Monday, 30 November 2015

The One Book Every Animator Should Own

The one book every animator needs to own is The Animator's Survival Kit. There has been nothing quite like it since Frank Thomas & Ollie Johnstone wrote  The Illusion of Life back in the 1970s - the first book which fully set out the secrets of Disney animation.
The Animator's Survival Kit is top of our reading list for all our animation students. So what's in it and why is it so important?

Friday, 27 November 2015

What Are The Challenges of Running an Animation Studio? Blue Zoo's Tom Box Explains

Tom Box is the co-founder of Blue Zoo, one of the UK’s leading TV animation studios.  Blue Zoo does animation in a broad range of styles, both 2D and 3D, and is responsible for a number of successful TV series.

All their work is done in CG, and almost all of it is made in Maya.  They describe themselves as doing “CG character animation with a bold quirky style”, and at last week's Blue GFX Expo at London’s South Bank, Tom talked about The Eight Biggest Problems involved with running an animation studio, and how Blue Zoo goes about solving them.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

DreamWorks Animator Simon Otto Explains the Animation Process

In this excellent video recently released by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, DreamWorks animator Simon Otto (How to Train Your Dragon) explains how the animation process really works. It's only seven minutes long, and Simon shows succinctly and clearly how animators actually work together in a big studio to create huge projects. Animators are actors, giving a performance.  As he puts it: "Creativity is about searching for something, and when you know it's good, you need to catch hold of it and not let go".

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Stuart Sumida Reveals the Secrets of Quadruped Locomotion.

Stuart Sumida
Stuart Sumida is one of the leading experts in Hollywood for animal locomotion on feature films, not just on traditional 2D pictures like “Spirit”- Stallion of the Cimarron”, or “Lion King”, but also modern 3D films like DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon”.

Stuart describes himself as “a paleontologist who gets to work with animators” and, in between teaching anatomy to medical students, he consults on movies for Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks. I was personally lucky enough to work with him both on "Lion King" and also on "Spirit".

At last week's VFX Festival in Dublin, Stuart showed what makes him such a unique resource for animators dealing with the challenges of animal locomotion.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Paul Franklin Explains What Makes Oscar-Winning VFX

VFX Supervised by Paul Franklin
One of the best things about studying at Escape Studios is the excellent guest speakers who drop in, industry professionals who talk to our students about the work they have done. 

At a recent talk at Escape Studios, Oscar winning VFX supervisor Paul Franklin explained what goes into the making of the blockbuster films he has supervised, such as Dark Knight, Inception, and Interstellar - released this time last year. 

Franklin has also won two BAFTAs and is the co-founder of the global VFX powerhouse Double Negative.  

Clearly, Franklin is an artist who knows VFX inside out, and he offered our students a unique insight into how big budget visual effects movies get made, and what a visual effects supervisor actually does.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Why Should Animators Watch Charlie Chaplin Films?

Wikimedia Commons
Why should animators watch Charlie Chaplin films? Nancy Beiman, former supervising animator at Disney and now a professor at Sheridan College in Toronto, has the answer.

It's because animators are pantomime artists, and Chaplin was the greatest pantomimer of them all. At the SAS (Society of Animation Studies) conference in Toronto, Nancy explained how animation and silent film comedy developed together, inspiring one another to perfect the art of physical comedy.

Being a good animator isn't just about learning the craft of animation - though that is important.  It's also about creating a compelling performance that people will actually want to watch.

If animators want to know how to create great acting scenes that will entertain an audience - they should study Charlie Chaplin.

Meet Escape Studios Renderfarm - SkyNet!

Very friendly, we promise!
One of the many things that makes Escape Studios a unique place to study is Skynet - our powerful renderfarm. Unlike the Skynet in the Terminator films, our render farm is very friendly, and won't be taking over the world anytime soon (hopefully).

Go to most universities and colleges in the UK and the renderfarm is usually just the PC you are working at, plus whatever else you can hijack overnight.

But here at Escape, we take processing power seriously - we want all our students to have the maximum capacity to create stunning digital artwork.  So, for the techheads among you, we asked Jack Bosworth, one of our in-house engineers, to explain how Skynet works.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Amazing Fantastic Incredible - A Marvelous Memoir - the Autobiography of Stan Lee

Amazing! Fantastic! Incredible! - The autobiography of Stan Lee is out! Titled "A Marvelous Memoir" (Geddit?), this new book chronicles the extraordinary career of comics legend Stan Lee.

In fact, Lee was on Radio 4 this morning, talking about his career, and, despite being 92 years old, still telling great stories (clearly much told, but with no loss of enthusiasm) about turning points in his life like the birth of Spiderman.

Spidey and the other Marvel characters have since gone on to found what is apparently the most successful film franchise in history, bigger even than Harry Potter or James Bond.

So what about the royalties? Mr Lee must be rolling in gold, right? After all, he created the characters. Well, apparently not. Stan Lee was, as he put it: "a writer for hire". It was the company he worked for that got rich on the royalties, not him. And this is an important lesson for all our students:

Don't sign away the rights to your creations, unless you absolutely have to. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

What Are The Nine Secrets of Animation Success? Animation Master Rex Grignon Explains

Rex Grignon
What are the Nine Secrets of Success in the animation industry?  Rex Grignon, the Head of Character Animation at DreamWorks, thinks he has the answer.

Rex has worked on some of the biggest DreamWorks hits of the last decade, including ANTZ, Shrek, and all three Madagascar movies.

At a festival in Canada Rex talked about he key lessons he learned over the past two decades, and most especially from his years at PDI, Pixar and DreamWorks. So what are The Nine Secrets of Animation Success?

Monday, 16 November 2015

Where Will Our BA/MArt Students Study? Right Here in Shepherd's Bush!

Shepherd's Building - our home in The Bush
We are delighted to announce that students accepted on to our four-year BA/MArt in the Art of Computer Animation starting in September 2016 - now formally validated by the University of Kent - will be studying right here in Shepherd's Bush.

We're taking extra space in the Shepherd's building, just south of Shepherd's Bush Green, which is our current home.

It means we can expand our current operations, rather than having to find new space in a different part of town.

Friday, 13 November 2015

2016 Escape Studios VFX Festival - Tickets Now On Sale!

Tickets are now on sale for the 2016 Escape Studios VFX Festival. The Festival takes place from February 23rd - 25th next year, and brings you the latest in VFX, games, animation and motion graphics.

This year we've got tons of great speakers, including MPC - talking about their work on The Martian, and The Mill talking about augmented - and virtual - reality.  Come along and find out what the Next Big Thing is in animation, Games and VFX.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Our Brand New Animation Course Starts on 15 February 2016!

Come and learn the art of 3D Animation!
We're delighted to announce that our awesome new animation course is launching in February 2016!

Starting on 15th February, this brand-new 3D animation course includes twelve weeks intensive classroom tuition plus a further three months on-line mentoring, so that our students can practice in their own time and polish their skills.

So, what exactly can our new animation students expect?

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

BlueGFX EXPO Takes Place on Thursday 19th November 2015

Blue GFX Expo is taking place in London on 19th November 2015.  This year speakers include Tom Box from Blue Zoo, the UK's biggest TV animation company, Stuart Penn from Framestore, and representatives from Autodesk showing the latest Maya tools.  For all our students, this is a great chance to catch up with new technology and meet in person people from the UK's top animation and visual effects houses.  And best of all, it's completely free.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Escapee Simone Ciliani's Demo Reel Rocks!

Simone Ciliani - showreel oct 2015 from simone ciliani on Vimeo.

Check out the just-cut 2015 VFX demo reel of Escapee Simone Ciliani. Since leaving Escape studios Simone has gone on to work on blockbuster VFX hits like Guardians of the Galaxy, 300 - Rise of an Empire, Maleficent, Dracula Untold, Kingsman - Secret Service Edge of Tomorrow, Fast and Furious 7, and Percy Jackson - Sea of Monsters

Monday, 9 November 2015

Escape Studios Movie Night!

Film Night is one of the many ways we work to give our students a great experience here at Escape Studios. We serve drinks and popcorn, and we sometimes show films that our tutors have worked on, so they can introduce the film and talk about what it was like working on the movie. 

For example, we'll be screening The Iron Giant on 11 December, and I'll be introducing the film, showing some of my shots, and talking about what it was like to work for one of the great animation directors - Brad Bird.

A digitally remastered version of the Iron Giant has recently been re-released in theatres in the US - a fitting tribute to a film which underperformed at the Box Office but has since become a cult classic.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Meet Oscar Winning VFX Supervisor Paul Franklin on Thursday December 10th

Oscar Winning VFX Supervisor Paul Franklin is being interviewed in Stoke Newington on Thursday December 10th, to talk about some of his work in visual effects.

Paul Franklin has collected Oscars for films like Inception, which broke fresh ground in the VFX industry, creating extraordinary effects.

He is also an excellent and entertaining speaker, and we highly recommend that our students attend what promises to be a fascinating evening.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Lost Disney Film Found in the BFI National Archive - Meet Oswald The Lucky Rabbit!

The BFI were digging around recently in the back of their sofa (The BFI National Archive) and guess what they found? Not just the missing remote and a ton of loose change, but a long-lost Disney short featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the character created by Walt Disney before he struck gold with Mickey Mouse.

The film is called Sleigh Bells and was first released in 1928. You can buy tickets to see the film yourself at BFI on London's South Bank.

But first - who the heck was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit anyway?

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Come See Us at Design Your Future in Manchester on 22-23 November, and in London on 10-11 November

Escape Studios will be at the Design Your Future event organised by UCAS in Manchester on 22nd 23 November; we'll be showing some cool animation tools and explaining how we can help students become professional animators and visual effects artists.  Got questions about our BA/MArt in 3D Animation? Want to know what we do, and how we can help kick-start your animation career? Come and meet us at the Pearson College/Escape Studios stand!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Danger Mouse is Back!

Danger Mouse is back! And Penfold too!
Danger Mouse, the secret agent who was a 1980s TV star, has returned to our screens.  According to the wise people who release stats on TV ratings, Danger Mouse is a "colossal hit" with young audiences, topping the ratings in the UK. This is excellent news for the British animation industry, since Danger Mouse is a home grown hit, and is brought to life by Dublin based Boulder Animation, who - according to their website - are "always looking" for talented artists and animators to join their staff.  So, what are you waiting for? Time for our animation graduates to polish their demo reels and send in their CVs!

Monday, 2 November 2015

The Bancroft Bros, Andreas Deja, and Disney's "Nine Old Men"

In this excellent podcast from The Bancroft Bros, Tom and Tony interview legendary Disney animator Andreas Deja (Gaston, Hercules, Scar) about his new book on the masters of Disney animation: The Nine Old Men.

But who were the Nine Old Men? And why should we still care? The answer is, these were the animators who created, developed and nurtured the original Disney style.

It's not an exaggeration to say that they created the medium of animation and made it what it is today.