CGI Dreamworks Animation Studio Pipeline

I use this video every year to familiarize my students with the entire production process on a CG film.

Notes on Animation: Cats Don't Dance

A look at the design and animation of forgotten 90's gem Cats Don't Dance. Thanks to Wayne Carlisi of
and Frans Vischer of

Movie Geometry - Shaping the Way You Think

Have you ever noticed that villains in a story have pointy features and the lovable characters appear to be round-faced?

A new video has revealed why - and how Disney and other filmmakers use the trick to get us to empathize with the hero and hate the villain in movies.

It shows how characters such as Darth Vader and Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty have sharp, angular faces made from triangles, while lovable characters such as Baloo from 'The Jungle Book' are made entirely of circles.

Best Tools for Maya Animators from Lester Banks

Lester Banks has posted the Best Tools for Maya Animators on his blog.

The BH Ghost Tool was created by one of my iAnimate students Brian Horgan. I encourage you to check out his website too for more tools.

The only issue with plugins vs mel scripts is many studios will not install tools on the machine for you.  They do not want their image corrupted with plugins (especially those using java in any way). But leaning on these tools for your own films at home is perfectly acceptable.

Below, are the tools I use the most... for the complete list go to Lester Banks Blog.

14. MG Tools

mgToolsby Miguel Winfield for Maya 7.0 and up – One day, somewhere out there, Winfield decided to cull all of his Maya tools together into one massive set and release it online. The result was the famously useful MGTools, which includes timesavers for just about every part of the workflow, including animation.

Possibly most noteworthy of the features is animRescue, which is a simple, lightweight method of backing up any and all changes to your animation, to be restored at anytime should your system crash.

Touted by industry professionals around the world, this one is definitely worth a look. Free and commercial versions available from MGLand

9. Ghost Tools

Ghost Tool, by Brian Horgan A very clever onion skinning solution for those of you fed up with Maya’s wonky built in Ghost feature. Brians Ghost Tools makes use of strokes to create easy to read line drawings. The tool is fast, compact, and loaded with features. Read the full article about it here. Free Download from Brians site

8. ABX Pickerabx-picker

ABX Picker, by J Adam Burke for Maya 2011 – 2013. A junior entry to the best GUI picker list, the strong selling points of this picker are the functionality and the rapid response from the tools developer. A highly rated, well supported user favorite. $20 on CreativeCrash

7. Snap Keys

Snap Keys, (various). This function got a few votes – whether using Maya’s built in snap key function or the custom Snap Keys included with MGTools – there’s also a very useful script over on the 11secondclub forums that prevents Maya from ever creating sub-frame keys.

6. Frame Counter

Frame Counter, (various). Many options are available if you want to add a custom frame counter to your playblast. Head over to this forum post to find scripts for both Max and Maya, or take the lazy route and just download The Frame Counter from CreativeCrash

Try Blue Pencil, or GPencilTool. More reading on other options over at this forum.

4. AnimSchool Picker

AnimSchool Picker, by AnimSchool for Maya and Softimage, all versions. This free tool has a lot going for it for Maya animators. Easy to use, easy to customize and a great depth of features.

Creating pickers is very simple, even adding multiple buttons at the same time is a snap, assigning sets and adding custom backgrounds is simple. But what really adds to the functionality is the ability to assign commands to buttons.

This tool is not only useful for picking controllers in a character rig, it’s also a catch-all solution for making all sorts GUIs.

Infintely faster than building UIs with mel, this tool is a must try for animators and technical artists alike. Free with signed waiver at AnimSchool.

3. Motion Trails

Motion Trail tools, (various). You can of use the built in Maya Motion Trail option, but if you ask the friendly folks at the 11second club, Mr Motion Trail, Arc Tracker or A Piece of Acetate Paper are all excellent alternatives. All free except the acetate, but if you’re like me you can use a dry erase marker right on your screen, what could possibly go wrong?

1. Pose Library

Pose Library, (various). Far and away the most useful and requested tool is the Pose Library. Whether it’s feature work, TV series or personal projects, there’s no substitute for an easy way to save and import your poses. I can’t imagine a production running smoothly without a way to import animation cycles, hand poses or face shapes. Invaluable to Maya animators.

If I didn’t have a pose library, I’d probably punch a baby elephant in the butt.

Here are three of the best tools for saving and importing animation data. PoseLib, Studio Library and PoseMan.

Academy Reveals 2016 Student Oscar Winners

once-upon-a-line-alicja-jasinaI am so proud of one of my USC students, Alicja Jasina, who one a student academy award in animation for her film - Once upon a Line.

LOS ANGELES -- The Academy has voted 17 students as winners of the 43rd Student Academy Awards competition. The Academy received a record number of entries this year -- 1,749 films from 286 domestic and 95 international colleges and universities -- which were voted by a record number of Academy members. The 2016 winners join the ranks of such past Student Academy Award winners as Pete Docter, Cary Fukunaga, John Lasseter, Spike Lee, Trey Parker and Robert Zemeckis.


The winners are (listed alphabetically by film title):


All These Voices, David Henry Gerson, American Film Institute
Cloud Kumo, Yvonne Ng, City College of New York
The Swan Girl, Johnny Coffeen, Maharishi University of Management

Die Flucht, Carter Boyce, DePaul University
Once upon a Line, Alicja Jasina, USC
The Wishgranter, Echo Wu, Ringling College of Art and Design

Fairy Tales, Rongfei Guo, New York University
4.1 Miles, Daphne Matziaraki, University of California, Berkeley
From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City, Elise Conklin, Michigan State University

It’s Just a Gun, Brian Robau, Chapman University
Nocturne in Black, Jimmy Keyrouz, Columbia University
Rocket, Brenna Malloy, Chapman University
Foreign Narrative

Invention of Trust, Alex Schaad, University of Television and Film Munich (Germany)
Tenants, Klara Kochanska, The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School (Poland)
Where the Woods End, Felix Ahrens, Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF (Germany)
Foreign Animation

Ayny, Ahmad Saleh, Academy of Media Arts Cologne (Germany)
Foreign Documentary

The Most Beautiful Woman, Maya Sarfaty, Tel Aviv University (Israel)

Pixar and the Aesthetic Imagination

Animation, Storytelling, and Digital Culture | Pixar and the Aesthetic Imagination

Eric Herhuth (Author)

In Pixar and the Aesthetic Imagination, Eric Herhuth draws upon film theory, animation theory, and philosophy to examine modes of animation storytelling that address aesthetic experience within contexts of technological, environmental, and socio-cultural change. Since producing the first fully computer-animated feature film, Pixar Animation Studios has been a creative force in digital culture and popular entertainment. But more specifically, its depictions of uncanny toys, technologically sublime worlds, fantastic characters, and sensorial intensities explore aesthetic experience and its relation to developments in global media, creative capitalism, and consumer culture. This investigation considers Pixar’s artificial worlds and transformational stories as opportunities for thinking through aesthetics as a contested domain committed to newness and innovation, as well as criticism and pluralistic thought.

Sword and the Stone Shot Analysis by James Chiang

Sword and the Stone Shot Analysis by James Chiang

Lesson: Biomechanics and Balance

This is part of a series I have started of lessons from my class lectures. I will choose a topic from time to time to expand on. If you have ideas for a topic please contact me with topics.


86ee44796df1e3663dfc28a73e80e3b3****One of the biggest issues I find with newbie animators to CG is understanding balance in their poses.  Balance is the only way to illustrate weight.  if your character looks like they are going to fall over in their pose, you have not done your job as an animator to illustrate weight.  before describing weight and it's relation to balance, I need to explain a few more facets of biomechanics.


Understanding Kinematics: You must ask yourself these questions to understand how far to push a pose and find the balance line within the pose.

  • How limber is the individual?
  • How long are limbs?
  • Stamina?
  • Weight and Balance?

There is an invisible line that runs from your character's head and neck to the feet.  This plumb line defines the balance in your poses. To check this line in CG you must look at your poses from all angles.TIP5

b32c18043671651a155350d812afa16d standing-postures


  • Gravity is constantly affecting the body in both static and dynamic movement.
  • Gravitational downward pull on an object.
  • Understanding gravity, the COG (Center of Gravity) will help you create solid poses.

20120708-001859 Cirque-Du-Soleil gravity-with-hip-flexion

COG and Balance:

  • The COG is the point of a body at which all the mass may be concentrated.
  • The force of gravity acts vertically downwards from this point.
  • Basically, the body balances around this point.
  • The COG of a body is at its geometrical center.



muybridge jump




Some tips for posing:

  • Don’t move anything unless it’s for a purpose.
  • Don’t move anything unless it’s for a purpose.
  • Don’t create a pose without knowing why.
  • Do get the best animation poses by exploring all avenues.
  • Do picture in your head what it is you’re animating.
  • Do think in terms of creating an entire pose, not just the head or eyes, etc.
  • Do keep a balanced relation of one part of the character's pose to the other.
  • Do stage the camera for the most effective poses.

Rodney Mullen Debuts New Tricks, Captured in 360 Degrees | Vogue

Beautiful Reference and motion studies – Look at the weight absorbed at his knees!

How to Draw Sci-Fi Utopias and Dystopias By Prentis Rollins

For all those clear-eyed artists, ages 12 and up, engaging in and reimagining this world, How to Draw Sci-Fi Utopias and Dystopias (Monacelli Studio; September 2016) gives an in-depth look at the process of completing sci-fi illustrations—from the thought behind them to constructing basic forms and objects on paper, converting roughs into finished pencil drawings, inking them in, and coloring them in Photoshop. The book is organized around the perennial distinction between two ways of representing the future in science fiction: the pessimistic and the hopeful, or dystopian an­d utopian. A long-time contributor to DC Comics, on projects including Green Lantern: Rebirth, Supergirl, and Batman: The Ultimate Evil, Prentis Rollins teaches that the only way to create authenticity in a science fictional world is to root the imagined in the real, becoming the sole authority on its narrative and rationales. He demonstrates the astounding power of storytelling with 32 step-by-step case studies created and imagined just for this book.




Create the Futuristic Humans, Aliens,

Robots, Vehicles, and Cities of Your

Dreams and Nightmares

Prentis Rollins

Monacelli Studio

September 27, 2016 • trade paperback

$25 • 208 pages

8½ x 10 inches • 250 illustrations

ISBN 978-1-58093-446-6




Nice test with the Malcolm Rig!