How can I learn animation and which software should I use?

A lot of people have been writing me lately what they can do to learn animation and also one of the most asked question is which software I used to create my short films. There are quite a few 3d softwares out there, but the one I started learning when I dove into the field of 3d Animation was Autodesk Maya. All my short films have been created with Maya and most of the projects I worked on as an animator involved using this software. It’s being used a lot throughout the industry and for me it was pretty clear to deepen my skills in it as much as possible.

But there are also many other 3d softwares like Blender, 3d Studio Max or Cinema 4D just to name a few. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the open source (free) tool Blender, but in the end everyone of these tools are fully capable of producing an animated short film. Learning the software of course is a big part for creating 3d animations. The way I started learning the tools I used for my projects was by watching videos of other people using the tool. It sounds pretty boring to look at someone else’s computer screen for over an hour and see him click through menus and work on a 3d scene and there were quite a few times where it has been the perfect video to instantly fall asleep at night. But most of the time I was staring at the screen and tried to memorize every click and command.

PluralSight (formerly known as Digital-Tutors)  have a massive archive of instructional videos or tutorials for pretty much most softwares you can think of. They are perfect to quickly learn the tools. Another website I would look into is The Gnomon Workshop which has a lot of tutorials for more advanced levels.

Besides using a software you should also work on your artistic skills. I always drew as a kid and tend to think very visually in general. Even though drawing is not a required skill to learn for computer animation it always ends up being a useful skill. It helps to communicate your ideas quicker and also helps to increase your workflow as well as your overall quality. Carry a sketchbook with you, visit figure drawing classes and try to find artists who inspire you. Write them an email and ask them about advice, it never hurts to at least give it a shot.

Books I can recommend are Drawn to Life Vol 1-3, Illusion of Life & The Animator’s Survival Kit

The most common schools I know that teach animation are the following:
Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, Gobelins (usually requires great drawing skills), Cal Arts, Ringling College of Art and Design

There are also a lot of online school which specialize in teaching computer animation. Here are a few:
Anim Squad, Anim School, Animation Mentor,e iAnimate, CG Tarian

Being in an environment with other students was crucial for me. And Filmakademie was great at providing me with a creative environment and giving me the time to work on my projects. Without their support I wouldn’t be where I am today.


tutorials for animatorisland.com

My friend Ferdinand Engländer,  one of my former colleagues from Filmakademie, approached me a few months ago and asked me if I would like to record a bunch of little tutorials about CG Animation for his website www.animator-island.com.

Since I am very self-critical, and know that I am nowhere near giving other people advices about animation and still  have a tone to learn, I thought I could  talk about little more technical things, which might confuse you when you first start working with Maya. Things you should be aware of and which might seem little at the beginning but may safe you a lot of time afterwards or when changes need to be adjusted.

Here are the first two of our little tutorial series:


LA Shorts Fest


“The Present” will be screened at the LA Shorts Fest in Los Angeles, USA. I can’t believe it will have it’s world premiere at an A-festival!
The first thing I did today was to book my flight ticket to LA. Can’t wait to see all my friends again!

The festival will be held July 24th – August 1st 2014. http://lashortsfest.com/

If you are in LA, make sure to attend the screening on the 27th :)



Filmakademie Diploma


Studying has been a lot of fun, even though it involved a lot of time having spent indoors.
Before my time at the Filmakademie I had no clue of how animation works and had never even touched any kind of video software. So when I got accepted I had a lot of catching up to do. Therefore I’ve watched a tone of tutorials and soaked up any information I could get from my colleagues. Since there aren’t that many classes at the Filmakademie, it’s up to you what you make out of your time there. The school itself is very “art academy” oriented. They give you the equipment and time and let you decide what you want to do with it. Ofcourse there are mandatory classes as well, but pretty early on it becomes clear that youself are the engine and runs your studies.
Looking back I have no regrets of how I spent my time there. After the first year (the only one with real weekly mandatory classes), I spent most of my time into making BOB. My first time where I have gotten in contact with 3d animation. Making this movie was insanely hard. Even though when I look at it now I, would have done almost everything differently. But I also know that this was the best I could have done during that time and looking at the result with that knowledge I am truely proud of the result.


After my third year, I took one year off to go to Psyop in LA. My goal was to get some international experience or well or what awaits me once I go out into the industry. At Psyop my learning curve got an immense boost. Dan Vislocky was an awesome supervisor and he and the animation team at Psyop taught me a lot about animation. This one year was really important for me. Because now I already knew what to expect, once I get out of school.
Back in Germany I started working on my final thesis idea / script, when I had the chance to work on “Room on the Broom” at Studio Soi, which luckily is right next to Filmakademie. I knew that animating on a 30minute short and doing my own diploma would be impossible. But since I didnt want to miss the chance to work on such a great project I’ve decided to extend my studies by another year.
This was also one of my best decisions I could have done! Once again I’ve learned an unbelievable amount during that production. And just like being at Psyop I’ve gotten to know a whole bunch of amazing people, who became very good and close friends.
Now after having spent one year on my thesis short I am ready to go out into the industry.