How To’s

How NYFA Alum Camilo Navas Created His Animation Project “George is Hungry”

What does it take to actually make a creative animation sequence? Hard work, a bit of training, and the drive to manage multiple skillsets at once. From Game Design to Animation, NYFA students are taught the tools they need from some of the most skilled instructors in the business to create some of your favorite pieces you see every day in the digital world.

Colombia native Camilo Navas came to New York to visit a friend, who introduced him to an instructor that taught at NYFA. The instructor then told Navas about scholarships and ways to make studying at the school possible for what he wanted to study.

NYFA alum Camilo Navas

“I liked the city and the school was film and media-focused, so I loved it. The next semester after that, I started my admissions process, although I started studying Game Design and then I found out that what I really wanted to learn was Animation, so I was able to swap my program.” 

During their course, Animation students are trained to use multiple tools to create their assignments. For one project, Navas created a sequence called “George is Hungry,” and explained that he used Zbrush for modeling, Motion Builder for the animation and motion capture, and Maya as the 3D software, among others. 

Still from “George is Hungry” (Photo courtesy of Camilo Navas)

For this same assignment, the NYFA alum decided not to storyboard it as some other creators may choose. “I actually didn’t storyboard the film because I’m not a great drawer,” he shared. “I had the plan of implementing motion capture, which would allow me to make an animatic. It was a great idea because it adds the timing of the acting and lets me place the camera wherever I want. It was like shooting a movie that I could rewind and fast forward, and I didn’t have the pressure of being on a budget or limited time for shooting.

For the whole process, Navas revealed that there was a workflow he followed to create his project that made the work more seamless, due to the complicated nature of animation. His process included the following order of operations:

  1. Scripting the story
  2. Modeling the characters
  3. Rigging
  4. Motion capture
  5. Animation editing
  6. Blocking the camera
  7. Animatic
  8. Dynamics
  9. Rendering
  10. Compositing
  11. Editing
  12. Sound design
  13. Exporting the final result

“I chose the tools that needed the smallest investment of time and effort in order to get results faster and make corrections multiple times. It could be considered an iterative process. The project itself needed 5 months to be completed including the sound.”

Still from “George is Hungry” (Photo courtesy of Camilo Navas)

For this project, Navas needed sound to make the sequence complete, so when that was ready, the 1-Year 3D Animation alum had his finished project ready. “What happens on the screen is what creates the need for sound and music.”

With this project now finished and Navas graduated from NYFA, he is looking to produce a second episode and eventually make George’s universe from “George is Hungry” into a series. Navas also encourages those who are interested in animation to seek it out and pursue their passion. 

Still from “George is Hungry” (Photo courtesy of Camilo Navas)

“There are probably a lot of people like me, who think that you need to be super smart and a talented illustrator in order to achieve some success in this field. I previously said that before NYFA I didn’t know anything about animation or I even didn’t have skills like drawing. Sincerely, I still don’t know how to draw the human body with its proportions, but it really doesn’t matter because creating an animation piece is a colossal amount of work that it’s very likely for anyone to find a job to do where they are good at it.”

New York Film Academy would like to thank the NYFA alum, Camilo Navas, for sharing more about his experience studying in the Animation Conservatory at NYFA and for giving readers insight into what goes into creating a full animation sequence.

How to Animate a Film for an Older Audience

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Each year, animated films give viewers of all ages something to anticipate and enjoy. If you’re an aspiring animator, one of the most important skills to foster is the ability to create animation for any and all ages. If you’re particularly interested in producing content that speaks to adult viewers, consider the following strategies while planning your film:

Use Themes That Make the Audience Think

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There’s nothing more powerful than a story that leaves you with both emotions and thoughts. Adults appreciate thought-provoking films because they offer a whole new level of engagement, discovery, and experience. Whether a story includes philosophical elements or asks questions about how technology may affect us one day, a thoughtful theme is a great hook to secure the attention of mature audiences.

A great example that includes both themes we just mentioned is “Ghost in the Shell.” This cult animated classic tells the story of a cyborg police officer named Motoko who struggles to keep order in a futuristic city. As a being with both organic and mechanical parts, the rise of a powerful hacker eventually causes her to question her own humanity and existence. And the film certainly appeals to its intended audience. When animating for mature audiences, choose themes that will allow your animation to evoke intriguing concepts or questions and engage your audience on many levels, both emotionally and intellectually.

Analyze Your Content and Storytelling

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There are a lot of reasons why “South Park” has remained one of the most popular cartoons on television, from it’s quirky animation to its sly, timely humor. One important element of the success of “South Park” is its abundance of adult-oriented jokes. As an aspiring animator, know there is permission and precedent for creating animation specifically for mature audiences. Risque, controversial, and violent animation also has its place in the entertainment industry.

Of course, it takes more than mature content to make a successful animated film for an older audience. It also takes strong storytelling. For example, while Seth Rogen’s “Sausage Party” had all the mature language you could ask for, it was the storytelling that won the praise of critics and propelled the film to become the highest grossing R-rated animated movie of all time. If you choose the route of animating content that speaks particularly to an older audience, also remember to include excellent craftsmanship and thought-provoking themes in your animation.

Include Fun, Meaningful Stories

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You don’t have to animate for older audiences alone — you can also choose the route of animating films that have broad appeal. Both Pixar and DreamWorks have proven that animated movies can simultaneously appeal to all ages. From “Up” and “WALL-E” to “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Kung Fu Panda,” there are plenty of animated movies that viewers of all ages can enjoy. And aspiring animators can learn a lot from tackling the challenge of crafting fun, meaningful stories for all ages.

“The Incredibles,” for example, looks like the perfect film for kids. It has heroes that appear ripped straight out of a comic book and boast amazing powers any kid might dream about having. But along with that you have a story that illustrates a strong message that family is more important than anything else, including fame and glory. This meaningful story has the potentially to appeal universally to all ages. Whether you make an animated film only for adults or for people of all ages, don’t forget that almost all humans love stories with meaning.

Do Something That’s Impossible to do Elsewhere

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The power of animation is its ability to let us tell stories in a unique way that simply can’t be done in any other medium. For example, Dragonball Z has remained one of the most iconic animes of all time, and yet every attempt to recreate Toriyama’s world in live action has failed. Also think of all the best claymation and beloved anime films, which create visual worlds and characters so unique and specific that it’s hard to imagine them any other way. Animation offers unique possibilities.

And whether you’re animating for youngsters, mature viewers, or all ages, we hope these tips help you at the drawing board.

How do you prepare when creating animation for audiences of different ages? Let us know in the comments below!

How to Do Comic-Con Without a Badge

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It’s only been a week since Comic-Con and if you couldn’t make it you’ve been poring over websites, blogs, and social media trying to absorb the copious amounts of information coming out of San Diego. But here’s the thing… for less than $500 dollars, and a three-hour road trip, you too could have attended the convention. Not just attended the convention, but made lasting connections.

Here’s how…

Comic Con Isn’t Just Hall – H

Look, Hall – H is the sexy part of San Diego Comic-Con. It’s where the Game of Thrones cast meets up every year to mourn the dead. Hall – H is where the first was announced and where we learned Tom Hiddleston was going to be Loki. Fans spend days in line for one of those coveted seats. But, there’s more to the convention than Hall – H.

There’s so much more to explore. If you’re lucky enough to get a badge there are a great number of panels, demonstrations, signings and screenings. It’s not just the big new it’s about the exhibits.

In 2016, just outside the convention center, there were two separate carnivals, a South Park photo staging center, NBC had an entire plaza announcing their new season of shows, Amazon had a giant tent highlighting The Man in the High Castle and other forthcoming shows, Warner Brothers hosted a Suicide Squad virtual reality seminar and Wonder Woman’s invisible jet for family photos. None of these exterior events required a badge and most were completely free to attend.

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Business is Flourishing

The convention center is only open from 10 AM to 7:30 PM. Once the doors are closed all those industry people have to go somewhere. This is your chance to mingle with the crème de la crème of producers, writers, actors, editors, and financiers looking for their next big project.

You can take advantage of this opportunity. Go to any hotel bar after doors close order a virgin drink, and listen intently. Wait until you hear about a latest project or passion and chime in. You’ll be surprised at how friendly and open attendees are. Everyone is here to promote so they’re eager to share their stories, advice, and experience.

Soon there will be an opportunity for you to talk about what you do and where you’re hoping to go. You might not get offered a job, but you’ll walk away with some new knowledge and a new contact. Make sure to email your contacts right away, thanking them for their time and let them know you intend to stay in touch. Anytime you have a project, a GoFundMe, or get a great job, let this person know. They’ll be rooting for you and when they’re ready to hire you’ll be the first person they think of.

Industry Parties are Everywhere

Every major entertainment news outlet, blog, publishing company and production company hosts a party at San Diego Comic-Con. Getting inside can be tricky but the experience trying to get in can be memorable. Usually, there are lines wrapped around the building. When you find one, hop in line and begin a conversation. Get to know those around you.

Once inside, take the opportunity to circle the room. Then find a place where you feel you’ll fit in. Make conversation. Pro tip: don’t talk about business. This is an opportunity for those hired by the company to blow off steam. The last thing they want to do is interview you for a position or explain why they like their company. Instead, talk about your passions. Ask them about their past convention experience. Or, just dance. Just being a cool human being can be the best kind of networking.

So, bring a lot of business cards, a positive attitude, and some samples of your work. Soon you’ll be hobnobbing with the best in the industry. Even if you don’t walk away with your dream job, you’ll have made memories and contacts that can last a life time.

How To Do Stop Motion Animation

Before the advent of fully-blown CGI animation, traditional animation – in which every single frame is drawn by hand – was the industry standard. If you wanted to create something involving 3D models, stop motion animation was your only option.

But even though there are now many more ways to skin the proverbial cat, stop motion hasn’t waned in popularity. If anything, it’s becoming even more appreciated as an artform as people push the boundaries of what can be achieved with stop motion. Adam Pesapane – more famously known as PES – is a great example, with his work having delighted animation fans for over a decade:

Alongside the numerous accolades and awards PES has picked up over the years, the above animation (titled ‘Fresh Guacamole’) was also the shortest film ever to be nominated for an Oscar.

But how to follow in his footsteps? Join us as we explore…

How To Do Stop Motion Animation

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: stop motion animation is extremely time consuming work, which is instantly apparent to anyone who has ever seen even a basic film created in the medium. It is something that should only be attempted by those with patience, dedication, and an extreme amount of attention to detail…

… the reward for these is a level of job satisfaction that is simply off the scale.

Assuming you’re already in animation school or ready to embark on your first stop motion animation project, let’s take a look at how to do stop motion animation by first looking at the essential things you’ll need:

Models to Shoot

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The props and models you’ll need can vary wildly, and depend wholly upon your vision for the animation and what you’re hoping to create. Many people just starting out figuring how to do stop motion animation find a lot of use and versatility in Lego, although the downside is that it can be fairly expensive to buy a large set from scratch.

A Scene in Which to Place Them

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Again, the setting can be just about anything. PES uses a simple kitchen counter and lets his props and models take the main focus . You can also hand draw imagery or use other props to build a backdrop to the scene. A green screen can also be useful if you’d like to experiment with digitally inserting backgrounds in post production.

An HD Camera

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Given that stop motion animation is as much about animating as it is an exercise in photography, you’ll want the best camera you can get your hands on. Using a phone or tablet is also an option. Although the overall image quality may not be as sharp, there are apps out there that can automate the editing process (we’ll come to this a bit later on.) Also make sure that you’ve got a big enough SD card or storage space to store all the images during the shoot.

An Extremely Stable Camera Rig

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And ‘stable’ is the operative word here. If the tripod isn’t 100% stationary for the duration of the scene (or the slightest knock will move it), you’ll end up with very chaotic footage in the final edit.

A Lighting Set Up

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Uniform lighting is also paramount. A simple desk lamp can suffice in many occasions, but make sure you don’t have natural light coming into play which will change over the course of the shoot.

Editing Software

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Software developers have become attuned to the needs of stop motion animators in recent years, so there are a number of options that will help make the editing and file management part of the job a lot easier – check out our guide on Stop Motion Animation software here.

Above all, you’ll need a clear idea of what you want to achieve. One of the biggest pitfalls that many people fail to consider when working out how to do stop motion animation is the storyboard. There is no room to work things out on the fly, and any attempts to do so will result in a mish-mash of unworkable stills. Every hour spent planning will pay off dividends in the long run, so be sure to meticulously lay out your storyboard ahead of time.

Once you’ve done that, it’s time to start shooting!

  • Get all set up. Rig up your lighting and camera, and put your models and scenery into place. Bear in mind that you’ll likely be in it for the long haul, so make sure you’ve got enough time to prevent having to deconstruct everything mid-shoot.
  • Take a test shot. This is simply to make sure your lighting and camera settings are optimal before you take hundreds of photos!
  • Begin shooting. Take a photo, move the model by a tiny amount, then repeat. Do make sure your own shadow doesn’t make it into the shot…
  • Ending the Shoot: Hopefully you’ll have allowed for enough storage space to get all the images you need! Once you’re done, export all the files to your main editing suite (you may want to use a batch renaming tool to make the file names logical and in sequence.)
  • Edit the project. How you go about this comes down to which stop motion animation software you’re using, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure the individual stills are all of equal length. You’ll also want to cut in some audio or speech to make the film more dynamic from an audio perspective.

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Once you’ve completed your first stop motion animation, you’ll be able to analyze the finished results and identify areas for improvement on your next project.

Golden Rule: Start off small, be patient, and keep on practicing until you create even bigger and better stop motion animations.

Animation is all around us. From opening title sequences to live-action movies to cartoons, animation and VFX are an integral part of a variety of art forms. Check out NYFA’s variety of Animation & VFX programs by visiting our Animation School page to find a program that works for you.

How to Make a (Good) Kinetic Typography Animation Video

Kinetic typography is a fantastically engaging way of delivering text information in a visual way. It’s a great marketing vehicle for those looking to spread a heavy message without losing their audience, and is equally as good simply for entertaining the viewer – particularly with the advent of YouTube, there have been so many great examples of kinetic typography that it’s become something of an artform.

Rendering text in an appealing manner is a fundamental skill taught at graphic design school, and there are a lot of resources out there to get you started with the animation aspect. But putting technical factors aside, what makes for an aesthetically pleasing kinetic typography animation that stands a chance of going viral?

The Key Ingredients for a Great Kinetic Typography Animation

  • Don’t Go Over Three Minutes. This is a real biggie – no matter how excellent you think your material is shaping up, your audience’s mind will wander around this point (and all those hours you spend putting into the superfluous two minutes will be wasted). Keep it tight and concise, and your viewers will love you for it.
  • Don’t Use A Weak Soundtrack. Another huge mistake that can kill an otherwise good animation is using an audio file with a terrible bitrate, distortion or other issues. Although kinetic typography can be seen as primarily a visual media, it’s very much an aural one, too.
  • Render The Exported Video on the Highest Settings. Again, it’s all about not selling yourself short – why bother spending hours on a crisp-looking typography that would get you accepted into animation school, only to stick it on YouTube in a pixelated 320p resolution?
  • Triple-Check for Typos. This one sounds obvious, but it’s surprising how often we see excellent kinetic typography laden with spelling (and grammatical) errors. It can ruin the experience for an eagle-eyed viewer, and it’s very difficult to go back and correct these, so be sure to triple check for typos.

These four major guidelines should stand you in good stead and get you most of the way there, but next we’ll take a look at some nuanced aspects of kinectic typography when executed brilliantly…

… and dissect some poorer examples, too.

Picking Workable Audio

Having good sound quality is key, but that isn’t the be-all and end-all of an audio track that will look good when animated.

Let’s assume you’re looking to take some movie dialogue and give it the kinetic typography treatment purely for entertainment purposes (a great place to start out).

What you should be looking for is a scene that isn’t too “messy”, with numerous actors talking at once or overlapping, a big soundtrack detracting from the spoken words or abrasive sound effects that will be tricky to represent in animated form.

While there’re no strict laws here, you’ll probably want to start out with just a one or two actors speaking at a fairly even rate (more on pacing in a bit). If the script itself is instantly recognizable and/or iconic, even better – a superb example from Breaking Bad:

Do set aside some time to fiddle with the audio track in the editing suite before you begin animating to get the best out of the finished product; a little time spent tweaking the EQ and lowering any ambient noise that may be in the clip so that the words shine out can pay dividends.

Working in the Third Dimension

Check out this kinetic typography video from Zombieland (a movie which actually employs kinetic typography during the scene itself):

You’ll notice how – particularly towards the end – the animator employed back and forth motion with the type and graphics rather than just scrolling text along the X and Y axes.

One of the great benefits of the medium is that you’ve got an infinite canvas to work with, so do make good use of it in all three dimensions – it’s a lot more engaging to see the ‘camera’ move through the frame, especially since this technique makes it hard to predict which direction the font will start moving in.

The Art of Pacing

In the above two examples, it’s clear that the animators paid a great deal of attention to the pacing of the script; sticking with some words or lines longer than others, and dramatically speeding up or slowing down at points.

How you approach this depends hugely on the audio you’re working with, of course, and more often than not you just have to go with your gut as to what feels ‘right’.

That said, the best way to demonstrate the importace of pacing is perhaps to look at a poor example. This one comes from the movie Inception:

Hit Them With a Surprise

Much like any visual medium, throwing in the odd curveball or twist can be a very effective way of leaving an impression on your audience. This is especially true of kinetic typography, which is, at its heart, simply text moving around a screen.

Check out this delightful animated clip from The Social Network, which not only incorporates a lot of the above advice, but features a delightful twist at the end: 

The Best Way to Make a Killer Kinectic Typography Video? Practice!

Your first few videos are likely to be very rigid and not particularly mindblowing, but that’s very much to be expected. The only way to better yourself is to have fun playing around and discovering what works and what doesn’t – by the same token, feel free to contravene every piece of advice offered above!

There are already a lot of tired clichés when it comes to typography, so there’s nothing wrong with trying to stand out from the crowd by experimenting. To demonstrate this in action, we’ll finish off with this marvelous Pulp Fiction clip in which the animator has even managed to incorporate video into the mix: