Month: August 2014

AnimSchool Classtime: Storyboard Critique with Moroni Taylor

During the Summer Term, our supplemental general Art Class is Story Class with Moroni Taylor, free for all AnimSchool students! 
Moroni has storyboarded on 14 features including Iron Giant, Ice Age, Horton Hears a Who, Rio and recently Epic. 
In this clip, he goes over a Critique of a Storyboarding Assignment to one of our students, Ayman Moadad. Watch it below: 

Come join all the students learning online at AnimSchool:

AnimSchool Graduate Spotlight: Animator Mark Tan

We would like to welcome Mark Tan, one of our latest graduates from the 3D Animation Program.

Tell us a little about yourself, what’s your background? How did you get into animation?
Mark’s drawing at 5 years old.

Like many others, I grew up drawing what I saw.  I didn’t just like drawing figures, but telling a story.  My very first creations I made as a kid (around 5 years old) had a scene drawn along with a story written.
Despite these early beginnings, animation never dawned on me as a profession until a counselor at college brought it up.  Once I started, animation totally took over my focus.  We experimented with 2D, paper cut out animation, as well as claymation my freshman year.  In my second year of college, we eventually were taught Maya and all the technical facets of the program.

Along with learning animation, my interest in filmmaking blossomed during college as well.  I watched thousands of films (live action and animated), read screenwriting books, and started to make shorts/music videos.
I chose animation as a profession because I believe at the core of every well told story is a strong believable performance.  Animation gives us the ability to explore the personality of any character without the hinderance of our outward appearance.

What’s the best part of online education?

The best part of online education is having access to some of the most skilled in the industry today without having to travel at all.  I told myself before enrolling that if these guys can’t help me improve drastically, then I’m not trying hard enough!

What do you like the most when animating?

I really enjoy shooting video reference prior to going on the computer.  There is something special about actually acting out your scene.  The possibilities seem endless.  There are also quirks and small details captured on video that can be helpful as well.  It is much easier to approach a shot when you have the majority of your movements and expressions locked down in a video edit.

What type of animation inspires you?

I can’t really say I favor any type of animation, but I can mention a few scenes/shorts that inspire me.

1.  Seeing the work of Min Hong, Alaa Abu Hanish, James Kim, and many others before and during Animschool fueled my motivation to improve.

2. I will always remember the shot in Finding Nemo where Dory tells Marlin that when she looks at him, she’s home.  It’s amazing how much is achieved with a character that’s basically a floating face with fins. 


3. Another scene I always enjoy watching is Presto.  The staccatto movements and upright poses of the magician purely give way to his whole personality in one shot.  There is a lot of fun animation in the whole short, but the held poses are what seem to be the funniest to me. 

4. I was really into the early works of Nick Park, Bill Plympton and Don Hertzfeldt when I started out college years ago.  I found shorts like “Creature Comforts”, “How to Kiss” and “Rejected Cartoons” to be very entertaining. 


You’ve done some great shots along the way at Animschool and some of them have been featured at the Student Showcase. Which one did you like the most? How was your workflow for this shot?

I think my most successful shot came out of class 6 with Melvin Tan.  He was the most picky and pushed me the hardest on my shot from start to finish.  I chose a very challenging audio clip after hours of searching, and that was just the beginning of the journey.

I approached the video reference like I always did, but I remember Melvin had very clear and distinct decisions on what didn’t work for him.  The main notes of the first reference was to make the performance more confrontational by breaking less eye contact in the beginning of the scene.  After about 50 total takes, I finally reached something close to begin animating with.

In what ways do you think Animschool has helped you to be a better animator?

Animschool’s animation program structure helped me sharpen my skills from the ground up.  

In Animating Characters, two major things I picked up was the idea of lead/follow, as well as how to balance the weight of your character in space.  

In Body Acting, texture was a big focus on how to break up the flow of the dancer in the subway to add more interest.  Also, the opening up of the face for eye direction, avoiding wall eyed positions of the irises, proper spacing/smear frames, and the importance of breaking down video reference better (and enhancing the appeal in your work).

The last three classes involved more complex characters and lip sync.  I learned a lot more about polish and all the little details that really make your shot shine.  The most important thing throughout this back end of the program was that I learned what it takes to finish a good shot.  

Any advice or tip that you remember from an instructor that you’ve had along the way?

Lead and follow has helped me a lot.  Choosing what to lead the action to another pose always helps to break up the animation and add a more natural feel.  Though I have gone too far sometimes, this concept is always on my mind. 

Are you currently working in the animation industry? Tell us about it.

I am currently trying to get work in feature films.  My last gig was animating Ninja Turtles for promotional and commercial spots for the movie.  Some of it was recently used in a music video for a song from the movie’s soundtrack.

How do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Right now I’m hoping to be making a living working in the movie industry.  I don’t know what 5 years in the future holds for me, but I’m going to put my effort in one day at a time and see where that takes me.

Any hobbies, sports or other activities that you would like to share with us?

I’m into weightlifting, play basketball regularly, and occasionally play tennis.  When not sitting at a computer, I try to stay as active as possible.

Any quote to get yourself motivated?

Save nothing for the swim back.

What are your plans now that you’ve graduated from Animschool?

As I stated earlier, I want to gain experience in the animated film industry.  I have worked on video game cinematics, video game animation, and television.  I have recently started the job hunt.  Wish me luck! 

Mark, thank you very much for this interview and all the best for your future outside Animschool!

Watch Mark’s demo reel:

Videography reel:

Buster Keaton – Performance analysis

In AnimSchool’s Body Acting, Disney Animator Tony Bonilla analyzes work of Buster Keaton, the legend of the Silent movies era.

This is a perfect example how overacting can lead to some great and funny scenes (which are perfect for animation)

According to Wiki: “Overacting is the exaggeration of gestures and speech when acting. It is often required for the role and is commonly used in comical situations or to stress the evil characteristics of a villain.”

Come join all the students learning online at AnimSchool:

AnimSchool Instructor Interview: Animator Kevan Shorey

Today we are having a very nice conversation with Kevan Shorey, one of the instructors at our General Reviews. Kevan is an Annie-nominated Feature Film Animator at Dreamworks Animation (PDI).

Chris Bancroft made this caricature for his friend.

Tell us a little about yourself, what’s your background? How did you get into animation?

It’s not a particularly interesting story, I’m afraid. I grew up in Wales, and my love of movies and drawing led me to Animation. I tailored my school studies and subsequent university degrees towards learning both the craft and visual communication/film-making.

What animation style (cartoony, realistic) do you enjoy the most to create?
I enjoy the the hybrid approach. The opportunity to blend the two styles that allows for moments of sophisticated acting to contrast with the fun and energy of pushed, larger-than-life action.

What is the best experience you’ve had so far in a production environment?

I’ve only worked as an Animator as I started my career here. I really love being surrounded by talented people who push the medium forward.

In what project are you working on? What workflow are you using right now at it?
I am currently working on The Penguins movie, out later this year. It is a cartoony show using the style set by the Madagascar films. While I’ve recorded a few bits of reference here and there, my planning has been almost solely in 2D, using my Cintiq to draw and plan using our new software. I am finding it much quicker to plan directly in to the shot and be able to push poses with stylus strokes rather than trying to exaggerate live action reference.

Do you think that animators need to have a nomad spirit, kind of a ready to move mentality in order to get the best gigs?
Unfortunately it is the nature of the modern Animation industry to make big demands on those who make a living within it. Work/life balance and lots of moving around becomes much more impactful as you age and gain responsibilities such as older or younger dependants. I wish the industry would do a better job of catering to all types of personality, and not just the nomadic portion but this lift is forced on many.

What’s been your inspiration throughout your career?
Those around me. 100%.

What is the most enjoyable thing about teaching animation online?
The sense that I am someone in their aim to improve and grow in the craft they wish to pursue. Even if my observations are merely a spring board to a new idea for an individual then it’s a worthwhile endeavour.

How do you explain to a new acquaintance (not related to the industry) what is your work about?
I explain it as creating performance for digital characters. I’ve found it’s the simplest shorthand for the layman.

Have you ever had the “I can’t believe where I am working/ who I am working with” feeling?
Oh yes. It took me years to not have that feeling everything single day, but it still intimidates me from time to time.

Having worked in so many cool feature films, what goals do you have?

Just to keep doing what I’m doing, growing as an artist in the process. There’s always something to be learned, and I have a long way to go, particularly in broad, comic shots and realistic physical ones.

What does it feel like when you go the the movies and see the people laugh or get emotional with one of your shots?
I don’t know that I’ve had that for my shots specifically – more for a sequence that I worked on. It feels pretty satisfying, actually.

You wrote a great post on your blog about your experience relocating in the US coming from the UK. Being Animschool a school with a lot of international students, what’s your advice for international students that want to get their foot in the animation industry?
AnimSchool is definitely a good place to start! Getting noticed is all about the reel, and the contacts made with industry professionals to get that reel in the right hands.

What’s your perspective about animation made in the US vs made in Europe?
I don’t know that I make any such distinction since there is so much migration of talent. There are amazing people to be found everywhere in Feature, Games, TV and lots of other places.

How important do you think it is networking in this industry?
Very much. It’s a small industry and with so much movement between studios many people will know each other, or know of each other, at least.

Let’s say we are in 20 years time and your kid would like to study animation, what advice would you give her/him?
While I don’t know where the craft will be in 20 years, let’s assume it is mostly similar to today. I would suggest a course emphasizing traditional skills then moving on to computer-based stuff to give a well rounded perspective of the craft. Oh, and drawing. Lots of drawing.

Thank you very much Kevan for sharing your time with us!
Thank you. Cheers!

Twitter: @kevanshorey

AnimSchool Classtime: Overlap & Follow Through with Thom Roberts

In this clip, Blue Sky Animator and AnimSchool Instructor Thom Roberts explains in a simple way fundamental animation principles like Overlap, Follow Through and Drag. Watch it below:

This is a clip from AnimSchool’s class Introduction to 3D Animation, the 1st term of the 3D Animation Program. To find out more, go to and apply now!

AnimSchool Instructor Interview: Lighting TD Brandon May

Today we are talking with Brandon May, who works as a Lighting TD at Blue Sky Studios and teaches Introduction to 3D Lighting at Animschool.

Tell us a little about yourself, what’s your background? How did you get into Lighting?

I grew up on a farm in a small town in Idaho. I have always been artistic and loved creating art and drawing.   When I got married, my wife convinced me to take an art class.  Reluctantly,  I took one and loved every second of it.  I switched my major and found a bunch of friends who were all in animation.  I naturally gravitated there and ended up being recruited into the BYU animation program.   I chose lighting because it was involved with the final touches and the final look of all the elements in the production.   I loved it and I was the only one who was doing it in my group in the program.   I ended up at Blue Sky Studios as a lighter and I could not be happier.  I love it here. 

What is the best experience you’ve had so far in a production environment?

I think the best experience would be the feeling I get when I get positive feedback from personal success in my lighting.  It is fantastic to hear someone who is an amazing lighter compliment your work. 

In what project are you working on? What is your job?

I am currently working on Peanuts.  My job right now is pretty – extremely laid back.   This project does not release for another year and a couple months, so we are not doing much. Ha ha.  For a lighter, the work comes in waves.  When we have work, we have a lot to do, and then we get a break.  When we break, we have nothing to do.  It is a schedule I enjoy, but it is not for everyone.  Definitely not a steady work flow. 

What’s been your inspiration throughout your career? Any mentors along the way?

My inspiration throughout would be my wife.  I love her and she is my support and motivation. My mentors along the way would be Youngwoong Jang and Angel Camacho.   Two uber crazy talented people and I hope to become as good as they are someday.   

One nice thing about working where I do, I don’t have to have mentors from anywhere else.  I work with some of the most talented artists in the world.  Especially when it comes to feature animation art.  

The lighting style in Blue Sky productions like Epic and Rio 2 is really captivating, can you tell our blog readers how you go about applying lighting to the scenes? Is there any particular process that you guys found effective?

The lighting on Epic was handled differently than Rio.  With every show, we have art directors who have a visual goal that will separate the look of this film from that film.  At the beginning, we work at finding what that style is and match it.  Much time is spent getting that look before the production begins.  The process is trial and error.  We light and push back the frames and problems we see to the appropriate departments to make changes so that those issues are resolved to make the process as streamlined as possible.

“Rio”. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved
“Rio”. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved

Picture from the Book: “The Art of Rio” by Tara Bennett

Picture from the Book: “The Art of Rio” by Tara Bennett
“Epic”. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved

“Epic”. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved

What goals do you have in your class Introduction to 3D Lighting? Who should attend the course?

Goals for the lighting class are simple.  Teach the students basic principals of lighting and color, and help them feel more comfortable when plusing their demo reels.  I think that every little bit helps when making a demo reel.  If your animation, or rig looks great, but so does the guy that is your direct competition, what gives you the higher ground? I think it is making an overall visually impressive reel.  It shows problem solving, and that you are competent in many artistic ways.  This class will help push you in that direction.

What is the most enjoyable thing about teaching online for you?

I actually like to see the growth.  It is fun watching students grow artistically but in confidence as well.  Both are important.  I also like to see different styles from so many different cultures that are in the class room.   An online class makes the world come together in a single room, and we get to experience a small piece of their culture through their art.  It is actually, fantastic.

We thank Brandon very much for taking the time in doing this piece.