Thursday, December 27, 2012

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Dustin Han

AnimSchool would like to introduce Dustin Han, an AnimSchool student in our Character Program focusing on rigging. Dustin, can you tell us a little about yourself and what 3D experience you had before entering AnimSchool?

I recently graduated from a 4 year college before coming to AnimSchool. I studied Computer Engineering with a minor in Studio Art. I did some Flash development work at a start-up social gaming company before deciding to pursue my interest in 3D. I actually had very little experience with anything 3D or CG related before entering AnimSchool. The only experience I had coming into AnimSchool was a single class I took at my university that covered the very basics of using Maya. However, because I was a student studying computer engineering and studio art, I did have a good foundation in both programming and fine arts which has been a tremendous help during my time learning to rig and model characters at AnimSchool.

Are there any artists that inspire you?

I don't necessarily have a list of artists in my mind that I can just start talking about especially because there are so many inspirational artists out there that it would make it difficult for me to pick a few. In general, the artists who inspire me most are those who love doing what they do and clearly show this through their work and dedication. This pretty much goes for anyone I come across, artist or not. Also, artists who started from a dream and made it into a reality through hard work and perseverance are great inspirations to me as I hope to one day have similar success.

What did you find the most challenging about modeling your character?

It was definitely challenging to convert a 2D image into a 3D model especially when you only have one reference picture to look at. A lot of the character was left to my imagination such as what his back side might look like, but this challenging aspect provided a great learning experience and just made the modeling process more rewarding. Also, being my first full character model, it was definitely challenging just to get the model to look appealing and match the artwork. I found it difficult to get the sharp corners found in the character design into my 3D model especially when trying to keep the topology reasonably low. I went to one of the general reviews provided by AnimSchool near the end of the term which definitely helped and looking back I wish I could have attended more to improve my model. So future students, I definitely suggest you guys attend these review sessions as you can never have too many people critique your work.

You have your character posed out. Did you model him in a T pose and then pose your character or pose your character out and then transfer him into the neutral pose? Is there anything you would change about the process you did for the next character you model?

Character design by Cory Loftis
We first blocked out our characters in pose with basic low poly primitive shapes such as cylinders, cubes, and spheres in order to have a reference later when putting it back into pose. From there, we moved the model into T-pose and began modeling it from there. This made it easier to get proportions right and to mirror over left and right sides. After finishing the model we used our blocked pose as reference to get it back into pose and apply final touches such as wrinkles on clothes and accessories such as my character's hammer and bags.

I really enjoyed the process we took into creating our models so I'm not sure I would change too much. Although, because we modeled with the intention of basically just creating a statue, for my next model I will probably pay more attention to modeling with the needs of rigging in mind beyond what was covered in class. This includes things such as providing enough topology for deformations and making sure the model is easily skinned since the model I made in the intermediate class is made up of several meshes in order to make it easier to pose the character. My model actually has no torso or legs under his clothing. As I continue to study rigging and creating more rigs, I believe I will start to understand more of what the needs are for future models I make.

How did you become interested in becoming a Rigger?

Initially, I did not realize rigging even existed when I first became interested in 3D and animated films. All I knew was I wanted to be a part of making the amazing films I was seeing in the theater.  It was only natural for me to want to become an animator at first since the animations were what I was seeing at the top layer of the films I was watching. I did not realize there was so much more happening underneath. Because of this mindset, I often pushed aside my dreams of becoming an animator due to my technical degree in computer engineering and not wanting to put it to waste. I figured I could maybe land a job as a software engineer at a video game or film company.

However, as time went on, I began to realize I could not simply ignore my interest in the creative and artistic aspects of things because it was just a big part of who I was. With that, I began to research and found that there were positions in game and film companies called Technical Directors/Aritsts where both (although varying between positions) technical and artistic skills are used. It kind of just opened my eyes to the industry and helped me to continue pursuing my dream. I decided to focus on learning to rig because I really enjoy characters in films and would love to work directly with them. Eventually though, I would love to delve into other aspects of the pipeline.

Now that you've had a couple of rigging classes at AnimSchool, do you view 3D films differently? What do you notice now, that you didn't before?

Character provided by AnimSchool
The classes have definitely opened my eyes to the amount of work it takes to create a feature level rig. There are just a ton of things to take into consideration when designing a rig for animation. Now when I watch animated films I'm even more amazed by what I see as I now have a better appreciation of how much effort goes into developing these rigs. Coming into a rigging class with no prior knowledge, I naively thought it was just placing bones into a character to allow them to move and be animated, but there are just several more layers of complexity on top of that including creating clean deformations, understanding relationships between the different parts of the rig, and taking advantage of these relationships to provide a flexible and intuitive rig for animators to use with ease.

Looking back at past films, what character would you have loved to model or rig? Why does this character interest you?

I am a big fan of the Toy Story films so I would have loved to rig Woody or Buzz. It's amazing how much emotion and character can be brought out from a toy through animation. I can only imagine how challenging it was to rig a toy in order for it to come to life yet retain its toy-like qualities during the animation process.

How has your experience been at AnimSchool? Do you have a favorite process or tip that you've learned?

My experience at AnimSchool has been great. I have learned so much in the 4 terms I have been here. Just being taught by industry professionals who have worked on some of my favorite films is an amazing experience as you can be confident in knowing that what you are being taught is relevant to what companies want to see. The AnimSchool community is great and everyone is so supportive of one another. It's just a great feeling to learn with people sharing similar goals. I've become much more confident in general after producing work I never could have imagined before entering the program.

I have learned so many great things from AnimSchool that it's difficult to pick a favorite, but just because it's fresh off my mind from this past term of intermediate rigging, I really enjoyed my instructor's (Ignacio Barrios) approach to creating IK FK Switches (or any kind of space switch) with the use of Maya's blend color nodes where you simply blend the transformation values of the IK and FK joints together to provide the values for the driver joints as opposed to using constraints. It was just a great example of how there isn't just one way to solve a rigging problem.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New Server for

AnimSchool is moving to a new server during the Term Break.

In the next few days, there will be a transfer period when will be unavailable. Please stand by, while we get the new server switched over.

We will still be live and reachable on the AnimSchool Facebook page:

and by phone:

801 765-7677
and email:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

AnimSchool General Review: Ernesto Velasco by Dave Gallagher

AnimSchool's founder, Dave Gallagher, reviews Ernesto Ruiz Velasco's 3D model. Dave goes into detail on how to increase appeal, focusing on making a character look more youthful.

AnimSchool has these General Reviews for animation, modeling and rigging students every week for those who would like an extra critique outside of class.

Come join the over 150 students learning online at AnimSchool

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

AnimSchool Review

Great job Eyad!
AnimSchool student Eyad Hussein reports on his term at AnimSchool!

Read his AnimSchool review here:

"It’s been three months since I updated my blog; I was very busy with my first term at (and with my full-time job!)… I wrote this article to summarize the assignments that I did within this term at AnimSchool.
"First, I was extremely lucky in this term to be one of Sabine Heller students; I had wonderful days having Introduction to Rigging with her. And before I start showing my term assignments, I would like to talk a little bit about Sabine...."
continue reading...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Supervising Animator Hans Dastrup joining AnimSchool

Dreamworks Supervising Animator Hans Dastrup is joining AnimSchool Winter Term! He will be teaching a General class--for all AnimSchool students--teaching them how to improve their shots and assignments. Hans has a strong reputation in the animation industry for being a versatile performer-- capable of the finest subtle acting, as well exaggerated comedic and physical shots.

We are thrilled to have Hans Dastrup here at AnimSchool. He's the latest addition to all we offer our students: the highest quality resources, characters, and industry talent.

To learn directly from Hans during Winter Term, apply to be an AnimSchool student.

A reel of Hans' work:

Character Animation Reel from Hans Dastrup on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

AnimSchool Classtime: Mechanics of the Forearm

AnimSchool Instructor, Mike Mattesi, explains the mechanics of the Radius and Ulna, and shows how understanding anatomy helps you in drawing the figure.

Come join all the students learning online at AnimSchool. Visit, for classes starting January 2, 2013.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

AnimSchool Interview: Ty Carter, Director of "DreamGiver" and Visual Development Artist at Blue Sky Studios

AnimSchool would like to welcome Ty Carter. Can you tell us a little about your background and how you became a visual development artist for Blue Sky Studios?

I suppose, since I can remember, I always loved to draw. Through grade school I'd literally fill the borders of my homework with dinosaurs and machinery sketches until there was no space left. My teachers didn't seem to mind and sometimes even asked for personalized drawings! It really pumped me up when people wanted my art. If not for the positive attention it garnered, I'm not sure where I'd be today...Maybe peanut butter and jelly salesman. Looking back, I am really lucky my parents and family always encouraged me to pursue art. Dad consistently opened doors for me to look into artistic careers. Mom put my work on the fridge! I used my first oil paints at age 7 with my grandpa. I'm certain at least half his paint was wasted that day! By the time I was in high school, I had narrowed down my "career options" to architecture, industrial design, and advertising although I had always wanted to work for Disney from a very young age. It was just difficult to envision a realistic pathway into the industry. Art schools were over-priced. My closest connection to the Walt Disney Company was a VHS tape. The competition was unfathomable. And above all, I didn't know if I was good enough. Animation was something you dreamt about; how many people can say they go to work and get paid to draw pretty pictures? Luckily for me, my perspective was about to change. 

Just before high school graduation, I heard about the animation program at Brigham Young University. It was a new, successful experiment and tuition was cheap. So, my dad set up a few meetings for us to visit the campus. I still wasn't sure which direction to go so we met with the heads of 3 departments: Industrial design, Advertising, and Computer Animation. Industrial design sounded so cool! Designing practical transportation, tools, and machinery sounded amazing! The creative track of advertising looked like a blast. I could totally see myself brainstorming and executing appealing campaigns to brand a product. Then we met with animation. It was like somebody took the best parts of industrial design, architecture, and advertising, and combined them into one! Before our conversation was even finished, I made up my mind.

"Grandpa's Farm" Digital Photoshop      copyright Ty Carter

When I turned 19, I served a two year Spanish-speaking mission in Texas. It was a time of service, friendship, and introspection. I learned more about myself in 24 months than I ever realized before. I learned about setting long term goals and accomplishing them. I learned to manage time and large teams of people. I learned to work with those I didn't get along with. It was a very rewarding time which prepared me for things to come.

When I returned home, I was accepted into the animation program at BYU. I worked extremely hard on all my assignments and especially focusing on one discipline. After my first year, I was invited to intern at Walt Disney Feature Animation. The internship was eye-opening! It gave me confidence that I could one day have a full-time job doing what I loved. The next year I was invited to intern at Pixar Animation Studios. There I had the opportunity to work on Toy Story 3. I never imagined being a part of Toy Story and it meant the world to me. It was so special to experience two historical studios; It was a memorable time.

"Cave Dwellers" Digital Photoshop  copyright Ty Carter
When I returned home from Pixar, I resumed a short film I had started 9 months earlier. For the next year I worked solely on completing the project. DreamGiver went on to receive awards and honors at The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Anima Mundi, Cannes, Comic-Con, SIGGRAPH, and many more.

When I graduated from BYU, I was invited to intern at Blue Sky Studios. I began on Ice Age 4 and then Epic. After a few months, I transitioned into a full-time job as a visual development artist. Blue Sky is an incredible place to work. The talented artists I work with make the job so rewarding.

While at BYU, you developed the story and directed the short film "DreamGiver." When did you start thinking of the DreamGiver character?

The DreamGiver idea actually came from my own odd experiences with sleep walking when I was a boy. I slept walked almost every night. This is not an exaggeration. Sometimes I'd go to sleep in my bed and wake up on the front porch. In the morning, I'd be completely confused. Once, I woke up on the wrong side of a loft banister, 20 feet above the next floor. It's baffling I didn't fall! My mom almost started handcuffing my wrists to the bed posts because she was worried I'd get hurt. What was so odd about my sleepwalking was not the frequency, (many kids have similar experiences) but the dreams. Each time I slept walked I was dreaming. I was moving around an imagined dream environment and a real environment simultaneously!     

I explored this sleepwalking idea further with the DreamGiver character and the boy. We jump from a real and imagined world where even a dream seems life threatening. The DreamGiver is this fantastical creature who tells us where dreams and nightmares come from. The little boy is almost my clone. He's unintentionally causing trouble as he sleeps.

DreamGiver from Tyler Carter on Vimeo.

How long did it take you to fully develop the story, and how long did it take to create the film from development to rendering?

The film production, including story and visual development, went from September 2008 until December 2010. That time period is slightly deceiving because production truly lasted only a year and 4 months. I started developing the film in Fall of 2008, right after my internship at Disney. I enrolled in a digital painting class to do the visual development for 4 months and at the same time tied down major ideas of the story. In January of 2009, I approached five students to begin modeling, rigging, and texturing. We planned to work through the summer but production went on hold when we all got internships! You could say we had the first university cloud studio! After interning at Pixar by day, I'd take to revising DreamGiver storyboards by night. When I returned to BYU in the fall, I ramped up production with new texture artists, lighters, and animators. Production management was always up and down with artists coming and going on internships, jobs, honeymoons and school; this is the nature of making a student film. You are dealing with countless interruptions and performing a balancing act with each artist. It prepares you well for a studio! 

On top of production, students at BYU are dealing with more diverse work loads than many art schools. The average DreamGiver artist took 14.75 credit hours per semester which included general education courses. This really forced us to organize our schedules and manage time effectively. We really put our whole hearts into this thing, but it wasn't for a class. It was for ourselves. We worked through holidays, seasons, and whatever it took.

Can you talk a little about the process of gathering all the talent, including the composer?

Absolutely. To answer the question, let me explain how the Center for Animation is structured at BYU. It is housed under three colleges: The College of Fine Arts and Communications, The College of Computer Science, and the College of Mathematics. These three colleges allow animation students to fluidly move in and out of their courses, enabling students to explore all aspects of the medium as they please. For instance, if I was interested  in production engineering, I might take courses to learn computer science as well as advanced calculus coupled with figure drawing. Normally, this would be impossible, but BYU Animation creates an environment where artists can choose their own path, they can “cross-pollinate” into other disciplines. I believe for this reason students come out of the program being well rounded; they've explored most of their interests to be able to pinpoint their passion. Of course, if you are a lazy student, this type of infrastructure can work against you. 

Each year, hundreds of students apply with the hopes of being accepted into the program. 25 will be accepted and make up the new sophomore class. During their junior year, the group will have the opportunity to pitch stories and vote on one to become their senior film. They will choose a director, producer, and work together for the next year and a half to complete their project. So essentially, the Center produces one film each year. 

At the beginning of my sophomore year, I began exploring this story idea which later became DreamGiver. I was more and more excited as it developed. Visually it could be groundbreaking and the story could be a fresh take on an old idea. I feared throwing it into the democracy of our senior film pitch. When you pitched your film to the group, it became property of the group. Instead of just one voice, you'd have 25 artists tugging and pulling in different directions. Of course, the film could still be good but very different from the original vision. I didn't want to risk losing something so close to me. So, I decided to act. I pitched DreamGiver to the professors. One teacher said the project would never be finished. Another thought it was too ambitious for a side project. Then to my astonishment, they gave me the green light!

Directing, Producing and writing the film put me in a very unique position. I had all creative and administrative control, and I liked it. I began to carefully choose artists from all different levels within the program. Age didn't matter. I was after the most talented students. I wanted the artists out to prove something, the most driven people I could find. If I wanted to create my vision, I needed the best team possible. It was also tricky because DreamGiver came second to official senior films. Sometimes we had to give up our workspaces for other artists or give up artists entirely.

I organized a fundraiser to raise money for the film. I rented a clubhouse and held an “animation open house” where people could come and learn about the process of computer animation. There were animation stations throughout the building giving hands-on demonstrations explaining what we did.

I hand picked and managed a team of 46 artists. They ranged from freshmen to seniors. Some were computer science majors and others were pre-animation, having not yet been accepted into the program. Some were married with kids and others were single. It was all about selecting the right people to cultivate harmonious dynamics within the team.  

Sometimes I was wrong about people. A few times, I bent over backwards to get a student on the team who ironically turned out difficult to work with and failed to meet deadlines. When artists working on my film missed deadlines, I couldn't afford to keep them around. The risk was too great to allow anything less than professionalism. So, if your production deadlines were not met, you didn't stay on the team.

 Everybody knew they could rely on the artist next to them. We were a sort of family. We spent long hours each day working, ate meals together, and attended classes with one another. Each one of us wanted this project to be the best it could be.

As we approached the final months of production, I began looking for student composers on campus. I interviewed seven before finding Lance Montgomery. Once I met him, I was certain he was the one. He had experience, awards, and vision. When he began scoring sections of the film, I knew we had something special. The process was a lot of back and forth until just the right feelings came through. The only hiccup was that the music was all being created through his computer. It was synthesized. It was a small thing but it drove me crazy. One morning I approached the conductor of the BYU Philharmonic. I explained to him how we'd been working on this film for a year and how I wanted every aspect to be top notch. We wanted the recording done live not synthesized. After a little persuading and some academia politics, he agreed to lead the BYU Philharmonic and record Lance's score using their facilities. It was one of the most memorable moments in my life to see this orchestra play our score.

What advice would you give to students who want to get a small group together for a student film?

The best advice I can give a student wanting to make a film is to really see it through. If you're going to spend all this time working on a single project, make it worthwhile. Make it something you are proud of. Invest in it. Build a team around it. Look for ways to make it unique. Be proactive as you go about all aspects of production. It might seem daunting but it's well worth the stress when the product is high quality. It is one of the most difficult things you'll ever face but the payload completely makes it worth every minute.

You integrated the 2D animation beautifully with the 3D animation. Did you have the idea of using both mediums as a way to separate the worlds from the very beginning or was this idea something that evolved with the story?

Yes, from the beginning I wanted to separate the dream world with 2D animation. It was the most effective way to keep them different but also allow creative freedom for storytelling. As we ran our first pencil tests and pieced it all together, I realized the traditional process would be too lengthy. The time it took to do rough animation, clean up, ink & paint, and compositing was more than we had. We needed to eliminate one of these steps but still have the flexibility of dynamic 2D animation.

Jason Keyser pioneered a test with Adobe Flash. He created rough animation with the pen tool, cleaned up by blocking each silhouette in color, and dropped the finished animation cleanly over a rendered scene. The only step remaining was some subtle After Effects integration already scheduled into the production.

Jason's 2D breakthrough saved us hours upon hours of time. Flash is vector based so we could easily enlarge the assets without worrying about pixelation. This allowed for easy zoom in zoom out manipulation. Flash's cannon of transform tools made it possible for limited animation on a number of shots. This doubled our efficiency. Because Flash is digital we were able to composite almost simultaneously.


Was there a part of directing your own short that was harder or more complicated than you expected? What were the challenges you had to work through?

One difficulty of directing a student film is keeping the production moving forward. By moving forward, I mean hitting deadlines to finish on time. In school, everyone is working for free so their motivations are somewhat out of your control. Sometimes momentum slows down and affects team morale. This was a difficult thing to control. When deadlines were being missed, the production wasn't moving forward and that meant the movie wasn't getting finished. It was a thought that scared me to death! To counterweight negative momentum, I started putting together crew nights. I organized social time for us to hang out as a team. It was a lot of fun. Artists brought their girlfriends, wives, and/or kids to the events. I'd take the crew to a midnight screening or throw a pizza party.  These unifying activities really helped. We weren't getting anything done on the film but we were investing in our friendship. When we returned to the lab the energy always teemed positive. Having fun together always builds team morale. 

School projects are tricky because the team is constantly changing. As I mentioned earlier, students were coming and going due to internships, classes, vacations, graduations, honeymoons, and study abroad. There are also other factors slowing down a school production. Sometimes the render farm goes down or the computers stop functioning. There aren't millions of dollars tied to student films so it might take time to be fixed.

DreamGiver was unique because I directed, produced, art directed and wrote the film. Those four jobs were extremely tough to balance at times. The daily communication from one artist to the next was always challenging. Keeping the vision consistent with so many people was ongoing. As the team grew bigger, especially during the final months of production, communication became really demanding. I was scheduling meetings, creating artistic notes, promoting the film, balancing the academia politics, creating my own art, organizing artists, and working to keep my academic scholarship at the same time.

How do you feel the internships at Disney, Pixar and Blue Sky helped you as an artist and making a film?

The internships were extremely insightful. They gave me realistic perspective on my goals and inspired me to reach higher. I made lots of great friends too! One way in which they helped my film was professional mentoring. I couldn't offer the students working on my film money for their work but I could offer them networking opportunities. I tried to keep in touch with everyone I met at the studios. When a new student would join the DreamGiver team, I would connect them with an industry professional. It directly benefited the film and the student.

"Gunshot" Digital Photoshop   copyright Ty Carter
Looking back at your adventure making a film with your peers, do you have a favorite memory or moment that happened during production?

For me, the most exciting moments were when teammates got job offers. We all worked so hard and took huge risks. It's almost miraculous to see where everyone is now. The results are the best part.   

My favorite memories are the ones late, late at night when people start to say funny things. There was one artist in particular who would begin a sentence and never actually complete it. He was so tired that he would trail off and then stop mid-word. Moments like these are too funny!

One of the most rewarding aspects of the film was working with so many talented artists. It was energizing to sit down together solving problems and making things work. You can build so much more working together than you can alone.

How has developing a student film influenced your creative process at Blue Sky? 

There are so many reasons to make a film! It really helped me understand the production pipeline on a deeper level. When you're moving a project phase by phase you learn and appreciate each department's role. The experience provides perspective which is absolutely relative preparation for a professional environment. You discover ways to make production more efficient, respective to your discipline. Everything you learn from a personal film can be directly applied to a studio. The experience helps me everyday.

On your website you frequently show painting studies. How do these studies support your role as a Visual Development Artist?

"Park City" Digital Photoshop   copyright Ty Carter

Studies are a great way to practice. They relax me when I'm stressed and allow me to try unconventional, bold ideas I otherwise might not try. As a Vis Dev artist, it's important to conceptualize ideas very quickly but with accurate subtlety. When you plein air paint or draw the human figure from life, you are interpreting images into lines, forms, values, and shapes. Studies allow you to explore these elements of design, understanding the subtleties in life's design. You literally store information in your brain and then release it on paper. What's so beautiful about the human mind is that we're able to recall this information and reinterpret it however we please. We are told to “draw what we see not what we think we see” for good reason. When we break our universe into smaller pieces, suddenly we understand it; we're enabled to manipulate its beauty as we come to know it better. Good design is taking something from real life and emphasizing, exaggerating, and/or manipulating its characteristics to a new level of appeal. You must first observe life before attempting to capture life in a drawing.

A behind the scenes look at the making of DreamGiver

DreamGiver BTS from Wyatt Strain on Vimeo.

Thank you Ty, for sharing your experiences and process of making an award winning student film.

To view more of Ty's work visit:
Ty Carter Art Facebook 

Friday, November 23, 2012

AnimSchool Picker!

During CTN Expo in Burbank, California, AnimSchool announced we are releasing to the public the new... AnimSchool Picker! This is an amazing new software that incorporates all the capabilities from film studio "picker" GUIs for selecting and controlling characters.

The features are unparalleled, and it's free for friends of AnimSchool! (some restrictions apply).

AnimSchool Picker is tightly integrated into Maya, highlighting when you make a selection in Maya, as well as picking from the buttons.
Users can zoom and pan using standard Maya navigation hotkeys.

Authoring a picker is very easy. Make single or multiple object buttons--even vertices. Make script/command buttons. Move buttons or groups of buttons with the control key. Nudge buttons precisely with the arrow keys. Arrange and distribute buttons horizontally or vertically.

Reuse pickers in an instant by switching it to another character's namespace. AnimSchool Picker automatically changes all buttons and scripts to update to the new character.

The AnimSchool Picker will be released late first quarter of 2013 for Maya versions 2011+, PC and Mac. Softimage version likely to follow.

The AnimSchool Picker is offered with restrictions similar to the Malcolm rig: free for most uses outside of online instruction similar to AnimSchool.
Look for more details soon, including a video tour.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

AnimSchool Interview: Aju Mohan, Part 2

We would like to welcome back 11 Second Club September winner, Aju Mohan. How did you come up with the idea for your "Audition" shot?

If you see my August entry, I did more serious stuff with the dialogue, so I wanted to do something entirely different this time. But, the September dialogue was also too serious, which had me confused for a while. As I was racking my brain for ideas, my dear friend and colleague, Teju Alosyius, pitched me an idea of character doing an audio dubbing in a studio. From there I developed the idea of "Audition."

Tell us about your planning process and what type of reference you used?

My planning for this shot was pretty straight forward.  I did lots and lots of thumbnails. I wanted to capture the correct expression and feeling in the intial planning stage itself. I researched a lot of audition videos from you-tube and that helped me immensely.

You were able to create an unique look to your entry to make it stand out. What process did you use to achieve this look?

From the initial stage itself I wanted to do something different visually. I was looking at some French 2D animations and wanted to achieve that feel. But, I'm not that much of a drafts man. So, I did the animation using Maya in 12fps, exported the play-blast, and drew on top of every frame so that I could maintain the volume. For rendering, I used the normal surface shader and imported it into a compositing software and merged all the layers. I did a video of my work in progress.

Lastly, where are you working now, and what are you working on next?

I recently began working as an animator at DreamWorks Dedicated Unit India. On my personal time, I'm concentrating a bit more on my drawing skills. Hopefully I will come up with a 2D animated short-film in the near future.

Thank you Aju, for your time and for sharing your work.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

AnimSchool General Review: Camilo Guaman by JP Sans

JP Sans reviews AnimSchool student, Camilo Guaman's, dialogue test from his Character Performance Class.
By analyzing frame by frame, JP goes over details of the character's eyes, and head tilts, to help relay what the character is feeling.

This clip is from AnimSchool's General Review session. AnimSchool offers General Reviews for 3D modeling, rigging and animation students every week for those who can't attend their normal class review, or for those who would like an extra critique.

Come join all the students learning online at AnimSchool:

Monday, November 5, 2012

In Animation News

The Los Angeles Times reports that this year the Academy Awards will have 5 nominees for best animated film of the year. It's often limited to three, however, this year there are more films in consideration--21 animated films--for the Oscar nomination.
There need to be over 16 films in consideration for the category to grow from three to 5 nominations. This is an indication of just how many animated films have been produced this year; this has only been done three times (2002, 2009, 2011) since the category was introduced in 2001.

Los Angeles Times Article:,0,7312430.story

Disney's Wreck-It Ralph opening at estimated $49.1 million is sure to make the Academy list. This is Disney's best opening weekend ever, beating Tangled's 48.8 million. With Disney's fresh approach to story they are able to attract more than just the princess audience. In an article, USA Today reports that this could be a "game-changer" for the company!
USA Today Article:

We at AnimSchool loved Wreck-It Ralph, and are very happy with its impressive start!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

AnimSchool Classtime: Creating Appeal with Directional Force

AnimSchool Instructor, Mike Mattesi, shows how to draw an appealing pose by using the force of straight to curved lines.

AnimSchool offers Mike Mattesi's drawing class to all students signed up for current terms. This term Mike is focusing on Force in Anatomy.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

AnimSchool Interview: Aju Mohan, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 11, 2012

AnimSchool General Review: Jorge Feres by JP Sans

JP Sans reviews AnimSchool student Jorge Feres's character walk from his Animating Characters class.
Here JP goes over fundamentals and how to push poses to help create contrast in a shot.

AnimSchool offers General Reviews for 3D modeling, rigging and animation students every week for those who can't attend their normal class review, or for those who would like an extra critique.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

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.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

AnimSchool Classtime: Transfering Facial Blend Shapes

In AnimSchool's Advanced Rigging class, Instructor and Blue Sky Character TD, Chris Pagoria, shows how to easily transfer facial blend shapes after changing your characters mesh.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

AnimSchool Interview: Senior Animator, Jackie Tarascio

Welcome Jackie, can you tell us a little about your background and how you got into animation?

I went to school originally for Graphic Design in my home town of Vancouver, Canada. Upon graduating 4 years later, I entered a New Media and Technology 6 month program which was my first step into animation. I remember them showing us Jurassic Park to explain what animators could do. I was hooked. I completed the program and then took classical animation night classes for a year. At this point, I knew I needed to animate something new for a demo reel. So, I quit my non-animation job, gave notice on my apartment, put all my furniture in storage and moved into my sisters basement for 3 months to animate something for a demo reel. While not fabulous by today's standards, that animation was enough to get me my first job! I was hired by Mainframe Entertainment in 2000. Mainframe began the first 6 years of my animator career where I worked in TV and Direct to DVD movies. I left Mainframe to do the "crunch jump." Working on 3 different feature film crunches in a row which were 'Happily N'ever After,' 'Night at the Museum' and Blue Sky's 'Ice Age - The Meltdown.' My temp job on 'Meltdown' eventually turned into a permanent offer, and I've been at Blue Sky ever since!

What is your favorite type of character to animate, and why? Do you have a favorite type of scene to animate?

I can't say I have any one particular favorite character. My interests seem to change from film to film. Today, my favorite characters to animate are humans. I've worked on a lot of animal shows and its interesting to try something new. I'm enjoying searching for natural gestures and emotive body language and expressions.

My favorite scene to animate is emotional acting shots. The more I can feel and relate to the scene, the more I enjoy it.

On Rio you were the lead on Marcel. What were some of your thoughts when coming up with appealing poses for the villain?

I started my research & development on Marcel with Brazil. Marcel is from the Favelas, which are the shanty towns of Rio de Janeiro. I spent a lot of time hunting for information on the Favelas such as articles, documentaries and images. Once I had a grasp of where he came from, I started to think about who he was, how he carried himself, and what his background was. The best resource turned out to be the movie 'City of God' and the ruthless gangster boss Mané played by Seu Jorge. Mané was a huge inspiration for Marcel. The way he carried himself, where his center of gravity was, how he held his head high so he could look down at others always with a relaxed but "tough guy" stance. Mané was a dark character with one of those unpredictable dangerous smiles. Great stuff!

What was the most challenging character you've animated? What made this character so challenging?

The most challenging character I've animated was Horton from 'Horton Hear's a Who'. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well because I was still pretty new to Blue Sky (which was stacked with talented animators!) and was still in the first year or so of my feature film career. Horton was a beloved childhood character of mine, he was also very expressive and cartoony in the story boards and he had really juicy dialogue from Jim Carey. 'Horton' was both challenging and exciting at the same time.

There are many steps in animating, from planning/video reference to splining, what is your favorite step when doing a shot? Why? Do you have a least favorite?

My favorite step when working on a shot is the polish at the end. At this point, the idea is approved, the execution is there, now it's just hunting for cool details to add to and plus the shot. My least favorite step of a shot is the first day or two of splining. Those couple days where I'm cleaning curves, poses and timing.

Out of all the films you've been a part of, what film have you had the most fun working on, and why?

I had a great time on our most recent film 'Ice Age - Continental Drift'. I was the Lead on Shira, Diego's rival and love interest. Jennifer Lopez did a great job on the read, and Shira's sassy and strong personality was a lot of fun to animate.

Lastly, Do you have any advice for student animators?

Perseverance. That's what I think students need most of all to succeed. Animation is a very complex theory to grasp, and the software is equally challenging when you are first starting out. Accept that you will spend hours and hours at this before you start to grasp it all. Keep at it, keep pushing yourself. The second most important thing is to learn how to take constructive criticism for what it is... constructive! This goes for school and work. Animators get daily critiques from Directors, Supervisors and/or Leads, the sooner an animation student gets used to critiques, the better.

We'd like to thank Jackie for taking the time to interview with AnimSchool. Check out her reel on Vimeo:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

AnimSchool General Review: Gustavo Forster by Dave Gallagher

AnimSchool's founder, Dave Gallagher, gives great modeling tips while demonstrating how to achieve character appeal, when reviewing Gustavo Forster's 3D model.

AnimSchool has these General Reviews for animation, modeling and rigging students every week for those who would like an extra critique outside of class.

Come join the over 150 students at AnimSchool

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

AnimSchool Student Spotlight: Jim Donnelly

AnimSchool would like to introduce Jim Donnelly. Jim, can you tell us a little about your background and what 3D experience you had before entering AnimSchool's 3D Character Program?

I come from a traditional film background. I started off working as a camera loader and later as a camera operator for music videos and TV. As a lover of visual storytelling, I've always been intrigued by the power of 3D animation, but was a bit intimidated by it. I thought that working in CG required a degree in computer science. It wasn't until I played around with a friend's copy of 3ds Max that I realized I could actually make 3D art. My first piece was a cube and I'm still proud of it. From there, I was completely hooked. I tried to teach myself as much as I could about 3D modeling before eventually taking some classes in Maya at the Rhode Island School of Design.

What peaked your interest in becoming a 3D Rigger? What do you enjoy about rigging?

My interest in Rigging came as a result of wanting to do more with the models I created. I absolutely love the modeling process, but once I've completed a character, I find myself wanting the ability to play with it a bit; try new poses, facial expressions, etc. Learning how to create and install the controls that would make this possible was the next logical step for me. As it turns out, I enjoy it a lot more than I thought I would. It's a part of the pipeline that has its own unique set of challenges and utilizes several different skills. For me, it's the perfect mix of visual art and technical problem solving. It also rewards my need to stay organized!

What artists inspire you?

Oh wow, there are so many artists that inspire me. Like many interested in 3D animation, I've been inspired by Glen Keane, John Lasseter, and Brad Bird. Their ability to push boundaries and further the medium has been nothing short of amazing. I'm also astounded by the work of fairly recent digital sculptors like Laurent Pierlot, Alessandro Baldasseroni and Rafael Grassetti. Their attention to detail is just incredible. But, I also have to mention that AnimSchool's own Marty Havran actually played a role in kick starting my fascination with 3D. I was just starting to study cinematography when I saw the film 'Contact' in the theater. There were a couple of shots in that movie that just did an amazing job of playing with perspective and seamlessly blended cg with practical elements. I remember buying the issue of American Cinematographer with 'Contact' in it so I could read how they pulled those shots off. It totally blew my mind when I saw Marty's reel and learned that he worked on one of the very shots that I was obsessed with. What a crazy coincidence!

Looking back at past 3D films, is there a character that you would have loved to model or rig? Why? What do you like about the design/character?

I would have loved to model and rig Scrat from the Ice Age films. I just find that character's design to be so appealing. So much is communicated without even speaking. It's hard not to smile when he first appears on screen. And I think the challenge of designing a rig for a such a dynamic character whose body is subjected to nearly every force of nature would be a lot of fun too. The poor guy is such a glutton for punishment.

Now that you've had a couple rigging classes at AnimSchool, when you watch a 3D film do you see it differently? How?

Absolutely. I'm so impressed by the amount of thought and effort that goes into creating a feature rig. Before taking these classes, I hadn't truly considered the amount of design challenges you'd encounter when trying to accommodate all of a character's particular animation needs. Rigging not only requires a firm grasp of anatomy and body mechanics, but you have to understand the technical hurdles within the software as well. I have a much greater appreciation for all of the hard work that goes into these films.

After having the rigging classes has your thought process behind 3D modeling changed?

Yes, totally. I think I'm much more economical with my modeling now. In the early stages, I try to focus on conveying as much detail as I can without the weight of unnecessary geometry. After having rigged a character, I can now fully appreciate the importance of proper edge flow and knowing where to strategically place resolution for clean deformations. I think it's great that we're exposed to different areas of the pipeline so that we can directly see how our work impacts others down the chain.

How has your experience been at AnimSchool?

My experience at AnimSchool has been phenomenal. Learning directly from the people who have helped create some of my favorite animated films is a truly rewarding experience. Just the breadth of practical knowledge being taught by our instructors, who are dealing with real-world production challenges day in and day out, has been priceless. The classes are so well-structured and thorough that no questions are left unanswered. There's a strong sense of community at AnimSchool as well. Fellow students are very encouraging  and supportive. And, because the classes are live, I feel close and connected to people who are on the other side of the globe. It's pretty cool. I've had the desire to work in this field for quite some time, and through AnimSchool, I'm finally starting to feel the confidence I need to reach that goal.

Monday, August 27, 2012

AnimSchool Student Showcase, Summer 2012

AnimSchool Presents!
The AnimSchool Student Showcase, Summer 2012

We're proud to present some of the great animations and characters our students have been working on.

Come join the over 150 students now studying at AnimSchool.

Want to get a frame-by-frame look? Download it here:

Saturday, August 18, 2012

AnimSchool Report from Siggraph 2012!

AnimSchool was in full force at Siggraph 2012 last week, August 7th-9th! For three days, hundreds stopped by our booth to learn about the offerings we have at the school.

Siggraph is the most popular conference on computer graphics, with approximately 20,000 3D students and professionals attending presentations, panels, and walking the show floor.

We had four 3D animation film pros in addition to staff and students on hand to interact with interested conference-goers.

We answered questions about our 3D animation programs and the process of learning online.

Some came just to take pictures of our attractive booth, which glowed brightly and offered a warm and inviting space for Siggraph attendees.

The booth art highlighted AnimSchool's world-famous characters and wonderful student work.

We were treated to a compilation banner of the many uses and mods of AnimSchool's free "Malcolm" character. Malcolm has been downloaded by over 8,000 users worldwide, and has been called "the best rig I've ever used" by top animators and animation contest winners.

AnimSchool pros reviewed student reels free and offered detailed critiques to help them in their learning.

AnimSchool 3D animation pros from Disney, Dreamworks, and Blue Sky Studios reviewed the animation work of conference goers, whether students or professionals. It was a popular offering, with a line forming for the free demo reel and portfolio reviews.

But the most popular event at the AnimSchool booth was the free giveaways near the end of each day. AnimSchool gave away dozens of T-shirts, free online-critiques, and the most anticipated items: free animation art books!

Lucky Siggraph attendees won copies of:
the Art of Tangled
the Art of Brave
the Art of Pixar
Eric Goldberg's Animation Crash Course
AnimSchool's Mike Mattesi's Force Animal Drawing!

And the grand prize of the conference: a half-price tuition discount on a term at AnimSchool!

There were many happy prize winners at the AnimSchool booth last week!

For many, AnimSchool was already a familiar school, famous for our Malcolm character and impressive programs, but others learned of us for the first time.

Many visitors to the booth expressed a desire to learn with us at AnimSchool.

We'll be seeing some of them in the months ahead online at AnimSchool.

For more information about Siggraph, visit

From all of us at AnimSchool, see you next year!

Video tour of AnimSchool at Siggraph 2012:

Thursday, August 16, 2012

AnimSchool General Review: Keith Seyer by Jeff Gabor

This clip shows a portion of Jeff Gabor's review of Keith Seyer's animation, from his Body Acting class. In this assignment students learn storytelling through pantomime acting.

AnimSchool has these General Reviews every week for students who can't attend their normal class review, or for those who want an extra critique. This term we welcomed Jeff Gabor onto the staff of General Review instructors. Tony Bonilla and AnimSchool founder, Dave Gallagher, also take part in General Reviews.