Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Instructor Interview: Koji Tsukamoto

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with AnimSchool instructor and CG modeler, Koji Tsukamoto. Koji is currently teaching Environment Modeling and Intermediate Modeling: Intro to ZBrush at AnimSchool and has worked at DreamWorks Animation as a modeler for the past five years. It was a pleasure to learn more about Koji’s passion for his students and the art of modeling.

Tell us a bit about your journey. How did you get into modeling?

From childhood, I loved building and creating things.  My father worked in the auto industry and would take me to the Detroit auto show.  I became fascinated with car design and dreamt of becoming an industrial designer. My older brother is also a very artistic and creative person, he helped me realize animation was an actual career path. This quickly became my goal, I studied animation at BYU Provo and took courses online through Animschool.  I was determined to become an animator.  But I soon discovered whenever I felt stuck or stressed while animating I would model and sculpt to relax.  So I modeled.

What are some of your biggest inspirations in animation?

Studio Ghibli! I grew up watching Laputa, Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery, etc. I ate it up as a kid.  For most people who wanted to go into animation, they watched a lot of Disney films and thought Oh that’s why I wanted to go into animation. For me, it was Ghibli films. That beautiful storytelling is what made me want to go into animation. I wanted to be part of a story like that. When I was jumping into animation originally,  I was completely clueless about anything. I didn't know who any of the artists were. I just really wanted to do animation. When I  was a little kid I wanted to be a pilot and fly planes and be in the air force. And then I found out I was color blind and was like “Ahh I can’t do it!”. I remember the day I found out I couldn't be an airforce pilot was a little like Little Miss Sunshine. 


Do you think it is necessary to be able to draw or sculpt with clay in order to be a good modeler?

I always loved drawing.  I wasn’t amazing, but I loved it. Traditional sculpting, painting or drawing definitely helps enlarge one’s understanding of form, design, and style. But it’s not necessary. I’ve never really touched clay. I wouldn’t call myself very good at clay sculpting at all. So yeah I’d say you don't need it. It’s something you should study if you are interested because any design knowledge helps. But starting off it's not necessary to have that down. 3D art is like anything else. If you practice, you’ll figure it out.

Can you elaborate on your time learning at AnimSchool versus learning from YouTube tutorials and at a four-year university.

BYU (Brigham Young University) is a great school. For me though, I knew I wanted to get into modeling, but there weren’t any teachers who specialized in the technical side of modeling. Honestly, the reason why I started going to AnimSchool really was that I lacked confidence. I was unsure if what I was doing was correct. And even watching YouTube—there are so many YouTube videos—half of them are not good. Maybe they were good at the time, but now they're outdated. I just wasn't very confident whether I was modeling things correctly. 

So I was emailing artists. That's something I recommend doing: finding artists that you admire in the industry and try to reach out. If they don't respond then they’re just busy. But if they do respond then that’s awesome, right? I was lucky there were two modelers who responded to me and gave me some feedback.

I felt I needed a little bit more in-depth feedback than that, so I went to AnimSchool where I could learn from teachers who I knew specialized in modeling and could let me know whether I was doing it right or not. When I was taking my courses, a lot of my teachers asked me why I didn't skip ahead to the later classes. And yeah, I probably could've skipped ahead, but for me, it was a confidence-building experience. There were small things here and there that I didn't know, but really, the biggest thing for me was to see them model and see them confirm that what I was doing was correct, and that helped me become more confident in what I was doing.

How does environment modeling differ between feature film, TV, video games, and VFX?

A lot of the differences are technical or found in the level of detail. The budget, available software, and hardware all affect how one models. VFX and TV are more time-limited and some of the detailing will be baked maps or skipped for surfacing.  Video games rely even more so on baked detail because of the needs of real-time rendering. I believe they’re all pretty similar though. I think the biggest difference between video games and film and TV is style. If there’s a studio you like, focus on that style and that’s how you’d get into it. Like if you want to go to Pixar or Dreamworks, don't go super realistic VFX style. It’ll be hard for them to tell if you can make models in their style. Definitely tailor your stuff to what you want to do.

Can you talk a bit more about the styles you teach in your modeling class?

In my environment class, I sort of let them do whatever they want. The scale of their model and design they pick determines how they model it. I had a student, Shanté Knott, who did this Paris-steampunk scene (design by Bogdan Marica). That scene was really large scale, so we modeled that scene how they would model it in video games: very low poly with a lot of bake maps on it. We went that route because if she modeled all those details to feature film level that’d be way too hard on her computer and it’d be way too large of a scene file. In my environment class, I try to tailor it towards what my students want to build. My class is pretty flexible. A lot of the time, they have questions about things I normally don't teach, and sometimes I'll take part of that class time to cover that information even if it's not part of the curriculum. If that's the kind of knowledge they want and I feel like that's going to help them become a better modeler, then I want them to have that information.

How does your modeling process differ from project to project? 

Every show is different. The style and shape language the Production Designer and Art Director’s aim determine the process. There are just so many different styles. On Boss Baby, it was all ridiculously straight lines and sharp edges. I had to go back and fix so many models because the director wanted things so sharp you could cut your hand on it. But then you have other films, like Trolls World Tour, where everything was soft and round and felt like miniatures. The funny thing with How to Train Your Dragon 3 (HTTYD) is that I could get away with so much. With rocks and trees you could make a mess. A lot of it was covered with moss and dirt and foliage. Every film is very different. It's definitely a process we go through with all the other departments. That’s one thing that makes DreamWorks really fun for me. All our films have very different styles. I get to jump around and try my hand at very different styles. Each time I switched from one film to another, I had to kind of warm-up and get used to working in that style.

How do you create stylized sets that still feel based in reality? Do you have any advice on how to best combine inspiration from the real world with stylized design ideas?

#1 Have a clear easy to read silhouette.  If you blackout the shape and can’t recognize what the object is, you are probably doing something wrong.  I like to build the basic structure based on reality (maybe simplified), and then push and pull from there. Don’t be afraid to go too far, play around.  I like to place layers of added detail on a blendshape.  That way I can pull back to find a balance. #2 Big, medium, and small.  Having repeated shapes and patterns in your object is fine, it can actually be really great, but when they are the same size it can become noisy, rigid, and uncomfortable.  Change up the size, have areas of rest (less detail) to contrast areas of higher detail.  #3 I like to see environments the way I see characters, they have personality and history.  Think about the weathering they face, the maker (if it's man-made), and how people treat and interact with it.

In your class, how do you guide your students to grow and work towards industry-level models?

What I try to help my students do is capture the essence of the art piece. I really iterate over and over in my class that these environments aren't just props or a set-piece. Think of these set pieces as characters. They have their own story. They have their own life. They have their own history that occurred to them. One of my favorite things I like to show my students when they first start off is stairs: really old, worn-up stairs. You can see exactly where people keep on stepping on these stairs, there’s a history. You can see people always walk in the center, always step in these two spots. You can see this indent where their feet lay and when it rains the water probably flows through. When you're adding wear and tear into the model, when you’re adding character, you have to think: what’s affecting this piece? What’s rubbing up against it? We don't want it to feel artificial? We want it to feel organic and real, like it's experienced stuff. When I have my student take a concept piece, I want them to really nail that concept piece, but I also want them to add more to it. To make it feel like not just a copy of it, but an actual place where you can see things occurring at. You can feel it's something people are actually living in and interacting with. That’s one thing I want to help my students do: to make a piece that tells a story and draws people and makes them wonder what this piece is about.

I also try to help my students get the tools they need to make their pieces as efficiently as possible. I could show them the slow way of making something. Like laying down the tiles of a roof, piece by piece and duplicating it, but one of the skills you need when you work in the industry is that you need to be able to make things fast. As much as I'd love having a lot of time to make things perfect, there’s a deadline. I try to give my students the tools to get their work done fast. I just noticed the video posted of me teaching MASH. I try to let my student learn tools that are outside the basic modeling toolset. I want to give them access to and knowledge about tools that are outside of what most people know so they can be competitive in the industry.

Aside from the technical skills, what are some soft skills that are essential to being a good 3D modeler? For instance, as an artist, can you talk about best practices for communicating with your art director?

It’s very different depending on the art director. I’ve had art directors who have been like, “Hey you can email me directly, just send me screenshots and I’ll do draw overs,'' and I’ll have other directors who are like, “No don’t do that, email the production people and they’ll email it to the art director.” What I would do is make sure you’re writing it down. I have a bad habit of just looking and thinking about things and then later I think Shoot, I should’ve asked that. It’s good to write your own questions and notes that the art director gives you. That way you’re sure you don't miss anything. It also shows the art director that you care and you’re paying attention. It’ll make them feel more confident that you’ll get it done. Just create a good impression and find ways where you can create a good relationship of trust. It's also good to experiment and try things. Don't just do what's given to you, try to make things better. Don't go crazy though! Just add a little bit to it that you think will improve it. It's best to make the project look as best as you can. But yeah overall, teamwork, friendship, communication are big.  It makes working much more fun and enjoyable.

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to someone just starting out?

Open up, ask questions, show your work to the world.  Reach out to artists you admire, and studio recruiters.  If your work isn’t the best, that’s okay.  Getting feedback is the best way to grow and improve.  Showing progress is the best way to impress. I always felt like I needed to do things myself. Don't do that—reach out and ask for help. The biggest reason you need to do that is people need to know who you are. It's fine if you’re introverted, but you need to step out of your bubble to make it in the industry. You need to introduce yourself. You need to show your work. That’s really what animation is: showing who you are and telling a story. If you want to be a part of that, you need to show you can do that. Show that you have a story to tell, you have amazing taste in art and style. It's ok to be a quiet person but definitely reach out to artists you like and recruiters. If you have good things and show it...maybe not everyone will remember you, but some may. And when opportunities come around maybe they’ll reach out to you. 

How has your experience been working remotely? Do you think in the future you’ll have to live in the same city as the studio?

Well….I think I’m going to have to go back to LA eventually. So...still expensive. It’s been nice working remotely. Just being able to spend more time with family and take care of my kids. At work, I’m stuck in that timeframe when I'm at work. I’ll be there for nine hours and then I leave. At home when I feel distracted, I can take a break and put in my hours more effectively. I’ll go back and work on it longer. Sometimes the hours I work at home aren’t exactly the timeframe I normally work (it's a little later) but I feel like I'm being more productive with my time. What's cool about modeling is that working remotely has not really affected me. I have my computer. I can do all my work from here. I know there are some departments that have struggled to work from home, such as surfacing and vfxs. They have their own technical issues that come up from not being able to use their computer. They have to work remotely controlling their computer at work.

How do you think working in the industry will be in the future?

What’s interesting is that Netflix, prior to the pandemic, was doing a sort of hybrid working situation where people would come in for meetings and some people work from home part of the week. There’s been talk at my company whether we might be working hybrid as well... where we come in some days and work from home other days. And that sounds really nice to me. Working completely remotely sounds nice too so I can live in a cheaper place but it is nice to see people’s faces. I do really miss a lot of my co-workers.  Working in the studio, it is nice to just be able to turn around to the guy sitting next to me and ask questions. Now you have to send a chat online and hope someone sees it. Another thing I miss is the DreamWorks campus, it is really beautiful...and there's free food….and free soda fountains. Yeah...I miss all that a lot, actually.

Where do you see your career going in the future? Are there any other facets of animation/3D modeling you want to try out?

I would love to continue being a simple modeler, maybe eventually take a position as a lead or supervisor.  I love it at DreamWorks, but video games are interesting to me because software-wise they’re really ahead. Being able to render and do things in real-time is just amazing. There’s a lot of new things out there that keep popping up and it's too many for me to really get into all of them, honestly. At DreamWorks, up until HTTYD 2, everything was NURBS modeling. So a lot of the models in HTTYD 2 were still NURBS. When I got to HTTYD 3,  a lot of my work was converting NURBS to poly. Modeling is always changing. I’m always going to have to be learning. I don't know what modeling is going to look like in the future, but modeling is what I'm interested in and what I want to keep doing as long as I can. 

That’s one thing I really love about teaching is that it forces me to keep learning new things. When I’m teaching I have to do the process over and over in front of my students and that forces me to retain it and really understand how these new tools and processes work.

Thank you so much for your time Koji! If you'd like to see more of Koji's work, follow the links below.

ArtStation: artstation.com/koji
Reel: vimeo.com/153656161
Instagram: @tsukachan

Sign up today to learn from industry-leading artists like Koji in our online accredited courses (ACCSC). Apply today at animschool.edu

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Top 10 Tools and Plug-Ins Essential for Maya Animators

We can all agree Maya is quite a remarkable program. From creating particle simulations to modeling a character, Maya can do just about anything in CG. Maya was clearly built for a lot of different artists, but not for any one of them specifically. As a character animator, Maya can serve most of your needs, but the program wasn’t built for character animators specifically, so doing simple tasks such as checking arcs or creating parent constraints can get complex and time-consuming. Lucky for us though, artists around the world have created numerous plug-ins, scripts, and tools to help Maya animators out. Below we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite tools that will help make Maya a happier place to animate and speed up your animation workflow. The best part: a majority of the tools we list are completely free to download today.

1. AnimBot | Subscriptions starting at $60/year (Free for current AnimSchool students)

First and foremost, the plug-in professional and student animators alike swear by: AnimBot. Tailored specifically for animators, AnimBot is filled with 150 tools that make animating faster and easier. Some of its notable tools include the tween machine, retiming tools and selection sets. It is an essential plug-in for any Maya animator and absolutely worth the cost. To keep animators from getting overwhelmed by the myriad of tools, there are pop-up gif tutorials built into AnimBot that make it quick and easy to find out what any of its 150 tools do.  


2. ZV Parent Master | Free

If you’ve ever felt lost in the world of Maya constraints - fret no longer! ZV Parent Master is a plug-in designed to make constraining objects simple and painless. With a few simple clicks, you can attach, detach and then reattach an object to a new object with ease. Retiming your attachments and detachments are as simple as shifting a couple keys, and for more complicated scenes, ZV Parent Master also has a colored timeline to visually show you what to and when an object is constrained. Currently offered for free, this tool is a must-have for animators.


3. bhGhost | Free

One thing many 3D animators forget is that despite the fancy 3D models that can be tumbled around freely in space, 3D animated shots are viewed on flat 2D screens. Ultimately, you are animating for the camera. In this way, classic 2D hand-drawn animation isn’t very different from 3D animation. With this in mind, tracking arcs and spacing on a 3D character can seem complicated compared to 2D drawings, where the spacing is obvious. bhGhost helps us bridge this gap by creating a way to transform your 3D model into a simple outline to help track spacing and timing. With this plug-in, you select your character's geometry, or whatever you want to track — whether it be a hand, a foot, or the entire character — and you ghost it. What sets bhGhost apart, is that it doesn’t simply onion skin your entire geometry. Instead, it creates an outline that reads as 2D to make it look like you're tracking a simple drawing instead of a complex, 3D rig. The plug-in allows you to change line thickness, color, and even add sphere trackers to the geometry to see parts of the body as a simple bouncing ball to track spacing. If you find that you have trouble tracking arcs and spacing with only your eye in Maya, bhGhost is definitely worth a download.


4. World Space 2 | $15

World Space 2 is a set of advanced animation tools for manipulating animation and switching between world, local, and parent spaces. First off, this tool is yet another way to constrain objects to each other. In this case, you put child objects into parent space and the tool will create temporary controls for you to animate with. Once you’re done, you can simply bake down the animation and have complete control over your character's original controls again. In addition, utilizing World Space 2 to put part of a character, such as an arm or head, into world space is a great way to do a final polish pass on animation since controlling how an arc will look to the camera in world space is much easier than in object space. In world space, you can fine-tune an arc by translating the head or limb more precisely. World Space 2 also includes a number of other features that allow you to create simple on-the-fly rigs for props, manipulate which channels you want space switching on, in addition to tools for creating paths and copying animation. 


5. AnimSchool Picker | Free

The AnimSchool Picker allows you to select and control components within Maya, just like the pickers they use at the big studios. With the AnimSchool Picker, animators can easily select rig controls without the clutter of NURBS curves controllers in the viewport. There’s ample opportunity to customize your picker from colors, names, sizes, and alignment. Navigating the picker is simple and allows users to zoom, pan, and click and drag to select multiple controls at once. In addition to controllers, the picker can be used to select geometry and other components in your scene.  Once you’ve created your custom picker, save it and reuse it for other characters by simply changing the namespace. The best part is that the AnimSchool Picker is free to anyone! I repeat you do NOT need to be an AnimSchool student to use this picker, however, students receive the perk of being able to use a number of pre-made AnimSchool Pickers included with their character rigs.


6. AnimPolish | Free (Basic Version)

Most professional studios have the luxury of a technical animation department. These are the people responsible for hair and cloth simulations, in addition to smoothing out any kinks when the rig needs to be pushed beyond its own boundaries in order to hit an extreme pose or make a point of contact feel like real flesh instead of crashing geometry. Unfortunately, as student animators working on personal projects at home, we don’t have this luxury. That’s where AnimPolish comes in. This plug-in offers a set of artist-friendly deformation tools to help add that extra polish and believability to their animation. With AnimPolish, you first export your animation so it is cast geometry. Then, using its tools, you can sculpt, adjust, and animate the geometry using a set of intuitive tools to fix any clothing clipping or crashing geometry, push poses for smear frames, or deform the skin in places where it comes into contact with other geometry. This is a great free tool if you're looking to bring your work to that next level of polish.

7. FCM_Hider | Free

We’ve all been there before. Awkwardly holding our hand up to our computer screen to block out the arms of a character so we can check if the body animation is working without being distracted by the other limbs. Or trying to add the rig's geo to a display layer but for some reason toggling the visibility button isn't doing anything. Well, there’s no need for that nonsense any longer! This tool gives animators a simple, quick way to hide parts of a character in order to focus on certain body parts. This is a great tool to ensure the body and root of the character are polished and moving properly without being distracted by the character's limbs. With FCM Hider, adding controls and geometry to a selection set is simple, and the easy-to-identify icons make turning parts of your character on and off a breeze. 

8. Convert Rotation Order | Free

Rotation order is something most student animators may not even know is an issue. You click E, the rotate gimble appears, then you click and drag that blue circle with the intention to rotate solely in the Z-axis, but when you check the channel box or the graph editor, you notice the X values changed as well. What’s happening? This is a small issue but becomes a problem when trying to polish rotations in the graph editor and the curves aren’t affecting the rig how you expect. You may also run into this issue after running the Euler filter to fix gimbal lock. This rotation order issue is further explained HERE. Unfortunately, you can’t simply switch rotation orders mid animation natively through Maya. However, animator Morgan Loomis has come up with a script to switch rotation orders while preserving animation. The ability to freely convert rotation orders with this plug-in will and allow you to polish curves in the graph editor with more accuracy. (If you’re still a bit lost and want to further understand this issue, AnimSchool instructor Justin Barrett explains Maya’s gimbal rotation HERE. Gimbal rotation, as opposed to object or world rotation space, is a more accurate representation of what rotation orders are.)

9. Studio Library | Free

As the name implies, Studio Library allows animators to create a library of poses and animations. This tool makes reusing character poses, cycles, and lip-sync poses throughout a scene simple and helps speed up the process of blocking in poses. You can build upon and blend between different poses within your library to ensure your poses are still unique and not repetitive. Studio library also gives you the ability to create selection sets, mirror poses, and utilize shared pose libraries. If you’re looking to speed up your animation process and work with a pose library, Studio Library is definitely worth looking into.

10. Aaron Koresell Scripts | Free

Lastly, Aaron Koresell offers a collection of free scripts aimed at Maya animators that help fill in some of the gaps in Maya and improve your animation workflow. Created back in 2007, these tools are still very useful, however, a number of these are now available through AnimBot. Nonetheless, it is still worth giving his collection a look, especially since they are completely free, unlike AnimBot. To name a few, Koresell has scripts that will allow you to insert a key without changing animation curves, delete redundant keys to make the jump from stepped to spline more manageable, and toggle on and off image plane visibility. Since these are all Mel scripts, they can easily be made into buttons or hotkeys for easy access as well.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Maya Tools 101: Retime Your Shot

As an animator, learning how to retime your keys in a shot is an absolute must. If the character is moving too fast, you need to add frames. If the character is moving slow, you need to remove frames. Before you know it, you are retiming your keys left and right. There are various ways to retime your keys depending on the situation. 

Maya Timeline

The most common way of retiming keys is to use the default Maya timeline. 

Moving One Key

If you want to just move one key on your timeline, this is the easiest way to do it.
Left Mouse Button + Shift to select the key.
Left Mouse Button/Middle Mouse Button to move it.

Moving Multiple Keys

If there is a section of your shot that you want to move, you can select multiple keys together of that section to move those together.

Left Mouse Button + Shift to select the key.
Left Mouse Button/Middle Mouse Button to move it.

Make sure you are moving the keys by clicking on < >, anywhere else and it would deselect the keys.

Resizing The Keys

If there is a section of your shot that you think is overall taking a lot of frames, you can select that section and then resize it by making it shorter.
Left Mouse Button + Shift to select the key.
Left Mouse Button/Middle Mouse Button to move it.

However, this creates a problem of having keys midframe Like this.

Midframe keys create a lot of problems in animation and rendering so make sure your keys are exactly on frames like 12.0, not 12.34.
To deal with this issue, you have to snap your keys often manually.

Left Mouse Button to select the key.
Right Mouse Button to open the options menu.
Left Mouse Button on Snap.

Even after the snap, sometimes the keys have issues in graph editor with tangents so it is extremely important to use this one with caution.

Graph Editor

If you are an animator who uses graph editor a lot, selecting keys and moving those must have become part of your muscle memory by now. I for one am so used to moving keys in GE that I could not even recall how I was doing it. I had to do it slowly to make these gifs. 

Left Mouse Button + Drag to select keys.
Middle Mouse Button + Shift to move the keys.

The shift key helps you to move keys horizontally (0 degrees) and vertically (90 degrees) from the position of the key. You cannot move keys diagonally. This helps you to preserve the value of the keys that otherwise get changed and can cause a headache.

See! Values of the keys get changed. Better use Shift.

Dope Sheet

Not many animators use the dope sheet which is a shame because it is pretty dope (get it?). The dope sheet looks like this.

It shows all the keyed objects on the left side and their keys on the right side. It gives a very clear picture of the whole shot in terms of frames and makes it easy to move those without messing up any value or tangent arrangement of the keys.
Look at the following .gif! So neat...

Left Mouse Button on DopeSheet summary
Middle Mouse Button +Drag to move keys.

However, the dope thing is that you can move frames of one object on its own as well. Like this...

This is not all, you can move selected frames of objects you want, as well.

Left Mouse Button + Drag to select keys
Middle Mouse Button to move.

You should definitely try using the dope sheet more.

Mel Scripts

Here are the two most basic scripts for retiming keys:

timeSliderEditKeys addInbetween;

timeSliderEditKeys removeInbetween;

If you want to add more frames between your keys, this is the easiest way. 

Click the Left Mouse Button to add frames to your heart's content, but let's not go overboard alright? 

And the same goes for removing the frames from your timeline.

Happy Animating!

If you want to get started in Maya, check out our class Introduction to Maya at animschool.edu
Visit our Youtube channel for more animation tips. 

Join our online community with other 3D artists and animators in our online accredited courses. (ACCSC)
Apply today at animschool.edu

Friday, January 15, 2021

10 Books Every Animator Needs in their Collection

We’ve compiled a legendary list of 10 books that most in the animation industry would agree should be on every animator's shelf.


The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams

This is the book that every animator will tell you that you need on your bookshelf. It is essentially the bible to animation. Williams covers all the basic principles of animation -- timing, spacing, overlap, anticipation -- and breaks it all down through hand-drawn animations and timing charts so you can see, frame by frame, how to animate. This comprehensive, easy-to-follow guide covers everything you need to know to get started in animation and serves as a great reference for experienced animators as well. Richard Williams is an Academy Award-winning director best known for Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair

This 1994 classic by renowned animator, Preston Blair, continues to serve today as an exemplary guide to creating cartoony animation. This book is a compilation of Blair’s many how-to books from over the years. Blair covers all the basics of animation and explains how to utilize these principles to develop a character in addition to animating with dialogue and creating complex movements. 


Acting for Animators by Ed Hooks 

An industry-leading acting instructor for animators worldwide, Ed Hook’s book Acting for Animators demonstrates how to utilize basic acting theory to create believable characters with genuine performances in animation. Hook provides a variety of examples and exercises to help animators breathe life into their characters.

Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen

One of the most popular books on acting, Uta Hagens Respect for Acting introduces a series of questions that an actor must ask themselves in order to define who a character is and how they would most realistically act in that situation. Hagen makes it clear that what you do and say are the most telling characteristics of a character and should be closely considered by the actor, or in this case, the animator when crafting a performance.


Drawn to Life: 20 Golden Years of Disney Master Classes by Walk Stanchfield

Walt Stanchfield was a long-time Disney animator who worked on hits such as The Jungle Book and The Aristocats. In the 1970s, Stanchfield teamed up with fellow animator, Eric Larson and created a training program for new Disney animators. This 2 volume set of books is a compilation of Stanchfields lecture notes and remains one of the only drawing books around that is aimed specifically at animation. His lectures are in no particular order, so you can begin reading at any part of the book! He emphasizes that drawing is more about thinking rather than drawing technique. 

FORCE: Dynamic Life Drawing by Michael Matessi

AnimSchool art teacher Mike Matessi’s book shows how to use rhythm, shape, and line to bring any subject to life. Filled with detailed, instructive illustrations, Matisse demonstrates how to create dynamic, realistic poses - a key skill when animating.


The Nine Old Men by Andreas Dejas

A master animator himself, Andreas Dejas was mentored by the infamous Nine Old Men during his early days at Disney. In his book, Dejas provides a thoughtful analysis of each of the Nine Old Men’s techniques, work, and thought processes in an effort to shape your approach to character animation. 

The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston

Written by two of Disney’s legendary Nine Old Men, the Illusion of Life began as a guide to the principles of animation but evolved into a thorough history of Disney and the evolution of animation around the world as the medium was first created and explored.


Your Career in Animation: How to Survive and Thrive by David Levy

Award-winning, animation director, David Levy, provides an in-depth guide to the inner-workings of the animation industry. Levy interviewed leading names in the industry -- including Steven Hillenburg (creator of SpongeBob SquarePants), Teddy Newton (character designer on The Incredibles), John R. Dilworth (creator of Courage the Cowardly Dog), and many other working professionals --  to get their insight on creating a portfolio, networking and making the leap from working for others to pitching and selling. The second edition of Levy’s career guide is set for release this upcoming March filled with interviews from current industry insiders.

Draw Stronger: Self-Care for Cartoonists and Other Visual Artists by Kriota Willberg

Published in 2018, this book is a newer book in our collection that is fun, simple, and useful for anyone who does art for a living. Written in the form of a comic strip, Draw Stronger is a guide to taking care of yourself when working creatively and sitting at a desk eight hours a day. Willberg gives any artist a simple, yet informative guide to take care of their body and mind while ensuring they keep up with their craft.

Did we miss any? If you have any other recommendations, share them with us in the comments below. 

Learn more about AnimSchool's online accredited (ACCSC) courses at www.animschoool.edu

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Posing Hands for Animation

In this clip AnimSchool instructor Kelly Vawter explains how to make appealing and organic poses for animation using contrast and grouping.

To learn more about our animation program, visit www.animschool.edu.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Animation Fundamentals: Understanding Weight

In this clip, Animschool instructor Paul Pammesberger explains the three main elements of making a weight assignment work: balance, effort, and force. He explains how these three elements affect the body mechanics, posing, and acting within a shot and take it to the next level.

For more such tips and tricks, visit www.animschool.edu

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Animate a Gun Reload


Game animation is an art with its own rules and limitations. You have to sell an animation in a limited number of frames without losing a beat or compromising the weight and efficiency of the action. This makes reloading guns a fun yet challenging animation exercise. Watch our instructor Jarrod Showers as he explains how to reload guns in a game without compromising the mechanics of it.

For more information about our gaming program, visit us at www.animschool.edu