Monday, 27 April 2015

How Do DreamWorks Animators Train Their Dragons?

How do animators train their dragons? Or, rather, how do they approach the complex and daunting business of creating a beautifully animated flying dragon? All animators start with a blank screen, and as professional artists we need methods that we can rely on to produce work we can be proud of, every time.  In this excellent documentary about the making of How To Train Your Dragon, DreamWorks animators talk about going to Flight School, analysing reference, and making sure that their animation was based on real, credible material that helped to bring their fantasy creatures to life.

Many of the animators talking about their methods are artists I know personally from my years at DreamWorks in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and I can personally testify that Simon Otto and Jacob Jensen know what they are talking about.  Use of live action reference to bring your work to life isn't just fancy talk by animators for the cameras - it's how these artists actually work to deliver their character and creature performances.

Watch the dragons flying and you can see, beneath the surface, the many different animals and creatures that the animators are looking at, such as birds, bats, lizards and alligators - whose movements can be used and analysed to create a believable performance.

The film runs about 90 minutes. Lots of it is showbiz fluff, but inside videos like this you can find - if you look hard enough - some real gems, valuable hard information that is truly insightful in terms of how animators approach their work.

Every time an animator approaches a shot, they face a blank screen.  Learning a system to produce reliable results every time is what we teach here at Bucks.


For more on the experience of studying at Bucks New University, come and visit us at one of our Open Days, take a virtual tour of one of our animation studios, check out what our students think of our course, and see why we're ranked in the top 12 creative universities in the UK. Find out why we're giving free laptops to all our students, and why we give all our students free access to videos at Also, see what financial assistance might be available to you. Learn which is better for animation, a PC or a Mac? Get hold of a copy of a map so you can find your way around campus, and learn aboutmotion capture at Bucks.

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