Month: November 2018

Acting Resources for Animators

Good acting is key to creating a believable, appealing performance. But, figuring out acting beats can be one of the most difficult steps in the process of animating a shot. It can be hard to figure out where to start, especially if you’re new to acting – don’t worry, many animators go through the same struggles when planning out their shots. Here are some resources recommended by our instructors to give you a better understanding of the foundations and subtleties of acting. 


A renowned actor and teacher of theater in Russia, Stanislavski was known for his system of actor training, preparation, and rehearsal technique. An Actor Prepares delves into the exercises and techniques he would practice as an actor, and many of the concepts outlined (such as the “magic if” and method acting) are now considered standard practice in modern acting.

Uta Hagen – Respect for Acting

Starting out with several respectable roles on Broadway, Uta Hagen turned to teaching after being unofficially blacklisted from Hollywood for being suspected of harboring sympathies with the Communist party. She ended up mentoring several classes of actors and actresses, including some well-known stars like Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. Hagen’s beliefs on acting are that actions – what you do or say – are the most important. Respect for Acting is an account of Hagen’s own struggles with acting, and includes several examples and instructions for practice.

Ed Hooks – Acting for Animators

A professional actor and acting coach, Ed Hooks is best known for pioneering acting training for animators. Acting for Animators goes over acting principles and uses basic acting theory to explain concepts like character movement and facial expressions.

Paul Ekman – Emotions Revealed / Telling Lies

Facial expressions are essential for almost any acting shot, and Dr. Paul Ekman is one of the world’s leading experts on facial expressions – specifically micro expressions. His famous books Emotions Revealed and Telling Lies reveal many of the findings of his research on microexpressions and how to spot them. Animators could find it useful to incorporate some micro expressions into their shots to help convey subtext.


Michael Caine – Acting in Film

This is a recording of an old instructional session by Michael Caine on the topic of Acting in Film. Caine discusses some helpful tips and teachings for better acting that still remain relevant today, such as not overacting, especially in close-up shots, and understanding the character’s backstory. He also goes through some scenes with a few actors, giving feedback and revealing some lessons he’s learned through his experiences. This is a great video to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes and to understand how to translate an idea of a character into a convincing performance with direction from one of the greats.

Nerdwriter – Westworld: What Makes Anthony Hopkins Great

Nerdwriter is a Youtube channel that specializes in analyzing and explaining pop culture. One especially popular video they created is an acting analysis of Anthony Hopkins’ character on the show Westworld. The video goes over the context of the scene as well as the subtext of the acting, going into intriguing details of Hopkins’ delivery of his lines and his microexpressions. The performance analyzed in this video is a great example of acting with many dimensions and provides a good standard for acting with depth.

Hopefully, these acting resources will prove as helpful to you as they do to our instructors and students. If you have a favorite book or video not listed here, please share it with us in the comments!

Looking for the best 3D Animation schools? For more information about AnimSchool and our online animation programs, visit us at

Graduate Spotlight: Nagu Moreno

Nagu Moreno is one of our very talented graduates from animation program. Throughout his time at AnimSchool, he won the hearts of his instructors through sheer dedication and hard work. We recently got a chance to interview him for our blog and learn more about him, and his workflow.

Tell us about yourself and your background.

Nagu imitating the work of Quirino Cristiani: a local animator

I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, I work and live here. For as long as I can remember I was passionate about animation. It may be not a very original story but the truth is that as a child I always said, I wanted to make cartoons when I grew up. I was fascinated by all cartoons, but my favorite was The Pink Panther Show. I spent hours drawing the characters so much that my mom enrolled me in a drawing class. I also enjoyed acting and everyone knew me for making impressions of imaginary characters or our school teachers. Later I studied acting, theater and performance for a couple of years. After I finished high school, I was a bit shy and somewhat confused and ended up studying Marine Biology for some time – I love animals, especially the weird ones, but I’m not so good at STEM subjects. Later because of my interest in movies I studied towards a degree in Sound and Image Design in University of Buenos Aires (UBA), getting closer to animation although I didn’t realize it then. I love all kinds of animation, all techniques and styles.

In my free time, besides animation, I enjoy playing football and traveling when possible.

So what motivated you to become an animator?

I first discovered 3D as an animation technique when I was in college. I remember leaving the cinema after watching Monsters, Inc. absolutely fascinated. I realized that this was what I wanted to do, so I quit my job at the supermarket and with just enough money enrolled in a intensive course at a private university which focused on all areas of the 3D world, all the while studying in college. I saw it as a self-investment and a chance to work on something I enjoy. Although in my country animation schools are few and far between and the industry has a long way to go, the course served as a great introduction to the industry, and I soon started working as a 3D generalist for movies and advertising companies in various local production studios.

From the beginning, I was most of all interested in animating characters – to make each gesture and expression come alive to me means everything I love about this world, which is why I decided to focus on Character Animation.

What made you choose AnimSchool?

AnimSchool’s Marina Character design

I learned a lot about the production workflow of a full-length animated movie while working in Underdogs, a movie which was partly made in my country, but not so much about character animation due to the position I was working in.

I remember stumbling upon AnimSchool showcases and loving the students’ work and the rigs; the characters looked very expressive and versatile, but enrolling seemed impossible because of time and cost. I learned more about AnimSchool from my coworker Maximiliano, who was a student here. It made me happy to know that my wish to become a better animator and learn from the best animators in the industry had a name and a place and was something real and approachable.

Tell us about your workflow.

While choosing an audio I try to visualize possible camera angles and framing. I believe that although my dialogue shot begins and ends in a specific time frame, the story must continue before and after the shot. So it should not be a stand-alone but rather part of a bigger story arc and my shot is able to convey that feeling. Therefore it is very important for me to choose those settings and elements that would help the viewer to quickly figure out what is happening and where the shot is leading to.

My pre-planning involves drawing thumbnails. I like acting the scenes out in front of the mirror. After getting a general idea of the acting, I film a reference, trying to identify the key moments and poses which are crucial for telling the story.

Click for bigger view

With several video references filmed, I piece parts of them together to make a final version. As I tend to exaggerate the acting or the number of poses, which may have something to do with me being a Latin American with Italian roots, I always watch out for it and try to tone down and simplify the final version.
Then I draw some quick frames with key poses and extremes and turn them into a sequence with a timeline in an editing program. Now I have an animatic which helps me to check quickly if the timing of my animation is right and to make the poses clearer.

Time to start working in 3D – I first work on the key poses, mainly the body – I don’t touch the face, just some quick expressions so it doesn’t look too neutral. I try to get as many body mechanics references from my video as I can and adapt them to the character’s weight and physical aptitudes. I start working with curves in step mode as I feel more comfortable with pure blocking. The master poses finished, I work on the extremes and add breakdowns, going from bigger to smaller and trying to make the pose to pose changes look natural, so I work on the ease-ins and ease-outs, movement arcs and adding facial expressions little by little.
When I’m happy with my body/facial blocking and I feel that it flows naturally without spacing jumps and the timing is right, I start animating the lip sync and blinking with spline curves. After that I add little details I see in my references I may have not noticed before, which may be help the character come to life, like a sigh or an eye dart. I like to consult others’ opinion while working, not necessarily someone who knows about animation. It helps me see if my idea is clear to others, or work out a gesture or in general have a new and different perspective. Then I pass the animation to spline and start polishing the curves and retouching everything to recover the beats I had in my blocking which now may look a bit too smooth. While in blocking I work mainly on the timeline from start to end, here I polish the curves in chunks, dividing the animation in about three parts. I work on general controls hierarchy first, moving on to the details, generally hips, then torso,  neck and head and the limbs, etc.

Were you working before joining AnimSchool? And now that you have graduated from the animation program, what are your plans?

I have mainly worked in audiovisual studios here in Argentina and although I have worked in full length films, mostly locally, the bulk of my experience is as a 3D generalist in commercials. As a generalist I realized I cannot improve my skills if I have to work on every step of the project (modelling, lighting, etc.), especially with timing and resources available when making a commercial. My first step was to focus on character animation and make a leap in quality I felt I badly needed. At the moment my end plan is to be able to work on high quality fully animated movies, while continuing with my studies, learning and improving my skills.

What is the animation industry like in Argentina? Do you think it has the potential to grow?

Argentina’s animation industry is mainly dedicated to advertising. There are a number of studios that specialize in commercials that produce a decent quality content.
Argentina has a humble but significant place in the history of world animation since the beginning of the 20th century. However, attempts in animation here have always been isolated and independent, often without a definite idea of a long-term project.
That said, in my opinion it’s witnessing a rise, there is a new generation of professional animators, who can learn quickly thanks to how easily you can access information and technology these days. The only thing needed is more options in professional education and most of all structured degrees in animation as a separate discipline, independent of a degree in cinema.

What would your advice be for the aspiring animators?

Use everything AnimSchool has to offer – general reviews, art classes, etc. For me personally it was very useful asking for feedback and even having reviews with my classmates who could offer a fresher outside perspective. At the same time, all my instructors were very open to communication and questioning, and were always ready to share their workflow, which was extremely helpful.
In my opinion the result is worth the effort, the same way a shot may look vague in the beginning and then takes form with every key pose until eventually coming to life. This is what happens at the end of the program: you realize how much you have learned, and although you can always improve, the knowledge you have is already yours and stays with you forever.

Thank you Nagu for your time and the interview.

New AnimSchool Character Rig: Marina

AnimSchool Student Dayanna Rodriguez

Marina is AnimSchool’s charming new character rig.

Marina’s 2nd set of clothes are in development. She’ll have two complete outfit changes and two hairstyles to choose
from. Students can mix and match the shirts, pants, shoes, jacket, as
well as hair to get a unique look.

AnimSchool’s new character Marina is already a favorite among our
animation students. Our students use Marina in our feature animation
classes 5-7.

AnimSchool Student James Blackmer

Check out these images from AnimSchool students using Marina already this term: Dayanna Rodriguez, James Blackmer, Tushar Bharti, and Marion Duvert.

You can see some of their works-in-progress on our Facebook page here:

AnimSchool Student Tushar Bharti

Marina was crafted over months to ensure appeal and versatility, with greater support for hard deformations. Marina continues a new initiative at AnimSchool, using detailed texturing,
like our new Marco rig.

Marina looks great in Maya’s viewport too,
taking advantage of Maya’s Viewport 2.0 stingray materials display.

Marina was designed by Borja Montoro at Sergio Pablos Animation and modeled by
Nina Tarasova and Dave Gallagher, textured by Nina Tarasova, and rigged
by AnimSchool founder Dave Gallagher.

AnimSchool student Marion Duvert

The designer for this character is Borja Montoro at Sergio Pablos Animation Studios. Sergio previously allowed AnimSchool to use the design for his Giacomo character in 2015. Now AnimSchool is authorized to use the Marina design for our animation students.

Last CTN Expo, Sergio Pablos saw AnimSchool’s animation Showcase and said AnimSchool is pushing the boundaries and he loves our students’ work!

Come join all the students learning online at AnimSchool: