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Inside the Animal and Creature Animation Production Track

by | Mar 12, 2013

Beau Pratt is a recent graduate of our classic Character Animation Program and one of the first students in our new Animal and Creature Animation Production Track. Beau took a moment from his studies to share a bit about the new curriculum inside the Studio School.

To learn more, please contact our Admissions Advisors. Applications are open for the Summer 2013 term — apply today.

How did our new instructional design catch your interest?

Having never worked at anything resembling an animation studio before, the jump from being a student to a professional in a full production environment seemed like a hard gap to cross. So when Bobby (Beck, CEO and Cofounder of Animation Mentor) first announced Animation Mentor’s new production pipeline, the first thing that popped out to me was the collaborative aspects and how they would treat the assignments as an actual production. Immediately this seemed like the perfect tool to improve my abilities and better prepare myself for the workforce.

Why did you choose the Animal and Creature Animation Production Track and not the Character Animation Production Track?
I wanted to go back and focus on my mechanics, (I wanted) a chance to study the differences between human and animal locomotion and behavior, as well as (learn) how to apply that knowledge to fantasy creatures, such as a dragon. Of course said dragon is another reason why I picked the Animal and Creature Animation Production Track. Because how can you beat animating a dragon!

It is still a very tough choice to make and it basically boils down to what the student really needs to improve upon before entering the animation workforce.

What are your initial impressions of the Animal and Creature Animation Production Track and AMP™ Studio Production Pipeline?
I’ll confess that the initial impression I had was a dash of intimidation. During the first day as I was learning the AMP Pipeline and trying to figure out how to work collaboratively, there was so much new information to take in that I was worried I might start to fall behind right out of the gate. But that soon turned to excitement after the first lecture — which alone gave me a whole new outlook on how animals move — and meeting my classmates. Everybody was so excited to start working together and in no time at all we were thinking of all the different things we could try to animate together.

The AMP Studio Production Pipeline seemed mind boggling at first glance. I had my own style of workflow which I had gotten used to over the previous classes, and I was worried that the AMP Pipeline would just slow everything down. However, after just a few hours of playing around with the tool, I couldn’t imagine working without it. It’s radically changed my workflow for the better and the fact that it saves everything online has already saved me once when I accidentally lost a work file from my computer.

Describe the adjustments you have made to your workflow.
So many things regarding my workflow have changed after starting the program. However, the biggest change would probably have to be that I pay much more attention to who the character should be and how it would react, not just going with my own personal feeling all the time, as it now has to tie into other people’s shots and still feel like it’s the same person/creature.

The program has also helped me stay much better organized. Having done some 3D modeling as a hobby before Animation Mentor, I had developed a workflow that worked very well for myself, but didn’t allow easy access for any other collaborators. The AMP Pipeline changed that for me as it allowed me to see how things should be organized properly so that they can easily be handed to all the members of the team without any issues cropping up.

Describe your transition from working solo to working collaboratively.
Since I have never worked collaboratively before, I actually found the transition to be a bit difficult to get used to.

However, having the chance to go through this in a school environment, where everybody is helping each other to learn turned out to be really fun and quite interesting. I was very nervous about dragging other people down, but quickly discovered that I had nothing to worry about as the Animation Mentor community is probably one of its greatest strengths and from day one, my classmates were already helping me out, sharing whatever knowledge they could. At the end of the first week, we already had hangouts scheduled where we could plan our work together and help each other learn all the new creature mechanics.

How do you think the Animal and Creature Animation Production Track curriculum will differentiate you from the masses?
I now have a much better grasp of analyzing non-humanoid creatures, and know what to look for in their walks and movements. Being able to animate humans and animals, as well as fantasy creatures, opens up a wealth of new possibilities as an animator.

I’ve also found that it’s helped me learn how to modify my workflow to suit the current project or studio, which was an issue I hadn’t even thought would come up before. Being able to learn how to work collaboratively with other animators is very helpful and I feel will definitely help give a leg up when starting out.

Any thoughts on the industry migration toward a remote, distributed approach?
I’m actually extremely excited for more remote possibilities coming into play in the future. While I do believe that nothing can surpass working and collaborating with people in person — sharing ideas, looking over each other’s shoulders, and interacting with each other — I can see quite a few benefits in being able to work remotely:

  • Animators who live in a country with very few studios would not be limited in their options and would be able to work anywhere without having to move away from their home country.
  • People who live way out in the countryside won’t need to move or commute into the major cities, thus saving a lot of expenses and travel time.
  • It can be a great help for families as well. Instead of having to move and uproot everybody, animators will be able to take jobs from around the globe without putting a strain on their family.
  • Just as (my twin brother) Cameron and I are extremely fortunate to be learning animation remotely online, it would be equally awesome to work for a studio from our home. It would also help us save money for our future which is always a tremendous bonus.

I feel that the industry is getting into a really good place right now for people who want to be able to animate, but don’t want to have to move to the big cities or have to work in a large studio. I look forward to seeing where it all goes!

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