What is your name and your current occupation?
My name is Mike York, and I recently accepted a new position for as a full time Animator at Rockstar Games in New England, Boston.
What are some of the crazier jobs you had before getting into animation?
Ohh man I’ve got a few to mention but the one that sticks out the most would be when I was a Skateboarding Instructor. I taught small kids the basics of skateboarding and it was my first experience with learning how teaching can be personally rewarding at the same time as helping others. Seeing the kids get better and growing was incredible and led me to teach animation later on down the road.
What are some of your favorite projects you’re proud to have been a part of?
Uncharted 2, Goldeneye 007 for the Wii and my favorite project I’ve ever been apart of was RUIN or what is now called Warriors Lair. I worked on it while I was here in Denver,CO at Idol Minds. It was a great company to work for, awesome group of people there. Everyone was very passionate about making a great gaming experience. The animation’s were so fun to work on and it felt for the first time that I was creating again and doing what I love most.
How did you become interested in animation?
When I was in college is when I really got into animation and realized it was something I wanted to do the rest of my life. It all started with a 2d animation test which was a walk cycle at the time. I worked on it for almost 2 months and something wasn’t quite right and after getting feedback from my teacher Evert Brown I started tweaking tummy positions and overlapping things and before I knew it my drawings started to come alive! This was something that I never experienced. Something I created is now alive…or feels alive…If I never put pencil to paper it would not exist and I don’t know how to explain it but in that moment I got chills and just realized how amazing this craft really is. From there on out I wanted to create animation that would evoke emotion out of an audience.
Where are you from and how did you get into the animation business?
I am from San Diego, CA and was born there and when I was around 6 or 7 I moved to Colorado and pretty much grew up here. I got into the animation business when I was about half way through college. I landed my first internship at a company called Novint Technologies. It started everything for me and I have the Art Institute of Colorado to thank for setting me up on that interview that day. After taking that internship I was able to get more work and continue on a path for a gaming career even though at the time I didn’t know I was going to like the gaming industry or working in it. I always thought I would work in Film or that was my main goal but I followed the path life took me and have no regrets. Loved the ride so far and can’t wait for what’s to come.
What’s a typical day like for you with regards to your job?
Right now I am about 2 weeks away from starting my new job so Im not sure how it will be there yet. But usually a normal day at a studio I come in around 9:00 – 9:30am and grab a beagal cream cheese that is crucial and some juice something like that. Start checking emails and making sure I know what’s the task for my day. Depending on the shot usually I will have to either create a rough version of an attack or idle. In some cases I will clean up mocap and work on hands and fingers ect. Just depends after a few hours of that. Lunch Time!!! Then back to it again usually I like to focus on 40 frame chunks at a time or roughly that much. Sometimes we will have to shoot some video reference and act out some shots we might be having difficulty with. Love these times because it really gets you to feel where weight is going and how your body transitions from one pose to the next.
What part of your job do you like best? Why?
Creating!….I love to create raw animation spur of the moment stuff. Creature’s monsters and acting stuff is my overall favorite thing to work on. I really enjoy working on the subtle things in an animation. It’s making a moment and a feeling that wasn’t there before you touched the computer….Something special about that.
What part of your job do you like least? Why?
I would say re-iterations. After I feel the shot or animation is working or feels good and I have to change it a bunch of times. This is tough on me for some reason but over the years I’ve learned to not get married my shots. Sometimes it’s about what the director wants or how he wants it to feel not what you think it should be. Also on that note this can sometimes be a good thing and over the years some shots I had to change it was for the better and Im soo glad I changed it or took the time to try someone’s idea.
What kind of technology do you work with on a daily basis?
Apple Mac computer with a 9×12 tablet Adobe and Autodesk Creative Suite and Motion Builder ect. Sometimes I have to work in a proprietary software as well.
What is the most difficult part for you about being in the business?
Traveling around so much or bouncing from Job to Job not knowing in 3-6 months if I am going to have work again or if the studio is going stay open. This has put a strain on my relationships in life and kept me from making some decisions like getting a house or feeling stable.
In your travels, have you had any brushes with animation greatness?
Ohh man I feel my buddy back in school Dennis Horroun was true Animation Greatness. A diamond in the rough as they say. When we were in College his 2d animation blew me away and felt so smooth and to this day when I watch it….It still looks great and so fluid. Following arcs and everything its funny he doesn’t even animate that much and focuses on modeling and texturing now a days. But at the time I felt I was watching true animation greatness.
Describe a tough situation you had in life.
A while back in college I had a time when I just didn’t know what direction to take and felt I wasn’t good enough to be an animator. Just a moment of weakness and I think this happens to everyone at some point in their lives. I really enjoyed modeling, editing, drawing, skateboarding, animation list goes on and on and I just didn’t know what to do. It was around a month later we had cousins over for Christmas and my cousin Heather is into reading the stars and astrological Signs and seeing how they align to predict what might be going on in your life at the time. She sat me down and within 5minutes knew things I never told anyone and asked me what do you REALLY want to do right now in your life?.. what is holding you back?… I said..”I want to be a 3d Animator and hahah I know you might not know what that entails or stuff like that but right now in school I don’t know what direction to take I know Animation is the most difficult thing to do and it’s what I want most but I don’t know If I am talented enough or have the skills for it. She said “ After reading my charts she noticed I had soo much drive and so much talent but I needed to go with it and trust my instincts. On the chart it shows stars clustered in areas for artistic things or people with intense drive but never capitalize on that or combine the two. After I met with her for some reason something clicked and from then on out I chased my dream to be a Animator and to create my own destiny and to never again second guess myself.
Any side projects you’re working on that you’d like to share details of?
Yeah I just got done working on the Dead Island Riptide trailer. Really excited about the shots I got to work on and it was a great learning experience for me with nanimating subtle motions in humans.
Any unusual talents or hobbies like tying a cherry stem with your tongue or metallurgy?
Not unusual hobbies I love to skateboard and it’s my escape from the computer life and gets my mind cleared.
Is there any advice you can give for an aspiring animation student or artist trying to break into the business?
Think to yourself what type of person would you enjoy working with or along side of. No one likes to work with someone who has a crap attitude or complains all the time. Sometimes in the industry your going to feel stressed because of how many hours your putting in or how many changes a director is going to make on your shot. Remember to stay focused on your path and happy about what your doing. Get away from the computer on a daily basis and soak in life. We can’t really re-create life without living it ourselves and being in the now.