We recently spoke with Justin Rasch, to get the scoop on all things Stop Motion related! Justin comes to us with 23 years of professional experience in Stop Motion and CG Animation working in Games, Television and Feature Animated Films. Justin is presently the Sr. Cinematic Animator at BLIZZARD as well as a Director /Writer /Animator on his own films under the label (Stunt Puppet Pictures) Using Stop Motion and Traditional Animation to create films for Film Festivals and DVD distribution.
Q: Hi Justin! Your work is amazing! Thank you for sharing today. You have such an interesting background in Stop Motion and Games. Can you tell us more about your educational background and how you got to where you are, working in the industry on such cool films and games?
JUSTIN: Thank you so much!! My pleasure. I was always an artist growing up and eventually went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. I originally went for an Industrial Design -Degree which was one of the only programs I found teaching how to do Practical FX that were common in film through the 80’s and early 90’s. While I was in school Jurassic Park came out and I changed my major to Computer Animation the next morning after seeing it. I knew I wanted to make creatures come to life but I had never seen a Practical Animation that moved like that T REX did. I knew the future was in Computer Animation.
I learned little CG Animation from my time in school. Only a couple of semesters of actual program teaching. Most of my animation training was in 2D which we did in the first 6 semesters. When I graduated I had made several CG short films as well as one 2D short. This gave me a great reel to jump out into the world with.
I applied to many companies that I found in the back of my Cinefex books and even took a flight out to California where I ended up sleeping on the beach with a bag of demo reels and portfolios. I took the Blue bus in Venice to studios all over as I walked in without an appointment and dropped my work off at the front desks.
Believe it or not I even got a few interviews from doing that too. I ended up getting a few offers from a bunch of places and flew around for interviews in different states until I decided on KONAMI.
My first job was in video games which I never could have imagined I would be working in. I also grew up playing KONAMI games and was blown away that I might create a game from such an iconic company.
Q. I’d love to learn more about the process behind stop motion and with your new Animation Channel — Justin Rasch Animation that is exactly what you dive into correct? Could you tell me a little bit more about that? I just subscribed to it by the way. ; )
JUSTIN: Yes! I animate in Stop Motion as well as CG professionally. I started the channel due to receiving many questions on a daily basis about how I animate something or how I create a certain puppet.
I figured that my channel Justin Rasch Animation could answer many of those questions to take some of the load off my DM’s and also would be a good way to promote our home studio – Stunt Puppet Pictures.
My film making partner / wife Shel Rasch and I create films in our garage for fun and for hire. We are starting our latest film titled The BEAST!! It is early in production but is happening every night and weekend. We also use this as a way to track the progress of the film by doing regular posts about the production. I also teach Stop Motion privately online.
Stop Motion and CG animation share the craft and fundamentals of animation completely. The biggest difference is that Stop Motion is straight ahead and without undo’s or adjustment work. You have to redo the entire shot if you want to make a creative change. It is very hard to do but incredibly satisfying when done well.
Q. How did you get into doing the stunt work, and physical activities you do? Did you start at a young age? Do you think that has created a balance between what you do in animation and the motion capture and with the stop motion?
I have always been a mover. I was a BMX – parkour – gymnastics kid. Before it was called Parkour my brother and I were doing it. It has always been a huge part of my life and character. I got into doing that stuff professionally from working at KONAMI. They were hiring a stunt guy and some actors to play the main character in a new game and I got to see all the candidates on VHS and I was like, I can totally do that and Better !! Ha!. Youth….
So I went out with a friend at the company to a park and I made my own demo/stunt reel that I put into the pile of candidates. This got me the job where I was brought out to Los Angeles to do Motion Capture for a bit more than a week. After that, I was put in touch with a stunt coordinator guy and many other people which led to more Motion Capture work.
My movement background has always given me an advantage in my animation. I understand how the body moves. I understand force and balance, staging, posing. I am moving one frame at a time. Perfect match !!
Q. What is it like being the Cinematic Animator at BLIZZARD, can you tell me what a typical day would be like?
JUSTIN: Being an animator at Blizzard is incredible!! I have been animating a very long time and this is easily the best place I have ever worked. We have such a variety of styles and game universes that we create cinematics for that it constantly feels fresh.
Our turnarounds on releasing our work is very fast and I am able to share my work at several times every year instead of the long waits required working in film or game development.
After being directed I usually will shoot reference. I then usually come in every morning and I will put on my head phone’s and dive into a different world or character. I usually will show the progress of my shot at daily’s every day and get notes and feedback from the Supervisor and Director. I apply the notes and continue until the shot is approved. Our shows typically go from 3 – 6 months in length.
Q: Can you tell us a little about “Dogonauts” ? How do you come up with your ideas? How long does it take to create an episode? It certainly looks like a lot of detail and love went into each episode.
JUSTIN: My film making partner Shel Rasch and I come up with our ideas together. We write and create all of our films together. Dogonauts was an idea we had on one of our many hikes we took every week.
It takes years to make our films. Dogonauts took 4 years for 16 min film. We both have full time jobs and had a house of 3 kids so finding balance is very hard but we manage since it is so rewarding to make them. I would basically animate all night after the family went to bed and then go to work my CG jobs during the day.
Q: Last but certainly not least, do you have any advice to give aspiring animators that are just starting out? Any resources that you find helpful? i.e. workshops, networking events (both local and national) etc.?
The world has changed so much since I first learned the art of Animation. I always tell any animator – learn the craft – The fundamentals of Animation – Apply them to your work. This will always make you stand out from the crowd.
Find a mentor if you can –
I did not learn to really animate until I left school. I knew the principals but really understanding them was something I needed to discover on my own. I could have saved a lot of time if I knew an elder to explain a few things.
Q. Thank you Justin! I’ve really enjoyed this interview. Is there anything else, you would like to add on future projects etc. …..
JUSTIN: I am just really going to be creating content for animator’s on my youtube channel Justin Rasch Animation for both CG folks as well as Stop Motion. Keep an eye out and send in questions if you want to hear about something in particular.
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About the Author:
Lori Hammond, CG Circuit
Author & Content Producer
Experienced multi-talented Artist/Designer/Blogger with an extensive background in the Arts & Entertainment Industry(Animation, VFX, Game & Product Design)