AM Class 4: Pantomime Final

It is the end of week 4 and I have just put the finishing touches on my first assignment for the term — the pantomime. If you have been following my previous posts you will have seen my shot throughout the various stages of it’s completion. From the early planning and video reference until now; the final polished version. This was my first attempt at a pantomime assignment. The main goal and focus of the shot has been to show a clear change of emotion in the character and to sell the character’s internal though process as it goes throughout the shot. After a lot of great feedback from my mentor and peers, I have come to a version of the shot I can say I am quite happy with. I know there are still areas that I will likely tweak some more before it is time to put on the demo reel, but the deadline is here and I had to submit it.

My shot has had some substantial changes over the course of it’s progression, all in regards to keeping it as simple and clear as possible. This is been the note that I have had to keep referring back to throughout the weeks of working on this. I was always thinking about how my poses and acting choices push the character and the story forward. I tried to make it so all the actions that the character does are purposeful and not just to show movement. They are there to support the internal thoughts of the character.

I am so excited to be going further into acting shots and for the next 8 weeks, we will be tackling our very first acting shot with dialoug and lip-sync animation! It is going to be a challenging and really exciting assignment to work on and I am eager to get started.

Below is the final version of my pantomime shot:

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

AM Class 4: Pantomime Blocking

Week 2 has just come to an end and I have just finished my first pass of blocking on my pantomime shot. After getting some really excellent feedback and notes from my mentor during my eCritique. I managed to come up with what I think is a pretty solid start for my shot. The biggest notes I addressed from my planning and video reference were that it was too long, and I needed to shorten it even more to make it as simple and clear as possible. Joe offered some really good suggestions of ways I can simplify the shot to really make the characters internal thought process read more clearly.

First Pass Blocking:

Workflow Notes:
Throughout the week, I also paid very close attention to my workflow on this shot. As I continue to grow as an animator, I’m always trying to perfect my workflow to make myself a faster and more efficient animator. On this shot, I took the advice of one of our lectures by Dave Burgess (Head of Character Animation at DreamWorks). His method was when posing the character to really take the extra time and pose every part of the character, even in the blocking. He encouraged going into the details of the fingers, the eyes, face etc. I tried extra hard to make it so every single pose in my blocking was very clear. I didn’t worry about timing at first, I just posed the character out every 4 frames very evenly, then after I was happy with my poses, I got some feedback and tweaked them some more. Next, I went in and did a rough timing pass, where I took the poses and shifted them around on the timeline adding holds where they needed to be. Then I sought more feedback and continued to tweak away until you see what is above.

So far this workflow seemed to work really well for me in terms of getting work done faster. I was only thinking about one stage at a time, first posing, then timing, then spacing.

AM Class 4: Introduction to Acting!

Hey everyone! Week 1 of class 4 here at Animation Mentor has already come to and end! Class 4 is titled “Introduction to Acting”. My mentor for this term is Joseph Antonuccio, from Blue Sky Animation studios. Blue Sky for those of you that don’t know is the amazing animation studio that has brought you the titles such as the Ice Age movies, Rio and most recently Epic! Joseph is a Senior Animator and also an alumni of Animation Mentor. The first Q&A with him was really exciting and I cannot wait to see what all this class has in store for me.

Now that I am starting to dive into the real meat and potatoes of animation — acting — the assignments require a lot more from us as animators. The assignments also require a lot more structure and planning in the early stages. This term we are going to be creating a total of two shots. The first shot is a Pantomime assignment. Pantomime is essentially the area between Mime use of no props and no dialog, and Acting which is use of props and dialog. So in a Pantomime shot we are allowed to have props but all of the emotion, and storytelling has to be conveyed solely through body language and facial expressions. This is actually quite challenging. The guidelines for this assignment are to show a very clear change of emotion in the character and we have the limitation of only 5-8 seconds of animation. The second assignment for the term will be a dialog acting shot, with lip-sync and everything so stay tuned for the later weeks of the term to see my progress on that.

As for what I had to turn in this week, it was all my planning my pantomime shot.

The idea for my shot is:
Stan (my character) will be sitting at a bar after having a bad day, he is quite down on his luck and doesn’t have any more money to buy a beer. As he sits there sad and depressed, suddenly a big full mug of beer slides right in front of him from off-screen. This catches his attention, he sits back and looks around wearily. Stan is wondering why and who sent him this beer. After taking a moment to realize what has happened, Stan gets excited and scoops up the big mug of beer to his face. He then takes a long gulp from it. Stan then sets down the mug and is in a state of complete happiness and an overwhelming sense of relief because his day just got a lot better.

Video Reference



Pose Tests


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!