Saturday, March 26, 2011

Animation Salvation interviews Jean-Denis Haas

Alright! After a few technical hurdles we're able to post the interview I did with Animation Salvation in June of 2010!
You can watch my egg head above or listen/download the audio (mp3) here.

We had a lot of fun doing this interview and it covers a lot of ground, from how and when I started this animation thing, influences, favorite work, demo reels, etc. etc. It was work approved, so you'll find two heavier edits throughout the 84mins, but the rest is full on subjective bullcrap from my part, hahahaha! I'm sure I'll get emails/comments about "What are you talking about, that never happened!!", but hey, this is how I remembered things. :)

I hope it's as fun to listen to as it was to talk about it. Enjoy!

Friday, March 25, 2011

How do you balance work and family life?

This was a question I got asked during an Animation Mentor Q&A I did last year, and which I get asked from students/workshop people and via email quite a bit. But it seems like that question has been coming up more often lately so I thought I'd expand on my Q&A response and outline my daily and constantly evolving workflow.

My initial response to "How do you balance work and family life?" was:

You balance it with a lot of care, sacrifice and reshuffling of priorities. :)

My main priorities are as follows:

1. Family - it's very important to me to spend as much time as I can with my wife and son, especially my son. He grows up fast and before you know he's off to college or somewhere else, all grown up.

2. Primary Work - I say primary because the FX house I work at is my primary work, which allows me to pay my bills. I'm the breadwinner at the moment so I need to make sure that I don't jeopardize my position there. Being Swiss, I'm very anal and time conscious. :) So the moment my required hours at work are up I'm off home to spend time with my family. But I'm also a huge fanboy and love my work and I've been treated very well there, so I'm also a company man and try to help out as much as I can in terms of Overtime Work and additional duties. You can't be a slacker or do less than is expected of you. We do 9 hours a day on a normal day, so that's where I'm going to put 200% of effort into it. If a show is in crunch mode and you're being asked to stay late or come in on a week-end, I'm there.

That's the biggest balancing act and every now and then you reshuffle things. Let's say my son is off to camp, I'll spend a bit more time at work if it's needed, so #2 becomes #1 and so on, while making sure that I don't neglect my time with my wife.

3. Secondary Work - That would be AM, my workshops or other teaching activities. Whatever time is left I spend here. And again, if #1 and/or #2 change in terms of demand, then #3 gets bumped to the top.

I love doing animation work, so it's a constant fight over what priority gets the number 1 spot. :) But you can't have everything, so that's where the sacrifices come in (or compromises). I wish I could eat pizza all day and watch movies, but that's just not going to happen (too often...).

But as whole: family first and respect your work. I like to be productive but without certain tools I use it'd have a much harder time.

Now, what are the tools or methods I use in order to get stuff done? My current helpers are:


I love gadgets and those two are huge time savers for me. My iPhone is always on me and it helps me organize meetings, schedules, appointments, etc. in a very quick and efficient way. I can take notes whenever I need to (say you have a new animation idea or want to write down some acting references you observed), I can shoot reference or take pictures whenever it is needed, scribble down sketches, expand my reference library etc. Plus I can respond to emails whenever I have the time and I do respond to every email that I get (workshop people get priority treatment, so if I haven't responded to you yet, I will! :) ).
Perks on top of that are the various apps you get on it, games, Netflix, Hulu, web browsing, and the list goes on. I get a lot of stuff done thanks to it and once I get home I pick up my iPad for the same reasons. The only time I use a PC is for heavier work like animation in Maya or any After Effects work, plus most of the online workshop critiquing (although I just got an app that lets you frame through video clips, so now I can do even more work on the road!).

The downside is that you're always "on", but I found that a minute here and there responding to emails and doing other work throughout the day is much better than doing nothing and getting to it in the evening or even worse at the end of the week. By then there's a huge pile of stuff to go through and I'd like to relax in the evenings and on week-ends.


Ah Twitter. How annoying it can be. I have to admit, I used to hate it. The name, the idea behind it, tweets like "I'm taking a shower." Really? It felt so self centered. I remember ranting about it to my students for an hour during my last class at the AAU. When they asked how they could stay up to date with the stuff that I was talking about in class, someone suggested I should just join Twitter and the students could follow me that way. It cracked me up and I reluctantly joined. And oh boy was I wrong. Well, it's still annoying, but it totally changed my browsing habits. Enter Echofon. I used to have bookmarks in my browser and I would check certain sites on a regular basis to see what's new or use RSS feeds. But with Echofon active in Firefox I just have little pop-ups that show me short headlines from the sites that I follow. It's very concentrated and streamlined and my web browsing time went down dramatically. Which is of course very good when you're at work. :)
Obviously work comes first, but every now and then there is a new trailer that's online or other news that you want to read and with Echofon I can do just that and save time.
Once you have a post popping up that interests you, the Firefox tabs enter the game.


You should see my browsers at home and at work. I have so many tabs open, some of them are months old. Why? Well, again, work comes first. So, once there is something that interests me, I'll open it in a tab and whenever time permits, I'll get to it. And it's not always work work work. There are shots that take a long time to render, files that need to get transferred to the TDs down the pipeline, etc. etc. so whenever something like that comes up, I can catch up with the stuff I want to read/watch/listen to. If it's something longer, like a making-of or a whole site by a super cool artist, then I'll resort to Spungella and Swench and I'll post it there so I can read it at home at a later point.


And here's the shocker! A lot of the stuff on Spungella that I post, I haven't looked at. Dun dun duuuuuh.... (And this goes for all of Swench. It's my online bookmark corner that I can access whenever and where ever). But I know that I will later because it's stuff that interests me. There's no way I would be able to read through and watch everything that I post beforehand. I wouldn't get to my work and I'd be fired within a week. So once again, time management and priorities. With Echofon and Blogger, finding something and posting it doesn't take longer than 30secs, sometimes even less and that's usually all done during a render.
But yes, I still have tabs open that are really old because I read little sections at a time or check updates. :)
For instance, this article mentions a few good episodes that I wanted to watch at one point, or this is about the Black Cauldron. Sure I could post it and read later, but for some reason I'm keeping those and many other tabs open. Hahahaha!

So there you have it. Nerdy secrets revealed. :)

It helps of course that I love animation and that I love talking/teaching about animation and that I have a very patient family. Believe it or not, it's really not that crazy once you found a good way of managing the duties and getting your work done. But don't forget to relax. As much as I like to be productive, I also love being lazy. Give yourself time to unplug and to just do nothing.

I hope that answered some questions and as always, leave a comment or email me if you have more questions.


Animation Mentor Newsletter - March 2011

New month, new AM newsletter!

This time you get:

- RANGO - Industrial Light & Magic Animators Turn Gore Verbinski's Vision into a Highly Acclaimed Animated Feature
- April Webcast – animate believable creatures!
- Animation Mentor is coming to FMX 2011 in Germany!
- Jean-Luc Delhougne Showcase Testimonial
- Tips & Tricks with Will Groebe – Listening to Criticism from Others

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


This is pretty neat! Reminds me of Bakshi movies. Ice and Fire was a childhood favorite of mine. Great voices in German. :)

Paranoia from Sandeepan Chanda on Vimeo.

Workflow questions

Every now and then I get workflow questions via email since I never finished my initial post (I do have more material for that post but I never finished the whole thing; I should just add what I have...).
After those years though I can say that I don't have one specific workflow. Each shot demands a different approach or a combination of different methods.
Either way, I thought I'd might as well post the questions and answers, in case other people are interested:​

> * do you use non-weighted or weighted tangents?


> * After you block in linear what type of splines do you convert to?

The keys are set to linear by default but I switch to splines immediately depending on the movement. If there's an arm swing, no need to keep it on linear, I'll select the keys in the timeliner, do a right click and switch the keys to spline.

> * Do you key the whole character in breakdown poses to adjust the timing?

Yep, I key all the major controllers (except face and fingers) for the initial blocking, so it's very much pose to pose with breakdowns. Then I can move those keys in the timeliner to adjust the timing until I'm happy with it. After that I go in and set more keys per controller where needed.

> * When do you offset things in the graph editor?

I offset the poses in the blocking already (most of the time). I don't work in the graph editor that much anymore. It's easier for me to adjust the poses and timing looking through the render camera. I only check curves in the graph editor to make sure that there are no funky spikes and stuff like that.

> if you will be able to finish the shot on the workflow page. it would be great to see a screenshot of the dope editor and the graph editor of one specific controller. I'd like to see how organized it is. some students seem to like blocking in stepped, then converting it to splines using the AutoTangent+ Non weighted combination.

Yeah, all in linear, I've never used stepped, only because I like to see whole thing timed out a soon as I can. If you don't set enough breakdowns during the stepped blocking and then go to splines, a lot of people freak out because the timing changes.

If anybody have more questions, let me know via comments or shoot me an email.


Monday, March 21, 2011

Animationrigs Anim Contest

Their 2nd annual animation challenge will begin very soon and the prizes are awesome! :)
Head over there and check it out!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Accepting critique like a pro - Animation Ideas

Great post at Animation Ideas. Such important points, it's not just about being able to move things in an appealing way, there's more to being a professional animator.

As an addition to 5. Make the changes quickly and 6. Take it like a man I would stress that you shouldn't be resistant to notes. Obviously if you take it like a man/woman and make changes quickly, it's safe to assume that you're not against the fixes but again, you don't want to be the guy that goes: "Those are stupid notes, I'm not going to make those changes."

Aaron Diaz

There is so much cool stuff on Aaron Diaz' tumblr, go check it out!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Face Rig WIP by Clayton Osmus

Head over to cgclay and check out the movie clip demonstrating the facial setup. SO. SWEET!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

February 11 second club winner

Check out the new 11 second club winner, Veerapatra Jinanavin!

I really like the whole package of this entry. The animation is great, ranging from close up subtle facial work to full body physical shots. I like the camera angles and the subtle handheld-y feel to it. The rendering is great too.
If I'd be picky, I'd work on the lipsync a bit more and have the alien guy not look like a mix between Megamind and Airbender, only so that there is no association with an existing product.
But overall it's really cool and the animator shows a wide range of skills within 11 seconds. Congratulations!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mr. Hublot

Curious to see what that is going to be. Head over to and watch the animation test/trailer (thanks Le Roy for the tip!).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cars 2 New Extended Trailer and Posters

The sound design on the explosion at the beginning is cool!

The site has neat retro posters for Cars 2:

Head over there for more!

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Art of Benjamin Carré

Super cool artwork! You can see a lot more at floobynooby.

Tron Uprising

On Animation

Make sure to have on your list of daily visits. I really like the wide range of posts (and not because they posted my copdog clip! Thanks guys!), like this really cool Annie Leibovitz Disney portrait set:

But there's tons of other material on it, like Scott Pilgrim making-ofs, new reel animation sites (this link is super cool!), and more! Go check it out!

New Theatrical Trailer for 'Kung Fu Panda 2'

Sweeeeeeet! And that tower crash sequence looks awesome!

ILM Gets Down and Dirty on Rango

More Rango news and interviews are out and there's a cool article at AWN and an interview with animation director Hal Hickel at I usually don't pose work related stuff on here but Rango is kind of a historic moment for us (regardless if the movie is good or bad) and we're all really proud of the work we've done.
For us animators it was especially cool to be able to flex our keyframe muscles and work on a fully non-mocap movie. The critics seem to like it, let's hope the general audience does too!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Copdog - Animation

After the rather sad "Dying" clip I wanted to do something a bit more fun and light.

- The rigs are: Koko for the dog, the alien creature from a DVD set @ CG Toolkit, the cops, cop car, rocket and set from Digital Tutors
- music is edited together from multiple tracks off the "Home Alone" score; I animated the whole thing first and then looked for music that would fit the action
- used Maya 9
- time spent on clip: 3 days (3x 10 hours days - spread out over a week or so with an hour here, an hour there and week-end work), and add about half a day to a day for planning (no reference, although sliding down that tube would have been awesome!! :) )
- inital blocking in linear keys for alien first, then dog, then background guys
- quicktime and vimeo version

3-Minute Clip from RANGO

This 3-min clip has shots in it that I did! Yay! Look out for those (among awesome shots by Kevin Martel, Travis Tohill, Steve King, Josh Kent, Jay Rennie, Michael Easton, Chansoo Kim and Marc Beaujeau!!)

'Toy Story: Hawaiian Vacation' clip

No embed, so watch the clip here!