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 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 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 5: Car Push Blocking

Hey everyone, week 5 has come and gone at AM and I have another quick update this week. So after getting my planning accomplished last week for my “push a heavy object” assignment, I had to start blocking the animation this week. The first thing I realized when I began to lay out my scene was that, without several camera cuts, or a decent amount of camera animation I probably was not going to be able to achieve my first idea for the shot; which consisted of Stewie pushing his broken car up a hill and it rolling down the other side.

So I had to rethink my shot without having to totally start from scratch and plan it all over again. I decided to have him push his car up a ramp into the back of a truck, only to have him slip and have the car roll back down the ramp. Overall,  I think I’m happy with the blocking so far, I’ll have to wait and see what feedback I get. I am already having a lot of fun with this animation though! Its been fun to get to work with a brand new character that had more ability to show emotion — hooray eyes! Anyways, going to keep the post short this week. Check by next week for another update on my shot after it goes into refining.


AM Class 2 – Car Push Blocking from matt sackley on Vimeo.

AM Class 2 – Week 3: Refining

Well week 3 of class 2 at Animation Mentor flew by! This week all we had to work on was taking our mentor’s notes on our blocking and then moving into our first splining pass. This is always a scary time as an animator because when your move your tangents from Stepped to Spline everything looks like it breaks. This is the time when we have to hunker down and chip away at our animation slowly and very carefully, controller by controller until it starts to get smoothed out and we iron out all the kinks. From here on out it is just constant tweaks, to fix various different issues from weight transfers, re-timing of specific actions, knee pops etc.

We then submit this pass and get one more week to put on the final touches, the last 10% of the animation during a “Polishing” pass. In the animation industry, you are never truly “done” with a shot, it just get’s taken away from you, because of deadlines, so you have to get it as close to perfect as possible with the time-frame you are given. So here is my Refining pass.

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

AM Class 2- Psychology of Body Mechanics: Week 1

It’s finally time to get back to work with AM! I am so excited to be starting Class 2 with my awesome new mentor Steve Cady! Steve is a veteran animator who has been in the industry for 14 years. He has worked all over the world and all different parts of the industry from smaller projects, to TV commercials, video games, and feature films. Some of his most impressive animation projects include most recently: The Amazing Spider-Man, Avatar, Chronicles of Narnia: Lion The Which and The Wardrobe. He has a very long list of amazing projects he has worked on and I am honored to get to learn from such a great animator. I have heard nothing but good things about Steve.

Class 2 is structured very differently from Class 1. In this class we only have 3 actual animated shots to turn it, but we have 4 weeks to work on each assignment. Each week is a different stage of the animation process that we submit and get critiques and help on. The main focus of Class 2 is to get a solid understanding of Body Mechanics (how the body moves, and why). The first week of the class we had to choose from a pretty vast list of actions to animate with the Ballie character. I decided to do an animation of Ballie as a soccer goalie and headering the ball away to save the goal!

For the assignment we had to sketch two different pages of thumbnail ideas for poses, and record video reference of ourselves to study the motion and really understand the action we are going to be animating. The entire first week was devoted to PLANNING the animation. This is one of the most important stages of animation, because if you do very detailed and accurate planning, laying down the keys and animating in Maya goes a lot smoother and makes for an overall better experience animating and a more clean/polished shot as well.

Below are my two pages of sketches and the video reference I shot. You get to see me jumping around like an un-coordinated animator in my living room pretending to be a soccer player heading an invisible ball (I didn’t have anything to be thrown at my head.. well anything safe).



I also went a head and for some extra work to get an understanding of my character I did a character study for his personality and mood of the scene.


That’s all for now. Until next week- when you get to see my first Blocking Pass of the assignment!