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Advice for a senior in highschool

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Advice for a senior in highschool
on Aug 31, 2007 at 11:44:58 am

I am a senior at Wakefield High in Raleigh NC. I PLAN on attending Full Sail for they're digital arts and design program, I have been working with After Effects on my own for two years and can pull my own weight in it. My question is, how much more did all of you learn in college, I know you learn a lot, but right now I dont think my stuff is that good and I dont know how much better college will make me, I know also that its cause i have not had proper training. But I want to one day be able to always have great designs and even greater concepts.


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Joseph W. Bourke
Re: Advice for a senior in highschool
on Aug 31, 2007 at 12:17:56 pm

Here's my two cents, Mikey. I am entirely self-trained. My formal education was in music. I firmly believe that advertising, commercial arts, motion graphics is just rock and roll with a thicker coat of veneer.

Formal training will expose you to all of the techniques you will apply in your career, and, if you get a good teacher(s), may even mold your creative ideas somewhat. What I think separates the real talents from the pack is the ability to start with someone else's idea (especially in your early development) and carry it further, or bring it in a new direction no one has yet thought of.

Learning all of the software in the world from a technical standpoint will get you only so far. Every graphics software package should have a disclaimer on the side that says: "Talent not included.".

Look at all the stuff you really like with a critical eye, pick it apart, learn how to do it in After Effects, whether it's a special effect in a music video, or the latest Chevy commercial. Find every motion graphics website out there that posts examples and duplicate the effects you really like, or, if you can't, figure out which plugin was used and why. It's exercises like these that will help you develop both talent and taste. I suggest you buy one (if not all) of the Chris and Trish Meyers books on After Effects:

They are an education in themselves.

One of my music teachers had us write a melody every day, and his reasoning was: "It will get the sh** out of your system." Every time you create something that's not quite right, or almost there, is a step toward being where you would like to be. There's plenty of just ok talent making a living in our industry (and I include myself among them) - it's those who stay critical of what they do, and work hard to develop their talents, who rise to the top. Good luck.

Joe Bourke
Art Director / WMUR-TV

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Mark Suszko
Re: Advice for a senior in highschool
on Aug 31, 2007 at 3:11:26 pm

Check up on the other recent thread about internships, a lot of what was written there applies to your question.

Try as I might, when I look at my Lightwave control panels, there is no "make dinosaur" button on there:-)Meaning, learning the tool alone does not make one an artist, only a technician. You haev to develop the artistic side of your skills with just as much effort as the purely procedural button pushing tech background.

I have heard people who love FullSail and those who hate it. I think if you consider it a quick-start beginning and not an end to itself, it couldn't hurt. But also consider taking other courses less directly connected to AfterEffects, in order to make you more well-rounded as a editor and artist.

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Mike Cohen
Re: Advice for a senior in highschool
on Aug 31, 2007 at 3:22:49 pm

as a college grad myself, my two cents opinion is to take some non-technical classes as well. if you go to Full Sail, I'm sure they'll teach you how to use all sorts of cool software, cameras and other gear. But take some college level classes in literature, writing, economics, marketing, finance and history. This makes you a more well rounded person, help you develop good work habits, critical thinking skills, and prepares you for a job. Unless you want to be a pure technician, you need to know how to write business communications and it is at least my opinion that you need some post-high school educational experiences, aside from the school of life.
As the others have said, you can know every feature of AE or any other software, but does that mean you are a sophisticated thinker who can engage in productive business relationships? Maybe, maybe not. There is a lot to be said for on the job training as well.
Good luck.

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Todd at Fantastic Plastic
Re: Advice for a senior in highschool
on Aug 31, 2007 at 4:57:58 pm

Well, here's my two cents' worth...

I have a degree... a film degree. Want to see my diploma? Need to line a birdcage? Or wrap some fish? That's about all it is useful for.

Now, don't get me wrong... I'm not down on education, I'm very pro education. Just get the right education.

I went to school close to home in the southeast, at a good ol' SEC school. One that happened to be a football powerhouse, where that was just about the only thing that anyone cared about. The athletics facilties looked like the Taj Mahal, of course... whereas the communication facilities looked more like the Munsters' house on a bad day. Interesting enough, because the communications school was one of the easier colleges at the university (which I will freely admit... I graduated with honors and didn't crack a book in four years) it was heavily populated with athletes (who averaged coming to class maybe once a month). I can't remember a single professor who had set foot in a motion picture studio, on a film location, or inside a television station in the previous forty years. It was pathethic... but times were tight and that was where I had a scholarship to go, so I went.

Out in the "real world," I literally learned more about the business in my first day on a real film set than I did in four years of school. In fact, I learned it before lunch.

But again... I'm not saying I'm anti-school. Just make sure you pick the absolute RIGHT one, and that you learn WHAT you need to learn there. Get a good, broad education. I've gotten applicants here at my company who are fresh out of school, who have skills, but they are very specific skills and can't do much else. I had a guy a couple of weeks ago looking for his first job. He was a relatively competent Final Cut editor...that is what he had been studying throughout his college career. Guess what? We're not a Mac house, we're a PC house. We cut with PremierePro2, not FCP. He didn't know PP2 from a hole in the ground. That might could be overlooked (it's not a big stretch from FCP to PP2), but all of his knowledge was technical. He knew which FCP buttons to click and where all the tools are... but he knew little about theory, style, and technique of editing. That's what he should have been learning.

Get a good education, but get the right one. And try to work while in school... grip somewhere, sweep floors at a production facility, intern at a post house or television station. You're gonna learn by doing.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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Gary Chvatal
Re: Advice for a senior in highschool
on Sep 1, 2007 at 3:19:12 am

I don't really know anything about Full Sail so I can't offer any opinion there. But I'm a proponent of getting an education. Some of the technical schools can get you up to speed quickly on technology but a college degree can help you understand the world we live in...cultures past and present...and the difference in their and they're.

It may not seem like a big difference right now...but it might make sense to you once you try to find your fit in the business world. And make no and motion graphics is big business.

Let me know if you want to stop in and visit...I've been in this business for 30 years...and I'm in Cary.

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Bob Zelin
Re: Advice for a senior in highschool
on Sep 2, 2007 at 8:55:00 pm

and here is my stupid opinion. Full Sail will charge your parents about $32,000 for your training course (can anyone on this list imagine if AVID or Apple told you that they would charge you anywhere near that price for a training course).

Pick your dream job, at your dream company (don't pick a major network like CNN, becuase this trick won't work). Contact the owner of your dream company and tell him that you would like to work for his company as an entry level After Effects (or whatever) guy, and you will work hard, and you will PAY HIM $32,000 to work at his company. Boy, you will never see anyone say "welcome aboard son" faster than the owner that you make this offer to. In one year, you will learn more than anything at any school. And you will probably be offered a full time job at that company after the year is over.

Bob Zelin

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Ron Lindeboom
Re: Advice for a senior in highschool
on Sep 2, 2007 at 10:36:29 pm

Trust Bob to preach the absolute truth. ;o)

Ron Lindeboom

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Tim Kolb
Re: Advice for a senior in highschool
on Sep 3, 2007 at 7:19:38 pm

[Bob Zelin] "Contact the owner of your dream company and tell him that you would like to work for his company as an entry level After Effects (or whatever) guy, and you will work hard, and you will PAY HIM $32,000 to work at his company. Boy, you will never see anyone say "welcome aboard son" faster than the owner that you make this offer to. In one year, you will learn more than anything at any school."

Not to burst anyone's bubble, because of course the illustrative logic works in this case...

But have you ever assessed how many types of work are out there and how many different workflows and subsets of skills?

I learned the vast majority of what I USE these days on the job, yes, but I learned what in the world the industry was about in school. The 'act' of production isn't the same as the 'business' of production and in the economy we currently see, many of us will spend at least some part of our careers freelance, when a very narrow career background spent learning and working entirely in one company doing probably a particular type of work may not serve one particularly well.

The work experience will certainly be valuable, but I do believe there is some value to having some general knowledge, as expensive as it may be...and I'm not making any statements about the worth of any particular school over another as there are of course a variety of quality levels...but i do find that an education like that is largely what one makes of it.

It's a trade off... In a working business, it's expensive to allow for someone with less experience jump in and make mistakes. Regardless of how uh...innovative the financial arrangement is, when revenue is on the line, the chance to fail simply can't be made available as frequently as in a dedicated training environment.

My .02.

Kolb Productions,

Creative Cow Host,

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Tim Wilson
Re: Advice for a senior in highschool
on Sep 4, 2007 at 10:20:31 am

[Tim Kolb] "But have you ever assessed how many types of work are out there and how many different workflows and subsets of skills?"

My company brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars in production from my knowledge of biology and geology. Yes, over a couple of years, and I took home only part of it....but I'm not exaggerating. Somewhere north of $600,000 in less than three years.

I lost that major gig for a while to a high-school grad with major chops (he really was good, in some ways better than me) who was willing to work for peanuts....and the client came back, actually using the word "grovel," and paid me three times as much as they paid me before....because of my knowledge of biology and geology.

Am I glad I got a broad liberal arts education? You bet. I have an acre of similar stories with smaller price tags, but the bottom line is that everything I learned in school -- art, science, math, etc.) has gone straight to my bottom line.

Yes, you can rise to the top of your field by skipping school. People do it every day. I'm saying you can get more jobs, and more interesting jobs, with a broader set of skills and experience.

Along with better internships and better connections.

But to underscore the point of breadth, I'm not sure I'd go the media education route. There's a reason why things like history and language are part of the curriculum at film schools like USC and NYU. The best filmmakers draw from a deep well.

I wrote an article for the Cow Magazine on building a successful motion graphics business, and the recurring theme was that almost nobody trained in video, graphics, etc. They trained in theater, art (old school, like painting), religion, literature.

They also consistently found, like me, that the skills that benefited them most were those "useless" things they learned in school.

Again, there are plenty of ways to do everything. No matter how many anecdotes you get, they're not likely to change your mind as much as give you confidence in the choice you're going to make anyway. That's a good thing.

My anecdote is that the more you learn the better, ESPECIALLY the stuff that doesn't have direct bearing on TV and film.

The whole point of the democratization of video is that the tools are both affordable and easy to use. There's simply not much video expertise you'll gain that somebody else can't gain just as easily. The experience of many, many professionals is that "book larnin'" has contributed to setting them apart.

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