Monday, December 12, 2005

Animation Mentor 1st. term conclusion

First things first: here is the final version of my demoreel AM 01 and it got a littlebit bigger (28MB, QT6, soerensen 3). You can also download it as a H.264 version with 18MB QT7 but I personally prefer the Soerensen version because it runs smoother =)

Well, AM01 (Fall 05) is almost over. This week we will be getting a final Q&A with Bobby, Shawn and Carlos (whootwhoot!) and see a video that sums up everything we have learned so far. I can't wait to see that, really.

I'm totally excited about AM. Applying to the program was one of my best decisions I've ever made. AM is animation syrup. AM is all about animation excitement. AM is a strong online community. AM is an ongoing learning experience. AM is pure animation - no modeling, no rendering, no things besides animation.

There were some times where I could barely finish my assignments because of the full time job I have... and some times where I thought I couldn't pull it of. But now, after the first term, with many encouraging words from my fellow animation ninjas aspirants I feel like going on forever...

So, to sum things up: if you think about joining AM or any other learning experience out there? I would choose AM. Though I don't know anything about specific programs at other art schools etc. I have studied 4 1/2 years myself to become a 'audiovisual engineer'. I haven't learned 10% about animation at my university from what I've learned in the first three months at AM. And the community is strong.

If you have any questions regarding AM, send me an email at mail[at] - I will gladly answer them. And no, no one's paying me or others for that. It is just by heart that all AM-students love their school so much.

Okay, I will keep on posting over the next weeks, AM02 is going to start on the 9th of January 2006 for me. Then my preparations for Siggraph 2006 will also take place. And some nice jobs at animoto.

Thanks to everyone for reading my blog. We have reached 1000 hits finally and I am glad that there are some people out there who are interested in what I and AM are doing.

Merry Christmas everyone and God bless you,

- Alex

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Animation Mentor Week 11

Hi all,

more later, just for everyone to see early, here is my latest assignment (20MB).

God bless you,


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Animation Mentor Complete Round-Up

"Exciting" news this week... Animation Mentor Class 01 comes to an end next week and I am going to have my last Q&A with Michelle tomorrow. Well, that is sad and I am going to miss her! The good thing about the end of the first term is: rest, sleep, doze... and find out what I did all those weeks.

So Bobby asked us to put together a video showing all of our works for this term. The editing alone needed one evening but it was worth it... so, without further adue here is the final 20MB version of term01 of my works:

PICK ME, PICK ME (takes a while, 20 MB Quicktime 6.0 Soer.3 Video, Music Danny Elfman, Men in Black 2, Worm Lounge #1)

So, I would love to hear some comments about what you think... whether you see any improvement over those weeks or whether you like that stuff. Just shoot me an email or take a look at that incredible comment button below. Gee, fantastic those PC-whatevers...

Anyway, some more stuff I feel like writing here... I got a very nice email from Micha who decided to join AM. Hooorray! for Micha. Good decision, you won't regret it. Just to make sure: if anyone of you has questions - shoot me an email! I'll gladly answer them, if I can... to be more specific. I live in Germany, I work full-time and do AM, I work on XSI at work and on Maya for AM and I am 27 years old. So, if any of that interests you, send me one of those package of 01011001's that are called emails...

Last but certainly not least, I got accepted as XSV for next year's Siggraph 2006 in Boston. Yehaa, cheerio and boom..! I still don't know how much time will be involved in being an XSV but I can't wait to get to Boston asap... if you think about going or not going to Siggraph 2006? GO! It is worth every minute of it. And since it is in Boston it will be cheaper for Europeans than LA last year...

Okay, so much for now, enjoy the show, press the comment button down below and don't forget to do your good deed for the day to make the world a better place. God bless you,

- Alex

p.s. I am still going to post the next weeks but maybe a little less than usual =)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Animation Mentor Week 10

(new version of the exhausted pose)

Hi everyone!

Well, in case you didn't notice... it 'still' is week 10 since AM had a server crash and had to restart week 10. Those guys are pros and know how to handle difficult situations. Anyway, next to a great live Q&A with Jason Ryan (yes, Mr.Animation Supervisor for Chicken Little) yesterday and meeting the awesome Clay from Animation Podcast live (same Q&A - thanks Clay, you rock!) we had this nice assignment this week: "create a character walk with a character that has character"... sounds great, huh?

I dived into the mind of a sneaky animation ninja ball that sneaks up to his animation skills and came up with this:

Since we just had one week (actually because of the crash it were two - but one was eaten up by my full-time work) from planning to final animation I'm quite happy with what came out of it. There is still sooo much to work on (knee flapping, hard drop of knees, sqash&stretch for the body) but the character is in there already what I really like. I hope to have some time to put that stuff into revision because I really like the character walking like that.

Oh, I forgot to post the final assignment for last week: Week 09 new

And this is the most recent one: Week 10

Feel free to drop me some comments on these (better on week 10 though =) You all be blessed and have a wonderful upcoming christmas time!!!

- Alex

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Laila, Andy and Marcel

Hello! It's been a while since I was able to post something here. AM server was down for two days which threw us all back one week. Believe me: that was really helping me out! I could tweak my walk at least a littlebit more and upload the newer version. It still has some minor spacing problems and the push-up of the leg doesn't work but it runs smoothly at least =)

Currently I'm experiencing the feeling on missing too much of the good stuff out of AM... I can't sit full-time on AM... hey, I can't even sit more than 2 days on AM plus those nights I spend. But there is soo much information I want to read and threads I want to participate... Carlos was talking 2 hours in a Q&A (which was only for students that missed their Q&A, I think) and a nice guy wrote down notes... others are talking about Chicken Little and we got two featured mentors I couldn't even READ about... But work is demanding right now. I was finishing two different projects and already hopped on other jobs. I even missed out the second part of the Eric Goldberg interview because I thought I still had time.

Well, that teaches me one thing: if 80 hours aren't enough for work AND Animation Mentor why don't I spend 100h? At least the week has 168 hours, right? I'm still searching for the leak in my time schedule that drives me crazy... but I think that leak is called 'life'... Anyway, I attached a picture of my current exhausted pose... and no, it is not a photo of my current life situation =) but I really knew what I wanted to create. Tell me, what you think, still got 3 days for this assignment and creating a personality walk. I will do a sneaky walk which i can't wait to see myself (I hope the weekend is good to me timewise =).

But... as you may have noticed this blog-entry is called Laila, Andy and Marcel - there are three persons I'd like to introduce you to.

Midget no.1: Laila is a very talented drawing artist that has worked on the 'big project' in our studio. Next to being one of the happiest persons on earth, having a wonderful talent in drawing and kicking serious b... in Capoeira, she also has a talent of dropping things on the floor (I really miss that sound these days while she is on holidays!) and getting lost while turning more than 180 degree on a spot. She currently travels through Costa Rica (will she ever find the way home?) and specializes on storyboarding. Check her work at:

The next upcoming talent is Marcel. Marcel has worked on hundreds of projects as sound artist and composer and speaking about him like this he would wave aside like 'no big deal'. He is a very humble person but his talent is outstanding and I am sure that he will bring the world some wonderful art in sound and music. Next to providing the sound for all of my short films he worked on Bloodrayne and German radio dramas. He is one of the few people showcasing a hear-reel and I recommend listening to it at: (even though the website is German =)...

Finally let me introduce you to Andy. This ambitious fella is a very special and dear friend to me - one of my best. Since my opinion about him may appear subjective I let his work speak for himself: being an assistant director for more than 12 German (and international) broadcasted music video clips he also worked as a director and screenwriter. He is currently developing childrens TV series' for international release and earns his money with proofreading and consulting screenplays for TV and cinema. After finishing his diploma about developing, creating and financing a 27 episode children TV show he got a job for writing short stories for a German TV show. His variety is broad and his insight covers many if not all of the necessary aspects for creating visual story content and media - a rare talent from writing to directing to producing ... check his website:

So much for now, next episode I will talk about Timo and Thomas... until then, back to my Wacom and the computer!

- Alex

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

New walk cycle

Sometimes the easiest things seem difficult... popping knees for example. Not that a walk cycle or popping knees are easy in itself but there are some handy tricks the dumbest animator should know about: animation ghosting for instance... or if you want a grease pencil on your monitor...

But working this crazy I forgot about this while animating the walk... and that is why it sucks! So, today I read about animation ghosting, hit my forehead, hit it again... and worked 15 minutes to fix the worst popping...

Now you are right when you say that his legs aren't straight (totally) anymore and that would be another thing to address... but for now, check out this much smoother and more beautiful walk cycle... still there is much to be done though.

walk cycle animation 500kb

You know the good thing about animation is that you never stop learning... I think I will learn on walk cycles even when I'm 85 and still animating... so much about my lack of ability this week... I work hard on getting better and I hope to present better work each week...

For those of you who are interested I also uploaded some sketches I did with my new wacom. They show my thought process of this weeks assignment and are still in developement... just to let you know how I work =)

At least I still have faith =),

- Alex

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Week 09 - Animation Mentor

Hiyaa! Kazaam!

Hi everyone,

I am at full training! No time for talking! Great animation ninja style to fight! So, here is my latest assignment. Hiyaa! Check... it ... out! Boom. I do not like it though... still much needs to be done. Animoto is full of work and AM assignments get bigger... so, check this out. New strong pose:

And this, new "concerned" pose:

And finally, the masterblow, this: (12mb, download fully first)... the knees are still popping and I have some issues regarding arcs... feel free to rail against me and my lack of ability... I will humbly accept your beating...

Now, onto the training... I need to get better!!!! Ahhhhhhhhahhhh! Hiyaaa!

God bless you all,

- Alex

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Bug amuck!

Ahhh! I could scream. Do you know the feeling when you are excited about an idea and run around like "Isn't that beautiful?" or "Take a look at this!"... and everyone you show it to just shrugs his shoulders and says "Yeah, it's alright..."? Or even worse: "Nah, I don't get it"... that is the tough part about being in a creative field. You sometimes get carried away with your own ideas hiding them in the closets and once you show it people aren't that nuts about what you did the way you are... (see the old pic one blog-entry below)

This recently happened to my strong pose assignment. I was thinking like crazy of a creative way to show strength without showing heavy lifting or buldging muscles... and I came up with the Mr. Incredible pulls of his water tap without wanting... and know what? 30% liked the idea and 70% said it misses the point of a strong pose. Now the downside: they are absolutely right! This has nothing to do with a "strong" pose... but more with a "strong" gag in a pose... Ben said that and really nailed it. This bugged me all day and I really had to concentrate at work not to re-do the pose right away. Coming home I sat down at the PC without eating until this has been changed...

And there I was again with my problem: how to show strength without adjusting the muscles or lifting heavy weights? I looked at body builders and their pose is dull because it just works through showing their muscles and skin... I finally (in my "anger") found a way that I think works out quite well. You could call it "tough" or "angry" also but I think there barely is one pose that just shows one thing. So, after working it in the PC here it is. Let me know what you think and whether this works. I'm really happy that it doesn't use any props at all... but if this is better you have to decide. If not, let me know. Feel free to ruin my day!!! I want to know it! So, no holding back there!

Oh, one sidenote. I finally ordered a Wacom tablet which is arriving tomorrow and I'm really excited about it... we'll see what's happening with my drawing abilities...

God bless you all,

- Alex

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Week 08 - full version Animation Mentor

Hi all,

I just uploaded my final version of the assignment for this week. There is a pose assignment ("strong") and an animation (both in 2D and 3D) and th revision of last week. Well, you won't see all too much difference between the revised and the new version. Both Michelle and Ethan liked it but wanted it to be a littlebit quicker at leaving the ground and landing... I did that and now the jump feels a littlebit more dynamic.

Next there was this pose assignment about a strong character. Bulging muscles or lifting weights are surely and easy way to show this but I thought about a normal situation in which you need strength (or not =). I hope one gets the gag in the end.

The animation hasn't changed since the last post but I added a 2D version of the walk. First of all: it is of model and that isn't good but hey, I'm not a drawing artist (yet?). Second there is this huge mistake in frame 3 and 15 that slides the pushing leg back... I think I'm going to change that soon but I had so much to work on this week that I barely made my assignments in time. Well, anyway, feel free to comment on anything you like.

Oh, there is an ongoing discussion about using personal notes on AM where you could say something about one week's assignment. I think that this would add even more to this wonderful community. This is why I added a little test-PN this week on my new server. It is kind of weird to see my own face talking and I get nervous not to forget anything in a short period of time... but maybe you like the idea as well. If more and more people start doing this it may be integrated in the web-system of AM soon (see my own personal video week 08 here, still in testing phase) and watch the assignment video week 08 here (16MB, loads completely first before showing up on screen).

God bless you all,

- Alex

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Week 08 - Animation Mentor - Walks

Phew... walks? I mean, isn't that one of the most nasty things to animate at all? I think it is so difficult because we as humans are able to tell a persons name just by her/his walk from a far distance even. Body language is nearly as well developed among people as reading once face. We recognize even the slightest mistake in a walk and think that this looks weird or wrong. This is why I encourage you to tell me what could be changed about this one: you are an expert already =) by walking for more than 10 years over this planet. - children under the age of 10 should be acompanied by an eligible adult -

Anyway, check this one out. It is just blocked out which is why it looks a littlebit jiggy but finishing is next week so... anyway, it is just 263kb and comes right out of my new(!) virtual 5GB-server! Yehaa, enjoy.

God bless you all,

- Alex

WEEK 08 ANIMTEST (263kb, yes, click here... it is working, did I thank Lindsay already?)

Monday, November 07, 2005


Isn't that a wonderful community where you post your stuff, someone drops by, sees you're having issues and helps you to stand up again? I don't know why Lindsay dropped by and what made her take the time of writing (heck, most of my friends don't take the time to comment ;) ... but... I'm more than thankful! She was absolutely right about her suggestions and all IE-users should be able to read my blog without having issues anymore. Lindsay, wherever you are right now: thank you.

Oh, about your blog... man, 20 that is still soo young. Being 27 I feel like an old owl already... but 20 - life is just starting =) I hope you'll always meet friendly people from somewhere around the world trying to help you when you're in need - may it be virtual or in real life.

God is great. I love my life.

- Alex

Display issues on Internet Explorer

Hi all,

I seem to experience some display issues on IE with my blog and can't figure out why. If you read this with FireFox or an RSS-reader things might look correctly but IE is making problems. Please open this once in IE and send me an email whether you can see the sidebar next to the text (it seems to be shown below the threads). I'm working on this and I'm really sorry for this happening... hope I can fix this really quickly,

- Alex

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Week 07 - Animation Mentor

Hi everyone,

How is life? My one is wonderful. One of my dearest friends has finally found work again after being unemployed for two months, projects in company turn out nicely and I'm still able to study at this incredible online school... so, I'm more than thankful. Let me us this space to introduce you to two friends and coworkers both of incredible talent: Greg Manwaring (, has been working for Disney and Amblin amongst others on Lion King, Pocahontas, Iron Giant etc.

Second there is Boris Hiestand ( still a young one but with remarkable animation talent). I recommend both blogs since Greg posts tricks of a trade once in a while (how cool is that?) and Boris shows some of his artwork. I'm sure to meet this guy at different companies all around the world and wait for some animations to be shown on his blog.

To conclude this list let me also introduce Bodil Heinemeier ( an incredible young woman with extraordinary talent). Man, I wish I could show you her box of drawings next to her desk. It is full of beautiful drawings varying strongly in their content: space marines, indian women, old people, young kids, fantasy stuff... she really is talented and I'm lucky to have a fairy drawing of her on my wall at home.

There are more people to show you in the next days... so stay curious =)

Anyway, let's talk about this weeks assignment. It was our job to create a jump animation with a one legged ball within 120 frames only. This really helped me to stick with the assignment only. So, I think about going more KISS (keep it simple, stupid!) the next weeks. Here is my planning:

And here is my animation (13MB) - this is exactly the version I upload to AM this week which explains the written explanations in the movie, hopefully.

Feel free to post some comments. I hereby greet Ndy, Thomas, Franzi, Laila and Kay especially for dropping by, I know you sometimes do =)

God bless you,

- Alex

p.s. If you haven't done yet, go and watch "Corpse bride" and especially listen to the wonderful score of Danny Elfman. You can listen for free to the whole soundtrack at just click on STREAM IT and there you'll go. I recommend especially minutes 0-2, 6-9, 20-24, 27-30 and 40-47. The rest ist good as well but I love this theme (did I ever mention that I just love little musical clocks?)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Official eyes&ears award press release

Well, I think it is kind of funny to see Disney put out a press release about work you have done (indirectly) for them, so I wanted to share this with you. Unfortunately it is in German but maybe you'll understand it anyway.

The commercial was all about brother bear characters (the mooses) that are talking about easter. They had easter egss all around their antlers. And they featured their original German voice cast which was hilariously funny for Germans (they had a wonderful swedish-faked accent here full of bad German grammar). I was responsible for creating the 3D animated eggs in their antlers and had a wonderful time doing this.

I was working with the toonshader so that the animation blended in more seemlessly and I also worked on twos so you don't see any difference between 3D and 2D in the animation. It worked pretty well but I think seeing it today I would spot hundreds of mistakes in there. Anyway, here is the press release:

Later =),

- Alex

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Week 07 - early feedback welcome

Hi all,

this is an early test on this weeks assignment which features 120 frames of an one-legged character jumping... feel free to send me some comments and ideas about it =)

- Alex

Monday, October 31, 2005

Animoto - a dream job in Germany

Well, I promised to talk a littlebit about my job here in Germany. Imagine a company small enough so that your voice is heard and big enough to get wonderful projects - that is animoto, a great 2D/3D animation company in southern Germany - Munich. I started here in March 2005 while finishing my final exam in university. Animoto called me for a job that actually never happened but since I already got there they put me on another project:

A spot for Disneychannel Germany featuring the elks of brother bear. This was just plain awesome! I had the priviledge of creating 3D effects on a 2D background layer working with an actual ex-Disney-artist right here in Germany. This was like a dream come true. The spot turned out quite well and was very funny if you speak German. Last Friday it won a price for 'best integrated special commercial' from the eyes&ears award (link) which makes me even more happy.

Animoto is small, as I already said, and is changing size every month. Since we were working on a bigger project we had up to 15 2D artist on the spot. I've finished working on animations for Nickelodeon characters playing chess in a flash game last Friday. And we always have some nice character animation going on I'm not able to talk about yet.

this is the desk I'm working on featuring my own laptop and a XSI/Maya-workstation

So, to sum it up, animoto is a dream job. It is not Disney, Pixar or Dreamworks, but is full of fun, good projects, wonderful colleagues and packed with learning experience. Making a mistake is being handled by a team that doesn't blame you... and believe me, this helped me a lot already. Fellow artists here have worked at Dreamworks and Disney on projects from 'Help! I'm a fish' and 'Balto' up to 'Pocahontas', 'Roger Rabbit' and 'Lion King'.

I'm sure that I'm going to go to the States for some time sometime but for now I congratulate myself every single day for being able to work here and even earn money. God has given me this wonderful opportunity here and I hope that I'm going to be a blessing to this company that has given me so much. After all, they even encourage me to do AM... what else could a company do =)

So much for now, their website is - like hundreds of other pages we are working so much we barely are able to update the site. We are always watching demoreels so feel free to send in your stuff. From time to time jobs come up that need more artist in a short period of time... so, why don't you just send your reel?

Have fun,

- Alex

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Week 06 - Animation Mentor - animation assignment

Hi everyone,

this week could be titled... "catching up". Well, at least I try to. This was a great day today because we got one hour more. Couldn't every day just have 25 hours? I can sleep one hour longer and this way create more quality work during the day.

Anyway, I'm going to read all those hundreds of post I missed during the last week and I have to upload my stuff still. This weeks assignment was a blast and I really enjoyed it a bunch. Finally we got to animate Tailor. You can't imagine how much story you can tell with a ball and a tail. I've seen some awesome animations out there already and it gets more and more difficult to keep up with the good guys.

Ben, our 2D guy, did an awesome animation on paper and talking about KISS (keep it simple, stupid!) - he doesn't seem to know what it means. Haha! Amazing stuff, really. And his animation keeps going on and on. And Martin (my roommate) was a blast, too. He is never satisfied with my work. I think he is never satisfied with his own work as well. So he keeps on pushing me and telling me where my animation just lacks quality. And even though I hate it when he nags on my work... he still is right and after getting over it my animations get better. Thanks, Martin.

Anyway, talking about Tailor. I wanted to animate him soo much and really thought about what to do. I decided on this:

Yes, quite a bunch, I think. And the 180 degree turn almost killed me because you have to overlap in at least 2 directions at a time (talking about "muting" one channel which makes this easier). Well, after hours of planning, animation and tweaking I finished with this version: (6MB - plays after loading fully)

Since I'm currently animating full time on two 30 seconds spots for television I really had to stick to this assignment only and did not have the time to do any revisions. Michelle told us that revision is just a plus for us and that we first should finish the assignment before starting any revisions. After all, that is what I did.

Feel free to post some comments about whether you like it and whether it looks cartoony. AM is getting better each week and I'd love to have more time to practise... but working is great as well and I love my job at animoto. More about that in the next blog entry coming soon =)

Have fun and God bless you all,

- Alex

Friday, October 28, 2005

Awesome Q&A @ animation mentor

For all of you out there wondering how Q&As at animation mentor look I made a small screenshot. This was actually the end of the whole thing and the frames freezed in - that explains the sour looks on our faces. We had a great Q&A this time without any lags or anything. It just worked and everyone could talk and ask and discuss without delays. Taylor did a great job of cleaning up our queue. Hopefully from now on things will stay like this.

Have fun,

- Alex

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Week 05 - Animation Mentor

Hi all,

My animation assignment was a lot of work this week (if you can't work on it 7 days)... there is a lot happening and it takes some time until things look believable. I'm fine to the point to upload it but I know that I won't like it tomorrow anymore... ahh, animation is so frustrating due to the fact you have to finish it at a certain point and still could work on it twice as much...

Well, anyway, here is it:

Critique is welcome as ever. Have fun,

- Alex

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Week 05 - Animation Mentor - devastated

Hi all,

I finished my 'devastation' pose for STU today and put it into a movie file which you can find here: (5MB - pleae be patient) - critique is always welcome even though I won't have the time to change anything due to the large amount of work on the bouncing ball assignment. But I'll stick to the comments for next weeks revision.

Oh, here are my sketches for this week, too.

Have fun,

- Alex

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Week 05 - Animation Mentor

Hi all,

well, I'm back. I'm certainly interested in how many people read this, so if you'd like to do me a favour and just drop a note below this message saying something like "I do" or whatever... it takes you a minute and that way I know how often I should update this blog... like more daily or once a week. Anyway, for the latest assignment we have quite a lot to do:

1. create a planning sketch on your animation that shows a ball jumping up (it decides to do so) and then be part of a weird obstacle course it is bouncing through.
2. Animate that shot. (This feels like the one million dollar sentence in a script saying: "The house implodes.")
3. Doodle some dynamic poses.
4. Create a pose with Stu that shows "devastation".

Tough enough, I say... and production in my company is getting heavier again... so, whootwhoot! Well, to start at the beginning I started doing some sketches about dynamic poses (mostly sports) and the planning thing for the ball. Have a look!

And I played around with the ball model we got and took a look at some of the controls. This is just a 10 minute animation and it does look that way, I know. Anyway, comments are already and always welcome.

So much for now, looking forward to hear some comments.

- Alex

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Michelle and Week 03 Revision - Animation Mentor

Did I ever mention that Maya is a pain? Man, this program bugs me... I wouldn't complain if I wouldn't know about the 101.562 things that other software packages DO better... but I KNOW ABOUT THOSE! Ahhhh!

Maya even crashes with three bouncing balls on a newly installed 3,2GH AMD with 1 GB RAM and a GeForce graphics card! I mean, it is just three bouncing balls! Enough complaining... I better get my pills... (maybe there is something good about this Alias-Autodesk thing and the earth will be freed one day of Maya...)

Here are my revised poses of last week's assignments. I checked the incredible tutorial on how to setup lights in Maya (thaaaaanks, man!) someone at AM did at 4am to help us non-Maya users... and yes, he did. So, here is my new lighting as well.

Talking about revision I realize I did not write much about Michelle yet. Well, what shall I say? She is awesome and really trying to push us. She is open minded for suggestions and is trying to make this a wonderful experience for everyone (like changing her mic until everybody feels comfy etc.). Someone suggested she might use a grease pencil ON her monitor and she agreed on the idea so her revision get even better!

And though she missed "this hand shows a fist with just two parts" until now she really has an eye on what is missing in your scene. Not only does she try to push our poses even more but she tells us how to do it. And her suggestions are understandable. Well, I hope that people on our live Q&A start to flood her with questions any time soon... because she wants to teach a lesson every Q&A! So much about Michelle... I'm going to write more about her sometimes later...

God bless you all,

- Alex

Week 04 - Animation Mentor

Remember, remember... the fifth of November... just saw the Vendetta trailer at my favourite cinema yesterday night and it features the incredible music of James Newton Howard and Hans Zimmer of Batman Begins... the sound system there is awesome and just listening to this music in a big cinema gives me the shivers... uh, aren't movies just awesome?

Well, before I forget it: check out Wallace and Gromit if you haven't yet... it is worth every second. Wonderful humor. We just watched the new movie and all shorts at once in the cinema and it was great. Had a wonderful time. Cheeeeeese!

Back to what the title suggests to find here, my this' weeks assignment: create two bouncing balls of different weights. Yep, that sounds like fun to me =) So, I started with planning something like this:

Well, whoever came up with the idea of KISS ("keep it simple stupid") was a genius... and without AM constantly reminding of this rule and heavy time pressure I would certainly miss this rule everytime I switch on the computer (heck, nowadays, take out a pencil, too!). So, realizing that the sad story of three bouncing balls doing the boogey (s.a.) wouldn't be such a bright idea to finish in time I changed my planning to this:

That's more like it! I liked the idea of making things "believable" and creating little plates for the balls to sit on. So I checked some footage other guys did and there was one fellow mentee that sacrificed his bowling ball and let it drop several times on a street. Man, I'm thankful. If you are wondering why your ball always drifts to the side remember you did these videos, mate!

Anyway, I started timing his movie out and checked the extremes but when I put it into Maya it just looked wrong and way to fast. Took me a second thought to realize that he filmed in 30fps and I work in 24 fps. This is why I created such a chart to retime the action:

Guess what? It worked. Without further ado you can see my this week's assignment here, please be patient since the file is bigger - the revision of last weeks poses is in there too: (10MB)

Have fun and send me some comments if you like,

- Alex

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Week 04 first pass - Animation Mentor

Well... this pass is definitely just rushed in and that is just the way it looks. I'm looking forward to the weekend to do some serious planning and research on both balls. But I think this version already shows where I'm headed =)

- Alex

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

James R. Hull - a 2D AND 3D animation ninja...

Hi all,

you can't imagine my face when I just dropped by one of my favourite animation blogs on the web: James R. Hull, an animator that has worked on Pocahontas, Hunchback, Hercules, Tarzan, Spirit, Sinbad, Shrek 2, Madagascar and now Over the hedge, quoted me about 'mentioning his struggle between 2D and 3D' in an earlier post (

Actually this could start a wonderful discussion about 2D and 3D finally joining each other after years of 'cold war' between those both sides. It did in my heart, at last. Every animator I know has started in one of both art forms and has begun to like it. There are hundreds of prejudices about the other side whether you are 3D or 2D, doesn't matter. The picture of the 'West Side Story' or 'Romeo&Juliet' came into my mind and I remembered all those different posts that either tell '2D is dead, long live 3D' or '2D is the only true animation art form'. I sometimes get the picture that among animators stop-motion is much better spoken of than 3D will ever experience it. And it is like if something is appreciated by the mass there have to be those 'knowledgeable' and 'different ones' that speak against it.

For me I finally found a solution for this battle to finally end. It seems like I was feeling like this all the time but never saw what was right before my eyes: 2D and 3D have to find peace not in the media, not in the big companies, not in blogs, not out there, but in each and every one of us animators. I for myself finally decided to master 2D after years of working in 3D. Heck, I might even try stop-motion and realtime-hand-puppets! I always loved 2D movies. I watched hours and hours of cartoons every day. And the first time I saw 3D I loved it as well. Knick Knack hit me right in the face and I loved it.

Just because I chose to start with 3D doesn't mean to pick on 2D! No, far from that! That is why I love working in this small studio in Germany consolidating 2D and 3D in one room. Everyone here is so open-minded. I teach the 2D-artists 3D and they teach me 2D. We go to every single animation that's out there and we just love it for the medium it is: animation. Telling stories. Making people laugh. Or cry. Or both. I'm tired of all this fighting and I stopped it where it has to be stopped: in me. Now I approach 2D with a free mind, free of the fear that I could fail in it. And I start to feel complete..!

Once more Jim's website made my day. I love being an animator and becoming one each day more. Period.

- Alex

Week 04 animation sketch - Animation Mentor

Hi everyone,

If there is something I learned during the last weeks it is this: you can not plan too much. This is true as it can be. The funniest thing actually is that all things in life that sound easy and self-explanatory are the most true - the real learning experience is to understand that what the first thing was somebody experienced told you.

"Before you start animate, plan, because in the end you will be faster!" is one of the most said and written wisdoms out there I know. I heard it hundred times... and then there comes a day when you just understand that it is true. I mean, you just get it. To explain the difference between "Yeah, I got you" and "Now I got it" is nearly impossible - it is a simple yet difficult wisdom to master in itself. It is like what Keith Lango says about "How to learn timing": "Figure it out!". Yeah, right, Keith. But actually that is true. He is absolutely right about this: "Figure it out, that is how you learn timing, I cannot teach it to you..."

Well, even though I understood the importance of planning I still tend to start right away. But I force myself to sit at the table and get my pencils out and draw. To conclude this I planned my next animation assignment on paper first. It shows a basketball and a bowling ball hitting each other. Finally I added an extra balloon that I would integrate in my animation if I still have time. It would first jump up when the bowling ball hits the ground (because of the floor distributing the force from the ball unto the balloon) and would later be thrown of by the bowling ball again... this time directly.

The basketball and the bowling ball are self-explanatory, hopefully. So, planning is king. I must feel the need for planning as much as for breathing or eating... then my animations will improve without me working MORE hours but in the end LESS... =)

Pure wisdom, Keith, Bob, Shawn, Cameron, Ollie, Thomas, Andreas and you other great animation ninjas out there... pure wisdom.

- Alex

Monday, October 10, 2005

A special greeting for friends of mine that just moved to Raccine (USA)

Hi, meine Schnells!

Nun seid Ihr also angekommen und findet Euch im urbanen Dschungel von Raccine zurecht. An knallsüssen Bonbons und grossen Portionen vorbei zum Schwarzbrot in die Unwegbarkeiten fremder Arbeitsverhältnisse. Euch sei gesagt, ich bin ein wenig neidisch und freue mich schon sehr, Euch besuchen zu kommen. Bis dahin, seid tapfer und freut Euch über das Abenteuer, das Amerika heisst.

Euer Alex!

Sunday, October 09, 2005


Hi all,

I just finished revising my poses. After a lot of trouble rendering the stuff out in Maya I decided to leave those poses in XSI for the revision part. From now on I will stick with Maya only for AM assignments which is difficult because throughout the week I work with XSI... I definitely consider working with the Maya-in-XSI hotkeys of XSI 5.0 so I don't have to think about my hotkeys all the time... man, I really liked the XSI keys...

Anyway, take a look at what I did after Michelle and Nancy K. and other reviewed my stuff and if you want to, tell me whether it is better than before =)

Have fun,

- Alex

Some more pictures

Here are some more pictures of my assignment for this week... have fun!

- Alex

Week 03 Part II - Animation Mentor

Hi all,

I finished my assignment for this week tonight. Feel free to take a look at it and send me some comments... right after the bouncing balls you will find my excitement poses of Stu... and yes, Maya is a pain! Give me back my XSI!!!

Tomorrow when I'm alive again I'm going to redo my poses from last week... so not much sleep for me.

- Alex

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Week 03 - Animation Mentor

This week we finally start animating and boy... it gets complicated right away. Not that I haven't animated a bouncing ball a hundred times... but make it look photo-realistic? Make it believable? I don't talk about moving it up and down... anyone can do it. In fact yesterday I read this quote 'I think this is the first time animators are able to make something move without even working...' which was talking about the computer doing all the work (and that is just the way it looks like).

Have look at my planning it out:

Man, Rick'O'Connor, animation ninja at ILM, flattered me this week as announcing me to be his 'hero of the day' for starting with planning and not just animating it... Thanks Rick, you're my man!

If you're interested to see some really nice reference footage on this, have a look here:

And finally at my first go this week...: (don't be afraid, just click on it =)

If you have time, tell me what you think =)

- Alex

Making things easier - learning about RSS

Hi all,

if you are new to blogs and RSS like I was two weeks ago you probably won't have any idea of how many blogs are out there at the moment. There must be Brazillions out there... I'm sorry... bazillions about cooking, stitching, animation, politics, music, musicals... I don't know what...

This can definitely overwhelm you - like it did me. So, yesterday I read about RSS which is a way of keeping up to date with all those blogs out there. Generally speaking RSS keeps you informed about what happens. You just need a free RSS-reader like Awasu (nice program). Awasu keeps podcasts and blog up-to-date and tells them when there is something new on the website. It really works and helped me a bunch.

If you need to know more about RSS, check this link: (I found this on in the August-section btw)

This is thrilling me! I hope it will help you, too.

Have fun and stay animated...

- Alex

Link 01 - Keith Lango, Animation Podcast and sewardstreet


from time to time things overwhelm me... I just found out how many wonderful sites are out there I just HAVE to read. I will post them here sometimes to give you guys an opportunity to check whether you know this site as well.

To mention some sites in specific let me talk about Keith Lango. Keith is an animator who's name accompanied my career since the very first day at ramjac Images in Hamburg. He was one of the few other guys working with Electric Image. He did work on the Veggitales, Mickey's twice upon a christmas and for blur and is currently an animation supervisor for DNA productions working on "Ant Bully". I'm looking forward to that. Anyway, he has a tremendous website with an awesome blog to read. You'll find the almighty "Pose to Pose"-tutorial there as well as a very affordable and great Video Tutorial Service charging 15$/month.

This VTS service does not only pay his rent but also goes out to charitable causes to fight hunger and suffering for the less fortunate. Yep, Keith is a Christian and as such taking on his responsibility to help the world. The VTS is great, not competing with AM, but running along with it sharing some insights about how Keith is animating. I just got into it and bought all videos at once. It is worth every penny though Keith surely talks about animation and we are still in posing section at AM. Anyway, check it out! (

If you don't happen to know Podcasts you should start with this one: - podcasts are recorded radio programs you can listen to any time you want to. I personally upload them to my Sony Ericsson K750i and listen to them while driving to work. Animation Podcast is all about animation and tries to grab all those freakin' animation ninjas out there still alive. The first one was the very famous (German) animator Andreas Dejá. He is, so to say, the last remaining 2D artist working at Disney (since Glen Keane and others went over to 3D) claiming that he can't work with a computer and so he's not going to do 3D ever =) He animated characters like Scar, Hercules, Lilo and Dschafar, so go to animation podcast and check out this marvellous interview.

Finally I stumbeled upon the sewardstreet which I really would like to recommend. This is a wonderful blog created by an animator from PDI (working on Over The Hedge currently). His insights on animation are awesome and you can really see him struggeling between 2D and 3D... check it out on

Well, here are more links you should know about: - this is THE resource when talking about classical animation theory, there are many great insights and the knowledge of the masters... - if you want to become and animator and you can't afford CalArts or live in Germany (like me) you have to study here... it is definitely THE place to study animation currently - Carlos Baena is not only an animator at Pixar (just finished on Cars) but also one of the founders of animation mentor. His website features some of the biggest collection on links and book recommendations I know... this is always a good starting point if you are looking for some information between render times... (go to the MISC-section of his website) - This is the website animation world network... though it sometimes seems a littlebit dull to read this is THE information website in this business of all.. - Do I have to mention this one? On CGCHAR you will find all those brilliant minds like Keith Lango, Carlos Baena, Mark Behm and even many 2D animators talking about one thing only: character animation...

So much for today, I'll update this list frequently. Check it out =)

- Alex

Week 02 - Animation Mentor

Hi-Yahh! Things start to move... or at least we got our first lesson. Week 02 began with the almighty 12 principles of animation about which I actually wrote my diploma ("Klassische Animationstheorie und die Bewegungsanalyse Rudolf Laban's").

Man, this is seriously good stuff and very important. I heard this many times already and still can't hear it often enough. The 12 principles of animation refer to chapter 3 in the "Illusion of Life" by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston which was written 25 years ago. Those guys were 2 people of the famous 9 old men of Disney and could be also named as the "godfathers of animation".

Without them we would have no animation... they invented it... or better they unearthed it since it was there all the time. They had no reference, they were about to become the reference. Today Ollie Johnston is the only one still alive. He is 95 years as far as I know.

Anyhow, we rushed through those 12 principles for once and will hear them over and over again with many examples in the coming weeks and months. Man, this is golden. Hopefully one day those principles will run through my veins like honey...

Furthermore we had our first two assignments: creating poses both in pencil as well as in 3D. This was harder for me than it sounds since I'm no DaVinci and never really pushed my drawing abilities. But hey, that will change definitely since I'm drawing daily now (or at least try to).

Take a look at some of my poses:

Now the next challenge was to bring them into 3D. Since I was still waiting for my copy of Maya I worked with XSI and a rig someone created to XSI. So, here is what I did:

I'm waiting for my mentor to critique me and tell me how to enhance those poses...

We'll see,

- Alex

Week 01 - Animation Mentor

Week 01 - meeting Michelle Meeker

Hi, all!

This week was the first week of the 18 month program at Animation Mentor ( I finally got the information about my first mentor and it will be.... Michelle Meeker! Yikes! That rocks. Michelle is a very diverse experienced animation ninja, so to say, and animated at many different companies on many different projects:

Pixar: Geri"s Game, A bug's life
PDI: Antz, Shrek
Weta: Lord of the rings 2+3

and many more... She also worked on different things like animated flash e-cards and games like "The Sims". Currently she is living in the bay area working for which is a small game company (responsible for the Lord of the rings two towers-game among others).

Well, I'm thrilled and look forward about the things she is going to teach us. Week No.1 was all about getting used to the AM-website, the player, the forum and get in contact with other fellow students.

We are the upcoming European-animation-ninja group (around 15 people) coming from Italy, Slowenia, Norway, England, Spain, Greece, Scotland and Germany (which is where I'm from). It is exciting to meet those guys every week on Friday morning (most times 5-6am).

So much for week 01... stay animated, folks!

- Alex

Long time...

Hi everyone!

Thank you for being patient. Whoa! The last few weeks have been a blast and I try to sum things up in different post that relate to different topics. I'm going to create a new blog for each and every week at AM and also keep you informed about my adventure about becoming an animation ninja!

So, I hope to be able to blog more often from now on,

- Alex

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Birthday present

Hi guys,

Today is my birthday and many of you guys actually noticed it! How come? Are you magicians? Anyway, my biggest birthday present is (next to be a healthy believer) certainly Animation Mentor which I made from me to myself =) lol.

I can't wait until the next week because today I got another birthday present: one week off next week!!! Yehaa! That mean's I'm going to have all the time I need to read all of those hundreds and thousands of interesting threads at AM!

And that is exactly what I'm going to do. Oh, one final thing: I changed my username from IronGiant to "Alex M Lehmann" to help you with my real name. I'm still a big IronGiant-fan and I'm lucky enough to work with one of the supervisors of IG currently at the animation studio I work for.

So much for now, stay animated!

- Alex

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

For all AM students who want to know more about me...

Take a look at the AM forum where you'll find some more information about me:

My mentor this term will be Michelle Meeker... whoot! She animated on Gerry's Game, Shrek and Lord of the rings... to name some. I'm really looking forward to having a female mentor and I can't await starting to animate to get some serious critiques!

- Alex

Welcome, everyone!

Hi everyone,

Finally I started my first blog. Today Animation Mentor, Fall Term 2005, started and we just had an awesome opening Q&A session... it was sometimes laggy but nonetheless veeery interesting. AM is overwhelming at the beginning and I sincerely think about taking some days off to get accustomed with all those features it offers... we'll see.

Anyway, welcome to my site. I'll try to write once a week to give you guys out there an inside view of what AM is all about and how I am developing my skills. Since I'm working full time that could be a littlebit difficult but I will try nonetheless.

Thanks for surfing by and have fun with the blog,

Alex =)