Saturday, 30 January 2016

BFI To Host Special Screening of Oscar-Nominated Animated Short Films on 5 Feb

The British Film Institute on London's South Bank is hosting a special screening of the animated short films which have been nominated for an Oscar this year.  

You can see the films on just one night: Friday 5 February 2016 at 7pm. 

The evening is a chance to see some of the best work in our industry, mostly by independent film-makers, and also to hear a Q&A with Richatd Williams, author of The Animator's Survival Kit, who is one of this year's nominees.

Friday, 29 January 2016

The Free ParentMaster Plugin For Maya

Parent Master
The ParentMaster is an excellent free plugin for Maya. It was created by Paolo Dominici and it greatly simplifies the business of attaching and un-attaching objects in Maya - an essential part of the animator's toolkit.

Say you want to animate a character picking up a ball and then dropping it. Sounds simple, right? Well, in Maya, this can actually be a slightly tricky process.

But by downloading and installing this free tool, you will have made your life as a Maya animator much, much easier.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Meet the Morpheus Rig

Morpheus by name, and by nature
Morpheus is one of our good friends here at Escape Studios, and one of many free rigs available online for learning animation.

Created by the very talented Josh Burton, Morpheus has been extensively road-tested by students of animation looking to polish their skills and get better at their craft.

Morpheus is an excellent rig but, like all free rigs (and, frankly, like all rigs), it does have a few quirks. Below is a guide for student animators to some of the main problems that we have come across, and how to fix them.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Eric Goldberg Explains Storyboarding

This short film about storyboarding is presented by Disney animation veteran Eric Goldberg, an animator who moves seamlessly between animation, storyboarding, and directing. And why not? All these skills are complementary, and all involve the telling of stories in a visual medium. Eric was one of the directors of "Pocahontas", and he earned lasting fame for the stunning design and execution of the "You'll never have a friend like me" musical sequence in Aladdin.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

2016 Animation Roundtable by The Hollywood Reporter

The Hollywood Reporter has interviewed six leading animation directors: Pete Docter (Inside Out), Pete Sohn (Good Dinosaur), Richard Starzak (Shaun the Sheep), Steve Martino (Peanuts Movie), Charles Kaufman (Anomalisa), and Roger Allers (The Prophet). The directors talk about their shared journey bringing animated films to the screen, and the many challenges they had to overcome along the way. The panel discussion is one hour long.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Book Recommendation - Animation Methods by David Rodriguez

Animation Methods by David Rodriguez is an excellent book on learning animation in Maya.  It's a book that focuses primarily on 3D Character Animation, a step-by-step guide for learning Maya, and the Maya animation tools.

It also has useful sections on how to get into the industry, how to make a great demo reel, and how to get a job in animation. We think this is a very useful manual for learning the craft of animation.

It is also an unusual book in that it makes extensive use of QR codes - meaning you can use your smartphone to scan the codes and then view a 3D animated clip of the lesson. So, not only can you read the lesson, but you can also see and understand it through a video demonstration.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Walt - The Man Behind The Myth

Walt - The Man Behind The Myth is a 90 minute documentary about the life of the legendary animator who is, more than any single individual, responsible for the medium that we work in today.  Why watch the documentary? Because it's important to know the history of our medium; we all stand on the shoulders of giants and no-one in our industry was bigger than Disney.  Watching documentaries like this one helps all of us to improve our own work, by taking inspiration from the pioneers of animation, such as Walt Disney and the incredibly talented team that he put together.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Pixar's Renderman - Free For Student Use

Pixar's Renderman, one of the leading industry software packages for rendering high quality animation images is now free to students to use on a non-commercial basis.  Pixar's RenderMan is used throughout the CGI industry for the creation of stunning visual effects, and is highly recommended for student use. So what are you waiting for? Download it here now!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Time to Download the Free Escape Studios Annual Careers Guide

Time to download the free Escape Studios annual Careers Guide, an invaluable handbook for any aspiring visual effects artist - including animators.

Here at Escape Studios we track the latest trends in the digital market, focusing especially on the skills that are currently in high demand. We recommend that all of our students download a copy our 2016 Careers Guide - just released.  Best of all, it's absolutely free.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The Invisible Visual Effects - The Best Kept-Secret of the Movie Business

Suffragette reel from Union Visual Effects on Vimeo.

This excellent article at the Daily Telegraph explains why "invisible effects are Hollywood's best kept secret". Of course, everyone knows about the eye-popping visual effects work that brings us flying spaceships, massive explosions, and fantasy creatures of all kinds. But the movie business is now full of effects that no-one even notices. Digital crowds bring an empty racetrack to life in "Suffragette" (see the video above).  Effects artists remove acne from a famous actress having a bad skin day - the 3D artists who make these effects are the unsung heroes of our industry.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Can Our Students at Escape Studios Make You a Short Animated Film?

Here at Escape Studios we often get asked this question: Can your students make me a short animated film? The answer is a loud and enthusiastic yes.

We love making animated films, and we love doing live briefs for clients.

We have even set up a small film co-operative at especially to create short films. So, how does it work in practice?

Monday, 18 January 2016

Time to Enter the Monthly Character Design Challenge!

Character Design Challenge!
Calling All Character Designers! Why not polish your design skills by entering the monthly Character Design Challenge?

It's a bit like the Eleven Second Club, but for character designers. The group only started up in January 2015 and it already has an astonishing twenty five thousand members.

This month's design challenge is .....Roller Derby! So what are you waiting for? Let's get designing!

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Why Do Animation Jobs Go So Fast? Chris Oatley Explains
Below is a link to an excellent blog post by animation artist and Disney Character Designer Chris Oatley at on animation jobs.

Why is it that so many animation jobs seem to be gone as soon as you apply - especially that elusive first job?  The answer is, according to Chris, because candidates don't apply fast enough. But why is that? And why is speed so essential?

Friday, 15 January 2016

How Disney Animators Created Great Acting in Frozen

Watch Disney's smash hit animated film Frozen and you will find some first class acting, beautiful work which arguably takes the medium to a whole new level of sophistication and skill. But how do animators achieve such great acting? The answer of course is just the same as it would have been at the Disney studio 70 or 80 years ago: if you want great acting, study great actors. Below is an excellent shot progression showing how animators on Frozen used live action reference to bring their shots to life.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Oscars 2016 - Who Will Win Best Animated Feature?

Who will win the Oscar this year for Best Animated Feature Film?

This year there are five nominees: Anomalisa, Boy and The World, Inside Out, When Marnie Was There, and Shaun The Sheep, by Aardman Animation in Bristol.

Animation has surely come of age. Just a few years ago there were three nominees in the category, and the category itself is only 15 years old,  having been first created in 2001. Prior to that, there were so few animated films every year that it would have been a one-horse race, with Disney winning every time.

Free Plugins for Maya - PAIE

Autodesk Maya is a powerful piece of 3D animation software, free for students to download, and now the industry standard for 3D animation around the world.

But Maya does have its weaknesses, and one of them is the difficulty of copying and pasting your animation from one rig to another. Got some great animation you want to copy on to a new rig? Maya won't let you do it, even if the rigs are identical.

But now, the free PAIE plugin, created by Jacob Welner, has made the job much easier.  Here is how it works.

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Redboard - a Better Way to Storyboard Animation?

As everyone knows, 3D animation starts with a hand-drawn storyboard process, then goes to 3D Layout, and finally to animation.  

But what if you could combine the storyboard process and 3D Layout, to make your animation pipeline work faster, with fewer mistakes? 

This is what Redboard, a new animation and pre-via storyboard software, aims to do. And best of all, it actually works.

How Do You Make a Batch Render of Your Frames in Maya?

"Utah teapot" - Wikimedia
How do you make a Batch Render of your frames in Maya?  The Render Settings in Maya offer a confusing array of choices, and sometimes it can be hard to know which options to pick.

Don't forget that Google is always your friend when it comes to troubleshooting technical problems - someone out there will have the answer, if you can just ask the right question.

Below is a technical cheat sheet that should help you to create beautiful, final rendered images - and a movie file - without too many tears.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Thousands of Free Images Online From New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art

Metropolitan Museum of Art
New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art has posted hundreds of thousands of images online for free non-commercial use under the Creative Commons License.

That means you can use the images in your work, as long as you're not profiting from them, and as long as you credit the Met.

What's so great about that? Well, if you've been to the Met, you will have seen one of the world's greatest collections of art, ranking up there with the British Museum, Paris's Louvre and Florence's Uffizi as a treasure trove of beautiful things.

And now, all these fabulous images are free for us to use.

Richard Williams' "Prologue" Nominated for a BAFTA

A still image from Prologue
Animation guru Richard Williams (who directed The Thief and the Cobbler, and was animation director on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?), has had his six-minute animated short Prologue nominated for a BAFTA, in the category of Best Animated Short.

The two other films nominated are Edmond (by Nina Gantz and Emilie Jouffroy), and Manoman (by Simon Cartwright and Kamilla Kristiane Hodol)

The nominees for Best Animated Film are Shaun the Sheep, Minions, and Inside Out.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Escape Studios Summer Showreel 2014

Check out the stunning work done by our students last summer, in this 2014 demo reel. Some of my favourite shots include the ones that have fun with our familiar London landmarks. There is something very entertaining about seeing our city's iconic buildings blown up (digitally, of course) by students at Escape Studios.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Why Not Enter The January Eleven Second Club Competition?

Here at Escape Studios we encourage all our student animators to enter monthly Eleven Second Cluba character animation competition in which aspiring animators practice their skills and learn the craft of character performance. 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!

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Animation "Taster" Day on Friday 15 January!

Come and learn about character and creature animation at Escape Studios on 15 January.

There are still a few seats left  on our one-day animation "taster" day. Your career as a 3D animator starts here!

Working with industry-standard tools such as Autodesk Maya and Adobe Photoshop, you’ll get a hands-on introduction to 3D Animation techniques, all for just £25.

So how do you sign up?

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Have You Taken The Harry Potter Studio Tour Yet?

Harry Potter Tour
Have you taken the Harry Potter Studio Tour in Leavesden, north London yet? The sprawling 80-hectare studio complex was used for filming the Harry Potter series of films, and is as good an introduction to the art, craft and science of visual effects film-making as almost any amount of classroom instruction - and far more fun.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Free Textures from Pixar!

Pixar recently released a number of free repeating textures from their archives - for use in 3D animation, under the Creative Commons license.

The archive was first created in 1993, and is now free for use by the rest of us - for the first time ever.  Included in the free release are bricks, metals, fabrics, skins, ground surfaces, and tons of other useful stuff.

All of them are designed to repeat seamlessly with no nasty visible joins. So, no more searching Google images for non-copyright material - Pixar makes it easy for us all.

Monday, 4 January 2016

What is a Sales Agent? And Why Might an Animator Need One?

Sola Media - Sales Agents with a focus on animation
Any animator or VFX artist with dreams to bring their own project to the big screen will eventually need to understand the business of making and financing animated films.

This includes the question of who, exactly, is going to sell your film for you. Are you going to do it yourself? Or are you going to bring in experts who know the business?

As part of our series on the business of animation, we take a look at what a sales agent is and what exactly they do.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

What is The Euler Filter, and How Do You Use It?

Dr Leonhard Euler by Jakob Emanuel Handmann. 
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Look under the Curves menu in the Graph Editor in Autodesk Maya and you will see a button marked Euler Filter. Not knowing what it does (or even how to pronounce it), you have probably never used it - why would you? But don't be deceived by the odd name.

The Euler Filter is a very useful tool in Maya, one which can solve - almost magically - some of the most common problems we get in the rotations of curves, problems which can seriously mess up your character animation.  If the rotations on your character's arms are going wild, and no amount of keyframing seems to help - you probably need a little help from Dr Euler.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

How to Produce a Movie by David Thompson

David Thompson
Here at Escape Studios we are big fans of BAFTA Guru, the education arm of BAFTA which offers lectures and masterclasses on every possible aspect of Film, TV and Games production.

BAFTA regularly welcomes students and members of the public to hear industry professionals give lectures on the business of making creative media.

One of their best recent presentations was by David Thompson, formerly head of films and single drama at BBC, who talked about how to produce movies and TV shows.

Thompson has over 100 screen credits, including Billy Elliot and Mandela, and is a multiple BAFTA and Golden Globe winner.  We recommend that all our students attend industry events like this whenever possible. You never know who you will meet, and what you will learn about the way the industry actually works.

Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year's Resolutions for Animators!

Happy 2016!
What should an animator's new year's resolutions be? Animation is a huge and growing business, a far cry from the cottage industry it used to be just a few years years ago.

But the world of animation and vfx is a competitive one, and good animators need to be smart to stay on top of their game.

So, what are some simple ways to maintain your edge in 2016?