Guest Lecture: Gavin Moran

Looking at the industry from a game development perspective, our guest speaker this week was Gavin Moran, animator at Epic Games, North Carolina. Telling us about his humble beginnings in Ireland to his development and growth over in the states.


  • Growing up in Dublin, he studied design presentation in Dublin, however he failed the course being disappointed by what it had to offer.
  • As a result he took a year off and worked in a music store selling drums for a year and a half.
  • Knowing that this wasn’t a full time gig, he enrolled in Dunlery, art and design, Studying 2D traditional animation.
  • It was the movie Toy Story that caused him to transition into CG animation, applying to work in Disney’s new CG department. The reason for this was because he felt that Toy story broke a lot of tropes and conventions, changing the industry.
  • It was Disney’s contract with Insomniac games studio that caused him to leave but lead him to work on a short called ‘Wild Brain’ which went on to receive various awards.
  • Afterwards he worked for Sony pictures image works, in its visual effects department, working on such films as Stuart Little 2. Bit by bit, his reputation grew moving from a Intermediary animator to the senior animator,working on the previz for Spiderman 2.
  • Leaving Sony to peruse something new he joined up with Dream Works, however thought that they were terrible to work for which led him to contact Sony, asking to come back as if he had never left.
  • Then realised that he to work for games, Epic games, 9 years after working with Sony.

Responsible for:

Animation for cinematics on gears of war 3, the downloadable content, Never Dawn, Samaritan – look into elemental – lighting – pushog unreal 4 for the first time.

When working on Kite his job was to get a brief of the assets, storyboard to show all of the features in the assets, he described how you needed to be flexible, addressing and solving as many issues as possible like working with the depth of field in previous versions of the unreal engine.

They had to establish early on what was achievable in the short amount of time given to them. (8 weeks) Such as:

  • One character, that is all they’d be able to rig in that amount of time.
  • They had the beginning and they had the end and the middle was a little fussy.



It was after the Skype Lecture that we had an opportunity to ask questions:

Sorcha McGlinchey asked some really good ones!

Why Go From Visual Effects to Games?

It’s getting cheaper, but not getting better.

Bear animation, in the revenant, the fur is weird. Not 100% realistic. They went with cheap renderer instead of what is actually amazing.

real time is cool because its a challenge. “Kite” was meant to not look like it was being rendered in real time. People perceived it as a short. They were in the non games catagory which was a mission accomplished. Pixar were like this was cool! Pixar lost their shit, random locations of the deer, became a problem because when they came over the cliff the bastards were never there. They tricked the renderer to make the deer be were they needed to be then switched it back to AI.

Kite was used to show outdoors a lot of projects swtiched their engine because of this. Kite broke the chain of doing dark and grey stuff, “we can do everything we like or nothing”. Blacksmith demo from unity was very much like what Epic were doing 3 years ago, “who can be the darkest and more violent” and Epic changed that idea entirely.

They got a child in do to the runs in mo cap, they need mo cap to help in animation.

Dailes at Disney, the traditional animators finding it hard to learn were freaking out a little.

Approach to visual effects compared to shorts/features?

Reference in shorts needs to have a lot of understanding and knowledge but it cartoony still, doesn’t need as many real life references, it’s more artistic, while visual effects need to be realistic, photo-realistic, and needs a lot of reference.

Animation in features needs a lot of acting, think about animated shots, it’s a frame of mind you need to be in while you are acting it out. Better at general production than he is at animation. Production interferes with pure art because of time frame. real production isn’t as pure as you think it’s going to be, Kite felt more like art because you are more invested in the whole short, rather than one shot or scene.


Sometimes it’s about trying to get a good crew, or a crew that are available in that short period of time. Epic like to employ people for a long period of time. you need to be a person that people can get on with for years to come. It’s not enough to be a good animator, you need to be a good guy.

They interviewed a guy for an hour, and realised that he didn’t eat his soup, they asked him why he didn’t eat his soup and he said he didn’t have a spoon, this made Gavin think well if he doesn’t have a pencil or if something is wrong will be just wait for someone to come over and ask him or “spoon feed” him.

If you got an interview, they think you are good for the job, they just need to check you aren’t a psychopath.

Epic are very aware of how they appear to their consumers and people that use their products.

What do you look for in reels?

2 minutes! no longer. 4 minutes is too long. Only put your best of the best in your showreel.

nobody wants to see a walk cycle on a turntable anymore.

pet hates, stretched out, weird music, scenes from movies with curses and inappropriate stuff in the reel. Think of who you are sending the reel to and always be safe ot sorry. Never take a piece of comedy and re-animate it, the reality is, it was funny when they did it first, you don’t want the person to think “oh the original was better, it was funnier the first time”.

Additional Advice

  • Don’t stick around because it’s easy, do what you want to do.
  • Be as honest as possible! Producers aren’t concerned with the truth, “I want that shot by friday” “that won’t happen” 

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