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Student Spotlight - Ben Anderson

"After doing my research it was clear iAnimate was exactly what I needed. With the small class sizes and incredible roster of instructors, there was a ton of opportunity to really pick their brains and get into the weeds of acting theory, character depth, workflow, and execution."

iAnimate Student Spotlight features Ben Anderson, is an Animator currently located in Cleveland, OH with experience in VFX, Games, AR, VR, and theme park rides. He has extensive experience in both keyframe and motion capture animation.

Ben’s iAnimate reel in 2014 got him into 2K Games working on the NBA 2K Franchise. He continued iAnimate courses and in 2016 his iAnimate work got him into Industrial Light and Magic. After spending several years in VFX Ben currently worked with 2K Games again with the NBA 2K team.

Student Animation Journey

After graduating from Ringling in 2012 Ben had a great generalist foundation but knew he needed time to further focus on animation in both a performative and technical sense if he wanted to specialize in the medium.

Ben took the following Feature Student Workshop at iAnimate with the instructors:

Ben learned how to work as a professional animator with iAnimate’s assignments. He knew that animation planning is an essential part of the success of every animation. Here is Ben’s creative way of doing his assignments:

  1. For my iAnimate assignments, once I settle on a general concept and/or find dialogue that sparks something I'll begin to brainstorm and write lists of settings and scenarios where the scene can take place. I'll then begin to narrow down the settings and scenarios I think would be the most entertaining and interesting and I'll begin to write a character synopsis. In the synopsis I try to get as specific as I can within the character's motivation, experience and what led them to the moment we're experiencing with them.
  2. Once I feel confident in the scene I'll begin to thumbnail my initial thoughts on what the performance can be and I'll begin to draw and plan the set and composition loosely in a sketchbook. Once the composition and the location of the character in the setting are in a place I'm relatively happy with, I'll then shoot my reference so I have an idea of how the character can move in the setting. I shoot lots and lots of takes and at times cut different moments from various takes in Premier to see how they work together within the performance and shot length. After I'm happy with what I shot I'll go back and roughly thumbnail to get a better idea of posing and beats. Oftentimes the choices I make during the shooting of my video reference will spark changes to my initial framing and composition and it's the most fun when something unexpected is discovered. I make an effort to not stay beholden to my initial thoughts and planning in order to maintain room for exploration while staying true to the character synopsis I've set in place.
  3. Once all of that is done I'll bring my reference into Maya, and retime the video in places to adjust the timing and texture. I'll also try to make some decisions on workflow and whether or not it'd be best to block in stepped, start straight in spline, or if a layered approach is most appropriate. In both my professional and personal work I've found it's shot-to-shot dependent. Professionally, it usually depends on the director on the show and how they can best absorb the blocking stage. I've found it's best to be flexible and versatile in my workflows. After all of those decisions are made I'll begin animating.
  4. I was once told 80% of the animation is planning and from my experience that couldn't be more true.

Having taken multiple instructors in a few different workshops, the continued reinforcement of passion being the driving force in your career was Ben’s biggest take away and that's been something he has done his best to hold onto throughout his career.

Ben would spend hours every day listening to and watching as many lectures and critiques as he could that were available on the school site and even watching lectures from instructors in other disciplines. The constant was always a passion and it's an important reminder.

Now that Ben is working from home and not going into a studio every day, it's more important than ever to hang on to that passion and really listen to it.

Ben's Student Reel

You can reach Ben via:

Student Spotlight Q&A with Animator Ben Anderson

iAnimate: What do you think of your Instructor(s), and how did they help you?

Ben: I took so much from the different instructors I was fortunate enough to learn from and I'm incredibly grateful to all of them. Everyone's unique perspectives and theories on animation and performance really make me feel like I came away with a well-balanced education that I have been able to apply to my professional practices daily.

The different perspectives on dissecting my video reference helped to give me an eye on what would work best within the medium and have helped me to work through any performance block I've been stuck in.

The varying perspectives on workflows and the freedom to try them consequence-free were truly priceless and have really given me confidence when either assigned a shot at work or when planning out my own personal shots.

The lectures were also huge in seeing both the differences and similarities to approach, execution and inspiration. It opened my eyes to some live-action performances I wasn't aware of and has also helped to validate my own eye which gave me the confidence to continue to find my own "voice" as an artist.

iAnimate: How did iAnimate help you to evolve as a character animator?

Ben: iAnimate has helped me in a variety of ways. It has given me the freedom to explore and solidify my process of conception, planning, and execution. iAnimate has reinforced in my life the notion of "you get out of it what you put into it." The willingness and professionalism to do the work and do it on time will override natural talent and nothing is given.

When we first moved out to San Francisco and I was attempting to start my career in animation and I couldn't afford iAnimate's WS4. Having listened to so many lectures and critiques I began creating "WS4" shots on my own. I put together a reel that got me into a studio and when I was able to afford it I signed up for and was accepted into a WS5 class.

Before I was in any sort of studio system, iAnimate also reinforced to me the importance of collaboration and how helpful it is to bounce ideas around with flexibility for the sake of the current project. A willingness to collaborate and simply be someone enjoyable to interact with has helped me in every facet of life, in and outside of my career.

iAnimate: What kind of animator do you consider yourself after taking your workshop?


“I believe I am an animator who excels within pushed realism. I'm efficient, and professional and have experience in multiple styles ranging from hyper-realistic to cartoony. I feel I have a strong sense of design and appeal and I take deadlines extremely seriously while always maintaining a strong line of communication with production, my leads, and supervisors.”

iAnimate: What kind of animation project do you want to work on?

Ben: My goal has always been to work in Feature Animation. I feel my strength is in performance and nothing brings me more creative satisfaction than working on an acting piece with strong internal dialogue. When I was younger I was obsessed with the idea of subtle performances within animation and as much I still love it, finding the subtleties in broader performances is just as much of a blast. Having worked in VFX I've found I'm also strong in shots with a lot of physicality and creature work.

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