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Tom Meegan
Design Skills
on Nov 1, 2005 at 6:15:35 am

I'm an editor. I understand pacing, screen direction, using motion within the frame to motivate a cut, and lots and lots of other stuff. Not nearly everything, but enough to feel comfortable calling myself and selling myself as an editor. I'm not talking about the technical stuff that changes a bit every month, and changes differently in the many segments of our craft, but about the stuff that applies whenever you combine a variety of full frame moving images with sound, music and dialog.

I've been trying for the last year or so to bring myself to this point with visual design and typography. I get by, but I'm uncomfortable. When I preview a bad cut, I know it's bad, I know why it is bad, and usually two or more possible solutions come to mind. I also have confidence that even when the obvious solutions don't work, I'll find a way to a solution with the material at hand.

When I layout some colors, start placing video in boxes, play with aspect ratio, and start sliding graphics and text around, I don't have that "professional" feeling. I have a modicum of taste, so I know when what I'm doing isn't reaching the baseline for quality, but I often don't know why, and even when I do know why, solutions often don't leap to mind. I try different things and eventually get to a place where I'm not uncomfortable. Even then, I'm sure it could be better.

I know experience will take care of it. And I know the books I've been reading about typography, graphic design and color theory will all help.

But does anyone else who has gone through this important learning curve have any insight to offer or epiphanies to share? I'm thinking about taking some college courses on design just to force myself to face these issues squarely. What did you do to get to the other side?

Best,

Tom



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Bob Cole
Re: Design Skills
on Nov 1, 2005 at 2:11:09 pm

I feel your pain! Two suggestions, and then my own question.

Suggestions: you may need a jump-start, so buy some help, in the form of "eye candy" from one of the numerous sources of such. There are many collections of beautifully-produced clips, by people who probably do only that for a living. JumpBacks, ArtBeats, ProductionBlox.... Once you have those backgrounds in place, your own graphic additions will look better, and you'll start learning something from your own success. Also, explore other software which may facilitate this whole process, like After Effects or Combustion.

Question: I'd love to start producing my own "eye candy" so that I can incorporate clients' graphic elements. On the COW there are some tutorials at http://www.creativecow.net/show.php?page=/leaders/velez_dean/velez_dean.htm... I have to confess I haven't had time to go through these, but I'd appreciate advice about them and similar tut's, and about Dean Velez's subscription program.

-- BC


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Charlie King
Re: Design Skills
on Nov 1, 2005 at 5:48:30 pm

[Tom Meegan] "When I preview a bad cut, I know it's bad, I know why it is bad,"

I can't truthfully say I have always known why a cut was bad, I jut felt it was bad, and went with that feeling and made changes tio it no longer felt bad.


[Tom Meegan] "I also have confidence that even when the obvious solutions don't work, I'll find a way to a solution with the material at hand."

Self confidence is your number one asset.


[Tom Meegan] " I try different things and eventually get to a place where I'm not uncomfortable. Even then, I'm sure it could be better."

I have always said if I ever felt 100% happy with something and didn't feel it could be better, my standards of quality had diminished. Time to do something else. There is always somthing that could have made it better. Remember, perfection is only a goal, it can never be reached. You will eat yourself apart after a project if you keep thinking about it. Take the thoughts and spend a little time thinking about what could have made it beter, then send those thoughts to the back of your mind for future reference, but don't tear yourself apart fretting about it.

[Tom Meegan] "What did you do to get to the other side?"

First we have to decide what the other side is, probably not so far as you might think. What did I do? I studied others, saw what they did that I liked, what they did I didn't like, formed my own style from all of those combinations. Training? Education? I'm a high school graduate. I learned from working with some exceptional, albeit totally unknown people. I watched everything they did, how they did it, and how they used teh people around them to get the best qualities of each person to form a team. Use other peoples brains, pick them apart, find out what makes them tick and how you can utilize that knowledge.

I have probably not made a lot of sense to what you are asking, but I feel very passionate about my feelings, and think purely by your quest for knowledge and asking, you will too.

Charlie



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Chaz Shukat
Re: Design Skills
on Nov 1, 2005 at 10:09:04 pm

[Tom Meegan] "When I preview a bad cut, I know it's bad, I know why it is bad"

I'm with Charlie. It's a matter of feel. Is it more than a feeling for you? How do you know it's bad and what's wrong with it?

As for design, I have to revert to my feelings when I see something, utilizing my subconscious rememberences of every design layout that has ever passed in front of my eyeballs. Without formal training in design, what else have you got to go on except self tutorial like Bob suggested. Too bad we have to concern ourselves with this as editors. What will become of all the graphic designers? Will they start doing editing as well?

Chaz S.


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Mike Cohen
Re: Design Skills
on Nov 1, 2005 at 10:35:13 pm

Copy others.
It works for me. Find some show opens you like, or whatever it is you have to create, and sketch out a few design features you like, then experiment to come up with something you like. Do this enough times and you will develop a palette of techniques.
I'm no motion graphics expert, but I find this process has improved my satisfaction with my own work, and the clients don't seem to mind either.

Mike


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person
Re: Design Skills
on Nov 1, 2005 at 11:00:50 pm

"Too bad we have to concern ourselves with this as editors. What will become of all the graphic designers? Will they start doing editing as well?"

exactly. leave the editing to the editors. i view designers much the same way i would view a colorist, flame artist, sound designer, etc. there is a very good reason why designers design and editors edit. plus, i would much rather be editing than watching my half ass graphic work render.

now, there are times when i do some motion graphic work. but only and always as a very basic layout the designer can use as rough guide for timings and such.

i am a little lucky in that most of what i do is offline editing. and have worked with many talented specialists for many years. just be careful in taking on too much responsibility to get the gigs. it will hurt you eventually.

i'm preeching now. will stop.

person


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Chaz Shukat
Re: Design Skills
on Nov 2, 2005 at 3:56:20 pm

[person] "leave the editing to the editors. i view designers much the same way i would view a colorist, flame artist, sound designer, etc. there is a very good reason why designers design and editors edit."

First to Tom I would like to say that I admire your attitude. But you seem to enjoy the design aspect. Did you start doing it because you were interested in it or because you felt like you needed to? And Tom, animation is another creative art, are you going to become an animator as well? Sound designer? Colorist? Sure we all do those things now to at a certain off-line level, but don't we need specialists anymore? Where are we headed on this slippery slope? What will be the future for these creative groups? I for one would like to see them kept separate. But the software trend is toward making things more geared for low cost one man band operations. Does anyone have a crystal ball out there?



Chaz S.


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person
Re: Design Skills
on Nov 2, 2005 at 4:09:42 pm

the tools will change for each of the specialists, but the specialists will remain the same. artists with unique talents to used as a group. obviously this can be cost prohibative for many projects. but the work suffers in the end if done by one.


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Tom Meegan
Re: Design Skills
on Nov 3, 2005 at 4:23:23 am

Person,

I agree with what you are saying. I also watched your reel and enjoyed it very much. It makes your point.

Best,

Tom



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Tom Meegan
Re: Design Skills
on Nov 3, 2005 at 4:19:42 am

Chaz,

Need and interest are the reasons for my drive to "get" design. I don't expect to be top notch, or really even expert at most of these disiplines you mention


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Tom Meegan
Re: Design Skills
on Nov 2, 2005 at 2:37:32 am

Thank you to everyone who responded to my post last night. Just hearing that others go through the same things, made me feel better about reading another book about design instead of a Sci-Fi Novel.

Copy others work! This I especially enjoyed, because although it sounded crass on the surface, it strikes me a good advice. When I learned to play guitar, I didn't start out by writing my own songs!

Buy Eye Candy! This helps a lot. It might be the push I need to make that investment. It will certainly speed my work flow, and the exposure to and modification of the shells will probably help make some of the design knowledge more intuitive and unconscious. Which brings us to...

Feelings and accumulated experience! One of my favorite things about this kind of work is that it lies on the boundary of thought and feeling. You don't know a language until you are not aware of the individual words as you use them.

Let the designers design! "i would much rather be editing than watching my half ass graphic work render." I loved this. But unmentioned in my first post is the rush I get when I've had my hands in every part of a project. I have been working in a specialized part of the industry, at a specialized job function, with further specialization within that job. As I expand my abililties and clients, the frustration of not being quite so sure of myself is balanced by a feeling of freedom and growth.

First we have to decide what the other side is! Right on. I'll embrace the feeling of uncertainty that accompanies communicating in a new language, and look forward to the day when I get on the bike and don't think about balancing.

Best regards,

Tom Meegan




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Jeremy Smith
Re: Design Skills
on Nov 2, 2005 at 6:30:30 pm

I'm actually in that very same boat Tom. As I was going through your original post I was thinking.."holy crap and thank god I'm not the only one!"

I've only been in the industry for about 7-8yrs and I think I have finally reached a point where I am begining to feel good about my editing. As you said...there's a feeling when there is a bad cut. For me it's almost visceral. I'm not school trained so I can't give the specific reason why it doesn't work but it just "feels" wrong, and I start thinking of alternatives. When it comes to my design tho...I'm with you. I love and our budget forces me to do the entire scope of edit to graphics design. But I enter into an area I feel very self conscious about...like the first few edit pieces you play for a large audience...good god was I in shambles. I feel I can get by but I'm always looking for new ideas and ways to improve myself in that area.

I think using the specialist branding is a bit tough sometimes. Especially when you start looking at the middle to lower markets. I love it when part of the design process can be farmed out but unfortunatly our budget never allows that. So thats where Jump Backs, ETK, Artbeats etc can come in. So far they have really helped my lack of design skill and experience. BUT!! don't let them become a crutch. I've been cruising around looking at demos and show reels for ideas and to see what other folks are doing. I have been inspired by doing the Total AE series. Not only is this a fantastic resource to coquer the learning curve of AE but there is a ton of design ideas and techniques just under the surface. Just by doing a little looking at what's out there and looking at things from both a technical (how'd they do that) to the fundamental (why??) I think I feel a little better about things then I would care to let on.

I can tell my coffee is starting to run a little low as I've reread this a few times looking to change things...hope my rambling makes a little sense. :)


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Tom Meegan
Re: Design Skills
on Nov 3, 2005 at 12:47:58 am

Hi Jeremy,

I've heard a lot of good things about Total Training for After Effects. I think I'm going to go there as well. I believe it is going to start to click for me at some point.

Your "how" and "why" statement made me remember something a Mentor said to me early on. "Those who know how will always have a job. Those who know why will always be in charge


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Del Holford
Re: Design Skills
on Nov 3, 2005 at 2:22:39 pm

Hi Tom
I've been editing for more than twice as long as Jeremy but I still have the same feelings. I'm like a dog after a bone when something just isn't right. I may take just a few changes to get it right or it may take throwing it out and trying something else. Time is a luxury even when the project isn't under pressure.

I do a lot of one man band projects because I can, but I much prefer to draw on the talents of designers, animators, musicians and anyone else willing to help on a project. That creative collaboritive thing just makes a project better. I started "designing" on a Chryon 4100 with 8 colors, then Dubner Turbo Painter and finally Photoshop and Illustrator. I'm not the greatest designer in town but when the project doesn't have the budget my work will do. I've created my stations on-air graphics since before the turn of the century :) because there's no money in the budget to hire it out. There are some really talented designers and motion graphics people in Charlotte and I'd use any of their work if we could afford it. Now and then we find the money in a project to use them and I love it. The rest of the time I watch a lot of TV to steal ideas and incorporate them to suit our needs. We have a weekly news wrap-up program (we are PBS) and I stole CSI Miami's glassy overlay thing and created the open. There may be more sizzle than steak on the :12 open but people know the program they're watching.

Trish and Chris Meyers have some great material on motion graphics and design as well and they may be among the gurus of After Effects (tho Total Training is great too).

As someone said way earlier, be confident in yourself and I would add be collaborative when you can be. You'll learn something from anyone who has a clue about their area of expertise. Then try it out, ask friends and co-workers what they think and most of the time they won't hurl and may even like it. Keep at it!

Del


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Mark Suszko
Re: Design Skills
on Nov 3, 2005 at 8:12:14 pm

Nothing's stopping you from picking up some used college design texts from Amazon. Also look at magazines like "How", "Creative Arts" and "Graphis Annual". My wife is a graphic designer, in the classic fine arts sense, and I crib off her magazines and books and things all the time, picking up terms and concepts. I really should emulate you and follow this up in more detailed fashion, it can only make you a better editor.


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Tom Meegan
Re: Design Skills
on Nov 4, 2005 at 5:03:01 am

Mark,

I've been thinking of starting a scrap book of print design I like. I've thumbed the magazines you mentioned above


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Tom Meegan
Re: Design Skills
on Nov 4, 2005 at 4:46:49 am

Thank you for the advice and kind words, Del. Thank you especially for the reminder about taking advantage of opportunities to collaborate.

I used to operate a Dubner 20K at the public TV station in Durham, NH. Brings back memories of Pledge Drives Past ;


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