I wanted to share my very first Creative Cabin Review for my new training venture at Creative Cabin. This review is written by motion graphic designer extraordinaire, Phil Bearman.
Like many motion graphics designers, I’m entirely self taught. In the early years of my career I spent a lot of time following tutorials, reading the Meyers’ fantastic books, and watching Total Training videos, alongside doing a lot of experimental work in After Effects.
10 years later, and I’ve been fortunate to build a successful business which has kept me very busy and earning a comfortable living throughout.
When you stop learning, your work can start to look tired and repetitive
I’m a firm believer that you should never stop learning, and with software applications as mature and ‘deep’ as After Effects there’s always something new to discover. Unfortunately the downside to being very busy all of the time is that it’s difficult to find time to learn. When you stop learning, your work can start to look tired and repetitive, and you can end up working on ‘auto pilot’ which is both boring and unsatisfying.
Whilst browsing Facebook recently, I landed on Angie Taylor’s page, and one of her posts was promoting something called the “Creative Cabin”.
For those who aren’t familiar with Angie, she is a long-established motion graphics designer who has become well known for her teaching, through books, video tutorials, seminars and classroom teaching, as well as being a regular contributor to community forums.
The Creative Cabin is a residential studio space near Brighton, UK, which Angie has set up. The studio can either be booked as part of a one-to-one training course with Angie or purely as accommodation, providing a space for you to work on creative projects away from your usual working environment which can be a great boost to creativity.
The Creative Cabin appealed to me in three ways:
• Firstly, as an opportunity to take a break from work (as with many self-employed people, I don’t take nearly enough holiday time!)
• Secondly, to do some much needed learning to reinvigorate my passion and creativity, away from the pressures of deadlines, emails and the phone ringing
• Thirdly, to spend some time talking with a fellow motion graphics designer.
Unlike the USA, with it’s many “After Effects User Groups”, the UK doesn’t really have a social scene for motion graphics
Although I’ve been ‘in the business’ for 10 years, I’ve never actually spent any time in the company of fellow motion graphics designers. Unlike the USA, with it’s many “After Effects User Groups”, the UK doesn’t really have a social scene for motion graphics and this makes it difficult to meet other designers if you are self-employed. So the closest I’ve come to socialising is via the online forums, which just isn’t the same as being face-to-face with somebody.
So I booked a two day course at the Creative Cabin and a few weeks later took a train from Manchester to Brighton. From here I took a short bus journey out to the Creative Cabin which is actually situated out of town, slightly further along the coast. Before getting down to work, Angie showed me around the newly refurbished studio which has a picturesque view out over her garden to the sea.
The studio is equipped with basic cooking facilities to allow self-catering (sink, fridge, combi microwave oven), a comfortable double bed, and shower room with underfloor heating, plus there’s an outdoor patio area so you can sit and enjoy the garden and sea view.
At the ‘business end’, there is a large desk which you can either set your own computer up on, or use a provided Mac which has the Adobe Creative Collection installed along with Cinema 4D.
Prior to arriving, I had discussed my requirements with Angie by email. I knew Angie was experienced at 2D character animation, which is an area I’ve shied away from in the past but needed to master for a forthcoming project. So I brought some illustrated characters with me, and together we worked through bringing them to life in After Effects, starting with preparing the artwork in Illustrator, then breaking it down and animating the various components using a combination of methods.
Despite ten years of using After Effects, there were still loads of little AE tips and shortcuts that I picked up from Angie over the course of the two days, but where I actually gained most was from what Angie taught me about using Illustrator.
I’ve been using Illustrator for as long as I’ve been using After Effects, but have only scraped the surface of what it’s capable of – I’ve never explored its features properly (always wanting to jump back to After Effects at the soonest opportunity!) and was really excited to discover just what is possible with Illustrator when you delve in a bit further.
We also did a bit of training in Cinema 4D – another package I’ve been using for years, but only as a secondary tool to AE, so had a list of ‘weak areas’ which we explored.
she’s a great teacher, and has a warm, friendly personality which immediately puts you at ease
I found Angie extremely easy to learn from and get along with – she’s a great teacher, and has a warm, friendly personality which immediately puts you at ease (important when you’re going to spend two days sat at a desk together!). An added bonus is her Scottish East-Coast accent which, as anyone who has watched her tutorials video will know, is very easy on the ears!
Stunning cliff-top view on my morning run
In the evening I decided it would be nice to try one of the local pubs for dinner, as recommended by Angie, and she was kind enough to give up her evening and join me for dinner. We had a great chat about how we’d got into the industry, the highs and lows of being a self-employed motion graphics designer, and discovered shared interests (DJing, cooking and gardening) which gave us plenty to chat about. It was really refreshing to chat to somebody about work without fear of boring them(!) and who had been through all the same kind of experiences along the way. The food was also good, as promised!
I like to go for a run first thing in the morning (an essential stress-buster and counter-balance for the sedentary day sat in front of a monitor) – the Creative Cabin is situated close to a cliff-top, which provided a picturesque route for jogging and fresh sea air – a perfect start to the day!
I came away feeling relaxed, refreshed, and rejuvenated
My two-day stay was everything I hoped it would be – I came away feeling relaxed, refreshed, and rejuvenated, excited to use the new skills and tricks I’ve picked up from Angie. It’s been a pleasure to meet her and we will undoubtedly keep in touch.
I would recommend Angie and the Creative Cabin to anyone who wants to sharpen up their creative skills – whether you’re a complete novice, or an experienced professional – or to anyone who wants a change of scenery to work on a creative project, and I wish Angie every success with this new venture.
I was very excited to read this very in-depth review of After Effects CS6: Learn by Video on Amazon today;
5.0 out of 5 stars | August 20, 2012
A good solid base upon which to build
This review is from: Adobe After Effects CS6: Learn by Video (Paperback)
I get many emails asking for the best way to begin learning a new software such as After Effects. My first suggestion is to start with a training video for the software of your choice. This is especially true for a robust and complex software such as After Effects CS6.
I found After Effects to be intimidating in spite of my strong Adobe Flash background but the Adobe After Effects CS6 Learn by Video training course from video2brain gave me a good solid base upon which to build. The authors Todd Kopriva and Angie Taylor share the instruction with Kopriva covering the technical aspects of the software and Taylor covering the creative.
The authors start with a short history of the After Effects software leading to what’s new in version CS6. With a panel-by-panel tour of the user interface, you are introduced to the basic project workflow and terminology.
Next, you learn what makes up a basic composition and how to build your own comps from scratch. You first learn how to create a line of text with the Character panel and a block of text with the Paragraph panel and then move on to using shape layers for creating simple and complex vector shapes.
The fun really starts with the Effects and Presets panel. You will learn how to apply a Keylight effect to turn the original background transparent. Then you create a new solid which will be your new background to which you can add effects such as the CC Mr. Mercury effect.
Not all comps are built from scratch. You learn how to import assets such as movies, stills, image sequences and audio. Also introduced is how to manage and organize the various assets for your comp. Of course, you will need to know the options for importing Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro files. You will also learn about interlacing, pixel aspect ratio, and trimming basics.
Halfway through the course, we get to the part I enjoy the most which is animation. First, you cover the basics including how to use keyframes and tweens to control the transformation of various properties. Next, you cover motion paths and how to use Motion Sketch to draw freehand paths. Delving deeper into animation, you learn about the various types of keyframes in After Effects and how to use the Keyframe Assistants and Graph Editor to refine your animations.
The next section covers text animations. Taylor covers options for importing text created in Photoshop and how to edit the text in After Effects. She then demonstrates an easy and fast way to animate each letter individually with the Text Animators. She shows you how to combine animators to create more complex animations and how to save your custom animators as presets. Next we see how shape layers can be used to create many effects, as well as using the Repeater to emulate a particle-like effect.
Switching back to Kopriva, we learn the basics of compositing and how many effects can be created using Blending Modes, Alpha Channels and Masks. Next he discusses common problems and how to correct them with Color Keying, Motion Tracking and Rotoscoping.
The next section concentrates more closely on how to create custom effects. Beginning with a discussion of the Effect Controls panel and categories. Taylor also covers how to use keyframes to animate properties and how to apply easing. One nice feature is the Brainstorm viewer that lets you preview variations of effects and save them as presets. She also discusses what she calls fixer effects for solving common problems such as rolling shutter. She ends this section by covering how to edit layer styles and adjustment layers imported from Photoshop to create effects.
When working with video, you can manipulate the frame rate to achieve various effects. Kopriva first discusses frame rate in general and then covers common retiming tasks such as Time Stretching, Time Remapping, Freeze Frame, Slow Motion and Reverse Frame.
The next section concentrates on your workflow and ways to use grouped and linked layers as well as nesting and pre-composing. One example of character animation demonstrates parenting hierarchy and IK. You also learn about expressions and how easy it is to write your own for complex animation.
Animating 3D effects can add realism to your projects and this section of the course begins by discussing how to use the 3D wireframe and other views needed to work in 3d space. Once you are familiar with working in 3d space, Taylor moves on to how to animate by bending layers. She also covers the basics of using camera presets and controls for depth of field and point of interest. Next, she adds lighting to the 3D scene and walks you through the various types of lighting such as Environmental, Point and Spotlight and how to work with cast shadows and reflections. Reflections can be very important to the realism of your scene and Taylor discusses the various controls such as Reflection Intensity, Sharpness and RollOff, as well as Specular Intensity and Shininess and Environmental Layer maps.
Switching back to Kopriva, we discuss optimizing software performance by adjusting the default preferences and taking advantage of Ram and Disk Catching. Next, he covers After Effects default render order and how this order determines the final render, much like the hierarchy in Cascading Style Sheets determines the final HTML document.
After Effects has several options for exporting your projects and in this section Kopriva discusses how to use the Render Queue. Much like other video exporting, he shows you how to set the various format options. He discusses how to use preset output templates and how to save your own custom settings as a template. He demonstrates how After Effects can save time by rendering several formats simultaneously. Next, he does a walk through of how to use the Adobe Media Encoder to choose output presets for Vimeo, Apple and Android.
The final section is a wrap up and final thoughts. It examines several projects and discusses how they were made. It also covers how to integrate After Effects with Cinema 4D.
The course includes 10+ hours of the video2brain Learn by Video series and supporting files for following along for a hands-on, watch-and-work teaching approach. Also included with the DVD is a small booklet with additional information. As with all the Learn by Video series, you have an easy-to-use control panel for viewing the videos.
Todd Kopriva has been with Adobe and After Effects since version 7.0. He creates Adobe documentation and training materials. Angie Taylor has worked 14 years in motion graphics and animation. Examples of her work have been featured on the BBC.
*Peachpit Press provided a copy to me for review purposes.
I found this to be a really great book and is suitable for anyone who works or has an interest in motion graphics or animation. It would help someone who is studying at college, but is also very useful for those that have been in the industry a long time. I fall into the later category and was formally trained at art school in the early 80’s but I found it very useful to revisit many of the fundamental ideas that I was taught in those days which give me a solid grounding. It also gave me many new ideas and covered areas that did not exist or were in their infancy when I was a student.
I really liked the sections on colour, typography and especially the section on composition which everyone in the industry should be familiar with but clearly are not. I’m sure this would fill in the gaps for people such as avid editors who have a purely technical background and would also inspire those who are creative technophobes to get stuck in with the computer packages today which frighten many with their complexity.
I have shown the book to my manager at Sky and he will be buying some copies for the post production dept to read. He was was also very impressed.
5.0 out of 5 stars on Amazon
Paul Mark Provencher “ppro” reviewed Design Essentials for the Motion Media Artist: A Practical Guide to Principles & Techniques,
Comprehensive, Wise, Pivotal…
I live in the corporate world of information technology. For the most part, this existence for me is based in an engineering mindset – plan, design, build, test, deliver.
In my IT world, artists are thought to be undisciplined in these areas. Angie Taylor’s book makes it clear that successful artists clearly execute in much the same way as the best scientists. While they bring a creative streak that may not appear…Read More
I live in the corporate world of information technology. For the most part, this existence for me is based in an engineering mindset – plan, design, build, test, deliver.
In my IT world, artists are thought to be undisciplined in these areas. Angie Taylor’s book makes it clear that successful artists clearly execute in much the same way as the best scientists. While they bring a creative streak that may not appear in engineering and science, they owe their success in business to their ability to plan, execute and deliver a satisfactory product on time, on budget.
The author takes the reader through a series of concepts, starting with sketching. At first I didn’t understand what this had to do with Motion Media. But it very quickly became obvious why this was important. The book gives a great primer and cites numerous references (including current online resources) that may be used to dig in deeper.
From there the book explores a number of concepts familiar to practicing artists – composition, story-boards, software packages (again with numerous references to some terrific resources), and all while developing the concepts in a way that follows the workflow of projects.
I am reading this book (and several others) to gain a better command of the concepts I hope to apply to the use of my HD-movie capability of my DSLR. I believe that making movies, even if they end up being glorified home movies of my family, will benefit from a basic understanding of what goes into good motion media.
This book has something to offer beginners like me as well as practicing professionals who need to update their understanding of motion media. I will probably read this book twice – the illustrations are wonderful, and perfectly on point, the explanations are very understandable, even for someone with little experience in this field (though I have been a photographer for a long time).
The many resources cited as places to dig deeper are all quality products and have clearly been vetted thoroughly by the author.
This is a solid book with much to offer. If you’re just getting into motion media like me, or perhaps you’d like to step into the latest tools and concepts, don’t hesitate to buy and read this book.
“Today’s software is so creative and seductive that it is easy to think that’s all there is to creating engaging content. Angie Taylor’s book shows the other side of the story: the visual techniques and design principles that underpin digital moving image making. In this comprehensive guide she has assembled a wealth of tips and exercises in topics such as drawing, composition and typography that will be required reading for all up-and-coming motion media artists.”
Birgitta Hosea, Artist and Course Director of MA Character Animation, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London.
“Of all the After Effects books I looked at whilst trying to learn it,
I found Angie’s was the most user friendly and creative.”
Chris Cunningham, Director of music videos, commercials and video art.
“…a worthwhile investment for animators and artists who want to
focus on creating their designs and not get bogged down in
technical jargon… Angie has a knack for demystifying the intricacies
of After Effects and coming up with creative uses of the features.”
Steve Kilisky, Senior Product Manager, After Effects, Adobe Systems Inc.
“Angie Taylor’s work is inspired. She is a highly creative animator – inventive, witty and naturally sympathetic to individual programme styles”.
Carys Edwards, Director, Children’s BBC
“Angie Taylor is the best After Effects teacher I know. She goes beyond technical descriptions of features, and shows you how to best use them in real world projects.”
Bruce Bullis, Senior API Engineer, Adobe Dynamic Media, Adobe Systems Inc.
“This book takes you on a rollercoaster ride through the world of creating animation and special effects with Adobe After Effects. It is much more than just a software manual, Angie Taylor seeks to stimulate the creative use of computer animation. Complex technical issues are clearly and concisely explained, making it suitable for beginners as well as the more advanced users”.
Birgitta Hosea, Course Director, London Animation Studio, Central St. Martins College of Art and Design, London.
“…one of my favorite demo artists in the industry. Her tutorials
are always compelling, well-designed, and worthwhile.”
Brian Maffit, Creative Director, Total Training
“Angie is an outstanding guru of After Effects…her seminars
brings gasps of awe from seasoned and beginner audiences
alike… you will enjoy this book immensely.”
John Keedwell, GBCT, GTC. British Cinematographer