Wednesday, October 11, 2017

First Look At "The Highway Rat"

The BBC issued a press release announcing the cast of The Highway Rat and providing a first official look.  David Tennant leads the cast for the special that will air on BBC One this Christmas.  You can read the whole article HERE

As The Highway Rat himself would say:
“Give me your pastries and puddings! Give me your chocolate and cake! For I am the Rat of the Highway, and whatever I want I take.”

Friday, October 6, 2017

APSU's First 24 Hour Animation Contest Starts!

Austin Peay has FIVE teams competing in the 24 Hour Animation Contest for Students in our first year competing!

The theme was announced at 6pm our time and the teams have exactly 24 hours to create from scratch a 30 second animated short.  We have 23 students - from studio art, graphic design, acting/directing, and comm/broadcasting students all working together.  I'm super proud of everyone turning out for a fun crazy night/day of animation!

More details about the competition can be found HERE

Monday, September 25, 2017

Racing Legends Ride Thru

This is the best video I've seen yet for Racing Legends.  I animated the first Barcelona sequence, the Rome bit, and the Future Track at the very end.  Really fun to see in action, even if it's handheld non-stereo...

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Some Educated Thoughts

So...I love college.  I loved being a student and I love being a professor.  I see a great many advantages to getting a degree in art and animation - it is an amazingly rare opportunity to grow and develop and discover in an energetic atmosphere.  That being said, it's a path that's not for everyone.  While it's true that a "degree" is not needed to get a job in the industry - I do believe that an "education" is necessary to become a viable (and hire-able) artist.  

To often I see people (often those initially trying to get into the industry, but others too) say they are going to be taking time off to "work on their portfolio for a bit" - words that strike my soul cold.  So I would like to offer a few thoughts on “portfolio development” based on what I’ve seen others go through over the years…

Even if you’re not pursuing a traditional education, I highly recommend taking some online classes.  Some of the most talented artists I know are now also doing online classes – many include personal feedback sessions and are I think the best education you can get right now if the goal is to get “into the industry”.  A bonus result is also the start of networking.  I know my wife and I have recommended students we had in online classes for entry-level jobs (or work too busy to take on).  These workshops are almost always shorter than a usually University semester (4 to 8 weeks) and can be a more affordable option.  

Why I recommend these is so that you aren’t developing your work in a bubble (even sharing among your friends and online peers is still a bubble).  An industry pro (who doesn’t have time or patience for B.S. work) is a great mentor and forces you to A) work outside your comfort zone B) have hard deadlines and C) have to share your work with a new set of peers who have different backgrounds/expectations.  I’ve seen too many people who spend years working (or worse, endlessly “revising") their portfolios with no deadlines or honestly any real improvement.  Don’t get trapped into an endless spiral of just “portfolio development” - get out and get some experience too!

My ideal world for someone would be to get out to a city with some industry jobs (Vancouver, LA, NYC) and get some job in the industry (ANY job..even a production assistant busy getting overtime dinners ordered) while you take some online workshops.  Get feedback from artists at the job/internship you can land – THEY are your best chance at a full-time job.  A great portfolio can  sneak a foot in the door – to have it open wide you need job experience and a hearty couple of recommendations from current employees.  

All that being said, a few online places I recommend (depending what you want to build your portfolio on):




2D/3D mix

Monday, September 18, 2017

Highway Rat Animation Wraps

As the Triggerfish Facebook post says, we wrapped on animation on The Highway Rat this week.  There's some incredible animation on this one and it only will keep looking better in lighting!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Heather's Pluralsight Course is Live

Yay for Heather!  She had a busy summer creating a stunning online course for Pluralsight.  There's seriously so much info packed into this well-crafted class.  I'm very proud of Heather.  You can check it out by following this LINK

Description from the site:

Learning how to you matte painting effectively and efficiently can elevate your work to the next level. In this course, Matte Painting Basics and the Static Camera Shot, you will begin by gaining a solid understanding of foundational techniques by learning about resolution, static grain, distorted plates, bit depth, and software settings. 
Next, you'll learn how matte paintings should be organized, what painting techniques will break your shot, and even small details like how to name your files and layers. Once you understand how to properly setup and build your file, you will learn how to match your plates perspective, and alter the perspective of some architecture to fit into your shot. During the blocking phase you'll also learn how to build your own personal reference library, and then how to extract and clean up your painting after you've finished blocking. You will then take your painting from photoshop to nuke to composite and add life and movement to your static shot. 
Finally, you'll learn a bit about how matte painting fits into a vfx pipeline, how to hand off your shots to another artist or department, and the process of revision in the visual effects world. By the end of this course, you'll have a beautiful shot and be more confident in setting up your own static matte paintings. Software required: Photoshop-CC-2015.5, NukeX-10.5v2.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

FLASHBACK: DreamWorks B.O.O.

I really wish DreamWorks B.O.O. had made it over the finish line.  DreamWorks killed the project, and that (along with the very recently also canned Monkeys of Mumbia) started a chain reaction that changed DreamWorks as I knew it.  Long the refuge for artists wanting stability, ownership, and believing in the studio (something in very short supply in the freelancing vfx world) - now DreamWorks would cut a third of it's Glendale studio, close the northern branch at PDI, and usher in an era of uncertainty that led many other artists (including myself) to leave on their own accord.  Eventually this leads to the company being sold to Universal and the shuttering or selling of the India and China branches as well.

But for a moment, I was animating on B.O.O.  I'm still credited for it on IMDB.  I initially did some under the table help with hand animating some midground characters that weren't holding up in crowds.  The Head of Anim and the Anim Supervisor were impressed with my work and wanted to start handing me full character shots.  So I was doing cycle work for Home during the day, but over lunch and staying a bit late I was handed some full shots.  In order to make the release date, the Anim Dept was going to have to ramp up and I was going to be brought out of Crowds and into Animation proper.  They were just waiting for one last screening to get the green light on the third act - but alas that screening didn't fare well (with even Spielberg rumored to have watched it and pondered it over the weekend).  Then word came that they were scrapping it.  Some folks had spent years on it and by some estimations over a third of it was already animated.

I ran across this Viz Dev reel by an artist from the studio Danny Williams - it's the best look out there at what the movie would have been like.

It was a really great concept, one that I personally loved involving amateur ghost hunters, a dad by Seth Rogen, a ghost cop by Melissa McCarthy and the big bad was none other than Bill Murray himself.  It seemed like a great setup and the production design was pretty wild.  You can google and find some of the toy concepts and tie ins that were going to launch with the film.

What could have been, both for the film and my tenure at DreamWorks.  Somewhere I still have my B.O.O Crew Patch....

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Highway Rat

I'm really excited to be helping out Triggerfish during their final push on The Highway Rat!

It's a holiday TV special that will air on the BBC.  It is produced by the same authors and production company that created The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom - which are staples in our house.  The production is very much like those shorts - charming and a fun almost stop-motion quality.

I can't wait for everyone to see the amazing work going into this short.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Work in New Mousetrappe Reel

Mousetrappe posted an updated reel called Shifting Perspectives today - and it features work from both Heather and I.  Which is really fun!  The second shot is mine and you get a few glimpses of the Racing Legends ride in action.  The shots of Happily Ever After features Heather's work on the Hunchback of Notre Dame sequences.  Really excited to see all the amazing work this company is creating!

Monday, August 28, 2017

New Semester + New Animation Lab + New Building!

There's a lot going on today!  It's the first day of class for the academic year, but more importantly it's our official start in the new Art + Design Building!  It's been a long time coming and it's been worth it - it's a damn fine looking building.  It's really exciting starting to see all the studio spaces get moved in, furniture in the hallways, and students starting to walk through.

What's been really exciting is in just the last several weeks, the decision was made to swap computer labs - so now the Animation Studio has the larger second floor room.  Lots of natural light, a large open space in the center of the room (for our mo-cap when it arrives), and tons of storage for all the fun animation tech we've been getting in all summer.


You can see it's a great space.  I love the setup.  Gone are projectors and instead students are clustered around HD TVs that will pick up the feed from the teachers station.  There's no bad seats, no one has to have their back to the screen.  There's still a lot to do with the room, and some more computers and tech we have to find homes for in the room.  But it's an amazing space and I'm very fortunate to get to teach in some an awesome space!

Friday, August 18, 2017

"Laughing Matters" Art Show

I'm excited to announce that this weekend my animation "Flexibly Indecisive" is going to be shown at the Studio Gallery at the 6th Street Playhouse as part of their 50th anniversary production of "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown."  The gallery show is called Laughing Matters and is with the Wine Country Arts Council.

What's fun is that the Charles M. Schulz Museum is in Santa Rosa (his hometown) and the Museum is helping celebrate with some special activities as well.  This includes an exhibit on the 50th anniversary that will also been shown in the Studio Gallery concurrently with the show.

This combines so many things I love - theater, comics, Charlie Brown, and art/animation - I'm very excited to be a part of it all!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Heather Plays The Game Of Thrones

Soooo excited to share some of the work Heather did for the Game Of Thrones episode this weekend!  We are huge fans - so it was unbelievably exciting to see not only her shots but her name in the credits as well.  Congrats Heather and all the Rodeo FX team!

Monday, August 7, 2017

FLASHBACK: PDI/DreamWorks Siggraph Interview

The annual Siggraph convention was this past week, and as I saw posts from lots of friends and former co-workers who were there I realized it has been 10 years since I last attended...

I'm often asked about how I got the job at DreamWorks.  Well it starts at Siggraph 2007 with one of my worst interviews ever. I had just graduated from the Academy of Art University that summer (literally turning in our thesis mere weeks before).  Heather stayed behind to keep working for a gig at Matte World Digital.  A bunch of us from the graduating class all planned to head down to San Diego and hit the convention floor - schmoozing with every recruiting booth we could manage.

Look at us - freshly graduated, slightly desperate, excited folks venturing forth into the "real world" for the first time.  They recruiting booths were busy and the convention floor hectic.  Luckily, I had a friend in Adam Ely who was already at PDI/DreamWorks in Redwood City.  He talked to one of the head recruiters, Debra O'Keefe, about me and I was able to get an interview during Siggraph.  DreamWorks wasn't officially taking reels/applications, but they had a giant interview suite built up on a balcony of the convention hall.

Excited and nervous I walk up to the interview suite and sign in - I even get a swag bag (with a shrek journal and Flushed Away dvd).  I was trying to become an effects artist at the time, so I interviewed with the FX Supe of Madagascar 2 along with one of the fx leads.  It was...a disaster.  The FX Supe - who would eventually turn out to sit behind me for about a year - liked to be blunt and kept asking about all the problems with my student reel.  For about half their questions I had no answer and admitted as much.  By the time I left (swag bag in hand) I called up Heather and just had to laugh.  "It was horrible" I told her on my cell phone from the second floor balcony, "There's no way I'm getting hired there"

About a month after Siggraph, I get a call that DreamWorks would like to do a followup interview at their PDI campus.  I'm beyond excited and terrified at the same time - I stayed up late the night before googling the answers (level-sets!) to everything I failed to answer in my first interview about effects work.  But I wasn't that nervous - I figured the interview couldn't go any worse than the first one.  So they day comes and I drive the hour south to Redwood City and arrive at the very silicon-valley style campus.  

I sit down for my interviews with Justin Onstine, Jono Gibbs, and Kevin Vassey (all who would eventually become my boss).  The first question comes from Justin who asks "So, why do you want to be a Crowds Artist?"

Crowds?  At no point did I realize this was an interview for crowds - I thought I was still going for an effects TD role.  Now crowds...I didn't even know there was a job just creating digital crowds.  And crowds work I knew - I had lucked into doing some crowds work for element fx, which led me to implementing crowds into our thesis.  I even wrote a MEL crowd script.  So I had a LOT of ideas and insight into crowds work.  It was a fantastic interview and within a week I was accepting a contract at PDI/DreamWorks.  

So you never know where life will take you.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Figure Drawing Workshop

Today I taught my first class/workshop in the new Art + Design building...and it was for Figure Drawing!  Jennifer Snyder put together the Art Teacher Professional Development Day up at APSU and I was able to jump in and help lead the drawing workshop today.  It was great to get the chance to draw again - it's easy to get so lost in doing digital art that you don't take the time to do some longer life drawing.

I was lucky enough to sit on on some amazing figure drawing workshops back at DreamWorks.  They were held over lunchtime and when I decided to make the leap to becoming an Animator I started attending - and it was intimidating as hell at first.  Everyone was nice and welcoming...but the amount of talent in that room was staggering.  It was out of my comfort zone, really pushed me, and I learned so much.

Most of the sessions were lead by Karl Gnass - who everyone should check out and is just an amazing talent and teacher.  He's taught figure drawing at DreamWorks and Disney for decades.  Gesture drawing was led by Dave Pimentel who was a great story artist that went on to becoming the Story Lead on Moana over at Disney.  It was great going back and remembering what I learned from these sessions and lead one of my own!

And it has cemented my decision that this semester my animation students are going to be doing LOTS more drawing homework :)

Saturday, July 15, 2017

My Shot In Racing Legends Promo Image

Looks like PortAventura World finally updated the Racing Legends portion of their WEBSITE - and the image they picked for the promo shot is one of the ones I worked on!

This is the start of the Rome section, which another animator had initially taken a pass at.  After client reviews there was extensive notes and I basically reworked the entire animation.  It became faster (and therefore a bit shorter) and more action packed.  I actually spent the most time on this section of the ride.  It was really fun to get in there and add in the "wow" factor.  I'm really excited to see the final renders of it - the assets and lighting teams really made this look amazing!

Here's a closer look at just the promo image:

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Bournemouth/UK Trip

Bournemouth hotel by the sea
I had an amazing opportunity last month to visit Bournemouth in England, and travel around a great deal of the U.K. as well.  My University wanted to send me to visit with a potential study abroad/exchange school - and it's just a few months away from Heather and I's 10th anniversary, so we made a 10 day trip out of it!

First and foremost was to travel to Bournemouth, a wonderful town on the southern coast of England. I spent some time at Arts University Bournemouth and met some great colleagues and see how their programs are structured.  It was the last week of their "student show" so I got to see a lot of the amazing work their students produce there.  Having backgrounds in art, film, theatre, and animation myself it was really great seeing how much collaboration goes on there!

Of course, if you're on the south coast, you have to do some day trips to Stonehenge, Salisbury (where I found a centuries old pub), New Forest, and the Jurassic Coast.  In fact, I seem to have found lots of centuries old pubs.

Part I matinee and Part II evening show
London was the next stop.  We got to meet up with our old college friends Bryon and Tiffany, who just moved to London with their daughter.  We only had time for a quick run through the National Gallery because we managed to get last minute tickets to the two part (i.e. all day) production of Harry Potter And The Cursed Child on the West End.  It was amazing and I could have gone back the very next day to watch it all over again.

With Buckbeak

Keeping with the Harry Potter theme, we visited the Warner Bros Studio tour of the sets and props from the films.  It was great to spend the day looking at all the craftsmanship that went into every single aspect of these films.  

Glencoe, Scotland
And if you've come this far, why not take a scenic 5 hour train ride up to Scotland!  Our flights meant we spent most of the time in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but we did get a 12 hour tour up into the Highlands to see Glencoe and Loch Ness.

Loch Ness.  Not pictured: Nessie
It was an amazing 10 days.  England and Scotland were just wonderful.  We already have a to-do list for a future visit.  I was impressed with AUB and Bournemouth in general, so hopefully there will also be an opportunity to return there as well!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Racing Legends LA Times Article

Today the LA Times had an INTERVIEW with the Creative Director at Mousetrappe behind the Ferrari Experience attractions.  They also posted a few photos of the rides.  The stills aren't from the scenes I worked on, but it's fun to finally see some hi-res images of the actual footage.  Here's a description of the experience from the article:

Racing Legends, Mousetrappe’s other Ferrari Land attraction, combines Universal’s Simpsons simulator ride experience with the test drive conceit of Epcot’s Test Track in Florida. Built by Britain-based Simworx, the domed screen and motion simulator attraction features wind, water and aroma effects.
Riders climb into one of 10 Ferrari F1 race cars arrayed before a 75-foot diameter domed screen.  The backstory places riders in a Ferrari racing simulator used to train up-and-coming drivers on race tracks from any era. 
The journey starts in present-day Spain behind the wheel of a Ferrari F1 on the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Traveling back in time, the car company’s founder, Enzo Ferrari, battles up a bumpy and muddy 1919 hill-climb race in Parma, Italy. The time-traveling race continues in 1960 on the banked corners of Italy’s Autodromo Nazionale Monza, hopping over perilous hills at Germany’s Nürburgring in 1975 and ducking and weaving on the Circuit de Mónaco course in present day. Graphics-heavy computer transitions call up each new course. 
Theme park fantasy takes over near the end of the trip with a Formula 1 car speeding through several scent-centric near misses on the streets of Rome and a futuristic concept car trek on a Speed Racer-like looping course. 

Friday, June 2, 2017

FLASHBACK: Ray Harryhausen

From left:  Phil Tippet, Ray Harryhausen, Craig Barron
Enjoying the start of summer, today I finally cracked open my DVD of The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms.  I love this movie and can still remember the first time I saw it - actually, it's among my earliest movie-watching memories...along with Return of the Jedi and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.  It was a summer night and my family had just returned to the house at night.  Coming up from the garage, my dad and I stayed in the basement and when we turned on the TV "The Beast" had just begun.  I was instantly sucked in and stayed in the basement glued to that television set till the last minute of the movie.  It was such impactful film for me that I even referenced it and showed a clip during my initial interview/lecture at APSU.

So naturally, one of the more amazing moments I've had in my career was being able to meet Ray Harryhausen, the man responsible for animating the stop-motion Beast along with dozens and dozen of classic movie creatures.  Back in 2006 Heather's boss at the time was Craig Barron at Matte World Digital.  He was friends with Harry and hosted a night with him at the San Rafael Theater screening The 7th Voyage of Sinbad.  Joining the two of them on stage was Phil Tippet, the also-legendary stop-motion animator from ILM and owner of Tippet Studios.  It was a great night - Ray brought one of the famous and original skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts and afterwards we got to meet him and get his autograph.

That's one of the biggest advantages of living in a big city where (at least at that time) a thriving vfx/animation industry is happening.  There's many opportunities to meet people who helped shape your history to the movies.  Being able to see them in person and shake their hand really brings the movies home.  You feel part of the history.

Ray with a stop-motion puppet
Meeting Ray and having Art of book signed

Monday, May 22, 2017

"Racing Legends" Ride Footage

There was a few articles going around about the company that built the vehicles for Racing Legends.  I've also seen a few videos getting posted of the ride footage.  I worked on the first scene, the Rome one, and the final futuristic one.  It's fun to see the final footage in context.  Apparently in additional to the vehicles moving, they also have "4D" effects like wind and water mist during the ride.  Pretty fun to get an idea of the omni theater setup.

I also ran across some promotional posters that a design company produced for Mousetrappe for use in the attractions.  It was a series of travel posters for many of the areas visited over the course of the attractions.  It's just fun to see all the peripheral design that goes on with any attraction.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Heather's "Happily Ever After"

Heather has been able to once again work on a theme park show - this time its the brand new nighttime fireworks show at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.  Called Happily Ever After it premiers tonight!

Check out more of the behind the scenes clips below - it looks like it's going to be one hell of a show. They are bringing in just about every disney character ever and creating original 2D animations for the show.  Heather has been helping Mousetrappe create the background projections that will be displayed on the castle.  This is as close as you can come to traveling back in time and getting the chance to work on Aladdin, Lion King, or the other classics of the "Disney Renaissance"

I'm so damn proud of her!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

End of the Semester and 2nd Year

Well, another semester (and year) at APSU has wrapped.  I'm still getting used to the idea of having months off of work in the summer!  It was quite the transition year - literally transitioning to our new building.  I think we all had a form of senior-itis trying to wrap up the semester in the old building knowing this awesome facility is empty and waiting just a few yards away. The last week of finals and the following week consisted of moving the equipment from the old Mac labs to the new ones.  My sons came with me one day and we played frisbee outside the new building - the quintessential college activity.

One last thing to share - something I ran across while cleaning out the old computer lab.  Drawn on the white board was this cartoon (yes, that character is me). As you can see, my students first semester diving into Maya was met with....a few technical hurdles and learning curve.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Golden Moose & Gaming

At the end of last year I had a wonderful time working with the new Golden Moose Studios on a game prototype.  It was going to be a stylized narrative-driven PC game.  While it was an amazing concept and looking great, for a variety of reasons it was put on hold.  Karin, the CEO, has posted a couple of insightful and fascinating blog posts about the development process and the subsequent shelving of the game. It's been interesting to be a part of this while also reading on the reflections and insights after the fact.

Read the posts HERE (Part 1: Prototype) and HERE (Part 2: Reboot)

I can't say enough wonderful things about working with them.  I'm excited to see where they go next and encourage everyone to follow their blog.  Speaking of which, Karin also posted another great blog post about applying for jobs and their thoughts after looking through over a hundred applications in just a few days.  I think it's essential reading for anyone in the video game, animation, or vfx business!

Check that one out HERE (Job Application Tips)

Friday, April 21, 2017

New Art & Design Building Move-In

The Main Entrance
Well, it was a long wait, but at last we have moved into the new Art & Design Building!  It's the last week of the semester, so we're only moving our offices right now.  But already we had our last faculty meeting of the academic year in the new conference room - everyone had a hard time not just staring out the window the whole time.

We just look more professional in this room
The second floor main hallway
A campus-side view of the building.  Grass coming soon.
The Animation Lab is starting to come together!
My first solo office