Monday, January 19, 2015

Student Spotlight: Xin Zhao

We'd like to introduce Animschool student Xin Zhao! You may have already heard of her, because she has been previously interviewed for her outstanding work with a Malcolm mod, and has become a reoccurring name in our character Animation Showcase. We decided to catch up with her to ask her a few questions and see how she's been doing.

So to start us off, tell us about yourself! What is your background? Where are you from and what brought you to the animation industry?
I grew up in a family of photographers in Beijing, so I was introduced to arts pretty early. I always loved to draw and to watch an insane amount on cartoon on TV like every kids. I also had hundreds of Mickey Mouse Magazines in my room. So my family sent me to professional fine art school on weekends since I was in primary school and then I became a full-time student there during high school. With all my skills of drawing and design, I was going to choose the path of being a Graphic or Fashion designer. But then I attended a lecture given by a lecturer from my university, he gave me the idea of being an animator! It just hit my head! Just like that, I left home to do my animation degree in UK. My time at university allowed me to learn about 3D from zero. Right after me and my partner Florent finished our final year animation short called The Answer, which has been chosen as ''Staff Picks'' on Vimeo, we landed ourselves jobs as animators at Ubisoft in 2013. I met a lot of great people at Ubisoft and it encouraged me to enroll in Animschool to continue my animation study and to become a better animator.
Sounds like a great sucess story of how a strong portfolio can get you work. Tell us what you do at Ubisoft 
At Ubisoft. I'm currently working on an upcoming open world third-person shooter games named Tom Clancy's The Division. My job is to create realistic In-game animations for the player character's navigation system, both keyframe and motion-capture, which requires a huge amount of animation cycles and transitions to bring the Division agents to life. At the very beginning of the project, we had to prototype these animation systems and work closely with the game designers. And then we create the animations needed and implement them in the game engine. The challenge is both artistic and technical but it is always satisfying to see your system work in game.

Before that, I had chances to work on other Ubisoft games, polishing facial animations on another open world game called Watch Dogs, and some pedestrian animations for a open world racing game called The Crew.
It sounds like you have a good amount of professional experience, may I ask why you decided to join animschool even though you already have your foot in the door? 
I do enjoy it if I can get home from work and just relax, but sometimes it makes me feel like I'm a lazy person. So after a few month since I started to work I decided to push myself an extra mile and join AnimSchool. Efficiently it made me feel better about myself and more importantly, It will help me build up a better portfolio and gain myself more animation skills by learning from industry experts. In a couple of years, I see myself working on either animated features or VFX films depends on what opportunities comes up and the portfolio that I will get from my AnimSchool classes will definitely help me to achieve it. And at this early stage of my career, I have all the time I need to learn more things. So I started with Class 1 even if I already had some animation skills, just to get myself a really solid foundation and make sure I really nail down all the basics. Now I'm in Class 6 already, I feel like I have learn so much more about animation at AnimSchool and I have met other animation students here with the same goal which is also a great thing and it is really motivating.
You have a great amount of work in our student showcase, can you pick your favorite shot and tell us about it? 
Yeah it was such a honor to have my work included in the student showcase :) I really enjoyed animating every shots and the one that I enjoyed the most was my Class 4 Body Acting shot. I have been animating a lot of realistic shots so I listened to my Class 5 tutor Ben's advice and tried to do something really cartoony this time, also to add some variety in my portfolio. The process was fun. It was really hard to shoot the reference because I had to move so much for hours and hours, jumping, running from a side of the room to another and fake flying on a sofa, although I didn't end up using my video reference as much as I thought since it's all so cartoony hahaha. When I animate, I tried to experiment the cartoony style as much as I can, playing with shapes, smear frames and multiples, it was really a great and fun process. A big thanks to all of my tutors too, they are just great!

Do you have a favorite lesson or quote from your instructor you'd like to share? 
It is difficult to pick a lesson out of everything I learn during my time at Animschool. But recently, during class 5 (character performance) my instructor helped me to understand when to move from blocking to spline. It is easy to learn the workflow steps but it can be quite challenging to know when it is not helping anymore to stay in blocking on some special shots and when to move on. 
Are there any animators or specific animation shots that inspire you?
I often watch frame by frame through animated features, shorts, or animation tests to learn from the others. One of my favorite film to scroll through is Hotel Transylvania, they get away with so many crazy shapes and transitions and it looks awesome, and each single poses are fun to watch. One of my favorite shots from that film is when Dracula is telling Jonathan to move his hands away from his eyeballs. I just loved how Dracula was posed and the little movements on this fingers:

Tell us about your workflow! 
There are different ways to approach a shot. But normally I try to work things out in my brain at first. It includes thinking about what is the character's situation and the emotion of the scene. Once I know my story and the style I want to go for, I like to watch some movies which fit the style to get in the mood and gather ideas for my acting. Then I usually move on to shooting references. I record a few hours and end up with 2 or 3 takes that I really like. When I create my scene and before animating, I like to waste a few hours on creating a nice environment haha. Finally, I create my key story telling poses and then I add more and more breakdowns and overshoot etc etc until my keys are on 2s. I spline and polish after that. Of course, during the whole process I receive a lot of feedback from my class instructors, the general review and sometimes my colleagues at work.

Thank you taking the time to speak with us, Xin!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Anthea Kerou - Bouncing ball Basics

In AnimSchool's Introduction to 3D Animation, our teacher Anthea Kerou shows how to properly animate a Boucing ball.

As you may know, Bouncing ball is the first and most important animation that every aspiring animator should do, many times over. Mastering this exercise means that you began understanding Timing, Spacing as well as Arcs.


This is clip from AnimSchool's Introduction to 3D Animation. To view more great class clips, visit and join AnimSchool:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

AnimSchool Students at CTN Animation Expo!

Wondering what is it like to attend CTN? We've asked a few questions to some of our students and graduates that were there this year. This is what they've said.

AnimSchool Booth at CTN

1) Best bit about CTN 2014?

For me, the whole experience was awesome. Meeting fellow students from different classes, instructors, AnimSchool staff and networking with so many talented people from all over the world was something very inspiring. Also thanks to Disney Animator Tony Bonilla and DreamWorks Animator Ben Rush (who happened to be my instructor at that moment), we had amazing guided tours on those studios. (Martin Schusterman)

AnimSchoolers with Animators Tony Bonilla and Ryan Hobbiebrunken at Disney Studios

AnimSchool Students with Animator Ben Rush at DreamWorks Animation Studios
Being surrounded by all the industry and being able to chat or meet the most talented artists, that furthermore, inspire constantly. (Max Schneider)

Meeting so many artists that I've been following on social media for a long time. It was a realization that these guys were real people, not just fan pages. (Talin Tanielian)

Meeting AnimSchool instructors and friends in real life. General reviews can feel distant at times because everyone is behind a screen but talking to each other in real life is always a treat. (Obo Agboghidi)
AnimSchool Graduation at CTN

It was an awesome experience. I really liked that you can meet so many talented people and at the same tine you realize that all those people are just like anyone of us! (Carlos Rivas)

Meet a lot of great artists and share my work with them. (Paul Gagobel)

There were so many best bits it's hard to answer this! But I think the most valuable part was meeting so many awesome people, networking, and just making some good friends (and finally meeting the awesome friends I've made at AnimSchool!). The atmosphere there was super friendly which is what really made the entire experience a lot of fun. (Jonah Sidhom)

All CTN was awesome, the workshops were great but what I liked the most was to see Danny Williams sculpting (ZBrush). In less than an hour real time he went from a caricature to a real model. And of course Animschool graduation! (Julia Marenco)

2) "Didn't see that coming" moment?

Glen Keane with AnimSchool Graduate Carlos Rivas
How popular CTN is. Each year it seems to get bigger and bigger. (Obo Agboghidi)

Shaking hands with Glen Keane! (I won't wash my hand ever again). (Carlos Rivas)

Everyone was so approachable and kind. As intimidating as it felt for me to meet so many incredible artists that have inspired me throughout the years, I had nothing to worry about because they were all so humble and they offered amazing advice. (Talin Tanielian)

The interview with Disney Infinity. And the good feedback on the reviews from both recruiters and artists. Also maybe when Peter de Seve signed me the book and told me to send him the 3D model I was doing of his character. (Paul Gagobel)

I was expecting less to be honest, but perhaps could be related to how crowded it can get. Because of that, I missed some talks (which I've had already paid), so I guess I've missed that "expected moment" :P (Max Schneider)
Eric Goldberg with AnimSchool Student Martin Schusterman

I didn't expect to have such a blast when I met animation legend Eric Goldberg, sharing so much knowledge with a small group of people. So much fun and entertaining. Great inspiration. (Martin Schusterman)

I ran into Glen Keane in the hallway and got to meet him!! (Jonah Sidhom)

For me were the interviews with the Studios, I really "didn't see that coming". (Julia Marenco)

3) Lesson learnt for the future

Continuing perfecting my craft. The industry is looking for the best people around and we need to improve all the time to not be left behind, and of course keep applying for jobs no matter how many times I have been refused. Part of professionalism is to understand how the industry works. (Max Schneider)
BlueSky Animators Drew Winey and Graham Silva on "Animating the Villains of Rio 2"
Take chances, and always be kind. All of the artists and animators I met were kind and seemed like they were cool to work with. I've heard from many of the attendees that being easy to work with will help you get ahead in the industry, not just good artwork or animation skills. If you don't have a good personality, you're pretty much stuck. (Talin Tanielian)

Genndy Tartakovsky's Master Class at CTN
The biggest thing I've learned was how many smaller studios and projects are going around. It's easy to forget that animation is more than tentpole movies.  The Dam Keeper, Song of the Sea and The Ottoman were really impressive projects being done outside of a major studio. (Obo Agboghidi)

The lines were really long for reel reviews, so next year I'll get to them earlier so I can get more reviews in! (Jonah Sidhom)

Bring Personal Cards!! (Martin Schusterman)

All the time I've spent in CTN was about learning. Perhaps, I need to prepare better for studio interviews and portfolio reviews. It's a big opportunity to meet with the studios so we must seize it. (Julia Marenco)

Spend more time reviewing my portfolio and talk more with the recruiters. (Paul Gagobel)

Need to take more personal cards!! Hahah! (Carlos Rivas)

4) Coming back next year?

Yes, I hope so! (Julia Marenco)

Of course! I met way too many wonderful people and made great friends and connections. It was a world where artists could talk, share ideas, express themselves, and have a blast! (Talin Tanielian)

If the economy is on my side, absolutely! But I will go way more prepared so the feedback I get there is more and more precise, until eventually my demoreel will open doors to me on the most talented studios. And once I got there, continue growing as an artist. (Max Schneider)

I haven’t decided yet between Siggraph and CTN but yes! I would love to attend CTN next year. (Paul Gagobel)

Absolutely! (Obo Agboghidi)

Yes, it's my graduation so I will do everything I can to be there! (Martin Schusterman)

I'll definitely try!! (Carlos Rivas)

Absolutely, wouldn't miss it for anything! (Jonah Sidhom)

Thanks to all who have answered our questions!
Thanks to Max Schneider, Carlos Rivas and Martin Schusterman for the pictures.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Drawing Class with Sylwia Bomba

In AnimSchool's Drawing Class, our amazing Instructor - Sylwia Bomba shares some of her tips on how to approach drawing.
Similar to animation, she first blocks out the shapes, and then adds the details.

As many of you already know, drawing is so helpful in animation career. Being able to sketch out the poses or ideas quickly is a big advantage in this industry. Also, while drawing - you train your eyes to see simpler shapes, analyse everything, and what could be more useful to an animator than that?


Drawing classes (and many more) are available to all Animschool students for free. In order to enjoy this benefit come and join us at

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

AnimSchool's Animation Student Showcase 2014

AnimSchool has released our new Animation Student Showcase for 2014!
We would like to salute all our students, recognizing the huge amount of work each one of these assignments represents and the level of talent they are achieving.

The quality of our students, our programs, instruction, and our appealing characters is seen in this impressive showcase.

If you want to recognize their efforts, comment on the youtube section.

To learn 3D animation skills with us, apply at Talk to an admissions advisor using our Live Chat, phone, or email.
(The work of AnimSchool's amazing rigging and modeling students (Character Program) is featured separately in another Showcase.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

AnimSchool Interview: John Paul Rhinemiller

Animschool: Hello John, please tell us a bit about yourself: 

Currently I am a Lead Cinematics Animator at Vicarious Visions, Activision Blizzard. I recently finished work on Skylanders:Swapforce, where I helped develop a cinematic pipeline and worked with the directors and writers to create story driven cinematics from concept to final render. Before VV I was a Lead Animator at Rhythm & Hues and had the chance of working with both creature and character animation. Having both film and game experience gives me a great understanding on a wide range of animation styles. I have worked on titles such as Hop, Yogi Bear, Alvin and The Chipmunks, and Red Dead Redemption.

Did you go straight for an animation job or was your career as an animator more opportunity-based?

I went straight for an animation job. When I was at SCAD studying for my Masters, I concentrated everything I had into animation and tailored my reel specifically toward that.

What game influenced you the most?

As a kid I think one of the biggest influences on me was Sonic. I was lucky enough to get a Sega Genesis one year for Xmas and it came with Sonic. That was one of the first times that I remember looking at a game and wondering how they made it. It was such an exciting game...still is fun to play.

                                      Skylanders Swap Force - John Paul Rhinemiller Demoreel

Tell us about your normal work day? What are your responsibilities? What is the best and what is the worst part?
So that question I think has to be answers a few ways, it depends on when in development we are.

During Pre-production and early stages of development its all about Story. So I work with the writer and a small team to break the script down, develop storyboards and put everything together on animatics. This part is always super fun and exciting. It keeps me fresh and always challenges me to think outside the box and really push our ideas

Then during production I have two roles:

1. Manage the cinematics team.
- Making sure they are getting what they need for assets and tech to be able to do their jobs efficiently.
 - I provide a ton of feedback and review sessions to constantly try to push the quality higher and higher.
- I work with production to make sure that we are coming in within budget and that has to do a lot with scheduling.
2. I also keep animating. Probably not as much as I would like sometimes but I always take on shots in most sequences to stay fresh and push myself.

Please share your workflow with us.

- It really depends on the shot but most of the time I start by shooting lots of reference...if I can’t find that I look for it..these days mostly on Pinterest.
- Then I may sketch out a few of the areas, maybe transitions that I still need to wrap my brain around especially body mechanics heavy shots.
- Once I get into 3D I just start blocking out my Key Poses. No timing yet just on like 2s. I can flip back and forth on those keys to see how the flow is working.

- Once I’ve worked all of those out I start to time it out and refine any poses that need it. Then send out for feedback.
- I go back and usually do a blocking plus pass to add in breakdowns, overshoots and even ease ins and outs sometimes depending on the shot. Send out for feedback.
- Then a rough pass - get feedback
- Final Polish pass - in games if we have time for this pass...unfortunately the amount of time and work you have along with a smaller team in games, doesn't allow for the polish pass that I used to do in film.

You have been in the industry for a long time. How do you stay fresh? Do you have any fears from burning out?

I constantly am looking at other animation and framing through stuff. I think that inspires me alot, because almost every shot is going to be different whether its in film or cinematics. Every new shot seems like its own challenge and I think that will always keep me guessing and learning. Seeing other animators shots at work always motivates me to keep pushing my own shots. Getting feedback a lot always reminds me how I can learn new things and see animation differently.
I think it’s natural to feel burnt out occasionally. Animation is like a roller coaster and there are highs and lows I feel. You can get bursts of energy and motivation that last long stretches in production and then come down the hill and struggle a bit. The key is to figure out ways to help push you through the lows. Getting inspired and getting feedback have always helped me push through some of those times. Trying to strike a good balance between work and life I think can also help you not burn out as much. Its super important to turn off the animator brain occasionally even though I feel that’s easier said than done.

Since you are a Game Animator, we just have to ask - what's your favorite game character? And while we're at it, what's the best character you had a chance to animate?

Well animating John Marston in Red Dead Redemption was a ton of fun, but lately Flynn in the Skylands Franchise has been a blast. He is that quirky cartoony character that always has a ton of fun dialogue. 

- Do you enjoy being a teacher? At AnimSchool, you have your own Game Animation class - how's that going for 
I have had a great time so far teaching. I feel lucky to have any part in future a animators career path however large or small that may be.
It has been a ton of fun working with Jarrod on the course and I especially have been having a blast teaching some creature stuff with the new Hellhound character. I think being a teacher has inspired me as well in ways that I wasn’t seeing before I became a teacher at AnimSchool.

                                           John and AnimSchool students at the end of the term

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Animschool Interview: Sony Imageworks Lead Animator Kevin Jackson

Today we would like to welcome the talented 3D Animator Kevin Jackson. Tell us a little about yourself, what is your background? How did you get into character animation?

Like most kids I grew up on cartoons, but I’d say a turning point for me was Roger Rabbit. The baby Herman cartoon at the opening and the three Roger Rabbit shorts that followed blew me away; I knew this is what I wanted to do. Also, like most animators, I have great admiration for the old goofy shorts. Nothing teaches the principles of animation better than goofy. I have entire shorts saved out as image sequences just so I can analyze the frames, memorize the timing, spacing, etc.
In college I studied animation for four years, two of which were taught by former Disney director Hendel Butoy. Of all the influences that got me to where I am today, he is the one I have to thank the most.

Where are you currently working? What is your job there?

My first job in film was Rhythm and Hues. I started in 2007 and worked as an animator and supervisor until 2013 when I got hired at Sony Imageworks for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2. I’m currently working as a lead animator on Hotel Transylvania 2, directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, but in between projects I had the pleasure of working on the Popeye test with Genndy and a handful of animators.

You have an interesting reel with creature animation but also some cartoony stuff. What do you like about each style?

The nice thing about realistic animation is it forces you to be hypersensitive. Everyone is an expert on realistic motion, specifically human faces, so if anything is off it will be noticed right away, even if the viewer is unsure of what is actually flawed. In a way you have to rely on the principles of animation even more because things have to be exaggerated just slightly so they don’t feel flat. Timing, spacing and arcs are where you really want to focus the exaggeration.
The downside to realistic animation is that most directors are not themselves animators and they have little understanding of the process. The animation is treated like a live action shot and they need to see a fully fleshed out, nearly complete version before they can give notes. It’s like someone is standing behind the camera saying, “Good! Now let’s try it this way, maybe one where you turn and walk this direction instead of that,” and so one, but in the animation world that takes weeks of work. If you get a shot that is particularly vague, meaning the director is really unsure of what he wants, you can be buried there for several months.

Cartoony animation, on the other hand, tends to move a lot quicker. In this world, most directors are animators themselves, and you get much better, more precise notes. Both Cloudy 2, HT2 and the Popeye test were a dream to work on because the notes are so clear and the director knows exactly what he wants. With those things in place, it really just comes down to how the shots are cast; making sure the right people get the shots that are just right for them. My passion is with cartoony animation, and I’m lucky to be at Sony because of all the big studios they seem to be pushing things in this direction the farthest. If you liked the Popeye test you will be blown away by what Genndy has planned for the film.

Having worked on realistic animation for about six years prior to Sony has taught me many valuable skills that I would have missed had I gone straight into cartoony stuff. I much prefer cartoony, but the former has made me a stronger animator.

Your latest “Wake Up Call” shot featuring Malcolm really caught the eye of the animation community and it's really entertaining with some broad animation. Did you have any goals before approaching the shot? What was your process for it? Could you share your workflow with us?

My goal was to animate something just for the sake of animation. Obviously, there isn't really much story to it. It’s “guy at work wakes up to a ringing phone and tries to answer it.” Try pitching that. “Seriously, it’ll be great! he gets stuck balancing on his chair, but can’t reach it, then he spins around and has all sorts of trouble… really you gotta believe me.” Nope, this is the kind of thing you want to do on your own, and really Malcolm is the perfect rig for it. 

Malcolm is the perfect mix of speed and flexibility. You have no idea how lucky you are to be able to play your shot in real time and get those kinds of noodle limbs and deformations until you work with crazy slow rigs in feature film. Each set of arms attached to Malcolm is a complete rig, so I had maybe 8 extra rigs in the file and could still scrub at high speeds as long as they were un-smoothed.

As for my process: animation is an interesting thing, as soon as you think you have your workflow figured out the next shot you get will force you to re-examine your workflow. Every shot is unique and so your workflow is constantly evolving. I’ll try to share a few things that worked well for me this particular piece.

I started by posing out all the key pose Ideas I had in my head. I do this on ones, so each pose is a new frame. I’m not concerned with timing yet, I just want to get the ideas on screen so that I can step through them manually and try to visualize if the idea works or not. After a couple days I think I had about 70 poses, each one representing the pose Malcolm strikes for each balancing act. With all the poses in place, all you have to worry about is timing and how your going to transition to and from each pose. At this point, no constraints are set up. If you set up your constraints from the very beginning, you may find out later on that you wish you had set them up differently. In my blocking, I usually just put things where they belong, and then when I’m ready to spline I can figure out exactly how things need to be setup to enable the smoothest transition of my curves in the graph editor.

The next step was to get the timing down. So keeping the keys in stepped, I began adjusting them throughout the timeline until I had roughly the timing I thought was right. It’s never quite right going from blocking to spline because your mind fills in the gaps for the blocking even if there is not enough frames. Once the computer fills in the gap for you, you find out that you need a lot more time for a transition.

Next I figured out the constraints. I set it up so that the feet could be attached to the chair no matter which leg of the chair was the pivot. From there it’s just a matter of filling in the gaps, making sure each transition happens the way you want it.

The extra limbs and smear frames were the last thing to add. For the limbs, I took an extra Malcolm and deleted all his poly faces except for his arms. Then I referenced that in as many times as needed and parented them to his body. Whenever needed I just snapped them in place, then hid them afterwords. For the end there are about 8 rigs wrapping around his body. It proved too difficult to hide the connection point of each arm so instead I painted that out by hand in photoshop.

The most important part is the blocking. Make sure every part of each pose is deliberate. You want clear shapes and pleasing curves to move your eye where you want it. If something is not quite straight then commit to one or the other. Either make it obviously straight or not. Nothing should live in between shape ideas.

That’s it for now! I have another one in progress with lots of new exciting ideas, but who knows when that will finish. HT2 is getting busier and busier so it may be a while.

Thank you very much for your time, Kevin!!