Interview with Nathalia Lemotte – Freelance Animator

Happy Monday! This week, I am excited to share an interview with the amazingly talented animation power-house, Mrs. Nathalia Lemotte! I have had the pleasure of working with Nathalia and her husband Caleb, on two different  TV series projects now. They are both excellent animators and make a killer team of freelancers. Nathalia is always great to chat with and she has had quite a career as an animator and some really great advice! So grab your beverage of choice, and sit back and enjoy. But first! Take a look at her and her husband’s demo reels linked below!
Nathalia’s Reel:

Caleb’s Reel:

Where are you from and how long have you been working in animation?

I was born in Germany, grew up in Austria and am now living in Maine, USA. I have been an animator for almost 9 years.

What made you want to become an animator / do you have a specific moment that sparked your interest in the field?

I worked all kinds of office jobs at first, as that was the only occupation my parents would agree too (we Asians when given orders.. we obey). At one point I just needed something more artistic. I actually tried to get accepted at some universities in Austria for Fine Arts or Industrial Design. However, there was so much competition, and my portfolio was rolled up and tied together with a rubber band. Once I saw the other applicants with their huge leather map full of art properly put together, I was not surprised that I didn’t pass any of the exams to get accepted. I was neither trained nor ready for it at that point. So..  I continued researching the heck out of google about my future options until Animation Mentor popped up.

I love the arts but was not trained in them. I really like working on the computer too, so 3d Animation sounded like a good fit. My biggest motivation was more of a “I can’t work this office job anymore, I need more action and a lot more fun”. And the picture of me doing cartoons and animation for someone else to watch, laugh, cry or think about really sparked my interest, though it felt like I reached for the stars.

It was as if you were floating in the water and you can’t see anything and you are just reaching around you for help to pull you up and out of the water.  You are just swinging your arms left and right. Suddenly you grabbed something and you hold on to it really really tight, don’t ever let go. Then, suddenly I popped out in animation land.

Are you self-taught or did you get some type of formal education / training?

I worked full time while doing AM so most of the art I learned on the job. I was lucky enough that people actually hired me and worked with me in my beginnings. I punched in so many over time hours because I just couldn’t get that leopard to run properly!

Have you always worked remotely/freelance or have you worked “in-house” jobs as well? If so which studios?

Lemonaut Creations, Oktobor Animation, Epics Studios, were my on-site jobs. Then followed a bunch of off site gigs which I started maybe 4 years ago and have not gone back to on-site ever since.

Can you describe your typical work day as a remote freelancer? If you worked in a studio setting before how does it differ compared to working remotely? Are there things you like better about working remotely and vice versa?

Typical day when working from home starts with changing my baby’s diaper and nursing. We normally get up around 6. I try to give myself one hour in the morning to wake up, tops, have my breakfast and get to work if I take the morning shift. My husband, also a freelance animator, then takes care of the baby until about lunch time and then we swap. That way we both get to work and take care of our child our selves. The key is, if it’s your work time, you only work. No facebooking or youtubing (it’s really hard sometimes), your entire focus needs to be on work. That way you get a lot done within 6 hours and believe it or not, you are toasted after.

Do you keep a regular set of hours?

Yes. It’s important for me to have that structure. But then sometimes we maybe go to the climbing gym in the morning (when it’s the least crowded for baby) and then we have to punch in the hours in the late evening to catch up.

I have noticed the industry often has a bit of a seasonal tendency at times, with more jobs during certain times of the year and less at other times. Do you have advice for things to do during those slow periods of the year?

I would advice not to animate as much. Once it’s crunch time you won’t see much of the day light. It’s good to take a break from monitor and get some sun or even just draw something on paper. But just get a break from animating on the computer and refresh your eyes, refresh your head. If you really can’t stay away from the computer, watch some of the latest movies. That can be really inspiring and motivating.

In your experience working remotely, what is the most common method of interacting with the client? Do many studios utilize some form of pipeline tool like Shotgun?

Besides Shotgun and Cerebro it seems very popular to work with FTP clients. I also saw the use of Dropbox very often, although I think that one is really terrible. I personally don’t like working with Dropbox on animation gigs because I often had troubles with syncing and suddenly I had file doubles and what not. I don’t think Dropbox is very ideal for an animation project,.

How did you break into the freelance market, specifically remote work? It can be tricky for new comers trying to get that first gig, do you have any advice?

Networking seems to be key, but also very often it’s just luck. You might just be connecting with someone over Linkedin for example that needs someone right now and you are available and off you go. You just have to keep trying, keep working on your reel, keep connecting with people, go to gatherings or events.

I have found scheduling jobs can be tricky at times, sometimes deadlines are extended or project start dates get pushed around making it difficult to always plan. How do you handle this? Do you ever double up on projects?

One time we worked on three different projects at the same time. It was so insane and this might be one of the tougher things about freelancing. You gotta be pretty flexible and that is not so easy, especially if your partner, who you want to go on vacation with, has a set schedule and needs to take time off early. In my case we both do the same thing so it works. But we had situations where we planned a trip and work was still going, so we bought a couple of laptops for those situations. That way we can always be available for work, at least to some degree, as we don’t want to be working only while vacationing.

What advice do you have to upcoming animators and students who want to work in the industry but maybe cannot get into a physical studio right away?

Take Chris Mayne’s awesome “Animation Industry Job Postings” List and go to the “studio list” tab. Contact Studios that hire remote and just introduce yourself. It’s always good to connect and maybe some studio just happened to need someone right away.

Have you done any freelancing/remote work in the games industry? If so, how has that work differed from the more “film/tv” based side of things?

Yes. Works the same really. No difference in the pipeline of work.

Do you have any other skill sets that you use, like modeling, rigging, lighting, stop-motion? Has having more of a broad range of skills provided more opportunities for you?

No I don’t. Up to this date I keep contemplating to learn more, but I honestly have not found the time or drive to dive into a new subject. Also there seems to be new specialties and technologies popping up every time I check! That makes it hard to keep up. But generally speaking I believe that more skills can give you more opportunities. I often see job posts for animation + some extra skill. Smaller studios don’t have the budget to hire one person for every area of production. So if they get one person that covers more basis that will save the studio a lot of money.

Part of doing freelance work is having to learn some minor business skills. Do you have any advice for learning the business side of being a freelancer? Do you have any tips or good resources you would recommend on topics such as quoting, invoicing, taxes, contracts?

My husband does all the negotiation, I am too soft for that. As for quoting, you want to decide on how much you would like to earn an hour (this is how I think) and as you gain more experience animating you get a sense of how much work you can get done, so with that you get to a rough quota. It’s good sometimes to negotiate to adjust the quota as the project runs. We sometimes try a project for a month and if we think the quota is way off, we talk about our quota to the studio again and hopefully everybody  is happy at the end :).

Google has a lot of good resources if you  look for “invoice templates”. There are all the same in core, so just take one, tweak it a little, put your logo in it, done.

I use Quick-books and Turbo Tax which basically does the whole job for you with your taxes. Quick Books connects to your accounts and you can export all your data into Turbo Tax.

With contracts you basically want to make sure the important things are written down like Who, What, When, How much.

What are your thoughts on the growth of remote workers in the animation industry? Do you think it will become more common as years go on and the technology continues to improve?

I certainly wish and hope so. From a studio’s point of view it is more risky to work with remote people. Communication can be hard and different time zone can make a collaboration difficult. Also security can potentially be an issue. So for those working remotely, let’s try to be as professional as possible to make hiring remote freelancers more attractive. With that I mean, honor the NDA for example. On the other hand, I believe that studios need to realize how advantageous remote freelancers are. You don’t have to fly them in, accommodate them or handle their visa’s. I believe it could save them a lot of time and money to work with remote people vs. on-site.

Do you have any favorite projects that you have worked on?

I loved working on the Nickelodeon TV shows Penguins of Madagascar and Robot and Monster. The scripts where so good, the jokes cracked me up! The character designs where very appealing and it was just a real fun project.

Any last bits of advice, words of wisdom or anything you definitely want to mention before I let you go?

If your situation allows it and you would be into it, try to get into all the studios first (working on-site), building relationships, growing a network and getting production experience. It’s also a opportunity to learn from others in-person. Later in life, especially if you want to settle (and I am really only speaking for myself of course) it will help you a lot for working from home, building off those relationships you developed. Word of mouth goes a long way.

 

Thanks a bunch Nathalia, your answers were awesome!

If anyone would like to contact Nathalia below is some more links to her information.

Portfolio Website: http://nathalialemotte.weebly.com/about-us.html

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5286210/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nathalialemotte/

 

Interview with Chris Mayne – Freelance Animator

Chris Mayne Banner

I thought I’d start off the series of interviews with the one and only Mr. Chris Mayne! I first met Chris when I was in my second class at Animation Mentor. He was always very active on the school forums and facebook pages. When I learned he lived in Kansas (a city not typically known for a large animation industry) I was very interested to learn how he still managed to have a such an awesome career in Animation! I wrote Chris an email back then asking for tips and advice on navigating the animation industry as a remote/freelance artist and he gave me some really great information. I directly contribute this advice to my ability to land a good freelance gig shortly after finishing Animation Mentor.

I had the pleasure of working with Chris on the TV series “Yoko” for Wizart Animation. He is an amazing animator and just really fun guy to work with. He also is extremely generous with his time and effort to help others. He maintains an extensive spreadsheet with tons of Animation Industry Job Postings and keeps it up-to-date very frequently. Please, before reading the interview, check out some of his awesome work in his demo reel below!

Lets get started…

  • Where are you from and how long have you been working in animation?
    • I’m from Overland Park, Kansas and have been animating for a little over 8 years now.
  • What made you want to become an animator / do you have a specific moment that sparked your interest in the field?
    • I’ve always been interested in animation but honestly didn’t really give a lot of thought to becoming a professional animator until later in my life. I graduated from college with a marketing degree and worked various jobs for a few years that I just wasn’t happy doing. I knew a change was needed. While watching The Incredibles in the theater, that was when the heavens parted, choirs were singing, and it just hit me that I could be doing THAT for a living.
  • Are you self-taught or did you get some type of formal education / training?
    • My adventure in learning how to animate started at the Academy of Art but continued through Animation Mentor, where I was part of the 7th graduating class.
  • Have you always worked remotely/freelance or have you worked “in-house” jobs as well? If so which studios?
    • I actually started my career at a studio in Kansas City. It was the only time I’ve worked in-house. That studio is no longer operating, and I’ve been animating remotely for 7 years now.
  • Can you describe your typical work day as a remote freelancer? If you worked in a studio setting before how does it differ compared to working remotely? Are there things you like better about working remotely and vice versa?
    • I would say what I like the most about animating remotely is I feel I have a lot of flexibility in my schedule. I’ll split my time between the day and night to finish up my work if needed. Most studios really don’t mind when I’m animating as long as I get my stuff done. There are times I miss getting to work side by side with other artists though.  While I utilize things like Skype or Google Hangouts to chat, it’s just not quite the same as face-to-face interaction.
  • Do you keep a regular set of hours?
    • Not necessarily. Ideally I prefer to get all my animating done during the day; however, like I mentioned earlier, it’s the flexibility I enjoy in my schedule.
  • I have noticed the industry often has a bit of a seasonal tendency at times, with more jobs during certain times of the year and less at other times. Do you have advice for things to do during those slow periods of the year?
    • Take a vacation!!! Recharge your batteries. After that, you could do some personal animation tests. I’ll also try to do some additional networking and reach out to studios to see if I can nail down some future projects to work on.
  • In your experience working remotely, what is the most common method of interacting with the client? Do many studios utilize some form of pipeline tool like Shotgun?
    • Email is still the main method of communication for me although I have used Skype and/or Google Hangouts a little more often. I haven’t been involved on too many projects that use something like Shotgun; however, there have been a few. I’m seeing more and more job listings stating a desire for candidates to be familiar with Shotgun, Perforce, etc.
  • How did you break into the freelance market, specifically remote work? It can be tricky for new comers trying to get that first gig, do you have any advice?
    • My first remote gig came courtesy of a former mentor I had in school. I stayed in touch with him after graduating and when my stint at the Kansas City studio came to an end, I made sure to contact him again to see if he maybe had any projects he needed help with. While he didn’t have one at the time, he did have a lead on another job with a friend of his.  Thankfully it worked out to where I got to be a part of that project, and ever since then I’ve been working from home.  I’ve found the most important thing through my years of freelancing is definitely networking and then staying in touch with who you connect with.  Stay on their radar so when they have a project (or know of one) needing extra help, your name is at or near the top of their list of who to contact.
  • I have found scheduling jobs can be tricky at times, sometimes deadlines are extended or project start dates get pushed around making it difficult to always plan. How do you handle this? Do you ever double up on projects?
    • Oh yeah, I’ve totally doubled up on projects and have even worked three at a time before. You need to know what you’re capable of doing. I hate turning down work and have definitely had my ass kicked a few times because I just couldn’t say “no”. Be smart with your planning/scheduling. If you don’t feel like you can take on additional work, don’t force it.  You may likely end up putting out crap animation and then the studio won’t want to work with you again.
  • What advice do you have to upcoming animators and students who want to work in the industry but maybe cannot get into a physical studio right away?
    • Be proactive with creating a great reel. Talk to other artists and get their eyes on your work. Do lots and lots of networking. Talk to studios.  Start getting your name out there. You may snag some remote work in the process.
  • Have you done any freelancing/remote work in the games industry? If so, how has that work differed from the more “film/tv” based side of things?
    • The only thing I’ve done for game studios is work on some promotional videos/trailers. I can’t say that was really any different, but it has afforded me the opportunity to work on some extremely fun characters.
  • Do you have any other skill sets that you use, like modeling, rigging, lighting, stop-motion? Has having more of a broad range of skills provided more opportunities for you?
    • I’ve only done animation in my career. When I first started learning animation, I did do a little modeling and rigging; however, that definitely wasn’t for me. It’s actually pretty scary to look at what I did. I’m going to go curl in to a ball in the corner of a room and cry a bit now that I’m thinking about that….I will say I have missed out on some jobs that required other skill sets so it can be advantageous to be able to do more than one thing.
  • Part of doing freelance work is having to learn some minor business skills. Do you have any advice for learning the business side of being a freelancer? Do you have any tips or good resources you would recommend on topics such as quoting, invoicing, taxes, contracts?
    • I wish I had someone to handle the business side of things. It’s actually what I least like about all of this. I typically get contracts from the studios so there’s no need to make my own. Make sure you’re reading them though. Don’t just blindly sign your name. If you have questions, ask them. On a couple contracts I’ve been able to get some things added, reworded, or removed.  When it comes to invoicing, make sure you put an actual invoice number on it. It seems trivial, but studios will appreciate it.  I also try to put descriptive information on the invoice for services I performed, such as what project I was working on, dates I worked, etc. For taxes, I can only speak in regards to U.S. taxes. But keep track of everything, whether it’s paying for cloud storage, upgrading your computer, etc. Working at home, you can also deduct a portion of some of your bills, such as utilities.
  • What are your thoughts on the growth of remote workers in the animation industry? Do you think it will become more common as years go on and the technology continues to improve?
    • I’m not surprised about the growth. For some, hopping around from state to state or country to country totally works for them. For others, it’s just not feasible for various reasons. The technology is already there though. More studios could utilize remote workers if they wanted to. I don’t know that it will ever be the norm, but I do at least stay encouraged that there has been an uptick in the number of studios willing to work with remote artists.
  • Do you have any favorite projects that you have worked on?
    • Definitely! The very first TV spot I ever worked on was for Lucky Charms cereal. That one will always hold a special place in my heart. I got to work on quite a few Lucky Charms commercials after that and thoroughly enjoyed each one of them. I also did some animation on promotional videos for Lego Dimensions that I absolutely loved.  Coincidentally my kids got a huge kick out of that as they would sometimes watch me working on it. Animating Batman, Gandalf, and Wyldstyle was such a blast. There are so many other projects I could easily name here, but for the sake of time and sanity of anyone reading this I’ll just leave it at those.
  • Any last bits of advice, words of wisdom or anything you definitely want to mention before I let you go?
    • I love animating, but it has definitely been a difficult journey. You can’t get discouraged during the rough times. We all go through them, but we have such a supportive community. Take advantage of it. I’ve made so many friends in the industry and could never thank them enough for all the help they’ve given over the years.

Thanks so much for your time Chris!

If you would like to learn more about Chris, or contact him for work below is a link to his IMDB page and his linked-in account.

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5284095/
LinkedIn:
 https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrismayneanimation/

The blog is back.. and with a vengeance!

It has returned!

Actually, I just finally came up with some good (maybe?) ideas of things to write about and also help keep me creative and accountable to the craft of animation! It’s been quite some time since this blog had some new content and I hope the new stuff will be interesting to those of you who read it! I had a lot of fun actively writing throughout my whole progress at Animation Mentor. Once AM came to an end and I got into the grind of working and of course just life in general, the blog started to get pushed to the way side. Which, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because I did a whole heck of a lot of animating since I last posted and have learned a great deal!

I also had a lot of big life milestones happen since the last updates! Mainly, I finally married my beautiful wife, and we moved from our beach life in Panama City Beach, FL back up to the big city and my hometown of Chicago, IL. My wife got a great job opportunity to work up here and we made the long move up! I sure miss the sunshine and our great friends in Florida, but its nice to be back in familiar territory and have the big city available. Also.. a big city with a pretty decent animation industry!

New content coming your way soon!

As I said, I finally came up with quite a good list of things I want to do on this blog. So, I thought I’d give you a preview of what’s down the pipeline and coming to your beautiful browsers soon.

Interviews with Freelance Animators & Remote Animators
I always wished there was more content when I was starting out freelancing and working remotely, on how the animation industry worked from that perspective. There is no shortage of amazing articles and videos of animators working in-house at the big studios like Disney, Pixar etc. However, the animation industry is a large one and there are TONS of amazingly talented animators who work freelance and remotely all over the world. I’ve had the pleasure of working with quite a few of them and have decided to start interviewing them to show people how the industry is from our perspective. The first of these interviews will be posted quite soon!

Shot Breakdowns
I’ve finally been able to get a hold of some of the finished professional work I’ve done on feature films and TV series, and I’ll be making a series of short breakdown videos to show how the progress of a shot looks from start to finish! I always found it fun to watch these videos and they can be very eye-opening and educational.

New Reel
I am slowly putting together a new demo reel with my latest work and hopefully should have that launched soon enough, you’ll have to wait and see!

New Articles! – I plan to write some new multi-part blog posts that explain a variety of topics. Especially things I always wanted to read more about when I was first getting into the industry. Now that I have a few years of experience under my belt, I felt I could expand on some of the things I have learned. Topics such as: TV Animation versus Feature Films, Workflow Changes, Using reference for quick animation, and much more!

Anyway! It feels good to get back to this, I have a lot more content coming very soon and just wanted to make a post and let everyone know this blog is coming back, and I hope that you guys will stick around and enjoy the new content!

Animation Mentor Graduation and CTN 2014 Recap

Whew! What a busy couple of months it has been! I have not been able to get as much content on the blog lately as I would have liked but all for good reasons. One being that I have been very busy animating away for work and the other being that I was traveling to Burbank, California for the Animation Mentor graduation ceremonies and CTN Animation Conference.

This post is going to be a recap of the events and exciting things that I did while out in LA. First off, let me say this, CTN is one of the most inspiring, fun, exciting, educational things I have ever attended. I cannot put in to accurate words how amazing the experience was. Getting to be surround by other people all with the same love and passion for animation that I have was just awesome. On top of that, getting to hang out with, discuss, and attend lectures with many of my animation heroes was incredible. I likely will not be able to hit on everything I did, but I wanted to at least touch on some of the most memorable and impactful things that took place in the four days I was at the conference.

Day 1:
Walt Disney Animation Studios Tour and Q&A with AM Alumni
The first thing I did after checking into the hotel was to head over to Walt Disney Animation studios and was lucky enough to participate in a special tour for AM alumni. We got to tour the animation studio and see a ton of top-secret behind the scenes stuff. We also got to see the various film stages and back lots of the studio where many of the movies and television shows you see are filmed. After the tour we then got to sit in the famous on-studio theatre and have a Q&A session and hear the stories from some fellow AM alumni who have all gone on to become Animators at Disney! It was a truly inspiring experience and something I will never forget. The Disney Animation Studios is a pretty magical place.

IMG_0616

FullSizeRender

Animation Mentor Graduation!
I finished the Animation Mentor program back in March of 2014, but the official graduation ceremonies for the graduates did not take place until just this month. AM wanted to hold them at the same time and venue as the CTN conference (awesome idea). The graduation ceremony was not your typical sit in a giant theatre and walk across a stage in some dorky outfit (been there, done that) instead, it was an informal party with an excellent speech by all three of the founders of the school (Bobby Beck, Shawn Kelly and Carlos Baena).

combo

Signed Diploma by Bobby Beck and Shawn Kelly!

Signed Diploma by Bobby Beck and Shawn Kelly!

Then, to top it all off they managed to get the legendary GLEN KEANE to be our commencement speaker! Let me say that again, GLEN KEAN – the man who is know for animating some of the most iconic disney characters of my generation (Ariel and The Beast to name a couple). Glen is truly one of the greats, he is so sincere with both his animation and his talks. It was really an amazing experience. I managed to snap a picture of him while he gave his commencement speech.
IMG_0604

After the speeches, it was time to party! I was able to mingle and have drinks with so many of my friends from school who up until that night I had only ever talked to online! It was amazing to meet everyone in real life. I got to meet friends from school who came all the way from the other side of the world including, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Vienna and so many other places!

Day 2:
This was the first official day of the conference and it was a packed day for sure. It started off with a keynote speech by Glen Keane and he showed off his beautiful short film he created called ‘Duet’. If you not seen it, go to youtube right now and watch it! It is a beautiful piece of art. He also gave an awesome behind-the-scenes look at the making of it.

After the keynote, I had to head to my first demo reel critique session I had scheduled. I was paired with Ruben Aquino – who is a retired 2D Disney Animator, he played a big part in the animation of Ursula on the little mermaid! I was nervous to show him my work, but he was such a nice, and genuine person! He really enjoyed my demo reel and gave me some excellent feedback and notes.

Later that day, I happened to run into Bobby Beck, Shawn Kelly and Carlos Baena just sitting outside and offering to critique people’s demo reels. I immediately got in line and was able to have Shawn look at my reel! It was a great feeling to see him watch my reel and actually laugh out loud at one of my more comedic shots! It’s truly a pretty awesome experience to see your artwork evoke an emotion in someone else; especially, when they are a Supervising Animator at ILM! Shawn also had a lot of really positive things to say about my work and gave me some really great advice on how to improve and what to add to it!

That night I got a chance to meet up with a bunch of my friends and fellow alumni from Purdue who have since moved out to LA and are all working at various major studios around town. It was awesome getting to reunite with a lot of good friends whom I haven’t seen since graduating college back in 2012! It’s also awesome to see that so many of my friends have gone on to do work on some really awesome video games and films!

Day 3:

I started off Day 3 with another demo reel critique from Disney. This time it was with one of their CG animators. This critique session was part of their booth in the exhibition hall. I got a chance to get some really great feedback from a current CG animator at Disney. After that, I headed to one of my favorite workshops of the whole conference. It was a very small workshop with Freelance Animator – Ken Fountain.

Ken is a veteran DreamWorks animator who has since gone out on his own as a freelancer and he gave a super informative and inspiring talk about life as a freelancer and independent animator. It was some excellent information for me and super relevant to a lot of the stuff I have had to learn over the past 9 months starting my career as a freelancer. After his presentation I got a chance to hang out and talk to him in the hallway for a bit and we bonded over both being originally from Chicago, in-fact he grew up about 20min from where I did and we had a lot of stuff in common. I was able to get him my business card and really hope to stay in touch with him and seek his advice when I can!

That night, I attended a wonderful talk by Andreas Deja, who is another legendary animator like Glen Keane. Andreas worked on films like Roger Rabbit, and then onto be the lead animator for many famous disney villians, such as Jaffar, Scar and more! After the talk, I ended up staying up until 2am just hanging out at the hotel bar and the outside lounge just talking and meeting other AM and CTN attendees. One of the coolest experiences was hanging out with some fellow AM students and having Bobby Beck and Shawn Kelly wonder over to us and just sit down at the fire pits and hang out with us and we all just geeked out about animation, drank and stayed up talking late into the night! It was a really memorable night!

Day 4
The final day of CTN was filled with more workshops and critiques. I got another walk-up critique by a DreamWorks animator Mike Safianoff which was awesome, and really helpful. I also ran into some of my mentors from AM just walking around the conference, Nicole Herr (class 5), Aaron Hartline (class 1) and Sean Sexton (class 6) were there!

Finally, I ended the night back at Walt Disney Animation Studios with a special on the lot screening of Big Hero 6. Afterwards there was a special Q&A with the Head of Story for BH6 – Paul Briggs and the Director of the short film ‘Feast’ – Patrick Osbourne. It was a fantastic film and made even more special by watching it at the studio where it was all created!

Here is a pretty awesome vine video from the screening that Darrin Butters (Disney Animator and moderator of the Q&A) took.

Now that it is all over, I have returned home and to work, even more inspired and excited to be apart of this truly amazing industry. I learned so much, met so many great people and cannot wait to attend CTN again in the future!

Animation Mentor: Complete!

blog_picThat’s all folks! 18 months, came and went at lightening speed! It is hard to believe that it is already over. I had such an amazing experience attending Animation Mentor. I met so many inspiring people and was fortunate to learn from the best in the industry. Animators from the most respected studios around the world. Each and every mentor I had brought new and unique views to the art of animation. I learned more in this last year and half about animation as art but also as an industry that I ever imagined. If you have been following my blog from the beginning then you saw as we started with the most basic of exercises the “bouncing ball” and as I progressed through the program we finally finished with multiple character acting shots.

As I prepare to attend my final Q&A session tomorrow evening, I’m reflecting on all that I learned and all the areas where I still need to learn more. Animation Mentor really taught me how to animate. Prior to coming to Animation Mentor, I knew I wasn’t ready to animate professionally, but I didn’t realize just HOW far away from that goal I was. After going through this program, I feel like I finally have a real solid foundation to work with. I plan to start searching for jobs and I am willing to take any sort of paid opportunity I can get my hands on. However, I know that I still have a lot of room to grow as animator and there are so many topics that I wish to delve into and explore. Things, like creature animation, video game animation, and of course always improving my acting shots. One of things about pursuing animation is that you are ALWAYS a student. There is always something to learn, and even many students at Animation Mentor were professional working animators. This industry is always progressing, the characters get more complex, the movies and games get more detailed and that requires that the animators continue to keep learning and pushing the art form forward.

Aside from all the technical and artistic knowledge I learned from AM, I got to make a TON of new friends with fellow animators and artists from around the world! I always loved being in class and seeing animators from India, Brazil, Norway, Germany, USA and countless other countries. This art truly is global and animation can communicate at so many levels. The community at AM is the most helpful, friendly, supportive and inspiring group of people I’ve ever been around. Everyone is always offering feedback, and advice on how to improve or how to fix a problem with a shot or even just sharing great animation with each other. Even though it was an online school, it never really felt that solitary. There were so many opportunities to hop into video chats on google+ and talk with your friends while animating to the wee hours of the morning.

I am eagerly awaiting when I get to meet all my classmates in-person at our graduation in November. The graduation is going to take place at the same time as the CTNx Animation Expo in Burbank, California! I cannot wait to get out there and celebrate and meet everyone.

I am more inspired and more eager then ever to keep animating. I already have tons ideas that I want to animate and get to work on to improve my reel. Getting into this industry can be extremely tough and it takes a lot of determination and hard-work. I plan to keep treating this blog as I did while I was in school. I am going to keep posting regular updates on my new shots as I develop them, because I enjoy doing it and it keeps me accountable and motivated!

I could probably go on for days about my experience at Animation Mentor, but I don’t want to keep rambling and I’m sure you are all eager to see my graduation demo reel! I just wanted to thank Animation Mentor and all my mentors for such a great learning experience. I also couldn’t have done it without my super supportive fiance who has put up with all my late-night classes and days spent animating. Finally, my awesome parents and sister who have always supported my dreams and goals.

Finally.. here it is, my graduation reel (I highly recommend you watch it on vimeo in HD):
Also – the 2 person acting shot was lit by a good friend of mine from Purdue, Andrew Kennedy – check out his work at www.andrewkennedy3d.com
[vimeo https://vimeo.com/89750510 w=720&h=405]

AM Class 6 – Polishing

blogpic

First let me say, time sure flies here at Animation Mentor! It is already the end of week 9, which means I only have two more weeks until Class 6 is complete and I am officially done with the Classic Character Animation track at Animation Mentor! This past week was spent really focusing on cleaning up my arcs, refining the face, tweaking the lip-sync, and addressing a lot of the arm issues I was having in the previous weeks. Based on my mentor’s feedback I still need to push the smile during the laugh to really sell it, and I still have some spacing issues that need to be cleaned up with the head near the beginning of the shot. One of the goals I have had for this class was to improve my facial animation. My mentor, Sean, has been doing an awesome job in helping me really get the most out of my facial poses. He always has such great advice and tips on how to push my poses even more and it has really forced me to improve on my facial animation a lot in a short amount of time.

Once I tackle my mentor’s notes and make sure they are all reading, I want to start working in some more subtle hand and finger movements, and I am also going to be testing out Animation Layers to try and incorporate some more shoulder overlap and torso squash and stretch. I’m hoping this will help get the laughs to read more in the body and not just in the face. I have also been keeping track of my hours on this shot to stay updated on my workflow process and in total I clocked around 32 hours from the blocking stage until now.

Here is the progress for this week. Be sure to check back soon for another update and eventually a my finished demo reel!

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/88547987 w=720&h=405]

AM Class 6 – Refining Pass

Screen Shot 2014-02-16 at 5.14.09 PM

This was another fast, yet productive week! I took my shot into the next stage – refining. I moved out of stepped keys and into splined and got to see the real power of the workflow that my mentor has me using. It was really eye-opening to see my shot in splined curves without a lot of guess work needing to be done on my part. By having the shot blocked on 4’s it really limits the computer’s ability to give you bad breakdowns and in-betweens. It still happens but, it certainly make the clean-up and refinement process a lot smoother. Based on my mentors advice, I need to exaggerate some of the posing and timing but for the most part needed to stick to my reference and focus on cleaning up the motion and curves.

As for my workflow in the cleanup/refining stage, I started with the core and center of gravity controls of the character, then worked up through to the head and out to the arms. I still have some issues with the arms that need to be worked out. It is rather difficult to get nice smooth off-set circular motion with FK arms because it requires a lot of counter-animation between the shoulder and elbows. I’m thinking switching the arms to IK this week and seeing how successful I am with it. I then also did another pass at the face and lip-sync working in more detail into the brows, eyes, and mouth. In keeping up with my workflow journaling, I also spent a total of 14 hours cleaning it up this week. I’m hoping to get pretty close to final by the end of this coming week so that I can focus on some really detailed polish work and finessing some more of my older shots.

That is all for this post, take a look and let me know what you think!
[vimeo https//vimeo.com/87437430 w=720&h=405]