5 Replies Latest reply on Mar 20, 2015 8:48 AM by Rick Gerard

    After Effects - What do I need to learn to get to the next level?


      Hi all. I'm a designer recently dabbling in after effects and hoping to add it to my contracting arsenal. I've a (long!) background in 3d/video/general design and was wondering what are the "meat and potatoes" work you guys find yourselves doing? I'm not a total newb and I'm comfortable with the interface...But when I use after effects I use it as a glorified flash style animation/powerpoint/video editing tool and I want to move to the next level.


      There are loads of resources out there - this forum, video copilot and the rest - but what kind of tasks would I be expected to do if i rock up at an agency as a contractor and tell them I'm an afx guy? Should I be looking at compositing, green screen/keying, colour correcting et al? What would you say are the five things I need to be able to do as a minimum if I want to advertise myself as a middleweight afx designer? I know its a vast program with almost limitless potential but i'm just trying to narrow things down a bit to sensibly ground myself in the software and start to really nail down some fundamentals.


      I realise this is probably a frustratingly vague post but some real-world pointers from guys in the biz would be invaluable. If you were interviewing me, what would expect me to be able to do?


      Cheers guys

        • 1. Re: After Effects - What do I need to learn to get to the next level?
          EchoOut Level 1

          I developed a 2 year college program and I just really push the fundamentals. All of the trickery comes and goes but the fundamentals haven't changed THAT much in my 16 years as an AE user. Great shape layer keyframe animation, elegant parallax/2.5D/multiplane environments, comfort tweaking/nuancing animation in the Graph Editor, standard VFX compositing skills (track mattes, light wrap, optical effects, etc.) and 3D camera manipulation go a long way. My graduates tend to have niches that propel them to the next level but the fundamentals are the common denominator that they keep falling back on.


          I don't know if that's helpful at all but those areas of After Effects are where most of my students find success and where most of my freelance money is made.

          • 2. Re: After Effects - What do I need to learn to get to the next level?
            Mylenium Most Valuable Participant

            You said it yourself: Too wide and too far a field. If you were to do VFX, obviously rotoscoping and tracking would be more important than other stuff, if you were to get into broadcast design fast turnarounds on stylized graphics matter more. Beyond that my general observation is that most "AE artists" don't really have a handle on their workflows and from sloppy naming conventions to awkward constructs to create simple blending modes I've seen too much. In my view the latter is more important than anything else - you have to know how AE "ticks" and adapt your workflow is rather than trying to bend and mold the program. When you know that, you can do anything reasonably quickly. E.g. in my projects I've always isolated steps by using lots of pre-comps. People will then sometimes accuse me of over-structuring my stuff, but in the crunch, I only have to exchange the logo in a single comp, not delve into the other 20 again. That's the kind of stuff I always go for.



            • 3. Re: After Effects - What do I need to learn to get to the next level?
              stevekny Level 1

              Cheers for the replies guys, that's exactly the kind of "real-world" info I was hoping for.

              • 4. Re: After Effects - What do I need to learn to get to the next level?
                bogiesan Level 4

                One of the more important things you get only from years of experience, yes, years, is the ability to plan your project intelligently and to estimate the rendering requirements.

                Wait. That's two things.

                And how rendering is affected by stuff like motion blur and 3D and lights.

                Wait. That's three things.


                The skills with the application can only be gained by slogging through hundreds of projects. The keyboard shortcuts revolutionize your workflow. But if you only do one or two projects every now and then you will never get it. Each one is a relearning experience, frustrating and inefficient and you spend hours looking for canned products to solve simple tasks and your work looks like everyone else's.

                • 5. Re: After Effects - What do I need to learn to get to the next level?
                  Rick Gerard Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                  Learning the software is the easy part --- Learning how to make moving images that tell a story is the hard part. The next level is more about design and understanding how we perceive motion and story than anything else. I'd suggest you start taking your AE skills to the next level by finding something that isn't a really cool effect but is instead an amazing way a story is told in a 3 or 4 second shot and then break it down and try and figure out what makes that shot work, then try and duplicate it. You can even shoot the basic shot with your phone, then do something amazing with it.