Campaign Brief – Directors

The November/December print issue of Campaign Brief is out and we have a little space in there dedicated to yours truly.

And yes, that is indeed Monkey Magic/Guy..

Campaign Brief Directors

AEAF 2014 Award

We were very chuffed to hear that we won an award in the Australian Effects and Animation Festival. This award is Bronze in the Web/Viral category for our piece we created for Oxfam Unwrapped. We put a lot of love into this project and had such a fantastic team to help out. Thank you to the guys at Oxfam Australia for the wonderful script and for the creative freedom in the animation.


Body Language and Animation

A long time ago at High School our teacher showed us a short video on Body Language. I remember thinking it was interesting, but I didn’t think much of it. Well, I recently attended an online course on the subject of Body Language for Entrepreneurs(because I own a company, I’m apparently an entrepreneur) and snap. Why the hell haven’t I read about the power of understanding body language in animation before? It just makes so much sense now!

For example

Did you know it’s actually quite hard to hide our true feelings on topics because we can’t control something called Micro Expressions? These are facial expressions common to every person on the planet. We make these split second expressions as our initial reaction to something. These micro expressions come from instinct, not from learning. Even people blind from birth make the same expressions. Anger, happiness, contempt, disgust, shock. It’s hard to hide our true feelings about something, even if we try hard to hide them. We try to consciously control expressions to manipulate how other people see us. If a man/woman who you’ve been eyeing out comes up to you and asks you out, do you choose to act cool, or do you let your joy rise up through you allowing you to scream in excitement? Well, you’ll probably try to act cool, but for a split second, I bet your true excitement will betray you.
A similar situation could arise where a colleague shows you some designs they’ve been working on. The designs are ugly, and of course you don’t want to say that. But, your initial expression of disgust probably gave your game away.

There are all sorts of things we do unawares, but are sending clear messages to the people around us. For example:

  1. Folding our arms is dominating. ‘Taking up space’ by leaning back in our chairs with hands behind the head is also dominating.
  2. Hiding hands is a sign that a person is nervous, maybe not telling the truth.
  3. When we do feel nervous there are a lot of ‘self soothing’ poses we take. Caressing your arm, playing with your elbow. It communicates a lack of confidence.

So how does this help with our animation?

Well, that’s probably obvious by now. But I’ll talk a bit about how we often fail as animators, or should I say ‘Actors’.

Reference video for your shots is a great idea and if you do shoot reference footage, then you may be getting some of these body language actions mentioned above. But seeing as most of us aren’t actually fully trained actors or don’t have the physical space and time to really ‘get into’ our characters emotional state, our animation may be lacking these subtle expressions and/or our poses and actions may be a little cliché.

I mean, actors spend their whole lives developing their skills and animators generally don’t even do a basic acting course(they should mind you). Yet, animators are clearly acting for their characters.
So, because we’re not professional actors and probably wont be joining the local drama group, it’s good to understand body language and learn some tricks we can add in to our shots that help shed some light on the drive and emotion of our characters throughout their scene.

There’s heaps of material on body language on YouTube. The course I did was on and called Body Language for Entrepreneurs. It’s a well structured course and run by a passionate and engaging woman named Vanessa Van Edwards. I feel like I’m plugging this course a bit, I guess I kinda am. I liked it.

The whole ‘animators that can act’ thing is a huge topic in itself. If you’d like to explore it a bit more in depth, subscribe to the Ed Hooks newsletter and even try to attend a course if you can.

Disney Animator Glen Keane’s new short film

I remember when I saw my first 2D animation “line test”. A line test was used back when animation was done on paper(I can’t believe I’m even saying this) and the animators wanted to see their animation moving in real time. So they would shoot it on film(or later on video) before the linework was cleaned up. When I first saw animation at this stage, I thought it was the best representation of the art form. As the rough movement of the sketches were still present, it didn’t hide the fact that an artist created this movement and in turn gave the animation life and a soul. Maybe I’m being a bit romantic, but this is what it conjurers up in me.


Which brings me to Glen Keane’s now short film. Glen is one of the most prolific animators to work at Disney. You would have seen his touch from as early as The Rescuers and Pete’s Dragon, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, all the way to Tangled and Paperman. So it’s clear, the man can animate. And below is his new short film titled Duet.

Welcome to some of the most fantastic 2D animation you will ever see.

This shows off the rough drawn animation that I adore, mixes it with the meditative form of contemporary dance and adds a beautiful and simple narrative. Have a watch and fall in love. It starts at 51:15 if the movie doesn’t go straight to that point.

Acting Oscar Nomination for Animators

With the internet abuzz with the campaign for Andy Serkis (best known for his motion capture acting on Gollum in Lord of the Rings) to get an Oscar nomination, even James Franco has suggested recognition is deserved.

It seems that it has finally opened the doors for ‘Animators’ to get their own nominations as the people behind digital character performances. As mentioned in the article the term digital ‘make up’ has been used to describe the process after the capture of the performance has been made.
To promote the new Planet of the Apes movies the studio has also released comparison reels such as this one showing the actor’s performance before and after the Digital ‘Make up’ has been applied.

Watching just how much the actor behind the primate contributes to the final shot, it only makes sense that this exact compelling argument is now helping the campaign to get animators the same Oscar recognition. Comparison reels such as the one linked below are showing how new technology is allowing animators to capture their own performances and translate them to the screen.

As one industry insider put it, ”This comparison reel is incredible. Sometimes the animator is playing two different characters in the same scene, it’s an amazing acting achievement.”
The new technology is allowing animators to capture every nuance of the performance without the need for the time consuming and costly clean up associated with ‘Motion Capture.’ It definitely seems that the Motion Capture industry is struggling to catch up. The new technology has been given the name ‘Animation’ and is set to revolutionise the industry while making stars of the talented performers exploiting it.

As James Franco so brilliantly puts: ”the effects are so well rendered we either forget that the spark of life in it’s eyes and the life in its limbs is informed by a breathing human or we are so drawn into the ontology of the character we can’t grasp its artistic origins or exactly how it was created.”

So is this year the time that these ‘animator’ pioneers get the recognition they deserve?

It certainly seems time.

Show your support for the campaign for animators to get Acting Oscar nominations tweet #ActingOscarForAnimators.




Animation Resume and Showreel Tips

After sorting through another massive collection of resume emails again, I wrote this up to help prospective animators help make the lives easier of animation studios everywhere and help getting your job application email seen.
I then posted it to the DLF email list.
I’ve made a few job postings over the past 2 years and I thought I’d just talk about my experiences from the other side..Whenever I advertise out for a job, I got lots of emails. Lots.
It take ages to sort through and categorise them all. It was a task that I kept of putting off because I had other work to do. So if you’re sending an email resume out to prospective employers, keep the email to the point and put all the important details in there. I don’t want to have sort through pdf’s and your website to figure out if you use Max or Maya, or both. Or if your in Sydney, or Melbourne or Turkey..
If it takes me 5 minutes to run through each email and there are 100 emails, that’s 500 mins which would be about 2 days in real time. Keep it simple and obvious, or your resume could be skipped. It sounds horrible, and I’m sorry, but imagine people going through thousands of resumes at big studios…So, in the email
• Your name, contact details, where you are based and if you would be working from the office if we hired you.
• A line or two on your experience.
• A line or two on what your main skills are. Are you a Character Rigger who can also model and texture? Or maybe you’re a Concept Artist that knows a bit of After Effects as well. But really, your showreel/portfolio will probably project this as well.
• What software you use(and at what skill level). Maybe a list of software in order of expertise.
• Direct link to your reel. Try not to let your reel run much longer than a minute and only put on your absolute best stuff. If you mix good shots with mediocre ones, it’s not a good look. 5 minute reels are never needed.
• PDF resume is nice, but honestly I hardly ever looked at them. The showreel is the important part, and if that’s good, then I’ll probably skim through the resume to check out where you’ve been working/studying.
• If you’re going for a freelancer position, it would be good to include your weekly/daily rate.

Of course, if I need more information I’ll ask. Although it was a big annoying having to reply to a good percentage of the emails asking if they lived in Sydney.

Anyway, love to hear what other employers or job searchers experiences are.

The Magnificent Itch

After a few questions on the list about showreels and portfolios, I wrote up another email that goes into that topic a little more. Mainly directed at recent graduates trying to get their first job.
Hi again,It can be really hard to crack the industry. I had a lot of trouble when I first decided what I wanted to do, and I think my issue was lack of confidence.
Andrew makes a good point here: “many students don’t realise how high the bar is”. 90% of the reels that we get from recently graduated students just aren’t good enough. But I don’t think that is totally the students fault. I think part of it is the lack of communication between what the industry needs and what the schools are teaching. That being said, this industry isn’t one that you can generally just walk into after graduating. Students need to go above and beyond what is required in college/uni, continue to advance their skills once studies are over, and keep on learning once they score a job. There’s a lot of competition for these jobs. We get plenty of reels from India and Europe with students wanting to fly out to Sydney and intern with us. And some of these reels are fantastic.
I’m not trying to depress you at all. Sorry if I am.. When you make your reel, you really need something that lifts you above the rest of the pack. You need to prove to me that you are capable of animating/drawing/modelling the different styles that my clients will be needing.I’ll just mention, that my company isn’t big at all. A lot of the time it’s just Stefan and I in the office, so we’re not always on the lookout for hiring new people. We have the capability to ramp up quickly, but also have the option of staying small when there’s only a little bit of work on. I’m sure larger studios will have different practices when it comes to dealing with graduates. On some projects, we wouldn’t even bother entertaining the idea of hiring juniors, as the project may need seniors to get it completed on time.

These are my tips to stand out from the crowd.

Character Animation
The majority of the reels that are good enough for us to consider at the moment are coming from Animation Mentor students. Animation Mentor is the best at preparing students for the workforce(I know a few others are popping up now). Most of the courses offered in Australia only have character animation as a subject, not as a dedicated course. If you want to work in character animation, focus on character animation and acting. Don’t worry yourself with learning the ins and outs of modelling and rigging and lighting etc.. It’ll just water down the time you should be animating characters. This is for 3D of course, for 2D animators, animate characters you could imagine studios needing. Don’t just have an experimental reel. Sand animation is cool, but probably not really useful to me.

Rigging is a skill all to its self really. Check out other rigging reels for ideas. Our freelance rigger is a freak’n genius. This is Jordan’s Rigging Reel:)

Rigging/Modelling/FX TD
I get reels from people that are confused with what position they want to go for. These guys are usually heading down the road of being a TD/all rounder. Handy people for smaller studios. You have the danger though of being a jack of all and master of none. So try and focus on one area more than the others. ie model really well, but you can rig and texture and run fx acceptably as well.

Concept Artists
You need to show you can design different concepts for different jobs. No good just having anime style characters in your portfolio(sorry to be harsh). Multiple styles. Having an eye for Graphic Design is important here too. Logo design, typography, layouts etc really helps.

Motion Graphics
Again, it’s great if you can show you’re a good graphic designer. This was our latest call out for work, and the ones that stood out were the ones that had great design work in their animation. Good colour sense and nice designs. If that foundation is there, it’s just a matter of learning the software.

An employer is going to pick the best portfolio out of the bunch. Can you confidently say yours is the best? If you don’t think it is, it just takes a bit more practice and dedication to push your work further.
I’ve recently joined They have lots of courses on grapahic design, apps etc. I pay about $27/month and have learnt a lot in the 2 months I’ve had it. I know there’s lots of tutes on the web for free, but these are organised in courses and all are good quality. It has a great search engine too. I can do a search for a maya problem I’m having it often there’s a tute for it. There’s others like DigitalTutors,Tutes+ and Gnomon Workshopetc. They’re a good cheap way to constantly learn new things.

I try and reply with advice to graduates emails, but I don’t always find the time. I apologise if I skipped your email in the past.


Hope there’s some good info there.
Good luck and happy learning!