Category: learn 3d animation Page 1 of 3

Studying Feature Film Animation – Anthea Kerou (Pt. 1, Hotel Transylvania)

    One way to get better at character animation is to develop your eye for great, appealing animation. It is very helpful to look at the work of master animators for reference and inspiration, and in this clip, instructor Anthea Kerou walks us through a scene from the animated film Hotel Transylvania ( by Sony Pictures Animation ) and shows us how the the shot skillfully utilizes anticipation as well as other animation principles to tell a story. This clip is from Introduction to 3D Animation, which is our first introductory course in 3D character animation. 

For more information about AnimSchool and our online animation programs, visit us at

Stepped or Spline?

Stepped and spline refer to the way your keyframes are interpolated in an animation. Stepped means that there is no change in values between two keys.  With spline, the computer automatically adds in-betweens values between two keyframes.

Most 3D animation is splined in the end, making smooth motion, but there are two main ways of starting out when animating. So stepped and spline also refer to two different workflows.

With Stepped, you focus on key poses and only work on those keys. When you hit play, the software plays it like a series of drawings.


The biggest benefits of working in stepped mode is that you can really focus on the key poses for your shot. Since the software doesn’t interpolate between any of the keyframes, stepped mode allows you to keep your shot very clean in a way that you can tell the story of your animation with a small amount of keyframes. 
In other words, stepped mode helps you establish the important beats of your animation and allows you to get a basic idea of the timing while focusing on the key ideas of the shot.
Your graph editor is more manageable, and big changes are easier.


The biggest drawback of stepped mode is that it can be hard to envision how your timing is going to turn out. Animators fill in more and more poses as they go, but there is a point when you have to leave the stepped world behind and convert the curves from stepped to spline. That’s a simple click, but seeing your hard animation work that way is nearly always a disappointment.

If you are an animator, you’ve probably seen how an animation loses its snappiness when going from stepped to spline. This is because your brain had been filling in the gaps but now the computer interpolates between each keyframe. The simple version you were used to looking at wasn’t a very complete representation of the movement. It’s the time when you get a big surprise seeing it with fluid motion – and it’s never a pleasant one!

Another method of starting out is skipping the stepped keyframes
entirely and having smooth movement from the very beginning, where you
focus on the overall movement of the body and don’t worry about the
poses yet.

You start by moving the rig’s root control or COG (center of gravity) to find the movement of the scene in a fluid way. Then you layer in the spine and head’s motion, and the limbs.


Spline gives you the possibility to work more straight ahead and feel how your animation is going to look already in the early stages of blocking. You skip the painful process of getting used to looking at simplified stepped movement, only to hit the hard reality of the ugly “first spline” phase later.
If the movement doesn’t feel right, it is easy to shift individual keyframes around until you get what you are looking for.


It’s easy to get distracted by the interpolation of the keyframes and not focus on posing when using splined curves to block out a shot. It may also be hard to work in a clean way – the keyframes aren’t neatly organized on individual frames – they are scattered all over.

Since you’re not spending time on making beautiful poses up front, the posing can suffer and feel like an afterthought.

Students can have a difficult time learning with a spline method, since they get used to seeing bad motion and aren’t able to see how to improve it, and instructors aren’t able to see which timing decisions were made consciously and which are just the raw computer interpolation. At least with stepped blocking, an instructor knows exactly what the student’s posing and timing decisions are and can give specific ways to fix it.

Spline workflow is often associated with faster productions since the motion is worked out earlier, and it avoids that two-step process. But it is also associated with lower production values because of that.

However experienced animators can achieve excellent results with a spline workflow as well since they know how to overcome these issues. Now spline workflow is used at all ranges of quality, from the cheapest animation to the very best animation.

Although one method might be better than the other depending on the shot being animated, choosing stepped or spline comes down to personal preference. It is important to try both of them out and determine what’s better for your type of workflow.



Happy animating!

3 Free Maya Plugins For A Better Workflow

There are plenty of plugins for Maya out there, some are free and others come at a cost, but they are all meant to make your life a bit simpler. Here are 3 free Maya plugins that will make your workflow smoother and more efficient:

1. BHGhost

This script, developed by Brian Horgan, creates a 3D outline of your animation in the Maya viewport. Similar to the “onion skin” technique used by animators to see multiple frames at once, BHGhost shows semi-transparent animated objects in a scene to have an idea of the animation being created. In that way, it is possible to see the relation between poses and refine your animation even further.

Click here to download BHGhost!

2. tweenMachine

Created by AnimSchool’s instructor Justin Barrett, tweenMachine simplifies the process of creating breakdown poses. In other words, this plugin reduces the amount of steps it takes to create poses for your character with stepped keys, as it gets you closer to your goal a bit faster than other methods. 
What makes tweenMachine different from setting poses manually, is that it allows you to put keys on all the control curves, without having to manipulate individual controls one by one. Just by adjusting a slider you can see the results immediately!

Click here to download tweenMachine!

3. shotView

This plugin provides a clean representation of your camera view in a floating window. It is extremely useful for animators using two monitors, as it allows you to view both the default Maya perspective and the camera view at the same time. shotView also sets up automatic filtering options that will turn off any controllers that you don’t want to see when running a playblast.

There is also the option of dual window functionality which allows you to setup a main camera view and use any number of embedded cameras containing any controllers or special setups to help you with your animation. You can swap between these cameras really easily using the shotView camera switching buttons.

Click here to download shotView!

To know more about our online programs, visit

New AnimSchool Character: Marshall

For Immediate Release

Orem, UT  United States – September 11, 2014 — AnimSchool is proud to present our newest character, Marshall, exclusively for AnimSchool students!

AnimSchool is the leader in appealing, flexible characters. Our students animate with the most refined, advanced characters, using the popular AnimSchool Picker.

Marshall has clothing options: shirt, jacket, pants, shoes, poseable toes, as well as fat controls and UV’s for textured rendering.

AnimSchool rigs are built with each part and control being tested to extreme levels, making the strongest poses possible.

You can see the range of motion and poseability students can achieve with Marshall.

AnimSchool students are using him to great effect, like this shot below from graduate Ricardo Puertas!

To use Marshall, apply to an AnimSchool program or individual class.

AnimSchool characters and the AnimSchool Picker are used by more
than 20,000 users worldwide, and have been used to win numerous
animation contests and for commercial needs. AnimSchool is known as the
most trusted name for appealing 3D characters.

With over 200 students, AnimSchool
was founded in 2010 to bring character-focused 3D animation instruction
to students all around the world, through live online sessions with the best film professionals.

Isaac Nordlund
560 South State Street, Suite F3
Orem, UT 84058

801 765-7677


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 General Review: Jilmar Altamirano by Hans Dastrup

DreamWorks Supervising Animator, Hans Dastrup reviews AnimSchool student, Jilmar Altamirano. In this review, Hans goes over Jilmar’s first blocking pass, making sure each pose supports the story being told.

This clip is from one of AnimSchool’s General Review sessions.
AnimSchool offers General Reviews for 3D modeling, rigging and animation
students several times a week, for those who would like an extra

Come join all the students learning online at AnimSchool. Apply for the Fall Term now!

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 Classtime: How To Use A Point Constraint

AnimSchool recently added an Introduction to Maya class. This class is a great start to our Animation and Character Programs. In Introduction to Maya students learn the basics of Maya including: how to use the Maya interface, work with objects, use basic modeling tools, animate objects, apply textures, and use lights and cameras.

In this clip Instructor, Justin Barrett shows how to use a point constraint.

AnimSchool Interview: Animator Juan Pablo Sans

We’d like to welcome DreamWorks Animator and AnimSchool Instructor Juan Pablo (JP) Sans. JP, can you tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested in becoming an animator?

For me, it definitely started with drawing at a very early age, from the moment I picked up a crayon. I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and like every other kid, I watched a lot of cartoons and animated movies, but I always thought it was “magic” rather than something that was made. It was when I was seven that I realized, thanks to my mom, that the credits were the names of artists who worked on the movies. Since then I knew I wanted to be part of that world, somehow. I moved to Florida when I was 10 without having a word of English in my vocabulary, and I think that only pushed me to draw more since I had no idea what the teachers were saying in class. My middle school books became animation paper as I made a habit of animating stick figures in the corners of the pages.

As I grew older, I took as many drawing classes as I could. In high school, I continued to take all the drawing classes available as well as some acting classes. I doubt I was any good at acting, but I really liked the idea of performing and becoming a new personality and character, which only strengthened my pursuit of animation. I continued my studies at the Miami International University of Art and Design. Once I began my studies there, I only fell more deeply in love with animation. As I started creating life and making characters think, I knew it was the stamp of approval indicating how I never wanted to do anything else with my life.

JP GRD REEL from Juan Pablo Sans on Vimeo.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

I definitely have to start with mentioning some of the pioneers of it all, the nine old men. It is truly inspiring to witness what they were able to accomplish. The early Disney movies were, and still are, my biggest inspiration. Movies like Sword in the Stone, Robinhood, and Alice in Wonderland are some of my favorites. To this day I look through their work in constant awe with what I see, not only with their execution and choices, but with their beautiful line quality and appeal. In animation, Glen Keane has to be another favorite of mine; he has always been one of my idols. His drawings and animation are beyond appealing and magical, and what is most inspiring is how humble he is about his accomplishments and his contribution to the industry. The more I animate the more actors and actresses I follow and admire as well; after all, we are “actors with a pencil”. One of my favorite actors that I follow and try to learn from is Gary Oldman. I believe he is one of the most diverse and talented actors we’ve seen in a long time. The way he delves into his roles and adds to his characters very specific and individual characteristics is truly amazing. His work is something that I would love to be able to achieve and bring more of into my work.

In Rio, you were one of the leads on the bull dog, Luiz, what were some of the challenges that arose with this character? What did you do to solve them?

Juan Pablo Sans Luiz thumbnails, Blue Sky Studios, Rio

I first have to give a shout out to Pete Paquette. I had the great pleasure and honor of working with him on Luiz. He was the true bulldog not only in the sense of the character, but also to the animation department. I learned a lot working with him and I genuinely thank him for his help.

I had one of the greatest times animating Luiz; he was such a fun character to animate. He was super energetic, which is what highlighted one of the biggest challenges- to keep him organic. As an animator in CG, you are always trying to keep your characters organic and alive, and that challenge will only increase if the character is “big” and “fleshy”. Add energetic and active to the mix, and you’ll have your work cut out for you. What makes a bulldog is all the extra skin that giggles and wiggles, and that is something that we had to keep a really close eye on when we animated him. We needed to maintain his fleshiness while keeping him heavily grounded and organic.

We accomplished this by really layering all his movements, as well as morphing the graphic lines within the silhouette of the character, specially on the face, while keeping him in model. Rigging did a great job giving us all the controllers we needed to be able to achieve this as well. We made sure we had control over the main masses, as well as the individual skin flaps like his jowls. I also watched a lot of traditional animation for inspiration. I wanted to bring the “inconsistencies” in the drawings to CG, and get that organic feel to Luiz, something that stayed with me which I’m still putting in my work today.

For Rise of the Guardians you were on the Pitch character team. Can explain the teams process and your responsibilities on the film?

Juan Pablo Sans Pitch Thumbnails, DreamWorks Studios, Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians had a character-lead system, which I think really benefit the film. Each character had a supervisor and a team to mainly concentrate on that character when possible. Pitch’s supervisor was Steven “Shaggy” Hornby; his experience and knowledge really helped the character grow. Our Pitch-team would meet twice a week to talk and discuss anything and everything about the character, from technical conversations to character development. So our responsibilities really branched out from just animating. We had a very collaborative workflow, and we really helped each other to make sure our choices and executions best represented Pitch. We helped each other on anything from meeting up for reference sessions to feedback and critiques. This was a great way to help us keep Pitch consistent, with his look and performance. Most importantly, it helped us keep a close eye on his character arc.

Can you talk a little about your experiences animating the villain, Pitch. What were your main thoughts you kept in mind when working with this character?

Juan Pablo Sans Pitch Thumbnails, DreamWorks Studios, Rise of the Guardians

Working on a villain was super fun, and completely opposite of what I was used to. Before Pitch, I would usually get cast cute, energetic characters, which were just as fun to animate. Pitch was equally as entertaining, but for the complete opposite reasons. Pitch is dark, internal, composed, and just downright creepy. I was surprised about just how much I liked animating him. There was something so intriguing about a villain, that I completely fell in love with. In every show you “find” the character as you animate the movie, sometimes not really “finding” the character until the very end. I think we got lucky in the sense that we found who Pitch was early on.

We had a lot of inspirations when it came to Pitch. We reference the Joker for his unusual movements and personality. We were captivated and inspired by Hannibal’s stare. I always watched Anthony Hopkins’s scenes and even podcast and interviews to help me bring that into the character. And lastly, my favorite, Gary Oldman’s Stansfield in Leon: The Professional. I loved watching that character, and trying to bring that randomness and aura to Pitch.

I think the most challenging shots in animating Pitch was when he was in “control”. He had to be composed, yet feel threatening and powerful. To see him do nothing while his eyes screamed in emotion and rage was truly captivating. Pitch was a very challenging and difficult character to work on, but he was so much fun at the same time that I hope I get to work on another villain again.

Out of all the characters you’ve animated in your career, which one has been the most fun to work with, why?

I’ve been lucky to have been able to work on some really great characters, but I think the most entertaining one was the one that I only animated twice, Scrat. I only got to animate him in Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, but I enjoyed every second of it.

Scrat is a fun character to animate because he is sporadic and energetic. Emotionally and physically he is crazy and scattered. I always saw Scrat as having a bipolar personality- one second he can be in calm, and the next he is screaming and scattering all over the place in anger or fright. But, what made him the most memorable for me was being able to get away with almost anything. With Scrat you can choose not to anticipate anything, take away his follow through, add a crazy one-frame transition (if you even want one) – an animator’s dream. The less perfect and more dirty you can be with repetitive motions like a leg scramble, the better it comes out with him. He can even defy gravity.

I will never  forget a shot that Mike Thurmeier animated. Before directing, Mike had animated a shot where Scrat jumped and leaped higher and higher into the air to reach a nut, and only used air to jump from each time. It was crazy brilliant!

You still have to keep him on model of course, and there are still rules you have to follow, but after that, you are free to do anything. The less rules there are, the more possibilities you have which makes it more fun to animate, and Scrat is the perfect example of that.

Juan Pablo Sans Scrat thumbnails, Blue Sky Studios, Ice Age 4- Continental Drift

What has been the most challenging shot in your career? What made this shot more challenging then others?

For me, I almost want to say every single one. This is a hard one to answer; I really try to give my all in every shot. I try to explore every option and try to choose and execute it the best I can. I really think this promotes challenges and growth, so I hope I never think something is easy.

copyright DreamWorks, Rise of the Guardians

I guess the most challenging shot I’ve had to animate so far was a Pitch shot. Pitch crawling back with fear and revealing it was all an act (“You can have them back”). I think it wasn’t just one aspect but more of a combination of things that made this shot challenging. First of all, it was my first Pitch shot. So, not knowing the character fully and finding the look of him in the shot was always something I had to constantly keep an eye on. This becomes easier as you animate the character, but the first one is always like this.

Shooting reference was also a challenge, which I want to thank Shaggy for helping me with it. We explored different options and choices for hours, and finally went with something that best represented the character. The last thing was the amount of time I had on it. There was very little time to explore different ideas and choices which was what made it all the more challenging.

You’ve had a chance to teach a couple different classes at AnimSchool, including General Reviews. How has teaching changed you as an animator?

Teaching has been a great experience for me. Teaching is great because it forces you to talk about what you know, as well as to learn to share with your students and keep them growing as animators.
You forget sometimes how much you know, and it helps you to remember those things even more when animating at work.

What’s great about teaching is the learning that you receive from it. For one, I prepare as much as I can for my lectures, which forces me to do research and to form examples, which results in me finding and discovering new things.

The other great way you learn from teaching is by continuing to see work outside from your own, as well as seeing the process and the solutions for problems. The more you animate, the more you learn, and teaching for me is like animating multiple shots at a time. I also get inspired by the work I see, and the energy that the students bring every week. I love teaching and will continue to do it as long as I can.

JP Sans Reel from Juan Pablo Sans on Vimeo.

Lastly, what advice do you have for students trying to get into the animation field?

Work hard, never stop learning, and stay humble. After you graduate, learning doesn’t stop, so stay hungry! Keep animating and challenging yourselves. The more you animate the more you will learn. Keep doing your research as well. Listen to podcast, read books and watch behind the scenes to stay updated. Keep working and improving your reel. I always tell my students to pick your worst shot in your reel, and replace it with your best and newest shot. Always be on the look out for job openings. There are always open doors, you just need to keep your eyes wide open. I think the most important tip that I can give is to get your foot in the door, no matter where it is. It’s easy to just want your ideal job or company, but the best way to get there is within the industry. Any animation job, whether it’s gaming, freelance, or at start up studios, they’re all a great way to learn and grow. This is also a great way to increase your contacts. You’d be surprised how small the industry actually is. A lot of artists know each other in the industry which brings me to my last tip, stay humble. Know that you still have a lot to learn, and help others and let others help you in the process. Like your animation is important, your personality is just as important. The way you get along and work with others will really help you grow in the industry, as an artist and as a person. Never give up as well, perseverance and dedication will get you anywhere.

To view some of JP’s General Review and class sessions, visit the links below.

AnimSchool General Review: Min Hong by JP Sans

AnimSchool’s New Character, Scout!

For Immediate Release

Orem, UT  United States – February 4, 2013 — Animschool
announces today their new dog character, Scout. Scout is a fully
articulated  character rig, designed for demanding action or acting
Scout’s face is exquisitely developed to reach extreme poses and maintain maximum appeal.

and hyper-expression are our driving passions and why people are drawn
to AnimSchool,” founder Dave Gallagher said. The Scout character has
been painstakingly developed to reach artfully designed poses, and allow
for a myriad of variations in expression.
“That kind of quality and
attention to detail are a part of everything we do at AnimSchool. It’s
what sets us apart and gives our students the edge when it comes to
appeal and entertainment.”

AnimSchool characters are used by more
than 10,000 users worldwide, and have been used to win numerous
animation contests and for commercial needs. AnimSchool is known as the
most trusted name for appealing 3D characters. AnimSchool animation
students use these film quality characters to learn 3D animation, making
their animation work stand out among competitors. AnimSchool Character
program students learn the secrets of appealing character creation.

Scout is the result of months of research and development. Said
Dave Gallagher, lead rigger “So much passion and loving care
went into making this character. It seems like each part was made,
changed, then remade again to be more appealing. Realizing 3D
characters that live up to beauty of 2D designs is a real challenge. It
is truly a labor of love.”

AnimSchool students are able to use
Scout for their animation assignments. AnimSchool Character students can
use Scout to learn the arts of high-end modeling and rigging.

Now with 180 students, AnimSchool
was founded in 2010 to bring character-focused 3D animation instruction
to students all around the world through live online sessions with the
very best film professionals.

Isaac Nordlund
560 South State Street, Suite F3
Orem, UT 84058

801 765-7677


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