InFocus Film School Blog


Lighting at InFocus Film School


Lighting is a crucial part of the filmmaking experience. It gives films a special look and style that can be unique to the piece in question. It affects the tone, mood, and can subconsciously control the audience’s emotion as well.

Understanding fundamental lighting is extremely important. Whether you are a lighting expert, or stepping in behind the camera for the first time, here are 3 tips you MUST know as a cinematographer.


Larger Light Sources = Softer Light

Pictures just look naturally better when they’re taken outside on a bright day because the sun is your primary, albeit MASSIVE light source when shooting outside. A golden rule to always remember is the larger the source, the softer the light and shadows.

If you have a small light, you can emulate the feel of big ones by moving it closer to your subject, or adding diffusion.


Be Smart. Use Smart Side Lighting


Smart-side lighting requires you to put your light source on the same side a character is looking. Placing your key light source on the same side of the camera can make your image look flat. Smart side lighting is placed opposite of the camera, adding depth and making things more visually interesting . This technique is also known as “reverse key lighting” or “far side lighting.”


Book Lighting

Book lighting is the act of pointing your light at a bounce board, and having that bounced light go through diffusion. It will turn hard light into soft light which is ideal for faces. Knowing how to book light is valuable because the setup doesn’t take a lot of real-estate, which is perfect for shooting in tight spaces.



Want to Learn More?

InFocus Film School extensively covers cinematography in our 12-month film production program.  Learn from industry mentors and get guidance along the way. Click here to speak to an advisor about our program!


By Victor van der Merwe

The world of visual effects is becoming an ever more crucial part of the film industry. CGI and 3D modelling is not just for monster movies and aliens anymore and as movies evolve, it is amazing to see what the visual effects departments can do. Having an actor fly on a dragon is impressive, but what can be even more amazing is subtle changes a person in the VFX department can make to make fabricated scenes look realistic. Here are five films that subtly use special effects to enhance their stories.

The Wolf of Wall Street

Martin Scorsese used a real lion in Wolf of Wall Street. However, that lion was never with the actors. Thanks to amazing overlay technology improved since Forrest Gump’s time, The lion handler was removed in post and lions and actors seemed very comfortable with each other. CGI was used to make up complete locations and enhance existing ones as Scorsese saw fit. 

Forrest Gump

The 1994 Oscar winner for best effects went to the Drama, Forrest Gump. Ken Ralston, whose earlier work includes movies like Return of the Jedi and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? transported us back to the past by having Tom Hanks shake hands with three dead presidents. Using a blue screen to superimpose Hanks over the footage of Kennedy shaking hands with Alice O’ Grady, Forrest got to tell the real JFK that he had to go pee. Amazing editing combined with blue screen technology made this scene as real as possible. 

The Social Network

There is only one Armie Hammer, but David Fincher needed two of him for the role of the Winklevoss twins in the movie The Social Network. Model Josh Pence was called in to be the body of Tyler Winklevoss. Through the CGI process of face replacement, Hammer’s face was digitally overlaid onto Pence’s body and identical twins were created. Because of digital cameras this visual effect can be done without the need of Pence wearing a green mask for the entire shoot. 

A Beautiful Mind 

What do you do if you are Ron Howard and you want to shoot a scene where Russel Crow thinks his imaginary friend is watching the baby in a slowly filling bath tub? Well, parents love getting their babies into the movies, but having them almost drown is a deal breaker. The baby was filmed in a dry bathtub. A shot of that exact same bath tub was overlaid making it seem like a real baby was in a tub of rising water. Paying attention to the smallest details from movement to light, the FX team made that scene as real as possible. 

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

It is not just big budget movies that can benefit from visual effects. Robert Rodriguez is amazing at sharing how he does his visual effects in his movies and the low budget action movie Once Upon a Time in Mexico has Salma Hayek throw knives with laser precision. She is a great actress and with the help of some CGI and on set visual effects like air canisters, she can throw a fist full of blades at Antonio Banderas and not so much as cut a lock of his hair. 

Visual Effects have been a part of the film industry since the beginning. It has given us realistic dinosaurs and ghosts and even helped zombies come to life. If used right, it can make your wildest imaginations come to life. The opportunities in the field are ever expanding and every person in that department has a real effect on the final cut of every film they work on. 


By Ryan Uytdewilligen

What’s the motivation for your movie’s location?

If you are going make your on-screen dream a reality, you’ll need actors, props, a screenplay, and a crew. But you can’t forget the most important physical aspect… the very bane that plagues all movie shoots; an answer to the pesky question, “where are we going to film?”

A shooting space can make or break everything depending on many minuscule factors. The job takes talent so that the rest of the crew’s day can run smoothly and the desired scene can be captured with ease.

Here’s the process one should take when finding and securing that sacred shooting space.

1) Know Your Film Before You Go!


There are a million and one questions to answer before you trot out to peruse public places. What kind of location do you need? What is happening in the scene? Does the location need to be “tied” to another (IE, is the room part of an apartment building or a house?) Most importantly, have a handle on what type of production it is. A feature film? Movie of the Week? Commercial? TV Series? Answering this will help clarify the budget and point you towards the direction of what location types to look for.

You’ll want to have a copy of the script of course! A shooting script will explain what the specific scene calls for – if it’s interior or exterior, day or night, and specifically what the location is. Make note of how many times this location is needed because if it is more than one, it could increase the time needed to shoot in that same space.

2) Cold Calling


Yes, you actually have to talk to strangers to pull this job off correctly. And you don’t want to start with an email greeting either because they could get lost or just be ignored. The best way to contact someone to inquire about shooting is by calling them directly.

Once you have come up with a list of potential locations by scouring the internet, noting places you have already seen, or by chatting with crew-members that may have brought forth suggestions, prepare what you’re going to say. It’s best to write down all of the information so you have the production notes and specific shoot dates handy.

Start by knowing who to talk to. Understand whether it’s a business owner, a home owner, a landlord, a government employee. Depending on their title, your questions may vary.

Take a deep breath, dial the phone, and state who you are. Give your 15 second pitch with all that you know about your production. Stop. Allow questions or feedback, and go from there. The idea is to become their friend. Make a connection and be honest with what the production entails.

If everything sounds good, set up a time you can come over to snap pictures and meet in person.


3) Tools of the Trade!


Like Batman and his utility belt, the location scout must always come equipped with the proper tools. The digital camera is your biggest friend. A phone can take pictures and video at a semi-professional level – but proper lighting and scope is key to the location scout’s presentation. It’s a good idea to have both in case one device fails. Don’t forget to bring spare memory cards and batteries.

As far as getting around, a car with business insurance to protect you in case of an accident is your best bet. If you don’t have a vehicle, don’t sweat it. Public transit should be ample, but make sure you know the schedules before heading out to scout. This is where your phone will come in handy – to make sure you don’t get lost!

Most importantly, your laptop is needed to back up all of your photos while a trusty pen and notepad is essential to write down all of your thoughts and ideas on the fly.

4) The Scout


Finally, the big moment! You get to head to down to see the place.

Snap as many photographs as you can from every angle. Wide shots and close-ups (always with an inaugural “Establishing Shot” for reference). Do not underexpose. And remember, you can delete the bad ones later. Simply “walk” the director through a logical flow by starting with shots of the entire space before you zoom in and shuffle around to get all views. This includes all the rooms inside the house, all the space outside the house, every entrance, window, anything you can think of.

Be aware of your own safety by keeping a constant eye for people or objects. Look for safety hazards that could potentially come up during the shoot! If there is any danger at all that an actor or crew member could be injured, ask the owner if the issue can be removed.

Once you have pictures, close your eyes and have a listen. Can you hear moving cars zipping down the street – even with the windows closed? Are their people talking loudly in the next room? Noisy heaters or air conditioners? You’ll have to get a sense for every little blip that enters your ear. Talk with your contact! Often machines can be unplugged that give off an unwanted hum or sounds from outside may change from day to day. Every possibility must be accounted for.

Finally, logistics are going to have to be considered. Is there enough power in the room? Is there space for cameras and lights to get to where they need to go? How about a space for your crew to relax and put there things? A make-up area and prop storage? Is there enough parking? Look at the location as a whole to see if shooting is absolutely doable.

5) The Verdict


If your contact gives you the go-ahead that you can shoot, mark that and their information down! Provide some notes about what you saw regarding safety, logistics, and sound then make sure to include the pictures.

The director will get back to you with a decision between the best of the best. It will be up to you to contact your contact to arrange another meeting so that the director can get a feel for the location themselves. Likely, you will be accompanying them on their trip over.

Finally – a decision will have to be made. The director will decide on the space in which to shoot their precious project. Your final act will be to secure the spot. Have the contact sign a contract so that you can officially stake your claim on that space. is a good place to grab a contract and more shooting info!

Agree on a fee and when that is to be paid. Liability insurance should be taken out, typically, for $5 or $10 million. That sounds like a heck of a lot for your project, but don’t worry! It’s just to cover everything in case the shoot goes wrong.

But that won’t happen, now that you’ve done your job correctly, right? You’ve covered all the bases, prepared from problems, booked the location for the right time, and provided the absolute best possible place for the project!

And the best part of the job is you get to go to so many different parks and businesses and neighbourhoods – you could practically be a tour guide after a few months on the job.

If you’re a person that likes to explore, get to know the community, and problem solve with a keen eye for all aspects of production – consider getting into location scouting!

Acclaimed director and film school graduate Ang Lee said: “If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that you can never learn enough.” That is especially true when it comes to film.

The benefits of a formal filmmaking education cannot be overstated. It gives young directors, cinematographers, screenwriters, and other aspiring artists the guidance and training they need to master their craft. A number of the most well-known and successful directors have gotten started at film school. It gave them a chance to develop their unique artistic style and voice.

Read on to find out how film school influenced the work of these three famous directors.

Robert Zemeckis Mastered the Art of Visual Storytelling

As the Oscar-winning director behind ‘Forrest Gump,’ and the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy, the last thing you’d expect Robert Zemeckis to direct would be a black-and-white silent film. But that’s exactly what he did when he filmed ‘The Lift’ at USC.

A silent short helps filmmaking students to think visually, telling their story through pictures. Zemeckis has continued to recognize the importance of visual storytelling. Critic David Thompson once remarking that, “No other contemporary director has used special effects to more dramatic and narrative purpose.”

InFocus Film School – The Silent Film Project


Brian DePalma Freely Explored Different Styles of Cinema

While he may have found fame directing crime dramas such as ‘Carlito’s Way’ and ‘Scarface,’ there’s always been a lot more to Brian DePalma’s filmmaking than meets the eye.

The director’s diverse filmography includes several more daring works, such as the psychological thriller ‘Dressed to Kill’ and the supernatural horror ‘Carrie.’ His more commercial offerings feature a number of unexpected stylistic elements that borrow from niche styles such as nouvelle vague and film noir.

DePalma’s vast filmmaking palette was developed in film school.

Martin Scorsese Used Film School to Hone His Unique Editing Style

“I find that the excitement of a young student or filmmaker can get me excited again. I like showing them things and seeing how their minds open up.”

Scorsese graduated as a film major from NYU in 1960. He has long been a fierce advocate of the benefits of a filmmaking education.

Many of Scorsese’s film school projects are still available online today, with shorts such as ‘What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?’ displaying a number of stylistic elements that Scorsese would eventually make his own. This includes the staccato editing style he uses in films like ‘Raging Bull,’ and the frequent use of voiceover seen in Scorsese classics like ‘Mean Streets’ and ‘Goodfellas.’

Interested in becoming a filmmaker? Click here to learn about our film production program.

Written by Ryan Uytdewilligen


To film school or not to film school, that is the question! The budding filmmakers of tomorrow are faced with this weighty choice – rush out into the world and make movies on their own or take the time to get a formal education.


It’s a risky business seeing how job security at the end of your education is far from guaranteed. A quote from the much loved auteur Quentin Tarantino simply spells out for young filmmakers that “he never went to film school, he went to films” yet respected and renowned director Martin Scorsese as well Hollywood mogul George Lucas have both learned their crafts in an educational setting.


So where is the best place to start? If you’re scratching your head and looking for that launching pad, look no further. A diploma may not necessarily be a requirement for stepping on set, however, receiving a formal education in the field might conjure up more opportunities than you many think.


Access to the Tools of the Trade


If you have access to software, cameras, equipment, editors, lighting, sets, and actors, by all means, skip class! But for most, finding those essentials can be daunting. Film school gives you valuable access to, and helps you understand the tools that go into making a movie.


Editing, sound design, and animation use very distinct and complex software that would absolutely require instruction. Many softwares often come included with the cost of tuition, or your school of choice should at least get you a nice discount. Most film schools have everything you need to make short films and projects right at their disposal. Courses that ensure you are at the top of your game from day one with hands-on experience via state of the art equipment; some of which can be borrowed to make projects post-graduation for a fraction of the cost of rental, or for free!

A Space to Learn and Grow


Through an established curriculum to teach and showcase student work, film school allows the student to develop skills in a helpful and safe environment. You’ll receive knowledgeable guidance and feedback from industry-experienced professionals who can help dust you off when you make a mistake. You’re bound to make an error somewhere, but of course, mistakes are the best way to learn. Critique by peers will also prepare you for giving and receiving notes in the industry.  


Outside of school, you will not receive that kind of immediate and helpful feedback, and instead your work may be subject to the cruel commentary of the internet. Making mistakes early, and receiving constructive feedback in a supportive and professional environment will ease an otherwise intense pressure.


A Sense of Direction


The most common question asked, besides “how do I make a movie” is “how can I get a start?” Film school has built in classes that steer you in the right direction. In many cases, you’ll have to make your own humbling beginnings; but that’s okay! Specialized classes with not only leave you with material to show, you’ll also learn where to look for jobs, how to query who’s hiring, and how to market yourself with confidence in a successful pitch meeting or interview.

Industry Connections


Instructors who work within the industry are always looking for bright new talent to hire and connect with projects and jobs. Lucky for them, that bright new talent will be staring them in the face year after year. They know companies and producers and might be shooting projects on their own. So be nice to the ones who teach you, because not only could they become a future co-worker someday, they’ll likely become a reliable reference and even a boss. That’s instant networking you won’t find anywhere else.  




You will develop your first projects and create a portfolio. For most jobs in the industry, proving you can do the work with readily available mind-blowing examples is a must. Film school will provide you with opportunities to development sample work that may otherwise take you years to properly create without it. No matter the stream, you’ll come out with a sense of direction because you’ll have professional examples to share. If it’s good, the school may even share it through their web pages and social media too! This will further spread your name to your school’s vast network that surely comprises of many working filmmakers. Plus, many film schools also host their own festivals and industry showcase nights, getting your work in the big screen and in front of an audience!


Make Friends 

Make Movies Together

Nothing will compare to the people you meet on the way. Film school allows many to connect with like minded individuals who may have similar passions and favourite films. You’ll make lifelong friends through film school, and maybe even collaborators who you can develop projects with going forward. Countless companies have been formed by graduates coming out of school together while an established network of folks in the same boat as you can give you the proper motivation, support, and even critique with projects going forward. Making connections and has never been so easy!

You’re Held Accountable 


With an access to equipment, people to perform every required job needed, and the proper environment, comes the most important aspect of your journey! You’ll be held accountable for making something! At some point you’ll have a set to decorate, find actors to cast and scripts to edit! No matter what position in film you want to fulfill, there will be opportunities for you to step up and actually do that job. And if you don For many, stepping on a set and getting to be this creative is a dream. But if you go to film school, at the very least, this wild wonderful dream of making something will become a reality!


So when the credits roll on the post-secondary decision, to film school or not to film school comes down to opportunity – your opportunity. Because no matter what choice you make, you’re going to have to bust your hump to carve out a start. It’s all about what you make of the opportunities given to you. Going your own way can seem attractive for the pure freedom of that path, but the ultimate reality is that you can’t be sure you’re doing the job right or that you’ll get opportunities at all. In other words, you can’t do it alone!


If you are interested in film school and would like to look at the programs we offer, feel free to check out

Written by Victor van der Merwe


The one thing all filmmakers have in common is the problem of finding money for a project. Steven Spielberg has that problem, David Lynch has that problem and yes, first time filmmakers have that problem. The reason is because, unlike other art forms, this is a very expensive medium to work in. Of course, Spielberg and Lynch can point out projects that prove they can get the money back to investors. Sadly, your profit margins might not yet compare to theirs. This does not mean that you cannot raise the funds needed to make your masterpiece though. Here are five ways new filmmakers can get funding for their projects.

1. Competitions

If you think you have the chops to complete a short film, then you can look into competitions for funding. Crazy 8s has been a part of the aspiring Vancouver filmmaker world for twenty years, funding six chosen films to produce their story in eight crazy production days. Storyhive is a new competition for up and coming filmmakers in a wide variety of formats. You can win distribution and production grants that can help make your dream project a reality. To be a good filmmaker you also need to learn to work under the gun, so the Run N Gun film competition in Vancouver can be just the place for you to see what you are made of with just two days of filming.

2. Government Grants

Do you like paperwork? Well, you better learn to because if you can fill out the forms required, there is money waiting for you in places like Creative BC, Canada Council of the Arts and of course, Telefilm. These programs are set up to help aspiring Canadian filmmakers get their projects off the ground. You can potentially get all your funding, or at least part of it, through these programs. There might be deadlines for some of these grants, so make sure to get your application in on time. The National Film Board has also been responsible for many a great Canadian film and you will be part of a great tradition if your project can find a home there.

3. Corporate Funding

Media companies like Shaw, Bell, Rogers and Telus will fund or partly fund a project. These will only choose films that they want associated with their brand. Shaw’s Rocket Fun will help you develop your project if it is children programing that you want to bring to the world. Bell’s The Harold Greenberg Fund has given grants to Canadian film since 1986 and the Rogers Group Funds can help you with financing depending on if your project fits their guidelines. The Telus Fund, will help you develop or produce content that helps promote health issues and wellness.

4. Crowdfunding

Yes, this is the new kid on the block as far as getting money for your project goes. There are sites set up just for you to collect money for your project Kickstarter and Indiegogo are two of the best known ones, but there are plenty more including Rockethub and FundRazr. What this means is you have to convince friends and family and strangers that your project is worth investing in. This is a good skill to learn for any filmmaker so the earlier you start the better. Recently, InFocus Film School student Nataly Pag crowdfunded some extra financing for her short-film ‘Violet Prevails,’ earning herself an extra $2,000 of cash-flow!

5. Self Funding

We all know how Robert Rodriguez funded his first film, El Mariachi, with money he made by participating in medical tests, or Kevin Smith, who maxed out all of his credit cards and sold his comic book collection to make his first movie, Clerks. These pioneers of independent film did this at a time before YouTube, affordable digital cameras and Final Cut Pro. If you believe strongly enough in your vision and you want to get on screen no matter what, you can always just go out and start shooting on weekends and days off with your friends and see what it looks like when you have it all cut together. If it was good enough for David Lynch, self funding is good enough for you.

Finding funding for your project is as important a skill to learn as knowing where to set up a camera. If you believe strongly enough in your project, then you will make it happen no matter what and with technology becoming more accessible it is easier now than ever before to share your vision with the world. Look into some of these ways to get funding and then go out and be creative.

Learn how to write, direct, produce and more by taking our one year Film Production Program!

Written by Felicity Flesher


Adaptations have become a forefront in cinema. Feature films today are based on all kinds of intellectual property including video games, comic books and literature. Writing an adaptation is a great way to get your foot in the door, and hone your craft. Some of the greatest movies of all time originated as short stories, such as The Birds, Brokeback Mountain, and Memento. But how does a writer take a short story idea and adapt it into feature screenplay? 



Read lots of short stories. Pick something that excites you, haunts you, or you can’t stop thinking about, one that you connect with personally and you think you can put unique spin on. Is there a story that makes you think, “Why isn’t this a movie?” That’s probably a good sign that it lends itself well to a screen adaptation. 




You must always have the author’s permission to adapt their story. It would be ideal to do your research or find an expert in copyright law. If you are the original author, go on your merry way! Many great screenplay adaptations were written by the original author, including The Godfather, Gone Girl, and The Perks of Being A Wallflower.

And don’t forget, there are hundreds of books in the public domain. Meaning you can adapt them however you wish without anyone’s permission! Adapting a public domain story is a great way to exercise your writing skills and recreative imagination. 




It is a simple fact that some elements of the story will have to change in order to make the jump to screen. By disconnecting from the original text, the screenwriter frees themselves of the obligation to maintain every detail. Examine the story closely and find what sparks you about it and take off from there.

The best screenplays have a point of view, so take the story and don’t be afraid to make it your own. Many writers are simply inspired by the concept of a piece and invent their own characters and plot points. For example, when adapting Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, John Milieus and Francis Ford Coppola changed the setting from Africa to Vietnam. They also changed many aspects of the characters and created completely new scenes while still maintaining Conrad’s philosophy from the novella. This film became Apocalypse Now.



Where to begin with the story? Start by breaking it down into scenes. What happens in each scene, who is in it, where is it set, and what does it accomplish narratively? Look at whether the scene is necessary to the story you are telling and the themes you want to explore. You may find that many scenes or even direct quotes are perfect for your screenplay. If not, eliminate them or figure out way to change and rearrange them to better suit your script. Some of the most successful adaptations completely changed endings from the original story, perhaps making for a delightful surprise for fans of the story. Keep in mind that even the best writers have to kill their darlings.



Audiences will not be reading text as the film goes. It is a visual medium in a way that prose is not. The writer needs to take certain liberties to enliven all the senses and to meet production needs. Think of it as translating the story from one medium to another. In some cases, there may not be an exact translation. You may need to come up with a solution to get the same message across.


If the short story has a first-person narration, consider how to express that in the film. The writer may find that a voiceover narration that fits the tone of the film. They may take a different approach and translate that to dialogue or find other ways to work that perspective in a scene. Try to externalize internal thoughts into action. As goes the age-old maxim, “show don’t tell.” That will make for compelling cinema rather than essentially rewriting the story into audiobook form.



In High Noon (1952,) adapted from John W. Cunningham’s “The Tin Star,” you can see a brilliant cinematic device created by screenwriter Carl Foreman – the literal ticking clock. The film is rife with shots of clocks counting down, something that is not existent in the short story. These clocks, though absent from the book, build tension and set the pace for the film.


Think about how to evoke the story’s characters and settings visually. Are there ways to bring them to life more than in the story? Get detailed on what the characters are wearing, what kinds of sounds are surrounding them, what their apartment looks like. What are “cool” scenes that could happen in a movie version of this story that couldn’t happen in the written version? This is the writer’s opportunity to build a world.




One of the more daunting tasks in adapting a short story is spreading it over 90-120 minutes in real-time. The writer really has to embed themselves in the story and invent new characters or scenes that jibe with the rest of the narrative. This is also the area in which the writer can get creative, taking off in directions that the original author may not have contemplated.


One of the great aspects of a short story is its ability to complete plot in a short space. What do you think can make the story feel more whole? A short story often only features a small group of characters, but your film is a complete world. Who and what else exist in it and how do they respond to the events taking place? Perhaps they can give your protagonist more conflicts to face.


In Minority Report from 2002, screenwriters Scott Frank and Jon Cohen expanded the backgrounds of the characters to mine more story from the Philip K. Dick original. Think about your story’s characters as real human beings with histories that may influence their actions in your adaptation. Look at them like the Tom Cruise character looks at his subjects in the film. He sees their snapshot then expands them into a larger timeline, sometimes requiring him to fill in gaps and replay events to get a better sense of who they are.


Taking any kind of story from page to screen may be a daunting task, but the opportunities for you to create are wide open. If you get stuck, you already have a guidebook to refer to. 


For a more in-depth look at a case study on short story to feature adaptation, check out the book Brokeback Mountain: Story to Screenplay that includes the original story by Annie Proulx, the screenplay by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana, as well as all three writers’ thoughts on the process.


Learn how to adapt a short story into a screenplay and more by applying to our Writing for Film and Television program


By Johnny Papan


The word animation derives from the Latin word aminare which means “to give life to.” This is exactly what animation is about, giving life to something that once did not have life. Animation has been a staple in art and entertainment since the early 1900s, consistently evolving from the complex projections of ink on paper to a mostly electronic medium. Though there are countless animation styles that span the 2D and 3D realms, there is still a fundamental idea that all animators must follow. Breathe life into your characters and their environments.


But how exactly do you give life to your character? Animation is a meticulous process which requires artful attention to detail, and a fair amount of preparation.


Here are our five key steps to bringing your 3D characters to life.






Norman is a popular animation rig that is freely available to the public. For those who are unfamiliar, a rig is a digital puppet that you can customize in Autodesk Maya, the standard industry software for 3D animation. Simply put, skeletons are used for character movement.





It is strongly believed that, in order to be a good animator, you must also be a good actor. This is especially true in regards to the way you move your body and make facial expressions. In order to bring an animation to life, you must model it after real life, or else movements are going to look strange and clunky. Most animators will film their references in multiple angles to get a full view of how the body moves and positions, getting a full scope on how to model their character.


The video below shows how animator Jeff Gabor utilized character reference videos for the film Horton Hears A Who.





Key poses are the main face and body expressions used by your character in the scene. They are often the most lively and dramatic, the pose that will add that emotional human element to your 3D model, allowing the audience to believe in the character as a living thing. Key poses are created from the character references shot in step 02, however, it’s good to note that sometimes “reality” doesn’t translate as well in the animated world. Oftentimes you’ll notice animators will add some pizzazz and over dramatize their character poses to really bring them to life.




After you animate your character’s key poses, you would begin working on what the industry refers to as the “in-betweens.” In-betweens, simply, are the movements your characters makes in-between their key poses. For example. If key pose one is a character sitting on a chair, and key pose two is the character standing, the in-between would be the motion your character makes to get from sitting to standing. Like your key poses, these are done with as much realism as possible.





By the end of every animation, there is a series of questions the animator will ask themselves before finalizing the scene.

  • Does this look real?
  • How believable is it?
  • Is it attractive to the eye?

And so on and so forth. Now, the animator will go over the completed animation, polish any kinks, hiccups, or strange movements.. Once the animator is happy, they can add 3D lighting, motion blur, and more to add zing to their render.


Then voila! Your character is ready to drop into a landscape.


If you’re interested in InFocus Film School’s 3D Animation & Visual Effects or Compositing for VFX programs visit for more information.

By Kryshan Randel


2018 was a year of out-of-nowhere surprises. For every film from an established master (Schrader, Lanthimos, Noe), there were films helmed by directors like Bo Burnham, Ari Aster, Ali Abbasi and many others whom I had never heard of before. My usual preference for dark comedies and thrillers are here, but overall this is a way more diverse list than usual.



A coming of age story as visceral and emotionally complex as the real thing. Anxiety, terror, comedy and heart co-exist, sometimes all in the same scene. Elsie Fisher’s performance anchors all of the successful shifts in tone, and the film’s understanding of social media is peerless.



Riveting documentary about a daredevil free climber who scales Yosemite’s 3000 foot high El Capitan wall without a rope. A thrilling, incredible character study. A perfectionist meets his match and we are right there with him, body, mind, heart, soul, with every perilous step.



An undercover reporter pretends to be swayed by an ISIS recruiter, until she falls under his spell for real. The greatest trick of this film is that we can understand why; the recruiter is charming, convincing and all too persuasive. The best of the laptop found footage movie genre (movies taking place entirely on laptop screens.)



A rigorous examination of faith, with a career-best performance from Ethan Hawke as an anguished priest. A bleak film driven by rage and sorrow, made with tremendous discipline and self imposed restrictions.



A beautiful nightmare, Gaspar Noe’s latest provocation combines ecstatic dance with extreme horror, and will send some screaming for the exits while it puts others in a trance-like state. Possessed performances and dazzling experimentation create a film that is experienced rather than just watched. Just like Noe’s Enter the Void, this is an uncompromising work of art, extraordinary ambitious, expanding the possibilities of what cinema is capable of more than any other film this year.



The family trauma endured here sets the horror bar so high that the supernatural elements can’t quite surpass it. Still, expert direction and flawless performances from the entire cast, especially Toni Collette, result in the rare genre film that will haunt you for days.



Period costume dramas are not usually among my favourite genres, but Lanthimos’ latest is the opposite of stuffy and formal. This is outrageously farce, with endlessly witty, quotable dialogue and a contagious tone of glee and madness.



Creatively staged comedy that never lets up for a second, with every kind of joke imaginable, and some memorable action sequences too. The Fincher-esque tributes and stylistic flourishes are the icing on the cake.



A non-human customs officer who can smell fear, falls for a similar creature who shows them their true self. A deranged original from the writer of Let the Right One In. It’s an unclassifiable modern day fairy tale so grounded in the real world that when the surprises show up (and there are many,) they land with intimate shock.



It’s not often that I fall for an Oscar baiting Hollywood crowd pleaser as I much as I did for Green Book, probably not since Titanic. However this irresistible road movie is tremendously engaging, funny and moving. Old fashioned entertainment in the best sense of the term.



The vulnerable genius artist portraits THE ZEN DIARIES OF GARRY SHANDLING, MCQUEEN, FILMWORKER, SHIRKERS and A STAR IS BORN; the epic sci-fi spectacles AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and READY PLAYER ONE; the fascinating shot-by-shot breakdown of PSYCHO’s shower scene 78/52; the moving survival tale ADRIFT; the beautifully sincere WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOUR; the escapist comedy CRAZY RICH ASIANS and pitch black comedy BLACK KKKLANSMAN; the raw time capsule MID90s; the haunting thrillers BURNING and MANEKO NORI; the period horror of APOSTLE; the extraordinary powerful THE HATE U GIVE; the neurotic authenticity of PRIVATE LIFE; and the non-stop creativity and spectacular storytelling of the all-ages winners PADDINGTON 2 and SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDERVERSE. The transcendent last thirty minutes of ANNIHILATION are also worth a mention too.










Lazy storytelling and anonymously vacant, with a total blank of a lead performance. The worst STAR WARS entry since their Holiday Special.



Claire Denis’ lost-in-space trippy HIGH LIFE, Jordan Peele’s latest thriller US, Ari Aster’s Hereditary horror follow-up MIDSOMMAR, Dan Gilroy’s Altman-esque horror film set in the art world VELVET BUZZSAW, the Safdie Brothers’ heist thriller UNCUT GEMS, James Gray’s space quest AD ASTRA, Tarantino’s 60’s epic ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD, Scorsese’s DeNiro/Pesci/Pacino team-up film THE IRISHMEN, the sci-fi/action/superhero showdown AVENGERS: ENDGAME, and Doug Liman’s CHAOS WALKING, co-written by Charlie Kaufman.

Kryshan Randel is a directing instructor at InFocus Film School. 

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Vancouver’s animation and visual effects market is a growing industry. Year after year you will see more and more films being produced in Hollywood North, many of which feature VFX or digital animation. There is a lot of career opportunity within the field, and the numbers keep growing. Vancouver is already home to some of the biggest animation studios in the film industry today, and smaller ones continue popping up as demand increases.


If you want to begin a career in Animation, 3D Animation, or Visual Effects, here are some Vancouver based companies you should look into.




One of the biggest of Vancouver’s various studios. They handle both feature animation as well as VFX, and have helped make some huge titles including: Guardians of the Galaxy, Spiderman: Homecoming, Suicide Squad, Hotel Transylvania, the Smurfs, the Angry Birds Movie, Alice: Through the Looking Glass, and many more!


Upcoming: Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, Smallfoot




Aside from their work in 3D Animation, Bardel is a top contender for Vancouver’s classical animation market. They have worked with some of animation’s biggest names including Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Disney, Warner Bros, and Dreamworks.


Classical Animation: Rick and Morty, Teen Titans Go!, Harmonquest


3D Animation: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Puss in Boots, Dinotrux




ILM is a visual effects studio with an expansive and impressive resume. Their VFX has graced films such as Skyscraper, Ant Man and the Wasp, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Avengers: Infinity War, Black Panther, Thor: Ragnarok, and many, many more! Aside from VFX, ILM also handles concept art and visual development.


Upcoming: Captain Marvel, Bumblebee, Aquaman




MPC is a massive company that covers film, advertisements, and much more.  With studios all over the globe, including Vancouver, Montreal, London, New York, LA, Amsterdam, Shanghai, and Bangalore, MPC is responsible for blockbusters such as Wonder Woman, Justice League, and the new Mummy starring Tom Cruise.


Upcoming: The Lion King, Shazam!, Godzilla: King of the Monsters




Formerly known as Mainframe Entertainment, Rainmaker Studios is responsible for some of the most nostalgia inducing 3D animated shows your mind can fathom. Running for a little over 20 years, Rainmaker developed shows such as the original Reboot, Beast Wars, as well as one of the many Spider-Man series. They also dipped their fingers in feature-film with the video-game based Ratchet & Clank, Escape from Planet Earth, and the WWE collaboration Surf’s Up 2: Wavemania.


Upcoming: Reboot: the Guardian Code, Spy Kids: Mission Control




Imagine Engine is a world-class VFX studio whose portfolio features films like Deadpool, Jurassic Park: the Lost World, District 9, Chappie, and so many more. The company has been around since 1995, and is considered one of the top studios in Vancouver.


Upcoming: Crimes of Grindelwald, Kin, Sacred Lies




Titmouse is a full-service animation studio. With locations in Vancouver, LA, and New York, Titmouse has worked with companies such as Adult Swim, Nike, Netflix, and many more. The studio makes lots of content for mature audiences, creating shows like Big Mouth, Metalocalypse, and Son Of Zorn. Titmouse has also made feature films, music videos, virtual reality, commercials, and even worked on some titles in the Guitar Hero video game series.


Upcoming: T.O.T.S, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Foxy Trotter




Zoic is a digital FX studio with locations in Vancouver, New York, and L.A.. They have great experience working in television, film, and advertising. They also dabble in video gaming and virtual reality.


Most Recent: The Adventures of Sabrina, Avengers: Age of Ultron




Atomic Cartoons is a full service animation studio that has been around since 1999. They have worked on shows such as Atomic Betty, Counterfeit Cat, Johnny Test, World of Quest, and many more.


Most Recent: Princess Wear Pants, 101 Dalmation Street, Super Dinosaur




Founded in 1989, Stargate specializes in digital production and special effects. Stargate Studios has seven major studios all across the globe. Locations include Vancouver, Toronto, L.A., Atlanta, plus international countries such as Malta, Germany, and India.


Most Recent: The Happy-Time Murders, Black Klansman, NCIS, The Walking Dead


If you’re interested in InFocus Film School’s 3D Animation & Visual Effects or Compositing for VFX programs visit for more information.