Friday, March 27, 2015

Mike Makarewicz Demo and Lecture II - Eyes

II. Get it? Two "eyes". I'll see myself out now...

This semester Tea Time has been super fortunate to have Mike come back to give a second lecture! Not only was this a second lecture but this was a brand new lecture that Mike has been preparing and we were some of the first to hear it. The lecture lasted for two hours where we learned about animating eyes, blinks, darts, and eye shapes in how they convey emotion and thought process. 

I've warned that if you missed it you're out of luck as there won't be a detailed write up this time. However, don't worry as it's not the end of the world. Mike teaches his lectures at Animation Collaborative along with other current industry professionals.

The start date will be May 14th to avoid overlapping AAU's schedule. Registration for Animation Demo & Lecture will be open until April 27th! Just send an email to letting them know that you are a Tea Timer and they will apply the discount!

Happy animating!

Don't forget to join the conversation at 
Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
Instagram: @TeaTimeAnimation

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Evening with Blue Sky

Aww no picture.

We were joined by Blue Sky's Deb Stone, talent development manager, and Matt Munn, senior animator. If you thought it was just going to be another talk about "Hey, this is the summer internship opportunities, come apply!" that you might have already heard before, you missed out big time. Yes, we got a short, and informative, spiel on the internship, but it was followed by Matt talking about his journey and experience / workflow as an animator at Blue Sky.

Blue Sky Summer 2015 Internship
It is a paid internship with a housing stipend and lasts 10 weeks, from June 15th to August 21st.
The categories change around each year for the internship. This year we've got:
Art / Visual Development
Character Simulation
Lighting / Compositing
Story Artists
Production Engineering
Research & Development
If you are interested in applying, get on those reels and resumes as the application deadline closes on March 20th. Polish them up as Blue Sky only chooses one applicant for each department!

"My Life: An Animator's Journey". By Matt Munn.

Often times when you watch or read an interview with animators they always tell about how they were super into cartoons as a young age and wanted to become the artist behind the screen. If you weren't one of those people you may feel like you're already behind. Matt was also one of those who didn't fall into such category of wanting to be an animator from a young age. In fact, he wanted to be a doctor! However, through a friend, Matt found interest in game programming and begin to study coding on his own time and entered the University of Delaware for Computer Science. Through his studies there, Matt found that he wasn't doing a whole lot on the gaming side so he went to discuss with the head of the graphics department and found himself as a modeler for a facial recognition software research. Now, he is all into modeling and wanted to be an artist instead of a programmer. He continued to work on more work to create a portfolio and got into the Savannah College of Art and Design for his MFA but after his first animation class he fell in love with animation.

Coming out of school, Matt found his first studio job at Fathom Studios working on Delgo. Later on, due to winning a contest by the 10 Second Club, Matt was contacted by Sony Picture Imageworks and he started on Open Season. Five years later, because Matt really wanted to focus on animated features and not VFX films, he found himself at Dreamworks for Puss in Boots and Legend of the Bonekeeper Dragon. Finally, in 2012, Matt arrived at Blue Sky and has worked on Ice Age 4, Epic, and Rio 2. An amazing journey through all these studios and Matt really emphasizes on how the studios is like an additional version of school from learning from the fellow amazing artists and the different workflow that each studio employs.

Most important to take away from all that is to always follow your heart. It's okay to take the time to figure out what your dreams are and it's never too late. Success is gauged on being able to do what you love for your living.

Awesome story but the evening hadn't end yet! Next, Matt shares with us what his workflow is like at Blue Sky.

First comes dailies where you get your shot(s) from the director and have a conversation about the purpose of the shot.

Next up is to look at and reference the layout and storyboard.

Now to brainstorm. What are the challenges? What are needed to accomplish the shot? What to do to satisfy the needs of the shot in an effective and clear way? In other words, consider your acting choices. Once you've got all that, what separates a strong animator from the rest is to think of how to plus the shot, making the shot stronger. Consider how to make the shot more funny or more gripping.

Time to thumbnail! A lot of people seem to hate doing this as they just want to animate and not draw, but thumbnailing is important as it helps get the idea of what needs to be done and it helps figure out high and low moments and key poses.

Reference! Takes lots of reference. Reference won't ever hurt you and can only ever help you. If you can't do certain things yourself, ask someone else to be your reference or look online elsewhere.

Now you can animate and begin your blocking pass. Think about your poses, timing, silhouette, appeal, and lines of action. Make sure things are clear and have a conversation with the director of what is working and what is not.

Add in those breakdowns. You're an animator, so sculpt the motions. Having Maya auto interpolate between two key poses is not what you want to be happening.

Spline pass is for those human elements in your animation and when you can fine tune those ease in and outs, arcs, and fully animate the lip sync. Once everything is looking good, the director will give the pre-final thumbs up meaning it's good enough to go into the film. At this stage you get to go into...

Polish. Here, you're just taking the extra time to add in the extra detail. Little jitters, eye darts, twitches, etc., to give more life, and to tighten up the animation a bit more.

Now you're all done and on to the next shot!

Happy animating!

Don't forget to join the conversation at 
Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
Instagram: @TeaTimeAnimation

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Animation Demo with Mike Makarewicz

Photo by Animation Collaborative

Hello, and welcome to the Spring semester! To start the semester off early and with a bang, Mike Makarewicz returns once again with an animation/workflow demo. As per usual, no recording was allowed so you had to be there to get the full learning experience of what Mike says and watching how he works. That aside,I'll do my best and share some points and insights to the night.

First, a disclaimer. Mike is a straight ahead animator and so he focuses on motion instead of poses. This is one way of animating and his way of animating. Animators all have different workflows and it is not necessarily that one method is superior to the other; each has their own advantages and pitfalls. Mike always claims that he can't draw and instead of focusing on creating a golden pose, he is more interested in the action of getting in to or out of a pose; timing is the most important principle and the most important part of animation and the poses can always be tweaked later after the action itself is solid. It's also important for working in production, too, as you want your conversation with the director to be about ideas and performance and not to be spending time on attempting to explain a vague idea of what is suppose to be going on in the scene.

To begin, use your hotkeys and scripts. Don't leave Maya to the defaults because you want to be using the program as a tool to the utmost of your advantage instead of trying to work around it. Check out for some awesome scripts and be sure to get the pushpull script as it will allow you to quickly amp or dampen your curves in the graph editor.

For this evening, Tea Time prepared clips for Mike to choose from to animate to. Before beginning animation, it is important to think about the context. Not just what is being said but other exterior influences that may affect how the shot needs to be animated. Consider if the action is taking place in a private or public space, the time of day, if there are people in the vicinity, etc.

Nope, you're not animating yet! Now is the time to act it out for reference. The important thing about acting your reference is to look for the major ideas, get the main parts in, you don't have to worry about every single little movements. The reference will act as a road map for you to animate to and ultimately change. Remember, you're an animator and not a rotoscoper. Make your motions somewhat larger than normal so you can see what you're doing when looking at the reference, but more sure not to overact as the actions themselves need to be appropriate to the animation.

Now is the time to begin your animation. Yay. Find the largest movement, or what body is leading the movement, and start quickly posing through the animation. Focus on that driver first as that body part is what will lead the rest of the body in its actions. If you get stuck in an area, you don't have to be working forward; instead, jump ahead to another section and you can work backwards from there to find the actions. Get those big movements in, the sexy overlaps can happen later.

A great tip for keep alive is the "drop and tilt". Instead of having a flat tangent to hold a pose, drop that key down and tilt it up so there's some slight movement of the pose. Don't drop it down too much though as you don't want to destroy the pose or the animation. It's just a little thing so that nothing is completely still.

Always think about "what should I do" instead of "can I do it". "Can I do it" is easy. Yes, you can. Everything is just a bouncing ball and that is the basic animation practices that animators master. If you can find the bouncing ball in everything, the technical side of "can I do it" becomes easy so focus on the what and why of your acting choices.

The eyes are the most important. It may not be as glorious as all those waving torsos and arms with their overlap and arcs but eyes are where everything lives and often a contrast point which draws the audiences' eyes. Therefore use those eyelids to intensify emotions! Sculpt those eye shapes and don't just have them be animated up and down as blinks.

That was a very pared down write up of what we all learned that night, particularly since a lot of the information was also visual. If you like what you learned and want more from Mike, he teaches at the Animation Collaborative in the evenings along with other amazing industry professionals. If you're interested, go on over the to check out some of the classes that they offer!

Happy animating!

Don't forget to join the conversation at 
Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
Instagram: @TeaTimeAnimation

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Evening with Pixar

I'm sure many of you were disappointed that there wasn't a Pixar movie for 2014 but now they have a lot of movies in the works and planned. More work for us! As such, Pixar will be looking for new talent that they can train and hopefully integrate. To share with us the upcoming opportunities of internships and residencies, before everyone was off for the holidays, we got a visit from Kim Diaz, senior recruiter, Ryan Howe, university relations program lead, and Anika Holloway, human resources coordinator.

There are different type of internships, classroom based and production based. Classroom based internships are structured actually like a class where you go in to learn and be mentored. Story, animation, and the Pixar Undergraduate Program (PUP) fall under classroom based and last 10 to 12 weeks during the summer. The other type is production based where you will get to work on actual shows in production. As such, the openings are based on production needs and typically last 12 to 18 weeks.

Residencies are also based on production needs are are for those who want to be technical directors or go into software engineer and research. They can last 6 months to a year.

The summer internships and a few residencies have already been posted on so I hope you're prepared!

Speaking of being prepared, what exactly do you do and what is Pixar looking for? Apply online at the above link with your resume, cover letter, and a link to your online reel/portfolio. If your reel/portfolio is password protected, that's fine, just have the link and password included in your resume. Make sure to do all this by the deadline, March 1st 2015!

We've probably went over what goes into resumes, cover letters, and reels numerous times but let's do a review. Limit your resume to one page and list any awards won, related classes, projects, and any events volunteering; show what you have done above and beyond a classroom setting. Make your cover letter stand out from others by having it being personalized and creative. Put your best work first on your demo reel and then followed by other best work (yes, only your BEST work goes on your reel) for a reel that is 1 to 3 minutes long; once you're finished, include a breakdown and always get others to review it.

Tea Time Animation, the only way to spend your tea time!

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Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
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Sunday, December 14, 2014

So You Want to be a Pixar Intern

Nicole Ridgwell and Spectra Sani

This summer, the amazing and talented Nicole Ridgewell and Spectra Sani were two of the privileged Pixar Animation Interns! As Tea Time alum, they humbly agreed to drop by club to share their experiences, and tips on how to structure your reel to be what Pixar is looking for.

Just what does it take to catch the eye of the Pixar Internship Coordinators? Nicole and Spectra tell us it's not just about sitting alone in front of a computer plowing through your animation day in and day out.  Our heroines urge students to get out of their rooms and over to the labs! It's important to be able to socialize with others, and it helps to maintain your sanity when you are inspired by talented friends. Getting into classes with Industry Teachers helps a lot (If you're an AAU student, the Pixar Classes should be your top priority!) Having someone up-to-date with information about the workplaces you are striving for is great leap towards your goals. If you feel that you're not getting the attention or the teaching that you need, try taking a class over at the Animation Collaborative. It's good to supplement your animation classes with  drawing, acting, and story classes to get those creative juices flowing. It's also possible to find all the inspiration you need at your local coffee shop! Make sure you take time to observe (and live) life and it will always add to your work.

When you think you're ready to apply, take a good look at your reel. Make sure you only have your best shots -- it's fine if your reel is short and simple; 2 shots can be enough to do it. Remember: You are always judged by the worst piece in your reel. Create believable characters and only add sound if it adds to the shot. You don't need to have fancy final rendered shots - your pieces can even be work in progress with nothing but some well thought out blocking! Just make sure that your idea is clear and your animation is clean. Use a simple title card to introduce yourself, and always make sure you tailor your reel for the company you are applying to. Pixar probably doesn't want to see something super violent with zombies ripping of people's heads while blood is spurting everywhere. That being said, don't just animate a shot for the purpose of applying to the studio. Instead, work on something you care about; Make it personal and relatable, emote yourself through the character, and people will respond to it.

Your reel showcases your work, but your resume and cover letter are effectively the face of your application. Your business papers should be concise and to the point (no one has time to read through the novel of your life), but make sure you have a voice! We should be able to feel your personality through your words, while still maintaining your professionalism. Trust me, they know you're a fanboy or girl, it is not appealing to emphasize this. It is vital to have good spelling and grammar. Always. If you have references, despite how redundant this may seem, make sure that they like you. More importantly, make sure that they know they are going to be a reference! Surprises are only good for parties and gifts, my friends. Always communicate effectively with your network.

So, with all this work, what can you expect from the Internship? On top of many group activities, and and an inevitable plethora of silly outfits, each intern will be assigned a personal mentor to work with for the duration of the summer. The Animation Internship, itself, is a lot like the Pixar classes! You will be doing assignments animating things such as a Lifesaver, the Luxo Lamp, posing exercises, walkcycles, pantomime, and 3 dialogues. Through these assignments you'll learn how to have a clean workflow, create appealing poses, owning confident ideas, making clear choices, and have clear blocking.

Even if you weren't chosen, don't be discouraged and remember to keep in touch. Just because you weren't selected this time around, doesn't mean there isn't a place for you in the future. Without being obnoxious, feel free to reach out every few months and at the end of projects, as it will showcase your continual interest, and (hopefully) your own, personal growth as an artist.

Finally, Pixar is great but it shouldn't be your only goal. There are tons of awesome opportunities out there so go and explore the world. Don't let your ego limit your choices. Don't get discouraged. Don't compare yourself to others. Be awesome, be yourself, and own it.

Happy Animating!

Don't forget to join the conversation at 
Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
Instagram: @TeaTimeAnimation

Friday, December 12, 2014

An Afternoon with Carlos Baena

Kyle Remus, Alicia Joy Schaeffer, Andy Wu, George Ambartsoumian, Carlos Baena

Apologies for the delay in posting (as usual), but as it turns out, life gets a bit hectic when you somehow find yourself on 13 different productions. We've been quite a bustle with activity over the last few weeks, with some fun events and amazing guest speakers! So here's to the start of catching up on a massive backlog of knowledge we're about to drop.

Animator Carlos Baena came all the way from Paramount Studios to be an onsite director for his upcoming film Market Street. Through the lovely work of Sasha Korellis and Becky Johnson, Tea Time was able to schedule a lecture from Carlos way back in October!

For those who don't know, Carlos Baena has worked at Pixar as an animator and is well known for his Spanish Buzz Lightyear sequences in Toy Story 3.  Additionally, Carlos is one of the founders of Animation Mentor, now one of the largest online schools for animation.

Carlos gave an amazing talk on the 12 Principles of Animation. He particularly admires the principles, as even though they start simple, they apply to everything. On top of the 12 original principles set by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson, Carlos has an additional 7 ideals he likes to follow:
Have Fun!

These extra 'principles' aren't exactly certain laws to obey, but rather things to remember to be a better animator.

So how do we define these new ideas? First off, study movement. Not just by looking at what's happening physically, but the reasons behind the actions we take. While you're studying, make sure you take time to find your references from real life and not just from film - Those are people are essentially doing what you are trying to: Acting. They are making their own interpretations to try and make a point clear to an audience.

Always find the appeal of everything that you are animating. Make sure you know your characters, work with them to find the things are appealing and clear first, instead of rushing straight into acting. Try turning on silhouette mode or turning your character around to different angles to make sure your poses and animation are able to read on their own.

Lastly, make sure to have fun! There will always be stress. Through your student life you will always have ups and downs. You will be putting in 90 hour weeks in the lab now, but it's important to keep your life in perspective: there is a lot of life after you graduate school, so make sure that the time you spend is enjoyable for yourself and others. While it's great sitting in front of your computer, carefully tweaking each and every spline, find a balance between doing "work" and going out to experience the world instead of burning yourself out.

You'll be sending out hundreds of letters and reels trying to get internships and jobs and you'll get hundreds of rejections, or worse, no responses back. Don't let rejection discourage you, instead, u it as a driving force and let it push you forward. When checking in with a recruiter, just email to confirm if they received your submission once. Just. Once. Otherwise: hands off. If they really want you, they'll contact you, usually within a few weeks. If you don't hear back, don't get stuck with all your eggs in one basket! Look at other places and take whatever you can get. All experience is god experience. Don't be that person who makes other people wait just because you're sitting there waiting to see if Big Corporate Company X will respond to you.

Carlos had a lot more he wanted to share with us (unfortunately his lecture was cut short), but he looks forward to joining us again in the spring. Keep your eyes peeled for part II!

Happy Animating!

Don't forget to join the conversation at 
Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
Instagram: @TeaTimeAnimation

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tea Time and the AAU ShowReel.

It appears there was a bit of a misunderstanding regarding Tea Time Animation's involvement with the facilitation and compilation of the AAU Animation Showreel. The following letter was drafted in response to concerns from the online department. We hope you find it useful in determining Tea Time's responsibilities and the ways in which you can get connected with your animation community.


I'm Lana Bachynski, Tea Time Co-Founder and Senior Board Member. I can assure you that nothing goes through Tea Time without my knowledge of it -- particularly not anything of this magnitude! Please allow me to shed a little light on this misunderstanding.

The Showreel, worthy as it is, is most certainly NOT in direct affiliation with Tea Time. Our board members have done our best to relay information and answer questions when asked, but we are in no way responsible for the collection of work, the accessibility of resources, or the selection of work to be shown in the final product. Tea Time is simply a network to help broadcast opportunities such as this on a larger scale.

While it is regretful that there has been much confusion around this subject for the students and instructors alike - and we are very thankful to all those currently helping to resolve the issue in a mutually satisfying way - frankly, it is an insult to us - and to me, personally - that you would take information handed to you and use it to speak poorly of Tea Time’s initiative towards online students – Particularly because we pride ourselves as being one of, if not the only community, that actively reaches out to the online student body in ways far beyond the casual group on Facebook.

Since day one, Tea Time has made sure to take comprehensive notes of guest speakers, in-club lectures or demos, and events we host or attend, posting them to our blog (, so that those who cannot be in attendance might still be able to glean something that benefits them. Over the last year, we have expanded upon this – specifically with the hopes of creating a stronger bond with the online community. Our website ( features a structured forum for giving/receiving feedback on work; sharing industry news and job openings; space to ask technical questions and get support; and a growing resource library of tutorials, rigs and props available for free use.

Furthermore, because we know it gets tiresome to just have to read a bunch of notes, we have started to bring everything Tea Time directly to the online community. Our weekly meetings are streamed live every week from our dedicated site (, and, when possible, we have begun to live stream some of our Guest Speaker events as Webinars with Watch Later capabilities ( Tea Time has even launched a secondary chapter in Pittsburgh, PA, that we openly invite online students in that region to join, or, if they are so inspired, to begin their own local chapters with our full and direct support.

Finally, I should like to point out to you that Tea Time Animation is an Alumni/Student run organization. While we are largely affiliated with and greatly supported by the Academy, Tea Time is not directly maintained by any AAU faculty or personnel, which means Chris Armstrong is not the authority figure whose word you should hold to in future matters regarding Tea Time. I am.
I would be happy to answer any further questions or concerns you may have about ways the online student body can get involved. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me through our e-mail,; or our twitter, @TeaTimeAnimates, or our Instagram, @TeaTimeAnimation.

Happy Animating!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A 2K Day and an Evening with Paul Lee

I am very excited to tell you that we are ramping up for an amazing month of events this November. Unfortunately, that ramp was a little steep so you're getting a bit of a delayed write up from our fantastic 2K Games day on October 17th.

This summer, we were proud to have had a number of Tea Timers on a short term contract with 2K games working NBA 2K14. Lucky for us, they were happy to come back and share their experiences with the rest of us! They joined us for club, becoming the opening act for Paul Lee, their animation supervisor, who joined us for a delightful Q&A.

First, we covered file referencing. You may already be familiar with referencing assets - such as your set or rigged characters - but how about a method that makes your scene file even lighter and letting you animate despite ever-changing rigs / weights? We learned that there is a relatively easy method that isn't utilized very often! Simply separate out an additional rig to animate on. You will have 2 files to reference, one that is only the skeleton joints and the rig controls and the other is the mesh and skeleton joints. Orient constrain all the parts of the animation rig, except the hip which needs to be point constrained, to the original. This way, you, as an animator, can continue working and not have to worry about the character or animation not transferring while the art team is still developing the character, the modelers still modeling, or the riggers still creating the controls and weight paints.

Following this, we discussed animation layers; that third tab at the bottom of the Channel Box. Layers are extremely powerful. Just as in Photoshop, you can build up animation on top of each other in layers without affecting anything else underneath. You can easily take a vanilla walk cycle to a character walk cycle in almost no time. Layers are particularly amazing when having to edit a complex animation. They allow you to add on top of what was already animated or to do some minor tweaks and edit some poses just to try things out, without worrying about ruining your keys and splines. Each layer can also be toggled to be on and off, so if you don't like what you see, just disable the layer to hide the extra animation -- it will instantly revert to what it looked like before without having to go through and figuring out which keys you need to delete. Like buffer curves on a broader scale!

To wrap up the night, Paul shared some of his experiences with us. When asked about his number one piece of advice, his biggest suggestion was to always find ways to keep improving yourself. As a student or anyone interested in animation that is just starting out, learn your skills and other disciplines well enough to be self sufficient and then push yourself to doing those tasks more efficiently. While there has been fear of outsourcing and people losing their jobs, Paul has expressed not to worry about it too much. Other than issues of having to manage resources and schedules, outsourcing is just another part of the equation and there will always be a need to have key people in house. Instead of worrying about the things that are out of your control, take the time to be the better, and you'll do better stepping into the industry.

A big thank you to all those who stayed on a Friday night to enjoy the evening with Paul Lee -- we hope you found the talk helpful and informative -- and obviously all of our gratitude to Mr. Lee, himself -- and all of our 2K Tea Timers -- for sharing with us.

Happy Animating!

Don't forget to join the conversation at 
Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
Instagram: @TeaTimeAnimation

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Official CTN 2014 Planning!

November will be here before you know it!

CLICK HERE to join in the Tea Time Animation official CTNx 2014 planning thread to figure out your carpools, hotel rooms, and anything else you might need to bring before the great SoCal migration. (Portfolio reviews, anyone?)

CTNx 2014 is November 21-23, and will be held at the delightful Burbank Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, 2500 North Hollywood Way, Burbank, CA. While it is probable that they are already booked up, I might advise calling with them to double check before going elsewhere. You can reach the front desk at (818) 237-3615‎.

In other news:We're going to be heading to CTNx in style. That's right! Our final Tea Shirt and Hoodie orders for Fall 2014 are placed and on their way to printing. We will delivering all merchandise to CTNx go-ers Thursday evening/Friday morning of the Conference. Not attending? Don't worry! Stop by to pick up your swag at the next Tea Time meeting.

Happy Animating!

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Art of Riot Games

Ever heard of a little 'Massive Online Battle Arena' called League of Legends? Well, have we got an article for you! Last week, we had the pleasure of joining Riot Games artists at a trip back to their Alma Mater, as they shared with us a little insight into the art behind one of the world's most played games.

With us we had Kenny Carvalho (art recruiter), Laura Deyoung (visual design director), Bo Lu (concept artist), Chengwei Pan (concept artist), Rory Alderton (senior animator), and Moby Francke (principal artist).

For those who aren't quite as hot and heavy into the video game scene, or Riot Games as a company in general, Kenny Carvalho kicked off the evening with a taste of company culture. Riot is about focusing on the player experience, and is serious about gamers who take play..well...seriously. Their mission statement is "to aspire to be the most player focused company in the world." As such, the artists working on League of Legends (LoL) aren't just churning out artwork. Each artist is heavily immersed in every aspect of the pipeline, seeing to their work's functionality in game, because they are as passionate as their players! It's important to be so for them to ensure that the world and characters that are being created are cohesive and appealing on all levels -- i.e. gameplay, visuals, sound, etc.

"The culture is fine, and all... now what about the artists?"

Laura Deyoung, the Visual Design Director, had an extremely interesting story to tell. Before getting into the biz, she wasn't specifically a 3D Artist or Illustrator, but rather involved with graphic and web design. She was good at what she did, but did not see herself working with web for the rest of her life. Instead, she really wanted to get into the games industry, but felt doubtful of herself as she did not have the background in 3D art. Feel like you're in the same boat? As it turns out, there is a department for people with exactly that expertise. At Riot it's called Visual Design, but it is often labeled as UI/UX artist. When Laura was starting out, this type of position was small, but it has been steadily growing, and will only get bigger. (Ahem, we see postings for these positions all the time by game studios now.) Laura stresses that Visual Design is a very complicated and specific field, so it requires artists with the particular skillset needed.

"What about some of those amazing digital paintings I've seen?"

Well, Chengwei Pan and Bo Lu shared their experience in creating Illustrations and Splash art at Riot. The style of LoL can be described as 'exaggerated comic-book-style proportions and poses', so if you're looking to apply, make sure you can fit the bill. On top of that, they look for high-polish rendering (super high-fidelity images that you can zoom in to and still see all the detail), dynamic lighting (lighting should show story, form, and point of interest), strong graphic shapes, and a strong understanding of color (with the ability to work within a limited color palette).

However, just having a pretty picture isn't enough. Rather, the art should echo the in-game visual and play style; your images should be a direct representation of how badass a character is, so that players want to be that champion in-game. Your images should tell a story. (Particularly if involved in promo art.)

Looking at the amazing illustrations they create, the task of reaching that bar can look super daunting. Luckily for us, as AAU alumni, they have some excellent recommendations for classes: Foundations, Figure Painting, Clothed Figure Drawing, Quick Study, Narrative Painting, and Drawing for Film. Narrative Painting and Drawing for Film were the two most highly recommended as those classes will teach you how to tell a story as well as how to design a painting.

Lastly, while many other disciplines discourage this practice, Riot strongly encourages aspiring Rioters to draw and paint their Champions -- what better way to show your passion and ability?

"Yeah, yeah - still images are cool, I guess... now talk to me about Animation."

Sometimes people think of animation for games as mainly a bunch of cycles, but Rory Alderton showed us how Riot makes every champion feels alive with their own distinct personality and characteristics. It's always about what the players can see from the game view screen, so there are a few interesting challenges that arise that wouldn't come up in film. Variables like a free camera, player actions, and potential speed modifiers all have to be taken into account.

Unlike in film where artists only have to animate to one specific camera view, games have a full 3D space with a moving camera so champions have to look good from all angles. In LoL, the camera is in a top down view which presents some unique obstacles with foreshortening -- it's not always easy to get a clear silhouette. This means they've got to break the mold a little to get the job done. The poses are exaggerated -- sometimes to the point of joints being broken -- just to get a clear silhouette. Squash and stretch in the shoulders, hips, spine, and impacts, are always pushed to help sell the weight.

Also unlike film, animators in video games have to take into account any actions that the player might make in game -- Player Actions. This means that champions can change from different states at any time, such as running to a stop or casting spells. In order to have smooth gameplay, a layering system is used in the animation so that each actions can be blended seamlessly together.

Speed modifiers are a sort of Player Action, but it adds an extra layer of grief to an animator, as it changes how fast a champion runs or is able to attack (...and you know animators...timing is everything). In order to keep the aesthetic of the character and prevent animation from breaking, at higher speeds, animations are simplified. For example, the champion Shen can stack attack speed items. At the top of the top speed, instead of seeing all the in-betweens,  all that is kept visible are the key poses so that the characteristic of the champion, and the flow of the movement is still kept intact.

Lastly, cycles can get a bit boring but Riot always tries to add a little bit of fun into it -- particularly with the newer champions. When idling, players can see their characters break into different actions. It helps keep the characters feeling alive and interesting.

Wow! Tons of great information -- anything else I should know?

To finish off the evening, Moby Francke talked to us about Art Clarity and creating art with a purpose. To showcase his portion of the evening, Moby showed us upcoming artwork to the update of Summoner's Rift.

Clarity of art is the making sure that the quality of visual elements can be easily understood. Clarity is so important because gameplay has to be first, and art is technically supplementary. While art is very important, it is in support of the gameplay. The function of art is to ensure that everything is legible with contrast and strong silhouettes. There are a whole range of champions from whimsical and light to dark and brooding, all of which the environment has to be suitable for. At Riot, in order to create the appropriate environment, the focus is put on primary, secondary, and tertiary forms instead of intense detail. As such, the upcoming Summoner's Rift looks somewhat stripped down; more painterly, and simplistic. While the environment may not as be as full and lush with foliage as it has been in the past, it is very visually appealing as champions travel and battling across each map.

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Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
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Thursday, September 25, 2014

2014 Tea Shirts (and hoodies!) - Now on Sale

That's right -- CTN is right around the corner, and we're rolling up in style. Check out this year's Tea Shirt and hoodie design! As per usual, our ordering deadline will be TIGHT, so make sure you come with cash in hand this Friday, September 26th to order. Not able to come to the meetings? Don't worry, we accept Paypal and will ship to you!

Tea Shirts will be $15. 
Our classic "Tea Shirt" on the front with the official membership logo on the back. This year on kelly green (as depicted below).

We are also doing HOODIES this year! Price is TBD - We're hoping they won't be any more than $30, but we're waiting on price confirmation from our screen printers. The minimal Tea Time Logo will be on the left breast of the zip up.

Interested? Please e-mail us at with your name, shirt size, and phone number (so we can contact you when they are delivered). We have both men's and women's sizes - Hoodies are Unisex.

Other than looking amazing and being able to represent Tea Time, the shirts are your special access to Tea Time hosted events! When we host guest speakers we will save the first two rows for people with Official Membership merchandise. While you can still choose to rest your booty at the back of the room, rest easy knowing you can forego an hour or so of waiting and still have a seat when you arrive.

Remember: These events get crazy -- it wouldn't be the first time we've turned someone away.

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Questions? Don't hesitate to get in touch with us at
Twitter: @TeaTimeAnimates
Instagram: @TeaTimeAnimation