For the past ten years, I have taught in animation schools and art departments in universities for undergraduate and graduate-level courses, as well as and online institutions and trade schools for animation and VFX. My course load has included fundamentals of animation, CG character performance, creature and game animation, professionalism and career strategies, animation theory and film criticism; animation history traditional and digital; senior film thesis development as well as classes for MFA programs including critique seminars, production studio and professional practices.

My primary goal as a teacher is to foster critical thinking, facilitate creative thought, and prepare students to function effectively as a filmmaker and artist while learning to execute their ideas through the fundamentals of animation and technical workflow with the tools.  First and foremost, I mentor artists towards innovative thinking.  Each student’s demo reel is different, and students are encouraged to create their unique and creative voice.  Narrative, character, and empathy sit at the top of the list in my courses.  I strive to create well-rounded artists that have mastered the technical and artistic aspects of filmmaking, storytelling, and animation.  I do all of this with an optimistic, positive atmosphere. My classroom allows for students to feel safe making mistakes.  I believe more is learned from failures, than successes. Failure is our teacher.

People learn in different ways and art is a subjective topic to teach.  It is rare to have all students operating at the same level.  I switch things up to keep the students on their toes thinking conceptually about their projects and mold my instruction around individual student’s needs.  I view my instructor role as a signpost; steering my students towards original, creative solutions and submissive to the student’s growth. Classroom discussion, open critiques, guest speakers, and improv exercises assist in the students interacting, sharing, and discussing the work. Communication among the students and the sharing of ideas is critical to my courses.  School offers the opportunity to be exposed to a diverse group of fellow artists that can expand ideas. Animation production is a collaborative art form, and I believe students grow faster sharing with their peers.

Nothing feels better than when you explain a complex concept and see the light go off. It is a reward in of itself.  That moment when the student clicks with the content and connects the dots you have been placing before them is why I became a teacher. It is one of the most rewarding moments experienced, and I get to experience it every day.  I am at a time in my life now where I want to give back, and I have a genuine interest in making solid artists who, one day, win awards for their films.

My favorite quote regarding the learning experience is, “Tell me, and I forget. Show me, and I remember. Involve me, and I understand.”  This old Chinese proverb means you can only understand something by trying it yourself. I spend much time lecturing and explaining, then showing through demos and finally… I have my students do it for themselves because only then will they truly understand.

不聞不若聞之,聞之不若見之,見之不若知之,知之不若行之;學至於行之而止矣

~ Confucian philosopher Xunzi


STUDENT WORK


Below, are some selected course descriptions.

John C. Hench Division of Animation & Digital Arts, School of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California
LOS ANGELES (2011 – present)


ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, DADA/USC (2014 – present)

Teach courses on hand drawn/traditional animation, introduction to CG animation, CG character performance, animation production courses, production studio critique seminars and thesis in both the undergraduate and graduate programs, senior thesis advisement for B.A. and M.F.A. students.

  • CTAN102 Introduction to the Art of Movement Lab
  • CTAN 202 Advanced Animation Techniques
  • CTAN 301L 3D Character Performance Animation
  • CTAN 330 Animation Fundamentals
  • CTAN 305 Professionalism of Animation
  • CTAN 401A & B Senior Project
  • CTAN 450B Animation Theory and Techniques
  • CTAN 496 Directed Studies
  • CTAN 522 Animation Department Seminar
  • CTAN 563 Advanced Computer Animation
  • CTAN 593 Directed Studies in Animation
  • CTAN 549A & B Graduate Thesis Advisor

ADJUNCT LECTURER, DADA/USC (2011-2013)

  • CTAN 302 Introduction to 3D Computer and Character Animation
  • CTAN 301 Introduction to Digital Animation
  • CTAN 202 Advanced Animation Techniques

INSTRUCTION

Introduction to the Art of Movement Lab
Introduction to the Art of Movement Lab is a lab part of the first-year core curriculum in the John C Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts Curriculum for the undergraduate BA.

This lab is a supportive introduction to the techniques you develop in the CTAN 102 class. Through in-class exercises, we explore movement and performance animation using Maya software. Students are asked to create storyboards, sketches, and thumbnails as part of the process. During the course of the term student will recognize the Maya general animation interface, create motion with simple objects in CG, display understanding of the principles of animation applied to CG and employ animation workflow developed in class, using a computer.

Advanced Animation Techniques
Advanced Animation Techniques is the first CG Character Performance course in the second-year core curriculum in the John C Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts Curriculum for the undergraduate BA.

This course is the first component in a two semester sequence and surveys contemporary concepts and approaches to creating believable performance animation in Maya software using a computer with simple characters.  Students will learn how to transition from traditional hand-drawn animation techniques and creative planning into the CG digital realm.  The Principles of Animation applied to working in the round, understanding paths of actions and 2D/CG planning processes will be integral to this class.  Simply designed computer generated performance rigs (digital puppets) are provided.  Students are welcome to create their own characters/rigs, if desired. The final project involves an animated pantomime piece with a single character that illustrates the understanding timing and spacing, weight using a simple character. This course is charged with accomplishing two directives.  First, as instructional direction using Maya software to create believable performances and motion. Second, as an introductory class to advanced animation performances with bipedal characters.  This is not a “How to Use Maya Software” class.  Students are expected to bring their creativity to all assignments through storytelling.  The student decides how advanced an assignment they attempt by assessing their own skills and desire to push themselves. Technical assignments have three levels of difficulty to support student’s computer skills and experience.  Most importantly, animation workflow using Maya software will be established to arm students with the confidence to create believable performances with sophisticated character animation on a computer in the second section of this course (CTAN 301).

3D Character Performance Animation
3D Character Performance Animation is the second CG Character Performance course in the third-year core curriculum in the John C Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts Curriculum for the undergraduate BA.

This course is the second component in a two semester sequence and accelerates the instruction in CTAN 202 Advanced Animation Techniques exploring more complex computer-generated performance character animation with fully articulated character biped and creature quad rigs.  Exercises include both “production driven” animation concepts and encouragement of independent filmmaking in CGI.  Advanced character rigs and props are provided.  Students are welcome to create their own characters if desired/able. The goal for this course semester is completion of two film projects using CG animation. The first film focuses on closeup acting and dialog to explore the nuances of facial acting. The second piece is a refined full body mechanics and movement and dialog driven film using up to two computer generated characters or creatures using one camera. Students will fine-tune animation workflows using Maya Animation Software and the graph editor towards a substantial emotional performance and length in this course. The final project requires up to two-character/creature(s) animation film (10 – 15 seconds long) including body mechanics, facial animation, and solid acting choices.

Animation Fundamentals
Animation Fundamentals is an introduction to hand drawn animation course in the John C Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts Curriculum for the Animation Minor program.

This course is an introduction to the principles and techniques in creating the illusion of life and believable movement in animation. Students explore the techniques of professional animators and filmmakers through studio exercises, historical references, readings and analysis of animation film. Assignments in this class include completion of twelve (12) short films illustrating the understanding of the principles of animation. Criteria for each assignment is strictly technical and the student will bring their unique vision to the storytelling element of the coursework. The assignments for this course are designed for traditional analog application and 2D mediums. If you are more comfortable expressing yourself in digital formats you may do so after securing the instructor’s approval. Students will have access to light tables and pencil testing equipment during class as well as lab hours. All projects will include a group critique, in which we will collectively discuss troubleshooting animation challenges. Students will have the opportunity to explore both character based as well as experimental animation techniques, and are encouraged to pursue work that speaks to their own personal aesthetic. The goal of this course is to learn how to create the highest level of moment through study of the fundamental principles and mechanics of motion using hand-drawn animation. Students fine-tune their animation workflow and learn how to create believable motion through natural use of weight, timing, spacing and poses. There are choices for assignments and a loose perspective on subject matter so students will each have a different final reel by the end of the course.

Professionalism in Animation
Professionalism in Animation is a senior core curriculum course that prepares students to enter the animation industry with confidence and professionalism in the John C Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts Curriculum for the undergraduate BA.

The aim for this class is to facilitate an understanding of the structure of the entertainment industry and studio cultures to successfully gain employment and direct a career strategy for short term and long-term goals. This course instructs on how to present yourself as a professional, ready to work in the industry of digital media, animation, visual effects or any other area of production or post-production for animation. We will look at how these industries are structured, who are the major players, how business really gets done, and what specific skills and strategies are necessary to get entry-level work in these businesses. Three principles the course will cover are: researching, networking, and negotiation. Each student will prepare personal marketing tools (i.e. resume, business card, cover letter, credit list, networking and job spreadsheets, branding, website and demo reel/portfolio) and learn vital skills of interviewing. The business of the animation industry will be covered in lecture, including a day in the life of a working artist, intellectual property rights, terms of employment, and content development.

Senior Project
Senior Project is a two term/one year senior core curriculum course designed to assist in senior thesis film production in the John C Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts Curriculum for the undergraduate BA.

Senior Project A is the first half of two semester sequence of classes which culminate the BA sequence of classes for the degree in Animation and Digital Arts in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. This sequence enables the student to dramatically demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the practice of Animation as well as a thorough creative and expressive exploration and demonstration of the Art of Animation: compressed and resolved in the form of a 3-5 minute animated project and screening. By the end of 401A, students are expected to have completed at least 50% of their project production. What constitutes the 50% will be determined at the beginning of the semester on an individual basis. Everyone will be required to have all sound elements prepped for timely completion including the preliminary meetings with your chosen composer and/or sound designer, casting of all actors, finalizing of all scripts and dialogue. Each student presents their work in progress to a faculty panel during finals week for critique and approval to proceed with 401B the following semester.

Senior Project B is the final and culminating course in the John C Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts Curriculum for the undergraduate BA. By the end of 401B, students are required to present their completed senior project to the faculty review committee for approval. Completion requires all coloring, animation, sound mix, titles and credits, final renders and composites to be complete. Student’s enhance project planning and management skills to complete a successful project by the end of the semester. Student’s improve ability to analyze their project’s aesthetic, conceptual and technical progress. Student’s gain ability to analyze their production process. The end goal is to complete a festival-ready professional quality senior film with sound mix.

Animation Theory and Techniques – CTAN 450B
Animation Theory and Techniques is a three component course designed to assist in thesis film production in the John C Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts Curriculum for the Animation Minor Program.

CTAN 450B is the middle section of the three of 450 classes offered at USC. In 450A the students are introduced to animation, in 450B, the students develop pre-production content and organization for animation project and in 450C, the student will execute and complete the 1-2 minute animated film. All great productions start with an idea. Coming up with a production idea is a challenging stage for anyone. This course covers the aspects of idea development, refinement and organization. Students will bring their ideas to life through brainstorming, storyboards, scripting, and pitching for feedback. Class participation in group critiques is mandatory and necessary at this stage of production. Students will learn to pitch their ideas in a professional manner to their peers and instructor and provide meaningful feedback to their fellow students. This class (CTAN 450B) guides students through the pre-production and development stages of creating a short animated film. By the end of the semester, each student will have an animation pitch bible consisting of a two-sheet, story concept art and character designs, style sheets, color boards, production book, script (if needed), time based design animatic with audio/scratch track, planned studio practice, organizational and production skills, and movement tests to assist in completing their film in the 450C course.

496 Directed Studies
496 Directed Studies is an independent study, directed by the student, to focus on a specific animation project in the John C Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts Curriculum for the BA and MFA programs.

Directed Studies in animation and digital arts is for individual research related to the field under faculty guidance.Directed study can include practical research or pre-production on a thesis or student project. It can also relate to an associated field of inquiry which informs the practice and theory.

Directed study includes research into the conceptual development, creative applications and practical employment of motion capture technology as it relates to the animation, digital arts and interactive gaming industry. The research will explore the history and development of the technology and correlate this to the core language of animation and the subsequent evolution of computer graphics as a way to recreate the human form using movement, gesture, mime, and expression. The directed study will involve interviews with pioneers in the field and onsite documentation at various industry and research labs. A directed study explores contemporary critical issues in animation directed by the student towards a goal of their own making. I define this broadly––from artistic production of a portfolio piece, to specific animation tests or film assignments, portfolio development and exploration, and other projects designed by the student. A proposal is written to declare the expectations of the directed study for the term and agreed upon by student and professor. I meet once or bi-weekly with the student to guide the effort. Some of the core areas of investigation include: case studies of inspirational artists/studios, exploration of new methodologies of animation, and specific thesis film studies. A final longer piece or up to three smaller pieces are the expectations of a directed study.

Animation Department Seminar
Animation Department Seminar serves as a weekly academic forum in which theorists, scientists, artists and industry discuss their research and ideas as it relates or intersects with animation and digital art in the John C Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts Curriculum for the MFA Program.

Distinguished special guests, as well as USC faculty, will engage the class on various aspects of animation, research, new media and education. Exposure to this diversity of viewpoints, creative output, and professional experience will serve to inspire the students, encourage new avenues of
exploration, and facilitate career planning. Seminar also provides an opportunity for the DADA program to gather as a community once a week
to discuss specific issues that pertain to classes, productions, and events; and to make announcements of general interest. Exposure to special guests, USC faculty and alumni, will engage discourse around the art form and inspire the students while facilitating a clearer vision of their own research and career goals.

Advanced Computer Animation
Advanced Computer Animation is a master’s level course instructing on advanced character and creature animation film in the John C Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts Curriculum for the MFA Program.

This course prepares students for advanced senior thesis film making in the USC graduate and undergraduate programs, commercial animation production, and independent film making. In this class we improve the overall believability and appeal in a multi character/creature performance animation sequence by choosing sincere acting choices. We explore subtext to understand how to reveal your character’s internal thought process through your external acting and poses. In the first half of this 15 week course continuity across cuts in an animation sequences, CG workflow, layout and scene set-up, organization and pipeline are the focus. In the second half of the course we refine performance animation through acting exploration and learn about the polishing phase giving each character life, while maintaining focus on the core beats of the shots and integrate convincing body mechanics across cuts in a sequence. The objective of this class is to explore CG feature level sophisticated character animation and performances on a sequence of shots. Lecture focus involves production driven concepts and stylistic choices in advanced acting and performances for CG animation including: improv, body language, pushing poses, comedy vs. tragedy, creative roadblocks, cartoony vs. realism, phrasing, texture, moving holds and polishing. Complex bipedal, quad and prop rigs will be provided. Students are welcome to create their own characters, if desired/able. CG proof of concept ideas for senior thesis films are encouraged. Specific workflow, organization and pipeline animation methods using Maya for performance driven shots will also be introduced. The final project involves a multiple character/creature sequence of a minimum of three shots (10–15 seconds total) with advanced acting or a struggle/dance using facial animation, body mechanics, props and solid acting choices.

iAnimate – Advanced Character Animation Training Online
LOS ANGELES (2011 – 2014)


LECTURER, iAnimate
Teach advanced character animation courses on to students from all over the world online.

  • FWS3 Advanced Body Mechanics and Pantomime Acting
  • FWS4 Close Up Facial Acting and Lip Sync
  • FWS5 Full Body Acting, Facial and Lip Sync

FWS3 Advanced Body Mechanics and Pantomime Acting
In the first half of this 11 week workshop we will be fine tuning your Advanced Body Mechanics, overlapping actions, and acting through pantomime. In the second half of the workshop you will be dealing with intense physical action shots dealing with Weight pushes, pulls and lifts. Then working on your animation across cuts so that they are seamless and believable.

FWS4 Close Up Facial Acting and Lip Sync
In the first half of this 11 week workshop we will concentrate on polishing and fine tuning your close up facial acting and lip-sync. We will be working on how we can improve our overall believability and appeal by choosing sincere acting choices. In the second half of the workshop we will try to chose a contrasting shot from part 1 to refine and control our Body Mechanics to help emphasize and not over rule our facial Acting.

FWS5 Full Body Acting, Facial and Lip Sync
In the first half of this 11 week workshop we will now refine our full body acting and lip-sync to make our acting read while choosing full body gestures that supports the characters emotional state. In the second half of the workshop we will be picking an audio clip that will contrast part 1 to further refine and polish our Body Mechanics so that they support the character’s facial performance.

Gnomon on School of VFX
LOS ANGELES (2010 – 2011)


LECTURER, Gnomon
Teach advanced creature animation courses

  • Creature I
  • Creature II

Creature I
This course covers advanced body mechanics with creature animation. This workshop assigns the essence of animal and creature locomotion and how these creature adjust gaits, runs, walks, senses, stops and turns over uneven terrain. This course challenges students to learn to animate believable creatures at a feature level and fidelity.

Creature II
This workshop builds upon Creature I instruction by advancing the complexity of shots with gaits that change momentum, struggles and fight sequences and the use of props over a sequence of shots. Explore creature behavior with a live action plate, and up to two creatures fighting in a shot over a live action plate.