Saturday, 31 January 2015

How to Use Live Action Reference to Create Believable Animation

Horse in Motion by Edward Muybridge
How can animators use live action reference to create believable animation?  Back in the old 2D days of hand-drawn animation, rotoscoping (as it was called) was a legitimate, if much debated, method of achieving a realistic look and feel to your animation.  Today, the technology has changed, but 3D animators can also benefit from using live action to help inform their animation, and this is especially the case when doing complex animal or creature animation. So how, in practice, does a MAYA animator use live action reference to get a great result? Below are some techniques for making it work.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Animator's Survival Kit Now Available on iBooks.

Animator's Survival Kit - now on iBooks
Faber and Faber has just announced the launch of the Animator's Survival Kit for iBooks.  The new edition brings together the complete 'Expanded Edition' of The Animator's Survival Kit with over 100 animated examples from The Animator's Survival Kit Animated DVD box set. It will be available globally, priced at £19.99/$28.99.  What does this mean for students of animation? It means you can now use the ASK on your Mac laptop - you don't need an iPad.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Jin and Joe - Two New Free Rigs!

Jin and Joe - free rigs!
One of the most positive developments in recent years for students studying animation in Maya has been the proliferation of new, free rigs for student use. Recently two two rigs were released for general use - Jin and Joe, from We haven't road-tested them yet but they look cool, and we're excited to see what our students can do with these two new additions to the growing bank of material for students to learn and study animation. You can find Jin and Joe here.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

PAIE - a free Plugin For Maya

Maya, industry standard software
Autodesk Maya is a powerful piece of software, free for students to download, and now the industry standard for 3D animation around the world.  But Maya does have its weaknesses, and one of them is the difficulty of copying and pasting your animation from one rig to another. Got some great animation you want to copy on to a new rig? Computer says no. But now the free PAIE plugin by Jacob Weiner has made it all much, much easier.  Here is how it works.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Brad Bird Explains The Magic Circle

The Iron Giant
Many years ago I worked on The Iron Giant, a wonderful film and a priceless opportunity to work with one of the very best animation directors - the legendary Brad Bird.  I learned a great deal from him both as a director and an animator.  Brad's style of directing was always clear; he always knew what he wanted, and how to communicate it to the animators.  One of the cleanest and most useful concepts I learned from him was the importance of "The Magic Circle" - a simple rule of composition, and the animator's best friend in a tight spot. Here is how it works.

Monday, 26 January 2015

BBC Uses Animation To Teach Philosophy

The BBC has done a series of a short animated films to illustrate the History of Ideas, a courageous and bold way of trying to make philosophy accessible to a broad audience. The idea is to use cartoons to make relatively complex ideas easier to understand.  Here at Bucks we applaud this innovative use of animation to bring tricky ideas to a wider audience. Animation used to be a tiny cottage industry, but now it's everywhere, a universal medium growing in popularity and used in many different media.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

What Does The End of Student Number Control Mean for Bucks?

Animation classroom at Bucks. What makes us special?
Student Number Control is the system by which the Government used to regulate how many students each university in the UK could accept.  Every university had a quota, which it could not exceed. But from September 2015, Student Number Control will be gone. So what does this mean, and does it even matter? The answer is yes - it matters a lot.  Big changes are ahead for universities across the UK. Here at Bucks, it means we have to try even harder to be the very best Animation and Visual Effects Course in the country. Because second best just isn't an option.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Five Rules for Handling Tricky Clients

How do you deal with a tricky client?  Difficult clients are so common that there are websites such as are, dedicated entirely to horror stories written by freelancers about having to deal with hard-to-please clients. So, if you are starting off on your career, how do you handle a difficult client? Below are our five rules for success

Letter From Denmark - What Can We Learn From The Animation Workshop?

The Animation Workshop, Denmark
The Animation Workshop (TAW) in Viborg, Denmark has become one of the best places to study animation in Europe, with ten students competing for each spot on their character animation course.  I have taught classes there for many years and this year I acted as an external examiner, helping to grade the students on their final year "bachelor films", which were among the strongest student films I have ever seen. So what, exactly, is the secret of their success, and what can we learn from them here at Bucks?

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Saturday 21 February 2015 - Our Next Open Day at Bucks!

Saturday 21 February is our next Open Day at Bucks. Open Days are a great way to meet the Course Leaders (for Animation & VFX - that's me and Dave Creighton) here at Bucks, find out about our animation course, and tour our campus.  We're sure you'll be impressed by the state-of-the-art technical equipment we have in the brand new Gateway Building; the result of a £40m investment program completed just a couple of years ago, aimed at turning Bucks into a world-class creative hub for media production.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Managing Your Money at Bucks - A Students' Guide to Finance

How should students manage their money? Image: Wikipedia
Yesterday at Bucks our students had a talk by Julia Crooks from the Students' Union Advice Centre.  Julia came to our animation class to discuss the tricky question of student finances.  Not much to do with Animation and Visual Effects, you might think?  Well, yes and no.  Studying at University has never been more expensive, and it is harder than ever for students to manage the growing financial burden.  We want to make sure that all our students enjoy their time at Bucks, not just in terms of their academic studies, but in terms of the whole experience of being here. And that includes learning how to manage money.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Maya 2015 Bugs - Problems and Solutions

Last year Autodesk released Maya 2015, free for students and universities, and another leap forward in what has become the leading software for the animation industry around the world.  However, like many new releases, it is not without its bugs and glitches. Here are some of the main bugs, and some possible solutions.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Missed the UCAS Deadline? Is It Too Late to Apply To Study Animation at Bucks?

UCAS - still enough time left - but hurry!
OK, so you missed the January 15th deadline to get your application in to UCAS. Fear not! It's not too late! We are still welcoming applications for our fast-growing new course. Below are some good reasons why we believe we are building one of the best animation courses in the country, and how you can get started on your new career as a digital animator. Why wait? Apply now!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

How To Enter and Win Animated Film Festivals

Laurels of victory - these can be yours! Photo: Wikipedia
There is no better way for a student to launch their career in animation than to enter and win animated film festivals around the world.  However, as the competition gets tougher all the time, how does a student have a decent chance to enter their film, get noticed, and win prizes? We asked veteran DreamWorks storyboard artist Nassos Vakalis, whose short film "Dinner for Few" has been winning festivals all over the world, to explain the secrets of success.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Multi-Million Pound Vizrt System To Be Installed at Bucks

Vizrt - bringing virtual studios to Bucks

Our dynamic Head of Department, Stephen Partridge, has secured a deal with Vizrt, creators of virtual sets, giving animation students access to a multi - million pound virtual studio system.  We believe our animation students are the first in the UK to gain access to this system as part of their studies!  Vizrt allows us to build virtual 3D sets, key out 'talent' from a green screen background whilst simultaneously tracking a camera, all in real-time!  This allows live broadcasts in a virtual environment and the only limitation is the imagination of the set designers!

Trish Grasham UK Stage Design Exhibition

Bucks Graduate Trish Grasham on UK Stage Design
Trish Grasham (above) is a Bucks Graduate and also an Associate Lecturer, inspiring and guiding a new generation of undergraduates. The BBC Feature highlights an exhibition of UK Stage Design, an area that the UK excels in. In the second year of the animation course, students will be involved in designing virtual sets for new artists featured in 'BBC Introducing'.  Stage design is an essential source of inspiration.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Fill out the National Student Survey at Bucks and Get £5!

£5 FREE for filling out the NSS!
The National Student Survey (NSS) started this week, and all final year undergraduate students are  invited to take part. Students are being given a £5 voucher as a reward for undertaking the survey.  Ok, it's not a huge sum, and it's going to change your life, but who is arguing with free money? And filling out the NSS is a good and useful thing to do anyway.

Need Financial Assistance? Bucks Offers Scholarships to Our Students

Scholarships! Photo: Wikipedia
Higher education is getting more and more expensive, but the good news for our students is that Bucks is a participant in the Government's National Scholarship Programme (NSP). The University is making available 100 individual scholarships worth up to £3,000 for students starting in year 1 of their course, from September 2015.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Film & TV at Bucks Receives Formal Accreditation from Creative Skillset

The Film & TV course at Bucks has just finally received full accreditation from Creative Skillset - the UK Government body which oversees university courses in the creative industries. So, what does this mean for Bucks, and why is Creative Skillset Accreditation important?

Monday, 12 January 2015

What Our Students Have to Say

I am the social rep for the animation and VFX course here at bucks and recently; got the chance to collaborate with the other social media reps to record some interviews with existing students on the 3 media courses, Animation & VFX, Film & Television Production and Audio and Music Production. The purpose of the videos is to help prospective students to get an insight into what it’s like to study her at Bucks. 

Sunday, 11 January 2015

How Can You Tell Where is the Best Place to Study Animation?

Gateway Building at Bucks - modern media hub
One of the most important decisions that anyone makes is what to study at University, and where. How do you choose? Even if you know you want to study animation and the digital arts (good choice!), there are at least 80 courses in the UK to select from.  There are a number of ways of making the right decision, but we think these are the most important questions to ask:

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Sign Up Now for Life Drawing at Bucks!

Calling all Bucks animators and digital artists! Today is the day to sign up with the Bucks Students' Union for their life drawing classes. We strongly recommend that everyone sign up. It's a great skill to acquire and will help all our animators become better artists. Drawing skills help with design, storyboards, thumbnails - all necessary parts of the animation process.  Sign up now and don't wait - these classes are popular and will fill up fast!

Friday, 9 January 2015

Miles Skarin Self-Starts His Freelance Career

Animation image by Miles Skarin
Miles Skarin is a first year animation and VFX student at Bucks, but he is already tackling professional freelance work, creating websites and animation for musicians, bands, and record labels. 

Miles already has an impressive client list - including major artists such as Jethro Tull. We asked him to talk about how he broke into the industry, founded a successful freelance career - while still in his first year at university.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Vive Charlie Hebdo

Today at Bucks we stand shoulder to shoulder with our French colleagues to uphold the right of all artists to speak their mind and express their views regardless of who might be offended. Cartoonists are not used to being murder victims.  Our hearts go out to the victims and families of those who were murdered in the course of doing their jobs, fighting to the last for freedom of speech.

To see how cartoonists all over the world are responding to this brutal act of terrorism, follow this link.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

The World's First Online Animation MA!

We're excited to announce the launch of a animation world-first here at Bucks - the first online MA in animation.  Building on our new course in Animation and Visual Effects, we're launching a new online post graduate degree which can be undertaken by students anywhere in the world.  Above is a short video that explains what the new course will look like.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Applying to Study Animation at Bucks? What Should Go in Your Portfolio?

Life drawing - excellent training for animators
One of the most common questions we get asked by students applying for the Animation and Visual Effects course here at Bucks is: What should go into my portfolio? The answer is - a bit of everything. Drawings, Painting, Life drawing, sketches, scribbles. But most especially - 3D digital artwork.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Nellie Bell Records Music Video at Bucks

Nellie Bell (left) works with a Film & TV student at Bucks
Australian singer-songwriter Nellie Bell has been working with our students here at Bucks to produce the video for her new single, Ha Ha Ha. Nellie used the state-of-the-art studios at our High Wycombe Campus to record the three-minute long video, which will accompany the single when it is released early in this year. Our Animation & VFX students are even now creating concepts for the 3D environments, which will (needless to say) be completely fabulous.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Why Animators Should Go To FMX in May

FMX is the place to be if you want to break into the visual effects industry. It takes place in Stuttgart every year - this year from May 5th to May 8th 2015. It's a big, bustling, crowded, brain-boiling congress of people who work in the global visual effects industry, getting together for their annual shindig. Everyone shows up - and there are lectures, screenings and panel talks on every imaginable aspect of the visual effects process.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Tosin Oluyadi Wins £250 Design Competition

Tosin Oluyadi is second from left
Tosin Oluyadi graduated from Bucks last summer, and since then has been working in creative media as a designer and digital editor.

She also won a design competition to create a new app, and we asked her to talk about the app, her work, and how she has managed to kick-start her career in this most competitive of industries.

Friday, 2 January 2015

UCAS Deadline: January 15th 2015. Two Weeks to Apply!

UCAS - still enough time left - but hurry!
Thinking of applying to Bucks to study Animation & Visual Effects? It's not too late! The next UCAS deadline is 15 January 2015, and we're still welcoming applications for our fast-growing new course. Below are some good reasons why we believe we are building one of the best animation courses in the country, and how you can get started on your new career as a digital animator. Why wait? Apply now!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year's Resolutions For Animators

Happy New Year from the Float Folks - created here at Bucks New Uni
What should an animator's new year's resolutions be? Animation is a huge and growing business, a far cry from the cottage industry it used to be even twenty years ago. But it is a competitive world, and good animators need to be smart to stay on top of their game. So here's a checklist for some simple ways to maintain your edge in 2015