AM Class 2 – Week 9: Blocking Plus

Another week of animating has flown by! This third and final assignment of Class 2 has been quite a learning experience. Thankfully, we have been given 1 whole extra week to complete this assignment. I really think that should help because it’s amazing how much more work gets added to animating a character when you add arms to it! All of a sudden you have to figure out the best methods for dealing with your character interacting with props, and tracking arcs on two extra appendages. I certainly have had my fair share of obstacles to overcome with this assignment, especially with the process of dealing with an FK/IK switch in the arms and re-timing animation that has all sorts of constraints on it. I have dealt with constraints in the past but it was not as involved as this. Thankfully, I think I have managed to solve my issues and found a decent workflow to complete this assignment.

This week, we were told to take our assignment out of stepped tangents and start moving into spline tangents. The next two weeks will be just constant tweaks and polishing until the assignment is due. I really didn’t touch many of the curves yet other than a very general pass over them. The next two weeks are going to be where I really get into the graph editor and start going to town on the curves! The final version is due week 11 and during week 12 we have to create our progress reel and take the end of the term survey. We only have 2 days off between Class 2 ending and Class 3 starting so I am going to be busy until sometime in June!

Anyways, that is it for this week; below is the first version of my splined shot.

AM Class 2 – Week 9: Blocking Plus from matt sackley on Vimeo.

AM Class 2 – Week 8: Blocking Final Assignment

Week 8 has just ended and it was a busy and fun week! I had to begin blocking my third and final assignment for Class 2! I am really trying extra hard on this assignment to make it the best one I’ve done so far. I have already had to deal with some interesting obstacles while tackling this assignment. First, I had to figure out a good method for constraining the bomb to Stewie’s hands and also learn how to make a seamless IK/FK switch while animating. I really feel like this shot will be a great learning opportunity for me to grow. I am really looking forward to how it will turn out. One of the biggest things I have focused on while starting my assignment is creating really strong poses and treating every key in Maya as a “drawing”.

Part of the great thing about Animation Mentor is being exposed to so many different professional animator’s workflows for animating a shot. I am still working on “finding” my workflow but with each assignment, I learn things I like and things I don’t like and am slowly starting to “find” my workflow. It is something that changes depending on each shot but you will always have some parts that are consistent and it is important to have a well thought-out and logical workflow when animating because it makes for a more enjoyable and stronger animation.

Well, a little bit of a shot post this week so here is my blocking! Hope you enjoy, and stay tuned for next week’s update.


AM Class 2 – Week 8: Blocking from matt sackley on Vimeo.

AM Class 2 – Week 7: Polishing the Car Push & Planning Final Assignment

Week 7 was quite a full week, first and foremost I got a great e-Critique from my mentor which included some excellent feedback on how to really polish up my shot. Overall, the feedback was really positive and he gave me some great ideas on how to solve the area of my shot that I was struggling the most with which was the final push before the fall.

Part of being an animator is learning not to get too attached to a specific idea, because in production directors (or mentors) will change their minds. After my critique I tried various different solutions to try and fix the final 60-70 frames of my assignment but it eventually just came down to the solution of scrapping it and just re-doing the last chunk very carefully. Honestly, I’m very happy with that decision because I think overall it greatly improved the last section of the animation from where it was at.

Polished Shot

AM Class 2 – Week 7: Car Push Polishing from matt sackley on Vimeo.

This week we also had to begin planning our third and final shot of the term. This assignment we get to use the full Stewie character who now has arms to work with! Below is the planning I did for the shot, including some embarrassing video reference for your enjoyment!

Video Reference

Planning Sketches and Story Breakdown

I am off to enjoy a little bit of a break before the next hectic week of work and animating begins! Stay tuned…

AM Class 2 – Week 6: Car Push Refining

I can’t believe it but Class 2 is already half-way over! Week 6 was full of work taking my shot from blocking to spline. During this refining stage, I had to address the notes I received during my critique as well. Week 6 was also interesting because, my normal mentor had gone on vacation for the week and we had a substitute mentor for both our critique and Q&A session. My substitute mentor was Jay Jackson! Jay is an old-school Disney Animator and has also worked on some really great high-end VFX and CG productions as well. Jay started his career at Disney back in the late 70’s and actually got to work with the last few remaining 9 Old Men. Currently, he works as a freelance animator doing a lot of commercial and television spots. He had some really great advice and information during the Q&A session and some really helpful notes on my shot as well.

I’m really enjoying animating this shot because I’m learning a lot about strength of pose and adding “force” into your poses. Both external and internal forces are very important when animating, especially on a shot like this where I need to show weight. Well, I’m going to keep this another short post, but stay tuned for my next one, as I will have a polished/final version of this shot completed! I will also have my planning for my third and final shot of the term!

Refining Pass:

AM Class 2 – Week 6: Car Push Refining from matt sackley on Vimeo.

AM Class 2 – Week 4: Polishing & Planning for Heavy Push

This week was another busy one! Not only did we have to finish polishing our first assignment, we also had to begin planning our next assignment. The week started off with me spending a good portion of time addressing a lot of the notes I received on my first splining pass from my mentor. Steve gave me some really good feedback as to how I can really make my shot feel like it has more energy and overall more entertaining to watch. He gave me a lot of little tweaks that I could address and he said that by addressing all of these little changes the overall effect would likely make the shot feel more “aggressive”.

Below are the notes I got from Steve and worked hard to address:

  •  New camera angle and even some camera animation
  •  I adjusted the arc of Ballie’s jump so that it feels more like a “dive” rather than a nice and easy parabola style jump (shallower curve)
  • I lengthened the stretch frame on the launch of the jump so that it holds for about 3 frames now instead of 1 frame. Still very fast but it is felt more than seen.
  • Exaggerated stretch A LOT more.
  • I payed close attention to how Ballie’s feet travel while in the air, Steve said to have more overlap in that movement, so they kind of trail behind him at first then catch up and actually land before his body.
  • I also trimmed about 30 frames off the animation and sped it up. Steve said that a common thing many of us new animators do is not get to the action fast enough, we like to play up the anticipations so much and it slows down the cadence of the shot. He suggested I work on “getting to the point faster.”
  • Finally, I really worked extra hard to get the weight shifts and the hips to work properly. Weight shifts are HUGE in animation for selling life-like motion, and the hips are where just about all motion in the body originates so spending a lot of time getting them right helps a lot!

Here is the “Polished” shot (the absolute final version you will see in my progress reel at the end of the term; nicely rendered too):

AM Class 2 – Week 4 – Polishing from matt sackley on Vimeo.

For my new shot, I will be using a brand new character — Stewie! Stewie has legs, torso, head, two eyes but NO arms! I am going to be animating him doing a heavy push, of a car up a hill. Below is my video reference that my wonderful girlfriend helped me film, and my planning sketches. Next week I will be posting the blocking for it, so stayed tuned. In the mean time, enjoy me making a fool of myself in my reference….

Reference & Thumbnails



AM Class 2 – Week 2: Blocking

Week 2 is here, and that means it’s time for another update on my progress at Animation Mentor. This week we moved from the planning stage to the blocking stage of our shot. A little review of what blocking is for those that are just reading my blog now or are unfamiliar with this term. Blocking is the process in animation of getting your idea across as clearly as possible and as fast as possible. A blocking pass is what an animator will do after he has planned out his shot. In the blocking pass you want to get as much of the shots information in it as clearly as possible. The idea is that a director/supervisor should be able to look at your blocking pass and know exactly where the shot is going and have a rough sense of the timing of the shot. The blocking pass may look “rough” because it is typically done in “stepped” tangents where no inbetween motion is shown, just the main Key Poses, Breakdowns, and Extremes.

So this week, was the first pass of blocking, and next week we move into Blocking Plus/Refining stage, and the final week is a Polishing phase where we just are adding that final sweet 10% of the animation, the “salt and pepper” as Bobby Beck calls it.

Below is my first pass at Blocking the shot:

AM Class 2 – Week 2: Blocking from matt sackley on Vimeo.