Insights by the Pros with MPC Lead Animator Ingo Schachner
MPC Lead Animator and iAnimate Alumni Ingo Schachner share his stories and inspirations and how he succeeded in his animation journey.
I joined iAnimate, at first just to freshen up on my basics and learn new tricks but I ended up doing the whole course because it was a great way to exercise animation muscles I did not use in VFX.”
Ingo Schachner is originally from Austria and currently living in London. He animates mostly in Film and sometimes on TV. Ingo is currently working as a Lead Animator at MPC, where he worked on big projects like Lion King, Lady, and the Tramp, The One and Only Ivan, and Disney’s Cruella. His main focus lies in CG characters and Creature Animation, but he also has experience in 3d Layout and Pre Vis.
Animation Journey and Inspiration
iAnimate: Tell us a bit about your animation journey and throughout your time with us. Who or What inspired you to become an animator? How did you become an animator, and when did iAnimate become part of your journey?
Ingo: My journey started pretty early with my fascination for cartoons and comics. Grew up on a healthy diet of European comics like Asterix and Obelix, Tin Tin, and so on. Then Jurassic park came out and changed my world. it blew my mind and pivoted me toward 3d animation. it would take until 2002 for me to take the leap and quit my old job and commit myself fully to becoming an animator. a couple of weeks later, I ended up in Denmark at the animation workshop attending a 14-week course for 3d animation. that 14 weeks turned into four years of grabbing every teacher and every actual student and asking them for feedback, all while couch-surfing and making ends meet.
After four years, I landed my first job—a small VFX movie for German tv. The contract was only a couple of months, and once it ended, my life as an Animation Hobo began. I did a short gig in Amsterdam and then went to Thailand to work on a short film; the plan was to stay for three months. I stayed there for four years with a short 7-month detour to Beijing. No career-making projects, but I was more interested in the adventure, and it was a ton of fun.
I returned to Europe and struggled to find a job for a while until someone I had worked with before reached out to me and asked if I like to help him out on a show in Germany. That is how I ended up in Frankfurt, working on three seasons of Game Of Thrones. I had no clue what I got then; all I heard was, "You want to come animate dragons?" ....and the only correct response to that question is, "F--- yeah, I do!"
It was during my time In Frankfurt that I joined iAnimate, at first just to freshen up on my basics and learn new tricks but I ended up doing the whole course because it was a great way to exercise animation muscles I did not use in VFX. Since then, I have been working nonstop in Vancouver, LA, and now London, mostly for MPC.
iAnimate: Can you tell us more about your role and responsibilities?
Ingo: As a Lead animator, my function is to be quality control and the first stop of the artist for feedback or problems solving. Part of it is using my experience to guide and teach the team under me, deal with requests for and from other departments or hand out tasks to the artist.
My usual day begins with checking if client notes or new dialog has arrived overnight. Then I attend the morning Dailies with the Team, our supervisor, and the other Leads. I make notes of all the feedback my artist gets for the Sequences I’m Leading and bring up any questions that might have come up from the Feedback.
There are also meetings with production in which we get the new schedule and deadlines. Plus we can raise concerns if there are delays in hitting the deadlines.
After all that, I go to my desk and work on my shots and make sure to check in with my artist in case they need clarification of notes or requests for other departments.
iAnimate: What do you do to stay inspired and motivated animator?
Ingo: Inspiration can come from a lot of places for me, a book or a song can get your creativity going just as well as the latest animated feature. Other artists I worked with and all the knowledge and different workflows keep me from getting stuck in a routine. Also, personal projects are a good way to not get too burned out on a show that might not go how you have hoped for.
Animation Lessons and Growth
iAnimate: How did iAnimate help prepare you for the industry? What were the most important things you learned at iAnimate?
Ingo: I was already in the industry when I joined iAnimate but it definitely helped me become a more well-rounded artist. It is easy to fall into the trap of sticking to just one style of animation and while working more and more in VFX I still wanted to keep one foot in the feature film world. Plus I believe you should be able to make every style since the Basics of animation are the same if you do stop motion, full CG, or VFX. doesn't matter if you play rock, jazz, or classic you still need to know how to play the instrument first.
iAnimate: What is the most challenging shot you’ve ever animated, and why did you succeed at the shot?
Ingo: That's a good question, On Top of my head I say a shot in Jungelbook. I animated two shots at the end of Shere-Khan and Bagheera fighting when Bagheera is slammed to the ground and rescued by wolves. The first shot was pretty straightforward but the shot where the wolves all attacked and swarm him that was difficult to get done.
It stuck with me because the brief was "the wolves swarm and bite the tiger, but don't show the bites." so now you got to not only choreographed the action you also need find ways to show biting without actually showing the bite... on top of the physicality of a character being pulled around.
That took quite a couple of back-and-forths with the animation director and director till we found the sweet spot of realistic Disney violence. and at the end, only half of the shot made it into the final cut... It was one of the more complex and difficult to get the right shots I worked on so far.
A more recent one was a preproduction shot I did for Cruella, where I had to animate one of the main dogs side by side with the real dog to see how close the fur and render are. once you put the real dog next to your animation you see every little imperfection. that one was hard but fun since you usually don't get the time to dig into all the little details.
[Ingo's Current Reel]
iAnimate: Do you have any demo reel or interview advice you can share with animators on the job hunt?
Ingo: Have a demo Reel that reflects your interest and tailor it to the studio you apply. You would be surprised how many Reels we get that are trying to be one fit and end up not giving us enough information about your skill level. Most Reels we see are very cartoon heavy and in the case of MPC or other VFX houses, they are looking for realism and attention to detail. If your reel is all text avery style slapstick shot with tons of squash and stretch, they will probably go with the reel that has the two lions fighting with convincing weight and believable spacing. because they can easier gauge your skill level. That is not to say your cartoony reel will be kicked out before giving it a proper look, just you got a higher wall to climb. On the other hand, your shot of king kong and Godzilla fighting won't give you a leg up if you send it to Pixar.
For interviews, just relax, be prepared to talk about your reel, and maybe have some questions ready for you to like to know about the studio. all basic stuff, and if you don't get it .. no big deal, there are tons of places out there.
Oh, and do not put other people's shots on your reel. sounds like a no-brainer but you would not believe what comes through the door. It is not worth it.
iAnimate: What other advice do you have for current or future iAnimate students?
Ingo: Use your time well, and soak up as much info from your mentors as you can. Don't be discouraged when you take longer than your classmates or you are not able to make a shot as good as you planned. Every person learns at a different rate so its important to not get discouraged. And most important of all...Have fun.
Animation Career Advice & Tips
iAnimate: If there’s one animation tip or technique you’d share with someone wanting to animate in a feature film, what would it be?
Ingo: Make sure your ideas are very clear before you present them. a lot of time is wasted because you and the director had different expectations about where the shot will progress to.
iAnimate: Given that there’s so much to learn, how would you recommend a brand new animator start their training?
Ingo: I think the best place to start is with something very simple, like a ball or a box. Use the simple shapes to get a grasp of the basics.
Your bouncing ball is like learning scales on an instrument, the more you practice them the better your eye and feel for weight and timing will come.
Also, tracing or roto over a bit of animation you like, you can learn a lot from retracing masters. But not just copy and do, really pay attention to where the drawings are.
iAnimate: What makes a great animator or an animator a studio would hire?
Ingo: A great animator is someone that can deliver high-quality work, with little guidance and on time, and is easy to work with.
His work does not need notes on mechanics, instead, you can focus on the acting or intention of the shot.
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