Saturday, 20 January 2018

Why Animators Need to "Progress the Action"

Brer Fox - copyright Disney
One of the most common mistakes made by junior animators is not progressing the action in their animation. In other words, making animation that is too static and immobile.

Progressing the Action is a concept developed in the Animator's Survival Kit, in which Williams describes it as the "secret of lipsync". But what does progressing the action really mean? And how does it work in practice?

Friday, 19 January 2018

Animation Taster Day Friday Jan 26th

Learn to animate a bird in flight
Want to try computer animation, but not sure if it's right for you? Come along to an Animation Taster Day in London on Friday January 26th.

Animation Taster Days are all about helping prospective students learn about character and creature animation, and find out what an animator's job is all about.

The classes take place at Escape Studios in Shepherd's Bush, West London. You will work with Autodesk Maya and the Adobe Creative Suite, and you’ll get a hands-on introduction to 3D Animation techniques, all for just £25!  By the end of the day you'll have your own piece of animation uploaded to your YouTube channel.  So, how do you sign up?

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Why Animators Should Draw Facial Expressions

Copy an Emoji
3D animators don't necessarily need strong drawings skills (I know many excellent 3D animators who don't draw well at all), but an ability to draw at least a little bit does help, especially for creating rough thumbnail sketches to plan out your animation.

One of the most common mistakes made by student animators is to leave out the facial expressions on their thumbnail sketches. You'd think that it would be obvious to include facial expressions, but many students don't - probably because faces can seem hard to draw.

In fact, adding rough facial expressions doesn't need to be that difficult. Think of the emotion you want to convey, and then copy an emoji. Is the character happy? Sad? Angry? There's an emoji online for every expression.

Monday, 15 January 2018

50 Ways to Sit by Kevin Parry

50 Ways to Sit by Kevin Parry follows on from 100 Ways to Walk, an inventive and clever imagining on the many different ways in which people move, and what this tells us about their character and personality. 50 Ways to Sit takes the same idea, and shows how much variation there in the way that different people might carry out a normal, simple action, like sitting down. It also shows how important it is for animators to get used to acting out their shots, filming themselves, and then using the footage as reference for their work. It's one of the most important, and least well understood, parts of the animation process.

Friday, 12 January 2018

"Bring Your Own Animation" Monday 22 January

Calling all London-based animators - "Bring Your Own Animation" is taking place on Monday 22 January, hosted by Kate Gabriel, 3D Artist at MPC.

BYOA is an animation event that takes place every month at a pub in London, generally on a Monday night. This month the event is taking place at The Lukin pub in Fitzrovia.

If you are a student who is working on a shot or an updated reel, bring your work on a USB or hard drive and get feedback from professional animators. You'll also hear the local gossip and find out the word on the street; there is often useful intel like - who is hiring?

Friday, 5 January 2018

Get Ready for January 8 Class

The book all animators need
What kind of preparation should students do before starting with us in our January classroom, starting on January 8th?  It's always good to do a little preparation and get a bit of a head start.

Below is a brief list of stuff to get you under way. You don't have to do all of it, but tick off a few of the things on this list and you will be a making a great start on your animation career.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Why Animators Shouldn't Break the 4th Wall

Don't look at the camera
One of the most common mistakes made by student animators is to have their characters talk directly to the camera.

Inexperienced animators often do this, at least at first. We pose out our character and we think - who is she talking to? I know - she's talking to me! But in a film, or a play, or a TV Series, the camera (ie the audience) is almost always an observer, never a participant.

Part of the so-called Willing Suspension of Disbelief is that the characters acting for us don't know we are there.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Six New Year's Resolutions for Animators

Happy 2018
What should an animator's new year's resolutions be? Animation is a growing business with many opportunities, especially in our home town of London where VFX, film and animated TV series continue to expand. My inbox is full of requests for skilled animators, so the future is bright for those with the right training.

That said, the world of animation and vfx is a competitive one, and good animators need to be smart to stay on top of their game.  So, apart from eating less, or going on a post-Christmas diet,  what are some simple ways to maintain your edge in 2018?

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Happy Christmas from Animation Apprentice!

Happy Christmas from Animation Apprentice! Laura Dunning, one of our very talented students, has done this charming piece of animation with a snowy, Christmas theme. Laura has taken the exercise of a character lifting a heavy object and turned it into a Christmas card - an excellent application of the important principle that, as animators, it isn't enough to be technically skilled, we also have to make our work entertaining and fun to watch. Congratulations to Laura on a very nice piece of animation. And a very Merry Christmas to all our friends and students, past, present and future.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Animal Locomotion for Animators

Animal Locomotion for Animators is a free eBook by paleontologist and animal locomotion expert Stuart Sumida, which you can download from his website here.

The book is an excellent resource on animal locomotion, and very useful right now for our students - who are currently tackling animal and creature locomotion.

Stuart Sumida is a paleontologist who also works in showbiz; he has acted as advisor to countless Hollywood films including Spirit - Stallion of the Cimarron, where he gave extensive talks to the animators (including me) on horse locomotion. To find the free download, follow this link. And to read more about Stuart Sumida's work, see this blog post.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Free Horse Rig by Mothman TD

horse rig by Mothman TD
We're liking this horse rig available for free download from the Mothman TD website.

It's an excellent choice for animating quadruped locomotion, a useful alternative to the (also very good) Rhett the Clydesdale rig.

So, how can our students get the most out of this rig?

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

bhPathAnim by Brian Horgan

bh_pathAnim Launch Video from Brian Horgan on Vimeo.

The very talented Brian Horgan has just released a new path system for animal and creature locomotion. At $30, bhPathAnim isn't free, but it is priced attractively and could be on any animator's Christmas wish-list. Brian Hogan describes bh_pathAnim as "a robust and flexible new tool for path animation in Maya". His goal was to make it "simple and intuitive", easy to "attach any rig, with any number of limbs and body controls, to a path and animate it walking or running along it". bh_pathAnim "will work for bipeds, quadrupeds, and insects". We haven't had a chance to road-test it yet, but it does look very handy. You can download the new tool from

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Wolfdog Rig from HighEnd3D

We're liking this Wolfdog rig, available for free download from He is loosely based on the character Balto from the movie, and has a good range of controls and even facial expressions.

The rig does have some limitations, especially in the way the wrists and feet have been rigged, but you can get some really nice character work out of Wolf dog.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

2018 VFX Festival Lineup

Escape Studios' 2018 VFX Festival is fast approaching.  As in previous years, Escape has got some great speakers coming to talk about the latest developments in Animation, Games and VFX.

Here at Animation Apprentice we strongly recommend our students attend events like this one. It's a great way to find out what's going on in our industry and, best of all, to meet the recruiters from London's leading animation and VFX houses. Below are some of the VFX, games and animation companies who will be speaking in February.

Monday, 4 December 2017

London International Animation Festival

The London International Animation Festival (LIAF), the UK’s largest animation festival, is now on, having returned for its 14th year with a series of screenings of the best shorts and features, both domestic and international, including children’s screenings and the Best of the Fest.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Leopard Rig by Truong

We're liking this Leopard Rig by Truong, available for free download at Gumroad. It is an attractive, well-structured rig with simple controls, and it's pretty easy to figure out how to use it.

In order to get real-time playback in your viewport in Maya, you need to go into your Animation Preferences (bottom right hand corner of the screen) and then under Settings/Animation/Evaluation change Evaluation Mode to Parallel.

So, how do students get the most out of this rig?

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Design (and Animate) Like a Rockstar

Eugene Riecansky, founder and CEO of Rockstar, a motion graphics company based in Norwich, East Anglia, gave a superb talk at the recent BlueGFX Expo in London titled "How to Design like a Rockstar". 

It was an excellent talk because it brought to life the extraordinarily fast-paced nature of doing video work for clients, working to insane deadlines to create unique video content for bands doing live gigs and performances.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Where Do Animators Find Live Action Reference?

Where can animators find useful live action reference? Reference is often a necessary starting point for producing believable animation. Of course, YouTube is a great resource, but it can be hard to find what you want, and you may need to dig within YouTube to find particular channels that specialise in what you need.  Below is a list of some of the best online resources that we are recommending to find the perfect live action reference.

Monday, 20 November 2017

RIP Mental Ray

Mental Ray 3D Render
NVidia, makers of the once-ubiquitous ray tracer Mental Ray, have announced in a press release that it is to be discontinued.

Mental Ray used to come bundled free with Autodesk Maya and, until recently, have released a version of their software which is free for student use.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Pixar Colour Scripts

Finding Nemo Colour Script.
Colour Scripts are an important part of the animation process; they allow the director to get a feel for what the movie will look like, long before the animation and lighting is complete.

Sequence by sequence, and even shot by shot, colour stylists (i.e. painters) plan the mood and look of the film as part of the pre-production process.

To see the master designers at Pixar at work, follow this link to view the actual colour scripts used on hits like Finding Nemo.

Monday, 13 November 2017

Storyboard With Panel Forge Pro

At last week's Blue GFX Expo, Blue Zoo’s Tom Box announced that Panel Forge Pro, their new storyboard and pipeline tool, is now available for free for student use.