Saturday, 17 December 2016

3 Recommended Books for Animators (...not including the Animator's Survival Kit)

Anyone who has trained to become an animator, will have encountered Richard Williams go-to book, the Animators Survival Kit. It's excellent, and often revered as a bible for any self respecting animator. I like it, it's a very useful book, but there are other books too, just as worthy of high acclaim.

There are three in particular, that I've found just as invaluable. Funnily enough though, not so much for when I was doing homework assignments/training... these are the books I have on hand at work, in the studio. They are my go to books if I need to remind myself of certain techniques and they all help me to become a more accomplished animator.

1) Character Animation Crash Course by Eric Goldberg
Character Animation Crash Course
I came across the first book, Character Animation Crash Course, whilst I was a student, but it really came into its own when I was at work, trying to create strong cartoony animations. Eric Goldberg is the genius behind bringing visual life to the Genie in Aladdin, and also features as an animator in Disney's Moana. When I was working on Tree Fu Tom, we introduced a new character, Muru, who was very zippy in motion. NOt that I ever had any shots with him, but this book really helped break down for me the best way to make a convincing smear and jump across the screen. I mean, you couldn't be in better hands than with a Disney legend like Goldberg. Highly recommended.

2) How to Cheat in Maya (various editions)

How to Cheat in Maya
The second book is How to Cheat in Maya (using the right edition for whichever Maya version you are using). Firstly, this title is really misleading, it isn't about cheating at all. The title gives a stupid suggestion that you'll find out how to take a short cut in animation technique to make substandard work or something, but it's not. It's more like an easy to read, "help" window in Maya. It explains how to use elements and tools that you might be unfamiliar with. For instance, one of the most simplest things I found out was the "select by type" feature within the Graph Editor. For instance, when I'm using a rig but only intersected in Y translates, I can easily see every one of the selected joints, neatly arranged together in one easy display. Admittedly I don't use it a lot, but it has certainly saved me time by quickly working out why I might have a glitch in some of my curves. This book sits on my desk at work, and will probably stay very close by me whenever I animate! It looks like there's a 2017 version available here too.

3) Cartoon Character Animation with Maya by Keith Osborn

Cartoon Character Animation with Maya
Lastly, Cartoon Character Animation with Maya: Mastering the Art of Exaggerated Animation. Similar to the first book, this book is great if you're looking to improve your character animations, adding a polished cartoony feel. Full of examples (and links to get a pretty sweet rig) it shows you ways to push your poses and how to stretch your work (literally and figuratively) to achieve the desired cartoony feel. Easy to read and follow, very recommended again.

I'm sure everybody has their own go-to books, to keep on hand and refer to, but this little selection would certainly help start a decent library of animation guidance and tips, that would help you with your characters. Do you know better and more useful books too? Drop me a tweet (@animatormarc) to tell me, or leave a comment...let's share the knowledge!

Marc :)

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