From Pixomondo to Soho VFX to Framestore, animator and Animation Mentor graduate Lukas Niklaus has an impressive journey to share. Lukas shares his experiences working on feature films such as The Amazing Spiderman, Hugo, and Snow White and the Huntsman.
You can hangout and get your animation questions answered by Lukas in our Online Campus Tour on Thursday, July 11 at 10am (Pacific Time). The Online Campus Tour takes you inside our campus, rigs, curriculum, and community. It’s a great opportunity to meet people from the industry and get any questions you may have answered by a pro. There’s only 100 spots so sign up below to reserve yours.
-The Animation Mentor Crew
Get Your Questions Answered By A Pro:
What was your journey like from Animation Mentor to Framestore?
Lukas: I read a lot of life stories of fellow animators recently, and going through all of them I realized, that so many people went into animation because they loved cartoons and Toy Story and all that stuff, and I don’t think I was like that myself. While I loved Toy Story and cartoons too, I discovered my love for the art and craft of animation much later.
I got into 3D when I was 23 (or so). I had just started another job as a graphic designer at an event agency and my boss asked me to learn some CAD Software called Vector Works to visualize ideas for project pitches.
But when a sports injury interrupted a big part of my life, I found time to attend Animation Mentor and that opened up a whole new world for me. I started learning what animation is about, how it’s done, where it’s coming from, and completely fell in love with it.
It was at Siggraph where I met a Recruiter from Pixomondo. While talking to them, I noticed that they all have German accents, so I just started talking German to them. This kind of got us connected and I felt pretty good when I left, because it sounded like they have opportunities coming up in Germany or even London. The offices in Berlin, Frankfurt and London all couldn’t offer me a position at that point, and I had almost given up hope when they messaged me, asking if I’d like to be part of their new office in Toronto. After jumping up and screaming, I turned around and messaged back, standing in front of my computer, telling them that of course I’d come! I flew over to Toronto in April 2011… completely alone, and with no clue what I was getting into. So I worked really hard, at work and at home… day in and day out. After a year my contract with Pixomondo was up, and they only had very little work coming so my contract didn’t get renewed.
It was only thanks to my CG Supervisor who became a close friend of mine, that I got a Job at Soho VFX just down the street. I worked day and night, like a madman, to get better. And then, after only 6 weeks at Soho, my efforts got rewarded, one of the supervisors put in a word for me and I got offered a full time position. At that point I thought I couldn’t be happier. I worked on a super fun cartoon show, we had a cool team and I loved going to work every day.
I had applied to Framestore and Mikros Image here in Montreal… without any hopes though. But as it so happens… both studios got back to me… and I had interviews with both of them… I couldn’t believe what was happening at that point because it came so unexpected.
Framestore was hiring for Robocop and All You Need is Kill. Now I’m here at Framestore in Montreal. The people are amazing, the company is fantastic, the energy that everyone has is so inspiring. I honestly think that this is the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.
What is your best tip for the hiring process?
Lukas: Don’t take things personally. There are so many factors playing into a hiring decision that you can’t influence.
Focus on the best work you can do and let your reel make a recruiters decision easier because it stands out from the crowd. And to achieve that, don’t try to do shots that you think will appeal to a certain studio in the first place (like: “alright I need another acting shot because Pixar does a lot of acting” or “I need another creature shot because Weta does a lot of creatures”).
Do what excites you first.
What is a software tip that has saved you a ton of time?
Lukas: Configuring your keyboard shortcuts helps a lot. My friend Olivier Ladeuix has posted a very nice and efficient layout so you don’t have to take your eyes off screen that often anymore. Check out his blog for the layout.
Our Animation Supervisor at Framestore taught me a great one. When you are waiting on a playblast, don’t go on the Internet or do something else because it disconnects you from the animation. Watch what’s going on in the playblast. You’ll keep focused and spot lots of details. I didn’t realize how much that helps since I tried it here.
What would advice would you give to new animators?
Lukas: Take time off.
I mean this in a couple of different ways. First, take time off during the week. I ended up focusing on my work during the weekdays. I spent weekends hanging out with my girlfriend. Give your brain the time to recover and avoid burning out. And you’ll be super fresh to start again on Sunday evening or on Monday morning.
The second time off I’d recommend, is in a larger scale. Since February I haven’t done any animation in my spare time, but instead did a couple of drawing courses and along the way discovered a new passion.
Now I’m so pumped to get back into animating some of my personal ideas that I can barely wait for the page to come back online so I can finally download the imps and get started.
What is the hardest piece of feedback you received?
Lukas: I think the toughest feedback I ever got was in class 1 at Animation Mentor from mentor Jalil Sadool. I had an idea for the obstacle course and just went through with it without thinking and completely missed the point of the assignment. Jalil told me that this doesn’t look good and gave me really tough love.
I went back and tried improving the shot… but it still didn’t work. What I should’ve done is scrapped the whole thing and done it from scratch.
I had to move on and do the next assignments, but I learned how important planning and preparation is, as well as that it’s not a bad thing to kill those proverbial babies.
I learned that the best feedback is the tough, honest and straightforward feedback. It might hurt a little in the beginning, but I personally draw energy from the process.
Remember to sign up for the Online Campus Tour to get all your questions about animation, the industry, and life as an artist answered by Lukas.