Rise and Spline – Interview with David Gibson

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“…a wonderful opportunity to show other aspiring animators that they’re accepted and animation is 100% a viable career choice for anyone”

Recently, David Gibson began streaming a live animation class every Saturday morning and his students are our own Keyframe of Mind podcast hosts Katie, Esther, Jenny, and Ju Li!

It has become a popular hang out on the weekends and the classes and topics appeal to all skill levels. If you’ve missed any of the classes, you can check out the recordings on the Rise and Spline Vimeo channel

I got a chance to ask David a few questions about the classes as well as what it’s like making the jump from film to games.

AnimState: For starters, why don’t you introduce yourself.

David: My name is David Gibson and I live in Southern California with my beautiful wife, two adorable kids, two dogs, two goldfish, a bunny, and a very fat cat. During the day I’m a Senior Animator working on an unannounced project at Blizzard Entertainment. At night I’m part Indie Game Dev, part Animation Teacher, part Dad and part Husband. I’m coming up on 3 years working at Blizzard, 2.5 of them were spent animating on Overwatch. Before Blizzard I worked at Turtle Rock Studios as Animation Supervisor on Evolve. Prior to working in games I animated in feature films and VFX for 8 years at Sony Imageworks and Tippett Studio on movies like Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs and Enchanted.

AnimState: Tell us a little about Rise and Spline

David: Rise and Spline is a live streamed animation class I’m teaching every Saturday morning for 12 weeks. There are 4 students in the class that will join me every Saturday for live critiques, demos, and lectures. The students will complete 4 assignments over the 12 weeks with a focus on character, appeal, workflow, and creatures. All rigs used in the class will be free rigs that are currently available online, this way as many people as possible can participate and benefit from the class.

AnimState: What are your goals for the class? Who is it aimed at?

David: There are several different goals for Rise and Spline. The main goal is to teach and give individual feedback to the students to help them improve their animation skills. I wanted to stream the class because another goal was to try and share the experience with the rest of the animation community. My hope being that showing real world examples of the animation process, including giving and taking feedback, would help everyone who watched become a more well rounded animator. Rise and Spline is also structured to include a solid reminder of animation fundamentals. The first two assignments are there to help all animators remember the importance of the Principles of Animation and give the students a solid foundation to build on as the class goes on.

AnimState: What was your motivation for having a more diverse class?

David: The 4 students, Katie, Esther, Jenny, and Ju Li actually approached me with a desire to learn and improve their animation. This initial conversation was the spark that led to Rise and Spline. I saw this as a great opportunity to “be the change I want to see in the world.” If Rise and Spline could show that individuals besides just men are succeeding as professional animators there’s no telling who or what that might influence now or in the future. This class also created a wonderful opportunity to show other aspiring animators that they’re accepted and animation is 100% a viable career choice for anyone.

AnimState: What have you found to be the biggest challenges so far with live-streaming a class?

David: There’s a lot of programs and buttons and things you have to get set up and remember each time you stream. So streaming the class brings a little added level of stress on top of teaching and trying to not say dumb things. I also struggle to find a nice balance between giving the 4 students my full attention while taking advantage of the ability to interact live with viewers on the stream. A personal challenge I’ve been experiencing is this feeling of needing to be entertaining and drop nuke sized knowledge bombs every 5 seconds to keep the viewers engaged. So to help myself avoid those thoughts I’ve been trying to relax, enjoy the experience, and just focus on the art of animation.

AnimState: So this first series of classes is live streamed and publicly available, will you be doing any more in the future. Is the plan to eventually start up your own school?

David: I honestly don’t have plans or aspirations to start up my own school. Every aspect of Rise and Spline is a crazy experiment and I have no idea how its all going to shake out in the end. If this format ends up being one that is good for the students, good for viewers, good for me, then I’d love to keep doing it in the future. My life is a constant balancing act between my family, career, and personal projects so everything depends on making sure my priorities stay in order. If there’s enough interest to do another Rise and Spline after this course is over then I’m totally up for the challenge.

AnimState: What skills do you wish more animation students had a better grasp of before coming to the games industry?

David: There’s this common misconception that as an animator you have to choose whether you want to do games or films. Then this misconception leads animators to do either a bajillion walk cycles and fighting animations or a bajillion lip sync and acting animations. The truth is if you want to be an animator, in games or film, you must learn and master the basics of appealing motion, character, and critique. I don’t need to see 30 walk cycles to hire you for a game job. I don’t need to see 30 acting pieces to hire you for a film job. One unique, appealing, character filled piece will seal the deal every time. And to make that you need to animate something you’re passionate about, something that excites you, something that interests you. Not what you think a studio wants you to animate. Your understanding of animation fundamentals and your ability to display that understanding are the most important. There’s a method to my madness in having the first assignment for Rise and Spline be a floursack.

AnimState: What have you found to be your biggest challenges/learnings when you made the switch from film to games?

David: One thing any animator in film should know about games is how much more technically demanding it is. You could animate the greatest animation known to man in Maya and it might look like total garbage once its in game. As a game animator I had to learn that the animation didn’t end with Maya. There’s many more steps that you have to be willing to master to ensure your animation looks good when it makes it into the game. Personally I really enjoy the technical limitations of animating in games and find that challenge pushes me to come up with creative solutions often.

That being said, I don’t think there’s any reason why a highly skill film animator could not find success in games. You must be willing to learn a lot and your problem solving skills will be pushed to the absolute max. If you’re ever told that not having any game experience is why a company doesn’t want to hire you, in my opinion, that’s a flaw in the team you’re applying to because a competent lead would be able to teach you all the skills you’ll need. If you can clearly demonstrate a strong understanding of the fundamentals of animation…you’ve already overcome the hardest part.

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat, David!

If you want to watch along with the Rise and Spline crew every Saturday morning, check out David’s Twitch channel at 9:30am Pacific time HERE!

You can also follow David on Twitter HERE.

David and many other animators from all over the industry are also active on our Discord server, so don’t hesitate to pop on over and discuss all things animation with us!

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