Monday, 29 February 2016

Escapee Guy Penwill VFX Artist at DNeg

Escapee Guy Penwill was one of the interviewees at London Live recently (see the video above), talking about the BAFTA nominations, the state of the visual effects industry, and also about what we do here at Escape Studios to prepare our students for the job market.  He recently worked on Ex Machina, which last night won the Oscar for best Visual Effects. Guy's story is an especially inspiring one not just because he has succeeded in forging a great career in London's visual effects industry, but because of the remarkable chutzpah he showed in getting his career off the blocks. We asked him to talk to us about what it takes nowadays to make it in VFX.

Friday, 26 February 2016

An Amazing Week at the VFX Festival

Industry Panel
It's been an extraordinary ride at the Escape Studios VFX Festival this past week.

Industry royalty turned out in force at London's O2, including a spectacular presentation yesterday by ILM on the making of Star Wars.

Anyone who was looking for insights into the state of our industry, how VFX movies and games get made, and what the future holds - will not have been disappointed. And the industry stands were buzzing with recruiters - VFX in London is hiring fresh talent.

Yesterday's industry panel saw some of the leaders in animation and VFX talk about the latest trends in the business, and what the future will bring.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Force Is With Us at The Escape Studios VFX Festival Today

Today is the final day of the 2016 Escape Studios VFX Festival. It's been an amazing week, full of fascinating presentations by many of London's leading animation and VFX houses.

The Festival has been taking place at London's O2 this week, competing for attention with the BRIT awards that were the main event yesterday.

Today is very much the climax of the VFX festival. This evening ILM will talking about their awesome BAFTA-winning work on Star Wars, but throughout the day there are many excellent speakers. Let's take a closer look at what's happening at the VFX festival today...

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

What's Happening At The VFX Festival Today?

Framestore will be talking about their work on "Pan".
The 2016 Escape Studios VFX Festival continues today,  taking place at London's O2 until thursday February 25th, and bringing you the latest in VFX, games, animation and motion graphics.

Today we've got some excellent speakers, including Framestore - talking about their awesome work on Pan, MPC talking about The Martian, and Blue Zoo talking animation. 

So let's take a closer look at what's happening in the VFX festival today at the O2...

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Escape Studios 2016 VFX Festival opens today!

The 2016 Escape Studios VFX Festival opens today! The Festival takes place at London's O2 from today February 23rd and finishes on thursday February 25th, 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.  So what's happening in the festival today at the O2?

Monday, 22 February 2016

Escape Studios Interviewed at London Live!

Above is an interview I did on Saturday with London Live, talking about the BAFTA nominees, and also about breaking into the animation and VFX industry. It was a fun interview, and it's always interesting to hear the kind of questions that interviewers want to know about how animation gets made. Claudia-Liza Armah wanted to know about The Lion King, which just goes to show how evergreen that film is, and how well it is still liked and admired - even 23 years on.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Pixar's 22 Rules of Story telling

John Lasseter famously described the three most important things about film-making as "One: story. Two: story. Three: story".

Obviously, Pixar do a bunch of other stuff really well too, like, say character animation. But there is no doubt that great stories are at the heart of their work and their success.

So what can we learn from Pixar about great story telling? Fortunately, Pixar are not guarded about their secrets. Recently, these "22 rules of storytelling" were tweeted by Pixar Story Artist Emma Coats.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Free Animation Webinar tonight at 5pm!

Spider animation by Steve Woodhouse
I'm doing a live animation webinar tonight at Escape Studios at 5pm UK time, teaching students how to do some cool creature animation using Autodesk Maya.

We'll be tackling spiders - demonstrating how to break down complex motion into simple parts - to get a sophisticated result.

So if you fancy animating some creepy crawlies join us tonight, Wednesday 17th February at 5PM. To sign up, follow this link!

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

How Pixar Animators Plan Their Work

The secret of good animation is in the planning, and experienced animators know that by drawing clear thumbnails to plan out their work, they can save a lot of time in executing their shots.

I have always used thumbnail drawings to plan my work, but I rarely saved my sketches - most of them went in the bin.  But one animator who has saved many of his planning sketches is Pixar's Victor Navone, and you can see his thumbnail gallery here.

Monday, 15 February 2016

At the BAFTAs with the Animation Nominees

Richard Williams (left) and Pete Docter (right)
Saturday night was the BAFTA before-party, held at Kensington Palace this year and a great way to entice all the American nominees to make the trip to rainy London in February. Who wouldn't want to turn up for a party at a royal palace? Above is a photo of two of the nominees: on the left is Richard Williams, whose short film Prologue was nominated for both a BAFTA and an Oscar this year, and on the right is Pixar's Pete Docter, whose feature film Inside Out won the coveted golden statue for Best Animated Film at the BAFTA awards on sunday night.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Escape Studios to Host "Animation Fam" with Film London on March 9

Here at Escape Studios we're excited to be hosting an "Animation Familiarisation" event with Film London on March 9th.

"Anim Fam" offers a forum for London’s top animation studios to pitch their work to visiting animation executives from overseas studios.

Anim Fam is one of the ways that Film London is helping to take advantage of the tax breaks which in recent years have led to a big expansion of animation production here in the UK.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Instant Rigging at Mixamo Instant rigging!
Rigging is one of the more complex and technical parts of the animation pipeline. In brief, rigging is the process of putting skeletons into our digital models.

It is the way we bring them to life with controls that can be used to give a performance. The rig in a CG model is a bit like the armature that goes into a puppet.

But what if we could automate the process, and speed it up? This would eliminate (at least in theory) hours of labour. One company that is leading the field is Mixamo, creating automated rigs through their Auto-Rigger tool.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

How To Write a Dissertation

Calling all our MA Students at Escape Studios! Skills You Need is a website you need to know about, with some great resources for our students tackling masters-level study.

Here at Escape Studios we specialise in practical, industry-relevant skills, but our master's degrees do included a significant academic component, and this includes writing a fully-referenced dissertation following standard academic requirements.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Pixar Story Board Secrets Revealed

Ever wondered how Pixar artists create their storyboards? In this excellent video, we see the very talented Joe Ranft pitch the opening sequence for the first Toy Story film - where the little green toy soldiers get recon information on the arrival of new toys.  It's a great insight into how animated films get made, where sequences are worked over and re-worked in the story department long before animators get their hands on them.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Why Has Mental Ray Disappeared from Maya?

Mental Ray - free with Maya
Mental Ray is a renderer that comes free with Maya - but sometimes it goes missing. One of the most common questions new Maya users ask is "Where has Mental Ray gone?!?"

Every Maya user faces this problem at least once, and the solution is not always obvious. You look in the Render Settings menu and - Mental Ray has vanished!

So, what to do to bring it back? And why does Mental Ray disappear so often?

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Disney Supervising Animator Nancy Beiman "No Longer Proud" to be an Academy Member

Nancy Beiman: Gary Krueger.
Nancy Beiman, former supervising animator at Disney, and now a Professor at Sheridan College in Canada, has given an interview at the Hollywood Reporter, in which she told the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that she is "No Longer Proud to Be a Member of This Organization"

Nancy announced her intention to resign her membership following the new, restrictive voting rules, which have been hastily introduced after accusations of racism in the voting for this year's Oscar nominees.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Free Life Drawing With Pixelovely!

Free life drawing at
Recently a student came to one of our Applicant Days at Escape Studios with some excellent gesture drawings.  "Where did you go to life drawing classes?" I asked. "Oh, online", he replied.  His drawings were so good - I hadn't realised he hadn't actually been in front of a real model.  But nowadays you don't actually need to attend a life drawing class to draw from life (though of course it does help).  In fact, there are many sites online where you can draw figures from life - without ever leaving home.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Maya Won't Save "Due to Unknown Nodes"

One of the most common questions asked by students first using Autodesk Maya is "why can't I save my scene?" Instead of being able to save your work, Maya gives you an error message, saying you can't save due to "Unknown Nodes". 

This can be frustrating, and the solution is not obvious. What is an unknown node anyway? And what should you do when this happens?