Thursday, 31 December 2015

Eleven Rules to Become a Great CG Animator

Cross the finish line in style
Part of the secret of having a successful career as a 3D animator is learning how to be good and fast at the same time. Directors want quality, Producers want speed. You must please them both.

Animation producers like animators who do the job well, on time, and are a pleasure to work with.  If you have all three of these qualities - a long and successful career in the industry will be yours. Below are our top tips for animating in Maya - how to be both good and fast.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Free Rigs for Maya Animators at Animation Buffet

Animation Buffet is one of the best places to go for free rigs for animation students working in Maya.

Alongside the Resources page of the Eleven Second Club, Animation Buffet is probably your first stop to find character and creature rigs that are fully functioning, reliable - and free.

One of the pleasures of creating character and creature animation in Maya is the growing quantity of freeware produced by Maya animators all around the world. So bookmark Animation Buffet now, and start downloading and experimenting with new rigs.  Who knows, it might inspire you to do the best piece of animation you've ever done! Below are some of the rigs we particularly like:

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

UCAS Deadline - 15 January 2016

UCAS - still time to apply - but hurry!
Thinking of applying to Escape Stduos to study the Art of 3D Animation? It's not too late! The next big UCAS deadline is 15 January 2016, and we are welcoming applications for our new integrated BA/MArt.

Below are some good reasons why we believe we are building one of the best animation courses in the country, and how you can get started on your new career as a 3D animator.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Aspect Ratios Explained - What Is An Aspect Ratio Anyway?

Aspect Ratios. Wikimedia Commons
Screen aspect ratios are one of the more technical aspects of our business - confusing when you don't understand it, but easy when you know how.

Why do our students need to understand aspect ratios? Because it's how we configure our work for the screen.  It's something that every film-maker needs to learn eventually, because it's what the audience will see.

When you render your shot, and when you edit your work in Premiere or Final Cut, you will have to make choices as to what aspect ratio to select.  So, to take the pain away,  below is a brief summary of how it all works.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Big Hero Six Animation Workflow Revealed

Shot Breakdown: Fred basketball test from trent correy on Vimeo.

Above is an excellent shot breakdown video by Disney animator Trent Correy - all about how he planned out one of his shots on Big Hero Six. How does an animator actually plan their shot? There is, of course, no single answer to this question - every animator has their own workflow that works for them.  That said, most animators approach a shot in fairly similar ways, thinking about it, planning it, thumbnailing it, making a kind of mental road map to guide them to their destination.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

What Will You Do In 2016?

The period between Christmas and New Year is a good time to reflect on the past twelve months, and also make plans for the future. After all, it's just about the only time of year when everything stops. No emails, few phone calls - time at last to think and reflect. And time also to look forward to 2016, and wonder how best to use the coming year. If you want to start a career in digital media, now is the time to make the changes.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Last-Minute Christmas Presents for Animators - The Illusion of Life

The original animation bible
Stuck for a Christmas present for the animator in your life? There's still time to pop to your local bookshop and get a copy of The Illusion of Life, by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnstone, two of Walt Disney's legendary "Nine Old Men".

This hefty book is the original "animation bible", first published in the 1970s, and the first time anyone set out in print the accumulated wisdom of the Disney studio.

The 1970s were a lean time for animation; Walt Disney was dead and the revival that would come with Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and The Little Mermaid (and, later, with 3D animation) was still far in the future.

So what's so great about this old book, and why is it still relevant today?

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Merry Christmas From Escape Studios - and Tiny Tim!

Spot the Difference
Way back in 1971 I was the voice of Tiny Tim - age four years.

The reason I got the job was because my Dad's old animation studio in  Soho Square in London had taken on their first really big project - a TV adaptation of Charles Dickens'  A Christmas Carol, and they needed a little kid to do the voice-over.

By chance, I was just the right age.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Time To Sign Up For The SIGGRAPH 2016 Student Volunteer Program

Time for our students to sign up for the SIGGRAPH 2016 Student Volunteer Program! The deadline for team leaders is 12 January 2016, and the deadline for student volunteers is 9 February 2016.

But wait, why would our students want to volunteer for SIGGRAPH? Simple - it's all about who you might meet.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Where Will Our Ba/MArt Students Live?

Felda House is located in Wembley, North London.
Thinking of applying for our new BA/MArt in the Art of 3D Animation, but not sure where you might live?

Below are three suggestions for undergraduate student accommodation within striking distance of Escape Studios in Shepherds Bush. All of these options have been vetted and approved by Pearson College.

Prices vary, and start at around £140 per week. Students can choose from three locations: Wembley, Westbourne Park and White City. 

Sunday, 20 December 2015

"More Stuff" by Blue Zoo - with Animation by Escapee Marc Godfrey

More Stuff by Blue Zoo Animation from Blue Zoo on Vimeo.

Escape Studios graduate Marc Godfrey worked on this excellent short film by Blue Zoo animation, one of the UK's best indie animation houses and a studio that takes seriously the business of keeping its creative juices flowing. One of the ways they do this is by making short films, involving their staff creatively and ensuring that their work is experimental, fun and interesting. We're proud to congratulate Marc on his contribution to this excellent short.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Escape Studios Demo Reel 2010

Check out our students' excellent work from a few years ago by watching the video above. Escape Studios have been preparing students for work in the Visual Effects Industry for many years, and we have something like 4,000 Escapees working in the business. So, even though our BA/MArt in Animation is a new course, it's not like we're starting from scratch - we're building on the solid foundations of many years of work.  My favourite shot is the one of St Paul's cathedral being blown up. I don't know what it is exactly, but there's something very entertaining about watching our students destroy London's famous landmarks - digitally, at least. But then, that's the thing about great effects - you can let your imagination roam, and create amazing images that no camera could ever capture.

Friday, 18 December 2015

How Do Animation Students Enter Their Films and Win Prizes at Film Festivals?

Photo: Wikimedia
There is no better way for a student to launch their career in animation than to enter and win animated film festivals around the world.

However, as the competition gets tougher all the time, how does a student have a decent chance to enter their film, get noticed, and win prizes?

We asked veteran DreamWorks storyboard artist Nassos Vakalis, whose short film "Dinner for Few" has been winning festivals all over the world, to explain the secrets of success.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

VES Needs Volunteers For Their Christmas Party!

The VES - that's the Visual Effects Society - is hosting a Christmas party tonight, Thursday 17th December (from 12 noon through to midnight) and they need some volunteers to help them to welcome guests and other small tasks.

This is a great chance for our students to meet professional VFX artists in an informal setting, make contacts, have some fun, and do some serious networking.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

What Happens At Escape Studios' Applicant Days?

Escape Studios HQ in Shepherd's Bush
Applied for a place on our 3D Animation, Games or VFX undergraduate course, for entry in September 2016?

If so, you've probably had a letter inviting you to attend an Applicant Day here at Escape Studios, and you might be feeling a bit worried.

Don't panic! An Applicant Day, such as the one taking place tomorrow 17 December, is really a chance for us to get to know each other, and for you to find out more about what we do at Escape Studios.  So, what specifically are our Applicant Days all about?

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Escape Studios Visits Aardman Animation!

Hanging out with Shaun and Dad
Aardman animation is arguably our most famous animation company here in the UK - Britain's answer to Pixar or DreamWorks.  Aardman's films have a universal appeal, and characters such as Wallace and Gromit have conquered the box office all around the world. Shaun the Sheep is their latest success story, making $85m worldwide.

I was in Bristol on Friday to see Aardman's latest showcase of student work. Their twelve week animation programme, sponsored by the NFTS, is one of the few short courses in the UK that seriously teach the art of 3D character animation, not unlike the 12 week course we're running early next year.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Create The Perfect Animation Demo Reel

What goes into a great animation demo reel? Putting together an excellent reel is the ultimate goal for all of our students here at Escape Studios. Your demo reel is the key to finding work in the industry.

So what are the secrets of a superb animation demo reel? We suggest that there are twelve rules for success.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Teaser for our BA/MArt in 3D Animation Now Live!

Check out our brand-new teaser above for our new integrated BA/MArt in the Art of 3D Animation. Our new course launches in September 2016, and our goal is to be the best 3D animation course in the country. That's a big ambition, but check out the work done by our students above. When I go to Open Days and UCAS events to talk about our work, I have to remind visitors that all the work they see on our demo reel (including all the work shown above) is done by our students - not by industry professionals. And the shots you see were done in just three months of study at Escape Studios, on our short courses. Now, just imagine what you could achieve in three years.


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 starting in September 2016, follow this link.   To apply, visit the offical page here

Friday, 11 December 2015

How Do DreamWorks Animators Train Their Dragons?

How do animators train their dragons? Or, rather, how do they approach the complex and daunting business of creating a beautifully animated flying dragon?

All animators start with a blank screen, and as professional artists we need methods that we can rely on to produce work we can be proud of, every time.

In this excellent documentary about the making of How To Train Your Dragon, DreamWorks animators talk about going to Flight School, analysing reference, and making sure that their animation was based on real, credible material that helped to bring their fantasy creatures to life.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

How to Find an Internship in the Animation Industry

Interview by Mikkel Brons-Frandsen
How do animation students find  internships and temporary placements in the industry? It's a question we get asked a lot here at Escape Studios.

Jobs in the entertainment industry have always been highly competitive, and even unpaid internships can be hard to pin down.

There are many ways - official jobs postings, word of mouth, rumours in the pub, personal contacts, even cold-calling - all of these can be effective ways to find an internship in the business.

Below are the twelve key rules we think are important for success.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

How To Get Your Name Listed at the IMDB


The Internet Movie Database, or IMDB, is the principal portal for finding people who work in film and broadcast media. It's where you go to look people up.  Gone are the days when you had to dig through back copies of Variety to find out someone's track record - knowledge is now just a click away.  Being listed is important.  Anyone in the movie business who isn't listed, needs to be.  But how do you get onto it? Specifically, as a recent graduate, trying to building yourself a reputation in the industry and an online presence, how do you get your name included in the IMDB database? Here's how the system works.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Hamilton and Kidd Bring Virtual Reality to Escape Studios

Hamilton & Kidd

At Escape Studios we are always looking for ways to make our classroom content as cutting edge as possible. And why can't our students engage with the recent leaps in VR technology, which are at last bringing to life the long-overdue promise of VR?

This past week the guys from Hamilton Kidd came to Escape to give us some training in the very latest in VR tech.

Monday, 7 December 2015

How MPC Created a Digital Arnold for Terminator Genisys

He's back! As a digital double of himself
At the recent BlueGFX Expo at London’s South Bank, Moving Picture Company (MPC) Software Developer Marco Romeo talked about some of the recent work done by MPC on the film Terminator Genisys.  In particular, he described how MPC painstakingly rebuilt a digital version of the young Arnold Schwarzenegger (to do battle in the movie with the real Arnold), using a better facial rigging system with Fabric, and using new facial simulation research.

Here at Escape Studios we always recommend that our students attend events like BlueGFX Expo, and of course the upcoming VFX Festival in February 2016.   You never know who you will meet, and what you will learn about the latest technology in our industry.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

How Will You Escape?

To see some of the excellent work done by students at Escape Studios, check out the demo reel above.  Remember, this is student work - none of these shots were done by industry professionals.  This work was all done by our students after just three months of classroom study - on our short courses.  And if this kind of quality can be achieved in just a few months, imagine what can be done in the three years it takes to complete a BA.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Film Night at Escape Studios on Friday 11 December!

Next Friday December 11th is Film Night at Escape Studios! We'll be screening the cult animation classic The Iron Giant, a film which initially performed badly at the Box Office but nonetheless scored 96% fresh at RottenTomatoes, and has since developed a huge following of fans.  I'll be introducing the film, showing some of the shots I animated, and talking about what it was like to work for one of the great animation directors - Brad Bird. Watch the (extremely silly) teaser above for details.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

How Do You Cast a Movie? - BAFTA Explains

You wish! Photo: Wikimedia
How do you cast a movie? The question is just as relevant for animators as it is for live-action film-makers.

If you are hoping to get an animated film project to the big screen (and we want all our students to aim high), then at some point you need to think about casting. And, the bigger the star you can attract, the more likely your movie is to get made, because investors and sales agents will feel more confident that audiences will pay money to see it.

At a recent event at BAFTA in London, part of the BAFTA Guru series of lectures, a panel of industry experts discussed how, exactly, indepedent film-makers can go about casting their film, even if they don't have a big budget to land a big star.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Where Are Animation Recruiters To Be Found?

Annecy - world's biggest animation festival
Where should animation graduates look for recruiters? Or, to put it another way, where do recruiters in the animation and VFX industries go to find fresh talent?

There are many festivals and events around the world which focus on animation and visual effects, and many of them feature jobs fairs where recruiters will take a stand.

Recruiters like to attend festivals because they know they can reach a large number of animators in a short amount of time. So, where should the ambitious student and recent graduate go looking for work? Below is our list of top places for students to attend.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Time to Enter the December 11 Second Club Competition!

Here at Escape Studios we encourage all our student animators to enter The 11 Second Cluba monthly character animation competition in which aspiring animators practice their skills and get their work noticed. Animators from all over the world participate, animating a character speaking a line of dialogue, which is provided every month by the club. Best of all, entry is free! So what are you waiting for?  Let's start animating!