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