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


AM Class 5 – Polishing Pass (Week 9)

Week 9 is over and I’ve just posted up my latest polishing pass for my shot. If you noticed, I did not make a post last week as my life has been extremely busy lately. If you have been following the progression of my shot you will likely notice some more changes to some of the acting choices. Every week my mentor always has such awesome feedback and I really feel like my shot just continues to get stronger with each note. I have been learning so much this term, and while it has been the most challenging term yet at Animation Mentor, I am enjoying every minute of it! Every week I’m learning so much stuff. The term is rapidly approaching the end and I only have a couple weeks left to really push my shot as far as possible! I cannot believe that shortly I will be starting my 6th and final class at Animation Mentor… the time goes by SO fast.

As a side note, I got a chance to video chat with the Purdue University Student SIGGRAPH chapter this past week. My self and good friend/fellow animator Erik Wright talked about our experiences both as alumni from Purdue’s Computer Graphics Technology program and our experiences at Animation Mentor. We got to meet many new aspiring animators and give them some information about their options for furthering their education in character animation. It made me really miss going to the SIGGRAPH meetings myself as a Purdue student but it was a ton of fun getting to share my experiences with the students.

Well that is it for this week’s update, below is the latest version of my shot. Enjoy!

AM Class 5 – More Refining

Well, week 7 has just come to an end at AM and it was another busy week with some big notes to hit. After getting my eCritique from last week, my mentor still said I wasn’t getting the right idea across in the beginning of the shot. She wanted the girl to slowly and gradually step up to the male character as the shot progressed. I had her pretty much just walking right up to him and then delivering her lines. So I went back in and re-blocked it again and really try to hit her notes as close as I could. She was very helpful in the critique and actually drew out some really good poses for me to try to incorporate at the exact time in the dialogue. She also suggested I hold her initial pose for quite a bit longer before starting to move into the male character’s space.

On top of her notes, we were told to try and get 1/3 of our shot to 80% complete. She is pushing us to aim for Week 10 as a final date so that we can have that actual final Week 11 be there for any last minute tweaks. She has pushed me a lot this term and it has been a very challenging shot for me but each week I am learning a lot and really pushing my shot. That is all for this week, I’m going to keep it pretty short. So take a look and let me know what you think!


AM Class 5 – Refining Pass

After an extremely busy week animating I’m back here with an update! This week you should notice some pretty substantial progress on the shot from the last update. My mentor wanted us to move into adding more facial performance and lip-sync to our shot and also be out of stepped keys and well on our way into refining the shot. I also had to implement some pretty big notes that I got during the previous week’s eCritique. My mentor really wanted me to get more of stepping action into the opening shot with the female character. She wanted her to start further away and step up to the male character. This made for some serious work on my end. I essentially had to re-block and animate a good 60-70 frames of the shot. It’s something that is never really fun but in the long-run you have to do what is going to make the shot the best it can be, and honestly I think after doing it, the shot feels better.

One of the big concepts they teach us as AM is that you have to do whatever the director/client tells you when you are a professional animator and in our cases, our director is our mentor. In a studio setting you should never get too attached to work because there are always going to be changes and big notes even late in the progress of a shot. Luckily, by having a pretty clean workflow it made addressing these notes not a total nightmare and I was able to get it mostly worked out in about 1 day of animating. Her other notes were to really play up the amount of flirting these characters are doing. The class is all about advanced acting she wanted to see my characters really act and not just feel like they were going through the motions. So I worked really hard to add in more flirty emotions and thought to both characters. Finally, I did a rough first pass of the lip-sync.

It was a very busy week for me, and I’m sure to have many more until this class is over. That’s all for this week, take a look at the latest update and let me know what you think!

Refining Pass


AM Class 5 – Blocking

It’s the end of week 4 already and we are starting to get busy! This week was the first real week of blocking for my class. Our mentor suggested we focus on getting the body blocked out in a lot of detail and if we had time to get some basic facial stuff worked in. Next week I plan on adding in a lot of facial work and lip-sync. This shot is certainly a step up in difficulty from my previous one. Adding a second character really starts to slow the process down because there is now twice the amount of things to think about while animating. We have had some great lectures on keeping characters “alive” while another character is the main focus.

Workflow notes
For this week’s blocking, I tried out a new method of blocking which I am enjoying. Essentially I used Maya to my advantage to help me figure out more breakdowns. I would block in stepped keys like usual but then pretty regularly switch everything over to splines and see what areas needed more breakdowns. I would let the computer do the work of getting me a basic breakdown pose to start with and then go in and push it more to my liking. This was a workflow tip I got from two of my previous mentors (Steve Cady and Mike Stern) both mentioned how they have done this at times depending on the shot they were working on. I found it has helped speed up my blocking process, but it does take some getting used to. I might not use this method all the time but I wanted to keep experimenting with my workflow, in hopes of improving my speed in the blocking stage. One thing all my mentors have mentioned is that workflow really changes quite often depending on the shot and your deadline, so I think it is good to have tried different workflows and learn what works best in certain situations.

That is all for this week, take a look at my blocking below!


AM Class 5 – Rough Blocking

This past week’s assignment at AM was to create a Rough Blocking Pass. The rough blocking pass is focused on getting the main idea of the story across in as few poses as possible. Our mentor wanted us to really just rough in the poses and not focus on too much detail. We will get more detailed and broken down with next week’s assignment as we move into actual blocking. For this shot I am also trying out a new workflow where I more frequently switch over to spline’s even during blocking to help me figure out which areas need more breakdowns and also to get a better understanding of my spacing.

Anyway’s I am very busy already blocking away for the current week’s assignment but I wanted to get this post up before it was too late. I’m going to keep it short, but stay tuned as my progress will keep getting further each week!

Rough Blocking & Proof Concept


AM Class 5 – Layout Pass

I am back! It has been a crazy couple of weeks for me and the start of the new term at Animation Mentor has been keeping me busy, a long with some really great new things going on in my life. (I got engaged to my beautiful fiancé last week!) First I want to briefly talk about how class 5 at AM is structured and who my new mentor is. Class 5 at Animation Mentor is called “Advanced Acting”. This class is different from the rest in that we only work on ONE shot for the entire 12 weeks of the term. However, this shot is comprised of two characters interacting and and the length of the shot is much longer it has to be between 15-25 seconds. It is really going to be a challenging, exciting and fun term.

The mentor I chose for class 5 is Nicole Herr. She has been in the industry for 16 or so years and has animated at some of the biggest visual effects and feature animation studios. She has a very impressive list of projects that she has worked on and I absolutely love how enthusiastic and engaging our Q&A sessions with her are. Currently she is a Freelance Animator, but prior to becoming freelance she worked for studios such as Sony Imageworks, Digital Domain, Rhythm & Hues and many more.

Class 5 started last week but I did not make a blog post as the first week assignment was just to gather different options for dialogue to use in our scene. Our mentor then reviewed our choices and chose the best clip for us to do based on our current skill level and strengths. The clip my mentor chose for me to animate was a piece of dialogue that I found while watching the movie “Stranger Than Fiction”. For this week’s post I am going to post the “Layout” pass. This pass is prior to blocking and focuses on the cinematography of the shot. We had to focus on staging, composition, camera cuts. There is very little animation in this pass as it is all about staging the shot properly. We also had to record video reference and create some thumbnail sketches and provide a back story analysis for our scene. Our mentor really wanted us to get into the minds of the characters and think about all the details leading up to our shot and why our characters are in the situation they are in.

I think that is enough rambling for one post so here is a look at my layout pass.