Saturday, 26 July 2014

Summer Pleasures for our Freshmen Students - and a Reading List

Not that we want to spoil your summer. Photo: Wikipedia
What kind of preparation should students do before starting with us in September at Bucks? Needless to say, we don't want to spoil your summer, especially given the glorious weather that we are currently enjoying. Still, it's worth casting half an eye forward to September, and thinking about some of the things you might do to get ready for your studies. Here's a checklist of stuff to get you started. It's not comprehensive, and you don't have to do all of it, but tick off a few of the things on this list and you will be a making a great start on your animation career here at Bucks.

First, here is a reading list to get you started. Buy some of these books online or check them out from your local library. All the books on this list are in our library at Bucks, of course, but get one or two for yourself and do some reading while you're getting a suntan at the beach.

Character Animation Crash Course by Eric Goldberg
  1. The Animator's Survival Kit. We recommend that any serious student of animation should buy a copy of The Animator's Survival Kit, by Richard Williams. It is now the standard textbook for animators and easily the most comprehensive book available for learning animation.
  2. The Illusion of Life. The Illusion of Life was written by Disney animation legends Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnstone, and represents the accumulation of knowledge of the first "Golden Age" of Disney animation. An invaluable resource. 
  3. Cartoon Animation. Cartoon Animation by Preston Blair was the first available book on animation, and has been in print since the early 1950s, regularly updated since then. Still full of very useful material. 
  4. Timing for Animation by Harold Whittaker and John Halas is another very useful book on animation. It was first written some years ago but was recently updated and edited by former Animation Guild President Tom Sito. 
  5. Character Animation Crash Course. The Character Animation Crash Course by Eric Goldberg is an excellent resource by one of the most talented 2D animators in the world - the man behind the genie in Disney's Aladdin.
  6. The Complete Digital Animation Course. The Complete Digital animation Course by Andy Wyatt is a very useful overall guide to all the processes involved in digital animation and film-making. Especially good for the technical bits that the older books don't cover. 

OK - so you've bought a book or two - what else? The next thing to do - if you have a laptop at home, or access to one - is get yourself a free copy of Autodesk Maya, and open it up. Maya is the main software we animate with, nowadays it's the industry standard. Below is a free tutorial in the Maya interface (there are tons of similar ones) hosted at YouTube.

Don't be daunted - just take a quick look! It does look a bit confusing at first but it's good to get familiar with the layout, and learn where the main hotkeys are, and how the interface works. You can register and get a free Maya student license here.

Animation Apprentice

Once you have done that, take a look at the week 1 videos on my website Animation Apprentice. The week 1 videos are all free and this gives you a general introduction to the medium of animation, helping you to get familiar with the language, and a good idea of what we'll be up to starting in October.

Fill sketchbooks!

Other useful things you can do include going to life drawing classes, and especially filling a sketch book with sketches, doodles and ideas. Being able to express an idea in a simple sketch is still a very useful skill, even in the digital age. We don't expect our students to be brilliant draftsmen, but we do expect you to be able to pick up a pencil and do a sketch - even if it's a crude one. All great ideas begin with a drawing - however simple and basic.

Gateway Building at Bucks

If you do some or all the things on this list - you will have a great head start with us in September. From all of us at Bucks, we look forward to meeting you!


For more about 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 about motion capture at Bucks. And find out about how our online video tutorials work

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