Mike Monteiro can be a polarizing figure, but there is often a basic truth to what he says. In this talk from Webstock, he touches on a lot of subjects many of us can relate to. Well worth the listen/view to gain some insight as to why we might want to say no more often than we do…
Last night on #MoChat we talked about the business side of freelance. Some good questions were raised, as well as good tips:
- Be weary of clients asking for pitches. If it’s necessary, put in the minimal amount of time you’re comfortable losing.
- If moonlighting, make sure clients are completely clear about your schedule ahead of time.
- Save up cash, especially when starting out. Paychecks are sporadic.
- Work out payment schedules with clients. If they’re late, find out why and react accordingly.
- Set aside some percentage of your paychecks for quarterly estimated taxes.
- Insurance is expensive, but there’s some major changes coming with the Affordable Care Act.
- Check the Freelancers Union.
- Accountants can be a huge help. As can lawyers, but maybe less frequently.
- Prioritize. You don’t need to be working 24/7.
Last night’s MoChat covered how to give & receive feedback. Client feedback predictively had more problems than peer or third party critique. Micromanaging and making changes simply to have input were the most common complaints. On the peer side, things were generally more positive. However, vague or overly subjective feedback didn’t seem to help anyone. On how to improve giving feedback, suggestions included identifying problems before offering solutions, explaining why you reacted to the piece the way you did, being honest but professional, making sure you understand the process and goals to that point, and that what your about to say is actually helpful—not just to say something. For receiving feedback, a few things seemed to resonate with everyone—don’t get too attached to the work, don’t take anything too personally, and remember that this is a job.
Last night’s MoChat focussed on staying creative. Unsurprisingly, lots of people have times when they hit a rut, or just seem stuck in the same cycle. The reasons varied from person to person. Some of the more common reasons seemed to be lack of sleep (or health), deadline pressure, self-doubt, and getting stuck comparing yourself to others.
To get past these creative blocks, lots of suggestions were made. In no particular order:
- Take a walk
- Visit a gallery
- Play video games
- Listen to music
There were also several suggestions for what to do to avoid ruts in the first place:
- Have hobbies
- Do creative warm-ups or challenges in the morning
- Have personal projects
- If possible, take vacations or day-trips
- Get out of your comfort zone often
- Take classes
- Reverse engineer work
There were also a few things people didn’t entirely agree on. Some liked watching videos on Vimeo or looking at other motion design work. Others argued it leads to too much comparison and subconscious mimicking. TV can be a distraction or research depending on who you ask. Social media shares a similar split, though most people recognize it can be too distracting if you’re already stuck.
But overall, one of the main points that came up over and over throughout the chat in various forms was simply this: Walk away from your computer. There’s a lot to experience around you, and much of it can help you creatively in ways you wouldn’t expect.
I felt compelled to write this piece because of an experience I had recently.
- Spec creep: get everything in writing and make sure that you communicate as swiftly and reasonably as possible; by email. Cover Your Arse.
- Bad communication : be vocal in meetings, listen and ask questions if things are unclear. If the shit hits the fan 2 weeks down the line it’s no good referring to a half-remembered conversation.
- Unfamiliar equipment: generally other people should take care of this for you, but if you want to be ahead of the game, you need to know how your work is going to be delivered. If it’s live playback; how is the video ingested? What codecs won’t break? Will you have time to render and ingest 20gb per uncompressed file?
- Poor decision-making: Make sure you’re on the ball. Keep a clear head and get decent sleep. Don’t overdo the coffee!
- Software crashes: Work sensibly. Don’t run source files over the network. Just because you CAN render C4D, After Effects and AME at the same time doesn’t mean you should. Keep your drives as clean as you can.
And finally some general tips:
- Never assume – there’s no such thing as a stupid question, especially at the start of a project. Classic questions like “Who is the project lead” and “what’s the final delivery format” are overlooked suprisingly often. There’s nothing worse than trying to cajole someone who has no previous experience with the project into signing it off.
- Test, test and test again: So you’ve got a broadcast monitor and you’re RAM previewing the whole comp at the end of each day. Fine if you’re delivering to tape, but if it’s for a live event, you need to test as early and accurately as possible. If this means finding a projector and screen to run the styleframes on then so be it.
- Scalability: how smart are you working right now? There’s often a lot of talk about how it’s only the end result that matters, but if you don’t plan for at least some flexibility in your pipeline then you may not get there.
- Know your hardware: if you’re delivering files over a network, know how long it takes to get 100mb over the slowest connection, because due to Sod’s Law that’s the best you’ll get when you need it the most. If you’re outputting to tape you’ve got ingest plus playback. With larger projects these extra factors can break a deadline unless you factor them in.
Have you got any nightmare experiences to share? How did you overcome them?
Over in Unite, League member Zickar posted about completing one animation a week and posting it for the world to see on Monday. It’s extremely important to continue honing your skills on your own time in any profession, but design especially.
Sometimes we just don’t get a chance to work on the projects we really want to, or we need an excuse to try out some new technique we’ve been hearing about. A weekly animation is a great way to do just that. Even if it’s just an hour like odd_enough limits himself to, it’s enough to push you further and become a better designer.
So take it to the extreme and complete 30 animations in 30 days, or try and get one thing done a week. But give yourself the opportunity to practice outside of your paying work. You’ll be a better designer for it.
[Photo by Leo Reynolds.]
Note: This article talks about working as a motion designer for reference. The following subject matter applies to anyone in a creative position.
It’s a dreaded fear for every motion designer. It’s kryptonite to our yellow sun. It’s just as inevitable as running low on system resources. Chances are you’ve experienced it more than you care to recall, and the unfortunate truth is that eventually it’s going to rear it’s ugly head again. Of course, I’m talking about being “creatively” tapped out. Whether it happens to you once a year or after a few very demanding projects, it can be a terrible experience that, at its worst, can leave you debating if you should toss in the towel on your career. But don’t give in just yet; there some things you can do to help get yourself out of this creative rut or prevent one from occurring all together. You just need to give your mind a reboot.
Here are some things to try: – Read More –
We live in a great time. The Internet has made learning much easier than it ever has been. Sites like Twitter & Facebook allow us to converse and share thoughts and links in real time. Tutorials are abundant. Just about everyone can open up a browser, head over to a few choice sites, and learn programs like After Effects and Cinema 4D.
Unfortunately, that’s becoming a problem. Not that just about everyone can do it—on the contrary, that’s a great thing! No, the problem is that just about everyone does it the same way. Having had the opportunity to look at reels for job applicants, it becomes quite apparent who’s been following along with Andrew Kramer or Nick Campbell. At times entire reels are built of nothing more than the end product of those tutorials.1
Now, tutorials are an important part of online learning. They are a great resource for picking up tips or tricks that you may not have otherwise known, learning techniques to make life easier as a designer, or even figuring out how to accomplish a certain aesthetic you’ve always wanted to learn. What they should not be, however, is a simple recipe to accomplish an end product. That turns it into stock footage… and stock footage is generic by nature. The last thing a reel should be is generic.
So how should you approach a tutorial? There’s no universally correct way, but there are a few things to try.
Learn Techniques, Not Effects
One of the best ways to get the most out of a tutorial is to focus on the techniques used. It’s the whole “teach a person to fish” philosophy. If you are picking up techniques, you can apply them to other projects very easily. Take one of the more recent tutorials on Video Copilot, Galactic Orb. Most people will walk away from that tutorial knowing how to zoom out of a shiny orb. That will have its uses, but if you instead realize you’re learning the importance of pre-composing, how to use the Turbulent Displace plugin, using simple expressions to drive animation over time, pre-rendering (even touching on “Set Proxy”), and other techniques, you can build so much more than a simple orb.
Build Something Different
This can be a bit more difficult if you’re just starting out, but the benefits are great. Put simply, from the start, set out to create a completely different result than what the tutorial ends up with, but utilizing the same (or similar) techniques. This is difficult because you can’t just follow a tutorial step by step; it forces you to think about what’s really being taught and applying it to something different. In the end, you’ll have a better handle on what you’ve learned and be able to apply that to other projects in the future with much less effort.
Sometimes, you can learn more by looking at the result of a tutorial first, then trying to figure out how it was made. This is another way to force your brain into actively learning instead of just mirroring what the tutorial is doing. In many ways, this is really how motion design works in general. You have an end goal in mind and you must figure out how to get there. You might learn new ways of working, or better hone your current abilities. Either way, you’re getting more than just a new render.
Watch the Right Tutorials
There are so many tutorials out there which are just bad. While it’s not always easy to spot them right away, there are a few tells.
- No audio. A good tutorial will have the instructor narrating along and describing what they’re doing.
- Constant stalling, searching for files, and generally not knowing what they’re going to do next. If a tutorial instructor is unprepared, it will be much more difficult to learn from them. That said, there’s nothing wrong with an instructor making a mistake, then using it as a teachable moment to describe what went wrong and how they fixed it.
- Blatant rip-offs of other tutorials. It seems like everyone is searching out Internet fame, especially by attempting to be a source for tutorials. Sometimes, they will just lift tutorials from major sources like Video Copilot, Motionworks, or Greyscale Gorilla.
- It’s on YouTube. Now, not all tutorials on YouTube are bad, but many are. In general, it’s a good idea to go to sources you trust for instruction, or at least places like Vimeo where there is a more dedicated (and often more civil) community.2
This advice won’t necessarily apply to every tutorial out there, nor will it apply every time you are viewing a tutorial. Sometimes you just need a refresher on a certain look or technique. Sometimes the tutorial itself is very broad in its application, teaching techniques that can apply to many things. But if you are searching out tutorials for general learning and to improve your skill set, you need to approach them with a broader mind and learn more than just the end result.
If after completing a tutorial, you think back and realize all you have to show for it is a new render and nothing else, you should try something different. Remember that everyone else can watch, and is watching these same tutorials. In order to improve your reel, your craft, and your chances of landing that next job, you need to do more than passively follow step-by-step. In the end, you will learn more, have some new unique pieces for your reel, and perhaps most importantly, be proud of what you’ve accomplished.
- One time I caught a decent particular tutorial and people were posting their results in the comment thread. One user had a video which was identical to the tutorial with the exception of being longer and having different text. I approached him about that via a YouTube message, and indicated the importance of moving beyond the steps in the tutorial. He got very defensive and said he did change it… by changing the words in the type treatment. [↩]
- I don’t mean to insult anyone on YouTube. I realize broad, general stereotyping can do that. But in general, the signal-noise ratio on YouTube seems to be quite low. There’s some gems in there, but there’s a lot to wade through in order to find them. [↩]