Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Animation Software Q&A with Michael Davies

What kind of software do we teach at Escape Studios? It's a question we often get asked by prospective students.

In this blog post, Escape Studios animation tutor and undergraduate program leader Michael Davies offers his thoughts on some of the most frequently-asked questions about the use of software at Escape Studios.

Most important of all for our students is the growing availability of free student licenses for home use.

Q1. What Animation software that you teach is used mostly in the industry?
The main program that we teach is Autodesk Maya. This is the most widely used in industry and is full of great Animation tools. This software is capable of complex character animation and dynamic simulations for effects like cloth and fur. A full student version is available to download at

Q2. How do you efficiently teach software to your students?
All of our lessons are project-based, in that you learn by doing and we help guide you through the tools as you go. Remembering what tools to use is half the battle, where the other half of the battle is allowing artists to find a workflow that works for them. Most of the time, the same thing can be done a few different ways and get the same end result. By allowing students to figure this out in the context of a project, this allows them to figure out how to use their time more efficiently and better plan their workflow and time.

Q3. What technology or software will I need at home?
Even basic Computers and Laptops can run Maya very well. if you are doing more complex tasks, then having both a good CPU and GPU will help, especially when it comes to dynamic simulation or rendering. You could most probably still do these things, although it might run a bit slower. If you would like some life goals; you can read about the hardware that we use at Escape:

Most of the software that we use in animation has student versions that are available. As mentioned above, Maya has a free student version. Houdini has the Apprentice License which is free for students, available at www. If you have the computing power, I recommend moving your render pipeline to Unreal Engine, which is completely free.

Q4. What is the best rendering software for Animation?
This is quite a tricky question because every studio uses something different, and this comes down to preference rather than how good the renderers are. Sometimes it is about the pipeline and requirements of the project, so even studios will change from time to time. 

Framestore primarily uses Arnold (which ships with Maya), whereas Industrial Light and Magic uses Renderman (which also has a non-commercial version at which is the render engine that was created by Pixar. 

With Computing power becoming better and better, we are now able to achieve fantastic results with Real-time Raytracing in engines such as Unreal Engine and Unity. This is the pipeline that has adopted by a few animation studios such as BlueZoo. A great example of this is the BlueZoo Animation ‘Christmas with the Moonies’:

The Escape Studios Animation Blog offers a personal view on the art of animation and visual effects. To find out more about our new BA/MArt, now recruiting for September 2020, follow this link.   To apply, visit the official page here.

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