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 www.andrewkennedy3d.com
[vimeo https://vimeo.com/89750510 w=720&h=405]

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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 – 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.