Friday, 24 November 2017

Mike Davies - Rigging Smaug and The Minions

Minion by Mike Davies
Mike Davies is one of our newest tutors here at Escape Studios, leading an 8 week evening class introduction to rigging starting on 14 May 2018. Mike has a stellar industry track record, helping to rig Smaug from The Hobbit and the Minions from Despicable Me.

Rigging is a skill that every animator should know at least something about. Being able to open up a rig and tweak it, make adjustments and minor fixes, is an increasingly important part of the animator's toolkit.

We asked Mike to talk a little about how we got started in the industry, and what advice he might offer to students hoping to break into this most specialised of areas of the animation pipeline.

Whilst at University I made my first character rig - which was pretty terrible, looking back at it now. I really enjoyed making it though. I practiced a lot and tried making character rigs whenever I could, to try and figure out how best to approach different characters.

I started off working in production as a runner and then later becoming a modeller. One day there was a serious problem with one of the character rigs that had been made, and I was surrounded by a team of modellers who didn't know how to fix it. I put up my hand, and said that I knew how to do some rigging - and managed to fix it quite quickly. After that I was given simple rigging fixes to do and then eventually started to work on projects where I needed to make full character rigs.

The most fun thing about character rigging is being able to work with modellers and animators to create very cool characters. Every Animator is different, and they like to work with different set-ups. This means that rigging it is never repetitive; every project brings new and fresh challenges.

I have recent started to really enjoy rigging vehicles and machines. It is a very different process than creating rigs for bipedal or quadruped animation. You must take into consideration the many moving parts that in most cases do not deform, rather they have to move around each other so as to not intersect.

On Thor: Ragnarok this included the ships you see flying around, with rudders and moving flaps which look like they are being moved by hydraulics, and moving gun turrets etc.

Smaug the Dragon from The Hobbit was a huge project that was great to work on. I worked with many other character riggers in secret - because the studio didn't want anyone knowing what Smaug would end up looking like.

I also really enjoyed working on the Minions, especially as I really liked Despicable Me. That was a fun movie to work on because of some of the crazy facial rigging we had to do - to show a wide range of emotion and movement. Minions was also fun as I got to work at Illumination both remotely and in Paris.

My advice to students is: don't give up - keep on making things. It is so easy to be disheartened when you don't land a role that you hoped for.  Sometimes you may have all the skills you need for the job but the problem is simply bad timing.  Companies are sometimes fully staffed for projects, which means that at that time they just can't take on anyone else. In this case, look at your portfolio and improve it, and apply again later. Finding a job is all about perseverance. It will happen! And when it does, you will be that much more prepared.

To sign up for Mike's rigging class, follow this link. And to find out more detail about what is in the class, read this post.

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, follow this link.  To apply for our evening class in rigging, follow this link.

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