Günter Update and a New Character!

We are sending out info on a Günter Update and our New Character. If you want to be in the know, sign up for our mailer. News will be out Monday.

Artist Showcase!

Eric Meister
Lead 2D Animator and Long Winter Studios Character Artist!

Eric and I go way back. We used to share the 2D animation lab back in college. Those were good times. Now Eric has found himself as a lead 2D Animator for Calabash Animation Studios. He is a Chicago based designer and illustrator and you can find tons of his killer work over at meisterMASH.

Check out Eric's gallery at Society6 for prints and other sweet illustrations!

Eric has been designing LWS' next round of characters. Swing by his blog for a sneak peek! 

Action Bot!

Action Bot is the first in our crash series. 

His structural quality and simple, clear design makes him perfect for those physical shots you've been thinking about. If you want to practice body mechanics  this guys is ready for everything. Swing him from a rope, shoot him out of a canon, have him eaten by crocodiles! No matter the trauma  physical or emotional, this guy is ready for adventure!

You can find this rig at: Long Winter Studios



Rig Details
Long Winter creates the base for its rigs with The Setup Machine. All Long Winter Studio characters come with the simplicity and dependability of The Setup Machine's body rig.
Check out the rig demo bellow!

Action Bot's features include:
-Advanced IK Spine
-Ik/Fk Arms
-Ik/Fk Legs
-Simple hand controls
-Thinkness controls on limbs
-Elbow/Knee sliders
-Stretchy everything!

...and tons more!
Seriously, Action Bot loves abuse.

Guest Animator!

Last week I had the pleasure of getting a fantastic animation back from my good buddy, John Paul Rhinemiller. We gave JP a copy of Patrick so he could look him over and give a review on his site Animator's Resource. Well, JP did us one better! He sent back a cool little animation!

Patrick Anim from Long Winter Studios on Vimeo.

You can see more of JP's work at his site: http://www.jpranimation.com/
Or check out his helpful resources at: http://animatorsresource.blogspot.com/

If you have a final animation you have done with one of our characters, send us a video we might just put it up on here and out website!

LWS has a newsletter! We will be sending out deals to those of you loyal to LWS as well as rig releases and news about characters, animation and clips done by friends of LWS. 

If you are interested in hearing the news, sign up for the NEWSLETTER
We will not be sending you unnecessary emails. Only the important stuff will end up in your mailbox.

Patrick is up!

Long Winter Studios is proud to present Patrick! We have been working on this for a while now and are thrilled to get him out into the public. 

Enjoy a little video showing some of what Patrick can do.

Rig Details

The face rig is a unique setup by Long Winter Studios and contains all the features any animator needs to get the most for the time and their money. 
Patrick's features include:

-Advanced IK Spine
-Eye scalers
-Fin scale
-Squash and stretch on all major facial features
-Eye lid minors
-Stretchy everything!
-Lip Seal
-Skull controls
-Simple fin controls
-Fin minors
-Lip minors
-Brow minors 
-Visability switches 
-Tounge and teeth controls
-Tounge and teeth sliders
-Lip sliders

...and tons more!
Seriously, Patrick is a BLAST!

Patrick Character Stills

Take a look at some stills of our new character "Patrick"! 

Patrick will be available for download starting next week! 
We are very excited. 


Patrick has even MORE stuff than Günter when it comes to face control.

Rig Details

The face rig is a unique setup by Long Winter Studios and contains all the features any animator needs to get the most for the time and their money. 
Patrick's features include:

-Advanced IK Spine
-Eye scalers
-Fin scale
-Squash and stretch on all major facial features
-Eye lid minors
-Stretchy everything!
-Lip Seal
-Skull controls
-Simple fin controls
-Fin minors
-Lip minors
-Brow minors 
-Visability switches 
-Tounge and teeth controls
-Tounge and teeth sliders
-Lip sliders

...and tons more!
Seriously, Patrick is a BLAST!

Rig Update!

There are exciting times ahead!

You may have noticed the new banner, or possibly the Facebook updates but if not, we have some news!
In the coming weeks Long Winter Studios is going to be releasing a new character! 

Patrick will be LWS' second character release! 

We started work on this project back in February and with other projects and what have you were forced to put Patrick on the shelf a couple of times. But now, the long awaited day is coming we are in the studio wrapping up the final details of our conquest.

But that is not all!

We also have some other treats in store for you all. Shorty after Patrick's public release we plan to put out two other assets for the animation community! 

Action Bot will be joining the team!

You may have seen this fellow over at Digital Tutors - well, now he will be available for download through Long Winter Studios. Which was after all his original birthplace.

Action bot is a solid, tough as nails rig and will be sold for a very reasonable price. 

We hope to have a video or two up next week so be sure to stop in and see whats been cook'n!

Ask an Animator - Team Management

Hey everybody! 

This week on Ask an Animator we are speaking with John Paul Rhinemiller. JP is an animator and team lead for Vicarious Visions in New York State. If you want to know more about JP you can find out about him in this fantastic interview from iAnimate.

I've been out of town for a couple weeks getting some much needed R+R. Hope you all are enjoying your summer.

JP has done work in both Feature Films and Games and has a you ton of great stuff to share. You all probably know him from Animators Resource. You can find out even more about JP at his personal site - JPAnimation.com

Here are JP's thoughts on team management in games:

 What are some of the goals of team management?

- My goal is to coordinate with the different departments to make the highest level of Cinematics we can at the studio. I also have a goal to make sure the team is having fun doing it. I speak frequently with the animators and see how I can make things better and a more enjoyable experience. I think this helps keep the passion for what we are doing and helps me better incorporate the needs of the individual artist to help the overall team.

 Can you talk about managing a team in the context of an animation or game studio?

- In games there are many moving parts and especially in Cinematics and the way we here at Vicarious are approaching them. All of our Cinematics are rendered in-game so this means we need to make sure the Tech can handle it and then work with the different engineers to get it to work properly. So in terms on areas to manage, we start at the Storyboard/Script phase, this is the ground floor where I work together with the writer, storyboard artist, Art Specialist and camera to break down the scripts and get a clear picture of what the specific goal of the Cinematic is. Here we really work out all of the action and story points along with characters, level assets and even talk about sound. Then we put it into an animatic with stubbed Sound FX and review and iterate if necessary. I then work with our layout guy to start getting the assets into the files and breaking them down by shots. During this process I assign the shots to the animators and work with production to get the shots in some sort of tracker so we can start tracking due dates and progress. I broke the Sequences into 4 phases of approval, Idea pass, Blocking, Rough and Final. During these phases we have dailies where I review the shots with the animators and I like to have an open forum through here to allow feedback from the team. I also have to coordinate with VFX and Audio to communicate what we are thinking and set up reviews for feedback and iteration. There is the Tech side which is the most work I think to coordinate, test and then iterate to make sure we are getting in the engine to what we see in 3D MAX. This tech is really always evolving too, as we want to include more things or push the limits of what we can do within the game engine. All the while I get to animate some shots as well :) That is the most basic breakdown I can give you on some of the day to day management of the team.

What are some of the difficulties and challenges that arise through the process?

-  I think learning the pipeline was pretty tough and understanding the limits of what games and technology can do. In the end these are all tools in out medium that help us tell the story so after I got a grasp of that and knew where all of the moving parts fit together I became more comfortable.

What has been the best thing about managing a team in a game studio?

- There has been many great things about this job but if I had to pick one...it might be the amount of Growth I have had not just as an animator but as an artist here. Managing people hasn't been the biggest challenge for me since my time in the Service I think really set me up with the skills to manage teams...large or small. All of the areas I have been able to grow and really help tell these stories and mini movies, like cinematics are. I feel a real sense of accomplishment when a whole sequence comes together.

Ask an Animator - Shahbaaz Shah

For many of you, there is a haunting reality waiting on the horizon. Graduation.

I often talk with students about their plans post grad. A common concern that I hear in these conversions is what they will do after they graduate. Many students are concerned that they will never find a job. Others think they will be working for Pixar 3 weeks after graduation.

This week I asked Shahbaaz Shah what he thinks students should expect post grad. 

What should an animation student expect right out of college?

"I got out of school in 2004 and the industry is different in many ways but I can try to give you my take on how I see it now and my experience back then.

I feel like students can expect a long difficult road ahead of them. But in the end it can all be very rewarding.

I think students getting out of school should have an open mind. I was very narrow minded on what my career could look like out of school and because of that I probably ignored other possibilities and also ignored what my true strengths and weaknesses were at the time.

I think students should know that right out of school they might not land that job they dreamed of that may have been the reason why they pursed animation to begin with. I feel like this is the case with many other industries as well but I think animation breeds this mentality even more so today because we view the path as: demo reel = film job. Often times they overlook the possibilities of gaining very valuable experiences at companies that might be far from related to their ultimate goal but can teach them how to be better artists and professionals when they get there. They might even find that those jobs were their true dream jobs all along.

As animators we quickly realize that it's not our film, commercial, or our game and we need to learn to be humble, take direction, and revise our work over and over or even throw it away. We learn we need to stay sharp and that the competition doesn't stop once you got your foot in the door. We need to continually be building on our craft. We learn to adapt crazy schedules and instability. We learn to turn disappointment into perseverance.  

I think two of the more important lessons I've learned on my journey so far are to work hard, very hard, and to know your priorities. Our job titles, film credits, games shipped, characters animated, etc, don't make us who we are. Not to say that they aren't worth anything at all but they don't make us more or less of a person. To me the most important thing in my life is my family and the relationships I have. My family is my priority. However this industry is hard and can be trying on our relationships. It can quickly turn us into the absent father and husband. It can move us away from friends and family year after year. And as we get out of school we slowly start to learn how to make that balance and we learn to put our families first.

When you first get out of school you need to work really hard and you need to keep your priorities in check. You will have to make tough decisions and sacrifices will have to be made. A lot of time will be dedicated to your craft and your job. But if you keep your priorities straight, you make good decisions, and you work hard at your craft the hope is that eventually you find yourself in a career path that allows you enjoy all the great benefits of being an animator as well as allows you to feel like you're living a full healthy life with great people surrounding you.

In short, expect to work hard, don't overlook possibilities, make hard decisions, and know your priorities. "

Shahbaaz Shah is an animator for SuckerPunch Games and has previously worked for Blue Sky, Sony Imageworks and Disney Interactive.

LWS Animation Competition!

We are hosting the 2013 LONG WINTER  Animation Olympics!

We are calling all Günter animators to submit their best work to the 2013 LONG WINTER Animation Olympics! We will have 3 categories and will be picking one winner for each category.

The animation categories are:

Physical Action
Silent Comedy
Acting Performance

Submit your work to longwinterstudios@gmail.com and we will place it in it's proper category!
Winners will be announced August 1st!
Judges to be announced soon!

Your Potential...?

As an artist you may have experienced something interesting as you have looked at your own horizons. When artists ask the question, "What job should I apply for?" the answers that come to mind are often much narrower than what is actually possible. You have a degree in animation, shouldn't you look for a job in animation? I would say, not necessarily.

If you are like me, animation was or is the only thing you would ever want to do for a living. It may be the only thing you are good at or maybe your deepest passion. Most of you reading this may find that almost everything you do other than animation, art, or film is boring, frustrating and honestly not something you would ever want to do. While that may be true, there are many things a person can do with their life. As life goes on you will learn more about yourself. At some point, no matter how passionate a person is, they will move beyond that passion into another passion, or a deeper understanding of their passion.

My point is, you are probably under selling yourself. 

As I said above, you are probably doing this by narrowing your view of what your talents can actually do. This plays out in a number of ways. One, you put blinders on and only look for opportunities where artists have typically looked for opportunities. Ex - A Film Studio, Design House, a Game Studio. The second way that artist often pigeon hole themselves is with our view of how we fit in with the working world. As an artist, you probably didn't go to a traditional school. When you hold your resume up against someone with a degree in business or finance they clearly have the upper hand in the traditional working world.

I would not be so quick to undermine your own skills. FastCompany.com posted an article that stated the opposite. In their post - Is An MFA The New MBA? - they talk directly to a creative culture of artist with unique skills and talents that are becoming more and more essential in our modern working world.

The post hosts a great list of unique skills (and their descriptions) that creative artist folks like you and me have. Here are some of those skills -

"Integrate arts on the job
The arts are not just a hobby. Employees trained in the arts can draw on their creative talents and apply what they might do naturally in the studio or while recording music or making a film to the types of puzzles they deal with every day.

Arts-trained employees won’t leave their creativity at the doorstep when they join our firms or organizations. Ask them to explicitly think about puzzles using their artistic hat/lens. Invite a local theater group to work with employees on improvisation exercises to free up their creative juices. Research has shown that when people engage in improve they later generate more creative ideas to a range of issues and challenges.

Fail more often
Encourage employees and students to take more risks and to stretch their creativity. Give them space and permission to fail. Figure out how to incorporate critical feedback into an ongoing process of improvement and innovation. Ask an artist to come in and run a "critical feedback" workshop for employees. Or someone with design experience to help people think about "rapid prototyping" as a way to audition new ideas. Artists understand that you need to fail often in order to succeed.

 Sit with ambiguity
Employees in a lot of settings should become more comfortable with ambiguity. In my classes, students writhe in pain when I give them an ambiguous assignment. They naturally want to know exactly what they need to do to get the desired grade. Not only do we as teachers and employers need to be comfortable giving work assignments where we build in ambiguity, but we need to help those we mentor learn how to begin a process or a task without knowing what the outcome will be. Again, having an artist facilitate a workshop where a creative task is emergent, shifting, and where new information requires adjustments and negotiation, would be a great first step."

Reading this list, you and I both know that these three things are common place in our day to day work life.  The key element that I have found useful in my career is the ability to think outside the box. This applies to your animation but it very much applies to everything you do. Problem solving is a part of every artist's everyday existence. In order to solve those problems, you may have to think objectively about all the possible solutions. In order for your life to be the most it could be, you will have to think creatively, outside the box and be brave enough to live out your decisions. 

"Many people see artists as shamans, dreamers, outsiders, and rebels. In reality, the artist is a builder, an engineer, a research analyst, a human relations expert, a project manager, a communications specialist, and a salesman. The artist is all of those and more--combined with the imagination of an inventor and the courage of an explorer. Not a bad set of talents for any business challenged to innovate in a world of volatility, uncertainty, and change."
-Steven Tepper

The only thing you have to lose is a predictable life lived without risk. I am pleading with you all, do not settle for less than you are capable of. Don't underestimate your true talent.
You can read the whole article here: http://www.fastcompany.com/3007541/mfa-new-mba

Ask an Animator - Mike Belzer

 This week we hear from a good friend of mine Mike Belzer! 

Mike and I met a few years ago and from day one Mike's perspective and wisdom were apparent. So, when the question came up "What are some things artists should know in order to give their career longevity? How do you make it in this business over the long haul?" I knew I had to ask Mike. With many years of working in this industry, and making the hard transitions through mediums, Mike has shown incredible staying power. Listen up! Here's what Mike had to say - 

 I've been in the industry for over 25 years and this question continues to be a moving target. The one common answer to all the change is flexibility. Too often I see artist focus on their dreams and lose sight of possible opportunities. When someone is fixated on I will work at "X" Studio one day, they often miss the opportunities of what may be facing them.  By example I had an opportunity to work at a little company named Pixar who had done some fun commercials and were looking to embark on a CG film.  I was a stop-motion guy who loved the craft, but saw this opportunity to learn more about computer animation and ended up having a wonderful experience. This opportunity allowed me to make some incredible connections with people and grow as an animator.  

Flexibility not only means being open to what company you work for but also what project you're working on and being open to other tasks.  I'm an animator by title, but I'm always open to learning more.  For example I'm currently animating video games, but I'm also learning C++.  My goal is not to become a programmer, but rather to better understand how things are working in the game code.  If someone had told me a few years ago that I'd be learning C++, I would have called them nuts! So the point is to never say never and always stay open to new opportunities.  

Common sense plays an important role in career longevity also. In this industry you may not know someone today, but may work with them tomorrow. Even if you never work with an individual, you most likely will know someone who will and people talk.  The bottom line is to do your best, treat people right and never use people to get ahead.  It always surprises me to see people say or do questionable things to others in order to advance in their careers. These poor choices inevitably catch up and come back to hurt their career.  Short term gains often turn into long term problems.

So to wrap it up into a nice neat package, always do your best, treat others well and be open to new opportunities.  Kind of sounds like what our parents were teaching us when we were all growing up. Guess they knew more than we gave them credit for.

Thanks a ton Mike. Your quality is evident in all you do my friend!

Ask an Animator!

  This week Alex Snow answers our questions about the animation industry.

Alex Snow is an animator for Sony Imageworks. In the past Alex has worked for Rhythm and Hues, Reel FX and Image Metrics. While at Imageworks, Alex has worked on some movies you may know:
- Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2
-Oz the Great and Powerful
-Hotel Transylvania
-The Amazing Spiderman
- Arthur Christmas
- Smurfs

If you want to say thank to Alex for his killer info about the animation industry you can do that at www.alexandermsnow.com

What was the biggest surprise about working in a big studio? And what was the biggest learning curve you faced?

"I think the biggest surprise was actually a positive thing. Going to a big studio or any studio for that matter, can be very daunting.  No matter how good you are at animating or how experienced you are, its always a little scary going somewhere new, especially if you dont know anybody else there. I was expecting to work really hard and learn a lot and just try to keep up to everyone else. My first job out of school was at Rhythm and Hues to work on  Alvin and the Chipmunks 2 and i was super excited, but also really nervous. I didnt know many people there and like most animators, i think my work stinks and everybody else rules. The most surprising thing that happened was that i started with all these amazing animators from Blue Sky, Disney, Sony, and everywhere else and all of them were extremely nice. They all answered my questions if i was confused, and were more than happy to give their opinions on my work if i wasnt sure about an acting choice or pose. I went into the job thinking work work work, i have to prove myself, i have to do it on my own. Instead I was pleasantly surprised. I still had to work really hard and put in my hours and learn a ton, but i had a bunch of new friends who knew what they were talking about, and were more than willing to help. Your not making the movie or game or tv show on your own, remember you have peers and friends and the more tips and tricks you can learn, the better. A lot of those guys and girls are still my close friends today and Ill never forget their kindness.

   The biggest learning curve for me other than linux and proprietary software, was probably learning how to manage my animation workflow. In college i luckily had worked on a lot of stuff all at once with tight deadlines, which increased my ability to animate fast. Going into the studio environment, especially film where polish is very important, i had to figure out a way to manage the way I animated. I needed to do my work in a timely manner and hit deadlines, while also having time to massage and polish my work into something presentable. Also figuring out how much to put into each phase (blocking,spline,polish) while considering there would be changes when it was passed up through supervisors and leads up to the directors.  

   To say i figured this out would be a lie. I still constantly have to change what i put into my work in each stage, on each show. Having different directors and leads will always change your workflow a little bit, and as you work with the same people you will discover the best approach for each person or project. Just like animation is something you continue to learn about and improve upon through the years, workflow is no different. It keeps things interesting, and working with new people and new projects is half the fun. :)"

Thanks Alex, It was fun working with you too brother! 

Next week we will tackle the question, How do you deal with criticism from a director? And can you tell us a little bit about the approval process when working in film?