Milk No Sugars

Canada: The New Chapter

Well it sure has been an inexcusable amount if time since I did a blog update! But here I am. Since iAnimate I've moved to Canada! Vancouver to be precise, and it's going fantastically. At the start of January I went to Big White snow resort and met lots of strange and interesting people whilst riding the luscious white stuff! I miss it loads.


A month later I arrived here in Vancouver to get settled into my new job as a Junior Animator at Nitrogen Studios! I'm pretty over the moon with landing my first feature film gig. Lots of huge learning curves and challenges but loving the amount I'm learning everyday! I can't say a HUGE amount about the project, but it's a Seth Rogan & Evan Goldberg creation titled "Sausage Party", a full CG animated feature!


What more can I say? So far I definitely feel I've made the right decision moving out here for however long this dream will last. The animation and VFX industry here in Vancouver is exploding at the moment and I'm stoked to be a part of it! Summer's just around the corner so now looking forward to some nice beach BBQs surrounded by incredible mountains!


For those that don't know, I've got a new showreel, mainly stuff from iAnimate. I also threw together a LEGO Marvel reel, for some of the work I did back in Manchester. Hoping to start a few of my own little anim projects as I get more settled!

Filed under: Animation, Life No Comments

iAnimate: I’ve just enrolled!


I thought this deserved a blog post because I'm nervously excited to say that I've just enrolled onto iAnimate for the September 2013 start! After sending a reel, including some of my new shots and studio work, Jason replied promptly and welcomed me onto the Advanced Body Mechanics workshop (WS3).

Having never been properly taught animation, I'm pretty excited to be learning. My mentor for the first 7 week workshop will be lead by Jim van der Keyl who started his career as an inbetweener on Disney's Little Mermaid and more recently worked on Kung Fu Panda 2.

Just over a month to go till I get started, and when I do I'll still be working full-time, it's going to be tough with some (very) early starts, but it'll be worth it!

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“Tips” Dialogue Shot

This is my latest shot! I've actually had the animation on this done about 2 months ago now, but had my good friend Ben Moseley texture, light and render it for me (as he needed the practice!). My aim for this shot was to try out subtle acting techniques. It was quite a challenge, and still a lot of improvement to go!

Also big thanks to Grace for her dialogue on this one!

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HOW TO: Reference Review in Maya (Cameron Fielding)


A few weeks ago Cam Fielding did a lecture on video reference at Pixel Challenge in Quebec City (recordings of which will be on here soon). He opened up a whole new approach to reference that I haven't seen before and it really got me thinking about my reference and how I can improve my own. I won't go into it too much here about what he taught, but instead I'll explain a method to import video reference into a scene and manually keyframe poses as he shows.

 How to...

  1. Firstly you're going to need to make sure you've got your final reference video, also double check the frame rate is correct and, if you are doing dialogue, the audio syncs up with the video correctly.
  2. Now you need to convert your reference video into a JPEG sequence. The best way to do this is through Quicktime Pro. To do so, open your ref video into QTPro and go File > Export. Make sure you select "movie to image sequence" on the drop down then hit "options..." Double check your frame rate is set correctly, select your desired folder and convert the video. (I'm sure there are many other ways to do this, I just found this the easiest!)01
  3. Open up Maya and create a rectangular polygon plane. Create a new Lambert material and click the checkered icon in "Color", and select File.


4. Using the folder icon find your first image in your newly exported sequence and tick box "use frame extension" (I've been told this may be different in other versions of Maya).


 5. The first frame should now show up on your polygon plane you made earlier. Right Click "Frame Extension" and set a key with "Set key". Open up your timeline and navigate to the last frame that corresponds to the last image you have on your reference. Do the same again, only this time inputting the "Frame Extension" number and keying once again.

6. Get your Plane's UV's sorted by selecting your Plane and going to Edit UVs > Normalize. You might need to re size your plane so the video doesn't look to distorted.

7. By scrubbing through your timeline your reference should now play. If it doesn't, don't fret, continue onto the next step to fix that.

8.  To chop and change the timing of your reference, simply open up your Hypershade window, select the Lambert you created earlier and open up your Graph Editor. You should now see your curve, by selecting all (2) keys and converting to linear your video should play as intended. You can key areas by right clicking "Frame Extension" as we did before.

9. I'd advise setting up a separate camera facing your reference and tear off a viewport so it's always in view.

I hope that was clear enough!

Filed under: Animation, How to, Video 4 Comments

Moo Cap

Recently, David O Reilly released 65 Maya rigs that were used in his short film The External World.

So naturally I had to have a mess about. This is a result of about 4 hours of straight forward animation (no blocking). It's a bit rough but just fancied finishing something super quick. Also I apologies in advance for the awful pun title.

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Valentines – New Shot

I finally got my shot fully finished and rendered! I might do some smaller tweaks here and there to bring focus on the guy a bit more.

Valentine from Kane Pickerill on Vimeo.

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FMX 2013: Rollin’ Safari

"Rollin’ Safari was a student project, produced as part of the Subject Area Animation at the Institute of Animation, Visual Effects and Digital Postproduction."

Fantastic take on the way animals interact with each other. Such a simple idea executed extremely well!

Watch more here.

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Scripts Are For Life, Not Just For Work

I've only been properly utilising user-made Maya scripts over the last few years. During my uni learning days I didn't have much of a clue about these wonderful things. Animation in itself is so hard anyway, so scripts have been a god send and massive time saver. Any extra help you can get with whatever software you're using to make life easier is invaluable.

This post is mainly for those who are yet to start using scripts, or maybe this can act as a little highlighter of scripts you haven't heard of. The following are some of my most useful scripts for animation that I think everyone should have. I'd be very interested to find out what other animators regularly use too - because I'm sure there are some other really useful ones I'm yet to discover.


Completely irrelevant stock photo 

Auto Tangent (for Maya 2011) - Download

This little script mimics (not quite as well) the new feature in Maya 2012, the Auto Tangent. It's a great tool to use as soon as you've finished some expertly crafted blocking and don't want ridiculous overshoots and funky curves all over the place. It's not a complete fixer, though - and you still need to get your face dirty in the graph editor to get exactly what you want.

abxPicker - Download

If you're like me, and the amount of controls on screen when animating a rig is rather overwhelming, then get this. It lays out your rig in an easy to use window, mapping out your character so there's no need to even click a controller in your scene. Not for everyone this, but keeps your workflow clean!

ShotView - Download

Made by the very talented Cameron Fielding, this wicked script sets you make a duplicate viewport with a difference. It has a built in time-line that allows you to scrub through your shot without messing around with your main viewport every few minutes. It also provides interesting pre-sets and  options for quick play-blasting.

cMotionTrail - Download

One of the most useful scripts I believe. Select your controller, set your frame time and just by magic it plots locators on each frame to give you a visual representation of what shapes your animation is taking. Perfect for tweaking nice smooth archs!  This takes the in-built Maya trail function and makes it better. More customisable options and a simpler interface.

Tween Machine - Download

This sucker allows you to calculate the position of a controller anywhere between two keys. Perfect for when you get to an advanced blocking stage and need to fill in some more keys and really take control of your shot. Edit: Just discovered Advanced Tween Machine too!


Animators! Excuse my ignorance and let me know if you've got any I need to have by saying something like this, "OMG you don't have *super-awesome-script*? GETIT!"

Spread the script love!


Filed under: Animation, Rant 2 Comments
24Jan/131 – Free Animation Critiques

I've been working on a dialogue shot recently - trying to get into a habit of doing these more often to improve my animation. I've been posting various playblasts on 11 Second Club forum for awhile now but don't seem to get the feedback I need.

Last night I discovered a new site, It lets you upload work-in-progress animations and have them critiqued by a range of animators using an interesting coin reward system. Once you have critiques made on your animation by others, you can distribute "coins" to whoever has given you the most valuable advice. Best thing about it, is it's all free!youanimator

I've always wanted to get my work critiqued properly in this way, but haven't had the time/money to spend on an Animation Mentor or iAnimate course. This site provides a really good source for animators to improve without spending a penny.

Here's the critique I received only yesterday by Yarim Machado. Click the picture to see the comments he's made. Looks like I've got my work cut out tonight! If you've got a work in progress, get signed up and receive some invaluable feedback!


Filed under: Animation 1 Comment

How to: Sync Maya Preferences and Scripts with Cloud Storage (Google Drive, Dropbox)

It's officially been an inexcusable amount of time since the last post on here, so I thought I'd return with something that a lot of artists, animators, riggers alike may find quite useful.

When animating at home and work, I've always found it a nuisance to keep copying over new scripts or preferences I've saved. This also leaves hot-keys etc, missing that you've set-up on one machine and not updated on the other. With cloud-storage services like Dropbox and Google Drive getting ever more popular, why not sync your preferences folder on 'The Cloud" and have the same preferences on any computer you use?

How is this done?

  1. First off, back up your preference folder, so it can be restored if something goes wrong. This is usually found in C:\Users\USERNAME\Documents\maya named 2011-x64 (according to your Maya version)
  2. Next copy your "2011-x64" preference folder to your desired cloud service and put it in a folder called "Maya Prefs", "Prefs" or similar
  3. Download and install Link Shell Extension: 32 Bit users - 64 Bit users - at the end of the install it'll restart explorer.exe (your task bar will flicker off and on)
  4. Once installed, open up your cloud directory (Dropbox, Google Drive) where you saved your preferences folder in step 2
  5. Right-click your preferences folder and go down to "Pick Link Source"

6. Once that's done, go back into your original Maya directory C:\Users\USERNAME\Documents\maya. Make sure you delete your current preferences folder (if you haven't done already). Right click anywhere and go to "Drop As..." > "Symbolic Link"

...and you're done!

This has now made a virtual folder in your original Maya Preference folder, synced with your master folder in Dropbox/Google Drive! You can now add/edit any one of these folders with scripts, icons etc, and it will automatically update the other. Set this up on all the machines you use.

As I've said before, it's probably a good idea to back-up your folder so in the event you accidentally delete it from your cloud storage, it's always available to restore!

If you're a Mac user, an easy guide to Symbolic Links can be found here.

Hope this has been helpful and good use to some of you!

Filed under: How to 3 Comments