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Self Learning After Effects/MoGraph - Tips, Strategies, Advice

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Jason Brown
Self Learning After Effects/MoGraph - Tips, Strategies, Advice
on May 9, 2016 at 2:36:53 pm


I've been learning After Effects for the past 4 months using online tutorials and books. Starting from the basic videos on using AE and animation principles then onto a few more advanced tutorials. I still haven't delved into Cinema4d yet but plan to do so soon.

For anyone else who has taught themselves motion graphics via books and the internet, what learning strategies did you use/find helpful? I've tried to pace myself until I fully understand techniques and principles but after I got the basics out the way, I've find my learning becoming a bit scattered and unorganised, jumping from one video to another, not really knowing exactly what it is I want to learn.

I purchased books on graphic design and Wucius Wong 'Principles of Form and Design' in an effort to develop my own original ideas as oppose to copying peoples work from tutorials.

I know this is a very broad question to ask but I'm just looking for a bit of advice that may aid my learning.

My plan is to begin creating a demo reel but I'm still struggling to think up original content.

Just a few questions:

When you watch tutorials, do you follow them along step by step, recreating what you see in the video? Do you watch the video multiple times? Take notes?

How many hours a day do/did you put into learning?

What advice would have for generating original ideas? I think I've overlooked the importance of sketching roughs out as oppose to jumping straight into AE, this is something I plan to work on more.

Thanks for reading,

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Nathan Walters
Re: Self Learning After Effects/MoGraph - Tips, Strategies, Advice
on May 9, 2016 at 3:07:43 pm

I'm self taught in After Effects. I never really read any books. I basically watched every tutorial on VideoCopilot 3 times. Every tutorial on CreativeCow about twice. And RedGiantTV has many great tutorials as well. And misc others. Then did vfx/motion graphics on misc indie projects or for small businesses. Still, I would say it took 3 years before I had the skill set to create anything really valuable and original in After Effects. But well worth it though, as I find it significantly easier to find paid After Effects jobs than anything else in the post production world. Mainly because so many people are so terrified of it. And most of my biggest clients have come from doing After Effects work as well.

I would say at first I watched the tutorials and followed them step by step. But later on, I just watched them, for the sake of getting through them quicker, for better or for worse. I would probably recommend a healthy mix of both. A lot of tutorials don't offer you the necessary footage, so those you can hardly follow along with anyways.

I'd put in as many hours as I could afford. If I had a ton of other work that day, I may work a couple hours on tutorials in the morning. If I had an open day, I'd do tutorials for a whopping 9-12 hours, until literally my eyes would start twitching. Basically treating it like a full time job.

Nathan Walters
Halo Union Productions

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Jason Brown
Re: Self Learning After Effects/MoGraph - Tips, Strategies, Advice
on May 9, 2016 at 4:06:47 pm

Nice! Thanks for the reply.

Yeah I dedicate myself as much as I can around my 9-5. It's just getting that progressive workflow, where I feel like I'm benefiting every day from putting in the time, but like you say you do have them tutorials where you don't gain a lot.

I've definitely seen an improvement over 4 months, I'm just impatient and with motion graphics being soooo vast there's times when I think 'where the hell do I begin or go with all this stuff'. But with you saying 3 years to make anything of significance that tells me I've got a long way to go. I guess it's just persistence and being motivated to learn everyday.

Thanks again!

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Richard Herd
Re: Self Learning After Effects/MoGraph - Tips, Strategies, Advice
on May 9, 2016 at 5:17:47 pm

[Jason Brown] "what learning strategies did you use/find helpful? "

The answer to your question is a bit philosophical: "hypothesis formation and confirmation." You can try and predict what will happen, but you don't know until you try it out.

A few skills to really figure out:

1. Storytelling -- it's everything;

2. Trigonometry -- we work in a Cartesian coordinate system;

3. Track mattes -- this is fundamental to making 3D look like elements are passing in front of each other because every thing we do appears on a 2D surface, so anything that passes in front of another thing is an illusion.

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Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Re: Self Learning After Effects/MoGraph - Tips, Strategies, Advice
on May 10, 2016 at 7:45:19 am

Tutorials are great to learn techniques. There are a few that may give you insight though in the mind of the artist that made them, and usually those are the ones that describe the whole creation of a shot, be that a vfx or a motion graphics shot. Videocopilot has a bunch of those. The COW also a few. Those are the ones that can help you learn techniques and also how to think about a shot.
Another good way of using tutorials is to search for what you need after you have created a "job" for yourself. Think about something you would like to be able to do (news graphics for example). Search for as many examples of those as you care to watch. Find a style you like and break it down in elements (lower third, animated intro...etc) then take each element individually and break it down in categories - design (how and why, color, positioning...), animation (how is it appearing and disappearing ), and effects ( flares, glint, light sweeps, reflections...etc). Then see what you can do for yourself and look for tutorials that show techniques of achieving those results.
Lastly, I always recommend this one, find a good artist or AE shop and offer to intern for free with them. Spend time watching how they do things and ask why they do them like that. There's nothing like learning from a master.

Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Senior VFX Artist

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Wallace Adrian D'Alessio
Re: Self Learning After Effects/MoGraph - Tips, Strategies, Advice
on May 10, 2016 at 10:33:26 am

If you do not follow hands on it will not stick with you.

It is not essential to memorize every detail. However being active and staying active is important.
You should also be proficient to a similar degree with the other Adobe programs. You will constantly need them or the skills they require even when working in AE.

Learning to be dynamic in problem solving will always be necessary, both to craft a production and to avoid being stymied when problems arise.

Adrian D'Alessio aka; Fluxstringer

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