Monday, 8 June 2015

M Gokulakrishnan interview

January's winner was created by M Gokulakrishnan. Acting drunk can be a complex task for many stage actors. I loved the beautiful expressions and body language. A great treat. Thank you.
Artist portfolio  
Winning Entry 

In your demo reel, a large portion is dedicated to work on Legend of Oz. A famous line from the original movie is that ''there is no place like home''. My question to you, is where is home and what makes it special?
Being in the animation field, I spend most of my day time in the studio. And then some night work cannot be avoided as the industry demands it. After a tiresome day I get back to my den, and I ring the bell and I see my wife open the door , and then I walk inside and see my 4 year old son sleeping. Now I get this amazing feeling and all of a sudden my den becomes a beautiful home. Now I call it a den because when they are not around me I feel it’s just an empty shell without any soul. Having them around me makes it home and makes it special. Having said all of this I must add, the next day morning I just can’t wait to go to my studio.

If you met the Wizard, what would you ask him for? 
I would like to know, what is it to be a Wizard; how does it feel? The inside truth, like the real positive and negative feelings of being a Wizard.

You have ten years’ experience. How did this journey begin? What inspired you?
After my B.F.A (Visual Communication and Design) I wanted to do cinematography because I had developed this interest for the camera and taking pictures during my college days. Photography was part of the curriculum. So now after my Graduation I joined as an assistant to a beginner Cinematographer. I was one of the five assistants, actually number five. I was not really doing good. That’s when I a got call from my father about an animation school in Mumbai. That was it. I moved to Mumbai from Chennai and I went to this Institute and for the first time I really felt this is what I want do. It was fascinating, and even today after twelve years (including my two years in my Institute) I am still fascinated by this beautiful thing called animation.

Can you tell us a little about the Indian animation scene?
I think currently we are doing pretty good as the quality of the artists is much better compared to what was there when I started. We are doing some great work I guess. Let's not forget animation became well known in India only in the last two decades. Keeping that in mind I feel proud about where we are today.

I notice that many of your recent projects have been for Western audiences. In terms of acting decisions and language, how have you found the challenge?
Yes. I feel I am lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Western clients. I learned a lot from them. Each project is a great learning experience which helped me in improving my skills. In terms of acting decisions I never had many problems as I watch lots of movies made in the West. I think being an animator one should be able to do any kind of acting or at least be able to learn quickly and keep oneself ready for the production challenges. Being self- updated helps us to survive long in this industry. I guess English is a modern-day universal language.

Your 'Brain Camp' piece is 32 seconds long, across a single shot. What advice would you give for producing a sustained character performance over such a large scene?
I love to challenge myself. Doing a big shot is always a challenge. It is like a full meal to me. Brain Camp was a test given to me by myself on subtle acting. According to me each shot is a small story. Whether it is 32 seconds shot or a 1 second shot. What is important here is to engage the audience. So the acting choice you make has to be really interesting.

Focusing on your winning piece, ''what the heck'', please can you tell us about your animation process?
To me it’s all about the idea. Once the idea is clear then there is no stopping. When I listen to a dialogue I think about the best possible natural way to convey it. When I say the best possible way it does not have to be some complex action all the time. It can be simple and must be suitable for the dialogue. It should give life to the character involved and the most important thing is it should be believable. Then I act it out and shoot it only if necessary. While doing “what the heck” I did not have to shoot a live reference as I was clear with the idea and I knew what I was going to do. Then I quickly keyposed it and then the final animation. I could not do the final finesse pass as I ran out of time, because I had to finish the whole thing in the last four days of that month as I heard the interesting audio clip only then. I never expected to win, I just wanted to participate.

I love the spin off the couch, the character having to catch her balance while in the mood to party. Where did this idea come from?
Some times ideas just pop up just like that. Before starting a shot I just close my eyes and brain storm myself saying the dialogue again and again . When I started “what the heck” that was the first acting choice that came in mind and I found it very interesting.

A few changes have been applied since winning the competition. For example, the decision to use a close up at the start of the shot. Please can you talk a bit about these changes?
After finishing the shot and after uploading it to 11sec Club, I felt that the secondary character is over powering the main character in the initial few frames. I could not do much about it as it was already uploaded, and actually by the time I realized it, it was too late even to update it. Then, luckily I won the contest and when I received my prize which is the Animation Mentor Expert’s Ecritique he made the same point and he suggested some ideas to fix it. Now I decided I had to fix it.

After making some changes, I was still not satisfied. Then, I got this idea of going for a close up and to reveal what is happening by zooming out. I thought this may be more interesting and at the same time it might solve the problem as well. Luckily it worked. Then I made a few changes as per the Animation mentor expert’s (Jean-Denis Haas) advice and these were really helpful in improving my shot. Now I feel the shot looks much better. Thank you Animation mentor.



Please can you talk a bit about your approach to animating female characters?
Animating a female character is always fun because women are very expressive and they give you lots of options for facial expressions. I don’t have any special approach but it is very important to understand their body language and behavior as an Animator. It can be achieved only by observing them, I guess. Today we can just shoot reference of any action we want to animate. But what is important is to understand what is really happening in that action, not just physically but mentally also. If you just roto the live reference without a deeper understanding it doesn’t make much sense . It is like reading a book which can give you lots of knowledge, but you do not care about understanding the words because you are superficial.

In finding the best way to ask the question, I did a little research about acting drunk. Readers may find this link useful: 
It comments how playing drunk is a difficult thing. How did you pull it off? 
Thank you. But again as I said observation is very important. Then making it interesting in animation is another challenge. It is applying the knowledge you have gathered exactly to the point, but also improvising to make your shot interesting. This is a great challenge and I love this challenge very much. That’s the fun part.

When working out movement, I just act to myself or sometimes look in the mirror. That’s all I did in this case. The important thing is realizing the balance when you are drunk. It is always your upper body that leads and then your legs catch up. That’s how you go out of control just swing the upper body and catch up with the legs right at the time and by the time your legs catch up your upper body swings the other way. That’s the principle I stick to. I go with the rhythm of the dialogue.

First I decided the story telling layout with the story telling pose of the drunken atmosphere, what I felt was the best. Once that's done my next step was to key pose. Now I decide the poses as per the rhythm of the dialogue. In this case the dialogue was "I am excited and I feel relaxed and I am ready to party with the best of them''.
Now I feel this dialogue can be divided into five parts. So we need five important story telling key poses with three anticipations to sell the action.

1. I am excited (KEY) and I feel(Anticipation)
2. Relaxed (KEY) and I am(Anticipation)
3. Rrreadyyyyyyyyy (KEY) Tooo (Anticipation)
5. With the best of them (KEY)

The only rule for the facial expression which I had set was to keep it believable at the same time natural. Not necessarily you need to have a twisted mouth to play drunk all the time. As for as the spin is concerned I had neither used any references nor did I research on it. I just tried what comes to me naturally that’s the truth.

You are the first winner using the Mery rig. In comparison to other rigs, what advice would you give for an artist animating her? 
Mery is a great rig. The character is very beautiful. So what I would try to do while animating her is to keep her facials look pleasant. The expressions can be pushed which is very important but I wouldn’t make her look ugly or off model.

What type of characters do you enjoy bringing to life?
Nothing specific. I love animating any kind of character. To me what is more important is how challenging the action is. If the action is something very new and at the same time if I had not attempted in the past then nothing like it.

Facial Animation is what audiences get connected to. Normally when we talk to someone or watch a movie the emotional connect happens through the expressions. Good expression is always a big plus for the Animation. But anything is possible in animation.

According to me, how you time the action is very important. With good timing we can even sell the emotions of a sphere or a cube.

To finish off, I wish to leave you with a look at M Gokul's reel. Thank you for your time. Enjoy!

(Animation reel, showcasing edits to winning entry)

Friday, 5 June 2015

Ugur Yetiskin interview

Hello guys and gals,

February's winner was created by Turkish animator, Ugur Yetiskin. I was introduced to Ugur's work a few years ago, upon the release of his facial tutorials (Animation Scout). I was pleased to see his name pop up as the winner, both for him as an artist and for myself for being able to ask for this opportunity to talk about his work.

Here goes!

Artist portfolio  
Winning Entry

Your winning entry poses the hypothetical question of how Walt Disney would evaluate the positions of both 2D and 3D animation in today's world. Please share your thoughts on this?
All of us animators should be grateful to Walt Disney for where the animation quality is today. They (The Nine Old Men) discovered the main rules of animation and they did wonderful jobs that we still examine their timings, squash & stretch, etc. to be better at what we do. I believe that they are the cornerstones of modern animation. So much that l have one of Walt Disney’s quotes tattooed on my arm.

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them!

Three of Disney's early cast of characters are Mickey, Donald and Goofy. Which is your favourite?
I do really like the character Goofy. He was actually characterized in a clumsy and silly way, though this expo isn’t always distinctive with him. Goofy has shown as intuitive yet clever in his own unique and eccentric way. I believe multidimensional is what makes a good character, and we must admit he is pretty funny.

Which other animated characters are you most fond?
TMNT is one of my favourites; especially the last movie was very well animated. Furthermore, I still love their parkour movements, heroic attitudes and differences amongst each other.

Have you personally studied traditional animation
I honestly didn’t but yet l researched some classics frame by frame back at my early years on the field. And l sometimes animate 2D blocking poses for my shot planning with FlipBook program on PC.

Tell us more about your background and art education
Well, my journey began with my good old Commodore 64 when l was fourteen years old. My bro loved the games but l was way more curious on how those intros and 3D animations were developed than the game itself. During these years l started to learn 3ds Max with programs help files. During those years there was no tutorials, books or even proper Internet connection – we were connected with 56K! I was graduated from university as a Computer Teacher but l managed to find a job as a graphic designer while I was still struggling with the 3D programs. In a few years l mastered the tools and combined my experiences well enough to land a job offer for the Motion Graphics Designer position. Through all that time I did TV commercials, on-air brandings, promos, 3D models and designs to many brands.

I decided to focus on character animation in ’07. I graduated from Animation Mentor and worked on projects as character animator and in a few years l started to lead projects. I’m keep working on my animation projects as freelance jobs nowadays.
As well as producing beautiful animation, you possess skills in lighting, modelling and rigging. With each demanding time to learn, how do you manage your development of each discipline?

Through my daily routine l work as a 3D generalist to keep myself updated with new programs, plug-ins, workflows, disciplines and furthermore. I surf through inspirational websites to feed my visual intelligence every day. (That includes; 3D modelling, motion graphics, calligraphy, character design, product design and rendering.) When l bump into a challenging projects that l like, l usually try to figure out how l can produce it by myself. I honestly believe that’s the most important part of the learning process.

Your series of rigs are available to the community and utilised by schools, including CGTarian. Please can you talk about upon your stance in exchanging animation information and resources.
Unfortunately in Turkey, some of the leads in the field keep their experiences to themselves. For that reason I have learned most of the tools all by myself. This led me to experience that keeping knowledge is not the ethical thing to do.
I believe that the real wisdom comes with sharing. I also have another tattoo emphasize that belief ;) I never hide any information or knowledge among my community and co-workers. At the end of the day, it’s all about creativity.

Your series of tutorials, Animation Scout, provide advice and details regarding facial animation. In what order do you approach the face?
For facial animations I use layered animation, which generally refers to the idea of blocking in one part or section of the face at a time. First of all you must examine how the facial muscles work in real life via reference videos for your scene. Layered approach requires careful planning, reference, observation and a fair amount of adjusting different layers to work properly with each other. To begin with, you can find a facial landing pose to work on. (Not rigs, a characteristic default pose.) Then you can layer the expressions, lip-sync, eyedarts and eyebrow movements. Those steps are crucial; you may use asymmetry and arcs for mouth or eyelid shapes. I strongly suggest y’all to watch Jason Ryan’s video on the matter.

Link to Animation Scout is found here:

Please tell us about your animation workflow.
I use pose-to-pose animation workflow. They’re more example videos and articles on this than any other alternative. At this point, l just don’t want to bore the readers with the subjects. That’s why l want to suggest Mike Walling’s workflow and Amrit Derhgawen’s article because l pretty much use the same techniques.

Which rig did you use? Can you please talk a bit about its modification into Disney?
I use CGTarian’s Ray ( rig because its body proportions are very suitable for Walter Elias "Walt" Disney. Then I researched Walt Disney’s pictures on Google and videos on YouTube. I decide he generally wore shirt, sweater and tie. His characteristics are his moustache and hairs. Then I adapted these modifications to the rig on Maya. I highly recommend this awesome rig to all animators. Thanks to CGTarian for great support.

Walt's turn to the desk is quite large in comparison to the rest of the movements. In your eCritique, the mentor suggests toning this down. Please can you share your thoughts on this?
I really tried that at my planning stage with reference video. But I think without a momentum/anticipation there is no possibility to turn and push the chair with legs. I still can try that on my chair while writing these sentences but I can’t do that with little movements. But other critiques have awesome tips and my forgotten points. Thanks to Animation Mentor to provide e-critiques.

The audio and performance is quite subdued. What advice would producing an animation of this tone?
First I decide where could be the contrast body movements/poses, head accents and expression changes. In that sound I decided to place left hand down before he stared to talk about spheres. I achieved to do that with both movement and visual contrast by raising his hand front of the window to achieve clear silhouette. I wanted to lead audiences eyes with that and making a contrast! But up to that time character movements were still subtle for me and I decide a make big contrast while turning his body and leading audience eye to the classical drawing at the animators desk. With that movement I tried to make big figure 8 movement with characters nose tip. The timing & spacing was too important for me. I tried to break the subdued audio with contrast poses and visual style. I decided all of these at planning phase. I also designed window position, chair height, and desk position for storytelling and staging.

I'll leave you guys by show casing his beautiful showreel. Thank you Ugur for your time and I hope you guys enjoyed!

Friday, 17 April 2015

Andrew Chesworth's The Brave Locomotive

"The Brave Locomotive" - Opening Sequence Work In Progress

Andrew Chesworth won the 11SC a few years ago. At the time, he had just landed a position at Disney. It also looked full steam ahead for The Brave Locomotive, a beautiful short that has sadly been cancelled.
The good news is that this clip was released earlier today. Enjoy!!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Edu Llobera interview

Hello guys and gals,

December's winner was created by Edu Llobera. Below, he tells his animation story so far, beginning with a unique experience of he first stumbled into studying the craft.

Thank you Edu. Beautiful work, I look forward to seeing more.

Artist portfolio  
Winning Entry

Can I start off by asking what inspired you to become an animator?
I have always liked to draw. I have an artist family, so I suppose my motivation comes from my environment and upbringing. When I was a child, my mom made comics as a hobby and made some illustrations in her free time. My grandpa was a great illustrator and my uncle is one of the best painter in his style

However, I started studying architecture. Then one day, at 22 years of age, I discovered animation as a career option. My mother signed up to one course of 3D Maya, but she changed her work schedule and she offered me take her place.  I didn't know what to do with my  career and although I had started to study architecture, when I went to my first class of 3D I was fascinated. The mentor showed us some video clips with effects and animations and my mind said "I want to do like this". I remember "enjoy the silence" video clip from DEPECHE MODE as an inspiration.  

Then I gave up architectures studies and I dedicated all my effort to do this new path.

Now with several years in the industry under your belt, how have you found this experience in becoming the artist you are today?
I have 6-7 years of experience, this is the time I needed to achieve my current knowledge about animation. Every person is different and they need to make their own way. There are people with less experience who know more than me and vice versa. There is no formula.

Mid-career, you opted to take some classes with Ianimate. Please can you talk a little about your time with the school and the reasons for choosing the classes?
It was really hard for me. This is due various of factors, particularly timing and also that I hadn't done much acting previously. 

At the time that I enrolled, I was living in Spain and had just finished a project. However, three weeks into the course I started work at Axis animation, in Scotland. I had to move from Barcelona to Glasgow and I made the rest of the workshop with a small portable computer. That I was working full time during my stay in Glasgow, made studying harder than it otherwise could have been. Lastly, the English language was disadvantage for me.

All this meant, that my two exercises finished after the deadline of four.

With all this said, I would definitely do it again. 

What are your career goals, both short term and long term?
I would like to become an animation supervisior at features films. In the short term, to deliver my animation shots on time, I have a 1 day delay :D 

Looking at wip reel, I love the action sequence of the middle shot. Other options could have been to use cuts or a held side view, but I love the way the camera moves with the action. In terms of camera and composition, what advice would you give to somebody looking to do similarly?
My advice is if you don't know to do something, ask who knows it. I don't know too much the theory of camera but I looked in action feature films and I copied a few ideas, after I showed my options and asked for advice to people who knows about storytelling.
Films that inspired my decisions include 300Ong Bak, Matrix, and cinematics including Star Craft, League of Legends, Elder Scrolls, and 2 short-films (Kairos and the red). Mostly, however, I took a camera from Kairos.  

WIP from edu llobera on Vimeo.

Looking at wip reel, I love the action sequence of the middle shot. Other options could have been to use cuts or a held side view, but I love the way the camera moves with the action. In terms of camera and composition, what advice would you give to somebody looking to do similarly?
My advice is if you don't know to do something, ask who knows it. I don't know too much the theory of camera but I looked in action feature films and I copied a few ideas, after I showed my opcions and asked for advice to people who knows about storytelling.

The multiple hands in Slimy Git, reminds me very much of Looney Tunes. Can you talk a little about the planning for their timing and positioning of the multiple hands? Also a little about their execution? Thank you.
It was a great challenge, I had the idea but I didn't know the animation technique to do it. Slimmy Git is one of iAnimate exercises, I took longer to finish (wrapping up 9 months later). 

Slimmy git from edu llobera on Vimeo.

The quick movements happen in 1 frame, but our eyes need 2 or 3 frames to follow it so Slimmy git has hands and glasses duplicated. I'm not an expert, there may have been a different technique, for example I could have used smear frames. However, its important to leave a trail where it comes from. 

Don't be afraid to experiment and give it a try.

Focusing now on your winning entry, can you tell us a little bit about your animation process?
I studied the characters personality. I immediately recognized the Carry's voice (from Homeland tv series). I looked for reference including bipolar people or angry people. After I recorded myself 1 million times until I find something interesting. I prepared the staging, the blocking of 3 shots, I passed to spline and finally refine. On the fly I made some changes, for example at the beginning the can of paint was a teddy bear and she held a knife.

I love the nervous tension shared between the two characters? Kerry's little shakes, the madness in her eyes and in particular the desperate look for reassurance around frames 111-114. Please talk a bit about your inspiration for these characters.
She is a normal person who is feeling fears about her life. Kerry must take a risk, face her fears but she's scared (I represented this with a green colour and pink colour). Who has never felt similar in a period of change?

Although the competition is an animation competition, the beautiful quality of the render, makes me ask about Kerry's teeth. As Keith Santay comments, it looks like her teeth are all knocked out. Was this a character choice to her breakdown?
Unfortunately, it was a mistake. I would like to be a better renderer, but on a few frames it is missing light in her mouth .

Where did the idea come from for the little face on the paint can?
At the beginning I thought to put a teddy bear in the background. However, when I decided she had a paintbrush, this was changed to a can of paint. The face is inspired by the volleyball, Wilson, from Cast Away.
Is there any advice you would give to others entering the competition?
Try to explain an instant from some history. It is only are 10-15 seconds, there is no time to explain many things. Try to be most clear and try to do a decent render. I believe the 11 Second Club entries may usually obtain better results with nice renders. However, we shouldn't forget the render help to the animation to explain better the stories. For example, we can to do a render in black&white for express melancholic.

Good luck! 
Interview by Steven Hawthorne

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Luis Trebino Interview

Hello 11 Second Clubbers,

Luis Trebino joins us for this month, to discuss his winning entry for November's audio clip. His entry presents the tale of little troublemaker, who got caught by his teacher.

About the interview; the 11 Second Club receives entries from all over the world. Doing these interviews, I have been able to ask and discover about other cultures and approaches. But still, as an Englishman, I feel I had taken for granted that a lot of online education for animation, is in English.

Luis was rejected from a school, as his first language was Spanish. To hear how he learned English, before applying to a different school and succeeding in producing beautiful work... for me, it was a simple mind opener to discover an artist's endeavor to learn the craft.

Thank you Luis, for your time.

Animator's portfolio
Winning Entry

Jay Jackson compliments some of your choices, as those coming from an experienced artist. Please can you talk us through your four years in the animation?
First of all I want to thank you, Steven, for your time and dedication to this interview. I’m very happy about winning 11 Second Club's November competition. I’ve learned so much from this site since the first time I participated 4 years ago. Winning the competition was very important for me and completely unexpected due to the high level of all animators participating.

Jay Jackson did a great critique and said very cool things about my shot, coming from him makes me very happy.

This last 4 years I’ve been studying animation hard almost every day so wining eleven second club is for me like a prize for all the effort I’ve made.

All animation students know how difficult is to improve and how difficult is to be confident with our work. the last years have been stressful because I have worked and studied at the same time and that’s very hard.

I started studying animation after the university in a self-taught way but I discovered quickly that I needed to enroll in a animation school to be able to improve. The first animation school I tried rejected me because of my English level, it was very hard for me. I still remember how it feels not be able to do what you really want. Therefore, I didn't surrender and I started to do English classes. Finally, after 3 or 4 months of English classes , I tried it again in a new school: Animschool, and they accepted me.

I’ve learnt so much from Animschool and their instructors. It took me almost 2 years to be able to graduate because I did several breaks due to my job and personal affairs. But I didn't stop practicing and working hard to improve. In the next months I will do a workshop in Anim Squad to continue learning.

You noted that you work in 3d modelling and rendering. What inspired your choice to explore character animation?
I’ve done visual arts in the university, where I first met 3d modeling, rendering and animation but in a very basic level. When I've completed my visual arts degree I chose to became a 3d artist so after some time studying modeling, rendering for myself I found a job in a architecture studio, where I’ve learned a lot about these disciplines.

 (A sample of Luis's work)

I've always loved animation, since I was a kid. I grew up with Disney movies and Warner Bros pictures. So I quickly discovered that I wanted to become a professional animator. That idea was always in mind.

''Any particular favourites?''
I think Looney Tunes are fantastic, so simple to understand for kids and so funny as well. From Disney I love movies like Lion King and Toy Story. And I also remember Jonny Quest from Hanna-Barbera. It's funny, when I was a child I've always imagined Hanna Barbera as a woman. Just a few years ago I realized that it was from William Hanna and Joseph Barbera.

Were the Disney/Warner Bros movies dubbed?
Yes, they were. The Spanish version always try to be as close as possible to English version. Adding that little things that makes characters differing. Like for example Bugs Bunny nasal voice or Daffy Duck lisp. You can check the differences in this two Space Jam videos.
First the original one,
And the spanish version,

Of course the original version is better, but I think the Spanish dubbing actors did a great job as well.

In Spanish we have 2 different dubbing accents: one for Spain with Spanish accent and another one with a more standard accent for latin american spanish speakers (like a Mexican-neutral accent). I was born in Argentina, so I grew up watching cartoons with Latin American neutral accent,despite the fact is completely different from Argentinian accent.

Now I live in Spain, I think its is funny to see the difference between the two dubbing versions. There’s always fight about which one is better. Personally I prefer Spanish (from Spain) dubbing.

(A particular favourite of mine, is the Polish version of Be Prepared. I love the richness in the voice). See link - here -)

Have you found your modelling and rendering skills, influencing your animations?
I haven’t, I think the animation must influence the modeling and the rendering and not vice versa, but rendering can be some plus to the final shot. I thought it would be a great idea to add some motion blur especially for the paper and the first big movement.

I didn’t modeled any prop for this shot but I usually do. Basic modeling skills are important for animators, not essential but sometimes you can't make a animation you have in mind because you need some props or some stage and you don’t know how to do it, so is important to not have any obstacle that impede doing your shot.

About the final render, I did it everything in Maxwell Render. Maxwell is very easy to use, it works like a real camera, so you don’t have to set photon settings or technical stuff. You only need to set the ISO, F-stop and Shutter like real life cameras and you get a really good result without investing a lot of time.

Please talk a little bit about your classes with AnimSchool.
Animschool is great, they have a very structured way of teaching and that’s really good for starting animators. Students learn directly from professional animators now working in the industry. Every class is very structured, in this way you learn the whole process of a shot, from the basic idea, thumbnails and video reference to the layout, blocking, splining and polishing.

In addition to your animation classes each term there’s a new animation related class for students and graduated, like drawing or storytelling plus the animation general reviews, where you can attend for additional review of your work.

Another strength is that Animschool have so expressive and appealing rigs, really easy and intuitive to use. All characters are joint based. In opposite to blend shapes, joints are more flexibles so you can find better poses without breaking the rig.

I must ask about an earlier entry, ''That Creepy Game''... do you play video games and if so, which is your favourite? Is it as scary a choice as the fish's?
I used to play video games, nowadays I have no time for that, I spend all my free time animating. I played lots of video games when I was a kid, My favorite genre of videogames is strategy, i get so invested thinking how to defeat the enemy, planning attacks. I think there’s not other genre of games can do that, squeeze your brain. I think one of my favorites is Sid Meier's Civilization, Is the perfect strategy game. I’ve played civ 1,2,3 and 4, no time nowadays for civ 5.

I didn't think in a specific game for that shot, I just thought in a horror game. I focused in the characters reaction, the nostalgia of “Charlie” seeing that video game and remembering how fabulous was playing it when he was a kid.

Tell us a little bit about your animation process?
When I have a shot in mind what I do first is planning, I think about the characters, how do they think, what happened before the shot and what is going to happen after it, I think is necessary to keep in mind a whole idea about the situation. With time I realized that this is the most important part of the process, you can’t start animating if you don’t have a very clear idea of the what is going to happen in your shot. This is the most creativity part and creativity works in the same way for all artistic disciplines, there’s isn't a way to learn how to do something creative, but there are some tricks that can help like writing down thoughts wherever you are.

After that I search in internet for images and ideas according to what I have in mind. Sometimes I get really good ideas for the shot with a image. Especially about the staging and the composition. I use, because you can filter results in order to search exactly what you need.

At this point when I have my basic idea sometimes, depending of the shot, I do some thumbnails or I do a basic layout cinematic in order to see if my idea and my staging is going to work or not. After that I start my video references, I explore different ideas and acting choices in order to find the most believable acting according to the character. Finally I start animating. I first do a pass with the 4 or 5 basic poses being sure this poses are the best I can. Then I add some breakdowns and I start a basic lip sync. When I think everything looks the best as possible I go to splining and I clean all curves and fix timing. Finally I polish everything.

I must join others in compliment the acting choices on the teacher, particularly the head and hands gestures. Please talk about your approach to this character.
I first tried to think in a typical school principal, listening the audio I decided that Marshall rig from Animschool was the best pick for that voice. So I started thinking his thoughts, he is very big guy with a strong voice so he should move slow and show weight in his movements. The audio sounds very calm and confident, but I tried to look deeper: He is very upset about something, but he is controlling himself because he is the school principal so he can’t show anger.

At this point I thought about something wrong or bad that a student can do in order to justify that annoyance , the first I thought was in a slingshot but I've noticed that it’s a very difficult thing to handle. So finally I decided to use a firecracker, very easy to handle and to model.

To achieve the character I did several video references. In this case the audio is very uniform, there aren’t big beats so the acting should be delicate without big movements or reactions. I tried to hit the beats carefully in order to not overact, this was the hardest thing to do.

Looking at your layout, an interesting difference to your finished animation is the pose on ''smart guy''. In your finished animation, on the exception of grabbing the firework, the hands gesture together (e.g. they place the paper down, rest and fold arms). Please talk about this choice?
I did the layout in order to have a basic idea of the poses and the camera changes. After having a overall idea of the shot I started to do some video references of myself. I found better choices for the acting, a more realistic way to show the character thoughts. So I added this new acting to the shot. There are big differences between the layout and the final shot due to the video reference, about expressions, weight, movement...

Starting an animated shot with a new character is exploring uncharted territory so video reference is an essential tool for all animators. Shooting yourself you can know which acting choices, movements and expressions work better for your animation Also, while you are recording yourself you can find fresh ideas to add and you can realize that some of your initial ideas do not work as you thought. 

The comments offered from the community, provide constructive feedback on lip sync. Jay Jackson adds to this, inviting both yourself and others to take a look at the Illusion of Life for tips. How have you found the challenge of approaching sync? 
Lip sync is always challenging, especially for non- native English speakers. Participating for the 11 second club November competition was really good for me to realize that lip sync is my weakest point. The feedback from the community and specially from Jay Jackson was absolutely accurate.

I checked The illusion of life as Jay said, I found it very useful. Something I already know and is very important is to not hit the sound in the exact moment, is more like trying to give the impression of speaking. In order to get this feeling I hit the sounds 2 or 3 frames early. Another thing that Jay said and I read in the illusion of life is to keep the last mouth shape for some frames when a phrase ends to keep it alive.

There are such a good advices from page 462 to 465 that every animator must know about lip sync and gestures to make a good feeling of speaking and there are some good examples to take a look.

Lastly, do you mind if may I ask what bit of advice you would give to others entering the competition?
11 second club competition is a perfect way to know the animation level you can reach. I participated 4 times and I see a improvement from the first time I did to this time. So I completely recommend to try it, is a good way to learn from the community.

Don’t forget to plan your shot! listen meticulously the audio, write it down and start from the beginning, researching ideas, thinking about the characters and their personality. If you start animating from the first day, for sure your shot will be poor. Behind a good shot is a really good planning. 

Interview by Steven Hawthorne