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Subtle Performance Workflow Vol. 1

Shot Planning and Body Animation with Ted Lister


Less is more in the world of realistic animation for film. Subtle character performance is a unique challenge in character animation for movies, requiring a light touch and an understanding of the psychology of a character as well as how that translates to their tics and mannerisms.

In this tutorial, Lead Animator Ted Lister takes you through his workflow and the decisions he makes as he animates an understated and naturalistic performance piece based on dialogue from Horror Express. The selected dialogue has many opportunities for acting to the subtext rather than to the literal dialogue, and provides an opportunity for the character to have an internal monologue, while also featuring some gear changes along the way.

Using Kiel Figgins' Sicarius rig, Ted takes you through his various steps, from preparation and blocking to breathing and final polish — even covering some camera animation to frame the acting. Detailing both Ted’s specific workflow and discussing his broader concepts, this tutorial provides a comprehensive view of animating a subtle yet impactful character animation shot; one that is sure to resonate with audiences while maintaining the illusion that this character rig is living, breathing, emoting and real.

This 4+ hour workshop assumes basic knowledge of Maya — although animation is universal, so the core concepts should carry over to the 3D package of your choice. Likewise, the concepts demonstrated in this tutorial are not rig specific, and can be applied to any rig that has a facial setup; cartoony, realistic or otherwise. Basic understanding of animation and associated terms is also assumed; it’s recommended that you have successfully animated a really good bouncing ball before tackling the concepts presented in this tutorial.

Vol. 1 of this workshop covers the preparation and animation of the body; Vol. 2 will cover facial anatomy and animation, and where the body and face work together.

Duration: 282 Minutes

Format: HD 1920x1080

Ted Lister

Lead Animator at Industrial Light and Magic

Ted Lister is a lead animator at Industrial Light and Magic. Originally from California, he transplanted himself to London in 2011 and made the move from games to film at the same time. Starting at MPC, he enjoyed an illustrious career bringing characters and creatures to life on the big screen in movies such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Jungle Book. In 2016, he migrated to ILM London, where he had the honor of being the character lead on Supreme Leader Snoke for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Not content with working on just one of his dream franchises, he continued as lead animator on Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He was then a character lead on the Genie for Disney's Aladdin, where the challenge was creating a blue, magical Will Smith. Ted enjoys the diversity of the work that comes through ILM, from creatures to spaceships, but his true love lies in bringing strange characters to life and fooling audiences into believing that a pile of pixels is a breathing, emoting being.