Using SyncSketch to mentor the next generation of animators—from anywhere

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic affected education around the world, forcing students of all ages to attend remotely online. It was a learning curve for nearly everyone, and some schools and topics took more adjustments than others. Everyone quickly had to get used to a new way of learning.

Taran Matharu

But for the students of Taran Matharu, a professional animator with 20 years of experience across the feature film and video game industries, it was a smoother transition than most. That’s because Matharu and his pupils had the benefit of SyncSketch.

SyncSketch is a web-based video tool designed for remote collaboration, and it’s used across an array of creative industries such as film, television, animation, and video games. With no setup required, the secure platform lets people from all over the world work together in unison to review their work, annotate, and discuss feedback in real-time.

Matharu adopted SyncSketch to ensure that his students receive a quality education no matter where they’re based, and now the veteran animator is bringing those lessons to everyone via his own YouTube channel. Here’s how SyncSketch empowers his online instruction.

Teaching in sync

Matharu began his career in the games industry, working for studios like Team17 and Behaviour Interactive on hit franchises like Worms and Indiana Jones. In 2010, he made the leap into film, helping bring to life films like Scoob!, The Little Prince, Captain Underpants, and Terminator, while animating at top-tier studios such as Mikros and Framestore. 

In recent years, he has funneled his ample experience into education, teaching animation through the online AnimSchool institution. Imparting the nuances of animation to a remote audience might sound like an impossible task, but with SyncSketch, it’s very much possible.

“I’m able to give creative feedback efficiently, comfortably, and confidently with SyncSketch,” says Matharu. “It makes the artists feel more involved because they can actually illustrate at the same time by sharing the same SyncSketch link.”

SyncSketch is an easy-to-use web-based platform that lets multiple collaborators join together in a real-time session. Unlike a Zoom call, it’s not purely a passive video experience and you don’t have to worry about low-resolution images or dropped frames. It’s smooth and reliable.

Everyone in the SyncSketch session can see and simultaneously review the same footage clearly and without delays. On top of that, participants can scrub through the footage and annotate frames, ensuring that unambiguous feedback is conveyed. There’s no more guessing about notes and written instructions: everyone is on the same page.

“You can be quicker on your turnaround with feedback,” Matharu explains. “You’ve got students and artists from all over the world who may speak different languages—but the one language that everyone understands is illustration.”

“There are no barriers with SyncSketch,” he adds. “You can illustrate quickly, easily, and efficiently.”

Nothing is lost

Distance creates clear challenges with any type of collaboration, but that can be especially true with education. When there’s a disparity of knowledge between the instructor and the student, it’s essential that the teacher can be as hands-on as possible despite the physical distance.

“SyncSketch is the next best thing to being in the same room together”, says Matharu, who has taught detailed animation techniques to remote students located halfway across the world. He recalls teaching precise human animation insights to his pupils with ease using SyncSketch.

“I remember vividly when I was doing a seminar on body acting, and SyncSketch was super useful to just quickly annotate,” he says. “I’d explain the ‘rule of thirds’ by drawing on top of the character in real-time, annotating to show body language, sketching out the gesture lines, and being able to visually convey what their body language feels like.”

Many of us have experienced the unique pains of remote collaboration when the proper tools aren’t available to us. Matharu recalls past efforts of needing to share his screen to showcase techniques, which proves to be a one-sided experience or having to scan and email images with written notes—a recipe for misunderstood feedback.

“Being able to do that on the fly with SyncSketch and do it live is crucial,” he says. “And if they didn’t quite understand it, then we can have a conversation about it and make sure that everyone is on the same page. Nobody leaves a SyncSketch call confused or unclear.”

Keeping it ‘Reel’

Matharu now serves as an Animation Supervisor at MPC Montreal working on 2023’s Transformers: Rise of the Beasts. However, a busy schedule hasn’t stopped him from ramping up his mentorship, if anything it’s inspired him to give back more.

He’s launched his own YouTube channel called ReelTalk, where he brings his experience of remote teaching to a wider audience for free. These reel analysis episodes spotlight his favorite shots from features and offer deep dives on various animation techniques such as posing, body mechanics, lines of action, intentions, and composition. 

Whether you’re a budding animator, a seasoned artist or just someone curious about the tech and talent behind animation, Matharu taps into his vast knowledge—and uses SyncSketch to annotate his analysis. In addition to giving back to his community by sharing his expertise, he also invites leading animators in the industry to sit down and discuss a wide array of topics, providing a glimpse into how they approach and iterate upon their work to refine their craft. Truth be told, the experience only inspires him more.
“I just want to nerd out. I’m so passionate about animation,” says Matharu. “When I’m doing this YouTube stuff with SyncSketch, just annotating and being able to analyze frame by frame, the creative juices start flowing again. That’s why I keep doing it.”

To celebrate hitting 1,000 subscribers, Taran over at ReelTalk will be giving away a SyncSketch licence worth $500 to one lucky subscriber. To be in for a chance to win, simply make sure you’ve hit subscribe by 8th April!

For video tutorials for SyncSketch, visit our vimeo account. Don’t yet have a SyncSketch account? Sign up for our Education or Education Plus plans and get started with SyncSketch today.