By: Elyse                Categories: General

We asked our legendary author, Mike Mattesi, to draw an ad for the CTN Animation Sketchbook. The concept: What does Focal Press mean to aspiring animators?

We were thrilled when we received this back…

Now, we are going to ask you. What does Focal Press mean to you?


Learn drawing skills from Mike Mattesi by checking out his Force books! His latest book with Focal Press is Force: Animal Drawing.

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By: Elyse                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationBooksGamesGeneral

Roger’s top 10 reasons why you can’t select your object

MY GOOD FRIEND Roger Cusson is, like me, a longtime instructor on 3ds Max. One day we got to talking about the challenges of teaching such a large and complex program, and we agreed that the biggest barrier new students have is confusion about selecting objects.

Roger proposed that since we go over these pitfalls in every class, he should publish a list of Roger’s Top 10 Reasons Why You Can’t Select Your Object. The list never actually got published until the first edition of this book. Here is the list, printed for the first time in the first edition of this book and back by popular demand, including a cutout reminder list that you can tape to your laptop or monitor for easy reference.


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By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneral

Sande Scoredos was the executive director of training and artist development at Sony Pictures Imageworks. She was committed to working with academia, serving on school advisory boards, guiding curriculum, participating on industry panels, and lecturing at school programs. She was instrumental in founding the Imageworks Professional Academic Excellence (IPAX) program in 2004. Sande chaired the SIGGRAPH 2001 Computer Animation Festival and was the curator chair for the SIGGRAPH 2008 Computer Animation Festival.

Sande produced Early Bloomer, a short film that was theatrically released. Her other credits include: Stuart Little, Hollow Man, Spider-Man, Stuart Little 2, I Spy, Spider-Man 2, Full Spectrum Warrior, The Polar Express, Open Season, Spider-Man 3, Surf’s Up, Beowulf, I Am Legend, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Before the Pitch: Register Your Work

Before you pitch your idea to anyone, your family, friends, your uncle Joe that works at a studio, or even random strangers, protect everyone—and your idea—by finding out who owns the rights to your idea. Do not talk about your idea until you have gone through the registration process or have an agent. You never know who is listening at Starbucks. If you are pitching for a school project you may find that your school already owns the rights. Likewise, if you work in the entertainment industry, your company may own the rights to anything resembling intellectual property. Ask your career services advisor or legal department about ownership rights and be sure to read your deal memo and contract agreement.

Most studios will only take pitch meetings through an agent. That is to protect you and them against copyright claims. For information on copyright filings, check the United States Copyright Office website, Read the guidelines carefully and follow the procedures.

Know Who Will Hear Your Pitch

Now, prepare for that pitch.

Successful pitches are carefully designed and orchestrated. Many brilliant ideas have fallen by the wayside due to poor pitching skills.

Whether you are pitching a 30-second short to your animation professor or an epic to a studio executive, find out who is going to hear your pitch.

You have just a few seconds to grab their attention and convince everyone in the room that your story is worth telling. How you describe it, visualize it, sell it, and sell yourself will all work for you or against you.

First, be honest and decide if you are the best person to make the pitch. If you get flustered speaking to a group, then let someone else do the talking. Not everyone needs to be part of the formal presentation so play to your strengths.

Talk to the “gatekeeper,” the key contact who is setting up the meeting, and ask him or her to tell you who might attend. If you can, find out their titles and what influence they have on the process. Then do your homework.

The World Wide Web is a wealth of information. Check out the backgrounds of each person who may be in the meeting.

• Try to get a recent picture of each person. • What types of projects do they like? • What projects have they worked on? • Where did they grow up? • What college did they attend? • What projects are in their catalog? Do they already have an animated film about two talking zebras? Oops, your project is about two zebras so think about how your project fits into their plans. • Get your facts straight and then double check them. Just because it is on the web or IMDB does not make it true.

Why is this important? If you can find a relevant personal connection, then you can tap into that with a casual chat, discover mutual acquaintances or interests. But be careful. You want to stand out just a little more from the other pitches and be remembered in a good way. Your pitch should always be short and to the point, not too deep or detailed or it can get boring. You want a balance of wellrehearsed but not memorized, engaging and delivered with enthusiasm but not clownish, and delivered with confidence and passion for the project.

This business is all about relationships so you want to connect with the people in the room.

Preparing for the Pitch

Make sure you know your story. Research your idea and know what else is out there that remotely resembles it—is there a character, city, situation, movie or game that is similar to yours? You can bet that someone at the pitch will say this sounds like XYZ, the classic film from 1932 directed by some obscure foreign director. Assume that anyone in the pitch session has seen it and heard it all. Nothing is worse than the silence you hear that follows the comment, “What else have you got?” A potentially embarrassing moment can turn in your favor if you can intelligently discuss the other work, and its relationship to yours. You will look good if you not only know of this piece but can intelligently discuss this reference.

You also want to make sure you have the rights to the properties and characters. Say your story centers around a landmark building in downtown New York. Believe it or not, you may not be able to obtain or afford the rights to use that building. Same goes for characters and music. If your story cannot be made without that specific Beatles song, consider the reality and cost of acquiring the rights.

If your project requires getting the rights, be prepared to discuss the status of your negotiations in the meeting. If you do not have an original concept and cannot afford to obtain rights for existing properties, check out the properties in the public domain.

Photo by Bradley Gordon


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By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationGeneral

The following is an excerpt from Animated Life. Written with wit and verve, Animated Life is a guided tour through an entire lifetime of techniques, practical hands-on advice and insight into an entire industry. Here, Disney animator, Floyd Norman teaches you the step you need in order to climb up the industry ladder.

The Assistant Animator

You’ve finally finished your animation apprenticeship, and you’ve learned the ropes as a fledgling inbetweener and breakdown artist. Now that the cartoon basics have been instilled, you’re ready to take the next big step. No, don’t get too anxious. You’re not an animator yet. You’ve another important role to fill before continuing your climb up the ladder. It’s time to become an assistant animator.

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By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneral

TO MODEL ANY CHARACTER, you’ll use the same general process in 3ds Max. As with sculpting, you’ll start with a simple object like a box or cylinder, and mold and shape the character using a variety of tools.

This is a basic overview of the process; the tools themselves are described in more detail in subsequent topics.


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By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneralInspiration

This is a drawing of a male skeleton, with the muscles overlaid on one side. Study the sizes of the bones in relation to one another, and then notice how the muscles fit over and attach to them. When parts of the skeleton are moved, this has an effect on the shape and form of the muscles relating to that area. This can be seen in the drawing of the arm muscles as the arm bends at the elbow; the bicep contracts and bulges as it pulls the lower arm up, but the tricep located on the back of the arm is stretched and so appears flatter. This is essentially how all the muscles of the body work, they contract or stretch, and as each muscle deforms one way, there is another muscle deforming in opposition to maintain balance and physical stability. It’s an amazing system, well worth taking lots of time to study.

RIGHT The body split into a skeletal half and a muscular half.


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By: admin                Categories: 3D AnimationAnimationGeneralSIGGRAPH

We are are at one of the  biggest computer graphics events – SIGGRAPH! The  team here at Focal Press is hard at work on last minute preparations.  It is our favorite time of year!  We are excited to meet and spend time with Focal fans old and new.  This year, we are co-exhibiting with CRC Press – Come by our BOOTH #1213 and check out all of the new releases, receive 20% discount on our books, enter for a chance to win free books, and say “hello!” to the team.

This year, we are giving away a 1-year license of Toon Boom Harmony software at our booth… in honor of our new book coming out, Animate to Harmony. Don’t miss out!

We hope to see you soon!

Here are some of the books you will see at the conference:

Can’t attend? Well you see have a chance to win some free loot. Sign up for our newsletter, and we will select one person to win a free book of their choice.

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By: admin                Categories: AnimationBooksGamesGeneral

At Focal Press, we believe that learning, improving your skills, and enhancing your careers is often a team effort. We are dedicated to helping animators of all skill levels take their next professional step.

As part of this commitment, we are have made a selection of our books freely available to view during the month of August. Simply click on the book you would like to read – then click on the “View inside this book” button on the book’s page and become a master in your field today!

Here are some of our titles that are free-to-view:

For a full list of our full-to-view books, check out our catalogue!

Loved the book and want to read more? Receive 20% off your order of the print version with discount code FTV14 when ordering directly through Valid until September 15th.

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By: Elyse                Categories: BooksGamesGeneral

Remember: most video game agents don’t rep writers; they rep development studios, and “we’re approached every week by studios” looking for representation, says Minton. “We’ve frequently had publishers call us up and say, ‘Hey, we just had this studio come in and pitch us. They have most of their stuff together, they’re just not quite in sync. [But] if they had an agency like you who would help them, they could be rock stars.”

On infrequent occasions, video game agents may represent a particularly high-profile writer, but this is rare—although not for writers’ lack of trying. Many agents are approached by writers with ideas for story-based games, and agents have to discourage them from pitching. First of all, most writers fail to understand that video games aren’t about story, they’re about gameplay. And unless the writer has invented a new technology—or has the technological know-how to engineer a groundbreaking technique—a simple story-based idea isn’t usually sellable. If you’re Christopher Nolan or J.J. Abrams, you can get some meetings, but unless you have a name that’s a marketable brand, you’re probably not getting through the door.


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By: Elyse                Categories: AnimationBooksGeneral

The term squash and stretch describes the action of an object put under certain pressures. Push down on a rubber ball and it will squash; pull a sheet of rubber and it will stretch. However, squash and stretch does not simply apply to rubber balls or rubber sheets; it can apply to everything, or almost everything.

Most things in life possess a certain degree of flexibility. Certainly living flesh has a great deal of flexibility, no matter how bony the underpinning structure. The use of squash and stretch in animation allows for a degree of flexibility in all animated objects and figures. When a person smiles broadly, it isn’t just the mouth that moves—the whole face animates and demonstrates a high degree of flexibility. Everything from flexing an arm as it lifts a heavy object to a figure running or jumping will express varying levels of squash and stretch.

Let’s consider the movement of a very heavy character such as a giant ogre as he takes a stride. The entire figure may squash down slightly on impact, making him look heavy and cumbersome. Lighter characters, such as fairies, may need to demonstrate less squash, since they are infinitely lighter than giants.

FIG 3.9 Squash and stretch is evident in the cheeks and chin of the figure. The use of squash and stretch can also help generate the illusion of weight.


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