Industry Contract Types

Freelance they are self-employed or are part of other companies they often look after their own tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs) they might not be entitled to the same rights as workers, eg minimum wage you’re still responsible for … Continue reading

Dream Job

After finishing the course, I would like to become an animator. This means that I will need to improve my skills while being in the course to get the best footing I possibly can before looking for either an apprenticeship or looking into university courses.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor’s degree standard
Degree Field Computer animation, fine art, graphic arts
Training Some employers require on-the-job training in using company specific software
Experience 1 year for entry-level positions; 3 or more years for mid-level or advanced positions
Key Skills Creative, artistic, communication, computer and time-management skills; ability to use animation and video editing software
Salary $63,630 per year (2014 median salary for all multimedia artists and animators)

One of the main things I need to do to help me is to make a portfolio, or showreel of all the work I produce, or all of the best work.

a few possible animator career paths:

 

  • Modeler
  • Computer animator
  • Painter
  • Technical director
  • Storyboard artist
  • Game designer

I would love to be able to work within Pixar as an animator in the future. Although it is a very competitive job I would like to be able to try and work there at some point, whether it be as an intern or a full time employee.

What are the qualities of a good Animator?
A Pixar Animator should be able to bring life to any object or character, showing the character’s internal
thoughts and feelings through its physical external motion. To do this, the Animator must be a good actor.
His or her work should communicate clearly, containing simple ideas with which an audience can empathize.
The animation should be entertaining to watch, employing good timing and relying on individualized, believable
characters to put forth humor and emotion. The Animator also needs an understanding of physical motion.
Knowledge of weight, balance, overlap, texture, and form should be evident in the work. In fact, in evaluating a
prospective Animator, Pixar relies very heavily on the demo reel presented by the candidate.

 

 

The Importance and Value of Transferable Skills

Skills Developed within animation, vfx and games design are pretty much all transferable. meaning that no matter which sector you go into, these skills all apply one way or another into the other sector.

These skills include:

  • Specialist Skills- be a generalist with specialist skills. Be able to work in other groups and cover a range of functions, but be able to be a specialist in one sector.
  • team work – team work is key within all the sectors above, as you all work together to produce one thing, whether it be a movie or a game.
  • creativity and efficiency – you must be able to think creatively to overcome problems within design and in general.
  • the ability to think about the big picture – VFX is about the overall pipeline and not just one shot, so you must be able to thinking about all aspects of it rather than just one
  • meet deadlines – deadline are a massive thing within these industries, if you miss the deadline, the game or movie may not get published or released, meaning people may not get paid.
  • working to a brief – in the industry, you need to get the shot right for your customer, not for you, so you must be able to change things based on your client.
  • respond well to criticism – criticism may come in the form of your client not liking a certain shot, and so you may need to change it in accordance to their liking.
  • presentation skills – ideas will always need to be presented, whether to another colleague, your boss or to the client to show how you will do certain things, or just for certain ideas. You need to be able to explain yourself concisely and clearly so everyone can understand.
  • knowledge of cultural references – VFX is about making photo real characters or images. These need to be believable so that it feels like they are within that world.
  • observation skills – being able to mimic vfx or an animation is key to making a great scene. So we need to be able to observe movement and then apply that to the shot to make things seem as real as possible.
  • planning – being able to plan ahead is great, in case you come into any problems, you will have a plan to try and over come them.
  • be able to draw – drawing isn’t essential, but it is a great way to get your ideas across to others
  • be proactive and self motivated, always learning – no matter where you work, you will always learn something new, whether it be a new piece of software, or a new way to tackle a problem!
  • be confident – ask questions – asking questions is essential to over coming problems, this will help you learn how to do it later, and it may also help you to help someone else in the future
  • know the language – within any sector, they use a certain type of “language” to help clearly communicate between each other and companies.
  • awareness of cinematography – you will need to be aware of key terms, how certain things are produced and be able to analyse shots
  • maths – trigonometry, matrices, vectors, applied mechanics, algebra, scripting, physics – maths is always going to be a big part of games and animation, whether it is keyframing, physics, blast radiuses or other things, maths isn’t essential to an artist, but you will need to have an appreciation for this section, just like how a programmer doesn’t necessarily need to be able to draw, but needs to have an appreciation.
  • computer literacy- this is essential to be able to navigate within computers, applications, files and understand how to use shortcuts.
  • film theory – Film theory is always helpful, in case you can apply it to a shot later on, and how narrative and structures work.
  • knowledge of vfx history – VFX has come a long way, be looking into the history, you may be able to learn from the past and apply it to new shots
  • knowledge of editing – editing is a big part of the shot, this can be removing boom mics, cables, or other things that shouldnt be visable within the scene.Although your career choice may not require editing, it is good to know the basics.
  • style and vision – each sector may require to work to a certain style. Whether is being photo-realistic, cartoony or just another style, you must be able to work with different ideas to produce the next movie or game.
  • understand optics – optics is how the eyes work. By being able to know how your eyes work, VFX can be used to trick the viewer into believing something is there, or to make them look to a certain area of the screen.
  • be innovative. – although vfx and games have been around for a long time, everyone is still learning. These skills and ideas are being improved everyday and may lead to new ideas in the future.

VFX Breakdown: Rocket Raccoon

Raccoons don’t often walk on two legs, and they don’t regularly start bar fights, fire huge guns or pilot spaceships either, but then Rocket, the star of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, is no ordinary raccoon.” via Framestore.com

Framestore is the company that worked on Marvels Rocket Raccoon in the movie Guardians of the Galaxy.

“If you exaggerate his performance and make him too cartoony you’ve lost the audience but if you go too real you’ll end up with something that isn’t entertaining or doesn’t do Bradley’s voice justice,” explains Animation Supervisor Kevin Spruce. “James Gunn instinctively had a gut feeling of what was right for Rocket. He often wanted to keep him casual and low-key, rather than over-acted. He was very big on the fact that when you shoot live action the actors don’t always look at each other when they’re talking, whereas there’s a tendency for animators to always make characters face who they’re talking to. The animation team worked hard to get all that observational detail into Rocket and became really intuitive to what he would do in any situation.” via Comicbook.com

Rocket is one of the most central characters that framestore has animated, and so Rocket needed to look both realistic, but natural. But seeing as though Rocket is similar to a humanoid, in the way he walks and acts, he needed to be able to do things that Raccoons dont do.

During the making of Rocket, there was a constant need for reference to the concept art, stand-in performance and voice characterization.

“Everything came down from what we shot on set,” says Ceretti. “We had the actors there and the interaction was so natural there. There were, though, lots of little things the animators brought in. When Rocket talks about something, he’s always playing with something on the table. That’s something we found out from racoons – they are very tactile so when they grab something they really play around with it and work around – so these things made him very natural.” via fxguide.com

Framestore were given a brief to make a “grizzled and cynical” character.

“That mood is not strictly true because there are moments in the film where you catch a glimpse of what’s really going on underneath this outward appearance of stand-offish grumpy character. It’s this injured and tortured soul. There’s a moment, for example, where he isn’t wearing any costume and you see his implants and biotech implants into his body.” via fxguide.com

Framestore received several pieces of concept art as part of his designing process.

“We went right back to a raccoon – we’d been given raccoon reference, we’d been to see a raccoon,” says Fawkner. “We did two versions of Rocket and in the end he got more bipedal and was more human sized in his proportions. We really dealt with him as a creature that could emote and talk, and that somehow seemed slightly easier once we had got his facial features sorted out. We had big shadows under his eyes which let his brows emote. All these things were gradually done to allow a face that would read more human.” via fxguide

One of the major challenges in the making of rocket raccoon was his hair. Framestore relied on their inhouse hair system calle “fcHairFilters” and its sim tool “fDynamo” This gave them a series of filters that build up to network different functions to give each hair its own shape.

A raccoons fur is made of from lots of layers of short fine hair, and then one layer of long, thick hair, so Framestore needed to separate these into layers in order to simulate them during the movie and tests. By doing this they were able to get a more accurate simulation.

The fur was separated into sections as the different costumes created natural split points. This meant that parts of the fur which were not visible, were able to be removed, and therefore didnt need to be simulated and saves time. Overall, they had three variants and a total of 22 hair sets.

Rocket was rendered in Arnold and the shader that was used was based on the disneyISHair model, a physics inspired hair shading system that is friendly towards its artist.

On each of the markings, they used multiple colour maps. This meant that they could mix them in different ways on the hairs in order to create different effects.

“For the short fine hair we were able to achieve the speckled look along each hair which is present in real raccoon fur by swapping between the different maps in certain areas controlled by mix masks. The longer hairs had less colour changes along the length which gave the recognisable raccoon mask.” via framestore.com

Framestore then made the bounty hunter gear for rocket, but since that job needed to be shared with another VFX Company, they tried to make it as easy as possible to set up his different outfits, including his prison uniform.

“It’s quite a rigid space suit, so we decided that the top part could be mainly rigged and the trousers would be cloth simmed,” explains CFX Supervisor Sylvain Degrotte. The prison outfit was more difficult. “It was less rigid so it needed to collide with Rocket’s fur underneath and be able to slide and wrinkle in a more fluid, less mechanical way.”via framestore.com

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““We built that costume in quite a novel way,” continues Sylvain, “at the beginning we took the approach of ‘OK let’s do it like Gravity take a physically accurate, pattern-based tailoring approach,’ but the costume already existed in real life so instead we decided to do a photogrammetry scan by taking 360° photos. It was much quicker and we still got all the details we wanted. We just had to fit it from our human model to a raccoon. It was an area we really pushed forward in and did something differently that worked for this particular show.” With the systems set up we developed our in-house software Jet to automate the simulation process. Artists could click a submit button and all it would run all the required simulations – the bounty hunter trouser simulation or the prison costume plus the three different groom simulations combined together – and publish a package that was used by lighting to render later on.” Via Framestore.com

Rocket is usually seen carrying his four-barreled gun, which was 3D printed to be used on set, and then was matched by framestore using CG.

“I think they had a view that the 3D printed gun looked a bit perfect,” notes Fawkner, “so when they gave us the 3D asset we replicated that but they hadn’t loved the gun in the first place. So we beat up the gun a bit and MPC did a lot of shots where it extends and unfolds.” via fxguide. 

Below is the showreel of how Framestore has made rocket raccoon.

Animation Industry: Disney Studios

The Walt Disney Company started back in 1923 in an office in Holly-Vermont Realty in Los Angeles. Walt Disney and his brother Roy created a series of short animated and live action films called the Alice Comedies.

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Within a few months, they moved  to a larger building under the name of “Walt Disney Studio” with their ever growing staff numbers.

A year later construction began on their new studio and during the next 14 years, Mickey Mouse was “born” in 1928, followed by the rest of the Disney gang, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto.

In 1937 Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs was released with huge success worldwide, and once again, using 51% of their profit, Disney Studios expanded to Burbank and designed the studio specifically for making animated films, from the layout of the building, to the design of the animators chairs.

Walt and company discuss the progress made at the new Studio lot.

The Disney Studio was split into several parts; the Animation Building, for the artists and animators in the center of the lot, The Inking Building, The Cutting Building and the Camera Building.

In the Cutting Building, the post production process occurred. Sound Facilities including dubbing, scoring, effects and voice recording. Many of the buildings were linked together using underground tunnels, which is still used in many of the DisneyLand Parks!

During the 1940’s and the 1950’s many animated features were produced in  Burbank, including Fantasia, Bambi, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.

 

In the late 1940’s, Disney launched production of live action features and television programs, expanding again to include many stages and production facilities.

 

Stage 1

Stage 1 was the original stage built in 1940. This was used to film live action scenes for Fantasia and other films.

 

Stage 2

Stage 2 was built in 1949 which was used to film the television series Dragnet. Another show that was filmed was the Mickey Mouse Club, which still exists now (mainly in the states). Many children could join the Mickey Mouse Club as a club member, which is now know was mouseketeer.

Stage 2 is the largest stage in Los Angeles at around 31,000 square feet!

 

Stage 3

Stage 3 was specifically built for 20,000 leagues under the sea as it was fitted with a water tank.

Stage 4

Stage 4 was completed in 1958, and was first used for Darby O’Gill and the Little People and then, in 1988 it was split into two stages creating stage 4 and 5.

 

As the studio constantly grew, Walt wanted to build a place called Mickey Mouse Park. This was where fans could meet lifelike statues of Mickey and Donald, and the guests could take photos with their favourite characters. However as his ideas grew, the space needed to have his park needed to expand. And thus, he acquired more than 200 acres if land in California, and continued to build his new park, which became Disneyland.

 

Imaging

Film imaging facilities have been at the lot from their early days, starting with a process lab, which was adjacent to the inking and painting building.

This has mainly been used as a motion picture laboratory, animation and photo and visual effects.

in 1950, live action films became a huge success for the company, 20,000 leagues under the sea lead to the process lab being renamed the photo and visual effects building, and then produced many live action films such as Mary Poppins, Tron, Petes Dragon and Bedknobs and Broomsticks between the years of 1960 and 1970. And then in 1980, the unit was renamed again to the Buena Vista Visual Effects Group and again in 1996 it shifted to the Buena Vista Imaging.

Unfortunately, in 1982, Tron was disqualified from being nominated for special effects award at the Oscars as many people believed using a computer was “cheating”.

Moviemaking also was changing in America in the early 1980s. Audiences were diminishing for the family films that had been the mainstay of the Company for many years, and Disney was not meeting the competition for films that attracted the huge teenage and adult market. To reverse that trend, Disney established a new label, Touchstone Pictures, with the release of Splash in 1984. At the same time, because of the widespread perception that Disney stock was undervalued relative to the company’s assets, two “corporate raiders” attempted to take over Disney.

Filmmaking hit new heights in 1988 as Disney for the first time led Hollywood studios in box-office gross.Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Good Morning, Vietnam, Three Men and a Baby, and later, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Dick Tracy, Pretty Woman and Sister Act, passed the $100 million milestone. Disney moved into new areas by starting Hollywood Pictures and acquiring the Wrather Corp. (owner of the Disneyland Hotel) and television station KHJ (Los Angeles), which was renamed KCAL. In merchandising, Disney purchased Childcraft and opened numerous highly successful and profitable Disney Stores.

Disney animation began reaching even greater audiences, with The Little Mermaid being topped by Beauty and the Beast which was in turn topped by Aladdin (1992). Hollywood Records was formed to offer a wide selection of recordings ranging from rap to movie soundtracks. New television shows, such as Live With Regis and Kathy Lee, Empty Nest, Dinosaurs and Home Improvement, expanded Disney’s television base. For the first time, Disney moved into publishing, forming Hyperion Books, Hyperion Books for Childre and Disney Press, which released books on Disney and non-Disney subjects. In 1991, Disney purchased Discovermagazine, the leading consumer science monthly. As a totally new venture, Disney was awarded in 1993 the franchise for a National Hockey League team, the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim.

 

The Disney success with animated films continued in 1994 with The Lion King, which soon became one of the highest-grossing films of all-time. It was followed by Pocahontas in 1995, The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1996, Hercules in 1997, Mulan in 1998, Tarzan in 1999 and Fantasia/2000 at the turn of the century. Toy Storypioneered computer-animation techniques, and was followed by a successful sequel. Disney also continued its strong presence in children’s animated programs for television, and found success with sequels to animated features released directly to the video market.

 

2000 opened with the release in IMAX theaters of an almost totally new version of Fantasia entitledFantasia/2000. Other classically animated features were The Emperor’s New Groove, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Lilo & Stitch, Treasure Planet and Brother Bear. Continuing collaborations with Pixar brought the computer-animated blockbuster, Monsters, Inc. Popular live action productions continued with Remember the Titans, Mission to Mars, Pearl Harbor, The Princess Diaries, and The Rookie. The new cable network, SoapNet, was launched, and award-winning productions on ABC included The Miracle Worker, Anne Frank, and Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story.

2003 saw two Disney films grossing over $300 million at the box office — Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Disney-Pixar’s Finding Nemo. In fact, Disney became the first studio in history to surpass $3 billion in global box office.

2006 saw High School Musical air on Disney Channel and become an overnight sensation. In May, Disney made a major purchase of Pixar Animation Studios, at the same time gaining the services of Ed Catmull and John Lasseter to be creative heads of Disney Feature Animation. Disney-Pixar’s Cars was released in June. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chestbeat Company records to become the company’s highest grossing feature after its July release. Disney parks celebrated the Year of a Million Dreams with special promotions.

With 2007 came another popular release from Pixar, Ratatouille, and Disney had its first co-production in China— The Secret of the Magic Gourd. The year ended with the hits Enchanted and National Treasure: Book of Secrets. The third Pirates of the Caribbean feature, subtitled At World’s End, became the top-grossing film of the year internationally. Disney Channel reached new heights with High School Musical 2, and Hannah Montana shot Miley Cyrus to stardom. In the summer, Disney acquired Club Penguin. At the parks, Disney built on the Pixar brand with the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage at Disneyland, The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Epcot and Finding Nemo — The Musical at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

At the Disney parks in 2008, Disney-MGM Studios was renamed Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Toy Story Midway Mania! opened there and at Disney’s California Adventure, and It’s a Small World opened at Hong Kong Disneyland. The company reacquired ownership of the Disney Stores’ retail locations from The Children’s Place, and the first Disney-operated language training center, Disney English, opened in China. In theaters, audiences flocked to WALL•E and Bolt.  Tinker Bell, the first of a series of Disney Fairies films, was released, and Camp Rock and Phineas and Ferb debuted on Disney Channel. The Little Mermaid opened on Broadway.

The big news in 2009 was the acquisition of Marvel Entertainment. Theaters presented Up (which would win two Oscars), the first Disneynature film, Earth, and a return to hand-drawn animation with The Princess and the Frog. The first Disney film locally produced in Russia, The Book of Masters, was released. D23: The Official Disney Fan Club launched, Disney twenty-three magazine began publication, and the first biennial D23 Expo was held in Anaheim. Bay Lake Tower opened at Walt Disney World, and a Disney Vacation Club section was added to the Grand Californian Hotel. Disney XD replaced Toon Disney, and at the end of the year the company mourned the passing of Roy E. Disney.

In business news in 2010, the company sold Miramax. Alice in Wonderland and Toy Story 3 were released, and they would go on to win two Oscars each. The latter picture would become the highest grossing animated film of all time. Also on movie screens were Tangled and Tron: Legacy. Video gamers entered the world ofEpic Mickey, and World of Color debuted at the renamed Disney California Adventure.