Category: learn animation

3D Animation Interview: AnimSchool student Nina Tarasova

Today we have an interview with AnimSchool student, Nina Tarasova.

Welcome Nina, could you tell us a little bit about yourself, your education and which class you’re currently in? And also if you are in an animation or modeling program or track?

come from Belarus, but currently live in the London area, UK. My path to 3D was
not straightforward. It took me a while to figure out what I want to do in life
and also gain confidence to pursue a career in the animation industry. So I
can’t say my dream has always been to become an artist.

I was a kid I loved drawing and my best friend at that time encouraged me to start
taking classes with her at an artist’s studio, where I learned drawing and
painting. At high school the subjects became more difficult and homework more
time-consuming so I didn’t have much time left to practice art and quit. I
chose to study literature and languages at university because it is my family’s
tradition and it was a good education to get a secure job in my home country.  When I was in my third year I was lucky to win
a scolarship from the German Academic Exchange Service and went to study to
Germany. This was the turnover point in my life. I was far away from home in
the new culture, met a lot of new people.  My boyfriend who was completely on the tech
side introduced me to 3D. I installed the student version of Maya and started
learning it in my free time, first just watching videos on youtube and following
some book tutorials. It was not an efficient way of learning, I wouldn’t do it
again and wouldn’t recommend it to people who don’t have prior experience at

the graduation I moved to the UK, where I’m currently working as an office administrator
assistant. I think moving to London motivated me to start pursuing a career in
the animation industry. I finally realized how close the studios are, you just
need to get your foot in the door. I remember I saw once the amazing entries
for the Autodesk student award competition and was so impressed by the
students’ work! It inspired me to work harder to achieve their level one day. I
signed up to digital-tutors and noticed how quickly I started to progress! In
my opinion it’s extremely important to have well-structured lessons and good
explanation when you start learning something completely new!

When I was
confident with the software and was at a point to start working on my portfolio
I came across AnimSchool’s website and decided to give it a try. So here I am
now at AnimSchool in the modeling/rigging program. I joined a year ago and have
just finished my 4th class: Environmental modeling.
I think it was the best decision I have made
in my life. I couldn’t imagine that AnimSchool would be able to push my skills
so far. I met a lot of wonderful people
here who are not only great artist, but also amazing instructors, very dedicated
and passionate about teaching! 

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

Your work is really amazing. How do you prepare yourself for a modeling assignment? Where do you find your artwork? 

no secret recipe! I just model hour after hour! I spend most of my free time
working on the modeling projects. I like to take challenging concepts and most
of the time when I choose a concept, I have no idea how I’m going to do it. It’s
always difficult to start, but later if you keep pushing yourself something
nice will come out for sure. I also don’t stop when things start to look good
but keep working on the model… maybe I can make it look even better? There are
a lot of places where you can find beautiful artwork, I found the concepts for
my projects at DeviantArt and ArtStation, but Pinterest is also great.

Besides working on your AnimSchool assignments, you also participated twice in the Pixar’s RenderMan contest challenge. First time you ended up 3d place, which is fantastic, but the last time you even became 2nd! Incredible! Can you tell us about the RenderMan challenge itself and if you have had any advantage from classes here at AnimSchool?(tips, tricks, workflow etc)

Thank you
for your kind words! Both times I was very surprised when I saw my name among
the winners! I didn’t expect that since many artists who took part had a lot
more experience than me. The first challenge was very special for me! It was
the first time ever independent people recognized the quality of my work
regardless of my experience, background and connections. I took part in the RenderMan
challenges because I love lighting and they were a great opportunity to practice
it and also get my work noticed.  Yes, it
was a lot of work, many trials and errors, but in my experience if you don’t
give up and persist, sooner or later you will achieve the result you want. I think
it’s all about your dedication, how hard you want to try to achieve something.
Here are
some very valuable tips in my opinion: start by experimenting, trying out
different ideas, their pros and cons before choosing one. After you have
carefully chosen the idea, stick to it and do your best to make it work. Also
when working on a bigger project take care of the main things first, overall
form, shape and design and don’t go into details too soon. It is super
important! This preparatory phase will save you a lot of time in the end and
will give you a more successful result. And the last tip: never stop at ‘good
enough’, because ‘good enough’ mindset is not good if you want to win. Do the
best possible within the given time frame, push yourself to the limits and you
might be surprised of what you can accomplish. And don’t get discouraged if you
get stuck at some point, in fact I always go through such phase in every
challenging project. But if you don’t give up and keep pushing you will create
something great!

Did these challenges help you with your assignments at AnimSchool?

Since I’m
learning modeling and rigging at AnimSchool, the rendering skills don’t help me
directly to work on my assignments. But they are very useful when I need to do a
presentation of my project.  I also
strive to be a well-rounded artist and have a skillset that makes me standout. It
was also a huge motivator to win some great prizes from Pixar!

In January 2018 your work got published in 3D Artist magazine, congratulations! How did they find you?

They didn’t
find me, I found them! I strongly believe we have to take initiative in our hands
if we want to achieve something. Because I follow 3D Artist on Facebook I saw the
post that they wanted to make a gallery dedicated to celebrating women in the animation
industry, so anyone could send in their work.
I sent the link to my ArtStation
and got their reply the same day that I was shortlisted. 2 weeks later they
said my work would be featured!

The sky seems to be the limit Nina, what more surprises can we expect from you in 2018? 
What would you like to do once you’ve finished AnimSchool? What are your ambitions?

My work
King’s Taylor has recently received 3D Total Excellence Award, yay! My main
goal for this year is to finish my demo reel and get my foot in the door. I
want to keep growing as an artist, try different styles and participate in
collaborative projects. I have recently done a small collab with the talented
Nikie Monteleone who is a senior Surfacing Artist at HouseSpecial. She textured
and rendered the Greenie Genie model I did in the Intermediate modeling class
with Brien Hindman. Another great news is our collaboration will be featured in
the next issue of 3D Artist magazine!

King’s Tailor

I’ve had a
few people ask me how long it will take to become good at it. Can they become
good at it at all? Do they have enough talent? It’s always hard to start learning
something new. My start was also very hard, but if you overcome the first
difficulties, you will see your work improve from day to day and it will
motivate you to get better. I think dedication and perseverance are way more
important than talent. I actually don’t believe in talent in the sense most
people use it. IMO it’s an excuse for lazy people why they can’t become good at
sth. But yes, I agree some people have more natural ability than others to
certain things, but it doesn’t mean you can’t develop it.  I think it’s also important to enjoy the
process of learning new skills, not only the final result of your work. 

What advice can I give to those who just start learning 3D?

My other
advice: self – learning is great, it requires a huge amount of discipline and self-organization
(I started as a self-learner and have enormous respect for such people!) but if
you have a chance to go to a good school (good is a key word here!) and get
professional feedback as well you will progress so much faster! Another good
side of going to school is it will set strict deadlines when you need to
deliver your assignments, so no matter what excuses you have, you project needs
to be finished by the end of term!

And one other super important advice: try to surround yourself with people who believe in you and encourage you on your way!

Thank you so much, Nina and good luck!

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

3D Animation Interview: Sony Pictures Story Artist Eva Bruschi

Welcome Eva Bruschi, Storyboard Artist for Sony Pictures Animation! Could you tell us about yourself, your career and how you became a Story Artist at Sony ?

Of course 🙂 My name is Eva and I’m Italian, born in Tuscany 34 years ago (almost 35) and about myself and how it all “started”, well, I remember that as a kid I was always ready to solve situations by drawing something, because I loved drawing and liked to help. 

One day – probably I was around 4-5 years old – my grandma needed celery and I drew a bunch of celery for her recipe. I though that was the same as having real celery for cooking, it was green and looked like celery so was enough for helping her. My mom was often missing the beach during winter time so one day I drew the sea, the sand, a blue stripe for the sky and the yellow sun, probably a crab walking and a boat floating far on the horizon, there certainly was even a seagull.. and then I gave her the drawing. “You can hear the waves if you get closer, mom, so now the beach is nearer and you shouldn’t miss it so much!”
The rest of the time I used to draw for myself (when everyone was done with my presents).
It’s really common among kids to give drawings as gifts thus I was perfectly acting as everyone, maybe I just kept doing it for a longer time than everyone.

I was actually always drawing, literally everywhere, the walls of my house were also filled with my drawings because my parents made the great mistake one day to say : “okay, you can draw on the walls but don’t go out of your bedroom space”. 
Didn’t work and I ended up covering the rest of the house.
C’mon. How can you resist to those big, white and empty walls?? My graffiti remained there for many years and as I grew up was nice to see the crazyness yet the truth that’s in kids drawings. 
I remember I loved to draw houses and gardens, well detailed gardens and animals. Cats and cows in particular. I remember while I was spending time with grandparents, my grandma used to tell me about her youth spent among the mountains, since she was Swiss. I often drew something out of those stories.. that’s probably where the many cows came from.. and probably even my first storyboards panels!! 😀 
I was also fascinated by bugs, so I used to often draw them. I knew them pretty well because for one birthday I received a microscope as a gift, so I soon became the nightmare for all the small creatures around in the back yard because I wanted to see if bees were wearing underpants. Anyway, looking in there, through the lens, was like looking through the window of another world, another dimension. 
I was drawing and drawing and drawing and I never could get enough of that! 
I drew until the end of secondary school, then thought I couldn’t survive nor pay for a rent with only drawing, so I followed a technical high school (and discovered photography, still another great passion of mine beside playing a bit on the guitar) and wanted to become a mechanic! But if there’s something in you that you really can’t hold, one time it comes out again, I promise.

So this happened. I was 23 and after I gave engineering a try at university,
I decided to attended an art school here in Italy. A 3-year animation course. School was pretty expensive for me so I was working while attending classes. I remember one day, during a workshop, an external teacher told me something like “hey you can’t do this as a job and still have another job to maintain you.
You should only draw, all day! You’re not gonna make it this way, you probably don’t want it for real, to become an artist and make a living out of it”. That was a terrible day, one of the worst for me, but I knew that from that moment on, I wanted to become good at drawing and a professional even more

After school – where they destroyed all my confidence in drawing and made me re-mold it – I started collaborating freelance with very talented people, mentors from whom to learn everyday, all the time, for Italian television series and features as story artist, but also as a 2d layout artist or 2d animation assistant. Especially in the beginning I had to take on everything that came by, not only storyboard work, because I needed a job and earn some money to keep living.
So without having the chance to choose the project I liked the most, I did learn much anyway.

At the end of 2014 I was contacted on LinkedIn (holy LinkedIn, get a LinkedIn profile guys and keep it updated!!!) and I was asked to help on a project as a freelance story artist (project was “High In The Clouds”). From that moment on, I have to say that my life has gone through many changes.
After that year and a half I spent boarding on that, I got to know many kind, professional and talented people who trusted me – and I guess that is the main point – and liked my work. So from one project to another, I luckily found myself working for Sony Pictures Animation. Ta-Daa!

What a beautiful story!
Can you tell us what a Storyboard Artist does?

Preproduction is where things get real for the first time and is great, to me, because you can play with a bunch of different aspects together. As a storyboard artist, you work in this phase and basically translate the script into drawings, so from words to images.
To do this, you need to know about acting, figure drawing, perspective, cinematography.. playing with lights in a scene is also really important if, for example, you’re showing a particular moment rich of emotion or a moment that someway has to be underlined. You have to understand what the script really says and have to start imagining what’s going on, then put it down on paper (or PS layers). This also includes other ideas (extra-script) that you came up with and that you will pitch later, like adding gags and reactions, giving it a certain energy that maybe not be described in the script. 
You also have to be extremely flexible, giving more (and more, and more, and more…) versions of the same sequence if required without getting crazy or depressed (just joking:). You have to take notes and modify what has to be changed. Be able to listen to directors and their ideas of the show and as said before, you have to be able to pitch your own ideas! 
Everything comes with time and experience (I’m talking to myself here!) and it’s not only about drawing, but also about patience and the willingness to do what’s best for the project.
So in the end, a story artist is in charge to give the first visual breath of life to a story, which as a thought to keep in mind, pays you back for all the sequences they cut you.

Can you use your own style of drawing or is there a certain in-house style of story boarding?

I’m quite free to use my own style in terms of drawing but of course you have to stay close to the models, their proportions on the screen and the right amount of energy to give to a scene that has to hook up to what’s before and after in the movie. What has helped me to get to know the style, if there’s any, was watching at other story artists work on the project. Comparing styles and ways of solving scenes is always a good thing that gives you the chance to get inspired and learn something.

Have you done 2D or 3D animations yourself? Or are you planning to make some? 

I did 2d animation especially when I was at the art school, but I find animation always fun to experiment. 
I need some free-time to animate tho, so it’s often hard to start something and finish it
But from time to time I try.

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

Do you have any tips for applying for a job at a main studio, such as Sony Pictures? In respect of demo reel or presentation, where to present your work ( like a website or Social Media)?

You’ve got to prepare a good porfolio/demoreel for sure- first things you show should be your best, so that they want to see more – then distribute the other good things in the middle and at the end to maintain a high level of interest and attention. Then with your super product in your backpack, you should travel a bit around animation exhibitions all over Europe and USA (to mention two of the most relevant, Annecy and CTNExpo), and book an interview (or just wait in line for your turn) with your favorite studios who have a stand there. Even if nothing relevant happens from the first round (in terms of hiring), you surely got to know many incredible artists and you have a crazy experience to share.
I didn’t know anything about all this when I started, but it might be a tip. 
I think that having an account, a social platform or a website and keeping it updated, makes a big difference nowadays. Everyone can see your work this way (and maybe even wants to hire you!). This way you can get in touch with the best artists, knowing them for example from what they do and draw or paint in their spare time. 
You’re able to show what you’ve worked on. And it’s also a good way to compare your work to other artist’s work. 
It makes you improve your skills and motivates you to always do better. You can learn every day from each single artist. That’s what Instagram has given me and still does. 

Being part of a major production company, how does that affect your artistic creativity?

As an inspiration. To be at my best, all the time. Honestly, I’ve always tried to give all I’ve got in every work I’ve done. I always give all of my heart and use everything that I have learned to every new production I’ve joined. I think this has helped me a lot, because this way your attention goes to everything and this makes you improve. Doesn’t matter how big and famous the production you’re working for is, if you love what you’re doing you’ll always give all you’ve got. 
I’m really passionate about working for Sony Pictures Animation. 
It has happened in the past that I had to work with people that didn’t care that much. Nothing is more frustrating,  because we all know this is a job that you do out of  passion. As time goes by you learn to recognize those situations that require less heart, but it’s always a shame to give less, so if you can choose, choose what gives you good vibes and put all that you have into it!

Who do you work with when you work on a story? Directors, scenario writers, the animators,  layout artists etc.? 

As a freelance, I collaborate with the directors. 
have meetings with them for assignments, notes and pitches.

Can you talk about the production you are currently working on?
“Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse”

I’m not allowed to show anything yet!  You have to sign an NDA so you won’t ruin the surprise 🙂
But you can check the trailer that’s on line, I promise the movie will be fantastic!!
I’ve  got pretty used to not being allowed to show my work. That’s probably why I post  my doodles on Instagram! 

Can you name a few people that have been a big inspiration to you?

Louie Del Carmen, Darren Webb, Normand Lemay.. 
And I could keep going with names, there’s plenty of awesome different artists around, of course not only story artists! But they’re always a big reference, especially if one day I feel not at my best to draw – and it does happen. But that day you have to keep working anyway, so I often go to their blogs/Instagram or whatever there’s on the internet and I stare a bit at the perfection of their art, I kinda treat my eyes. 
I could say they’re my happy place where I recharge! 
What inspires me is also an old sketch of a small town square with a fountain and some birds flying over. I remember it was hanging on my grandparents wall, in the hallway. I always asked for it when I was a kid, because I wanted to copy it. Black ink on white paper. So simple yet so strong. Never discovered the name of the artist. 
But I also get inspiration from people who are not in the industry of course. I usually get inspiration from everything that surrounds me. Drawing is important, but also what you do in your free time, the people you hang out with, the places you see.. all this have their weight on your work and sometimes it brings you a lot of unexpected cool solutions!

Have you been a teacher/ guest teacher or do you consider teaching one day (passing on your experience) ? And what other goals do you have in the animation business besides story artist ?

Never been a teacher. Who knows, maybe in the future? I’m pretty shy and everything intimidates me at first, especially because I’ve got a strong self criticism and I feel like I still have got a long way to go before I can give advise and speak some wise words!
The again it’s said that teaching gives you a lot, as a person and as an artist and I kinda believe that, so let’s see how things evolve!  
No other goals for now in the animation business. I mean, I’m a freelance so it’s a bit different working from home, than being in the studio where you can build your career. I can say I’ve always liked to work for music videos, creating a story out of a music track. You already have the timing and music gives you the inspiration, the path, so yeah, that would be interesting to do, directing and drawing for music videos! Here you have my goal 🙂

Thank you so much for your time and your joyful insights of being a storyboard artist, Eva. Finally, do you have some advise for us, students of Animschool?

Well…Don’t cook paper celery!! The green pastel has a terrible flavor. 😀
But seriously, I’ve learned not to be concerned of what I draw, as well as to throw my drawings away if they weren’t working. I learned the basics of anatomy then forgot them again to make room to learn other things (then luckily re-introduced them :D). 
I mean, I discovered that it doesn’t really matter if a character posture is not completely correct while you do storyboards. That will come with time and practice. Problem comes if you only focus on how much you don’t like the drawing and you get stuck there, and I share this because that was one of my main concerns when I started.

The important thing is to be simple, focusing on the acting, expression and attitude of your character, putting it in a clear scene with an interesting point of view and a nice light.
You’re already telling something if all these things are present in a panel, no matter if it’s a sphere on the ground smiling at a beautiful spring day. 

Thank you Eva, for an inspirational interview and good luck with working on your current project!

All drawings by Eva Bruschi

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

Interview with Charles Ellison

Hi Charles, it’s great to have you here for this interview. Thank

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

First off, I just wanted to say thank you to you for conducting this interview and to Animschool for hosting.  I hope the readers find some words of wisdom somewhere in here.  

Charles Ellison, Head of Modeling at DreamWorks

My name is Charles, although family and friends call me Charlie.  I am a proud father of two little girls, whom I am raising with my wonderful wife in which I’ve been with for just about 20 years now – 9 married.  I was born in Venezuela, and migrated to this country at a young age, finally establishing roots in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I am one of the Heads of Modeling for DreamWorks Animation, as well as an Instructor here at Animschool for about the past 4 years or so, and I call Los Angeles home now.  I’ve been at DreamWorks for 10 years now and have loved every day of it. I’ve had the privilege to work on many wonderful animated movies, including the How to Train Your Dragon series, Kung Fu Panda series and have most recently supervised Trolls and am currently supervising Trolls 2, just to name a few.  

Snoutlot, modeling by Charles Ellison

Can you tell us about your background and how you became Head of Modeling at DreamWorks?

I’ll try to keep a long story short, but like many of you, the start of my journey began with a love of stories.  I recall being profoundly affected by movies as a child.  Growing up in a household as an only child, movies often served as a sibling in an odd sort of way.  I helped Elliot get E.T. back home, went on treasure hunts with the Goonies, and helped the rebellion fight the Empire in Star Wars.  
Imagination is a wonderful thing when you are a child, but I have never let that magic wither away.  It’s part of what propelled me into this wonderful career

Berk Docks, modeling by Charles Ellison

The path wasn’t always clear and it wasn’t found quickly either. I didn’t discover this path in fact until I was 24 and living just across the Bay from San Francisco, where my future awaited.  I recall waking up one morning, turning on the TV, and watching a commercial for the Academy of Art University.  People used to always tell me that I was creative and could draw and I should do something with that, so I literally got dressed, hopped on a bus and headed into the city where I took a tour of the school.  After being dazzled by the campus buildings which are nested throughout the city and the tour guide giving their best sales pitch, I was pretty wow’d by what I was seeing.  Yet it wasn’t until walking through the Computer Animation department (which they save for last), that I was completely in awe.  I remember walking through the computer labs with the tour saying to myself,  “Wow.  Look at them.  They are doing it.  They are really doing it.”.  I was referring to the students hard at work of course, working on these massive computers that I’ve never seen before, but you have to understand, after I saw Jurassic Park in ’93 I was pretty much convinced that the people that made these movies were geniuses – an unattainable goal.  

Bunnymund, modeling by Charles Ellison

So upon the conclusion of the tour, I found myself taking a huge leap of faith and signing my name on the dotted line of an enrollment contract.  I had no idea how I was going to pay for it all, but I was going to make it happen.  Behind the support of my family, my girlfriend (and future wife) and her family, but most importantly a belief in myself, I took that huge leap of faith.  I was intimidated, unsure and anxious, but along the way I discovered that I not only had talent and raw skill, but that I was in a prime environment to nurture this talent and develop it.  I took full advantage of the resources the school offered.  I was the first one in class, the last one out.  I surrounded myself with peers whom inspired me and therefor elevated myself.  I spent two years in fine art where I painted, drew, sculpted, and then finally the last two years were spent mostly on the computer where I focused on 3D Modeling.  I graduated in the Fall of 2004 – the first in my family in fact so it was a very proud day. 
After graduation, I relocated to Los Angeles with my girlfriend (soon to be wife) where we set out to begin our lives away from family and discover our careers.  I quickly landed my first job at an Animation Studio here in LA, called Sprite Animation.  Sprite is a Japanese animation studio and I was the first American artist that they hired.  It was a tremendous learning experience and to this day I tribute them as some of the most skilled, talented and humble artist that I have ever worked with.  It was such a great place for me to begin my career because they pushed me to learn more and become a full fledged character artist.  I not only modeled, but I also textured and rigged my characters and from time to time I even animated them.  

Blacksmith shop, modeling by Charles Ellison

When it was time to leave Sprite to spread my wings, I spent a little time in the live-action VFX world and then I was at a cross roads.  I had a tough choice to make as I had a very good problem in front of me.  I had an offer from Digital Domain to be a Character TD on Benjamin Buttons or join DreamWorks as a Modeler.  It was two very different roads I could take, but my heart told me that DreamWorks was the right path.  So I chose DreamWorks.  Fast forward 10 years from that point, and I am now one of the Department Heads and have worked on amazing projects – I have no doubt in my mind that I made the best decision for myself.  

Fashionistas, modeling by Charles Ellison

That’s an inspiring story!  How involved are you in the hiring process of new talent for DreamWorks?

When we are in search of growing our Modeling team, I am very much a part of the process.  The way it works is myself, along with the other Department Heads, will review candidates which our fantastic Recruiting Department will filter through and offer up the best candidates that they discover either via visits to different schools, or submissions which we receive from applicants all over the world – typically comprised of students and experienced artists.  And sometimes, one of us may already have a candidate in mind whom we can propose to the group for consideration.  This is an occurrence that happens quite often if one of us knows of a great artist that is available.  I often have candid conversations with students where I explain what a unique perspective I have from my vantage point.  What I mean is, I get to be a part of the students as they are just paving the way for their growth as artist, and one day, they could find themselves interviewing with me as well.  It is a very special vantage point if you ask me, one which I don’t take for granted.  I’m always on the look out for good talent, so even if students don’t realize it, they could be already being noticed even if from a single class – so always put forth your best effort ;).  And when I am actively supervising a modeling team for a show, I do get to ask for specific members of the team so long as they are available and not already casted to another production.  We do our best to cast everybody to their strengths and formulate nicely balanced teams for each show.

Besides the required technical skills, what do you think are main qualities a 3D artist should have to increase the chances to get hired by a large company? And do you have any tips on how to develop those skills?

Besides the clear necessities as demonstrating clear technical skills as software knowledge and being able to craft nice geometry and understanding good topology practices, I can’t emphasize enough the need to demonstrate a strong artistic eye.  Perhaps the best thing anyone can do on their demo reel, is provide the artwork that you started from so that I can gauge how you see shapes and how you can interpret a design.  It’s an opportunity for me to see how you understand the fundamentals.  Often, I see demo reels which don’t include the artwork they modeled from.  And of course be sure that when including the artwork you credit the original artist.  Another good tip is have a good variety of models – don’t just be character heavy without demonstrating you can take on an environment or a nice, intricate prop.  Characters are great and doing them well is even better, but show range.  As far as developing those skills, I always suggest to be as active as you can in practicing your craft.  Don’t just rely on the assignments you receive in class.  Manage your time so that you reserve as much of it as you can to go through the paces of challenging yourself and finding barriers that you can break past.  But be sure to maintain a balance with studies, work and all other things in life so that you don’t burn out. 

Orange quarter, modeling by Charles Ellison

And one last bit of advice which is one of those intangible things, when you land the interview, be yourself, and show us that you are the kind of person that we want to work with.  After all, I spend more time with my colleagues at work then I do with my family sadly, so I want candidates that are genuine people.  I would rather work with the person who has talent that can be nurtured – albeit needs growth but is a nice person, versus someone whom has a super impressive portfolio but during an interview doesn’t show the best attitude.

Know what I mean?


“Don’t be afraid to show your work. Failure is always part of the road to success.” 
What do you think about these statements and how does that apply to your own job in a professional environment? 
I mean, are you allowed to improve by failure or do you have to get it right every first time?

As artist, we are always subject to opinion, and this is no different in a professional or an educational environment.  The difference is I would switch the word failure with that of process.  The process to striking the vision of many different people can be a very organic and sometimes tedious process, but process non the same.  Sometimes we nail it and please everyone upon first showing, sometimes it requires many iterations, but it’s never a failure so long as we end up with a great final product, within the time-frame we are given.  In a school environment, it’s very similar in that you have a goal, a deadline and a client – your instructor.  I always stress the need for students to never be shy to show their work, as the goal in sharing is to find ways to improve by way of constructive feedback – very much the same way it would be in production.

Dragon Lair, modeling by Charles Ellison

Can you name a few people that have inspired you, in life and as a 3D professional?

Naturally I have garnered inspiration from the people whom raised me, non more so than my Grandmother.  The work ethic she modeled for me was just remarkable.  My wife is a huge reason I am even where I am today, but my children are my strongest inspiration.  Trust me when I say nothing inspires you to be your best than your children.  As for artists?  My goodness, where do I begin?  There is just so much amazing talent out there, both known and unknown.  The unknown’s are just as amazing it’s just they haven’t made an effort to have an online presence.  My very first supervisor, Tetsuya Ishii, is such an amazing artists and is equally skilled artistically and technically.  Plus I have a soft spot that I learned so much from him.  Some other artist whom have had direct influence on me are Danny Williams (aka Point Pusher) for the years we worked together and for the knowledge he was so willing to share and who is also a good friend.  Another good friend and former colleague whom has inspired me is Shannon Thomas, whom is now over at Blizzard as a Character Supervisor.  

Bob Ross

But there is so many others over the course of my career whom I’ve had the pleasure to either work with directly, converse with, or just admire from a far.  I know I will miss some names, but here is a short list:  Nico Marlet, Tim Lamb, Pierre Olivier Vincent, Alena Tottle, Mike Defeo, Kendal Chronkite, Raymond Zibach, Simon Otto, Mel Milton, Kent Melton,  Glen Keane, Matt Thorup, Dylan Ekren, Bear Williams, Brian Jefcoat and of course Bob Ross – no really, watched him religiously as a kid.
“Happy little trees.”

Are there any public tours at DreamWorks ?

There are no public tours, but it is possible to have a tour through someone on the inside.  I have personally had many guests come to visit the campus, including many Animschool students.  I extend this invitation to every class I teach.  You just have to give me a heads up when you are going to be around LA and I’m happy to set it up – so long as I’m available to do so of course.

Little Dragon composite, modeling by Charles Ellison

Can you give any tips to the students for their demo reel when they want to apply for a job at DreamWorks or another large studio? 

Besides the information I gave earlier in the interview, I would say, know your client.  If you are applying to DreamWorks, Disney, Pixar, demonstrate models that fit the style of work that they do.  Similarly I would say the same for a game company or VFX studio.  And the last thing I would suggest, always place your best model first – wow us with that first look.  Keep your reel short.  It doesn’t need to be bloated.  I would rather see 3 great models over the course of a 2 minute reel, versus a 5 minute reel of stuff you threw in there thinking it needed to be there because you were worried you didn’t have enough.  Quality over quantity always.  And remember, always show the art your started from.  And lastly, these days, it’s not just about a demo reel, have on online platform such as a personal website, ArtStation, or something similar which showcases your many different works.  This can be a place where potential employers can see works that are maybe unfinished, but still offer insight to your process as an artist.

Those are great tips, thank you!  Why did you become an Animschool teacher ?

Charles Ellison, Head of Modeling at DreamWorks

When I first made the choice to begin teaching, much of my decision was based on the idea of maximizing the time that I have to provide for my family and I wanted to do so in a manner that felt rewarding beyond just compensation. Teaching was a natural fit that I could balance nicely with my full-time roll at DreamWorks and also was an opportunity for me to give back to the community.  Originally, I did not know if teaching was going to be a short or long term commitment or even if I would be any good at it.  I also did not foresee how invested I would get in the students.  I didn’t foresee the relationships that I would build and how rewarding it would feel to see my students improving before my eyes.  It is such a great feeling to see your students applying what they are learning, improving upon their skills and most importantly, having fun during the process.  I make it a point to make sure the students know from day one that they are in an environment that will be fun, organic and nurturing.  I really do try to give them all I have to offer and be someone who will offer them as much insight as I can into the industry as well. 

And why Animschool?  

I have had many former colleagues of mine whom had ventured into the world of teaching speak very highly of Animschool and a good friend had introduced me to Dave Gallagher to speak about the prospect of teaching.  Fast forward to now, and I am very happy to be a part of the Animschool community and proud of the students that I have had the pleasure to teach.  What I feel makes Animschool a unique and special place to learn this wonderful craft, is the global aspect of it’s students (nothing excites me more than to see a roster of students from all corners of the globe) and how diverse the they are.  I find Animschool students to be some of the most dedicated and focused I’ve come across.  And lastly, I find the talent that the school brings in to instruct their classes to be world class and whom really want to provide the best instruction they can. 

Put all that together and it truly is an amazing community to be a part of.

Thank you Charles !

Maya 3D Modeling with nCloth

In this lecture, Animschool instructor, Brien Hindman shows how nCloth can be a real time-saver and can be used to create really interesting and complex shapes when used for modeling. 

Animschool is the premiere online animation school for learning 3D animation, modeling and rigging.
For more information about AnimSchool and its courses in animation, visit

Introduction to Animation Layers – Tony Mecca

One helpful animation workflow method that many students don’t learn about until they take more advanced courses in animation is the use of Animation Layers. Animation layers are extremely useful for making non-destructive changes to parts of your shot while maintaining the animation that is working well. Animation layers are used mainly in the spline phase when you’d like to (or are directed to) make adjustments to certain portions of your animation, or you want to try out different poses and motions. They can save you a lot of time and effort when you’re making changes, and help make you a more efficient animator overall. In this clip from a Body Mechanics class, which is our third introductory course in 3D character animation, instructor Tony Mecca does a great job of explaining the fundamentals of how Animation Layers work by relating them to layers in Photoshop, and showing an example in Maya.

The following are covered in this video:
  • How animation layers work
  • How to set them up
  • How to tweak your animation with keys in the animation layer
  • How to adjust how much the animation layer affects the base animation
  • How to merge the new animation with your base animation

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

Develop Your Skills As An Animator!

Mastering the art of animation can be truly hard. It can take years of hard work and dedication to get you to where you want to be, and as technology grows and develops, there are always new things to be learned in the animation field. However, following the right workflows and techniques can help you develop your skills as an animator faster than you might think.

It’s all in the basics!

When you start learning animation, you might want to tackle a walk cycle or a complex acting shot right away. Still, you should start out simple and try not to take on an animated shot above your skill level, as it will probably frustrate you when you should be having fun! 

Instead, you should start with a simple ball bounce. This is the first exercise any animator must master. Once you feel confident, you can move on to animating a ball bounce across the screen and eventually incorporating squash and stretch, adding more personality to the ball. Soon you will see that with each new exercise you tackle, your skill level will grow and you will have incorporated new animation principles to the mix. Remember: working in small chunks will guarantee that each technique is mastered before you can move on!

Get Inspired

One of the best ways to improve your animation skills is to find out what inspires you as an animator. Watching your favorite animated movie is a great way to study how the animator incorporated the principles, so you can then try to implement those techniques into your own shot. Keep in mind: watching these amazingly-executed animations should make you want to jump onto the computer and animate, and not make you feel discouraged by their level of complexity. Use movies to inspire you to get to that level! 

Get Your Body Mechanics Working

Once you know the principles, you can start learning about body mechanics. Knowing how a human should move is they key to a great acting shot. The best way to start is by animating a simple walk cycle. Once you have nailed that down, you can try to animate a character walking and coming to a stop. Take each exercise one step at a time and keep them short, from three to four seconds. Each shot will be a bit more difficult than the last, but as your skill level grows, you’ll be amazed at how much you’ve progressed.

Act It Out

Once you feel ready to take on acting and dialogue shots, on of the most useful things is to study live action films. You can take a scene in a movie and analyze the actor’s movements. This is a great exercise to help you incorporate small nuances found in great acting. 

The More Feedback The Better

Working on your shot for a long time can make you skip little mistakes. In other words, if you are the only one looking at your animation, it can get very hard to give yourself feedback and notes. Asking for someone to look at your shot, even if that person doesn’t have animation knowledge, will help you see if something isn’t looking right. Remember not to take it personally if someone has a different idea for your shot– sharing your work is a great way to improve! 

Don’t Forget!

Learning animation is a never-ending process, but learning it in small chunks and having the right mindset will ensure that your animation skills grow faster. It’s not about the length of your shots, but rather how many shots you get completed and how much you push yourself with each one!

Come join us at 

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 Interview: Xin Zhao and Florent Rubio, makers of “The Answer” short

Today we are interviewing not one, but two people! Xin and Florent are the makers of “The Answer”, a short animation film using Animschool’s Malcolm Rig. 

The short is now featuring in Vimeo’s “Staff Pick”collection. Check it out:

Both of them are now applied to our 3D Animation Program. Lets begin the interview!

Hi guys! Can you start by telling us where you’re from, your experience with character animation and background?
Xin: Hi, I’m Xin. I’m from Beijing. I always wanted to be a animator since I was a kid and they told me knowing how to draw is going to be benifical even if I want to be a 3D animator in the future. So I started my professional Fine Art training since I was in primary school. Since then I learn Fine Art for nearly 10 years before I went to Teesside University to get a Bachlor of Art Degree in Character Animation in the UK, where I gained a lot of 3D Generalist skills as well as animation skills.

Florent: I am from Toulouse, in France. I have always been a big fan of animation and video games but for some reason I thought about it as a possible career pretty late and I studied different subjects (including food processing…) in the end, after graduating in computing science in France I decided to move to England and learn animation.
We both studied at Teesside University, in England, where we graduated from Bachelor of Art in character computer animation. After our studies, we both got hired as animation interns by Ubisoft in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. We are now still working at Ubisoft and we decided to study at Animschool on our free time to learn more about animation as our University course was very oriented on CG generalist skills.

How did the idea for the script came up? Who was in charge of what in the short?
Xin: Of course, it is slightly based on real events. My partner Florent was shaving in the bathroom with his electric razor, and some minutes later, he came back in the room with a half shaved beard and his razor which was out of power and the cable was nowhere to be found. With this idea in mind, we also wanted to find an idea about how he could finish up shaving in a funny way. I remembered reading a famous self-helping book based on “The law of attraction” and which marketing is based on a “secret” linked to many historical figures and conspiracy. And so we decided to make a parody of it.

Florent: We shared the different tasks according to our skills and what we wanted to do.
Both our dreams were to become character animators after university so we evenly shared the animation.
For the pre-production, after defining our story and getting some rough shot ideas, Xin draw an amazing storyboard (see panel). Xin’s storyboard was so clear we even used it as the main reference for the environment design.

A panel from the storyboard

We both modelled and textured environment and assets.
Xin took care of Malcolm rig modifications, the 2D/motion graphics and compositing Florent did the shading, the lighting and the rendering.
And just a word about the book narration voice actor: Fernando Zamora. Who worked with us remotely and did an amazing job. Thank you again 🙂

Can you tell how much time did you guys spent per day on it and how long did it took from start to completion?
We started over the summer to be ready to animate at the start of the academic year so it took a part of the summer and half of the academic year (because we had another project), so around 5 months spread on a year.
The days were busy, we did everything from home and it was an average of 9-10 hours/day. A lot of hard work but it was worth it in the end 🙂

What did you guys think of the Animschool Malcolm rig? Did it meet your expectations on the production of the short?
From the start, this project goal was to produce the best character animation we could make to showcase our animation skills. To get the best results, we had to give up the idea of using our own character.

Quickly, we decided to use a Free Rig which allow us to have maximum performance of the character animation. We choose Animschool’s Malcolm Rig due to its flexibility after we saw many great animations including a short animation called Mistakes on the 11 Second Club website. The runner-up of March 2012 gave us a great idea of how flexible and controllable the Malcolm Rig’s hands are.

The Malcolm Rig has an amazing facial rig. The eyebrows and mouth in particular allowed us to have greater facial animation without being limited by the rig itself. Of course, the body rig of Malcolm is fantastic too. The controllers on his limbs enable us to have great line of actions during the animation.

Malcolm flexibility and deformations 

Can you share the main process for the character animation and model modification?
This is the animation workflow we used for this project:

  • Video Reference Recording – Record video references of ourselves for the animation.
  • Character Animation Thumbnail – Decide the character’s actions by drawing out the storytelling poses.
    Example of thumbnail drawing for animation
  • Blocking Animation – Blocking of the storytelling poses of the animation and establish the rough timing of each movements.
  • Spline Animation – Change stepped animation curves to spline curves.
  • Polish Animation – Add textures to the spline animation and clean the curves in Graph Editor.

Model Modification

Geometry Modification
To fit our purpose, we wanted to personalized Malcolm geometry and textures. Considering the complicity of the rig, Xin didn’t dare to make too much changes on the geometry, otherwise it might result some problem on the rig. The main modifications are the general face shape was sculpted to be rounder and the hairs were removed to leave space for a Maya hair system

Malcom face modification
We also gave him a shirt collar to add some detail. The collar is animated by 6 blendshapes to reduce shoulders intersection once animated.
Blend Shapes for Malcom’s collar

Our issue was that only Malcolm’s face was UV mapped. We did not know at that time that uv mapping a rigged character would not end well 🙂

When we though skinned character’s UV were still movable

After doing some research, Xin found an article from a blog called Anim Bizz, talking about how to transfer UVs after rigging. A “Shape Orig” node includes the information of the character before rigging. Therefore, a UV transfer can be applied to this and it allowed us to UV map Malcolm’s body.

Hair System
For the hair, we wanted the non-dynamic hair system since dynamic hair is not necessary and it requires more work to do with the simulation which is way too complicated for us. Xin followed a course talking about hair system on and had a basic idea how to build up the hair system with curves.
The idea was to create curves where we wanted the hairs to be and apply hair systems on them. Three layers of curves were created to had more realism and volume to the hair.

Layers of curves for more realism

These little guys were quite an inspiration 😉

For the Beard and Eyebrows, we used the Maya Fur system.
So after all these modifications, the character looks like this:

Malcom after a complete makeover

Detail of Malcom’s new textures

The “new” Malcom

What were the main challenges for this short?
Hahaha… Everything. We basically had no experience using Maya for more than animating a basic walk cycle and lip sync exercise for University. Every aspect was new and we were constantly doing research and learning: how to rig, how to shade, light and render, how to use hair and fur .. and well .. how to animate. Thanks to a lot of great ressources online (including AnimSchool Youtube channel, Digital Tutors, countless blogs, univeristy feedback) we managed to get to the result we wanted.
Hair and fur were particularly difficult because there is less content about it ( how to create, how to render)
Oh! and having a big mirror in the first shots didn’t make things easy ^^ (Camera angles, lighting, rendering and compositing)

What was the technology involved in the creation of the short (render, software, hair system, etc)?
The render was done using Mental Ray in Maya. It was done in parrallel with the lighting and shading. It took a lot of time and a lot of experiment. Here is an example of the process to find the lighting:

Several attempts in finding the correct lighting

And so on until we could get it right:

The final lighting set that made into the final version of the short

Most of the shiny/reflective materials are Mental Ray’s “mia_material_x”, the rest are Lambert materials:

Mental Ray’s architectural materials are good for cool a realistic look. 

Another example of Mental Ray Area light and shadow transparency node use.

The other software we used were:

  • Maya 2013 for all the 3D (including non-dynamic hair system and fur)
  • Adobe After Effects for compositing, 2D and motion graphics
  • Nuke for some of the compositing (motion vectors)

Any advice for animators that want to start production of their own short?

The only advices we can give to people who want to produce a short film are the ones we wish we had heard/followed before we get started most of them are probably obvious and specially relevant if you are still studying:

  • Keep it simple: Especially if you are alone, it is hard to find the line between challenging yourself and putting the bar too high.
  • If the goal of your short is to demonstrate your animation skills, We advise you not to try making your own character/rig. (Unless you have time and you are an amazing character TD/ rigger 🙂 ). There are a lot of rigs available out there, and as far as we know, Malcolm is by far the best. (No, Animschool don’t pay us to say that !) 🙂
  • Find a subject/story that get you really engaged. So you don’t throw everything by the window some months down the production.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us through Vimeo or our websites:

We thank Florent and Xin for this interview and hope to see more works from them in the future! If you want to learn real character animation taugh by professionals in the industry, come apply now!