Category: malcolm rig

AnimSchool Interview: Aju Mohan, Part 1

Today we would like to welcome Aju Mohan. First of all, congratulations on your September win for the 11 Second Club. Well done! Can you tell us a little about yourself and your animation background?

Thanks a lot for having me here. I’m basically a Mechanical Engineer. By the last semester of my degree, I got introduced to a guy who was working as an animator. I got to see some of his work and it blew me away!!

From that instance onwards, I knew that I wanted to be an animator. After finishing my degree course, I went straight to an Animation academy and enrolled myself.

When all my engineering friends were getting jobs and earning tons of money, I was drawing and animating my heart out. But I have to say, It was the best decision of my life!

11 second club entry, audition!! 🙂 from ajumohan on Vimeo.


Out of all the rigs out there, tell us why you chose AnimSchool’s modified Malcolm female rig for your animation, “Audition”?

It had been a while since I’ve animated anything at home, due to tight production schedule, so I wanted to try something out. I was hearing a lot about the Malcolm Rig from my colleagues and friends, and I thought I’d give it a try.  I was blown away by its flexibility, and I knew instantly, that Malcolm was the one for my shot!

Were there any challenges or difficulties you faced when using the rig, and if so, how did you overcome them?

Absolutely none. I used the Malcolm Rig before too (for my August entry). My only regret is I have not utilized its potential fully cause of lack of time!

You had many dramatic expression changes in your animation. Did the rig meet your expectations to push those expressions and get what you were looking for?

Yes, the Malcolm rig is fantastic for facial expressions, actually now when I look at my shot again, I think I could have pushed the expressions a bit more. But no worries.

In Part 2 of Aju’s interview, he discusses his planning process and how he created the unique look.  

AnimSchool Interview: Tim Kallok

First off- big congrats Tim, on winning the March competition of the 11 Second Club! What was your immediate reaction, and what was running through your mind when you heard the news?

Thank you very much for the congratulations! On the day the results were released, I was totally in shock when I went to the 11 Second Club site and saw my animation on the front page. I had participated in the voting process and so I knew I was up against a lot of tough competition. There were many other great entries last month and I was really hoping just to finish in the top 11. Winning the competition and all the resulting positive feedback I have received has definitely been a big morale booster for me.


Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you got into animation?

Animation has long been a passion of mine. Like many others, growing up I was glued to the television watching Disney films, Looney Tunes and Saturday morning cartoons. I was introduced to theater and acting at a young age. My dad is an actor whom participates extensively in local community theater and independent film. He used to take me along to his rehearsals and performances on weekends. I loved watching my dad and the other actors transform into different people and assume personalities contrary to who they were in “real life.” I actually didn’t decide that I wanted to be an animator until my senior year of high school. I had some great teachers that got me interested in science and engineering, so I was considering studying to become an engineer. That soon changed when I started taking art classes and my art teacher nurtured my creative side and got me really passionate about creating art. When I started researching colleges and career choices, I found schools that were offering degrees in computer animation. Until then, I had never realized that you could make a career out of doing animation, but it turned out to be a perfect fit for me because it married all the things I was interested in: art, performance, and technology. From that point on, I have devoted myself to animation and constantly push myself to improve my craft. I have had quite a bit more animation education/training that most people have, but animation has not always come naturally to me, and I have had to work really hard to get to the level I’m at now. I’m still pushing my self to improve, but that’s the beauty of animation; you can never stop learning and you can always continue to grow as an animator. My ultimate goal is to work as an animator on a feature film. I haven’t reached that goal yet, but I am determined not to give up. Hopefully, one day, that dream will come true.

My 11 Second Club Entry – March ’12 from Tim Kallok on Vimeo.

What influenced your decision to use AnimSchool’s Malcolm rig for your entry, and did the rig deliver to your expectations?

First of all, I would like to thank AnimSchool for making such an awesome rig available for public use. I really love Malcolm’s design and his overall flexibility. He can be pushed and pulled further than any other rig that I have used. His facial setup is awesome; it’s really easy to get appealing shapes and expressions. Because of the nature of the competition’s dialogue, I didn’t get to utilize the rig to its full potential, but for my shot, the IK elbow pinning and the IK/FK switching came in very handy.

Were there any challenges or difficulties you faced when using the Malcolm rig, and if so, how did you overcome them?

Upon first opening the rig, it can be a bit daunting, because there are so many controls! Once I learned that you could hide controls in the picker by using the basic, most, and all buttons, that made it much easier for me to approach the rig. That feature also helped streamline my workflow by letting me concentrate only on the controls that I need at the time. So, in blocking, I only used the basic controls. Once I moved onto the anim pass and polish, I could turn on the other controls to really refine the poses.

The technical hurdle I faced with Malcolm was in the modification process, trying to figure out the best way to add on his collared shirt and suspenders and have them be tucked in his pants. In order to do that, the first thing I did was use the shirt controls near his waist to “tuck” his shirt in to his pants. I also used the “Narrow Pants Tp” attribute on the “ctlHips1” control to widen the waist of his pants. I then modeled his shirt and suspenders as separate polygon objects and used a wrap deformer to have them follow the rig.

Other than that, the only other challenges I faced were really just standard animation issues like making sure his hands and fingers were not going through the table or cleanly switching his arms from IK to FK. Up until Sam gets up, both arms are IK. Once he stands up they switch over to FK. The IK/FK switcher in the picker, made that process much easier.

You mentioned in the brief description, you couldn’t achieve the level of polish you were hoping for. What were some of the extra things you had to leave out to meet the deadline?

I know I’m not alone in saying that it’s really hard to stop working on an animation and know when to say it’s “finished.” If I would have had more time to work on it before the deadline, I would have spent some more time polishing the face, making sure the corners of the mouth had clean arcs, adding in some more eye movement, and refining the brows. I actually made a big change the day before the deadline. Originally, I had Sam put both arms on the chair as he gets up, then grab the gun as he exits. I showed my progress to one of my friends and he suggested that I have Sam go for the gun as he stood up. I made the change and it really helped, because it made him feel more determined and focused on the task at hand. Because that change came up so late, I didn’t have the time to get the spacing in the hand right or the fingers working well as he grabs the gun.

You were able to gets some really appealing mouth shapes, did you experiment with that before going into lip sync?

I didn’t really experiment with any mouth shapes prior to animating the lip sync. During the planning phase, I broke down the dialogue in to phonemes, so I knew, more or less, what shapes I needed to hit. I have a mirror on my desk, which I use quite extensively while animating. For the first pass of lip sync, I start with the opening and closing of the jaw. Once I have that in, I move on to the corners of the mouth and how they move in and out. From there, I concentrate on the secondary mouth controls, to fine tune the shapes, add in pucker and compression, and break up the symmetry as much as possible.

In the beginning of your animation you pulled off your character, Sam, having limited movement. What did you do to keep the pose alive during this time, and what were some of the extra things you did to sell your idea?

The beginning section was definitely a big challenge. This was my first attempt at doing subtle animation and I found that there’s a real fine line between the character feeling dead and moving too much. One of the things that I work out during planning, is figuring out the least number of poses I need in order to tell the story. While Sam is talking, I felt that I only needed one pose and that I could act within the pose to hit the accents in the dialogue. Even though the accents are not too big, I incorporated the whole upper body into each one. I offset a lot of the movements so the parts of the action settled at different times. Moving holds were also very important throughout in order to keep him alive. I spent quite a bit of time tweaking splines in the graph editor, trying to find just the right amount of movement needed.

I could be really off base on this, but the present Sam, holding the photograph, looks a little bit more aged and withered then the character we see in the photograph. Apart from the body, did you modify the facial features to help sell that idea?

That’s a good catch. I did a few subtle things with the face to make him feel a bit more unkempt and distressed. One was to keep the mid brows pushed together so you could the crease/wrinkle between them. I also increased the “Naso Crease” slightly, so the wrinkle between the nose and corner of the mouth was a bit more prominent. The last thing I did was add a custom texture map to his face so he has a 5 o’clock shadow.

Lastly, what’s going to be next for you? What’s in the pipeline?

At the moment, I’m finishing up my reel. I have some older unfinished projects that I have been revisiting and trying to get up to par with my newer work. I also have a few ideas for a new personal piece that is in the works.

To see more of Tim’s work visit his website:

Interview by: Andrew Tran

To download the Malcolm Rig, just visit our website:

AnimSchool Interview: Winner of the 11-Second Club, Will Sharkey

Today’s interview is with animator Will Sharkey, the winner of the 11 Second Club September 2011 entry.

First of all, congratulations and welcome!

Hello, thanks for having me. I’m delighted to get the opportunity to chat with you guys.


So firstly how long have you been animating and how did you get into it?


I honestly don’t know how I got into animation specifically; it just kind of happened. I actually studied “Model-making and Effects for Film” for 3 years at college in Ireland, which was not specifically focused on animation or animation principles. At end of the second year, I realised that there were few physical model-making opportunities in Ireland Itself. The course had the flexibility to achieve projects in a digital medium, so that’s when I first got working with 3D software. 

After college, I got a job as a 3D generalist in Piranha Bar, a post-production company in Ireland. Working with XSI on a few projects, I slowly started learning animation fundamentals. I worked on a particular job involving two characters interacting for thirty seconds, all shot under one camera move. The job turned out fine but, on reflection afterwards, I realised that I was lacking a lot of knowledge about character animation. So I bought a few books and started doing animation exercises, with a goal of achieving a standard of animation that would be fitting for the 11 Second Club and other competitions.

Have you done any work professionally? Anything the public might have seen?


I’ve worked on a good few projects and a short film with Piranha Bar. We recently finished a great project where I got to animate two squirrels. It was a four week deadline, which is madness when asked to model, rig and light two squirrels, animate them and render! My colleague Simon Burke directed and addressed all  3D aspects, while I took care of the rigging and animation. (Bank of Ireland Squirrels Ad done in four weeks).
I also took part in a short film directed by Gavin Kelly titled ‘Avatar Days. It was created for the Darklight Festival’s ‘4 Day Movie’ project. With only four days to shoot, edit, animate and composite, we used  motion capture for most shots, bar one shot at 1m30sec, which I keyframed.

Another project under time constraint was more of a technical challenge involving a lot of hairy bees and a gigantic stadium/sunflower.  Others I’ve enjoyed working on were a spot for an Irish Newspaper, Robotic Sky Pirates and some character animation for a health-care advert.


I believe you’re the first animator to use AnimSchool’s Malcolm rig in the 11 Second Club competition. You’ve got to be happy with that, right? Overall how did it go, animating with it?


When I approached character animation in Softimage, I really wanted a reliable rig to work with  and considering I was aiming to enter animation competitions; it had to have some facial controls. After searching around  the internet and bombarding forums with questions,  I got the opportunity to beta test an early build of the Malcolm rig. The beta rig was a really solid build and, having used the vast majority of free rigs available for Softimage users, I was delighted to hear that Malcolm was being released as I have grown really comfortable with the rig and character.

You seem like you had quite a bit of control over the rig. When you first opened up the rig, were you overwhelmed by the amount of controls this character had? And how did you handle it? 


On first opening up the rig, I realised that a whole lot of work went into it; it was easily the most complicated rig I had opened on my computer. I sieved through the facial shapes just looking at the sheer amount of detail and range that was achievable. It didn’t take long to find out where everything was. The keying groups in the synoptic really help: selecting the ‘basic’ key-group, you could quickly identify the fundamental controls to move your character. 

Approaching any rig though, it takes a few hours the get comfortable with it. Once you mess around with the rig synoptic, find where everything is pointing to and check main controllers for animated sliders (eg IK/FK switching), you can begin to set random poses to see how everything moves.
The thing about the Malcolm rig is there are also lots of additional controllers for specific situations (e.g. elbow pins, hyper extend), things that aren’t essential, but really help when animating.  It took a few poses to work through the controllers but Malcolm Rig is very light weight, so all that extra control isn’t slowing the rig down. All these details really speed up animation and makes things a lot more fun.

So let’s talk about your winning entry. From concept right through to process. How did you come up with this idea originally?

I listened to the audio a good few times and sourced it, trying to figure out under what circumstances were the lines spoken. My first idea was a wartime scenario, a sniper in a bell-tower reaching for a bullet, finding he’s out of ammunition and realizing that his role in war was worthless. Thinking about the scene though, I felt that story probably needed more than 11 seconds to tell it; plus, I wanted to work mainly on facial animation and let a performer’s face tell the story. So I came up the idea of a priest struggling to come to terms to what he has devoted his life to. This scene gave the same sense of futility as the wartime idea, but I could keep the character in close-up for most of the shots.

I thought a confession booth would be the perfect place as I liked the idea of a priest reversing roles and actually being the one confessing. So I set about loosely posing the character in a confession booth,  not worrying about the audio clip for now; I just wanted to get some key poses and tell the story. Once I had ten or so key poses, I slipped those poses along the timeline in sync to the audio. Next, I mapped out the camera move. I looked up reference of films with confession booth in them – I wanted to see what angles other directors had come up with. With the camera locked, I just kept refining, throwing out poses, adding some in until I had a finished piece. Lastly I lit the scene, broke my scene file into shots and rendered.

There were a lot great moments and solid acting. Did you end up shooting and studying video reference?


Animation reference is a must. After listening to the audio, I positioned my phone mimicking a camera angle I had in mind and started filming myself acting out the scene. Once you act out the line a few times, you realise what you want to put into your animation, little gestures pop up that you wouldn’t normally think of. At the end of the animation, the Priest grabs his collar–that was something that just happened in my video reference.
The other thing I added was a prop, in terms of a cross. Props are great as they act as another little character and allow a character to be a little more expressive through the prop. In the video reference, I toyed with a lighter from hand to hand… as I had no crosses lying around! Animating anything passing from hand to hand is difficult to figure out but with your video reference,  you can see what happens exactly when.
Lastly, what are you currently working on? And what can we expect from you Will?


At the moment I’m busy in work on a few projects, the most recent of which is an illustrated world of cardboard cutouts, lit and animated in 3D. Outside work, I’m looking forward to entering Malcolm into another 11 Second Club competition as well as scanning the horizon for character animation jobs in sunny climates!
Awesome Will. Thanks for doing this interview and congratulations on your entry once again. We hope to see more of your animation in future!
Cheers mate.

Will’s reels:

Malcolm Character Now Freely Available

Before there was such a thing as AnimSchool, I had a personal dream: I wanted to make very flexible, appealing, and expressive characters that people all over the world could use for free.

AnimSchool gave me the perfect excuse to fulfill that dream. I can make cool characters that many people can use, either to animate or to learn modeling and rigging–and that effort can help promote AnimSchool.

Malcolm is pretty nice. There are certainly better body rigs out there, but the face is where I put most of my love and attention. The Disney style from the 1960’s is my greatest inspiration. I strived to make the face capable of a wide range of expression – and do it with appeal.

I’m absolutely captivated by appealing characters–mostly from the classic 2D films, Warner shorts, then from character designers. I’m driven to bring characters like that to life in the medium of 3D Animation.

You can see some of the capabilities of a variant of Malcolm here:

I also put a lot of effort into keeping the rig very light, because I wanted it fast fast fast! It runs real-time on my i7 processor. So there are corners cut in lots of places, compared to a typical film rig. But if I did my job right, you won’t notice them, because the rig was carefully developed with the aesthetic result in mind. I know the kinds of poses an animator will want–because I’m an animator too.

Malcolm was made with the amazing capabilities of Softimage. The Softimage version of Malcolm was released today–and already it’s going like hotcakes (free things often do that!)

The updates to the Maya version will be completed in about a week; possibly longer. Then students and interested onlookers can check out the Maya version. (There are some restrictions on using Malcolm)

We will continue with fixes, wardrobe changes–and new characters. If you like what you see, wait ’til you see what’s coming from AnimSchool!

So enjoy this result of lots of work, and the fulfillment of a dream. And honor my dream by spreading the word about AnimSchool and our characters!

Dave Gallagher