Responsible for all animation. Rigs provided by Animation Mentor.


Time Management Advice For Animation Students Who Want To Be Professionals

I saw an animation student concerned that their assignment was counted as late because it was submitted seconds after the upload deadline.  The deadline is the start of that minute, not the end.  It's not the first time I've seen issues like this.  You can not control the speed of internet servers.  You can control when you click the button to upload.

Here's some time management tips:

All the tasks have to be completed on time. They don't have to be perfect.

Do the short tasks first. If you do the long tasks first, then the short tasks can pile up at the end because you keep trying to improve the long tasks' results, and you risk running out of time to complete all the tasks.

Submit versions of the tasks early. They don't have to be perfect or even have all the obvious problems fixed. You can submit improved versions to replace the early versions, as long as it is well before the deadline.  You're more likely to catch problems early via the advice of others than if you wait until close to the deadline.

If you're close to the deadline, and you've got an improved version you'd like to upload, but you also already uploaded an earlier version, consider not uploading the newer version. To decide, ask yourself if the newer version is really an entire letter grade better. It usually will not be that much better, so it won't be worth the grade deduction for a late submission.

Think about the reasons why you can't turn in work late at a studio. If your animation is late, will there be enough time for the rendering or any of the many other tasks that other people have to complete in time for their deadlines? The people doing the modeling and rigging and other tasks that have to be functionally complete for you to animate have to consider you the same way. The key factor here is the need for tasks to be functionally complete on time for the following tasks to also be functionally complete on time.

Don't let scope creep keep you from completing tasks, especially before you have a functionally complete version of your task submitted.  Maybe you can add features to plus your results after you've got the task functionally complete and submitted if there's still time (and money).

Refer to The Cult of Done Manifesto for reasons hopefully self explanatory in the name.  It's 13 points that can guide you to being done, which is generally desirable.


Maya Tutorial: Resting Elbow or Knee

This is how to set up a rig for resting elbows(or knees) on a surface while moving the hands and/or body, without shortening and/or lengthening the upper and lower arms (or legs).

It’s much simpler than it might seem.  Spend a bit of time early to save a lot of time time later counter-animating elbows or knees.

Thanks to Katrín for demonstrating the need for this, and to Max for inspiring the solution and proving it works.  Here's Max's proof of concept:

Create > Locator
to Create Locator1.

Create > Locator (again)
to Create Locator2.

Select Locator1, then Locator2.
Keyboard command Ctrl + p to Parent Locator2 under Locator1.

Make sure rig's joint's are visible.

Select Elbow Pole Vector control, then Locator1.
Constrain > Parent
to Parent Constrain rig's Elbow Pole Vector control under Locator1.

With ‘Snap to points’ turned on (hold v on keyboard), translate/snap Locator1 to Elbow Joint.

With ‘Snap to points’ turned on (again hold v on keyboard), translate/snap Locator2 to Wrist IK joint.

Turn On Elbow Pole Vector's Elbow Snap in the Channel Box.

Optionally, instead of snapping Locator2 to the Wrist joint, Parent Constrain Locator2 under the Wrist joint.
Select Locator2, then Wrist joint.
Constrain > Parent
Then Delete History and Freeze Transforms of Locator 2.  This will make Locator2's default relationship to Locator1 have Translates and Rotates of 0.  Make sure the Parent Constraint from Locator2 under the Wrist IK control is deleted as well.

Select Wrist IK control, then Locator2.
Constrain > Parent
to Parent Constrain Wrist IK control under Locator2.  This is the opposite of the temporary Parent Constraint in the optional step, and should be done regardless of doing or not doing the optional step.

Select Elbow joint and Shoulder joint to assign Distance Tool to measure their distance.
Create > Measure Tools > Distance Tool

To 'translate' Wrist IK control, rotate Locator1.  This will move Locator2 and the Wrist IK control.  Set keys on Locator1 for this, not Locator2 or the Wrist IK control.

To rotate the Wrist IK control, rotate Locator2.  Set keys on Locator2, not the Wrist IK control.

If/when you need to move any part of the body that affects the location of the Shoulder joint, refer to the Distance Tool’s measurement to minimize the variation in distance from Shoulder to Elbow.  For example, the character is sitting in a chair, resting their elbow on a table.  If you move the COG control (Center Of Gravity) up, this increases the distance from the shoulder to the elbow.  You can counter animate the upper body and shoulder controls to tilt back toward the elbow to decrease that distance.


Animation Mentor Animals and Creatures Masterclass

Introduction to Animal and Creature Animation
Term: Fall 2012
Mentor: Alison Sanders

Advanced Creature Production
Term: Winter 2013
Mentor: Jean-Denis Haas

Class 1 Section 1
Life Sketches
Cat Poses

Class 1 Section 2
Cat Vanilla Walk Planning Sketch
Class 1 Section 3
Cat Pounce Planning Sketch
Class 1 Section 7
Ogre Outburst Planning Sketch
Class 2 Section 1
Dragon Flight Cycle Planning Sketch
Class 2 Section 2
Dragon Plate Planning Sketch
Class 2 Section 6
Ogre Versus Dragon Fight Planning Sketch

Animation Mentor Class 6 Polishing And Portfolio

This class was all about the final 10% of animating (which can be 90% of the work).  Some new work was done, bust most of the time was put into polishing animations done in previous classes.

Term: Summer 2012
Mentor: Greg Whittaker

Sections 1 & 2
We selected the best of our previous work and began polishing the most promising scene.

Section 3
While continuing to polish previous work, pre-production for multiple new scenes begins.  One of the planned scenes is selected to produce.

Sections 4-8
While continuing to polish previous work, animation on the chosen new scene begins and continues for the next few weeks.

Section 9-11
We continued to polish our work, and arranged our demoreels.  This included designing title cards and DVD case covers.

Section 12
We had completed the Character Animation Program, and possesed a demoreel with which to seek employment.  No demoreel is ever complete.  It constantly develops to reflect an animator's work.  Currently, you can find mine featured here on this blog.  You can also check out my vimeo for the latest in my animation:


Animation Mentor Class 5 Advanced Acting

This class continued to develop the acting principles of the previous class, and added additional elements like  cutting, emotional arcs, acting beats, and interaction.

Term: Spring 2012
Mentor: Peter Kelly

Section 1
Lip-sync Planning
The Dialogue shot picked up from where it left off the previous week in Class 4, now with full rig controls so I could animate the face.

Section 2
2 Face Poses

Section 3
2 Face Poses

Section 4
2 Person Dialogue Character Design

Face Pose

Section 5
2 Person Dialogue Planning
This scene gave the opportunity to incorporate cuts between shots as well as more dynamic staging and composition.

Section 6
Face Pose

Section 7
Face Pose

Section 12
Progress Reel
  1. 2 Person Dialogue
  2. Dialogue, continued from Class 4, now with full rig controls

Animation Mentor Class 4 Introduction to Acting

This class took the ideas form the previous classes, and combined them with behaviours, and details like staging and avoiding clichéd choices.

Term: Winter 2012
Mentor: Ray Chase

Section 1 - 5
Pantomime Planning:
  1. Safe At Throne
  2. Fishing Expedition
  3. Urban Cornucopia
I storyboarded 3 options, then consulted with my mentor to choose which one to animate.  I went with #1.  I  modified the Stewie rig by with a head I modeled and shaded.

Section 6
Dialogue Planning:
  1. Woman hears noise and talks to her roommate
  2. 'Film Noir' Man yells at former colleague
  3. 'Film Noir' Mobster condescends
Much like the Pantomime, I storyboarded 3 options, but this time I edited audio options first.  Again, I went with #1.

Section 7
Dialogue Character Design

I modified the Bishop rig's body by modeling an altered version, which I applied with a blend shape.  Then I used that as a basis for the clothes, which I applied with a wrap deformer.

Section 8
Bishop Hand Pose: Anger

Section 9
Bishop Hand Pose: Relaxed

Section 10 - 11
Bishop Hand Pose: Surprise

Section 12
Progress Reel
  1. Dialogue with limited face controls, to be completed with full controls in Class 5
  2. Pantomime


Animation Mentor Class 3 Advanced Body Mechanics

This class continued to develop the ideas of the previous class, focused on
biped/humanoid characters.

Term: Fall 2011
Mentor: David Weatherly

Section 1 - 3
ninJAnitor Planning

Section 4 - 6
Trebuchet Stewie Planning

Section 7 - 11
basketBALLet Planning

Section 12
Progress Reel

  1. basketBALLet
  2. Trebuchet Stewie
  3. ninJAnitor