Category: student work

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Jilmar Altamirano

Today we are interviewing AnimSchool student Jilmar Altamirano. Jilmar is taking the 3D Animation Program at AnimSchool and is showing some real talent in his animations!

Hi Jilmar! Can you share a bit about yourself, where you’re from, experience with animation prior to AnimSchool, and background?
I’m 20 years old and I currently live in Gainesville, FL. I was born in Ecuador and when I was 12 years old I moved to the US. When I was little, like most kids, I loved watching cartoons and playing video games. In particular, a video game called “Skullmonkeys” which I really enjoyed. At that moment I did not know anything about animation, or that people actually could make a living off of it. A few years ago I remembered about “Skullmonkeys” and decided to get it again. I still loved it. That’s when I started to do some research about animation and began to practice stop motion animation. After months of doing stop motion, I switched to computer animation.

Skullmonkeys in-game animation

The first year of my learning experience I watched tons of tutorials learning as much I can about modeling, rigging, lighting, rendering, etc. I really enjoyed all of those, but animation was still my priority. Learning animation with tutorials or on your own is very limited. So I decided to take my education further. I did not choose a college because of the poor reviews a lot of them got and how expensive they were. I looked into online animation schools. Luckily I found Animschool. I was really impressed with the student showcase, and the characters were very appealing. So I applied and here I am blessed to be doing this interview, and to have a very supportive family, friends and instructors.

Who are your favorite animators and artists?
I really don’t have a favorite animator or artist in particular; but if I had to pick I would say the whole team responsible for creating The Neverhood / Skullmonkeys because without them I probably would have never found my passion for animation. I also look up to my Animschool instructors. They are all great animators who are very supportive which inspires me to keep pushing myself.
We can see a very good foundation on your shot for your Body Acting class assignment. Can you describe how the idea came up and what was your process?

The idea of having a Halloween theme on my animation just popped in my head for some reason. It could have been because Halloween was coming up and also because I wanted to use the awesome “BoneApart” rig.
I won’t take all the credit for the idea, my story was improved by my awesome instructor at the time, Trevor Young, and at a general reviews class with another great instructor, Tony Bonilla.
I did not know I was going to do a cartoony piece until the middle of my first blocking, but I just felt like it needed to be snappy and it would just add to the comedy of the shot.

For the blocking I always try to block on 3’s or 4’s, but since this was a very snappy animation I found myself having to block on 1’s in those transitions.

For splining, I find it easy because of how much time I spend blocking. I just have to go through all my curves, cleaning them up, making sure the mechanics are there and the arcs are clean.

For polishing, I would say I focused 75% of the time I had on the kid and 25% on the skeleton. Since the kid was the focus of the shot I tried to polish him as much as I could, going frame by frame checking that every arc was clean.

You also have a great shot for the Character Performance class. Can you share your process from start to finish?

Picking audio clip: When I picked this audio clip I was telling myself: “what have I done? This is going to be way too hard for me.” I had no experience with dialogue shots, so I knew it was going to be very challenging for me from the beginning.

I listened to the audio like a hundred times. The character sounded very crazy and manipulative. I pictured the character in my head but when I would try to act it out it just wouldn’t be the same.

Reference: My instructor, Marcelo Sakai, recommended me to study Mother Gothel from Tangled, so I did. I watched all her clips from the movie a bunch of times. I shot a lot of reference; I mean a lot, maybe like one hour of footage in total. I also had a lot of help from my wife who acted it out. She helped me see a more girly performance and she made some acting choices I would have never thought of.

Blocking: Finally got my reference and after the fourth or fifth week of class I had my first blocking pass. It had a few story telling poses maybe 4 or 5 with basic facial expressions.

Blocking Plus: I added a lot of breakdowns, blocked on 3’s and 4’s. I refined some facial expressions and blocked all basic mouth shapes.

Spline: I splined the body first, cleaned all my curves. At this point I found myself getting more into the character, and finding facial expressions that fit the dialogue better. After spline on the body was done, I splined everything on the face except the mouth. I cleaned those curves, and then moved into the mouth, pushing the shapes. I had a lot of fun with those mouth shapes.

Polish: At this point I focused mostly on the face and hands, going frame by frame checking every arc, even the arc of the corner of the mouth. Also pushed mouth shapes even more. Added more fleshiness on the face and I worked on the hair.

I am really happy with how it turned out at the end. All my instructors were very helpful and supportive throughout the whole term.

How did your instructors help you achieve the desired quality in your animations?
My instructors are very supportive. When you tell them your goals for the term on your first day of class, they won’t stop pushing you until you reach that goal. They are all very talented artists and that is why my animation has improved so much over the past year. I tried to attend to as many extra classes offered in Animschool as possible.
The General Review classes have been very helpful. The instructors there care about your progress as much as your main instructor.
I can’t thank all of them enough, and I can’t thank Animschool enough for having all these amazing instructors!

Any advice for your fellow students?

Always try to challenge yourself on your assignments, try different things you haven’t tried on your previous work, like different styles (cartoony or realistic), different workflows, if you have only animated guys, then try animating girls, animals, robots, etc. Experiment a lot.

Don’t give up! If your assignment isn’t coming out like how you hoped, don’t get frustrated just keep working on it, it will look great in the end. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback.
If you send your reel to studios and don’t hear back from them, it doesn’t matter: just keep improving your reel, and keep sending it to more studios.
Work hard!

We thank Jilmar for his time, and be sure to check out his siteVimeo and LinkeIn pages!

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Laura Loossens

We’d like to present you Laura Loossens, student of the 3D Animation Program at AnimSchool. Hi Laura! Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself, like your background and experience before AnimSchool?

Before I even thought of being an animator, I studied economics and languages in high school. After that I started psychology at the University of Ghent but I didn’t felt passionate about it. I did however love to draw but I never thought to be doing something creative in the future. Until the moment one of my friends suggested a brand new educational program, Digital Arts and Entertainment (DAE), that only recently emerged in Belgium which was specialized in all the things I admired: 3D, 2D, animation and video games.
During my 3 years at Digital Arts and Entertainment I learned a bit of everything, even programming which I failed for in my first year. I had some trouble in the beginning with all the courses, simply because everything was new to me.
Nevertheless I never worked this hard for something, just because I loved to do it! All the hard work paid off and at the end of my studies I won the prize of best 3D artist and together with my awesome teammates, we won the prize of best game!
After my studies I started working in a small visual effects studio where I did various jobs but my main function was modeler and shader. I learned a lot and got better each day but there was no growing possibility as an animator in the studio, so I made a crucial decision to start the animation course at AnimSchool!

What made you want to be a character animator?

My first source of inspiration came from the many Disney movies I saw when I was a kid and later on movies like ‘Ratatouille’,’ Cloudy with a chance of meatballs’ and ‘Horton hears a who’ were a big inspirations for leading me in the direction of becoming a character animator.
My second source of inspiration came during my last year at DAE when we got the chance to create our own short and were completely free doing so. I came up with a little story named ‘Little Rico’ and made the clip in a short amount of time. During the development, I probably looked like a zombie but I also had the most fun bringing my story and characters to life. This was a decisive moment, I knew I was going to become an animator.

Laura’s student short animation “Little Rico”

Do you have any favorite artists that inspire you?

There are many different people that inspire me since the internet provides us a variety of animation clips, and I get inspired by many of them. I’ve seen some of them over and over, just to get a better understanding on their appeal.
Also, I will always have a passion for 2D animation. It is a medium that appealed to me ever since I was young. When I look at the work made by the artists at Bird Box Studio I get really inspired by the perfect timing and simplicity of their clips.

Your Facial Performance shot is a great piece. Can you tell a bit more about your process from start to finish?

Laura’s facial performance assignment

The sound I chose was one that had been stuck in my mind for quite some time. The audio had so much personality of a sassy woman demanding a new drink in her own way. With that image in mind I started shooting different kinds of reference videos and I seemed to like acting like a sassy lady.

Laura’s video reference for her facial
performance assignment

I imagined her sitting at her desk or at a bar, or not sitting down at all, just to get different angles that could look appealing. I learned this by watching a reference shot of Garrett Shikuma that showed us his variety of reference takes, just to come up with appealing poses and ideas.
After setting up my reference I start to block out my shot. I only look for the key poses that could really sell the shot. My reference served as a solid base and helped to find the key poses and timing for my animation.

After that very first pass of blocking I go over the same poses and look if the timing is working and if I can push some poses even further.
Spline is the next step where I spend time adjusting my curves. Normally I would take a long time for blocking however my mentor at the time, Melvin Tan, had a different approach. He would block out the scene fast and start with spline, but the method I used was the opposite.

I decided to follow Melvin’s suggestion, since it is always interesting to try out different ways of working and understand what the benefits are. In the beginning I struggled a bit but soon I discovered the benefits of working this way. I could spend more time on the details and characteristics traits of the character.

Laura’s Character Performance assignment

What was the most challenging assignment you had to deal with so far? How did you manage to overcome it’s obstacles?

I think each assignment has its challenges. Every time I overcome one challenge there is another waiting in line. But these challenges are what makes me move forward.

In my case there was the assignment for the Body Acting class. We had the possibility to create our own story without sound. I came up with a funny story of a scientist that was inventing an invisibility potion and was searching for the last clue. When he finally found it and tested it, he bumped over his potion on the chalkboard with his formula written on it.

While making this clip, I had difficulties getting the timing and poses correct. My instructor at the time, Tony Bonilla, was hard and honest. He kept pushing me in the good direction and I never gave up, even when I had to redo all my poses to really push them.

Even the latest version is not completely finished, but I had overcome so many challenges with that assignment that the following terms became a bit easier to complete, since I was better prepared for what was coming.

Laura’s Body Acting assingment

What do you think is the most important thing you learned at AnimSchool so far?

Laura’s Run and Jump assignment on Animating Characters class

Make the best of all the time you get with your instructors! Anthea Kerou taught me how to create a good base for animation, Tony Bonilla and Garrett Shikuma the importance of each stage of animation and Melvin Tan how to give your character more personality.

Listen to the feedback you get not only from your instructors but also from you fellow students. Always be critical of your work. Keep trying to get better and never think you are doing bad, since each step you take will bring you closer to your goal!

Thanks AnimSchool!

We thank Laura for her time and be sure to check out her Blog and her LinkedIn profile!

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Brian Rashcko

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

I sure can, haha!

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

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

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

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

Old works he liked were:

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

For those who are curious:

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

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

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

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

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

End result:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing else to do but move on to another shot.

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

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

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

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

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

How is your experience at AnimSchool being so far?

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

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

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

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

Do you have any advices for students just starting out?

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

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

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

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

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Ala’a Hanish

AnimSchool would like to introduce, Animation Program student, Ala’a Hanish. Can you tell us a little about your background? What brought you to AnimSchool?

Well, before animating I was programming. During my second year at a university I took a Computer Graphics class, I remembered the first lecture when the professor showed us examples of CG! My feeling at that moment was as if you take a child trip into space for the first time! Then the professor played a trailer that I hadn’t seen before, Disney’s Dinosaur, and told us that all the animation was done on a computer, this is how my dream was born.

I started learning animation by myself by reading a lot of books, watching hundreds of animated movies and practicing everyday. I downloaded free rigs from the internet and started animating. I was always looking for appealing characters with great instructors living under same roof, a place where I could fall in love with the characters that I’m animating and an instructor who would guide me through it all! I found all this at AnimSchool.

 Ala’a Hanish’s test from AnimSchool’s Class 5, Character Performance

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

The idea of bringing a character to life. I remembered when I animated a character for the first time and saw it on my screen, I screamed out: He’s alive, He’s alive! You don’t know how beautiful that feeling is, unless you’re an animator. I always try to build a relationship between me and the character to become real or “alive,” not just a file or pen on paper anymore.

What are you thinking about when choosing dialogue for you animation test?

I’m Always looking for challenging and deep dialogues, something different than my personality. I try to live the dialogue. I love the silent moments in the dialogue where the character is listening to somebody or thinking of something; in my opining these areas are where the animator shows his capabilities as an actor.

So far you’ve done 2 tests with AnimSchool’s female character Marnie, How did you make each character feel so different from one another in your tests?

Before I start animating, I always put myself in the place of my character and get inside their head as much as I can. I believe knowing your character well, will help you cross half of your animation. Even if I have 5 or 10 seconds of dialogue, I always try to come up with a story staring my character. This always leads me to knowing my character  very well. I think this is the best thing that I learned at AnimSchool. Also, the critiques that my instructor gave to me about the character itself, not about animation or Maya, not at all, it’s about performance.

Ala’a Hanish’s test from AnimSchool’s Class 6, Facial Performance

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

 Wow, that’s a hard question, my experience at AnimSchool has been amazing, learning from the top animators of the industry. This in itself is a great opportunity. I mean, one term left for me, and until now, I cannot believe that the Instructors who teach me are the same animators who animate my favorite movies. And once the term is done it’s not over, the instructors continue to see your work and give you feedback. They always push you to the next level. What’s the best thing I’ve learned from AnimSchool? Well, believe in myself and feel confident.

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

Practice, Practice and Practice, don’t be afraid of changing your whole animation. Take advice from everyone, and learn quickly how to take it well and make it your own. One more thing that I find very helpful during critique time, is to look at your classmates’ critiques carefully, not only yours because maybe the instructor gives them some feedback that could help you to improve your next animation.