Animation Mentor: Complete!

blog_picThat’s all folks! 18 months, came and went at lightening speed! It is hard to believe that it is already over. I had such an amazing experience attending Animation Mentor. I met so many inspiring people and was fortunate to learn from the best in the industry. Animators from the most respected studios around the world. Each and every mentor I had brought new and unique views to the art of animation. I learned more in this last year and half about animation as art but also as an industry that I ever imagined. If you have been following my blog from the beginning then you saw as we started with the most basic of exercises the “bouncing ball” and as I progressed through the program we finally finished with multiple character acting shots.

As I prepare to attend my final Q&A session tomorrow evening, I’m reflecting on all that I learned and all the areas where I still need to learn more. Animation Mentor really taught me how to animate. Prior to coming to Animation Mentor, I knew I wasn’t ready to animate professionally, but I didn’t realize just HOW far away from that goal I was. After going through this program, I feel like I finally have a real solid foundation to work with. I plan to start searching for jobs and I am willing to take any sort of paid opportunity I can get my hands on. However, I know that I still have a lot of room to grow as animator and there are so many topics that I wish to delve into and explore. Things, like creature animation, video game animation, and of course always improving my acting shots. One of things about pursuing animation is that you are ALWAYS a student. There is always something to learn, and even many students at Animation Mentor were professional working animators. This industry is always progressing, the characters get more complex, the movies and games get more detailed and that requires that the animators continue to keep learning and pushing the art form forward.

Aside from all the technical and artistic knowledge I learned from AM, I got to make a TON of new friends with fellow animators and artists from around the world! I always loved being in class and seeing animators from India, Brazil, Norway, Germany, USA and countless other countries. This art truly is global and animation can communicate at so many levels. The community at AM is the most helpful, friendly, supportive and inspiring group of people I’ve ever been around. Everyone is always offering feedback, and advice on how to improve or how to fix a problem with a shot or even just sharing great animation with each other. Even though it was an online school, it never really felt that solitary. There were so many opportunities to hop into video chats on google+ and talk with your friends while animating to the wee hours of the morning.

I am eagerly awaiting when I get to meet all my classmates in-person at our graduation in November. The graduation is going to take place at the same time as the CTNx Animation Expo in Burbank, California! I cannot wait to get out there and celebrate and meet everyone.

I am more inspired and more eager then ever to keep animating. I already have tons ideas that I want to animate and get to work on to improve my reel. Getting into this industry can be extremely tough and it takes a lot of determination and hard-work. I plan to keep treating this blog as I did while I was in school. I am going to keep posting regular updates on my new shots as I develop them, because I enjoy doing it and it keeps me accountable and motivated!

I could probably go on for days about my experience at Animation Mentor, but I don’t want to keep rambling and I’m sure you are all eager to see my graduation demo reel! I just wanted to thank Animation Mentor and all my mentors for such a great learning experience. I also couldn’t have done it without my super supportive fiance who has put up with all my late-night classes and days spent animating. Finally, my awesome parents and sister who have always supported my dreams and goals.

Finally.. here it is, my graduation reel (I highly recommend you watch it on vimeo in HD):
Also – the 2 person acting shot was lit by a good friend of mine from Purdue, Andrew Kennedy – check out his work at
[vimeo w=720&h=405]

AM Class 5 – Complete!

Whew! What a term this has been. I have learned so much throughout this past term at Animation Mentor and I feel like I have grown a great deal as an animator. My mentor Nicole Herr was an outstanding mentor and I am grateful I got a chance to learn from her. She really pushed me each and every week to get the most out of my shot. There were some weeks where I really felt like I was going to crash and burn but I learned some really valuable lessons. I think the biggest lessons I learned this term were “Don’t be afraid to delete entire sections of your animation and redo them if they arn’t working.” Once I got over the fear of deleting work and just redoing sections that needed changes, I found my shot improved leaps and bounds.

The second lesson I learned this term was the importance of really knowing who your characters are and animating to the subtext of the dialogue and not necessarily the words. I struggled throughout the term getting into the mind of the female character but it was really great to hear in my final critique that Nicole though I finally nailed the emotion of the female character after a lot of hard work.

Overall, this term has been another outstanding one at Animation Mentor. I only have one more class left to go until graduating from the Character Animation program! The time has absolutely flown by and I’m eager to get started in the Polish and Portfolio Class. So without further wait, below is my final submission for the term let me know what you think!

Also here is my progress reel with all my work from Class 1-5

Class 3 – Complete!

After another quick three months, class 3 at Animation Mentor has come to an end! I am currently enjoying my quick 10 day break before I get back on the grind and begin Class 4 which is Introduction to Acting! I am beyond excited to start the acting courses at Animation Mentor, and I cannot wait to start sharing the work I am creating. Now that Class 3 has come to an end you guys are in for a treat because I have two videos to share! The first is the sequence that myself and 8 other very talented peers of mine have been working on for the last 9 weeks! With the direction of our amazing mentor Mike Stern, we banded together to create a short animated sequence, encompassing everything we have learned throughout the term. While the focus was greatly on body mechanics we tried our best to incorporate as much story as possible into this piece.

The process was an awesome learning experience. The fact that I was in the collaborative version of Class 3 meant that it was quite different from the classic program. We had two weekly meetings with our mentor/director to ensure our sequence was coming along both from an animation standpoint and from a staging/composition/layout/story point of view. During these meetings we were critiqued live, just like in dailies at a studio. We used the new AMP Pipeline tool to create and share all of the assets in this sequence. It was as close to a real studio environment as you can get without actually working in a studio! On-top of all of this we were constantly working with each-other outside of our class either through Google+ hangouts or Facebook group messages. I really loved the sense of teamwork and enthusiasm our team had all term and it was a great bunch of people to work!

So just for a quick overview of the sequence, each of us had 2-3 shots to animate and we then put it all together. We focused mostly on the “animation” so it doesn’t have pretty lighting/texturing etc, but it will possibly be picked up by the VFX department/students at the school who can then go and make it prettier with all that stuff! The two shots I am responsible for are: Stella walking into the room and climbing out the window, and Stella jumping down from the window and grabbing her suitcase. If you would like to know who did each shot, I have included a break-down on a shot-by-shot basis in the description of the video located on Vimeo. Finally, lets get to the sequence!

The Runaway – Sequence

The Runaway from matt sackley on Vimeo.

Lastly, I have another progress reel for class 3 which shows all of my work from classes 3,2,1. I hope you take a look at it and see how far I have progressed from class 1!

Matt Sackley – June 2013 – Progress Reel Class 3 from matt sackley on Vimeo.

Thanks for reading, and check back very soon for updates on Class 4 – Intro to Acting with my new mentor Joseph Antonuccio a Lead Animator at Blue Sky Studios!

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.