New shots and updates!

Well, it has been a little while since I’ve posted some new work so I thought I better get around to sharing what I’ve been up to! I’ve been dedicating some of my free time from animating for work to continue to animate on some personal tests. The type of animation I do for work is a much different style than that typically found at the feature film level of animation. While still very fun and challenging, I want to be as well rounded as animator as I can be and continue to push myself in all styles. A while back, I posted up a blocking pass for a subtle acting shot I had started. I can now say that it is finally at a point that I’m going to call it done. The main purpose of this shot was to improve my subtle acting and facial performance skills. I purposely chose to use a more complex rig that would allow me for more facial articulation and enable me to get more nuance into the performance.

I learned a lot working on this shot, and have already taken the lessons I’ve learned and started applying them to another shot that I am in the early stages of blocking on. I was fortunate enough to have a good friend of mine from Purdue, Andrew Kennedy light and render my shot for me to make it a little more polished and pretty for my demo reel. Andrew is super talented and you can find more of his work at his website (

On another note, I was graciously asked by the Purdue SIGGRAPH Student Chapter to skype in and give a talk about my experiences so far as a professional animator and my journey from being a student to now. It was a really fun experience getting to chat to the current students there. It feels like just yesterday that I was in their same shoes, sitting in the familiar labs of Knoy Hall of Technology and listening to other alumni who have gone on to work in the industry. It was a great experience and I hope they enjoyed it as much as I did. Hopefully some day, I’ll get a chance to make it back to campus, I sure do miss it!

I think that is enough rambling for now, I’ll leave you with TWO shots. The first one is my final version of my facial acting shot and the other is a look at my first pass of blocking on my next personal shot I’ve begun working on using the super awesome “Mery” rig.

“Past Doesn’t Matter – Final”


“I’m Hot – First Pass Blocking”

Quick Run Cycle Test

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 8.24.48 PM


Wow, it has been too long since I have posted on here!  After animating all day for work, it is sometimes hard to get the motivation to put in more hours on my personal shots. I am still in the process of refining my acting shot using the Argus rig from Long Winter Studios. I actually just got the studio library/pose library for his rig which should help a lot getting my lipsync pass roughed in on him.

Anyways, something my mentor had recommended for me prior to finishing up AM was to practice some cycle animation. I have wanted to get my hands dirty with some cycles and video game style animation for a while now. They seem like the perfect kind of exercises to practice body mechanics and for my limited free time because they often are very quick animations in general typically less than 100 frames. I also have been looking for an excuse to try out this awesome free rig called “SAM” from

This is just a quick post to share the run cycle I created today in just a few hours worth of work. I’m sure there are things I can improve on it, but in effort to keep completing small shots I figured I’d call this one done for now and move on to a new exercise.

Check it out, let me know what you think!

New shot and some much needed updates!

Wow! The last couple of months have been a very exciting and busy time for me. I finished Animation Mentor at the end of March and immediately hit the ground running to try and find my first  job as an animator. I was extremely lucky in my timing and was fortunate enough to land a position as a Character Animator for Wizart Animation! I am under an NDA so I am not legally allowed to say very much about what I am working on. But, what I can say is that I am working remotely for the TVShows department on an upcoming children’s television show titled “Yoko”. I am extremely fortunate to have this opportunity to work on such an awesome project while living in an area with essentially ZERO animation industry. I am working alongside so many talented animators and it has been inspiring every day to work and learn from each one of them.

During my off-hours I have been slowly starting to work on a new personal shot for my demo reel. One thing I learned while at Animation Mentor was to continue to improve and stay hungry, even after you get your first job. It can be very easy to get comfortable just animating in the style that your job or current show requires. However, in order to stay relevant and competitive for future jobs you need to constantly be improving and working in various styles. It is important to show you can animate in a wide variety of ways because every project is different and you don’t always know what your next project will be. Since the show I’m working on is a much different style of animation from feature film quality work, I have began a new acting shot using a brand new rig from Long Winter Studios called “Argus”. I am really hoping to improve my close-up acting and facial performance with this shot. It has been a ton of fun working with this new rig, and I am really enjoying it so far.

Below is my very first pass of blocking; I have done very little animation on the face, only enough to show eye-direction and get a general idea of some of the blinks. I wanted to get the subtle body animation worked in first. I am learning that animating such a subtle piece is actually quite hard. As animators we often want to have things move a lot, but it is pretty difficult to keep a character still and make sure that they feel alive at the same time. With this shot, I’m already learning how difficult it can be to keep a character alive during a long silence. I know I will learn a great deal from this piece. Stay tuned for a new update, hopefully next week!

First-Pass Blocking:

AM Class 6 – Polishing


First let me say, time sure flies here at Animation Mentor! It is already the end of week 9, which means I only have two more weeks until Class 6 is complete and I am officially done with the Classic Character Animation track at Animation Mentor! This past week was spent really focusing on cleaning up my arcs, refining the face, tweaking the lip-sync, and addressing a lot of the arm issues I was having in the previous weeks. Based on my mentor’s feedback I still need to push the smile during the laugh to really sell it, and I still have some spacing issues that need to be cleaned up with the head near the beginning of the shot. One of the goals I have had for this class was to improve my facial animation. My mentor, Sean, has been doing an awesome job in helping me really get the most out of my facial poses. He always has such great advice and tips on how to push my poses even more and it has really forced me to improve on my facial animation a lot in a short amount of time.

Once I tackle my mentor’s notes and make sure they are all reading, I want to start working in some more subtle hand and finger movements, and I am also going to be testing out Animation Layers to try and incorporate some more shoulder overlap and torso squash and stretch. I’m hoping this will help get the laughs to read more in the body and not just in the face. I have also been keeping track of my hours on this shot to stay updated on my workflow process and in total I clocked around 32 hours from the blocking stage until now.

Here is the progress for this week. Be sure to check back soon for another update and eventually a my finished demo reel!

[vimeo w=720&h=405]

AM Class 2 – Complete & New Progress Reel!

First off, let me apologize for not updating the last couple weeks!! I really wanted to but I decided to hold off and focus on finishing the term at Animation Mentor strong and spending the extra bit of time I had to keep polishing my shot. Anyways, it feels good to make another post and this one is a good one… at least I hope.

When I last left you, I had just finished week 9 and was moving into the polishing phase of my Army Stew shot. Weeks 10 & 11 were spent really getting into the nitty-gritty of cleaning up the graph editor and splines, as well as focusing on a lot of smaller details in my animation. I focused a lot on fixing some problem areas my mentor had pointed out, as well as tracking my arcs, especially in the arm, and torso movements.

The overall feedback I got on my final shot from my mentor was positive! Of course I have plenty of room for improvement but overall, I am pretty happy with how my shots turned out this term. I certainly learned a great deal while animating each shot. I think one thing I especially will take into account for the future is really thinking through some of the technical challenges a shot brings with it. This 3rd and final shot brought about a lot of little problems that I didn’t really think about when initially planning the shot.  I found myself spending more time than I would have liked addressing technical issues rather than focusing on just animating the character. However, that is what is great about AM, it forces you to learn by doing and I have a great community of fellow students, mentors and resources at my disposal so I was able to work through it.

I am so excited to move on to the new collaborative Class 3, in just a few days! There is no break between Class 2 ending and Class 3 starting, except for the weekend. I met a lot of great people during Class 2 and my mentor Steve Cady was a superb teacher, and always made class fun and exciting. I cannot recommend him enough for anyone about to enter Class 2.

So without making everyone wait any longer, here it is my newest progress reel! I spent a little extra time playing around with Viewport 2.0 to make my newest shots look prettier with some simple lighting, textures etc. This is mostly because I learned about all the awesome features of Viewport 2.0 and thought it would be a great time to try it out. Anyway, the reel starts with Class 2 and works back to Class 1. This is the format that AM likes us to turn them in.

Progress Reel:

Matt Sackley – Animation Mentor Class 2 & Class 1 Progress Reel from matt sackley on Vimeo.

AM Class 1: Week 12 – Last Q&A and Progress Reel!

It’s official, Class 1: Basic Foundations has come to an end for me. I have completed my final assignment and created my progress reel; along with that, I also attended my final Q&A session with my classmates and mentor Aaron. Animation Mentor has been everything I hoped it would be and much more and I am even more excited to move on to the next class with an all new mentor and new classmates! One of the coolest things about this school is getting the chance to learn from so many talented mentors who have had all sorts of different experiences in the industry and come from all walks of life!

The Last Q&A
Our final Q&A with Aaron was a chance for us to pick his brain and ask him all sorts of questions about anything, animation, life, career advice anything. Normally our Q&A’s were a short lecture followed by getting critiques and feedback on our shots in progress which was so helpful! Getting a chance to be able to just talk to him and absorb all of his wisdom and knowledge he has gained over his career was just as awesome. Also, to make it even more exciting, he did the Q&A from his office at PIXAR! He showed us what his office looked like and even walked through the halls with his laptop and we could see some of the main atrium and some other things, sadly the wifi internet was slow there so he had to pause the Q&A and drive home real quick to finish it up. (Must be awesome to live so close!)

I asked him for some advice that us young animators could take forward with us and always remember. He told us a few really important things that I wanted to share with you all, and I think it can be applied to just about everyone who has a goal or a career they hope to achieve some day.

  • DON’T GIVE UP! – It took Aaron nearly 12 years or so to get to the level of being able to animate for Pixar, but he never gave up, rejection letter after rejection letter he kept pushing until he got there.
  • DON’T BE AFRAID OF REJECTION – You will be rejected ALOT and the ones who learn from it and get over it are the ones who succeed.
  • BE ORIGINAL – in order to stand out as an animator today, it’s not good enough to just have solid understanding of the fundamentals, you need to have original and creative ideas. It’s easier said than done, but anytime we can bring our own “life” or a personal experience into our shot/animation the better.

These were just some of the great little bits of wisdom that we gained over the course of the Q&A and the 12 week’s with Aaron. I know that I have already seen a great improvement in my work and just an overall understanding of animation and the fundamentals a lot better just after this one class. I still have a lot of work to do to get to the level to ever be able to animate at a feature film or on a AAA video game title, but I’m going to keep pushing and keep working until I too can say that I’m a professional animator.

I could honestly write pages and pages about this first class, but I don’t want you guys to start to feel like it is a chore to read my blog so I’m going to wrap this post up with a link to my progress reel. I”ll be writing another post in a few days or so talking about who my mentor for Class 2 is and a brief overview of what I’ll be doing during that class. Thanks so much to everyone who has read and followed my blog and I hope that it has been as enjoyable to read as it has been to write!

My Class 1 Progress Reel

AM Class 1: Basic Foundations Progress Reel from matt sackley on Vimeo.

AM Class 1: Weeks 10 & 11 – Personality Walk, Exhaustion Pose and Balance Pose

What a crazy couple of weeks it has been! First off, I changed the look of my site. I got a little sick of the black and white nature of it and wanted to change it up, hopefully you guys don’t mind! The reason I am doing one blog post to cover weeks 10 & 11 is because I got so busy working on my final animation assignment for class 1 that I just didn’t get around to posting last week (sorry for those who were waiting). The final assignment for class 1 is the culmination of all of the principles we have studied throughout the term; We had to do a walk animation with personality. This was another two week long assignment where during week 10 we had to come up with our planning, take/watch reference footage, thumbnail sketches, and finally, block out the animation in stepped keys for our mentor to critique. Along with this, we had to do a pose that showed Exhaustion.

We were allowed to choose any sort of personality to add to our walk, so I chose to do a sneaky walk. Once I knew the style of walk I wanted to do, I had to begin my planning so I started watching various different sneaky walks on YouTube, acting it out myself, and referring to the holy grail of animation goodness — The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams (this is my go-to book for all things animation and it is an amazing resource). Next, I drew out thumbnails of my walk and began the blocking process in Maya.

Below is the final blocking I went with:

and here is my exhaustion pose before & after my mentor’s notes:

During week 11, we had to polish our walk but they added another obstacle for us to overcome — we had to turn the final animation in from a 3/4 view in perspective. This was the first assignment where didn’t just animated the object from a side view only. By showing it in a perspective view it introduces more variables that need to be accounted for, like animating the legs swinging out in the X-axis and rotating the ankles in the Z-axis on the swing through of the passing leg. We also had to make sure the weight shifts were correct so that our character stayed balanced at all time. These are all things that animators have to keep note of when animating and since most animation is not going to be viewed from a direct 90-degree side view we needed to become comfortable animating in a perspective shot. This was a lot of fun to tackle all of these problems and it certainly took more time to polish the assignment because of this. Overall, I am very happy with how my final animation assignment turned out and am even more excited to move into Class 2!

Below is my final revised version of my sneak walk. It includes the few notes my mentor asked me to address.

The final pose we had to complete with Stu was one that conveyed the idea of Balance.

Below is my balance pose before & after my mentor’s note:

Stay tuned for a post about Week 12 which will contain my Progress Reel from Class 1 – you will get to see all of my work from the beginning to the end of Class 1 in a nice reel. I will also briefly talk about Class 2 and my mentor, so check back soon!

AM Class 1: Week 8 – Blocking a Vanilla Walk & Strength Pose

This week’s assignment was the beginning of a two week long assignment. This first half of it was to block in the animation of a vanilla walk. A vanilla walk is a plain or basic walk, not much character to it just your average walk. It is actually quite a challenge to not add some characterization to it. The slightest amount of bounce or rotation or even speed in a step can add character to a walk. This was also our first real foray into the workflow of going from Blocking in “Stepped” keys to “Polish” with spline keys.

Blocking is a process that animators use to get the idea of a shot down into the computer without having to polish it to final. Blocking is the stage after planning. During planning you have come up with a general sense of the timing, spacing and poses you want to hit. In Blocking you go into the computer (Maya) and start roughing in these poses and getting the timing and spacing nailed. Blocking is great because in a studio an animator is able to show a blocking pass to a director and let him/her know where they are going with the shot and get it approved to keep going in that direction or if they need to change up their idea some.

At Animation Mentor and they really want us to work in a workflow that is similar to what the professionals work in, so we have to use “Stepped” tangents to block the assignment it. Stepped tangents means that when we play the animation the computer is not creating any in-betweens. All we are seeing is the poses we have created and it “pops” from one pose to the next. In Blocking we get our Key Poses, our Extreme Poses, and our Breakdown Poses all laid out. Then during a stage called “Blocking Plus” you start adding your in-betweens into the scene. All of this is done with “Stepped” keys until eventually you tend to have a key almost every 2-4 frames. We don’t want the computer to do a lot of the work because the computer is not good at guessing our inbetweens. Finally we take the shot into “Polish” mode. In Polish mode we convert our tangents over to a smooth mode and let the computer do some work.

This week we had to just get the Blocking done. Next week we turn in a “Polished” version of our walk or just a Final version.

Along with a walk, we also had to create a pose showing physical strength.

Walk Planning:

Walk Blocking:
(youtube drops some frames so there is a slight pause at the beginning that is not really there)

Strength Sketches, Pose & Revisions:
Revisions were mostly just to clean up the hands so they were more readable and not so close together.

I am already busying polishing my shot for Week 9 which is a lot of work so stay tuned for another update soon!

AM Class 1: Week 7 – One Leg Jump

Once again another week has gone by and it went fast! This past week the assignment was to choose to animate either “Tailor” which is a ball with a tail attached to it, to better understand overlapping action or to animate the “One Leg” character doing a jump. After having my Q&A and listening to what my mentor’s thoughts were on the assignment, he suggested we all attempt the jump. Not that the Tail assignment is a bad one, but he mentioned that as professional animators the likelyhood we would be animating a character with a tail on it is not nearly as common as animating jumps. Also he mentioned how when he was the Lead Animator on Scrat in the Ice Age movies, they actually had a tool that aided greatly in the animation of his tail, so there wasn’t as much “from scratch” animation on the tail. He also made the point of how characters jump ALL the time and he thought it would transition in to week 8’s assignment nicer as well. So I’ll be saving working with the Tailor character for a side project maybe during break week.

Anyways, without further rambling, here is my planning and original version of my jump:

My mentor didn’t have too many things to change with my jump, most of it had to deal with toning down a couple of poses and making them less exagerated and also adjusting some of the spacing on the initial jump. I really enjoyed this assignment and felt like I learned a great deal. Also, now that I am working on Week 8’s assignment, it was useful to have worked with a similar character a head of time. Below is the revision:

AM Class 1: Week 6 – Overlapping Action and Follow-through

I can’t believe it, but I am already HALFWAY through my first class at AM! I have now finished week 6 which went by very fast and was a lot of fun. This week we learned about Overlapping Action and Follow-through. These principles are extremely important to animation because they really help bring an object to life. The concept of Overlapping Action is essentially that in most objects you will have some sort of overlapping action or actions that are delayed from the driving force of the motion. Some of the more basic and clear cut examples are a tail which creates that nice S curve or wavelike motion as the energy travels down the tail of animal. Another example which is what we did for our exercise this week is a pendulum.

A more subtle yet very realistic example of this is how a human moves their arm. The shoulder is the driving force and from there the elbow will follow ever so slightly after and then down the forearm into the wrist. There are so many things in life that have overlapping action it is quite amazing to sit and observe this stuff.

With overlapping action in animation there is a concept called “successive breaking of joints”. Essentially with this we are able to get that nice “dragging” motion that is delayed from the main force of the object. Since each “joint” is delayed just a few frames from the previous one we will get a nice overlap and follow-through in the motion.

Most of us probably understand what Follow-through is, especially if you ever played a sport, because coaches will always tell their athletes to “follow-through” on that (pitch, pass, kick, punch, swing etc.) this is because in a sport setting you are gaining the most energy and force possible for the action. But also because follow-through is NATURAL, especially in an object that has a lot of force with it, all that energy doesn’t just come to a stop abruptly so it follows-through the object even after the main action has happened. Combining overlapping action and follow-through really give great life to our animations but it is also quite difficult and takes a lot of tweaking to get just right.

So for our assignment this week we had to animate a Pendulum doing just about whatever we wanted it to do to show we understood these concepts. We also had to of course show our planning for the shot as well. I originally was going to do a simple move across the screen and stop action of the pendulum, and after I completed it and realized I still had a few days left in the week, I decided to do another version that was more complex and challenging and that is the version I ended up submitting for my assignment so below is my planning for both.

First idea

Final Idea

And here is the Final Animation prior to my mentor’s critique:

Here is the Revised Version