Meet the Artist: Carlos Baena

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  10 October 2005
Hi Carlos,

phew this is cool. Just this morning I went thru your Q&A´s at CG-CHAR, and was (metaphorically) pulling my hair for not being able to post my questions anymore. HA!

So here they come:

- I don´t know wether I remember those two numbers correctly, but I think I read somewhere that Pixar has about 60+ animators. And in the Incredibles Commentary it says that even a ninja animator would animate a max of 100 feet of footage in a movie. Considering that Pixar works on several movies at the same time, like Cars, Hogblogs and Monster Inc 2*, I wonder how this could work? Unless, you have a SECOND, secret underground studio, where thousands of nameless interns animate for their daily share of rice and water. In that case, would you please PM me with the contact info for the responsible HR?

- I remember that drawing - was it Milt Kahl´s - in the Animators Survival Kit, about listening to music while animating. I find that though it keeps me awake longer than any coffee ever could, music slows down my (in any case nonexistant) animation talent. Do you listen to music while animating, or aren´t u smart enough either?

Ok that´s it for now, thanks so much for taking the time to do those Q&A´s!

Happy animating,


*don´t freak out guys, I came up with those.
MEL [Preds Autobackup v1.3]
Micha's AM Blog
  10 October 2005
Originally Posted by Julius: Do you have other interests other then 3d animation etc? (things you might get up to off the computer maybe on the weekends or other hobbies).Have you ever had a part-time or casual job while in the 3d industry when you started? If so how did you handle it? (Atm i'm wondering wether I should give up my casual job and settle for less money and have more time for 3d).

Hi Julius,

-Interests other than 3D animation. I've been always very interested in the Filmmaking aspect of Animation/Film. So I've been sort of studying that stuff on my own...sometimes taking classes wherever I can find them, and when my schedule allows me to do so. Pixar is great that way, as they encourage the artists learning and interests in other areas. Also doing music definitely keeps me busy sometimes. I've been trying to learn this software called "LogicPro", that almost feels like learning "Maya" but in music. It has like a million windows in it, I get lost right away. It's driving me nuts. I've been doing music for AnimationMentor, as a way to practice, and do trial and error. The students of AnimationMentor have probably heard many songs I've experimented with. That's when you see blogs like "My ears are exploding"...or..."why I cry/scream when listening to the lectures".

-I never had a part-time job while working already in the industry, because of visa issues. Being from another country, and because of the visa I have in the US, I was only able to have one job every time. You need a specific type of visa for whatever inmigration situation you have going on, and many times it's very difficult to get them or they take a long time. For the AnimationMentor stuff I had to get a second visa specifically for that purpose. The inmigration subject in the US has always been a very delicate subject for people from other countries. Pixar has been always very patient and supportive with me on that area.

  10 October 2005
Originally Posted by stunner_prince: Hi Carlos,
U and friends from animation mentor are doing an amazing work.But for beginners like us from india aren't able to afford as it costs a lot.But still we're trying to join and study.If i have a plan to join a college for learning animation.Which degree or course should i do and pls also advice me on the colleges from U.S.

Thanks Stunner_prince.

About advice for learning animation you can afford...I can't give you affordable choices, which in my opinion have a strong curriculum. You have places like CalArts (Valencia, CA) or Sheridan (Canada). I know they are not cheap either, but they are very strong schools for animation that I know care about the art. I would of LOVE to study in those places, but first I didn't really have a portfolio to make it there, and well, at the time I didn't even know about then either. Many artists and directors started at CalArts, so that tells you something. I would research on places like this, especially if you are thinking about animation. I would also definitely look into what the internet has to offer also. People, resources, forums, contacts, artists, inspiration. It's such useful resource. The biggest learning resource in my opinion.

  10 October 2005
Originally Posted by wcnike: Hi,Carlos!I want to know how you think about the difference of Cartoon actor's performation between U.S.A and Chinese!!!

Hi Wcnike,

Ok, this is a hard question. Let me think about it. You are asking about the difference in the cartoon performance of a US actor and a Chinese actor....??, that's tough. I wish I had my co-worker Andrew Gordon here, as he really has a unique understanding in performances,, he's been in China giving lectures. I know he would of been of more help than me here.

With performances and cultures, it can go a million different ways. Certain things acting wise, like pantomime, are more universal than other things. Gestures can be very country/culture driven...and they can be originated in a specific context or place that doesn't apply to another country. Therefore, acting choices or gestures that in the US mean one thing, in China they may mean something completely different or nothing at all, regardless of whether it's a cartoon performance or a realistic performance. There are great books written by english author Desmond Morris, on the subject of body language/gestures and cultures,that maybe helps you further. Two great books come to mind, "Manwatching" (1977) and "The Naked Ape" (1967).

I find myself studying films from my own country Spain and the US where I live...and even I have a hard time trying to figure out what makes the acting of some films/actors more believable than in other films. Last year, over a period of one week I watched two pretty hardcore films, Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" and Almenabar's "Sea Inside". Both amazing films with stunning performances. But I came out wondering what made the performance of "Sea Inside" more believable and honest in some cases than other moments in "Million Dollar Baby"...especially on some of the secondary characters of the first one, which blew me away. This is my own sensibility and appeal, which other people may not agree to. For me, maybe it was characters/personalities that I could relate in the spanish film even more...therefore I felt more engaged in those performances, and they felt truly real...Whereas in parts of "Million Dollar Baby" I would tell myself "I'm watching a movie. These are movie performances. What makes me feel that way". It's definitely not that one movie is spanish and the other film american. Has nothing to do with that, as I've seen spanish films that are so bad performance wise, that make you cry. But in these two particular cases, it was something that made me wonder for a while. So, no real answer here I feel...I think it enters more the subjective area on what makes you feel this or that way to you individually.


Last edited by CarlosBaena : 10 October 2005 at 10:32 PM.
  10 October 2005
Saludos Carlos!

First congratulations on all of your work.

I always see your webiste url as a must see from other animation sites I visit

Don't want to turn your thread into a working Visa thing , but since you mentioned it how did you go by handling that part ...?

I'm guessing that people in the US won't give you work unless you have a working Visa but at the same time you can't get a working Visa unless a company wants you in the first place... am I correct...?

Or did studying in the US help you out with that part...? or being REALLY good will open the doors for you and make anybody want to handle the paperwork. ( I think I saw in Pixars site in the FAQs that they only accept people with permission to work in the US)

How did you get your first "break" in a working/paying position ..?

Just wondering, hope its ok to ask ..

thanks for your time y buena suerte con todos tus proyectos!

Fernando J. Velarde

Last edited by velarde : 10 October 2005 at 11:04 PM.
  10 October 2005
Wow! Thanks for answering my questions Carlos! Its a real honor! We're having a one-week masterclass in our school with a great animator has worked for almost more than a decade at ILM. His name is Miguel Angel Fuertes. He's come here to take some time off but I guess our school reps somehow swayed him into giving us a little teaching on the side... I was wondering if there was ANY chance whatsoever that you may be holding or would be interested in participating in a similar event?

Un Saludo y Muchas Gracias!

  10 October 2005
Originally Posted by dsolo: Hi Carlos! Thanks for that's Q&A
I would like to know how do you deal getting good arcs and continuity in animations. Most of 3d sorftware lack a good ghosting function and when you are refining your blocking with inbetweens it's very dificult for me don't get pops in the animation betwen poses. The only way I find to solve this is in graph editor analazing the curves. I would like to know if there is a more visual way to deal with this.!

Hi Dsolo,

About doing the Q&A, definitely. My pleasure man.

About tools for getting good arcs...from a visual point of view, there may be a few ways to help you out.

-If you still have one of those old computer LCD monitors (even some of the flat ones) that allow you to use non-permanent sharpies in them, use the actual screen for plotting your arcs.
-If you have a newer more delicate computer monitor, I believe they sell see through plastic screen protectors that allow you use the non-permanent sharpies.
-If you use Maya software, Jason Schiefler wrote his GreasePencil tool. I've used it and I think it's more than useful and intuitive:

Jason is a really talented smart animator, and also knows a lot about the technical needs of us, animators. I would definitely use it. Jason is one totally hilarious guy as well. The students at AnimationMentor can testify. We always have a blast with him. Ok, fine, I love him.

I personally, use a tool at Pixar that allows me to draw on the screen. Gives me a very similar result to Jason's. The point being, knowing what the path of every part of your character is doing.


Last edited by CarlosBaena : 10 October 2005 at 10:59 PM.
  10 October 2005

First off, let me congratulate you on the Incredibles, it's about as fine a piece of animation as you can get and Mr Incredible is...incredible.

Question time!

I'm considering Animation Mentor and I've asked this question several times but no one has answered it yet-- I'm deaf so I'd have problems following the lectures, are there any lecture notes/ captions/etc available to students? I bet this would help people whose first language is not english as well.

  10 October 2005
Originally Posted by Bentagon: - How do you feel you've grown as an artist in your career?
- Animation is communication, so how important are regular people's reactions to your shots to you?
- What's the most challenging shot you've ever animated?
- What shot you've animated are you most proud of?
- If you could choose one particular character from the history of animation, that you would have loved to animate on, which would it be, and why?
- What kind of questions do you ask yourself to get to know your character?
- How much have you learned by experimenting with different media (2D and stopmo, or perhaps even theater)
- As you mentors constantly say... animation is a continuous learning experience. What's the last thing you've learned in animation? And what's the one most important thing you've learned in animation?
- Who is or are your favorite animator(s)? The one(s) you look up to most?
- Will you, or some of the other mentors, or even officially Animation Mentor, be at Annecy this year? I'm guessing that's thé European event which you guys would be coming overseas for (aside from vacation).- Benjamin

Hey Benjamin,

How is going man?
So many familiar faces and names.

Ok, onto your questions:

-How have I grown as an artist on my career? Definitely through certain co-workers in different companies and over the years. I learn a lot from watching how other artists learn and deal with art, people and pressure. At Pixar, I have such great animation neighbours currently. I really do. They have so much experience, they help me look at things with other eyes...and in some cases, just by talking to them, they help me look at myself and where I am at, to see what I have to work on, or how.

-Regular people's feedback on my work. Very important. Anyone's feedback is great. they are fresh eyes, plus, those people will definitely tell you if something is off or doesn't feel natural. Animators sometimes pay more attention at the animation details of a shot, as opposed to the essence of the shot. I've seen it happen with myself many times.

-Most challenging shot I've ever animated. Definitely one of the shots I recently worked on "Cars" that took me quite a while to complete. It went through some changes, and in many cases I felt kind of lost and not really knowing where the shot was heading to. In the end, I'm happy the Director and Supervisors pushed me on this shot. Can't really talk about the specifics of the shot.

-Shot most proud of. That's a tough one to answer for me as I think I've been pretty critical of most of my work. But I'm very proud of having worked on both "Cars" and "Incredibles" the most. Other than stuff from those films, I enjoyed working and watching one of my shots from "Boundin", towards the end of the shortfilm, where the lamb is used to being shaved, lifts the leg smiling, the take him, drop him, stands up all chill and cool, and starts jumping. While the shot in my opinion could of used some more work, it got a reaction from the audience that gave me goosebumps in the movie theater. Working at a place like Pixar, it's been hard for me to risk or take chances on my shots, due to the pressure, schedules, etc. Especially at the beginning, I didn't want to make mistakes. It's taken some time to start relaxing...letting go...and trying to take more risks on my shots. They really trusted me on "Cars", which I feel more than lucky.

-I think I might of answered this one. Scrat from "IceAge". In terms of any character of the old Disney films, I certainly don't think I would of been able to make a drawing that came anywhere close to looking like the original character. So I'll leave it at Scrat.

-Questions I ask myself to know the character. Good one Benjamin. Still trying to figure that one out myself. A few things I always keep in mind though:

-Who is this character. Where does he/she come from. Background information.
-Where in the story/film is the character at. A character is always evolving.
-Is this character enterntaining, while being on character?
-How can I push this character. Do I have spots to take risks or chances?
-What else has been done with this character that will give me ideas or inspire me.

-2D and Stop-Motion (while working at Will Vinton) have helped me tremendously in my animation learning, especially from a timing/spacing point of view. I never taken theater classes. But I've hang out with crazy friends while Skateboarding, that was like going to the freaking Circus every day. Big learning that way.

-Last thing learned in animation: Not to get lazy on any shot. Always spend time on detail.

-Most important lesson: While technique is important, performance is most important.

-Animators I look up to: Oh man...really long list here. Pete Docter, Brad Bird, John Lasseter, Mark Oftedahl, Doug Sweetland, Glen Keane, Ron Zorman, Gini Santos, Tony Fucile, Mike Woo, Nancy Kato, Jay Boose, Sanjay Patel...really the list can go on. Sometimes I look up some animators at work not just because of their animation/acting skills only, but because of their attitude, and how these people are towards other people. I really learn a great deal from them. Also, knowing how patient they are with students, every single mentor we've gotten the opportunity of having at AnimationMentor, I definitely look up to them.

-Annecy this coming year. I'm not sure if I'll be able to myself. Because it's been a while since I've been with my family here in Spain, I'm taking as much time off as I can to be with them. But I'm pretty sure we will try our best to have the School have a presence there.

Ok, I think I'll continue tomorrow guys. I'm not used to typing so much...I'm about to pass out here. I hope I'm helping with these questions. Good night everyone.


Last edited by CarlosBaena : 10 October 2005 at 12:55 AM.
  10 October 2005
Holla Carlos! Te admiro tu animacciones totalmente. Excuse, Spanish is my 4th language or somthing.

When working at Pixar, how much input had the director about how the animation should look like? How much was your own signature?

Is it essential that your opinions should line up with the director's?

Was it fun working at Pixar or did you have some impossible deadlines? Were you at any time under stress? And if so, how does it affect your work?

Do you have to do facial and body animation in the Incredibles? What are the stages of animation? I heard Brad Bird wanted pose to pose animation? What were the advantages?

When object touch eachother, two people holding hands, Bob Parr picking up a piece of cake or sitting on a chair, how do you prevent those two meshes to intersect? Is it just endless tweaking or is there an easy way?

I hope I'm not out of line here, how do all the animation packages compare to each other, i.e. which one is most intuitive, which ones offers the most tools? I am a Blender user, and it has a major animation recode done. Could you find the time to test it out?( whoa, I'm way out of line here sorry)
  10 October 2005
Might sound like a noobness question but what programs do Pixar use during a movie, just really want to hear the animation programs though. Thanks man and congratulations on all your success, nice/pleasure talking to you.
  10 October 2005
I admire your work. I just want to know if people outside of the animation industry respect your work. Or people outside the industry look at the animation as a hobbie.

I hope to enter Animation Mentor in spring.
  10 October 2005
Hola Carlos es un honor poder saludarte, tu trabajo es extraordinario e inspirador en todos los sentidos....

Ojala tengas oportunidad de contestar mi pregunta..

-Como animador que adoras y que detestas en como esta hecho el rig de un personaje?...que controles encuentras fastidiosos y que controles encuentras estupendos...

muchas gracias por tu tiempo y por compartir tus conocimientos!!
  10 October 2005
Hey Carlos! Dude, you're just an awesome animator and i love watching your lectures at AM. By the way, thank you so much for creating AM and making it such a perfect place to study animation. i hope that one day i will get a chance to thank you personally, or who knows, maybe i'll get to animate with you one day so i can tell everybody that i got to animate with one of the great animators. Okay fine, i'll settle for fetching your paellas and sangria while you animate your shots!

When you have a chance, i have a couple questions:

1. i'm in the body mechanics class right now and i need to start making some money as soon as possible to help pay for the rest of my education at AM, so i was wondering, if you were in my shoes, at what point in the program you would put your assignments on a reel and start sending it out?

2. Sorry Carlos, this is kind of a long-winded one. There are so many things for an animator to remember when animating a shot, and if you're like me it's easy to forget quite a few of these things. For example, there are animation principles, body mechanics tips, and acting tips you need to be thinking about at each stage of a shot, kind of like a checklist (ie. pushing your poses, including overlap, checking silhoettes, thinking about hips/shoulders, etc.) Every animator goes through the checklist in a different order, for instance what one animator thinks about and checks off the list in the 1st blocking pass, another animator might not think about until the 2nd or 3rd blocking pass or even until the polishing phase. i'm wondering from your own personal routine, if you could list the order you go through your checklist and what you are remembering to include in each pass of your shot?

Thank you so much Carlos,

animator - rainmaker animation

Last edited by Sean MacNeil : 10 October 2005 at 04:34 PM.
  10 October 2005
hi Baena, firstly ı want to thank you for all this answer. here is my question. what is your expectations about future of 3 D animation world in near future. Do you have any foresight, any guesses, ? (for example, can mocap and facial mocap systems become more important in 3 D animation film etc...?) thats all, thank you have a nice days...
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