The Potter

Intro: This is my final senior thesis project for Savannah College of Art and Design.

Synopsis: The Potter is an ancient creature who gives life to clay. In his care is an apprentice who is wants learn how.

Completed: March 2005

Who done it:

  • Josh Burton - Director, Animation,Modeling, Lighting, Texturing, Rigging, Concept, Pre Vis
  • Benjamin Willis - Animation
  • David Bokser - Animation, Rigging
  • Jon Campbell - Particles, Houdini
  • Scott Englert - Modeling, Texturing, Animation, Dynamics
  • Scott Spencer - Zbrush Artist
  • William Atkin - Compositing
  • Matthew Parrot - Houdini Shaders
  • Hunter Curra - Sound Fx, Sound Mix
  • Mark and Kyle - Music
  • John Austin - Sound Fx Research

My Shots: I did the character animation in these shots. You can find a complete breakdown here.

"First Lessons"

Thoughts: This was a LONG shot complicated by the number of things to be said in it. However, there some moments from it that I really like.

"Putting Second Failed Pot on the Shelf"

Thoughts: Basic process shot, but wanted to show some of Perok's frustration in it.

"Putting Successful Pot on the Shelf"

Thoughts: This shot was originally a couple of shots that ended up working better as one pull out. I liked that because the audience sees not only one single shelf of attempts but a whole shelf full of them. I worked a long time on getting pride in Perok and having that build through the shot.

"Perok Suprised"

Thoughts: I started over a couple of times on this shot to make the surprise and jump believable. Part of it I like, parts not so much.

"Potter Beams"

Thoughts: When all you have is the face of a character in shot, its so difficult not to over or under animate especially in a rather tender moment.

"It Comes from Inside"

Thoughts: This was the very first shot I did. I came back to it at the very end to loosen up a few things.

"Not quite sure..."

Thoughts: Again, this was a part of my very first animation batch. My favorite part is his little finger drum...;)

"Breath of Life Success"

Thoughts: This was my first fx shot. It's so wild animating something and framing it for fx that live only in the imagination. It was so great when I finally started to see some of Jon's tests even in playblast form to get a glimpse of what it might be.

"Keep Your Chin Up"

Thoughts: I'm still not happy with the way the potter gets down. I had the shot set way back when but when we put the animation clips together they way I had him getting down didn't jive with Ben's previous shot, so I had to redo that part to match a better. I really like the composition of this shot.

"Now what...?"

Thoughts: This whole sequence was all about getting moments to read right in sequence and was all about timing...

"What about the clay...?"

Thoughts: I really like the way the lighting in the shot came out and I really like the clay's bounce.

"It's working..."

Thoughts: Just continuing this sequence. Keeping their arms from intersecting each other and the table was a major frustration as they are in tight quarters.

"The Magic Touch"

Thoughts: This was again surprising difficult in keeping the Potter's hand feeling like they were guiding Perok's but not forcing them.

"The Magic Starts"

Thoughts: This is the start of the major effects sequence and again it was funny to animate to a little ball in space which represented where the eventual effect would be.

"Struggling a Bit with the Liquid Light"

Thoughts: I actually rather like how this progression sequence turned out but with the effects shots it's hard to know how far you should push the character animation since the the character has to share the stage with an effect you've not seen yet.

"Really Getting It"

Thoughts: Another process shot in this sequence and only the second time you see that indeed there is a second kiln (Aha!)

"Final Lesson"

Thoughts: This shot was the hardest. Perok needed to be awed and so his actions needed to be subdued. The Potter is naturally easy going so it makes for very subtle animation all around. Throw on top of that the length and fx heavy aspects and you have yourself a challenging shot. I wrestled with the rig a little on this shot but managed to counter animate (ugh!) the issues as much as possible.

Lessons Learned:

  • Backup, backup, backup (Article)
  • If you’re going to be acting as the director, be prepared to spend a lot more time than you want to doing things you probably rather would not
  • The more planning you can do beforehand, the smoother your production will go
  • File referencing is your friend
  • Thumbnail, thumbnail, thumbnail. If you don’t know where you’re going in a shot, you will waste a lot of time that could be spend refining your shot to make it golden or worse continuing to waste time fixing a shoddy foundation
  • Use your time wisely. Once a rig solution has been chosen, test it then move on. You don’t have time to continually go back and change things.
  • Keep a current cut of the film updated weekly with new material as it’s finished. It allows you to see places that aren’t working and fix them before you get too far into the piece.
  • A minute and a half of animation is a little ambitious for one week
  • Until you’ve had a good bit of experience doing this, your time frame for your production schedule is nothing more than an arbitrary guess that you’ll be spending many a late night trying to catch up on
  • Know your pipeline and how far you can go to be ready to animate then animate and finish the rest as you go. For example, if you wanna be an animator, don't waste 2 weeks lighting a project during a quarter when you could be animating.
  • Having the latest greatest thing is never so great as actually completing your project
  • The easiest way to get to want to help you on your project is to help them on theirs
  • Bend over backwards to get your team what they need to get the job done (especially If you're not paying them- student project). Make it as easy for them to get work done as you can


  • One World Animaion Festival -November 2007
  • Oxford International Film Festival - April 2007
  • Bradford Fim Festival - March 2007
  • College Television Awards - First Place Nontraditional Animation - March 2006
  • Annimex - Accepted & Animation Stills Prize - November 2005
  • Savannah Film Festival - November 2005
  • Animation Magazine 3rd Annual Student Short Film Awards - Winner's Circle Honors - August 2005
  • WCSU Animation Festival - June 2005
  • Global Student Animation Awards - Finalist - June 2005
  • Visionfest - Finalist - June 2005
  • Student Academy Awards - Regional Finalist - May 2005
  • Cortoons - Italy - May 2005
  • Cannes Short Film Corner Market; Festival de Cannes, May 11-22, 2005
  • Tambakos Student Video Competition - April 2005


All the stuff on this site is © 2000 - by Josh Burton...unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved.