Meet the Artist: Jeff Lew

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  08 August 2005
Quote: Hello Mr. Lew
it's nice to hear that you have your knowledge from self studying. at the moment i'm too young to join one of the schools so i have to learn these things by reading books and fighting through the internet too.

Did you ever want to join a school for cg?
what are your preperations before you begin to draw your characters? do you just try some shapes of beans or whatever or do you write down things that descripe the charakter like age, side(god, bad), stupid or intelligent, big or small?

Hi Patrik,
When I first started working on the Spiderman themepark ride, almost all of my co-workers came from arts schools, so I felt a little out of place. I've always wanted to join an art school to learn the fundamentals of art like color theory, and composition and general anatomy and figure drawing. I always wanted to take a figure drawing class with naked women haha! But I'm just a dork.

I recently took Philip Straub's class on environment concepts right here on CG Workshops. He is an excellent teacher. I feel like I have the fundamentals now.

As for my original beans, I didn't really have any concept drawings for them. For my next Killer Bean, I subcontracted some character designers to help me out. Primarily Von Caberte, you may know him from the CG talk forums. He helped me design my newest main characters.

In terms of character profiles, yes I know them inside and out before they are even designed. If you know your characters well enough, then you never have to figure out what they will do in a certain scene. They will do it themself!


  08 August 2005
""your work shows your extravagancy ""

hi jeff lew ,

its really aprreciable and i dnt even hav words of compliments to greet you for the marvelous work u have done ....u r the true enterprenuer in my eyes ....i love to see your work .....hey man you are one who is a inspiration to every guy in the animation field ....your work really deserves extrvagancy ....i am your great fan name is girish n i have completed my btech(engineering) in information technology ..but i believe i can do a much lot in animation field ...also along with my engineering i hav done animation course ...i hav done soft like maya ,3dsmax,photoshop,after effects ,premiere,cool edit pro , corel draw .....n i still more desire to learn in this field u are a great personality in this field so i wud like to have your words as advice from your past experiences ....wat wud u like to suggest me .....kindly guide me ...i need to go to the depth ...give me some tips as to how to succed in this field email is .....thnxs

bye have a nice day

Originally Posted by Leigh:

Jeff Lew
Character Animator

Jeff Lew graduated college with an electrical engineering degree but decided to pursue a more creative career in computer animation. He learned animation by reading books and learning from websites and soon he landed his first studio job with KWCC working as a character animator on the Spiderman themepark ride for Universal Studios.

On his spare time, he would work on his animated short: Killer Bean 2, which took 3 years of spare time to finish. Steve Oedekerk saw some Killer Bean footage and contracted Jeff to pre-visualize and choreograph a fight scene between himself and a cow for his movie Kung Pow. Steve liked the previs so much he brought Jeff to LA to work on the movie. While in LA, Jeff also worked on X-Men.

Shortly after, Jeff completed Killer Bean 2 and released it on Ifilm. It became a huge hit, being viewed 1 million times in 6 months. The success of Killer Bean 2 lead to work on The Matrix Reloaded where Jeff animated Neo and many Agent Smiths. After 2 ½ long years, Jeff decided not to continue onto the third Matrix movie, but instead changed directions.
He went to work at Warner Brothers Feature Animation to supervise animation for an action scene in Looney Tunes: Back in Action.

After that project, Jeff decided to take a break from studio work to produce a training DVD that shares the knowledge he gained over the years. Currently, Jeff has changed directions again and is working to complete his third Killer Bean episode.

As a very special gift to CGTalk readers, Jeff has kindly offered a 10% discount on his DVD, Learning Character Animation with Jeff Lew, available from his website (link below). Please use the coupon code T3UPYJVA to qualify for this discount.

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  08 August 2005
Hey Jeff, love your stuff man and thanks for taking the time to be here!

Just wanted to know what your impressions were of Softmage's Face Robot from SIGGRAPH and also what kinds of technological advances you would like to see in the future in regards to animation.

What software have you used (Animanium, Motionbuilder, etc) and what are some of your favorite/ most used features?

The Seer is the soul of the artist,
Revealing the Mystery as form
-Alex Grey
  08 August 2005
Quote: Hi Jeff. Whoa, I was just wondering when you'll be featured in CGTalk. The Smith clones shots are really something man. I thought those guys used some sort of crowd simulation or something.

Hi Dwida,

No simulation at all. All of the background smiths were mocaped, but various animators hand placed them in one at a time and made sure they didn't intersect. I didn't really do much of the background Smith guys.

Quote: Anyway, is Nick Pugh your other name?

That's the name I use on my credit card. Just kidding Nick.

  08 August 2005
Quote: How long have you been called Nick Pugh?

About 37 seconds.

  08 August 2005
Quote: My questions is about the start of your career - how long would you say it took teaching yourself before you became proficient enough to go for your first job in animation?

Hi Stuart,

I'd say it took me about 1-2 years. I started learning in 1995 and got my first job in 1997. But I did have my web job during that period too.

  08 August 2005
Quote: My question is; roughly (if u can still remember) how many hours did you practice 3D modeling/animation in the very first year you started learning?

Because this could potentially give me an idea how much i have to push myself.

Hi Marcel,

Hmmm, it's hard to remember. When I was serious about it, I reduced my web job to part time, so I worked 3 days a week and spent 2 full days each week learning 3D. I think I also spent maybe 2-3 hours a night on my work days too. Basically any spare time I got.

When I was making Killer Bean 2, I spent 3-4 hours a night after coming home from work.

Push yourself hard. It will give you strong discipline. The more you work at it on your own, the more knowledgible you will become.
  08 August 2005
OH my dear JEFF,forgive my poor english,but i have to speak this word loudness
you are so good man
you make me find the way of mine,(but can,t find your website)
  08 August 2005
Quote: Hey Jeff, like everyone else I love your work.
My question is this. I am very motivated to get a career in animation and I am planning on taking a 3 year course in 3d animation , but my problem is that I find I work better on my own , reading books and doing tutorials. And I was wondering if you went through the same problem deciding to go to school? What kind of advice could you give someone that would rather not want a $30,000 dollar loan but still be employable. Because I know a lot of people who attended animation school and still can't find work.

Hi Matt,

When I finished engineering school, I decided I never wanted to go back to school again. I hate school! The real world is much better. I learned from books like Illusion of Life (must own) and message boards like CGChar. CGChar was really flourishing back then with lots of pros visiting. I think CGTalk has probably taken over in terms of where all the pros visit. The best resource you have is CGTalk probably. Having people see your work and critque it.

$30K is a lot to spend, and I have met many graduates who couldn't find work also. It's hard for me to give career advice, cause I don't want to ruin anyone's career, but I would say try it on your own for a year. There is so much learning material out there now. Try or Gnomon materials. When I was learning, there was nothing like that at all. Just "Illusion of Life" and "Character Animation in Depth" If you are finding out that you just can't do it on your own, then you are only 1 year behind. CGTalk is also an incredible resource for information. A great demo reel always beats a degree on paper. What got me my first job was my Concussion trailer. Oh yeah, and luck always has something to do with it.

  08 August 2005
Quote: I have one question for you, I'm only 14 so im trying to think of wut i might do in the future, since im interested in this field of work, so i wanted to know... does animating make any money, with all the film school, and training and stuff??

Hi Lucien,

Yes animating does make money. Sometimes very good. Plus you have fun doing it. You should do what makes you happy. If you don't like animating, then you won't be happy even if you make money from it.

  08 August 2005
Quote: For my question, do you have any preferences on facial rigs? - using morphs or a skeletal system of bones? - I really want to get a quality to my animation with an easy of use and easy setup.

I guess kinda like Jason Osipa's stop staring method using morph targets versus Tyson Ibele's - bone setup tutorial he has on his site... which he said he developed from someone on the forums.

Hi Mark,

I like Jason Osipa's setup. It looks very cool and flexible. I have his book too. For my own stuff, I bascially use blendshapes or morph targets. Nothing special. I've never tried using bones for the face yet. I should try it out to see if I like it.

On Matrix Reloaded, they used a type of photogrammetry to capture the actor's faces and motion. So I really didn't do any face animation for that.


  08 August 2005
Quote: Just wanted to say that your DVD is by far the best animation DVD I've ever seen and it's a one of a kind gem. Good luck in your future endeavors and keep breaking those glass ceilings. BTW, consider releasing another animation DVD of some sort...I'll defintely buy that too!


Thanks! I'm not planning anymore DVD's currently. That last one I made was a doozey! Right now it's all about the Bean...

  08 August 2005
Hi Jeff,
Dont think I have any questions just want to thank you on your excellent dvd and after reading your reaplies so far I must say you are an inspiration for us all
My current projects on cgtalk:

My recently finished short, and a poster for it, hurray
My first real attempt at texturing

Work in Progress:
My office bloke
  08 August 2005
Hail the mighty BEAN!

Originally Posted by Jeff Lew:


Thanks! I'm not planning anymore DVD's currently. That last one I made was a doozey! Right now it's all about the Bean...


Great to see you here Jeff good sir... You are one of the main reasons I first got into animation back in 99, so thanks you legend! Congrats on the great anim dvd too mate

The return of the almighty BEAN will undoubtedly herald a new wave of hype surrounding your skills and name... Good luck!

My only real question for you is - With all you've learned... What advice (Do's & Donts) would you give to artists developing their own shorts in 3d?

Thanks for everything Jeff
Those who know it can't be done should stop interrupting those who are doing it


my 3d prints

  08 August 2005
Quote: hi there ,when your reviewing your own shot or sequence do you have a checklist or something that you ask yourself to make sure you've covered all your bases?
thanks Ari


i was ofcourse reffering too the shot or sequence in the previous line of questioning in regards to the 'all your bases' comment

Hi Ari,

I don't really have an actual checklist of things. When reviewing my own animations, I basically look to see if it looks real or fake to me, like "wait, that guy is too heavy to move like that" or "how the hell can he do that?" I don't really say, "oh that needs more anticipation"

But I will say that to animators that I'm supervising to clarify what I want them to do. I'll say things like, "on frame 58, arc his back even more, and then hold the pose a bit longer to make it more noticeable." or "move the head first then the body, to make him more attentive." I tend to think that giving direction to the animator is much clearer that way rather than saying hit him harder or something like that. You could say "hit him harder" 20 times and they still won't animate it correctly. That's directing for a result. Sometimes it's more efficient to give them animatable tasks. But that can backfire too, cause that takes them out of the moment. It's best to say what you are after and then suggestions on how to do it.

But for my own stuff, I just go with what I'm feeling.

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