A collection of past and present exercises with an accompanying brief postmortem. 


Adventures in Unity (June 2012)

Through the end of this month and into next month I will be re-visiting Unity in an attempt to bring animations to a player controlled character and explore animation blending. Which means character scripting… It’s very easy to want to jump into the ocean that is programming, it is one step closer to being competent enough to make a game yourself, but even though I’ve had one foot in for awhile, it’s a little intimidating. Does anyone have a spare floatie?

Jul022012 contest (May 2012)

A contest entry in which I animated the characters and created the environment.


Lessons learned

1. When thinking of ideas, plot out the entire creation process

            This animation contest provided the character rigs and a dialogue clip, but I felt the need to further develop the scene with an environment to help set up a dialogue piece that happens quite quickly. My favorite ideas centered on a moving mustache which I thought wouldn’t be much of a problem considering I’ve rigged things before. The problem I ran into was making “stretchy bones”. I’d never done a stretch rig before and one day of research would have let me know if I could execute this idea in the time limit along with modeling the set and animating an 8+ second shot. I ended up with a passable result that took longer than necessary.

2. The facial pass

When working on a scene a facial pass doesn’t come until later, depending on the scene of course. It’s important to get the emotion across in body language. However, the volume of face controls in a rig can sometimes rival the controls of the entire body. With so much complexity and subtlety in the face, I would like to devote more time to this pass in the future. Working with rigs that have “simplified” facial controls can be an interesting challenge in itself as well.

3. Using “largest” controller

            An example from Kenny Roy- when you think of a laugh, it generates from the face. The mouth opens and a laugh comes out. A visually effective laugh is not a person with a mouth that is opening and closing, but one that has an open mouth and a whole body that reacts to each chortle. Therefore, communicate an emotion using the largest controller to provide a more convincing performance.

Things that went right

1. Lip-sync

            Lip-sync was not the focus on my recent shots and I was a bit out of practice. Luckily Stop Staring came to the rescue and helped develop a workflow that produced accurate results very quickly.

2. General refresher

            It had been quite some time since I had done any type of modeling or rigging and I used this chance to reacquaint myself with the workflows. I had a great time modeling all the different set pieces and if I continue to practice my focus will be on creating more polygon efficient models.



Character rigs provided by AnimationRigs
Mustache rig made by me.


Chase (April 2012)

This was my first foray into lighting.


Lessons learned

1. Label everything

            To help keep a scene organized be sure to label anything you add to the scene. When you’re trying to find in object in the outliner or some other editor it’s much faster to search for a specific name and not “Area Light 1”.

Things that went right

1. Experimentation

Overall I’m happy with the results of the scene, I managed to get the results I envisioned from the get-go, along with some happy accidents, and all it took was a bit of playing around with the settings. There are times I found tweaking numbers here and there just to see what the result was ended giving me a favorable outcome. The same can apply in animation, sometimes over exaggerating a pose or trying a new pose entirely will give you a better result that you may not have immediately thought of in the planning stages.



Bishop rig provided by Animation Mentor
Wolf rig provided by Niklas Wennersten


Boy and a blob (March 2012)

I wanted to add anther shot to my reel with two weeks before GDC.

Lessons learned

1. Give your audience more credit

            The idea started simple, a boy interacting with a blob character, but I was wary because I felt the relationship between the characters may not be readily apparent. I gradually added more frames before and after my initial concept to help establish the scene and before I knew it the shot had managed to reach 35 seconds. Instead of adding more frames to help get the idea across, I should have given the audience more credit to be able to figure out what is happening as well as keeping my idea simple.

2. Keep the idea simple

            It takes more skill to get your ideas and story across in a shorter amount of time in my experience. It’s easy to rely on the dialogue of a scene to set the tone/mood, however, this not only can be done with character interaction, but also with the environment and setting. I tend to get carried away when left to create my own shot- “What if I add this? That would be awesome! Oh, and this other thing too!” Especially with such a short deadline, a core idea that could have been brought to polish would have been more reasonable.

Things that went right

1. New workflow

            Every animator has a different workflow and workflows can change from each shot they work on. My workflow while working on this scene focused a lot more on a solid blocking pass before moving forward. This really helped me get my ideas nailed down and working quickly. It also helped reaffirm how important it is for me to keep my scene clean during this pass to allow for easy editing. If there’s a part that’s not working, cut it out and start over.

2. Having fun

            Although the shot is not finished, I’m happy with how much I accomplished in just two weeks. Not every shot can be a shot for your demo reel and I think the most important part is to have fun while you’re animating.



Boy rig provided by Animation Mentor
Blob rig provided by


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