Monday, 5 October 2015

How Do You Create The Perfect Animation Workstation?

A student watches a tutorial on his iPad
and does the exercise on a separate screen
In our industry, a good workstation is not a luxury - it's a necessity. The dirty secrets of the VFX business are carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injuries (RSI).

These are potentially serious health problems which affect many people working in our business.  No-one talks about it much - but it's there all the same.

So how can our students make sure they have a long, successful career, and a healthy workstation? Step one - get rid of the mouse.

Step 1 - Get Rid of The Mouse
What's wrong with the mouse? Plenty. Long term use of the mouse can lead to repetitive strain problems, because you're constantly clicking away with your fingers - a classic repetitive motion.  The mouse may look innocent - but it is much more dangerous than it looks.

More dangerous than it looks
Step 2 - Buy Yourself a Tablet
Far better than a mouse is to use a tablet. Wacom are the market leaders - but buy whatever works.

Buy a decent one that is a reasonable size, a minimum of A5 - anything less than this is too small. And test it out first before you buy it.

Remember that a good tablet will last for many years. I run a Wacom Intuos 3; I've had it so long I can't remember how old it is.  Many years, anyway - the driver for it is in the "legacy" section at the Wacom website.  It may be old, but it's great to animate with, and you can't really use design software like Photoshop properly without a tablet.

Maya workstation with a Wacom tablet
3 - Sit Up Straight
It is very important to get your posture right. Pull your chair up, sit up straight, and don't slouch - do it now! 

All the buttons on your keyboard should be within easy reach, without stretching.

Step 4 - Use Both Hands
When you use Maya, remember that you will need both hands to run the software properly. Your left hand will hover over the hot keys - W (move), and E (rotate). Your left thumb will be positioned over the ALT button so you can use your wacom pen to dolly, move and zoom.

If your left hand is not on the keyboard at all times, you are doing it wrong.
Good posture.
Wikimedia Commons

I've lost count of the number of students I see in the classroom who are slouching in their chairs, left hand slumped at their side, trying to run Maya with one hand.

You cannot animate this way - it doesn't work.

So pull your chair up, pull your keyboard forward so that all the keys are within easy reach of both hands, and sit up straight.

You'll be glad you did!


The Escape Studios Animation Blog offers a personal view on the art of animation and visual effects. To apply for our new BA/MArt starting in September 2016, follow this link. To sign up for our short animation course starting on June 28, click here.

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