2021 Animation Exchange Talks and Speakers!

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We are excited to announce that on March 24th-26th the Animation Exchange is again coming to you LIVE on Twitch and Youtube! And like always, we will take the knowledge sharing and thriving community of a game development conference and make it free for everyone to enjoy!

While we will still be focused on bringing some of the best animation minds from AAA, Indie and everything in between, this year will be a little different to previous years. Instead of one long 10 hour stream, we will be holding shorter 3-4 hour streams over multiple days. We will also have some of the talks pre-recorded and released ahead of time, with a live Q&A session on the stream. All of this is meant to make the event more adaptable to people’s schedules and reduce the amount of screen fatigue we know so many people are feeling these days.

We will give updates with the full details and the daily schedules closer to the event. But make sure you follow/subscribe to both our Twitch and Youtube channels, as that is where we will be releasing talks and streaming everything!

So without further ado, let’s get right to the talks and speakers you can look forward to watching and interacting with this year!

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Animation in DOTA 2
Dan Rosas Paulsen
 (Animator, Valve)
Christine Phelan (Animator, Valve)

Every year, the most important Dota 2 esports tournament “The International” is funded through the Battle Pass, a digital event that in 2020 ran from May to October.
This year’s prize pool hit a record high of $40,000,000.00 USD. In this show and tell, we will share a behind the scenes of the process for some the most important pieces and items in the event, given from an animator’s perspective. This process often requires full remodels, new or updated rigs, a full set of animations and new set of special effects for one or most of the abilities of the heroes. We will have a look at the pipeline and how work evolves organically inside the team into a ready to ship product.
Just like most of the work that is created for Dota 2 within Valve, this presentation is not intended to be a one man presentation, but rather a series of interactions with other animators and members of the team to showcase the different hats that everybody has to wear in order to ship constantly every 2 to 3 weeks during this period of time. We will also discuss the challenges we faced because of COVID-19 pandemic and the flat hierarchy structure within Valve, and how the team had to adapt to remote work.

Shoulder Pads are Never a Good Idea: The Technical Animation Pipeline of Destruction AllStars
Matthew Lake
 (Technical Animator, Lucid Games)

A deep dive into the technical animation pipeline and processes of the PS5 launch window title “Destruction AllStars”. Shipping on Unreal Engine this talk will explain how we solved problems and supported a newly formed animation team in the creation of 16 unique characters of different shapes, sizes and styles. We’ll look at how our real-time rigging solutions work, how we future proofed decisions that hadn’t been made, how we empowered the animators and removed barriers to entry, and highlight the many hurdles, solutions and lessons we worked through during the development process including spending nearly a third of the project in lockdown.

Under the Cat Helmet: Lessons from the Character Creation Process of Destruction AllStars
Hollie Newsham (Animator, Lucid Games)

Destruction AllStars may have plenty of cars and explosions, but it is also packed with tons of character and character creation is HARD! So how did we create 16 unique characters, ensuring all of them had their own signature personalities whilst future-proofing ourselves for further additions? Using the “Cat Girl” aka “Tw!nkle R10t” as an example, this talk will discuss our step by step process of creating characters from concept through to launch (and all the fun in between!), the techniques we used to overcome creative blocks and the personal challenges I faced starting the project as an Animator with no experience through to now (4 years on!)

The Animation of Miles Morales Spider-Man
Mike Yosh
(Lead Animator, Insomniac Games)

Mike will go over the storyline of production, how it evolved and how we overcame the insane challenges 2020 brought us. Learn about what sets Miles apart, the cinematic workflows used, and how the team embraced representation.

Animated Moms
Katie Better (Animator, Rockstar Games)
Camille Chu (Lead Animator, Monolith)
Sabrina Cecchini (Animator)
Lianne Cruz (Principal Animator, Polyarc)
Marianne Hayden (Animator, Naughty Dog)

Animators already juggle multiple roles, but what happens when parenthood is added to them? Join our panel of gamedev moms as they share the challenges and rewards of raising a family in the current climate of game development. And bonus; a global pandemic.

Embracing Failure in Animation: A Topic About Leadership
Amanda Renfroe
 (Co-Head of Animation, Steamroller Studios)

From being hired at Steamroller Studios as a Production Coordinator to advancing to Head of the Animation Department, Amanda will be sharing how she got to where she is today—and the tough and valuable lessons she learned along the way. Using examples from projects like Fortnite, Anthem, Spice Frontier, and Destruction All-Stars, Amanda will explore how making mistakes and learning from failures can be the most valuable tools for any leader.

Creative Feedback for Building Up Teams
Hector Antunez (Lead Animator, Firaxis)

Hector will share his experiences as an animator, lead animator, and art director giving and receiving feedback. He will cover what he considers to be best practices for giving and receiving constructive criticism, suggestions for how to run feedback sessions, and most importantly, how to use feedback as a tool for growth.

Whose RAT Is It Anyway? With host Shrew Carey (Senior Animator, Riot)
Presented by: the RAT

Watch as the Riot Animation Team competes in a series of game-show like segments meant to test their wits, their skill, and their sanity.

Who Did What and How Now?! AnimState Survey Results
Mike Jungblut
h (Animation Director, BioWare)

After conducting an industry wide survey of animation teams, we are going to deep dive into some of the findings. We will discuss salary and compensation, job satisfaction and remote work policies. As well as a number of other interesting findings from this year’s responses, in relation to last year’s findings. Guaranteed to have more pie charts and graphs than any other animation talk you see this year!

We Don’t Need No Interpolation: Character Animation with Dense Animation Data
Brad Clark (Cofounder, Rigging Dojo)
Raf Anzovin (Creator, Ephemeral Rig)
Richard Lico (Animation Director, Polyarc Games)

Traditionally, animators use sparse interpolated data–keyframes–to author character movement and performance. Despite being the dominant approach to character animation, interpolated keyframe animation leaves a lot to be desired in terms of artistic control and ease of motion editing.
In this panel, they will discuss practical alternatives to traditional rigging and keyframe animation, with a focus on using tools for manipulating dense animation data to give animators more direct control over character performance. Will the future of character animation for games be dense? These three veterans, combining more than sixty years of experience in character animation and rigging between them, believe that it will.

Intro to Blender 2.9 – Getting started: Tips, Pitfalls & Quirks
Christiaan Moleman
(Animator, Indiedev)

A brief introduction to Blender, covering some basics and a few things that might confuse people familiar with other software like Maya and 3dsmax, some things to be aware of and handy tips!

The Blender Rosetta Stone
Brad Clar
k (Cofounder, Rigging Dojo)

The hardest part for experienced animators and tech artists wanting to try Blender is learning the language of Blender and being able to read and speak it. This would be a way for experienced artists to start exploring Blender without feeling like a lost tourist with me translating the tools and concepts for them.

2D in 3D Space
Marion Fischer
(Lead Animator, Independent Arts Software GmbH)

Watch as Marion will show the possibilities of the grease pencil in Blender. Learn how 2D artists can make their work easier and how 3D animators can combine this with tricks of 3D Rigs.

Three Inventories of a Demo Reel/Portfolio
Nate Walpole
(Assistant Professor, Champlain College)

Three Inventories of a DemoReel/Portfolio is a lecture that demonstrates how to break down the tasks and stress of a portfolio/reel into three distinct inventories — what you have, what you want, and what you need.
It is a way that Nate has taught DemoReel/Portfolio classes at Champlain College for years with good success. A form of management of taking inventories so you can plan, often backward from the end goal, and create actionable direction to completing a solid group of work based on your own criteria. This method of outlook on a DemoReel/Portfolio is holistic and results in manageable blocks of work to get you to the end goal without stress — a top-level game plan. This can be applied when you are just starting out or already working in the field, ramping up a DemoReel/Portfolio after every release.

Maya Workflow Tips
Chris Goodall
(Principal Animator, Playground Games)

Does this Viewcube bring you joy? Chris Goodall shows you how to clean up the viewport and streamline your Maya workflow.

Why Gameplay Animators Should Be More Technical
Matt Courtois
(Lead Tech Gameplay Animator, Techland Games)

Being a gameplay animator is more about creating gameplay than creating animations. After analyzing the pros and cons of the most common gameplay animation team structure and the industry evolution, Matt discusses the ever-growing need for more technical profiles, animators able to get involved in the pipeline creation and systems implementation.

When Will The Attack Land
Nathan Dunlap
(Lead Animator, Respawn)

This talk covers the anticipation to a melee attack.  Specifically it looks at the few frames before damage occurs and shows how certain, often overlooked, posing and timing can help sell the exact moment of damage to a player.  For high-skill melee games this can be the difference between a frustrating experience and a fun-but-challenging experience for the player.  The talk goes over familiar animation principles, but in a very focused application that will be interesting to both novice and experienced animators.  Examples of successful and not-so-successful characters will be provided and the examples will be broken down to show how these principles can be applied.

Master Pose Study
Kurtis Paddock (Senior Test Analyst, Blizzard Entertainment)

Flex those animation skills with Kurtis Paddock by doing some animation exercises! Follow along as Kurtis demonstrate how to do a study of classic 2D pose and how to translate it onto a 3D character.


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