When I decided at eighteen years old what I should probably do with the rest of my life, I settled on a career as a journalist. Fast forward a year, and I decided that really wasn't the thing for me-I wanted to design, too. Down the graphic design rabbit hole I blindly fell, but I drifted towards projects entailing ambient, (slightly weird) immersive video, music, and finally, my last semester of college, I took an Adobe After Effects introductory class. Only ten short months ago I applied at Pixel Bakery with very little experience animating, but something about motion design clicked with me. It felt like something I could obsessively throw myself into. That's always a good feeling.
Now, I work with motion design almost daily at our little studio. I animate for hours on end and only sometimes want to pull my hair out and thwack my head against the desk in frustration. Trust me, it wasn't always this way!
Here are ten tips for anyone wanting to plunge into the daunting, fascinating, infuriating, yet always rewarding world of Adobe After Effects and motion design.
Set a goal.
This is easy if you're learning on the job-you probably have a project you need to complete. But if you're learning on your own time, it's important to have a goal in mind. Something like animating a character you designed to walk across the screen and wave, or creating a moving logo reveal for your brand. Don't give up until you're satisfied with the end result!
Be patient with yourself.
Learning something new takes time. Even if you're a whiz at other Adobe programs, you might not intuitively understand everything right away when it comes to animating in Adobe After Effects. Let yourself be a beginner, and don't let frustration or confusion overwhelm you from giving up on your goal.
Take things one step at a time.
You're going to have to start somewhere. Make a list of the things you need to learn or do in order to finish your goal project and start at the top. You might be surprised how quickly you can tick off each smaller task within the larger project-you can find a tutorial online for even the most specific questions. Tackling each element one by one is the best way to learn Adobe After Effects-you'll start to notice that the skills you learn along the way will start building on each other, just like learning an instrument or a language.
In order to keep building your skill set, write everything down. You'll thank yourself later when you can review your notes instead of looking up the same tutorial for the fifth time.
Remember your mistakes.
Okay, I'll admit this one sounds like a downer. But it's important to learn from your screw-ups! You don't want to keep making the same mistake over and over. For me, jotting down an ominous warning on a post-it and sticking it on my monitor does the trick.
Get in the ~zone~.
Animating is time-consuming and requires some heavy concentration. So you gotta get yourself in the mood to really tackle a project for hours at a time. I recommend a bangin' playlist. (If you're looking for one, I have a passion for making monthly Spotify playlists.)
Get excited about a challenge.
Creative death for an animator is looking at a project and not getting excited to tackle it. It's hard to stand at the bottom of a mountain and know that getting to the end result is weeks of work away, but having a vision in your head is everything. Just remember to (#3) take things one step at a time.
Organization, organization, organization.
You will want to curl up under your desk and die if finding the files you need on your computer takes as much brainpower as creating them itself. Take the time to stay digitally organized! You'll thank yourself later.
Appreciate the wins.
You might be kicking yourself during the learning process when figuring out a simple issue takes an hour of your time. But hey, you learned! If you're (#4) taking notes, you probably won't have the same problem ever again. Take a second and savor the moments of victory.
The more you practice, the easier it gets. That's pretty obvious, but also important to remind yourself. With time, patience, and a stubborn work ethic, you'll level up without even realizing it! When that day comes, keep pushing yourself to learn new things and better ways to do the stuff you already know.
...and just remember, if the thought of starting at all is still giving you a headache, Pixel Bakery is always here to take on your animation projects for you 🙂 Sorry, we're a little shameless.
Looking for other tips and tutorials? Check out some of our other blog posts.