AM Class 4: Second Blocking Pass

Whew, I’m glad this week is over. It was a stressful one as I dealt with the stresses of technology failing. On Wednesday morning, I opened my file only to realize all my animation data I had worked on from the night before didn’t save! Maya 2012 was causing my file to get corrupted every time I saved. Luckily, thanks to the AMP Pipeline tool from Animation Mentor all our work is saved on the cloud in their servers. This is great because it has a versioning feature so I was at least able to roll back to my second most recent version of the file. This meant I only lost about 2-3 hours worth of work rather than ALL of it. After working with tech support we found out that it was an issue with Maya 2012, which is known for being a pretty buggy version of Maya, so I opened it in Maya 2013 and I was able to save animation data again and continue working.

After that set back and a couple long nights and days working on my shot, I was have completed my second pass of blocking. This week, I worked in the mouth shapes for my lip-sync and also added many more breakdowns to my poses. Next week, I’ll be moving into my first pass of blocking plus where I will really get down to work on smoothing out the animation and working in splines. My biggest hurdle aside from fighting technology on this shot has been getting used to that fact that the body and the mouth will be moving at different timing from the body. Up until now everything all moved as a “whole”, but now we have to animate essentially two different timings and keep everything feeling as if it is still part of one cohesive character. It is a tricky situation at first, definitely a process that is just going to take some practice to get used too. Either way, I’m learning so much going through this process and am eager to see how this final shot turns out.

And now, my second pass of blocking:

AM Class 4: Pantomime Refining

It is the end of week 3 and I have just turned in my blocking plus/refining pass. My mentor wanted us to take the shot out of stepped keys and transition into splines because the final shot is due at the end of next week. This week I had a good amount of notes to address from my blocking, most of them were tweaks in my posing and overall idea of the shot. My mentor, Joe, gave me some great feedback during the eCritique. The biggest changes I made were switching the hand which Stan uses to grab the beer and toning down the overall grabbing of the beer. The other biggest change I made was to remove the wiping of his mouth. Joe’s comments were that for this assignment we didn’t want to make it too complicated. Simplicity is key, this is something we continue to hear in our lectures and throughout the curriculum at AM. By removing and making these changes, my shot has a more naturalistic feel and is not quite as “showy” which is really what I was going for.

Workflow Notes
Once again, I kept a close eye on my workflow for transitioning over to spline keys. This is usually the area where many animators including myself struggle. I took my mentor’s advice and kept my shot in it’s blocking stage and added as many breakdowns and ease in/outs that I could while staying in stepped keys before switching it over to splines. This really helped make the transition go a lot smoother. I also made sure when tweaking sections of my animation to work in smaller chunks of frames at a time — roughly 20-40 frame sections. This was actually a workflow tip that I received from my class 2 mentor and has really helped me not get too overwhelmed with a shot.

That is all for now, below is the first pass of refinement on my shot.

Refining Pass

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 3 – Week 2: Blocking

Hey everyone! This week I’m posting up my blocking of my assignment using the new Stan character from Animation Mentor! First off let me say this… the new AMP Pipeline and the new characters are awesome! I love the whole process of working in a more simulated studio environment, where my work is version controlled easily and I can just check the file out, work on it, save a new version and keep working. But, if something breaks or I don’t like where it is going, I can just revert back to a previous saved version. Oh, and the fact that is it all on the cloud is pretty epic, no longer need to worry about hard drive crashes losing all my work or anything. Also, these new rig’s are so great! I did not want to stop animating this week, I was having so much fun posing out Stan and working with him. The new features with IK/FK snapping and space switching made my life so much easier this time around when dealing with having to use constraints and a prop! Big thanks to the riggers and modelers that developed these characters, I seriously haven’t had this much fun posing a character in a while!

Anyways, this is week 2 of the 3 week assignment. Next week’s update will be the splined out and “polished” version of the shot. After that, we moved\ right into starting on our short sequence collaboratively as a class! Thankfully this shot was a quick 96 frame shot, which really made me focus on getting to the meat and potatoes of the shot quickly. This was something my mentor Steve Cady from Class 2 always emphasized. He said it is often that you have to just GET TO THE ACTION. It is pretty rare to get a long enough shot where you can really do all sorts of pretty anticipations and build up so learning to get to the main idea of the shot, clearly and keeping it appealing is very important.

The biggest note I kept in my mind while blocking this assignment was what my mentor Mike told me during my critique earlier in the week. He said he really wanted us to try and push our poses since we have such simple characters to work with. We should go for very broad actions and poses because it is hard to do that when you get more complex characters so we should take advantage of these more simple characters to show off our body mechanics. I went back and looked at some of my comic books to reference the Hulk and watched some clips of gorillas on youtube to get that feeling of a big heavy beast-like character. I tried to get the idea of weight to come across in my poses as clearly as possible, and build more overlap into the poses as well. Anyways, that is pretty much all for this week. Keep checking back, as I will be making plenty of posts about all the new things to come with Class 3.

Week 2 Blocking:

AM Class 3 – Week 2: Blocking from matt sackley on Vimeo.

AM Class 3 – Week 1: New Class and BIG changes!

Hey everyone! Well, I had a brief couple of days between Class 2 ending and Class 3 starting. I am very excited to be starting this new class though! My new mentor is Mike Stern and was part of the first class of graduates of Animation Mentor. He has since been working at DreamWorks Animation Studios for 7 years! He has worked on some of their most popular movies including How to Train Your Dragon and is now working on the sequel to it! Some of you may know but, Animation Mentor recently introduced some huge changes to the curriculum in order to keep the students as marketable and attractive to studios as possible! This change went into effect this term for me by taking the new version of Class 3.

Class 3 is now a collaborative class, meaning, weeks 4-12 will require the 9 other classmates of mine + my mentor to all work together to create a very small short film/sequence by the end of week 12! We get to learn about how to link up shots and make the animation look consistent throughout the sequence, stuff you can’t learn without collaboration! What is great though is that Animation Mentor is now officially a “Studio School” meaning that we are literally simulating the work environment of a studio as close as possible. As animators all we have to worry about his animating and layout/story ideas in these films, and the other students in the VFX side of the school will be worrying about the lighting, composting, rendering etc! They also introduced a new pipeline tool that works just like the ones used at the major studios! We now store all of our files and can access all the assets, rigs everything through a very sophisticated asset management tool called AMP (Animation Mentor Pipeline). This tool allows for us all to work collaboratively, share files, and for our mentor to even open our files up and work right in them to clarify a point. Also did I mention, NEW RIGS! These things are amazing and I cannot wait to get down to working with them.

Another big change is that our e-critiques are now live! We get to have our critique during the weekly Q&A just like dailies in an animation studio. Our work gets put up in front of everyone and we get feedback from the mentor and our classmates. The critique is also recorded should we need to reference it later in the week. There is A LOT of new things happening with this course and much of the future courses that I will be taking so it should be really exciting to follow along! What I love about AM that is something most traditional schools cannot do is they are able to get feedback from the actual studios and implement major curriculum changes to benefit the students, very FAST! This type of stuff almost never happens in traditional brick and mortor schools and students graduate and are already out-dated on industry standards.

So, lets get to my week 1 work! Weeks 1-3 are a solo exercise for us just to get back into the swing of animating. We have to animate a quick 96 frame shot showcasing good locomotion and body mechanics. I chose to use one of the new character rigs we just got named Stan. I absolutely love his look and these new rigs are AMAZING, so many great features that are all designed to industry standards and feature film quality.

Here is a quick look at Stan!

I also had to shoot video reference and some planning sketches for my assignment as well, take a look at those below!

Planning & Video Reference:

Long post, I know, but there was a lot to cover! Keep checking back for new updates!