Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Why Animators Should Go To Siggraph in August

Siggraph 2015
This year Siggraph is taking place in the Los Angeles Convention Center, from 9-13 August. Siggraph is the world's biggest conference on computer graphics. Like FMX in Stuttgart, or the Annecy animation festival, it is the perfect place to find out about the latest technologies, meet other animators, find the big recruiters, and figure out where the industry is heading. It is, in short, a window into the digital future. Obviously, not many of our students will find themselves in LA this summer, but for those luckily few that are, we highly recommend attending Siggraph - and events like it.  There is nothing quite like it to give you a unique insight into the the new technology that is driving the development of the animation industry.

The crucuial dates
In 2013 Jeff Smith - a student at Bucks tutor Alex Williams' online animation course Animation Apprentice - attended Siggraph in Anaheim, California. While he was there, he went to the Marc Davis lecture series/keynote presentation, an event which was full of insights into the study of animation. Some of the giants of feature animation, including Eric Goldberg, Kevin Lima, Chris Sanders and Pete Docter were on the panel. We asked Jeff to share what he learned.

Pete Docter. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
What were the most memorable moments from the Marc Davis lecture?

Jeff: One of the points that all the panelists agreed on was this: they said that one of the main gaps they see in student animation reels tends to be is a sense of story. The animation should be of course work technically, but what will really make a reel stand out is a strong sense of story.

You mentioned that you enjoyed the section about what inspired the panel, when they were growing up – any stand out moments for you?

Eric Goldberg. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Jeff: There were lots of great comments. Eric Goldberg said that he was inspired by Bob Thomas's book, Art of Animation, "The Wonderful World of Disney" TV program and the Woody Woodpecker show, which featured segments of Walter Lantz showing how the animation was made.

Chris Sanders commented that Ward Kimball's musical number on "The Three Caballeros" was a big source of inspiration for him. And the thing that Mike Mitchell remembered giving him inspiration was the communal aspect of creativity in the animation program at CalArts. Something that made everyone smile was Goldberg talking about developing a story. He said that back in the day one had to be able to tell a story in two minutes because that was the length of a standard super-8 film reel.
Chris Sanders. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

What did Kevin Lima have to say?

Jeff: Lima related being inspired by the fact that nowadays a student can make an entire animated film by him or herself. He also mentioned that when making a film one should strive to find a way to make it fun, to re-attach to one's inner 14-year old. He talked about not getting bogged down with details. Details can eat you alive. One useful trick he recommended is to put your image up in front of a mirror and take a good look at it; this helps you see the big picture by seeing your image new again for a split second. He also mentioned how when he makes films he tries to draw upon moments from real life to help tell the story, and not always go back to the touchstone animated films.

What about Eric Goldberg?

Jeff:  Eric Goldberg, probably the most experienced 2D animator on the panel, mentioned that traditional hand-drawn principles were necessary to learn, and that although the hi-tech tools are needed today, one should never forget the foundational aspects that the new technology draws upon. Pete Docter also mentioned that art is ultimately a reflection of the artist inside, and one needs to know who one is to tell a story in the best way.

A fun moment was when they talked about their early days making student films. A few of the panelists, many of whom have directed big-budget animated features, related how in their student films, they would do things like avoiding showing the legs because they couldn't make the walk look right. Or how in stop-motion they would only show the character from the waist up so they could slide the characters across the set without having to make them walk.

To see more about Siggraph, visit the official page:

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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