Hi my name is James Salter and I’m a student at Gnomon School of Visual Effects. I’ve been drawing with anything I could get my hands on for as long as I can remember. You name it, I’ve probably made a mark with it. My combined love of traditional drawing, theatre and computers eventually lead me to a career in animation. I recently graduated from Gnomon and here are some of my animation tips.


I’ve been a fan of martial arts since I was introduced to Walker: Texas Ranger as a kid.  I am fascinated by the combined strength and fluidity.  Add to that a marathon viewing of the Kung Fu Panda movies and I had a good kick in the pants to animate my own martial arts shot.


I started by searching on YouTube for reference of the specific moves I had in mind; a jab/cross combination, sidekick, and a kip up.

Once I had gathered my basic reference, I began looking at tutorial videos and articles for each move.  This helped me to understand better the body mechanics and gave me a head start on the key poses.

I find that when I let Maya interpolate my key poses, I do not exaggerate enough

Blocking Key Poses

Using my reference, I did a series of thumbnail sketches to lock down the gesture of each pose.

key pose

At this point, I finally moved into my Maya workflow.  I posed all my key poses and did a basic timing pass.

Posing In-Betweens


I worked in stepped mode during this phase of animation.  I find that when I let Maya interpolate my key poses, I do not exaggerate enough.  Working in stepped mode makes me think about my poses and actions, and I consciously design each movement.

Related link: How to model and texture anime fanart

Splines, Arcs, and Clean-up

I worked in stepped mode until I was happy with the flow and timing of the animation.  About one pose every two frames.  I then switched my animation curves to spline mode.


Using a program called EpicPen, I plotted my arcs and tweaked my poses to have a good flow. Next, I did a final animation pass to add small details and polish.

Wrapping It Up

Finally, the animation was complete, and I could spend some time on the presentation.

I rendered this scene using Maya’s DirectX 11 shader in Viewport 2.0.  This allowed for real-time rendering, which saved me a lot of time during my busy class schedule.


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