Animation | Demo Reels | About the Industry | Full Sail (schools) | Setup Artist | Free Rigs | About Me

Top 10 Questions:
Should I go to Full Sail?
- How do I get a job in the Industry?
- What is your Animation Process?
- What can I expect for an Art test in getting a job?
- What should I show on my demo reel?
- Will a Studio hire me if I don't know the program?
- Do animators do setup?
- What is 'Crunch time' at work?
- Where are you currently working? What are you working on?
- Why aren't there more personal animation updates on your site?

Top 10 Questions

Should I go to Full Sail?

Thats always a tough question. And I'll refrain from any definitive yes or no, for a few reasons. When I went through the Computer Animation program in 2003-04, it was an Associate Degree and lasted 14 months. As of the start of 2006, that program has become a Bachelors Program and now lasts 23 months. So first off, due to this shift, the program has yet to have any bugs worked out in the cirriculm. Secondly, since I have yet to see any portfolios come out of the new graduates, I cannot make a solid judgement.

Aside from the course change, theres other elements to consider. When I went through the program, I started out with 84 people, 14 months later I graduated with 4 of them. The program at FS difficult and intense, with very strange hours. If you decide to go, be prepared to be at school at any and all times of day. Also be prepared to set your life aside for the length of the program. If your unable to do either of these, I would recommend a different course of action.

Other schools. If your interested in Full Sail, do check out other school so you can get an idea of the options out there. Schools like Ringling ( ), Academy of Art San Fransico ( ) , Vancouver Film School ( ), Gnomon ( ).

Getting a Job. The average class that graduated at full sail was about 20-30 people a month. From those people, typically 1-3 get a job withen 3 months out of school. Of course this fluxuates and is only based of my experiences. Just because you graduate from Full Sail (or any school from that matter) doesnt mean you'll be a handed a job. Even if your the best in your class, thats still not a given right. There are many factors at play in getting a job, graduation is minimual

To Top 10 Questions...
How do I get a job in the Industry?

-Figure out where you want to work and what job you want to have. When you know this, research that company and job position to get an understanding of what their looking for in potential employees. Then, go 1 by 1 down the list of requirements. Become familiar in the packages they use/recommend.
-Begin creating work based on the style that is used by the company you wish to work for. Are they cartoony, hyperrealistic, ect? Do they do a lot of sci-fi, kids movies, ect? Base your portfolio around the work they demonstrate.
-Focus on one area (animation, modeling, setup, ect) and stick to it.
-Become deeply familiar with one 3d package, so that you can master your craft once your past the learning curve. Knowing multiple programs wont get you a job, being able to create the desired work will.
-Get a website, keep it updated with your most recent and best work. Keep the site clean, professional, easy to navigate.
-Get a professional email account like, or, to contact companies with.
-Get on the online Forums ( ) (the more the merrier) and the like, and start presenting your work.
-In your forum presence, keep it professional, use your real name, link your site in your forum signature along with the job title you wish to have. Example "Kiel Figgins,, Character Animator"
-Critique the other work you see on these forums, this will help you build a reputation, and have your name and work be seen more.
-Once you've built up a decent portfolio, online presence (website AND forums), you can start to contact companies. Find out companies HR or Job placement emails, send an email thats short and specific stating that you have researched their company, liked what you've seen, and are looking for a job as __blank__ (Animator, Modeler, ect). Give them a direct link to your website and portfolio, and use the same signature as your Forum signature.
-When sending out emails expect to send out a lot of them (anywhere from 300-800) and only hear back from maybe 10 of them. Don't hound companies that havent written back. If you can't think of any more companies to contact, go on to sites like ( ) and ( ). Look at the job postings and company sites, and go one by one and contact them with the same email as before, even if their not hiring your position.
-Along those same lines, the forums your on typically have a sort of 'Job Board' like ( ) where you can see what companies are hiring, as well as post your own resume and job application in a similiar thread.
-Lastly and most importantly, during this entire process you should continue to keep working and honing your craft, each and every day, literally. 1 hour a day is better then 4 hours on the weekend. It will keep it fresh and keep you reminded of why your still doing it. You should be able to update your site least once a week with new content. With this new content you can post again on the forums and the whole cycle repeats.

To Top 10 Questions...
What is your Animation Process?

Typically, I like to do a few quick thumbnails after I've written down whatever actions or events will take place and any time restrictions I have. Those thumbnails are little more then gesture lines (typically the curve of the spine, foot placement and angle, waist angle, and knee bends are key). From that, I act it out to see what 'feels' right about my thumbs, and tweek and go back and forth till I think its ready to move forward. This takes about 10 mins or so, just acting it out and jotting notes down (longer of course for more complex or multiple character actions.

When I get it into 3d, I use autokey and character sets. Then I pretty much block out my thumb nails with rough timing. I put a key on everything for each of those main poses, since I know I'll want that pose at whatever time it ends up. Once the thumbs are in 3d, I use the dope sheet to play and scrub the animation to see if I missed anything and to verify it'll work with the character(s). I'll add in a few inbetweens to help visually if the poses are too far apart or if the feet (or other parts of the body) become distracting. Once the motion is roughed, I do my bulk timing with the Dope sheet, just moving the main poses around in time to see what 'feels' right again for the character.

After that phase, its pretty much standard animation and the tricks that follow.
-start with the body control, get the core motion clean
-Get the feet going to support the body and the weight
-Adjust the waist to work with the feet
-Roll the chest to get the intention and interia for the upperbody
-Work the 'eye brows of the body' (shoulders)
-Finese the curves and arcs for the arms
-Angle the head to give it direction and focus
-Do a secondary/accessory pass

Then its 'find what element is most distracting, fix it, find the next one' until your done...

To Top 10 Questions...
What can I expect for an Art test in getting a job?

These aren't set in stone, but should give you a good heads up:

Animation Test (Games):
-Take a biped character, and animate him doing __blank__ (run, walk, attack cycle). Do this in 3 days.
Example:TKO test ( by Kiel Figgins )
-Take a biped character, and animate him to match given storyboards. Do this in 5 days.
Example:NSpace test ( by Kiel Figgins )
-We've given you a mesh, rig it and animate him doing a run, walk, attack. Do this in 7 days.

Animation Test (Film):
-Heres a sound clip and rig, animate to it. Do this in 7 days.
Example:Blue Sky test ( by Tom Saville )

Setup Artist (Games):
-Heres a character mesh, rig and skin it, be as complex as possible.
-Heres a character mesh, rig and skin it, keeping the bone count under 25, 30, ect...

Setup Artist (Film):
-Here is a mocap rig, add a modifier rig ontop of it to clean up the existing animation

Modeling (Games):
-Here is a brief description and concept sketch, model and texture the character keeping it under 2500-3000 faces and 2 512 texture maps

Environment Artist (Games)
-Here is a few concept pieces of the existing environment, model one of those elements such as a plant or structure
-Here is a concept of an environment, model and match the concept
Example:Environment test ( by Brian Miller ) (look at 'The Corridor')
Example:Environment test ( by Cheuk Lee )

Modeling (Film):
-Here is an existing model, clean up the topology and in a seperate mesh, up rez the model
-Here is a brief description and concept sketch, model and zbrush the character

Concept Artist (Games):
-Here is a High Concept (something that shows a large view of the environment or overall level), take 3-5 of the objects shown and drawn each of them in a front, side, back ortho views to make model sheets out of them. What they are looking for from the test:
-work withen style, but expand and add own flare
-see objects from different more descriptive angles
-ability to render given objects
-continue objects past drawn borders

To Top 10 Questions...
What should I show on my demo reel?

Animation Reel:
Animation reels should show a clear understand of timing, weight and body mechanics. This is the bare minimual that the reel can be built off. From here you can define more of a focus, such as towards game animation (more humanoid/creature based cycle animation) or film/broadcast (more staging and dialog/lip sync animation).

Game Reel:
-Show animations that are applicable to games. Take a game you enjoy (say Prince of Persia) look at the animations the characters do, run cycles, sword attack, back flips, ect. These are the types of animations you'll want to mimic. If you perfer another style of game (say Ray Man), mimic those types of animations.
-Show a large variety. Being able to animate bipeds is a must so keep that your focus. But mix it up, even in that since. Animate Femme Fatals, Ogres, Marines, goblins, ect. Atop this, showing creature animations is a nice addition. Quadipeds, serpents, monsters, ect. Showing these sorts of animations can show versities in body types, attitudes, weight and motion. -Brief In Game Cinematics. Those clips when going through a game where the character comes to a door, pulls a lever and the door open, and he runs through. Demonstrating a few of these can show staging, camera angles, and working off the origin. -Keep your animations short. 3-5 seconds to show the action, then cut to the next one.
-Super hero poses, heavy hits, ect. Try these animations some time:
-leap over mid wall, roll, fire back over w/ a gun
-special move/spell/power move
-heavy recoil with an oversized gun (non comedic)
-180 degree slide from sprint (run, slide to stop, turn, run opposite direction)
-exaggreated/severe death (non comedic, ex. gernade in the face bounce against wall, sniper shot to the head)

Film Reel:
-Lip Syncs are the main element here. Show a variety of characters, acting out the clips is a good start.
-For an idea of what sort of sound clips, check out

Setup Reel:
You should be able to fully automate a bipedal rig, be able to customize the different pieces, (say it had dog legs or another set of arms), make sure its solid, scalable, named properly, and flexiable for multple types of animators (some like IK, some like FK, some want their IK to go with their body, some dont). You'll also be doing everything from robots, building elements (structures), animals, snakes, and pretty anything else combining those elements that come out of a concept artists head.

A Setup Reel should Include:
-Facial Setup - demonstrated with actual expersions (happy, sad, yell, pout)
-Bipedal Rig thats Automated - show that you can rig up a standard mesh of the most common type fast and uniformly
-Creature Rig - shows complexity and variety from Bipedal and Facial, this could be a quadiped monster, dragon, ect.

Setup Reel Notes:
-as a setup artist you have to be able to weight and bind, only briefly touch on these then show the more complex elements
-more curious about your systems and process and why their cool then the end result
-your rig has to be visually appealing, have the control make sense and still show the volume of the character even wen the mesh is hidden
-highlight the customizable abilities and animator preferences that can be changed
-more object/controls doesnt mean better, make sure its functional, yet optomized
-for custom rig scripts bullet the aspects, can you add/subtract fingers? spine complexity? use it on quad? ect
-show more tech demo of rig cabalities
-suggestion that your reel be more of a powerpoint-ish (but jazzy), flash marketing tool, less anims more bullets of interest
-any built window should look like it came hardcoded with maya with appropriate spaces or at least be visually pleasing

Model Reel(Games):
Modelers model and texture low poly character and props to be used in the game. Games have rather strict limitiations so keep them in mind.
-Poly count, standard biped would be around 2000-3500 polys with a single 1024 or two 512 textures.
-Show attention to anatomy and maintaining a clean mesh (topology)
-When you present your models, put them in characteristic pose, on a platform, do two rotations with a static camera. 1 rotation to show the wire, the second showing the full texture. State the poly count and textures used.
-A good game reel would have about 5-8 models, 4 bipeds (mixed male and female), 2 Creature-esque (monsters or quadipeds), the rest should show a variety in style or poly count (robots, ulta low poly, fluffy or kids game like models).Animation reels should show a clear understand of timing, weight and body mechanics. This is the bare minimual that the reel can be built off.
From here you can define more of a focus, such as towards game animation (more humanoid/creature based cycle animation) or film/broadcast (more staging and dialog/lip sync animation).

To Top 10 Questions...
Will a Studio hire me if I don't know the program?

If you can produce the level of quality in the time they desire that fits the style their using, then Yes. Learning another package is just another tool. What their hiring in you is not your knowledge of the software (with a few exceptions, scripting and coding be a big one) but rather your creative sense and so forth.

Most studios will buffer in addition time when hiring new employees that need to learn their software. And when those employees are hired, their engulfed in that environment, so they tend to pick up the package rather quickly.

To Top 10 Questions...
Do animators do setup?

Sometimes, but it really depends on the Studio. If a particular studio has a Setup Artist, then animators are pretty much set on animation and exporting. If not, then its fairly common place for Animators to be given a Character Mesh, and be expected to rig, skin (bind), animate, and get it in the game.

Don't fret it if you dont know setup when you take a job. It should have already been discussed when taking the job weither or not you would be doing it. Past that, if you are willing to learn, they will be more then willing to teach you.

To Top 10 Questions...
What is 'Crunch time' at work?

Crunch is a fun and interesting term and occurance. Crunch happens a bit oddly in games, theres a lot of hurry up and wait, especially for animation. Being the last artist to get assests, your under the gun the most if theres been any hitches in the pipeline, its our necks. Overall, the schedule is more or less a daily quota basis. Normally the number of cycles you do that day. 'Crunch Weeks' Can push up to 70-80 hours, but those weeks typically don't come one after the other.

Crunch is also inevitable, and is done at every game house, film studio and basement contractor. The amount of crunch depends typically on the quality of management. If your team is crunching all the time, its quiet possible that management is setting unrealistic deadlines.

Time with out crunch is nothing special really, business as usual. Get your work done on a timely matter. Revise, rework, rethink previous approachs, and work on ways of optomiziing the existing pipeline, then crunch for the deadline, rinse, wash, repeat. Throw in the occassional Nerf Gun wars among departments, going out to lunch, and LAN gaming, and you got your average week, give or take. Lessoned learned, work always comes first, then play.

To Top 10 Questions...
Where are you currently working? What are you working on?

I am currently working at NCSoft, Austin. The game I am working on is Tabula Rasa, pronouced 'tab-you-la ra-za' and meaning 'blank slate'. Tabula Rasa is Richard Garriot's latest MMORPG, due out in September 2006.

At NCSoft, I am a Creature Animator. I do Animation, Setup, Skinning, MAXScripting Animation tools, and exporting with the Animation team on all the Creatures and Playable Characters.

To Top 10 Questions...
Why aren't there more personal animation updates on your site?

Between working full time, freelancing on my offtime, and the falling under the occasional urge to sleep or remain a trace of a life, working to create personal content a top that sometimes falls under the radar. Also, when I do get a chance to do personal work, I typically like to experiment with different approachs while not under time or production restraints. From these small projects and exercises, I learn what I need to from them, but they typically don't yield any sort of product that I wish to show.

Aside from side projects that I dont want to show, I remain under contracts to not show the work I've done the for the companies I've worked for. Once I get clearance to show these works, then their on my site soon after. Until then, believe me when I say, I have a lot to show.

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