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]

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 10 – Refining

Well it has been a bit since I posted an update on the shot I’m working on for the collaborative sequence in Class 3. It is currently week 10, which means next week is the final week to get the last majors adjustments done on this shot before we call it “final”. I’m sorry for the less frequent updates but the format of the collaborative classes make it not really worth while to post an update each and every week. However, Class 4 I will be back to posting weekly updates because I really enjoy making these posts and getting to see my progress from week to week.

So without further wait, here is the latest version of my shot.

Second Pass of Splining from matt sackley on Vimeo.

It has gone in to “refining” meaning I have moved all the curves into splines and have been working tirelessly to smooth out all of the kinks in it. Next week, I’ll be addressing any notes I get from my mentor, and finessing it as much as possible until it’s due. Once the sequence is completed, I will post both my two shots separate and the entire sequence as a whole so you can see it! It’s been a really great experience getting to work on a sequence with a bunch of other animators and I definitely have learned a lot from doing it!

AM Class 3 – Week 7: Sequence Blocking Plus

Hello! It has been FAR too long since I made an update. With the format for how Class 3 collaboration at Animation Mentor works, it has made making weekly blog posts a little difficult, also life has just been a bit busier as of late. After completing our individual shots in week 3, we immediately began work on the collaboration sequence. Planning the story, story boarding, and creating the set dressing and pre-viz for the sequence. After all of this was completed we finally got to start blocking out the shots we were cast in.

The process our mentor used to cast the shots was mimicking the same process they use in studios. He looked at our past work and where our strengths and weaknesses were and then determined what shots would be best to showcase our skills and still be a good learning experience. I was cast with two shots of “Stella” climbing out her bedroom window with her suitcase. It has been a very challenging shot in terms of body mechanics but I think I am going to learn a lot from this assignment!

One thing that has been really great about the collaborative process is learning a whole new level of skills that you just can’t learn without working with other animators. I now have to remember that my shots are there to help aide in telling the larger story of the sequence. I also have to keep in contact with the animators who’s shots hook-up with mine so we all have the right continuity throughout the sequence. These are all super valuable skills that all animators have to learn.

So, without any more wait.. below is my blocking (plus) of my first 2 shots in the sequence. I’ll be sure to post the final complete sequence with everyone’s shots when it is finished!

AM Class 3: Week 3 – Polishing

Three weeks sure goes by fast! I had to take my Stan shot from concept to final polish in that time. This meant going straight from blocking to splining without an extra week for blocking plus. However, from what I understand this is actually more common in the studio environment and that the blocking plus stage is not really as common in the studios. I had to really have a clear idea and clean planning to pull this shot off in the time frame.

I received my critique on Monday and it was a huge relief to hear my mentor really liked my shot. He said it was a very good example of what this assignment required and I did a good job executing it within the time frame. He gave me some really useful notes on how to take it the extra mile and polish it up even more too! I took those notes and applied them to the shot I’m showing in this post. I still think there is plenty of room for improvements though. Overall, I really am happy with this shot and had a ton of fun animating it! I feel as though a lot of the things I struggled with in Class 2 have improved in this assignment. Being able to see the improvement is always a great feeling.

Here is the polished version:

Stay tuned as we are now getting into the collaborative part of the class and the story pitches are already due later this week! I’m really excited to get to working on the collaborative sequence and cannot wait to update all you with how it is going!

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!