CG Chatter 024: Creative Director, Animator & Illustrator Jake Williams

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Welcome to the CG Chatter Podcast episode #24! In this episode I chat with Jake Williams, Creative Director, Illustrator & Animator at LooseKeys.

Jake is a fellow graduate of UMaine’s New Media program and, over the past several years, has worked on many different projects in a wide range of styles, with clients including Naked Wines, IBM, cars.com, and recently the bumper animations for Half Rez 2016. His animations are very lively and playful, and are inspired by a lifelong love of cartoons, games, and the goal of creating enjoyable entertaining content.

In addition to talking in-depth about his background and approach to tackling different kinds of projects, we also dig into his experience with social media and his tips on how to use it effectively. I had a great time catching up with him after our time in school together, and encourage you to check out his many featured work images below!

Episode Guide:

  • 1:48 – Jake’s recent move from Chicago to Michigan
  • 2:55 – What he does as a creative director, animator, and illustrator at LooseKeys
  • 5:03 – Growing up as an “indoor kid,” very into cartoons and videogames
  • 6:29 – Jake’s always enjoyed doodling
  • 6:49 – Being “the friend with a camera” and how his interest in filmmaking and creative endeavors grew
  • 7:51 – How he ended up going to the University of Maine
  • 10:00 – Jake’s path to UMaine’s New Media program
  • 10:42 – His experience as a New Media student
  • 11:21 – How teaching can be a great learning tool
  • 11:55 – Being a TA in one of his classes
  • 13:18 – My recollections of Jake’s level-headedness as my RA
  • 14:03 – Videogames as inspiration and reference for creating all kinds of computer graphics
  • 14:50 – The danger of pursuing a career in videogames solely because you enjoy playing videogames
  • 15:07 – Banding together with other students to hold each other accountable
  • 16:02 – Jake’s parents’ attitude toward videogames
  • 17:25 – Graduating with uncertainty about the future
  • 18:04 – Landing a job teaching at Brunswick High School as a video instructor
  • 19:15 – Growing the high school’s TV show in order to give students more creative freedom and opportunities
  • 20:23 – Discovering one’s passion as a high schooler, and balancing that with overall academics
  • 21:33 – Transitioning to his new job at a TV Station
  • 22:05 – Jake’s work there was primarily filming and editing, then toward the end he was able to start doing more graphics
  • 24:31 – Moving to Chicago
  • 24:55 – Getting a job with cars.com the day after he thought he was broke
  • 25:32 – What it was like working solo in a department as opposed to with a group
  • 27:07 – Taking on freelance on top of his main job
  • 27:39 – How freelancing connected him to Brad Chmielewski and LooseKeys
  • 28:29 – Chicago has a really connected and social group of animators
  • 30:07 – Jake’s day-to-day
  • 30:13 – Getting inspiration from sites like Vimeo and Dribbble
  • 30:27 – “Don’t be the best in the room”
  • 31:10 – How projects get started
  • 32:03 – The incredible importance of social media for promotion as well as learning
  • 33:26 – Next steps after storyboarding a project
  • 34:22 – Jake’s work on TasteBud (see images below)
  • 34:32 – LooseKeys’ character graveyard
  • 35:11 – How the After Effects plugin “RubberHose” greatly improved their character rigging/animation workflow
  • 37:34 – Jake’s early impressions of working remotely
  • 38:50 – Tools he uses for communication and organization
  • 40:24 – Jake’s work on SingleCare (see images below)
  • 42:16 – Some of the technical hurdles of creating the outlines around the characters
  • 44:45 – What Half Rez is
  • 46:12 – Jake’s work on the Half Rez bumpers (see images below)
  • 48:39 – Stretching oneself to learn new software and new techniques
  • 50:03 – Jake’s work on “History of the Donut” (see images below)
  • 50:17 – His severe love of donuts
  • 53:11 – “Making it look less crappy over time”
  • 56:06 – Acting animations out even if they won’t be done in a realistic style
  • 58:05 – Jake’s work on “Shuttle Trouble” (see images below)
  • 59:43 – Working in an old-fashioned animation style
  • 1:01:08 – His approach to social media
  • 1:04:53 – Jake co-hosts a podcast called “Toon Talk Weekly”
  • 1:06:25 – His previous podcast, “The Lane Podcast”
  • 1:08:15 – Work/life balance tips
  • 1:08:34 – The importance of regular exercise and taking care of yourself
  • 1:09:47 – Indie game recommendations
  • 1:11:34 – Favorite Chicago donut locales
  • 1:12:57 – Recommendations for students pursuing animation or other forms of computer graphics
  • 1:13:39 – “Work that was done in the dark is seen in the light”
  • 1:13:59 – “Don’t be afraid to ask for help and learn new things”
  • 1:14:15 – Learn to collaborate with others
  • 1:14:26 – Be happy with where you are – don’t stress too much about what program or school you’re in
  • 1:15:36 – Recommended resources
  • 1:16:20 – Find a meetup!
  • 1:17:09 – Inktober
  • 1:18:25 – Tools & techniques Jake is into at the moment

Episode links:

Featured Work from the Episode:

TasteBud Illustration, Rigging, and Animation by Jake Williams

TasteBud (1/1)
Jake’s Role: Illustration, Rigging, Animation

TasteBud (2/2) Illustration, Rigging & Animation by Jake Williams

TasteBud (2/2)
Jake’s Role: Illustration, Rigging, Animation

SingleCare (1/2) Jake's Role: Illustration, Rigging & Animation

SingleCare (1/2)
Jake’s Role: Illustration, Rigging, Animation

SingleCare (2/2) Jake's Role: Illustration, Rigging & Animation

SingleCare (2/2)
Jake’s Role: Illustration, Rigging, Animation

Half Rez Bumpers (1/2) Jake's Role: Character Design, Animation, Rigging, Compositing

Half Rez Bumpers (1/2)
Jake’s Role: Character Design, Animation, Rigging, Compositing

Half Rez Bumpers (2/2) Jake's Role: Character Design, Animation, Rigging, Compositing

Half Rez Bumpers (2/2)
Jake’s Role: Character Design, Animation, Rigging, Compositing

History of the Donut (1/3) Jake's Role: Creation Direction, Illustration, Animation

History of the Donut (1/3)
Jake’s Role: Creation Direction, Illustration, Animation

History of the Donut (2/3) Jake's Role: Creation Direction, Illustration, Animation

History of the Donut (2/3)
Jake’s Role: Creation Direction, Illustration, Animation

History of the Donut (3/3) Jake's Role: Creation Direction, Illustration, Animation

History of the Donut (3/3)
Jake’s Role: Creation Direction, Illustration, Animation

Shuttle Trouble (1/3) Jake's Role: Creation Direction, Illustration, Animation

Shuttle Trouble (1/3)
Jake’s Role: Creation Direction, Illustration, Animation

Shuttle Trouble (2/3) Jake's Role: Creation Direction, Illustration, Animation

Shuttle Trouble (2/3)
Jake’s Role: Creation Direction, Illustration, Animation

Shuttle Trouble (3/3) Jake's Role: Creation Direction, Illustration, Animation

Shuttle Trouble (3/3)
Jake’s Role: Creation Direction, Illustration, Animation

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