Tony Ross on teaching beginners Toon Boom Harmony Premium

Tony Ross (also known as TonyTeach) is an animator and instructor who has taught courses for the Atlanta College of Art, and LinkedIn Learning. He has also worked with Toon Boom to get artists and animators comfortable with working in Harmony Premium — professional animation software used at animation studios around the world — and has helped independent animators develop their production pipelines.

We brought Tony onto our Twitch channel to talk about his experience teaching our new remote training course, Harmony Fundamentals. Harmony Fundamentals is intended for artists who are new to Harmony and want to gain a foundational level of general knowledge in all of Harmony Premium’s main functionalities. Participants learn core features and functionalities of Harmony Premium, including but not limited to animation concepts, basic frame-by-frame animation, cut-out animation, rigging, and compositing.

Read on for excerpts from our conversation, samples from the Harmony Fundamentals course, and Tony Ross’ character rig, Berry Angry.

A preview of Berry Angry, a personal project created by Tony Ross using Toon Boom Harmony.

You brought one of your own rigs to show to our community. What can you tell us about Berry Angry?

I wanted him to look like this sweet strawberry, but he literally has a bite out of him because he’s bitter, so no one actually ate him. He’s this little angry kind-of thing. On top of that, I had stopped drawing for the longest time, so I said, “I’m gonna force myself to work on this character.”

Most of my drawings that are on TonyTeach are done by my colleague, Chris Cartledge. And for this one, I was like, “No, I’m not going to have Chris do any of this. I’m going to draw it. I’m going to rig it. I’m going to do all these things.” And so I worked on Berry Angry, I kept going for 30 days, spending at least 30 minutes per-day on this project. It ended up take way more than that amount of time.

The concept of creating this rig was so I could create memes, stickers or even t-shirts with this character, and animate with it. In fact, I wanted him to be a very simple rig, but at the same time, he’s kind-of complex. Like if I were going to do a quote-unquote series, could I work with this on my own? So it is very basic, with all of these curve deformers, but the way that his arms are set up, they’re actually split in half so I can do foreshortening and arrange it if his arm was to go in-front or behind.

What do you enjoy most about introducing artists to new tools, like Harmony? 

Honestly, I like Day One training. It’s usually where people have not messed with the program at all, or they might be coming from other programs. One of the teaching methods I use is I get them animating or creating something for an ‘aha!’ moment within the first 30 or 45 minutes of the class. 

They’re animating these simple dots moving across the screen. I will say, “Alright, we’ll start this dot on the left side of the screen. On your keyboard there are less-than and greater-than keys () to advance to the next or previous frame.”

They will start drawing dots, and I’ll

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