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ILM Animators Share Tips From Class to Studio

by | Dec 4, 2013

Alberto Martinez Arce and Yair Gutierrez are more than just former Animation Mentor classmates, they are now co-workers. We were thrilled with their success in our Creatures class, but we are BEYOND thrilled for their success with landing a job at the one and only Industrial Light and Magic, the studio that brought us Star Wars, Transformers and Rango. We caught up with the two of them a few weeks into their new gig to learn more about their experience from the classroom to the studio. Huge woot and applause for Alberto and Yair, and many thanks for sharing your tips on animation and getting a job at a top-tier studio.

— The Animation Mentor Crew

Why did you decide to take Animation Mentor’s Creatures Animation course?

Yair: I learned so much from the Character Animation courses so it was very easy to make my decision to take the Creatures class. Also, the fact that you get a chance to animate a variety of different creatures was very appealing.

Alberto: I found the animals and creatures super interesting from the first time Animation Mentor released it. It is something beyond what you first learn in animation, and help you take the next step on the journey. Also, I was so exited about it because it had dragons and cats, two things that you don’t easily get to animate in other schools and of course this was meant to teach us how things work in the VFX industry: realistic animation and background plates. (Besides, it was at half the price, and due to currency exchange, it was the perfect opportunity)

What were the 5 things you learned in the course that improved your reel?

1. Planning is such a big part of the animation process, and without it is impossible to create a believable creature animation.
2. With creatures you have to rely so much on body mechanics so you really have to study creatures in motion. Not only their motions, but you also have to pay attention to the little things that bring out unique characteristics to each creature.
3. Even though you are animating creatures you can always rely on your body as reference.
4. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and try different things. Some of the times your original idea won’t work as you had planned so it is nice to experiment and see what works best for the shot.
5. The best way to improve is to show your work to as many people as you can. Feedback is essential in the learning process.

1. How to tackle complex shots, taking parts from references and filling the gaps with imagination.
2. How the timing differs from character animation to realistic creatures.
3. How different types of animals behave.
4. How to improve the way you sell weight in heavy characters.
5. How to take care of polishing in these kind of shots.

What is the experience like learning from an industry professional as your mentor?

Yair: The main reason why I decided to enroll at animation mentor in the first place was the fact that i was going to be learning from some of the most talented people in the world. I loved every single class and all of the mentors were super helpful, specially during the Q&A sessions.

Alberto: Having mentors from the industry is something exceptional, you get to have really accurate feedback on your work, and they help you push your animation skills to the next level, and reach the quality required to apply to the top studios. Also you get to know that people who has all that knowledge is at the same time so friendly and helpful.

One thing most people don’t know about creature animation is…

Yair: One thing I came to find out as I was going through the course was that not every creature of the same species move exactly alike. At first glance it is very difficult to see, but once you start studying reference you can find some really cool small details that can help you distinguish them. It is so amazing how those little mannerisms can help you convey particular characteristics of each animal and creature. Also, animating creatures can be very intimidating, but once you start getting comfortable with each particular rig it is so much fun.

Alberto: You think you knew how to animate a quadruped or giant dragon until you really see what lies beneath their skin, how and why do they move like they do, and how you can use similar animals to bring to life any imaginary creature.

What was the experience applying for a job at Industrial Light & Magic like?

Yair: It was truly an amazing experience. A bit scary but once you see how friendly people are at ILM the nerves go down immediately. The past few weeks have been very surreal and I still cannot believe I am working with the most talented group of people in the world. I am so grateful for this opportunity.

Alberto:It was a total blast, it was something I thought would take me years of experience to get there and knock their doors, but they are really open to find talent in every corner of the world. I was also so lucky to have people by my side helping me and supporting me through the process. All the people at ILM are real professionals and really passionate about what they do and I feel blessed for the opportunity of getting to work by their side

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