Akeytsu in Schools and Universities

By Charles-Arthur BOURGET

About 1300 akeytsu education licenses have been downloaded to this day. A dozen of schools or universities have included akeytsu in their programme one way or another. Several lectures and workshops were also given within art schools to help students start their 3D animation journey with a positive reception.

Enabling 3D art or design students to turn up animation work after only a couple of days of class is definitely a huge plus. Akeytsu software ergonomics stimulates creative thinking and lowers the technicalities of 3D animation. Our light rigging philosophy and direct model interaction favor a more hands-on approach that lets students learn through trial and error when tackling character animation assignements or larger school projects.

We didn't want you to take our words for granted so we went on and asked three school representatives who experienced akeytsu in different capacities within an educational environment to give us their impressions. Some answers were translated or rephrased but remain largely unedited. 


Pierre LANNOY used akeytsu in the course of his final student project at Pôle IIID Divine Words where akeytsu was the main character animation tool. The jury was impressed by the number and quality of animations in this end-of-year project. Pierre is currently looking for an opportunity to work as a junior 3D animator.
Elena NIKOLOVA has worked on 2D mobile games at Tabtale before joining Snapshot Games to animate Phoenix Point alien creatures. After a short mission for an animated film, she now works as a 3D Character Animator for Ocellus Studio for various gaming clients. She gave an animation course at ARC academy with akeytsu as part of the Game Dev Advanced program.
Aymeric HAYS-NARBONNE acts as Associate Director at Emile Cohl art school. He also heads the CG drawing programme and coordinates Animated Cartooning and Video-Gaming and Multimedia specialzation options for 4th- and 5th- year students. He invited us to give a workshop to introduce 3rd year students to 3D animation.

what’s the main difference between akeytsu and other rigging and animation tools ?

P.L. : As for as I am concerned what makes the difference between akeytsu and other animation software are the native tools offered where other programs would require plug-ins. Akeytsu has an interesting toolset and a simple and powerful approach to rigging. I also like the way their curves can be edited in the background of the viewport.
E.N.: Akeytsu is dedicated to rigging and animation. Other software programs include modelling, texturing, rendering or other tools which makes it complicated before you get around it. Akeytsu is meant to be more straightforward and intuitive, when it comes to its purpose.
A.H.N.: Our teachers and students agree that akeytsu offers great performance and speed of execution. It quickly brings you to animation by reducing the time for the initial rig set-up.

Why did you bring akeytsu ON YOUR project ?

P.L. : The project I was working on was a beat-them-all. We planned to produce the main character and 5 enemies. Animation represents an important aspect for this type of games. I had to find an animation tool that would allow me to set up an efficient workflow to produce a large amount of animations and iterate as fast as I could both for the character locomotion system and fighting combos.

Why did you choose to bring akeytsu into your classroom / ART SCHOOL ?

E.N. : When students are introduced to something completely new to them, not only in terms of concepts but also the more practical aspect with tools to accomplish them, there is simply too much information to process. This is discouraging and some start to think “This is something I won’t be able to do, so difficult !”.  Using more straightforward software such as Akeytsu, students can learn the 12 principles of animation and other important lessons much faster instead of spending weeks in getting to know complicated shortcuts, menu interfaces and tools. 
"Using more straightforward software such as Akeytsu, students can learn the 12 principles of animation and other important lessons much faster"
-Elena Nikolova
A.H.N. : We chose to gave an introductory 3D animation class to our students who had little to no experience with CG. With akeytsu, they are able in a very short timeframe to obtain concrete results when animating.

How did you do that ? Did it require any specific effort ?

P.L. : I did research and development for 2 - 3 weeks during pre-production. I evaluated some maya plug-ins and also tested akeytsu and how both reacted when exporting to Unity. The goal of this research was to find out how I could optimize my time and define realistic goals in terms of volume of animation. Ultimately I clearly had to master akeytsu if I wanted to be able to produce what the game designer had planned.
E.N. : The directors of the school I was teaching at had trust in me (Editor's note: Anthony Christov who illustrated himself in numerous Pixar movies is one of the co-founder of the school to which akeytsu was presented). We set up a brief presentation with akeytsu developers and school representatives were very pleased and let me move forward with my choice. 

How did the implementation go ?

A.H.N. : We had a few back-and-forth exchanges between the akeytsu lecturer and the technical team to set everything up because the program required internet access. Except that it went pretty smooth.

How did akeytsu fit within your project/COURSE/SCHOOL PROGRAMME ? What purpose did it serve ?

P.L. : At the beginning of the project, akeytsu allowed us to quickly prototype. In a month and a half of production I already had enough rough animations to try all the different gameplay features for the main character. We also had basics animations for the first enemy to develop a first AI version.

At first, some aspects of the software left me puzzled and I wondered what to do next and if I was going to succeed in bringing each animation to the desired level of quality. I was learning how to use the software and was discovering new tricks along the way. Eventually I set up the perfect pipeline for our production.
E.N. : The animation course in ARC academy is part of the larger Game Dev Advanced program. Most students who registered were of beginner level that year. Akeytsu felt like the right tool to put in their hands.
A.H.N. : This helped introduce 3D animation without prior 3D training. Our 3rd-year students who are taught in drawing, fine arts and traditional 2D animation could immediately tackle 3D animation work without much knowledge of 3D.

What did you think of our toolset ? Did it inspire new behaviours/workflows or hinder certain practices ?

P.L. : There were no tools set aside. At the end of production I got my hands on all the tools in the current version. The mixer and Spinner let me tweak some animations easily. I tried to animate with layers. I was able to update my mesh easily while preserving skinning weights.

The tools are easy to use, intuitive and save time. One of my favorite features is the Animation Bank. It allows you to group all the animation clips in a single file. You can switch easily from one animation to another. It allows to have a fresh look easily and no interruption when you want to switch to or open a new scene.

What did the students think of our toolset ? 

E.N. : Unfortunately the last course was really short. The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to give class differently. I could not follow up on individual workflows but just the assignments that were turned in. 
A.H.N. : It allowed our students to be reassured about 3D animation which is often considered an inaccessible artform for beginners without prior technical knowledge.

What do you think of akeytsu’s pose-based animation philosophy ?

P.L. : Obviously nice poses make great animation. The more you animate and pose, the greater it looks. Any animation software should provide the possibility to do posing quickly and see how they sequence together. That's why we do animation, don't we ? To see characters come to life. This is the way I like. Animators shoudn’t forget basic principles at the expense of "simpler" and more powerful tools.
"Rigging is not a prerequisite anymore but is still touched on when needed."
- Aymeric Hays-Narbonne
E.N. : I come from a 2D background, so I find it natural and I don’t mind it, as long as I can do some tricks taking advantage of the multiple channels we have in 3D. I would often extract just one channel/joint and work on it if I have some troubles with the pose.
A.H.N.: Akeytsu focuses on animation with a unique and relevant approach to learn how to animate in 3D. Rigging is not a prerequisite anymore but is still touched on when needed.

Were you satisfied with the end quality of the work produced by your students ?

A.H.N. : Totally pleased.

Were you satisfied with the end quality of your work produced with akeytsu ?

P.L. : At the end of it, the project included the main character and two enemies. I had animated a third one which we could not implement in time. I was able to reach a satisfying level of quality for nearly a hundred animations. Not all of them are perfect but when you play "Divine Words" each one fits and serves the gameplay well. You can "feel" the animations trigger the right player response. This was my biggest apprehension all along the production and now that we are finished I’m quite happy with the result.

"I was able to reach a satisfying level of quality for nearly a hundred animations."
- Pierre Lannoy

Do you reckon akeytsu is a good learning tool ? What would make it more relevant ?

P.L. : Indeed, with simplified rigging and a biped Auto Rig, akeytsu gives the lion's share to animation. This helped me to develop my skills around the 12 principles of animation and to realize the importance of accuracy when creating gameplay animations. We ended up with more than a hundred final animations but more was done for testing and a lot of retakes had to be made throughout the production. I was able to practice all year long for an ambitious project like "Divine Words" and I definitely couldn't have produced so much in such a short time with another software.

There are some additional options that I would have liked to see in akeytsu like the possibility to animate in different spaces or to have cameras (Editor's note: cameras are now implemented since 2020.2, Space Switching coming in 2020.3). I know that Nukeygara keeps on listening and that they have already implemented several new tools.
E.N. : It is a good tool, yes! It could use some simplified graphics with tips to look at online. Cheat sheets are something essential and not everyone takes the trouble to write them down (Editor's note: browse through our crib sheets for Mouse & Keyboard shortcuts below).
SHORTCUTS in akeytsu
A.H.N. : As things stand we do not have enough experience to answer this question.

Would you recommend akeytsu as a training tool to prepare for professional animation work ?

P.L. : Of course, it’s useful no matter what and not that hard to learn and use. Using akeytsu lets us be creative, move things forward and realize quickly what mistakes could be a fatal blow to the project. We shouldn’t cast aside other software and all technical aspects related to animation and rigging. It's always about what the current production requires and using the right tools for it. Identifying the ones that will allow us to carry out our mission should be evaluated at the beginning of each project..
E.N. : In Akeytsu, you can learn to animate at a professional level. That being said, most companies are not only looking for art skills but also good knowledge of tools used, which can take more or less time for different people to acquire. This part is highly individual and needs personal investment.

Anything else you want to add?

P.L. : Once, a teacher told me that A-KI-TSU which means dragonfly in old japanese language is a symbol of strength, courage, and even victory for a samurai, because it always flies forward. That's what I wish for the animators who will get their hands on akeytsu. Always go forward. I’m thankful to the Nukeygara team who was always there when I had a question and who I'm sure is on the look-out for all possible improvements to make akeytsu a better software.
E.N. : There are many animators who cannot really handle the technical part of rigging and prefer to focus on the creative part in animation only. In Akeytsu, both of them seem creative to me. 

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