I don't have a question about the technical part of after effects. My question is more about your workflow on creativity. Let's say you want to create a new project, you are starting from scratch. Can you explain your step by step process going from nothing in your head to a finished product. Do you watch inspirational work to get creative? Do you draw on a piece of paper your brainstorming? Or do you just keep messing around in AE until you come up with something special?
I find it so easy to just follow tutorials, what I wanna work on is how the pros create something. I know my question is a but vague and the answer is different for every project or situation, but give me some of your experience on anything.
Most of my work is done for hi-tech companies, who may need animations, graphics, or entire video productions for marketing, training, or in-house useage. So I'm generally dealing with a corporation which has an established image (logos, typefaces, color schemes, collateral material, and often a style guide).
I start out by gathering as much material from the client that's pertinent to the project (I generally consider all materials I can get my hands on). I go over it, and use such things as the logo, photography in their print materials, the style guide, to brainstorm ideas for the needed project. Is the logo made up of solid elements which can be broken apart and animated, or does it lend itself better to being built in to a background scene of some sort which highlights what the company does; that sort of thing.
As the basic elements needed for the project start to gel in my head, I start to add to the ideas, keeping some, rejecting others, until the project is at a point where I can start some back and forth with the client. Sometimes I'm provided a hard script to work with, written by the client, sometimes I'm hired to write it myself, in which case I can write the copy with the visual concept in mind.
And yes, I do reference other material for ideas (the web is rich with it), especially looking at what the client's competition is doing. There's nothing worse than coming up with a blind concept which is being used by the client's competitor. I hope this helps.