Friday, December 14, 2012

Guest Speaker Joey Gilbreath

Joey Gilbreath -- Animator at PIXAR 
7:30pm room 415 @ 180 New Montgomery street

AAU Alumni turned PIXAR animator Joey Gilbreath will be joining us this evening to give us a demo on how to modify the Norman rig. Additionally, he will be telling us about his experiences as a student, surviving the PIXAR internship, and what it means to be a successful student.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


It wasn't long ago that I was posting about our 200 member achievement, but in only a few, short months, Tea Time has grown by 50%! Amazing.

Just wanted to say a quick thank you to all of us who made it out to CTN this year. It was an amazing conference, but it wouldn't have been half as great without the company.

Tea Time Animation at CTN 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Brenda Chapman -- CTN Kickoff

The unbelievably talented story artist and director, most recently known for her work on Brave, Brenda Chapman offered to CTN a heartwarming discussion on her work, where she started, and her inspirations -- most notably her family, and the relationship with her daughter that inspired Brave.

Brenda's lecture centered around four key elements that helped her as a zealous young woman looking to break into a world of men:

Now, because of the nature of her lecture, I found that much of it was a "had to be there" sort of thing. However, in speaking on passion there were a few gems in her lecture that I thought were too irresistible to share.

"If it doesn't immediately capture you, dig deep and find a place you can connect to."
As students, at least where we're studying, we don't come across this so often. We have a lot of liberty with choosing what shots we're going to do based upon our own desires. However, getting in to the industry, it's not so much a choice anymore as it is an assignment -- it's a job, right? At some point, each and every one of us is going to be assigned a shot we don't see eye-to-eye with. That's where this comes in.

Even in a shot we think is boring, it's important to find a way to connect with it on a level we understand. If the animator is bored or detached, the shot will be tough to get through and more often than not, the audience can feel that through their work. Sitting and really thinking on a shot and finding a way to get into it will make your life easier as a professional (you won't be sitting and hacking away at something you gate), and will truly make your own work sing.

"If you don't get the job that you really, really, really it still worth doing?"
I found this to be a particularly engaging question -- and in her lecture she left it fairly open ended. I've discussed this subject with a few people since then and I've heard mixed responses. Yes...No...
That won't happen, I'll try until I get there...etc...

Brenda, on the other hand said "Who knows! Maybe not, but is that a reason to stop?" Even if we don't end up with our dream jobs, all that means is we have to find an outlet. If we're not satisfying creative desires in the workplace, it just gives us the opportunity to pursue that craving elsewhere. We're not all going to get those golden opportunities, it doesn't mean we can't make something great.

"Find it...then share it!"
I know, I know -- how many times are we going to put pressure on the fact that this is a collaborative industry? But I want to emphasize that it's not just about helping each other with shots and patting each other on the back upon getting the work done, but it's about keeping the fire alive in each other. For me, at least, animating -- yeah, I love it -- but it can feel like work, and there's been times where I've hated it. But when I'm excited and passionate and talking and sharing and "Oh my gosh have you seen this?!" with others, it never gets old -- no matter how bogus the shot.

For anyone who missed this amazing lecture and happens to be an aspiring story artist, Brenda Chapman teaches a one-on-one workshop through Motivarti. You can also check out Brenda's personal website and blog for some more insight into the industry and Brenda Chapman, herself.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

4 Different, Amazing Approaches to Acting: Context and Creativity

As promised, here was one of my personal favorite panels from CTN 2012. It featured Pixar/Animation  Collaborative animators Michal Makarewicz, Victor Navone, Rob Thompson and Aaron Hartline.

The group of four took on the challenge of using the same rig and the same line of dialogue to create blocking for four entirely different feeling characters/scenes. I managed to take some fairly succinct notes, so here's a little bit about the process each animator went through to create their final shot.

Aaron Hartline - "The Villain"

Lipsync First 

Animating the sync first (while the character is still in T-pose) really helps me to not over-animate through the body. Often enough having the character speaking can be enough movement to keep him alive, and it saves me from having to put in more movement or more poses than necessary.

I make sure to focus on the key words in the sentence, so I can make sure I give them enough emphasis and an interesting mouth-shape.

Animating the lipsync first buys me time! It's something that has to be done no matter what, so getting it done first gives me more time to think about the interesting situation or specific posing I want to put my character into.

Strike a Pose

I like to try and animate my scenes using as little posing as possible. i.e: For a shorter piece of dialogue like this one, I see if I can find one pose that can carry me through the whole thing.

The pose should start with a question -- something to intrigue the audience. We don't want to know he's a villain right off the bat, that's something we want to discover. Having an interesting pose that doesn't give everything away at a first glance is great because it will keep the viewer interested, and give me a place to go as an animator.


Less is more!

Try to find something that you can relate to that you can draw from; Something you know. i.e For a villain, the way your mother or an aunt might look when they got angry when you were a kid. Think about your favorite movie villains, what sort of mannerisms them so frightening?

Ask an Expert

Make sure you show your work to someone else! Find someone that you trust and deliberate with them.

Rob Thompson - "The Job Applicant"

First things first, think about what you have -- the Dialogue, the rig, and the idea -- and consider what is involved in that kind of situation.

For a job applicant:

Emotions: Nervous, excited, anxious...

Conflicting advice: Act casual, but not too casual, dress nice, but not too nice...

Remember that there is a fine line between Confident vs. Cocky, Relaxed vs. Overly Casual, Enthusaistic vs. Over Zealous

Single Pose
Like Aaron mentioned, Can I find a single pose that can get me through the whole shot.

Consider the desires of the character -- like in this example from 'Peep Show'. The main character doesn't actually WANT to get the job, but he also doesn't want to make his friend, who turns out to be in the interview with him, look bad.

Find Your Lighthouse

Find the most important control on your rig - the one that will affect your scene the most - and use it as a guide for all the acting and the timing. (This is a lot like what we were talking about in our Power Centers lecture) For example, if the control is the neck, that person could feel like they have a lot of attitude. Really confident/cocky. 


What specifics can I add while still being limited to one, main pose? i.e. Ricky Gervais in this clip: Same pose, but rocking back and forth in his chair.

Try to keep spontaneity -- don't over rehearse your line, because then it will feel over rehearsed. 

Victor Navone - "The Politician"


Consider your options. Think about the ways you can open up possibilities for acting choices: i.e. For a politician, have them be in one of those circular town hall debates rather than behind a podium.


-Think about character history
-Restrictions i.e. for a politician, one would say/do things differently while they are being filmed. There are certain behaviors that are accepted and/or expected from them that you should try to put into your work
-Environmental details and how they would affect your performance.
-Status: "who has the power" on your scene? How do you inform that through your performance?
-What are your characters goals?


What is really being said through the dialogue?


Practice by drawing out some poses
Refer to Video reference

Inner Monologue

Find the moment of emphasis/biggest change and then emphasize it!


Sketch blocking (2D posing!)
Watch for accidental patterns

"It's a process of discovery for me. I had to go through  a lot of bad ideas before I could get to the ones that had worth." --Victor Navone

Mike Makarewicz - "The Mentor"



Like the others, consider context, dialogue (mood, subtext, etc), scene length.

Get to know your character!

Think about adjectives - 'ingredients, if you will - for your character
Really consider your character's history, because it will help define your characters choices.
Relate your character to people you know well enough already so that you are able to draw from that.

What's important to me:

-Energy -- progression, balance, contrast,
-Internal vs. External -- thinking vs. delivery
-Relatability -- connection with the audience

Monday, November 19, 2012

CTN 2012

CTN 2012, as per usual, was an absolutely phenomenal experience. We know that, for various reasons, not everyone can afford to attend, thus, we made sure to jot down gems of wisdom and take lots of explicit notes so we could share a little bit of the experience with those who missed out. Keep your eyes here for details!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Paranorman Lecture Tonight

We haven't advertised it much (and forgot to mention it in club! Sorry.) because we haven't actually had anything to do with the planning of it,  but tonight, LAIKA (Coraline, Paranorman) will be giving a lecture in AAU's own 79 NM theater. It starts a  7:30pm, but seating is limited and, as we all know, these things fill up fast so get there early.

Friday, November 9, 2012

CTN and Basic Networking

Club today started with a bang as Brandon took us all through a few, fun improv games. Needless to say we all got to know a deeper -- and sillier -- side to everyone.

Charging ahead, however, the majority of club was consumed by another whopping networking lecture. With the advent of another CTN in our midst, we thought it was important to bequeath a little knowledge on optimal conference behavior. Didn't make it? Check out detailed notes here.

Additionally, you would be keen to note that Tea Time is going to be taking a bit of a hiatus due to CTN and then thanksgiving the following weekend. Besides crossing paths at CTN (in some pretty sweet swag, if all goes well) we will reconvene on Friday, November 30th at the usual time/place for an extra special lecture. Will announce more in the near future so keep an eye out.

Happy animating!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Introducing Frank-Joseph Frelier!

As I mentioned in my last post, during Friday's meeting we gave a nice, warm welcome to our newest board member. For those who haven't had the privilege of meeting him -- and so our online community feels just as welcome as our on-campus community -- here's a little bit more about the newest man behind the curtain...

Howdy, animators! 

           I'm Frank-Joseph, your newly-appointed Tea Time board member! If we haven't met yet, I'm the flamboyant grad student that references "Jurassic Park" and Britney Spears in every meeting. When I'm not racking my brain trying to figure out parent constraints, I enjoy organizing movie outings, drawing dinosaurs, and analyzing Star Wars.

I hope to get to know you all through Tea Time events, movie nights, or sketching field trips! 
(And yes, I generally speak with that many exclamation marks!)

PS: Han Solo shot first.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Power Centers and the Importance of Body Language

This Friday, after letters and interviews and much deliberation, Tea Time was proud to welcome the newest member of the board Frank-Joseph Frelier (more on him later).

In commemoration of his first official day on the team, he was in charge of planning and delivering Friday's lecture: Power Centers.

What is a Power Center? 

Essentially, it's where the essence of a character comes from; It is what drives the character. Designing characters with strong Power Centers informs the character's nature, which, in turn, informs the motion. 

For example, if a character's Power Center was held in their head, that character could be more cerebral and focussed; or if a character had a Power Center in their hips, they could be more seductive. Here is a list of the Power Centers we discussed with some possible adjectives, as well as some characters we found to be good examples of each.

Head - Cerebral, focused or distracted, goal-oriented, regal
Ego, Carlie Brown, Iago, Sir Hiss, RattleSnake Jake, Quasimoto

Chest - Assertive, seductive, arrogant, macho, confident
Mr. Incredible, Superman, Jessica Rabbit, Hercules

Stomach - Sloth, jolly, giddy, lesser, intellect, improper, slovenly, sluggish
Po, Santa, Ed, Pregnant ladies, Patrick (from Spongebob)

Hips/Pelvis - Seductive, lewd, cocky, confident, sexually suggestive
Ace Ventura, Jack Sparrow, Meg (Hercules), Shakira/belly dancers, Izma, Woody

Legs/Knees - Clumsy, Lesser intellect, tired
Kramer, zombies

Feet - Graceful, light, awkward, burdened, injury, sneaky
Cowboys, ballerinas, Pochahontas

Using power centers can help you to create recognizable traits with ease, but it can also help you to think about entirely unique characters and get out of the vice-grip of cliches. 

Finally, in addition to Frank's excellent lecture, Tea Time joined students from all over the Bay Area at the Reel Feedback event at the Animation Collaborative after club! It was an excellent night of having our work torn apart (with love!) interspersed by pizza eating, Mike Makarewicz demos, and networking. As per usual, it was a wonderful experience and we can't thank the review board enough for providing such an amazing opportunity to students like us.

Friday, October 26, 2012

To Reel Feedback -- and Beyond!

If you're planning on attending this evening's Reel Feedback event, it's important to come prepared. Here's a quick check-list you can use in preparation for arrival.

Your Work

Although we talk about the event as a great place to meet people, it is first and foremost about the opportunity for really, really great critique. If you have one piece -- show it. If you have 50 pieces! -- well, you should pick your favorites and show them. Make sure you're not missing out on getting feedback straight from the proverbial horses' mouth, it is truly an invaluable opportunity to improve. All work should be brought on a flash drive or an external hard drive.

A Backup Plan

If you're not on the ball about this, Murphy will most certainly get the best of you. Bring a back up drive. Make sure you have a drive that works on both a PC and a MAC. Don't have a spare? Put it on your friend's! Don't let bad planning get in the way of getting this crit.

A Notebook and Writing Utensil(s)

Again, the feedback you will receive here is invaluable -- TAKE NOTES. You're doing yourself an injustice by not trying to soak up as much of the info as you can, and you'll be insulting your reviewer for not taking his feedback seriously. Even if you have some kind of amazing photographic memory, at least pretend to scribble on a page so you don't look arrogant. Additionally, like the back up drive, make sure you have more than one! Pen, pencil, don't want to be "that guy" that gets up there and looks unprepared. Plus, you only have about 10 minutes to begin with, don't waste two of them harassing prepared strangers for their stuff.

Don't Be Apologetic

When  you actually get up with your reviewer, it can be intimidating. Fight the urge to prelude your work with excuses or apologies or things you 'already know'. i.e. "When the guy takes that first step, you'll know the one, I know it's slipping already, so just ignore that..." No matter what you say before hand, your reviewer is still going to see the same thing. Besides, to someone who hasn't been staring at the piece for hours upon end, they might not even see whatever blip you're concerned about!

Be Confident

Again, it can be super intimidating sitting side by side with a professional as they judge your work, but don't worry! They are there for you. The entire platform of their company is designed to help students become better animators. Be proud of your work -- or at least be proud that you've got courage to sit down and have it lovingly ripped to shreds while you sit there and take it.

Do Some Research

It can be really beneficial to take an hour or so and look up the board of reviewers planning to attend. It doesn't take long, and it saves you from potentially embarrassing moments (of which I, personally have had too many). Find out who they are, where do they work, their official title, if you can! Save yourself from accidentally mistaking important people for homeless men (long story...).

Turn Your Cellphone Off

I know it's difficult to part with how popular you are, but at least turn that thing on silent -- and I'm not talking vibrate. SILENT. I don't think anything could be more disrespectful than your phone going off in the middle of a critique. Not only is it a rude interruption, but it says that you were never 100% invested, because someone more important might need to get a hold of you.

Contact Information

If you've got business cards -- bring 'em! If not -- make some! I'm not talking design some in 20 minutes and get them rush-printed from Copy's easy to make something in an hour or two that's faster and looks nicer than pieces of loose-leaf ripped out of your notebook. Get some card stock, printer paper and glue from Walgreens, and you can easily have some cute, double-sided cards. Did you take color and design? Print as neatly and nicely as you can on old swatches, and those are some pretty cool cards! Obviously it's not the most important thing about the evening, but it's certainly a nice thing to have.

Remember, you can use many of the points from same check list for every review you get. Whether it be in class or in a full-out interview, it's important to keep these things in mind

If you want to BART with the group, we will be meeting outside of 180 New Montgomery at 6:00 pm. We will be leaving by 6:05, so don't be late!

See you at Tea Time.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Reel Feedback This Friday!

Hey everyone!

This is just a quick reminder about the Reel Feedback event this Friday at the Animation Collaborative.

If you're looking to go with the group, we will be meeting at 6:00pm outside of 180 New Montgomery Street, and leaving shortly after -- don't be late! We will not wait for you (but we'll give you a high-five when you get there!)

For everyone else, hopefully we'll see you there.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tea Time Member Spotlight - Andy Wu

For anyone who participated in the T-shirt competition, you may remember that the winner of the competition gets to be featured on the Tea Time Blog! Well, awkwardly enough, my T-shirt was the one that one -- BUT only by a few votes.Thus, because one one wants to hear more about me, here is a little more about our amazing second-place winner: Andy Wu!

"Hey everyone! I'm Andy... 

I'm a graduate student at AAU. I'm actually not so much of an animator as I am a texture painter and lighter -- but I'm also highly interested in visual development and story development. My undergrad was at University of Washington where I studied painting & drawing. My initial major choice was graphic design, but upon deciding that I wanted to get into visual development for animated films, I wanted to work on developing my drawing skills more. 

While UW didn't have an animation program, under the CSE department there was a 3-quarter series animation production class. It was through that class that I really got involved in all the different areas of the pipeline. I wanted to develop my technical skills more which is why I chose to come to AAU. 

The top two studios that I would love to work for are Disney and Pixar; Pixar being the ultimate job that I would like to stay at. 

I like tigers.

Here's a sample of a piece Andy lit!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


As you all know, our Tea Time T-Shirt Competition came to a close two weeks ago with this 
as the winning design:

In order to get an accurate quote on how much these are going to cost us, we need numbers -- fast! Click here to fill out the poll on our Facebook page.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Drawing with Bill Sanchez...and more!

For anyone who happened to be absent from club the last few weeks, we've been having a lot of fun reinventing the wheel, as it were.

We've been revisiting classic animation assignments -- weight lift, ball bounce, pendulum, etc... -- and seeing how far we can take it out of the box without losing the essence of what it needs to be. It's been a great way to stretch our creative muscles, and a lot of fun to see what people come up with!

From mustachioed menaces to nerds being rejected to hell, it's amazing how far a little group brainstorming can take you. It was also a good lesson in the importance of team work, and getting used to working in a team! So much of our industry is about working well within a group of people, and being able to contribute to the creative process is a big part of that.

Even if you're adamant about tackling a project all by yourself, at some point or another, chances are there's going to be someone in your life you bounce an idea or two off of -- girlfriend, neighbour, dog -- and finding someone who is an effective brainstormer could really speed up the process of weeding your garden of ideas.

In addition to the exercise, we also covered some info on the Reel Feedback event happening in just a week and a half! That's right, it's that time of semester again -- possibly lacking pizza and beer, but certainly still worthy of a BART ride over to Emerville -- this time, in the Animation Collaborative facility!

Don't miss out. Click for more info.

In other news, this Friday Tea Time will be convening in 540 Powell for a clothed figure workshop with the Academy's legendary Bill Sanchez. See you there!

A Word from Steven Spielberg

Thanks, Frank.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Guest Speaker - Nicolas Villarreal

Don't forget that tomorrow, Friday, October 12th we have guest speaker

Nicolas Villarreal
7:30pm - 79 New Montgomery Theater

Has worked at the likes of:
Disney, Sony, Sega, Warner Bros., Digital Domain

Saturday, September 29, 2012

T-Shirt Submissions -- Vote now!

The Tea Time T-Shirt Competition submissions are up! 

Cast your vote here!

Bernardo Warman: Reader's Digest Style

Last night, Tea Time assembled in room 415 (now with chairs!) to welcome AAU's own Bernardo Warman. He delivered a wonderful and engaging lecture on his time at the Academy, DragonBoy, and the importance of short films. Here's a paraphrased version of what he had to say.

Bernardo (Bernie) - like many of the Academy's most successful animators, it seems - originally hails from Brazil. He has a background in Graphic Design, but before making the decision to move to the 'States in 2007, he held a steady job working in TV.

He always had a passion for drawing (initially thinking he was going to be a comic book artist), and although most of his friends thought he was crazy for giving up such a steady and well-to-do job, Bernie made the tough decision and decided to pursue his dreams. "It was risky, maybe, and a lot of people told me I was crazy, but life is short, and I knew I would have regretted it if I didn't go. It's tough to leave, but don't let that hold you back. 

...If you trust yourself, do it!"

In coming to the 'States and the Academy, Bernie didn't have any real animation experience. However, he did have a good idea about what he wanted to achieve. "In Brazil, it's not just about the student reel. You show a dialogue clip, or a weight-shift exercise -- nobody cares. But if you make a short film, then you have the respect of your peers. Because you know what it takes, because you went from nothing to a completed film." Take Run, Dragon, Run! for example:

Run, Dragon, Run! (2002)

"Okay, fart joke. Don't do that, that's not funny now. But what is it that makes this film an exemplary short film? It's economical."

How many characters are there? Dragon, an entire angry mob, puppet show guy...a bunch! But look at the presentation. Rather than animating a bunch of characters for an entire angry mob, the most you ever see of them is the tops of their hats/spears and a couple of arrows. The background? Instead of being modeled, it's just a matte painting. The techniques are so effective, but your brain is doing all the work.

With this is mind, it's needless to say, that Bernie was a little disappointed to see that the Academy seemed to only be focussed on the demo reels. Even for the people in the Pixar Classes! Sure they come out with a reel that's great for Pixar, but not necessarily good for other places. There were many talented animators he knew that, despite excelling in the Pixar classes, had a hard time getting a job after school because their work was "too Pixar".

"When I got to the school, short films...were just...terrible. It was hard to look around at the work that was being turned out by the Academy when places like Gobelins were churning out work like this..."

Burning Safari (2006) HQ version HERE.

This film looks like it's a lot busier than the last one, but it's still economical! Yeah there's more characters, but it's the same model for all of them, so you only need one rig for all of the robots, one rig for the monkey man, 1 space bus, and matte paintings! Why bother spending so much time modeling the perfect leaf in the background when you're focussing on trying to tell a story? 

Plus, the people at Gobelins were working in a group, and they kept it short. Working in groups is nice because it shows that you can communicate and collaborate to get things down the pipeline, but try to keep it small! Big groups almost always fall apart because there are 'too many cooks in the kitchen'. AS for keeping it short, they really catered well to the 'YouTube' Generation. "How often do I click on a video that's over 5 minutes? Almost never, and when I do, I roll my eyes and think "Ugh, this better be good.""

The teacher's here aren't always honest. If you show your work to a teacher and they say "Yeah that looks good" when you know that it could use some work, that's a bad teacher. You have to push yourselves, it's good for you! You can't just compare yourself to the person next to you, because there's other people out there who you can't see working harder than you. Whether they're a professional or not, they're still out to get the same position as you. You have to make yourself amazing.

"Norman is still Norman at the end of the day (or Bishop from Animation Mentor). Maybe if you can mod him really well...but still! It just gets old. A short film gives you a voice of your own...

I dare anyone to sit fact I'd urge anyone to sit down to 11 second club and judge the videos for a while. At first you sit through them, but  eventually, it all just becomes the same!" Having unique characters in your own short film is your chance to really show off your own style. Maybe it's weird, but you can own that! And, more importantly, no one has seen it before. Don't doubt yourself. When you doubt your powers you give powers to your doubts. 

Don't forget to knock on doors. You are paying a lot of money to be at this school, so you should fight for what you want! Don't forget that you are paying for the knowledge of each and every staff member in the building. Make an appointment, respect the rules, but no one is doing you a favor by meeting with you and you can't just sit around the lab every day and wonder when they're going to come to you. You have to put yourself out there. 

Thus, when Bernie and his two co-directors were told they couldn't do a collaborative thesis, they fought back.

"When we were creating DragonBoy, we had to go through a lot of struggle to get things done, and the whole time everyone was telling us we'd never do it."

However, the whole time, they were pushing. They pushed each other to improve the story until it broke, and even then they never stopped. They just took a step back and never stopped asking questions. WHY doesn't it work? WHAT can we do to fix it? HOW are we going to make this better?

It wasn't long until the school began to see that they were really onto something, and asked for a trailer to be released for DragonBoy. They had little to no production work complete. This is what they managed to accomplish in a week:

Although it was a hectic week, the result was a hit! Not only did it prove to the school that they could do it, it proved to themselves that they could do it. 

"The cool thing about short films is that the first shot, it's so hard. And the second shot? It's hard too. But then the third shot, it's a little bit less hard. By the time you get to the middle of the production, you know the rig and the character so well, you can crank out a shot in just a couple of hours. You don't have to think so much about the decisions they'd make because it's second nature to you."

In the end, despite further turmoil and rejection, DragonBoy went to win Gold at the Student Academy Awards in 2011. 
You can watch Bernie and Team's acceptance speech HERE. 

I suppose the last thing to keep in mind would be always fight. Some people are fine with just clicking the buttons other people tell them to click, and that's fine. But if you've got ideas don't doubt yourself, don't let that be your downfall. 

"...Don't be a cog, because you're a brain."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

T-Minus 24 Hours!

Only one day to go in 
The Great Tea Time T-Shirt Design Competition

Don't forget to submit to!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Guest Speaker -- Bernardo Warman

Student Academy Award Winning 
Bernardo Warman

This Friday, September 28 @ 7:30pm
Room 415, 180 New Montgomery
(Don't worry, we'll have chairs.)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Push-Pull Script

Hey everyone!

Since Wednesday's lecture we've had a lot of questions about the way Mike was manipulating his curves. We're happy to say we have the answer!

Thanks to Aaron Koressel, there are a series of scripts to help improve workflow. Check out each of them and their descriptions here.

Happy animating!

Mike Makarewicz: Round II

So many students!

For anyone who was unfortunate enough to miss Mike's lecture this past Wednesday, the staggering 150+ of us who did show up had the pleasure of witnessing Mr. Makarewicz open a can of some proverbial, animation "whoop-ass". If that doesn't paint you a clear enough picture, feel free to help Brandon Nason pick his brains up off the floor, he'll explain the whole thing.

After a few minutes of technical difficulties, Mike jumped right in, taking questions while diligently and effortlessly animated a short dialogue test for us. Keep an eye out here for a playblast of what he accomplished in just two and a half hours*.

B = Tea Time
I = Mike Makarewicz

"How long have  you worked in the industry?"

Well I graduated from AAU in 2003? I think? I started at Pixar on 'The Incredibles' and I've been on ever since.

"AAU Grad? How does it feel to be back?"

Great! I love to teach and it's nice to be able to give back. That's why I started the Animation Collaborative. I actually teach this demo class there! If you're interested, please check us out. I think we're completely booked for this session, but there may still be availability in the next semester. The Animation Collaborative Website!

I love the community that has developed since my time here at AAU. While I was still school, every one was quiet; no one really talked to each other. The attitude was more "Don't look at my stuff!" so it's great to see things like Tea Time as well as so many resources for you online.

In regards to using head-align and the like:

Head-align can be great! But make sure to know your rig. It's important to use the right tools for the right job. Not only head aligns, either, make sure to use arm aligns where applicable if you've got 'em.

"You use the layered approach, is that correct?"

Yeah! Nothin' but.

"Why do you like it?"

Because I can't do the other one? Hey! It's honest! Besides that, [layering] is clean, smooth and fast. In  blocking, I'm more about motion, not posing. You don't just stop at a pose, you move through it. So, no, my blocking isn't 'perfect' -- there's not a perfect pose illustrating exactly what I want with every control touched, and torque and an interesting hand position -- but it doesn't have to be. It just has to be understandable. 

On Blocking:

It's also important to keep in mind that you don't have to use every control. So often people get caught feeling obligated to use them just because they are there, but it's important to avoid that and get things in the simplest way possible -- Especially in the beginning. Eventually -- when you get in to super fine polish -- you might have a key on everything, but even then, if I can just move the root control and have it read, I'm set. Why go further than that?

Start off with just A-B, one move at a time. Take this coffee cup, for example. The timing of it will set the mood, so it will dictate the pace of the rest of the piece. All I have to do is get this laid in and then make sure the rest feels balanced accordingly.

Moving Forward... 

Manipulating the curves alone between points is good enough for blocking, but you'll want to get more specific later. Don't leave anything with a question mark, key the extremes (the tops and bottoms of your arcs in the graph editor). Make sure that anyone could look at them and see "here's the slow out, the action, the slow in". 

I want power in my curves, I want to control it, but I don't need a million keys to do it.*

I know the methods of animation generally dictate to start with the root and move outwards, but that doesn't always work. Sometimes, like [a] scene where someone it sitting down, the root barely moves at all. Thus, I think its always best to start broad - find the biggest move first and work from there. It will generally inform the way everything moves around it.

Make sure to react to what you're doing. Don't just animate and animate and should constantly be checking what you're doing. Think about what is leading what, neck vs. body, head vs. neck, eyelids vs. eyebrows.

Even on the more complicated moves, in the end [everything] is just a bouncing ball.

On Acting Choices:

Giving me a bigger arc isn't entertaining me. It's not always about going to those kinds of extremes, it's a lot more about how I relate to the action.

Eyes - I so commonly see these misused - the top of the eye is used to indicate alertness, while the bottom is used to intensify emotion. 

Try not to come back to the same spot twice.

Don't get glued to reference. Remember, that's all it is, reference! Look at it a few times, analyze it, sure, but then get to animating. Then, if you start thinking "What was it that I did?" go back to your reference to get a refresher. 

On Animating Lipsync:

Utilize your tools! Although a facial camera can be helpful to some, I, personally, hate it when everything is constantly shifting around in the background. Select your curves and use the "Mute Channel" function in the graph editor window (under curves) to hold everything still while you're working out your mouth shapes.

A Bit on Polish:

When you're working out a particularly minute motion, don't be afraid to work big. Scale up so you can see what you're doing, and then scale it down again until it works with the piece. 

No dead zones! Make sure to go through your curves and fill in some "keep alive" by "drop and tilt"-ing your keys. Not so much that it becomes distracting, just so we get a little pixel movement on screen.

Think about how squash and stretch affects the face -- eyes, nose, ears, etc. -- and even the whole head! Not so much that we can see the deformation occurring, but people will feel the cohesive movement. 

We can not thank Mike and the good folks over at Animation Collaborative enough for joining us for such an amazing and eye opening experience. Not to mention staying with us and answering questions until we got kicked out of 79...and then staying and chatting even longer on curbside! Truly an inspiring display of talent and dedication.

*Use weighted tangents! Tutorial here.
**Excuse how sporadic my notes may be. I've included the questions asked as well as Mike's responses where applicable. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail us at

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mike Makarewicz - Demo and Lecture

Just incase you didn't read through the last post.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Great Tea Time T-Shirt Design Competition!

Pick up your assets here!

Rules are as follows:

1. Everyone has the opportunity to design a shirt.
2. Design may only use a maximum of three colors - not including the shirt color.
3. Must be Tea Time influenced! Please use any/all of the following:
        Tea Time logo
        Slogan - "The only way to spend your Tea Time"
        Colors - White, grey, browns, blues (including all shades/tints)
        Acceptable typefaces - Engebrechtre Bold, Futura Condensed Medium, Rockwell.

4. Submissions are to be sent to before September 28th where they will be collected and then posted anonymously to Facebook.
5. Voting will be determined by Facebook "likes" over a TBD amount of time. Remember to only vote for ONE shirt, otherwise your other votes will not be counted.
6. All designs are to remain anonymous until the end of the competition.

The winner will receive special recognition of them and their work on the blog and facebook group, as well as receiving their shirt free.

Feel free to comment or e-mail any questions to

Good luck!

Speakers, Recap and Other Important Events!

With upwards of 60 members in attendance, Tea Time's first meeting of the semester was an unbelievable success. So many new faces, so eager to dive right into things, things are shaping up to be an eventful semester.

And by eventful, I mean seriously full of events. It's only the first week and we've already booked three speakers (with more on the way), begun our T-Shirt competition (rules to come in a follow-up post), and announced two huge networking opportunities for the near future.

Who are these speakers, you ask?

We're kicking off the semester right with the return of 
Pixar's own Mike Makarewicz! 

Wednesday, September 12th at 7:30pm in the 79 NM theater.

For those who managed to make it out to his last lecture, they will know this is an event you do not want to miss. You can find the notes from his last presentation here.

Also coming up, we will be hosting AAU's own Bernardo Warman, and Fabian Molina, more on that a little later.

What are these networking opportunities, you say?

One of the biggest events of the fall semester would have to be the Creative Talent Network's Animation Exposition (CTNX). Each year, the school generally helps us get appropriate transportation to/from the event, but the rest is up to us! You can find the general who, what, where, why about the conference in last year's post. Keep in mind not ALL of that info is accurate. This year the conference will be held from November 16-18 in Burbank, CA. Find all of the info including speakers, where to stay and general FAQ about the event at their homepage.

The other big networking she-bang is through Reel Feedback. The date is tentatively set for October 18, with the location TBA. More details later. I'm sure you'll hear more about it in club, but we'd encourage you to check out their homepage. Questions? Check out the last Reel Feedback event post here where I've answered some things 'FWA'.

Along with all of these exciting announcements, we also did a quick recap of the principles that we discussed in-depth last semester. I know we breezed through things pretty fast for some of our newer members. Find our full definitions here. (I'd definitely recommend reviewing them before Mike's lecture this week)

Finally, for those who were interested, we're accepting applications to fill an open slot on our board. Simply submit a letter of intent letting us know why you think you would make a good addition to the team to

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Happy First Day of Classes!

It's that time of year again!

San Francisco is jam-packed with several thousand more frantic pedestrians, toting bulky Utrecht bags, clogging the sidewalks, and having minor panic attacks when they realize the the student services department has been moved to an entirely new building... Ah, yes, the fall semester has officially begun!

While none of that sounds particularly savory, along with the hustle and bustle of the new semester returns our own little slice of heaven. 

Note the new room! 

Starting tomorrow! Every Friday, 3:30-5:30pm at 180 New Montgomery in room 415.

Don't miss out, we've already gone a ton of new information to share including the identity of our first guest speaker (coming next week!)

See you there!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Just so we don't lose any of our online viewership, this is just a little FYI to let everyone know that as of tomorrow, September 5th, we will be changing our URL to

Thank you and good luck with the semester!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gearing Up for Fall with Spungella

Ah, yes. Summer is (at rather short last) drawing to a close and it's time we all started thinking about the upcoming semester. Although, AAU can be a busy place this time of year and it can be tough to get things in order, it's not the only thing you should be thinking about right now!

That's right, I'm talking about the one and only Spungella! Operated by our good friend JD Haas, he has been kind enough to let us know that sign-ups for on-site workshops are now open! Don't delay, the first session starts on September 3rd*.

Don't miss this excellent opportunity -- click for more information!

Also, don't forget to keep your eyes here and on the Facebook for important information regarding the upcoming semester  -- first club meeting, events, contests and yes, we even have our first guest speaker lined up! 

Looking forward to seeing everyone's smiling faces again. Enjoy the rest of your break!

*Note: For the first session only - The first class will be on Thursday the 6th due to Monday being a holiday. The rest will be held on Mondays. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Last week at Tea Time, we talked about the setup of your shot.

Production design has so much to do with the story you tell.  Think about the content of your shot, creating story with everything from the perfect camera to props to colors to lightning.

These websites have great free stuff to aid you in your quest:
Creative Crash
Turbo Squid
Animation Buffet
Tea Time!  (Duhh)

And check out this fabulous book by Hans Bacher -- Legendary!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Our Summer Speaker- A Whole New Look at Dialogue

What makes it tick? How does it reveal character, create conflict, and advance the narrative? Please join us for an enlightening discussion on the finer points of fantastic dialogue! 

Presented by Writer and AAU Faculty Member Jim Sidel, this presentation will be ideal for anyone in the midst of: 

-Writing their thesis 
-Working on an acting piece 
-Looking for great dialogue with which to do a great acting piece 

Get in here everybody! 
See you Friday @ Tea Time 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Beast it!

Hey all you TeaTime folk.  If you haven't seen it, then get up and go!

Anywho. Let me catch up on the last two weeks.
The Production Pipeline
Here are some handy dandy resources....

A succinct article on the CG  process with examples that may help to illustrate what we discussed...

And it always helps to know where your producer is coming from.  Get an in depth look in this book!
Which can also be found in the school library.

This past Friday, we also brought Andy Wood in to talk a bit about the collaboratives we have going on right now at AAU.

If you want to be involved with collaborative projects, it's best to know what it is you like to do.  Folks are looking for people with specific skills.  So maybe wait until the end of your second year if you are the freshest of the fresh.

If you know what you do!
Talk to George Pafnutieff, our Undergraduate Associate Director
Talk to Andy Wood, one of our student Producers
Talk to the upperclassmen or anyone who seems to be really involved
Talk to your Student Representatives, new ones will be in place in Fall.
Come to Animation Club, where we will constantly harp on you all to join a collaborative.

Visit VFX GATEWAY to see what's going on in our department.
Note: It will be under brief renovations soon.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Greetings from Irvine!

Hey everyone! 

We're starting a little project, but we could use a little help from Tea Time followers! It's simple, we just need you to tell us one thing: If you could ask a professional animator/artist any question, what would it be? 

Comment here or e-mail us at


Friday, June 29, 2012

A Sweet Tea Summer

Hey Tea Timers!

Our first meeting was a fantabulous brainstorm to plan our sweet, summer, animation funzies; Flicks, zoo sketch, improv workshops, awesomeness and more (naturally).

For those of you not quite caught up with facebook, Tea Time member Logan was kind enough to announce a rather important bit of news:

The deadline for submitting your reel to apply for the Pixar Classes has been extended until August 1st!

Don't miss this opportunity. Chances are if they've extended the deadline, your chances of making it into the class might just be a little bit higher, so get on it!

Moving on, here's a bit of what was mentioned in club:

ASIFA SF is a fantastic way to network, get access to cool events, and keep yourself in the know of the comings and goings of the industry. Membership is super affordable, check it out here.

There are also a ton of great film watching opportunities this summer -- TED, the Dark Night, Para Norman, and more -- and the Club will be going to see as many of these highly anticipated films as we can possibly afford on our meager student budgets. (Just think of it as research.) Last week, we had a fantastic turnout to see Brave, a big thank you to everyone who came out.

If you're in town this summer, or for whenever you manage to mosy on back in the fall, you may also like to check out Midnight for Maniacs and Movies in the Park!

At tomorrow's meeting we will be covering production pipelines and sharing resources that my help you to explore those careers less widely discussed within the animation industry.

Can't wait to see everyone there!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Welcome to Summer!

Hey Tea Timers! Classes start on the 18th, so our first club meeting of the summer will be
Friday, June 22nd!

Get ready for awesomeness. Stay tuned for more news about next week!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Animation Collaborative Lecture and Demo Class

Courtesy of Amelia Kurth:

The Animation Collaborative is offering its Animation Lecture and Demo class as a two-week intensive program this summer. It will run from July 30 through August 11.

It is by far the best animation class that I have ever taken. You can find details of the packed curriculum here.

This is a great opportunity to take the class when it can't conflict with your spring/fall class course load.

Also, if you know any other animation students outside the bay area, please pass this information along to them. The class is being offered in this compact stint to accommodate those who live outside of the area, that they may also have an opportunity to study with Michal Makarewicz - a great Pixar animator and a gifted teacher.

Thanks, and looking forward to the summer sessions!

Monday, May 28, 2012

How Did We Do?

Tea Time has had an incredible semester! least in our opinion. We would love your feedback on anything Tea Time related - guest speakers, in-club lectures, critique, board members, movie nights, etc. 

Requests for future lectures/activities?

Please take a minute to let us know.

JD Haas, Reader's Digest Style

I know what you're all thinking, and yes, it did take me long enough. Sorry for the delay in getting this posted, but since school's been out I've been in the midst of moving. Twice.

Anyways, that's not important. What is important, is that here, at long last are a some key points from the lecture JD Haas gave us a few weeks ago that I've been meaning to mention before everyone kicks it up again for summer semester.

For anyone who was at the lecture, you will all know that I could never do JD justice by trying to sum up his entire lecture (which was what...nearly four hours?) in one post. It was an amazing privilege to have such an engaging speaker who genuinely cares about what happens to us in the future. Through the course of his talk, he offered sincere, direct advice to job-seekers and current students that ranged anywhere from how to tackle our current school assignments to get the most bang for our buck, to demo reel tips for those who are on the cusp of graduation (or rather, were. Congrats, Grads!).

However, there is one thing in particular that JD mentioned that I want to emphasize to everyone. Whether your going back to school in a few weeks, or have a couple months off for the summer, make sure you take care of yourself. 

While Working:

Drink water, and drink lots of it. This is good for a few reasons! First of all, water is better for you than Sodi-Pop or Redbull or Coffee -- Duhh. I know it's easy to run to the store so you can have a bottle of pop or something by your desk, but it's even easier to get an H2Go or other reusable bottle and just go to the water fountain! Plus, then you're saving money, and for students, that's generally a big deal.

Additionally, drinking a lot of water will make you have to pee a lot! This is not only good for your body, but it forces you to take a break from work for a while. It's easy to get caught up in your work and it's hard to drag yourself away once you're in that proverbial 'zone', but neither your body nor mind can accept that much at once. Physically, it's super unnatural for us, as humans, to sit behind a desk and type/click/use a tablet/draw for hours on end every day. Carpal Tunnel, Tendonitis and other Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI's) are a serious threat to your livelihood as an animator. Don't worry, there are preventative measures you can take - proper posture, stretching and hey, go figure, taking breaks! So drink water.

Mentally -- and we've all been there -- it's too easy to get too close to your work. Taking that potty break from time to time, or just taking the initiative to get up and walk around for a few minutes will allow you to clear your head, think about other things for a bit, then come back to your animation with a fresher pair of eyes. Thus, drinking water can also help your animation look better in the end! What a wonderful beverage.

Make sure you stay healthy. It's funny, but as an animator, one of the hardest things to do isn't even work related! We spend too much time on the computer a day to be lazy, so make sure you're active. Go to the gym, go for a jog, join a team for whatever sport you think you might like, just don't sit around. We may not be professional athletes, but if our bodies stop working, we're just as out of a job as they would be, and don't forget it!

In Your Leisure Time:

Have a life. Jim Brown mentioned this too, but it is so important to have a life outside of animation. For your sanity, but also for your work.

If you can't help but relate everything in the world to animation -- life is beautiful reference. If you never experience anything, do you really think you will know how to animate it?

Work can be stressful. Especially on those days you're forced to ditch a shot you put your heart and soul into (As Mandy might say, the day you have to "kill your babies"). It's important to give yourself that time to let it all go. Go for a walk, see people you love, do something, anything, but make sure you clear your mind and just...let it all go. Clear your mind, and you'll stay fresh and be ready to come into work every day when others are dragging their feet.

"You live and you work, but your work should not be your life"
--JD Haas

For those who were interested in JD's classes via Spungella or any of his personal endeavors, everything JD can be found via!

I certainly hope everyone enjoyed the lecture and are currently enjoying their first week or so of summer! I probably won't be posting much over the next few months as I will be out of the city for a while, but I hope everyone has a great time chillin' with Mandy and Mendel for Tea Time's summer installment. Keep an eye on here and the Facebook for more details.

In the meantime, play safe, stay healthy and I can't wait to see everyone (and possibly some new faces) in the fall.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New Class - Fundamentals of Animation

Amazing news, everyone. Remember all those lectures we covered this semester at Tea Time? You finally have the opportunity to apply those skills -- for credit!

Due to the collective push from the students in the animation department, AAU is finally giving in and providing it's students with the class they've asked for, and it's been approved to run starting this summer!

It's called ANM499 - 3F Fundamentals of Animation. 

It is a 3D animation course focused on building a solid set of foundational skills based on the 12 principles of Animation. In-class exercises include Graph Editor drills, best practices from planning to polish, and carefully guided demonstrations. Especially useful for students struggling with basic physics and mechanics of animation. (AKA: Tea Time, the class)

For those of you who are just starting to branch out into the 3D world, this is a great place to start. Me, along with many other students have had a direct hand in the preparations and development in this class, so you know it's what we've all been asking for. One catch...

There needs to be at least FIVE students signed up by May 18th or the class WILL NOT RUN.

I know there's a lot of us sticking around this summer, and if you are, I'd HIGHLY suggest taking us up on this opportunity. Show AAU we're serious about change. Talk to Brian Schirmer in the 3rd floor office to sign up.

Finally, a big thanks to Dave Latour who is truly the mastermind behind putting this together for us. The care and connection he has for our student body is irreplaceable and we owe him a great debt of gratitude for helping our cries to finally be heard. Thank you.

A Special Evening with Austin Madison

By: René Salazar.
Tea Time Club Member, Spring 2012

Last week I was fortunate enough to make it out to UC Berkeley for a special lecture by Pixar Animator Austin Madison. He talked about animation, but also important story aspects that enriched the much anticipated comedy/action/fantasy/adventure flick: Brave. It took place in one of those classic college classrooms you see in movies, complete with stadium seating and a huge projector screen, but the guy behind the podium was not your typical, sleep-inducing professor. Here are a few insights I was able to chicken scratch during the talk.

“It is really important to do research, not just YouTube.” 

 Brave takes place in the mystical highlands of Scotland, so what did they do? They freakin' went there! They saw what it was like: sunk their fingers into the dirt, breathed the air, spoke with the locals, etc. They wanted to capture a sincere Scottish experience. To give you another idea of how committed they are, I believe Friday at the studio is known as Kilt Day. That’s right, every week these lads are clad in plaid. Here’s a pic of Austin practicing what he preaches:

Relationships are of most importance in a film. 
Anyone can make a “bad-ass” character, but they need something to rebel against. For Merida, this was her mother. It’s not just a story with forests, bows & arrows, magic, and a crazy cool witch (little known character); it’s a story about a girl’s struggle against her family’s wishes. 

Know your character’s motivation. 
Even the most messed up villains (like their righteous counterparts) believe in their cause. He pointed out a quote by one of his favorite actors, Gary Oldman. During an interview, Gary was asked how he plays villains so well, to which the seasoned actor proclaimed, "I never play villains. I play misunderstood characters." Their intentions may seem dubious to us, but in their minds their actions are justified. 

Animators need to embody their characters. 
Madison mentioned how walking around the studio you could tell who was animating which character by the way they would conduct themselves, especially King Fergus. The guy is a mountain of a man, and the artists have to infuse this energy into him, which is why sometimes in the hallway you would walk by someone with a clenched jaw, inflated chest, doing a brutish walk with broad arm swings. It is up to us to personify our characters with their physical personalities. Conversely, the tell tale signs of a Queen Elinor animator would be anyone sitting behind their computer in a graceful upright posture, daintily holding a pencil with their fingertips like you would a champagne flute. Another giveaway would be the manner in which they elegantly flowed through the hallways, gracefully greeting passersbys.


  “That’s a picture of Milt Kahl. What’s he doing? He’s grimacing. Is he doing that because that’s how he draws? No. He’s contorting his face because that’s what his character is doing!”  

You can tell when it’s a good or shitty drawing by looking at the artist’s face. A good artist will be mirroring what their character is emoting. Whether they're behind a sketchpad or a monitor, they are feeling what is going on. 

The most important questions an actor, animator, or any storyteller can ask themselves are: 
What is the character feeling? 
Why does he/she feel that way? 

  “Everything starts with drawings. It is the cheapest way to make a mistake.” 

Draw as often as you can. It’s not about the quality of the drawing, it’s about the quality of the idea. Your sketchbook is your sword. It’s your weapon. It’s good to have it with you at all times, because you never know when you’ll get a flash of inspiration. Ideas are like fresh fruit -- they won’t hang out in your noggin forever, so you gotta jot them down! 

Animators dig restrictions. 
He showed us the clip from Toy Story 3 where Ken puts on that flamboyant fashion show for Barbie and asked us why this is funny. It works because their movements are restricted and specific to their design. Animators find a way to work WITHIN the character’s limitations. Specificity is key. 

 In reference to portraying the characters in Brave, he mentioned that the last thing you want to be is a stereotype:


You don’t want to be Phil Hartman, you want to be Mike Myers. 

He stressed allowing yourself time to find the character. Someone from the crowd asked how long it takes to make a Pixar film. His response was 4 years. You don’t want to take too long with a creative endeavor because at some point you begin to doubt your good ideas. Conversely, if you go too fast, you’re not allowing yourself enough time to play and discover. If you rush an acting choice you might miss a more original idea just because you didn’t give yourself an opportunity or time to explore and be creative. 

He enthusiastically recommended checking out this talk on creativity by comedy legend John Cleese.


He ended his lecture by stressing the importance of enjoying the moment. At the studio they remind him that, “You’re only going to make Brave once.” We all know how stressful animating can be, so it’s easy to forget this.

It was an awesome talk and afterwards he signed autographs and even drew a picture of the dinosaur of your choice! The guy is hilarious and apparently teaches the P2 class here at AAU-- definitely something to strive for. I'd also suggest taking a look at his blog.

Finally, (as if I didn’t already have enough video links) here’s the latest goosebump-inducing trailer Austin showed us for Pixar’s first-ever fairy tale film featuring a female lead. If I know you Tea Timer’s correctly, I know where we’ll be on the evening of June 21st: crisscross applesauce on a filthy, dark-purple, theater lobby floor with a backpack full of yum yums.

“The number one thing you have to remember is… to have fun.” 
-Austin Madison