Category: AnimSchool Student Spotlight

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Jared Johnson

Today we are welcoming AnimSchool Student Jared Johnson. Jared is already working in the animation industry and, as many other colleagues, he keeps studying and expanding his skills along the way.

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

Like most artists, I began drawing at a very young age. I grew up loving animated movies, cartoons, comic books and video games. For years I thought I would become a comic book artist, but I felt frustrated being limited to a few panels to tell a story. I’m originally from Pennsylvania where I started my art education. While in college, I realized that animation was a liberating medium and I’ve been working in it ever since. I continued studying art and animation in San Francisco and eventually started my career there.

You are currently working in the animation industry, right? Tell us about it.

I am! Currently, I’m working at Gazillion Entertainment as an animator on the “Marvel Heroes” online video game. Before returning to work at Gazillion, I wrapped up animation work on the feature film Free Birds last summer. My career consists of some great opportunities such as video game cinematics, documentaries, and cartoons for adult swim.

What do you like the most when animating?

Blocking is generally the most fun part of the process. It’s the time when you get to play around and experiment the most. Otherwise, I also enjoy the polish stage of adding refined detail and subtlety to animation. It’s easy to get inspired when I come across really good character performance or creature shots. Being able to work on them is a blast too.

You’ve taken a 3-month Express Class in Character Performance. What were your ideas before taking the class? In what ways do you think Animschool has helped you after you finished it?

Since most of my career has been in TV and video games, I felt it was important to push my skills and work on a more polished, character driven shot. When you work in games, you’re not always able to really sink your teeth into character performance and that’s something I want to make sure I kept working on. The instructor, Christopher Bancroft, really helped keep me on track and focus on what was really important in the shot. I also attended the general reviews with instructor Kevan Shorey. Both had wonderful insight and great eye for detail. They’re the type of animators you want to work with in a studio.

You’ve done a great work with your assignment. How was your workflow for this shot?

Thank you. I spend a good chunk of time thinking about the shot, asking questions like, “who are the characters? What is the shot about?” Afterward, I draw thumbnails and shoot lots of reference footage of myself to try to explore more ideas. Then follows an initial blocking phase and early feedback (from the instructor). Afterwards, I’d revise/elaborate on the blocking before continuing into splined.

Any particular tip or advice that your instructor gave you that stood out?

One piece of advice that my instructor gave me was to go to general reviews. It’s an open class that any AnimSchool student can go to for additional critique. It’s always good to get a fresh pair of eyes to view your work. When you’re staring at your animation for so long, you can start to miss out on ways to improve it. It’s important to remember that animation is a very collaborative art form so one shouldn’t be afraid to share it with others.
Thanks for having me!

We thank Jared for this interview. Check out his reel below:

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Brian Rashcko

We would like to present Brian Rashcko, student of the Character Animation Program at AnimSchool. Hello Brian! Can you start telling us a bit about yourself and what animation and 3D experience you had before AnimSchool?

I sure can, haha!

After High School, my goal at the time was to enroll into roughly eight more years to become a Biochemist. 
I can already see some of the baffled expressions from readers wondering why, since animation is such a neat field to be in.
Bio chem sounded cool… At the time… But after talking to some people in that line of work, it didn’t feel like my cup O’ Tea. 
Like dealing with flesh eating viruses and other nasty bits, any one hungry?! 

The next best thing for me was software engineering. It was simple enough, write this, publish that, stumble upon infinite loops by accident that require a hard computer reset… Good times. 
It was that very job which led me into the world of animation, on a lunch break perusing the internet.

I’ve always had a fascination with visual effects and stop motion, and would periodically read “How they did it” articles around the inter-tubes.
A blurb comparison between 3D software’s caught my eye, as it mentioned a completely free authoring environment for animators. 
It wasn’t long before I could fiddle with joints, tangent handles, and key frames with zero knowledge of what I was doing, but I loved it!
Rendering out something bobbing about randomly across the screen was a rewarding experience!
The Illusion of Life“, and a few other animation books promptly replaced all my office programming literature. 

Soon after, I stumbled upon a nice fellow by the name of Keith Lango, who at the time, was selling animation training videos for around $18.00 a pop… I bought most of them, hahaha!
(AnimSchool did not exist at this time).
Producing two tests, my first ever animations! 
What inspired you to get started in animation?
Animation is a great medium to inspire the imagination! With a few sheets of paper we can transport an audience into a world of talking animals, super heroes, suspense, magic, drama… You get the picture.
I could have a hand in creating those worlds, and to me that was the clincher; knowing whatever I worked on could entertain people of all ages.
My nephew (5 years) was a big helper in that too, a simple bouncing ball threw him into fits of laughter, which kept me going, and keeps me going to this day. 

Old works he liked were:

What are your favorite animators? What do you love about their work?
Glen Keane from Disney, and whomever animated Wallace and Gromit back in the day. They did so much with so little, and made it look easy!
If you look up Glen Keane you can find video clips of his working process, and it’s fascinating!
There is one particular clip in which you can watch him animate straight ahead a swimming sequence of Ariel from the Little Mermaid.
His drawings are nice and rough, he stresses the importance of “give” and “power”, and while he flips through the drawings, your mind is blown by how each pose ties in to the next one. 

For those who are curious:

And Wallace and Gromit is just a work of art, “Cheese Gromit, Cheese!”
Which of the assignments you completed at AnimSchool you found to be the most challenging? Why?

It has taken me almost three years to mold my process into something that can be used to produce decent work. Before that, all my assignments felt like lessons in trial and error, but full of moments of growth and understanding.

The optional rigging course posed it’s own series of challenges, but was well worth all of the effort involved. I can tell you that knowing what constraints would work for different situations and how to apply them is a real benefit! Especially if you are a one person operation on a small scene; It doesn’t hurt to be a little multifaceted in this industry either.

The running jump was difficult due to it being my first ever attempt at moving a character forward through a scene. I also had issues with turning a character around, which was done twice in my particular shot.
Being said, I might of bitten off more than I could handle at that particular stage, but if I hadn’t, I would of not learned as much.

It is easy in animation to take the simple path, especially when learning, but if you don’t push yourself, how else are you expected to develop your skills? 

End result:

Can you describe the process of your Class 6 Facial Performance piece and share some of the feedback you had with your instructor?

When the facial performance class started I was still developing my working methods. Some of what I did in prior classes didn’t help me in this particular assignment.
Speaking alone, brought together more technical issues than I was anticipating.
My process thus far is:
Listen to audio, if any, over and over and over until I can recite it exactly. Even to the point of mimicking the cadence, tone and overall feeling of the performance.

Thumbnail out ideas, or emotive poses that help me delve into how a particular character will act on screen. And how I want the audience to feel towards that character.

I will also record myself acting any ideas out that I have drawn on paper to see if they would be even feasible. But not copying it, just to preview how things might look.
I mostly use reference as a memory dump, the same goes for thumbnails, they are both tools, but nothing that should be taken literally. Otherwise we would be asked to rotoscope, and that’s not fun.
When I am able to solidify an idea, I’ll draw poses out in sequence, save each image as a PNG, then import them into Maya as image planes.
To animate them, I will turn on and off their visibility throughout the time line, so I can playblast a video to watch in Quicktime (I’m working on a script to automate this process).

In passes, starting at almost no detail, I will straight ahead my scene. Usually only two or three poses in the beginning.
Then with each pass, adding more poses straight ahead, refining earlier ones until things are on 4’s, or have enough detail so splining isn’t a headache.
It is crucial to flip through your animations forwards and reverse to get a good feel for movement hitches.

I will then switch my splines and working method to linear and begin working out my facial poses for speaking, if the animation calls for it.
I also look for errors in movement like wobbles, pops, and gimbal lock.. which will get worse when in full spline.
Errors are easy to spot given Maya is not adding in eases, or overshoots into my work.

Switch everything to spline and playblast. Take notes for the overall scene; open Maya again but shrink the timeline to only render in portions, as I only want to focus on little bits at a time to avoid fatigue.

I will push things even further as spline curves put motion on 1’s, which tend to make shots appear not as punchy as their stepped counterparts.

I try to put enough detail into my blocking so splining is a quick process; offsetting keys causes nothing but problems, so I usually avoid doing so.

Nothing else to do but move on to another shot.

My feedback for this piece was on appropriate acting choices and on how to give moments of pause, so the audience can understand what is going on.
We also focused very strongly on appeal, which can include head angle, brows, pucker, gestures, camera distance, scene composition… Etc etc.

I had difficulty with my acting choices, as my reference was a bit over the top… I have yet to get over being on front of a camera, even if it is my own dinky Kodak, hahaha!
It took a lot of feedback to arrive at the above animation, and my instructor was not lacking one bit in ideas, suggestions or wisdom.

If it wasn’t for that, who knows what this would of turned out to be.

AnimSchool also provides students an opportunity to speak with other instructors outside of class in what are called “General Reviews.” If you get the opportunity to have multiple eyes on a project, go for it, I certainly did!

Heck, post your work in outside school forums like Creative Crash or 11second Club, for an extra punch!

How is your experience at AnimSchool being so far?

I am thankful for the existence of AnimSchool and for its founders goal of providing this fine resource to those that want it. If it wasn’t for their pricing programs I would of not been able to afford schooling.

AnimSchool cares quite a bit, and will work with you to find a payment option that fits, which by no means is a tag line… They really do! Every student here is considerate and kind as well!

I remember during my first few classes, a few of us would meet afterwords in Google+ to discuss our work and give each other feedback. Not without network connections drops and software bugs, but it was fun!

I am sad to leave here after class seven, but it’s been quite a ride, and I won’t forget it.
A bittersweet ending, but an exciting beginning.

Do you have any advices for students just starting out?

Push yourself with each assignment, and avoid the easy route.
Create the best work you can, and If you receive a low score, try again, don’t give up.
Take suggestions outside of class with a grain of salt, but focus on ones that seem to be consistent.

If you are afraid to act in front of a camera, get a friend to do it!

I can’t stress enough the importance of “rig testing”. With every new rig you are handed, set aside some time to pose, break, morph and comprehend the limitations and strengths of that rig. If you don’t, you can have the best idea imaginable, begin working in 3D, only to find your rig is not capable of that “cool move” you wanted.

Learn to script, or at least have a basic understanding of both melscript and Python; whatever language your current platform can understand.
Just look at the popularity of autoTangent or Tween Machine, I can’t believe they aren’t a part of Maya yet… Well Maya 2013+ has auto curves, but it’s just not the same.

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Sungmin Hong

We’d like to introduce Sungmin Hong. Min, can you tell us a little about yourself and what 3D experience you’ve had before AnimSchool?

I was a child, I have been into Manga and have drawn my own comic series in
which me and my buddies were the main characters. I naturally realized
that this was something I was good at. However, as I entered into high
school, I was forced to study many subjects other than Art. Of course, because I
neglected my drawing skills, I couldn’t get in the top
animation university, so I chose Design as my major at my college.
Unfortunately, 2 years of studying Art wouldn’t get me anything after
graduation, so I quickly decided to go abroad to make myself a bit
more fluent in English. 

While I was in Toronto, I found out there was a 1 year
Computer Animation course at Sheridan College, so I jumped in right away.
I believe that was the first important turning point of my life, where I got to
learn 3D software ‘Maya’. It was an intense course, but very worth it. I
learned all aspects of the program. I can model, rig, animate, light and render. These
are the good benefits of working in a small studio where you have to know a
bit of everything 🙂 While in the course many of my
classmates told me that I specifically had potential in animation.

After the program, I got a job as a 3D Artist. It was fun and nice to get to know many great people in the gaming field, but I realized that I really needed to amp up and better myself. Shortly I enrolled in AnimSchool.
And, I gotta say, ‘It was the second most important turning point of my

Student Sungmin Hong – Class 4 Body Acting from AnimSchool on Vimeo.

What inspired you to get into animation? What do you enjoy the most about animating?
My first inspiration was the movie ‘The Lion King’. It was the first movie I
saw in the cinema. And, it was a whole new world, from there I started
drawing 🙂

My second inspiration was the movie ‘The Incredibles’. I watched this movie like… a hundred times…

many people in the Art Industry do, I was wondering if Art was a direction for me,
because I couldn’t draw nor paint well enough. But, I trusted that there
must be something other than drawing and painting. I found out I had
a good eye for things, I could observe how things move, how people move, and how to make
it more interesting. After that, I realized it was the Animation Industry I would like
to pursue for my career. And, 3D helps me to overcome my drawing skills.
Although, I still think having good 2D Drawing skills can be very helpful.
Which Artists inspire you and what do you love about them?
I got into animation late, but it’s been a couple of years since I
searched and viewed Glen Keane’s pencil tests and lectures on Youtube. I
couldn’t believe my eyes that he was making magic on paper. Of
course, I love everything he’s made, but I especially love when he uses a
shoulder to express the feeling. I think it was when the Little Mermaid is singing
on the rock and Glen pushes her shoulder all the way up to her face. It was very appealing and expressive. His thought on every single
pencil move has a lesson for me, so I watch his videos when I feel I need
some inspiration. 
With every AnimSchool test comes new challenges. Out of all the tests
you’ve completed, which one has been the most challenging and why?
no hesitation I would say the ‘Character Performance’ shot where a
sassy girl argues on the couch. The shot was the most known shot among
mine, but surely was very challenging. It was certainly hard to come up
with the acting, so I decided to study a friend of mine who likely
matches the character in the audio and it worked. We came up with a
great reference and my first blocking was great. But there were 3 major challenges in my blocking and reference.
First, it was absolutely challenging to extract the character I wanted for the
shot. After the first blocking, I felt a lack of character, even though I
liked the hand and leg movement. After struggling, I got the solution from
instructors that I needed to use her neck, not just to layer the movement,
but to give character. So, I made sure she pushed her neck as she spoke more and it helped in terms of accent and character for the shot.
Reaction before ‘nah ah’

at one part, I had the character reacting quickly when the line starts (when she says ‘nah
ah’). It was too fake and unnatural, as if she knew what she was going
to say before hearing what he says. As instructors suggested, I fixed
it so that she reacts (facially) before she says ‘nah ah’. This became a lot more
believable and natural. 

The last
issue was the timing and transition between poses. Because in the
reference, I picked 3 favorites from each part and edited those together. So between
the edited parts, I had to figure out a nice way to transition, especially
the last part where she readjusts herself with her legs pulled more inward.
In that part, poses between the cut was too broad, therefore it felt too
fast. I had to spend lots of time getting the right timing and fix the
acting a bit. 
Can you talk a little about the process of your dialogue test from the
Character Performance class, from coming up with the background story,
your video reference, to splining.
I picked two audio clips from the movie ‘Juno’ because I thought her
voice was very unique and had a strong personality, so that I could come
up with the character better.

As I mentioned, I invited my friend and had a little lunch and
conversation with her. As Jeff Gabor did for Linda in the movie ‘Rio’, I studied her
movement, every little detail. I even found out that the way she sits on a
couch was very interesting, so I used it. After the conversation, we
discussed what kind of gestures or acting she would do in this shot. She thankfully
did a few shots for me and it was great. One
thing I was glad about, I didn’t watch the movie. It ultimately
helped me to not limit my thoughts on the character of the shot (in my
shot she seems a lot more active than Juno in the movie).

-blocking: I normally do 3-4 main story poses for the shot. Then
breakdown and do more breakdowns. All of my instructors (mostly from
Blue Sky) have taught me to do the blocking in stepped mode. At the end of
the blocking stage, I have keyed every 2-3 frames. So, when I do a playblast, I
could see how it feels when it’s splined. (I spend more time in blocking
then in spline).

-splining : I just spend time adjusting the curves.

I focus on facial details and little things like fingers and accent and so
on. This is where I spend a lot of time trying to give extra life to the
character. Example: I
gave more of an accent on the ‘Punk’ part by opening the mouth in 1 frame to give
more ‘Pop’ feeling. This little detail can really fix the spliny feeling of
the shot. 
Your class 6, Facial Performance test is a great piece, what were some
of the challenges you had with this shot? Can you share some of the
feedback you received from your instructor that you found valuable to
the piece.

First of all, the shot is still in progress.. I didn’t have enough time to
polish the shot, since I had to move out to a new place 🙂 But yeah, my
instructor ‘Melvin Tan’ helped me so much the achieve the quality I have.
I remember he said the pose for the ‘Personality’ part was too broad in terms
of the transition between poses at ‘you got a’ and ‘Ah.. that’s so
rich’. Because previously in the blocking I made him leaning backward into
the chair and that made his spine straighten up too much so that there was
no space for him to go backward for the ‘that’s so rich’ part. And it
felt too dynamic for the ‘personality’ part, so Melvin’s suggestion was to move his spine a bit closer to the previous pose helping the audience
see other parts like facial and fingers. It’s also more clear to see him
leaning back on the chair in the end.
In my reference, I was sitting on the chair acting it out in front of the
camera. Then, Melvin suggested to put his legs on a small chair or
something to convey his dominating position in the shot and it worked
out very well. It helped not only the personality of the character, but it also
looks good in terms of the silhouette.

Melvin gave a lot of directions for the mouth shapes, which was great because, I
had been struggling with the facial expressions for the shot. Since the
shot was very sarcastic, he wanted me to push lots of his mouth and
facial poses. A good example is when he says ‘Personality’.
Previously, his mouth shape was small and moved only up and down, but
Melvin told me to use the arc and even the forward and backward of the chin.
I didn’t even realize how much it would give the character by simply
moving his jaw forward and backward. It was literary one of the best
critiques on facial expression I have got through the course. 

How has your experience been at AnimSchool?
As I mentioned, it was the best turning point of my life. Without
Animschool, I could not have been here sharing my experience.

What’s your favorite thing you’ve learned so far?

I was really new to this animation world and in every class I learned things I
have never known before. After talking with students from other online
schools, I realized how lucky I am for choosing Animschool over others.

There is one great thing about the school, the
lecture is given from your own instructor from each class. It is not
pre-recorded, which means every instructor has their own style and
things to focus on during the lecture. For example, I have learned how
to use tools and scripts. How to block from
Michael Richard. How to analyze reference from Tony Bonilla. How to give
more expressive character from JP San. Important things to consider in
each stage from Garrett Shikuma. And, briliant acting lesson from Melvin Tan.  

importantly, at the school I’m making my own network! Nowadays in the Industry, I believe having a good connection is always helpful. I can’t
emphasize enough how lucky I am to get to know the people in Animschool. 🙂 
What advice would you give other students that are just getting into animation?
See. Think.

See people on a street. How they walk, what they do in certain situations.
Think why they do that? What makes them do that?
Thanks for giving me such an honor to share my experience with the public. Once again, thank you AnimSchool 🙂

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Ricardo Puertas

We would like to introduce Ricardo Puertas. Ricardo, can you tell us a little about yourself and what animation experience you’ve had before AnimSchool?

For as long as I can remember, drawing, video games and films have fascinated me. So, when I had the opportunity, when I was 17, I started to study Illustration at an Art School.

I had never had drawing or art lessons before, so it was very difficult for me, but I was very grateful to learn. In school I learned much more than before, because in the past I had always taught myself. Those years, I learned so much about my passion of drawing, and I finally had the opportunity to start 2D animation.

After that, I had a course in Animation at the University of Balearic Islands. This gave to me the opportunity to better know the 3D world. In the course they taught us a bit about the process of creating an animation short, so we learned a bit of everything, modeling, rigging, and animation.  Then each of us focused on what we were interested in for our final project. Obviously, I decided to go into animation. My final project was selected for several national and international festivals, and I won some awards.

Thanks to that, I had several opportunities to begin my career as an animator, and I finally started to work in a little studio dedicated to making Films and TV Spots. I have been working and enjoying animation for about 7 years. In the last few years, I have mostly been working in video games. Most of time we animate the body, making cycles, transitions, etc. I felt that I needed to improve on the acting of my characters, I was a little rusty in that aspect.

For this reason, I was interested in learning from better professionals of the animation world. I know that this world is a continuous learning cycle. For this reason, I decided to apply to AnimSchool to improve my knowledge in animation hand in hand with great professionals of the animation industry.

Student Ricardo Puertes – Class 4 Body Acting from AnimSchool on Vimeo.

What inspired you to get into animation?

I remember one day when I was 5 years old, while I was having lunch with my grandmother, I saw the Woody Woodpecker show about how to make animation. I liked drawing so much, and this gave me the opportunity to see all these people drawing, and giving life to the characters who fascinated me. At that moment, I said to my grandmother: “Grandma, I want to be an animator.”

What stands out the most to you when you’re watching an animated film?

As an animator, I can’t avoid looking at animator’s timing, poses, etc. I’m always looking and focusing my attention on the character’s movement. I don’t know if this is the best, but I can’t avoid it. After that, when I have the opportunity, I always buy the movies. I can’t stop myself from watching some scenes hundreds of times. I go frame by frame to see how it’s done. I love it!

Student Ricardo Puertas – Class 6 Facial Performance from AnimSchool on Vimeo.

With every AnimSchool test comes new challenges. Out of all the tests you’ve done, which one has been the most challenging and why?

The most difficult part for me was my beginning with lip sync. In video games, most of time, we’re animating the body, making cycles, transitions etc. Some times we get to animate the face, but I never had the opportunity to go too far with facial animation in TV or film. So, when I started my facial assignment, I was really exited to learn and go further with my character.

Can you talk a little about your process for your Facial Performance class shot, from selecting the dialogue to polish?

It was a lot of fun. The most important thing to me at this time was to enjoy the assignment, so I wanted to select funny audio to work with to have fun all term.

All the pre-production was really fun: sketching, searching for and making video reference… this was crazy. But, the most important thing for me was to enjoy it. When I had my sketches, planning and references ready to start, all went easy.

To begin with the blocking, it is very important to have a clear idea. You have to keep in mind all key poses. In this aspect, I had it in my mind from the beginning. In this process I needed to make some changes and to adjust the timing, obviously. But once timed, I passed into splining and it was simple enough to fit and polish the rest.

It’s very important to spend your time in good planning. You can save a lot of work.

What is your favorite part to work on within your process, why?

Obviously, all the phases are a lot of fun. The searching of ideas, the first sketches, when you start the blocking and you can see how your character starts to become alive… But, I think that the best part is polishing your shot, because you can play around and add the little spark of life to your characters.

Student Ricardo Puertas – Class 7 Animating Appeal And Entertainment from AnimSchool on Vimeo.

How has your experience been at AnimSchool? What is your favorite thing you’ve learned?

First, I want to thank all my teachers, Anthea, Mike, Tim, Tony, Stewart and JP, and all the teachers and people who make AnimSchool possible. Especially Dave, for creating this fantastic school. Many people haven’t had the opportunity to learn animation in their city, and thanks to AnimSchool, they’re making their dreams come true. I want to give thanks to my wife too, for supporting me from the beginning in all of this, and my baby, for always being there laughing at his father while I’m recording video reference.

To me, applying to AnimSchool has been one of the best decisions that I’ve made recently. I’ve learned many things each term, but I think in the beginning, I learned a great important thing that I’ve used in every term. In Term 2, with Anthea Kerou, she taught us that the most important thing is that the character, as simple as it can be, has to always, always, always, have one story that motivates him to do what he does in the shot.

What advice would you give to students just starting out?

For the people who are starting in the world of animation, I would say to them that they should be persevering in their work, and go forward. Do not be afraid to show your work to other people, this is very useful. Sometimes you spend many hours working on a shot and it’s not possible for you to see some issues by yourself; other people can indicate those to you.

When someone gives you a critique, this isn’t a bad thing, quite the opposite. It’s the best thing that can happen to you, because you always learn new things from your mistakes. Another thing is, you should keep your eyes open and look at the world with “animator eyes.” 😉

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Camilo Guaman

AnimSchool would like to introduce Animation Program student, Camilo Guaman. Camilo, can you tell us a little about yourself and how much animation experience you’ve had before AnimSchool?

Well, I studied Graphic design and after I graduated, I started a small web design company with some friends. For 4 years we were doing great. We became a great influence in the country. But, at the same time, I was always a fan of the big websites that use 3D content in their work. So, I decided I would like to learn 3D to apply it in my web designs. In June 2008 I had the opportunity to go to the VFS School in Canada. I took their 6 month program where I learn how to model, rig and animate, that was a real challenge for me because I hadn’t done any animation, used Maya or any other 3D software before. As a result of the program, I did a short film called ” Heaven” and I had my first honor, I won the Renderman Teapot prize for best short film rendered with Renderman in the class 21.

After the program, I really wanted to stay in Canada and find a job but my visa didn’t allow me to do that, so I went back to my country to find a job. By that time, I had decided that I didn’t want to go back to web design. After searching for few month I got a job in Mexico, in a digital agency called Grupo W as a 3D artist. I worked there for almost a year and a half, but I wasn’t happy enough because I spent all that time modeling, rigging and animating hard surface stuff (cars, props, etc) nothing with character animation. At the same time the company was having financial problems too, so I decide to come back to my country where I found a job as a 3D animation instructor at a Graphic design Institute. I realized that in order to be competitive in the field, I needed to learn more animation. I started learning by myself, reading articles, and doing online tutorials, but soon I realized the necessity of a mentor, so I started searching for schools and I was really impressed with the AnimSchool characters and how the animation style was so appealing!!!

What inspired you to get into animation? What do you enjoy about animating the most?

Camilo’s Thumbnails for “Space Tourist”

I’ve always loved animated films, video games and cartoons, but I never realized that I could work on them someday. I remember being at the cinema watching Shrek 2 and saying to myself: “it would be nice to work on a 3D film.” It wasn’t about the Shrek movie, it was more about doing something that many people can enjoy.

At VFS I had to do everything by myself, so that was a great opportunity for me to test the flavor of each discipline and I found out that I really enjoyed the whole process, but animation was the most fun and challenging for me. I was stunned when I put animation on my “dead character” and got to see the result! Is like Dr Frankenstein said “its alive”….

To be honest, I’ve been asking myself this question over and over and I think here at AnimSchool I finally realize, the beauty of animation. I think what inspires me and what I enjoy the most about animation is the endless possibility you have to play with so many ideas, transition between key poses and personalities that you can try and experiment with.

Looking back at past 3D films, what character would you have loved to animate, why?

I’ve never thought about this before. I have many favorite movies but I always like the characters from Toy Story and Monster Inc, so if  I had the chance I would love to animate Mike Wazowski. He has lots of energy, one eye, and is small in size, so it would be nice to play with that.

Student- Camilo Guaman – Class 4 Body Acting from AnimSchool on Vimeo.

You not only attend your scheduled classes, but we also
consistently see you in AnimSchool’s General Review critique sessions,
some have even been featured on the blog. Can you tell us a little about
your experience with this optional class and what motivates you to go
every week?

This all has to do with a decision I made
almost a year ago, I realized that this was my chance, this was my last
opportunity to study with professionals animators from the industry, so
with the support of my wife, I had to almost quit my job and work
only part time, sometimes rejecting  jobs offers, freelance work, etc.
As a result my financial situation has been really hard, but my goal was
to devote most of my time to school, with the hope that this can bring
me someday to my dream job.

Since General Reviews started, I’ve tried
to be there as much as possible. For me it was like a class time. I
remember for my class 4 assignment “Space Tourist,” Tony Bonilla was my
instructor, and he was at General Reviews too. So, I showed my work in
my critic time, then showed my fixes in General Reviews too. It was
almost like a was having extra classes.

One thing that
really motivates me is having fresh eyes on my work, pushing some ideas
and meeting new people from the industry, while having them take a look
at my work and give me some notes at same time. Isn’t that amazing to
have your shot constantly improving?

I can definitely say that
for me, the most successful assignments, are the ones I have been
bringing to General Reviews, giving me more notes to address.

Student Camilo Guaman – Class 5 Character Performance from AnimSchool on Vimeo.

With every AnimSchool tests comes new challenges. Out of all the tests you’ve completed, which one has been the most challenging and why?

You are completely right, with every new test comes new challenges. Definitely the most challenging and the one that I struggled the most with was my Character Performance shot “Drinking.” I think because it was the first real acting exercise that I did. Even at VFS we didn’t cover this in depth because of the short program, so this was an extremely challenging test. You can ask Tony how much I struggled with the assignment :S …. I think one of the most difficult things was animating the face. Lots of new concepts there, and the jump between a “low res rig” and a “feature quality one” gave me troubles. Later I realized that it’s better to start small.

Can you talk a little about your process of your dialogue test, “Night Club Singer?” From coming up with the background story, your video reference, to splining?

First, I wanted to thank my instructor Bobby Huth for his awesome class and critiques. From the first moment I wanted to do something completely different from last term, so I started looking for audio clips with a male and female voice on it. Since I’d never done any girl acting before, I decided to animate that type of character.

One thing I always had in mind was that “I wouldn’t make the same mistakes from last term.” So, from the beginning I started to plan it out, listening to the audio clips around a hundred times. I remembered Jeff Gabor saying to me in one of the General Review classes, that he recommend memorizing the dialogue before jumping in front of the camera. That was a key thing because I had little acting experience and memorizing the script was the first thing we would do before starting a performance or creating any character. So with that in mind, I started recording a lot of video reference, around 100 movie clips or more. After that, I wanted to give it a kind of vintage girl look.

In the blocking process I started posing and tried to lock down emotions and expressions, then tried to refine the poses. I used Dave Gallagher iteration advice and kept working with that in the blocking, plus I added more mouth shapes.

Once I had my blocking approved, I started splining. Trying to keep things tight, holding poses to avoid that “bad spliney look.” Really focusing on eyes, I watched Garrett and Tyler’s videos about eyes and blinking and just kept going with the polishing.

How has your experience been at AnimSchool? What’s your favorite thing you’ve learned?

My experience here has been fantastic. I don’t have enough words to say to thank the school’s staff and my wife, who have supported me from the beginning. I’ve learned thousands of things here, but one of the most important things was to realize that not every shot was a “reel one.” Many of them have a learning purpose. For example, I remember when I was in Anthea’s class 2 and I was pretty happy with my walking assignment, but she made me think that a shot needs more than animation to make it look good. You need to entertain the audience, so that was an epiphany for me. Since then, I always think about the type of story that can entertain the audience, and of course myself. Also, the Mike Mattesi’s drawing classes help me a lot at the moment with posing.

Student Camilo Guaman – Class 6 Facial Performance from AnimSchool on Vimeo.

What advice would you give other students that are just starting out at AnimSchool?

Never compare your work with other students! The only person you should be comparing to is yourself. In this type of environment full of people from different backgrounds and experience, it’s easy to get shocked by other people’s work. Try to learn from your mistakes and don’t make them again. Sounds pretty obvious, but I always have to remind myself of that. Also, try to find simple and interesting ideas for your assignments in order to always be motivated.

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Lucas Ridley

We’d like to welcome AnimSchool student and 11 Second Club December winner, Lucas Ridley. Lucas, can you tell us a little about your background and what made you want to become an animator?

I began my career in animation a few years after I completed my undergraduate degree in forestry at The University of the South. Through high school and college I filmed sports that I was involved with, like rock climbing and after college I began making films about hang gliding. Some of these videos even won YouTube contests, like one from Hewlett-Packard. I did teach myself After Effects to help create these videos. At this same time, the job I had making ecological maps at a university ended as grant funding ran out. I moved into freelance film making full time and quickly realized I wanted some formal training in visual effects. I went to Vancouver Film School for that, but then fell in love with animation and switched to studying animation there. I’ve never considered it as a profession for me until then, which was only about two years ago. Now, I’ve been working in the industry for one year.

But, what made me want to become an animator, was the unlimited potential of the medium. It was when I was learning traditional animation, that I discovered, I enjoyed bringing something slowly to life that didn’t exist before I put my energy into it.

What is your favorite animated film from your childhood? What current animated film would you say is your favorite? What makes these films special to you?

When I think of animated films I watched in my childhood, I can always picture moments from The Sword and The Stone, Robin Hood, Pinocchio, Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan and then later Toy Story and Jurassic Park. Currently, I really loved the animation in Tangled, I also enjoyed Toy Story 3, ParaNorman, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Rio (being a hang glider pilot it’s a must), and all of Miyazaki’s films are very imaginative too.

Those earlier Disney movies I mentioned, just had a very dreamy quality to them and I remember having a connection to the characters and feeling like I was being taken on a journey. The newer films all have a range of qualities that makes them appealing to me, now that I see them through the lens of an animator. For example, I really enjoyed the 8-bit character’s poppy animation in Wreck-It Ralph and before learning animation that might now have stood out to me.

What artists would you say inspire you the most?

Andy Goldsworthy, Giuseppe Penone, and Joe Downing (the painter) to name a few, there are also some great pencil tests that Andreas Deja posts on his blog that are very inspiring. I’m fortunate to work with many talented artists at Moonbot Studios right now too. We have weeklies where we can see all the work being done at the studio, even if we aren’t on those projects. It’s really inspiring to see what everyone is producing. We also have Sketch Tuesdays, that’s a weekly dose of awesome artwork. It doesn’t hurt that I can see Bill Joyce’s Cintiq from where I sit at work, so I just have to glance over to see what he’s working on to get inspired.

Congratulations on winning the 11 Second Club competition this month. What kind of planning did you do before animating your winning shot, “A Sour History”?

I took several days to let ideas simmer on how to interpret the audio. I didn’t sit down and brainstorm, but just thought about it on my drive to work and spare moments during the day. I didn’t actually do any thumbnails, although I know it would have helped clarify some ideas. I relied on shooting reference for my planning. I probably spent at least an hour with the audio on repeat, trying many different acting choices. I used the reference for my blocking pass and then once I moved into breakdowns and refining the animation, I left the reference behind.

11 Second Club Reference from Lucas Ridley on Vimeo.

You created some nice contrast between your characters, both in appearance and personality. Can you tell us how you came up with these choices?

Luckily, these two rigs already had some great contrast built into their designs, which made me excited when I heard the clip because I had been planning on using them anyway. The first rig is my friend’s, Dylan VanWormer, and the second is AnimSchool’s infamous Malcolm rig. I did add the Little Rascals-style hat to him to emphasize his childishness. I wanted to play off the existing contrast in the audio and have the acting performance reflect the juxtaposition of their personalities. These guys are two childhood friends and the first has grown up to be an adult, but the second guy is still desperately holding onto childhood. I wanted their animation to reflect that.

In shooting reference, I discovered it would be good for the first guy to be handling a lemon, to allude to the punchline moment of the wider shot, and to give him something to sit down and let go of as he made his final decision to ‘move on.’ This was a representative of his inner monologue that he was physically letting go of the lemonade stand in his hand and in his life. I would not have found that moment without shooting reference.

When I shot the reference for the second guy, I tried to act as childish as possible. There are takes where I went way over the top to get in that mind frame and used the kind of childish attitude of “but I don’t wanna!” as a subtext for motivating his performance.

When you completed your 11 Second Club entry, did you believe you had a winning animation?

Not at all, I’m surprised I won. There are still several things I know I could do to improve the shot. The last time I entered I placed 15th, so my only goal was to improve on that and have a learning experience. One of the most appealing aspects of animation to me is that it’s an endless pursuit. There will always be something to learn and improve upon and I approach animation not to reach some end goal, but enjoy the journey of constantly trying to better myself in this craft.

You took Body Acting with us at AnimSchool. What would you say was the biggest challenge you faced while animating your shot, “The Suitcase”?

The biggest challenge was the actual pulling on the suitcase. I didn’t take great reference of myself for that section. I constrained the hands to the suitcase and then, animated the suitcase so I could make sure it would pivot correctly and then I wouldn’t have to counter-animate it, but it was kind of a puzzle to get those things to work together. I think that’s where I could improve that shot.

Tell us a little about your experience at AnimSchool.

I was taking the class while I had a full-time animation job and they really complimented one another. It was great to have a mentor continually look over my shot and give it one-on-one attention from broad animation choices to the little details, like Tony suggested to give him a hat to add some texture to the animation. It’s also a great community to be involved with, from the Facebook group, to the General Reviews, there’s always something going on. After finishing that class I really felt like I had taken a big step forward in my approach and my understanding of animation. That suitcase shot was scary to me and it was great to have the support and guidance of Tony to work through that, as well as seeing all my classmates work, was very encouraging.

There are many aspiring animators looking to improve their work. What advice would you have for them?

Well, I consider myself one of those aspiring animators too, but I think Carlos Baena said at Siggraph that we all have 200 bad shots in us and the sooner we get those out of us, the sooner we can start doing good animation (Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” mentions the 10,000 hours threshold). I ascribe to this idea of putting in massive amounts of work and started on this path with the understanding that it’s going to take time, I have to be patient about it and in time, I will improve. I think some people may be hesitant to tackle certain shots because they’re afraid of failing, but those are going to be the shots you learn from the most. When I was first learning animation, I did every assignment twice because I failed on my first attempt. That sounds like a burden, but it’s what really helped me overcome obstacles and gain a greater understanding of mechanics. So animate something that scares you, and don’t be afraid to do things like the 11 Second Club, it forces you to a deadline and gets your work out there.

To view more of Lucas’s work, visit his website:

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Dustin Han

AnimSchool would like to introduce Dustin Han, an AnimSchool student in our Character Program focusing on rigging. Dustin, can you tell us a little about yourself and what 3D experience you had before entering AnimSchool?

recently graduated from a 4 year college before coming to AnimSchool. I
studied Computer Engineering with a minor in Studio Art. I did some
Flash development work at a start-up social gaming company before
deciding to pursue my interest in 3D. I actually had very little
experience with anything 3D or CG related before entering AnimSchool.
The only experience I had coming into AnimSchool was a single class I
took at my university that covered the very basics of using Maya.
However, because I was a student studying computer engineering and
studio art, I did have a good foundation in both programming and fine
arts which has been a tremendous help during my time learning to rig and
model characters at AnimSchool.

Are there any artists that inspire you?

don’t necessarily have a list of artists in my mind that I can just
start talking about especially because there are so many inspirational
artists out there that it would make it difficult for me to pick a few.
In general, the artists who inspire me most are those who love doing
what they do and clearly show this through their work and dedication.
This pretty much goes for anyone I come across, artist or not. Also,
artists who started from a dream and made it into a reality through hard
work and perseverance are great inspirations to me as I hope to one day
have similar success.

What did you find the most challenging about modeling your character?
was definitely challenging to convert a 2D image into a 3D model
especially when you only have one reference picture to look at. A lot of
the character was left to my imagination such as what his back side
might look like, but this challenging aspect provided a great learning
experience and just made the modeling process more rewarding. Also,
being my first full character model, it was definitely challenging just
to get the model to look appealing and match the artwork. I found it
difficult to get the sharp corners found in the character design into my
3D model especially when trying to keep the topology reasonably low. I
went to one of the general reviews provided by AnimSchool near the end
of the term which definitely helped and looking back I wish I could have
attended more to improve my model. So future students, I definitely
suggest you guys attend these review sessions as you can never have too
many people critique your work.
You have your character posed out. Did you model him
in a T pose and then pose your character or pose your character out and
then transfer him into the neutral pose? Is there anything you would change about the process you did for the next character you model?
Character design by Cory Loftis
We first blocked out our characters in pose with
basic low poly primitive shapes such as cylinders, cubes, and spheres in
order to have a reference later when putting it back into pose. From
there, we moved the model into T-pose and began modeling it from there.
This made it easier to get proportions right and to mirror over left and
right sides. After finishing the model we used our blocked pose as
reference to get it back into pose and apply final touches such as
wrinkles on clothes and accessories such as my character’s hammer and
I really enjoyed the process we took into creating
our models so I’m not sure I would change too much. Although, because we
modeled with the intention of basically just creating a statue, for my
next model I will probably pay more attention to modeling with the needs
of rigging in mind beyond what was covered in class. This includes
things such as providing enough topology for deformations and making
sure the model is easily skinned since the model I made in the
intermediate class is made up of several meshes in order to make it
easier to pose the character. My model actually has no torso or legs
under his clothing. As I continue to study rigging and creating more
rigs, I believe I will start to understand more of what the needs are
for future models I make.

How did you become interested in becoming a Rigger?

I did not realize rigging even existed when I first became interested
in 3D and animated films. All I knew was I wanted to be a part of making
the amazing films I was seeing in the theater.  It was only natural for
me to want to become an animator at first since the animations were
what I was seeing at the top layer of the films I was watching. I did
not realize there was so much more happening underneath. Because of this
mindset, I often pushed aside my dreams of becoming an animator due to
my technical degree in computer engineering and not wanting to put it to
waste. I figured I could maybe land a job as a software engineer at a
video game or film company.

However, as time went on, I began to realize I could not simply
ignore my interest in the creative and artistic aspects of things
because it was just a big part of who I was. With that, I began to
research and found that there were positions in game and film companies
called Technical Directors/Aritsts where both (although varying between
positions) technical and artistic skills are used. It kind of just
opened my eyes to the industry and helped me to continue pursuing my
dream. I decided to focus on learning to rig because I really enjoy
characters in films and would love to work directly with them.
Eventually though, I would love to delve into other aspects of the

Now that you’ve had a couple of rigging classes at AnimSchool, do
you view 3D films differently? What do you notice now, that you didn’t

Character provided by AnimSchool

The classes have definitely opened my eyes to the amount
of work it takes to create a feature level rig. There are just a ton of
things to take into consideration when designing a rig for animation.
Now when I watch animated films I’m even more amazed by what I see as I
now have a better appreciation of how much effort goes into developing
these rigs. Coming into a rigging class with no prior knowledge, I
naively thought it was just placing bones into a character to allow them
to move and be animated, but there are just several more layers of
complexity on top of that including creating clean deformations,
understanding relationships between the different parts of the rig, and
taking advantage of these relationships to provide a flexible and
intuitive rig for animators to use with ease.

Looking back at past films, what character would you have loved to model or rig? Why does this character interest you?

am a big fan of the Toy Story films so I would have loved to rig Woody
or Buzz. It’s amazing how much emotion and character can be brought out
from a toy through animation. I can only imagine how challenging it was
to rig a toy in order for it to come to life yet retain its toy-like
qualities during the animation process.

How has your experience been at AnimSchool? Do you have a favorite process or tip that you’ve learned?

experience at AnimSchool has been great. I have learned so much in the 4
terms I have been here. Just being taught by industry professionals who
have worked on some of my favorite films is an amazing experience as
you can be confident in knowing that what you are being taught is
relevant to what companies want to see. The AnimSchool community is
great and everyone is so supportive of one another. It’s just a great
feeling to learn with people sharing similar goals. I’ve become much
more confident in general after producing work I never could have
imagined before entering the program.

I have learned so many great things from AnimSchool that it’s
difficult to pick a favorite, but just because it’s fresh off my mind
from this past term of intermediate rigging, I really enjoyed my
instructor’s (Ignacio Barrios) approach to creating IK FK Switches (or
any kind of space switch) with the use of Maya’s blend color nodes where
you simply blend the transformation values of the IK and FK joints
together to provide the values for the driver joints as opposed to using
constraints. It was just a great example of how there isn’t just one
way to solve a rigging problem.