become a first-rate animator.  But, personally, I use the ZV Parent Master plugin a lot for attaching and un-attaching objects in Maya, and I find that, without this tool, the process of attaches can be fiddly and annoying.

Still, as any techhead will tell you, Macs can be run on special dual-boot software, so you can boot it up in Windows if you prefer. And, hey presto - you have an instant PC. And Macs are lovely. I am writing this on my MacBook Pro - a beautiful machine, and I would not be without it.

Personally, I have both a Mac and a PC. For animation, I use my PC. For everything else, I use my Mac.

(Editor's note: for more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days,  take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

WDAS Caricature Show Part 2

John and John

Trent Correy and Jorge Ruiz

Dorothy McKim and Roy Conli

Fawn Veerasunthorn and Ryan Green

Jeff Turley and Patrick Osborne

Mike and Milo Franceschi

Hollywood Film Producer Max Howard coming to Bucks on Monday 19th May

Max Howard
Max Howard is a film producer with a huge wealth of experience producing hit Hollywood films for Disney and DreamWorks. He is responsible for classics such as Spirit - Stallion of the Cimarron, Space Jam, and The Iron Giant. He began his career working in London on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, and now produces independent animated features such as the highly successful Igor. His latest film, the Hero of Colour City, is due out in October 2014. We are very lucky to have Max visit Bucks on 19th May to share the secrets of independent film-making.

Max will be talking to our students about how independent films get made. In particular, how do independent film-makers pitch their projects, and how do you raise the finance to get your project into theatres?

Here at Bucks we teach students animation, and (of course) all the skills needed to find work as professional digital artists. But beyond the technical training that we offer lies a whole world of creation and invention, that can lead to a successful career in the most interesting and potentially lucrative part of show business - the successful creation and marketing of fresh content.

Max will talk about where great ideas come from, and how they can be developed into something that connects with audiences all over the world. With new digital media and open platforms like YouTube changing the way that films are created and marketed, the opportunities for independent film-makers with a big vision have never been greater than they are today.

Here at Bucks we are looking forward to Max's visit and can't wait to hear what he has to say.


(Editor's note: For more on pitching animation, read about how you can pitch your own idea for a TV Series ar Cartoon Forum, and how you can pitch your movie ideas at Cartoon Movie. For more practical advice on animation careers, read this post on how to set up an small business. Also learn about your first client project, read out our post on Portfolio Careers, and read this piece on Survival as a Freelancer. Study the nuts and bolts of freelance life by reading our guide to invoicing clients, and our guide to freelancers and taxes.  For more on careers in general, 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. Finally see our article on the jobs page at )

WDAS Caricature Show 2014

April 1st, that time of year again!

Photos by Nick Russell and Felicity , respectfully.

And here are a few more I submitted to the show.
Zach Parrish

Brittany Kikuchi

Daniel Klug

Dawn Rivera-Ernster

Ed Catmull

Jen Vera

Kellie Hoover

Laura Meredith

Leah Latham

Marisa Castro

Michael Woodside

Minor Gaytan

Nara Yun

Nick Russell

Sunmee Dong

Bruce Wright

Chris Williams

Manu Arenas

Monday, April 21, 2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014