Tag Archives: tips

Top 7 Motion Graphic Design Demo Reel Mistakes

We see a lot of demo reels roll through our doors and we see the same mistakes happen over and over again. Here are the top 7 mistakes we see regularly.

  1. Using template material – Come on designers! Stop using material in your reels that is not your own. If you can buy it, download it or learn it in a tutorial it should not go into your reel, no matter how cool that sparkly lens flare looks. You may fool the average consumer, but any design firm or agency can sniff someone else’s design work in your reel from a mile away.
  2. It is so long we fell asleep – Your reel should be no longer than a minute. Only put work in your reel that shows that you have the skills and the experience to get the job done right. If it is outdated, poorly designed or doesn’t show well than don’t put it in your reel. The purpose of your demo reel is to get more work, not deter it.
  3. Poor render quality – You could have the best work in the business, but if it doesn’t show well than you will have a hard time landing that big contract. If you work in HD then render in HD! Who doesn’t love watching great reels in 720 HD at fullscreen? When you output your reel at standard def or lower it demonstrates that you lack the care for quality and preservation of detail.
  4. Who made this? – We hate coming across great reels and having to hunt and peck to determine who made it. Open or close your reel with your contact information. This could include your name, email, website and phone number.
  5. Lacks presentation skills – When we look at reels we look at everything and take it into consideration when we hire. This includes your website design, branding, video quality, typography, color theory, communication and overall professionalism. We also snoop past your reel if it is linked to a Vimeo account, Twitter feed, YouTube account, website or blog. Make sure your links, sites and accounts are squeaky clean. The more professional you look, the more likely we will trust you with our cherished clients.
  6. Stale hard bread – Just the other day we were sent a reel with a date that was four years old! In the design industry four years is like four decades. Especially when it comes to motion graphics. As times passes, design style change and your level of craftsmanship should be improved . Your reel should be updated yearly and only contain your most current and best looking work.
  7. Flat out lying – Not too long ago we received a resume from a designer who stated they had twenty years of experience in motion graphics and After Effects. We found this hard to believe because the most early seedlings of After Effects weren’t born more than 18 years ago. Nonetheless we gave the designer the benefit of the doubt and let his reel do the talking. If his reel could speak it would say, “I’m an average designer that lacks creativity, style and experience.” Let’s just say they never got a call back from us. In short don’t lie. It will be obvious your a fake when we watch your reel or past work examples.

For more tips on creating a better motion design reel check out “Five Steps to a Better Motion Demo Reel” by GSG.

Looking for voice over talent?

Over the past year I have produced a few videos that needed a voice over track. I tried a few local shops to do the work for me and everything turned out great, but it took a long time to book the talent, book the studio and wait for the track to be edited and sent to me.

It wasn’t until I found Voice123 that recording VO tracks became fun again. Voice123 is a free service for the buyer that connects you with great voice talent. It only takes a few minutes to post a project, set your budget and within 24 hours you should already have a few auditions to review. Make sure to try Voice123 for your next project.

Web link: Voice123

How to be a Motion Designer and get paid

Nick Campbell from Greyscale Gorilla made a great presentation at MGFest titled “How to be a Motion Designer and get paid“. He covers such topics as:

  • What classes should I take?
  • How do I market myself?
  • I’m about to graduate. How do I get my first job?
  • Do I need school?
  • I’m the best at my job… Now what?
  • How do I learn the skills necessary to become an artist?

How to Be A Motion Designer and GET PAID from Nick Campbell on Vimeo.

Unplugged by Motionworks

John Dickinson has been producing a great online video series called Unplugged. His 30 minute webisodes are casual interviews with leading motion graphic designers in the industry such as Andrew Kramer from Video Copilot, Peder Norrby from Trapcode, Aharon Rabinowitz from All Bets Are Off and Nick Campbell from Greyscale Gorilla to name a few. John has produced 13 outstanding episodes so far and all his fans are looking forward to watching many more.

Washed Out H.264 Encoding Video Fix

Have you ever rendered an MP4 on your Mac using the H.264 codec to find that your newly encoded video was washed out? I have been stung by this phenomenon for far too long so I did some research to find the cure to this awful disease.

From my understanding the root of the problem involves an issue between QuickTime and Core Video. Since 2005, the release of QuickTime 7, this problem has resulted in a gamma shift that lightens the video on playback making it look washed out. source

The best solution I found was to render the video using the free x264 VideoLAN encoder. QuickTime can render this out as a .MOV file and ffmpegX can render it out as a .MP4.

Other solutions include changing your color profile settings on your OS, using a different video player that doesn’t utilize Apple’s Core Video such as Nice Player, or there are settings within Quicktime player to correct it:
“Select ‘Show Movie Properties.’ Highlight the video track then click on the ‘Visual Settings’ tab. Towards the bottom left you should see ‘Transparency’ with a drop-down box next to it. Select ‘Blend’ from the menu then move the ‘Transparency Level’ slider to 100%. Right after that, choose ‘Straight Alpha’ from the same drop-down and close the properties window. and finally, ‘Save.’ source

Written by Jeff McIntosh

After Effects Lexus Tutorial by Barbecue

Barbecue Design created an amazing commercial for Lexus Toyota Hybrid Drive using After Effects and Trapcode plug-ins. Ruediger was nice enough to put together a three part tutorial on how he did a lot of the effects in the commercial. What is even more exciting is that he is allowing me to provide downloads for these videos.

Here are the links:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Demystifying After Effects Render Settings

A lot of new After Effects users and sadly even seasoned users get hung up when it comes to rendering their videos. The most common mistake that I have seen people make when rendering their videos is choosing the “Animation” compression type when outputting a QuickTime video file. This results in ridiculously huge file with an unnecessary level of detail. This blunder is soon followed by another when the inexperienced user tries their hand at the AVI output setting. More frustration overcomes the user when they experience a tremendous loss to the level of quality in their video, long render times and large files. When it comes to rendering videos for the playback or further video editing leave the “Animation” and “AVI” outputs to the pros.

Rendering High Quality Video for Further Encoding

The Quick-Time “Photo – JPG” compression type is what you should be using if you are archiving source files from AE, rendering video to import into your video editor or rendering video to later encode into video playback format like WMV, MP4 or MPEG. “Photo – JPG” compression can create relatively small video files without sacrificing much of the the quality of the video. That is why “Photo – JPG” is the compression type of chose when it comes to stock video clips bought over the web. The quality is superb and the file size is manageable.

Two things you should keep in mind when it comes to the settings for these two compression types. One is compressor depth and the other is compressor quality. The depth is the bit-depth of color. For “Photo – JPG” you want to keep this on Color. Compressor quality is something to be noted when using “Photo – JPG” because it determines overall compression quality. It is a good practice to keep this marker somewhere on “High” (If you choose “Best” you are going to be left with a very large file.)

Rendering High Quality Video for Easy Distribution and Playback

It is common to render a video straight from After Effects into a playable file that is good for the web or universal distribution. On a Windows machine or on a Mac equipped with Flip4Mac, Window Media Video (WMV) is a good choice if the viewers will be Windows based. A general set of WMV export settings are as follows: WMV Standard, One pass, constant bit rate (CBR), Quality of 80 and a Bit rate of 2000 Kbps  SD, 3000 Kbps for WS-SD and 5000 Kbps for 720p.

Another common form of distribution is the Flash Video (FLV) file format. A general set of export settings for this file format are as follows: Max data rate 650-2000 Kbps, On2 VP6 video codec (Sorenson Spark is a less desirable alternative) and a frame rate “Same as Source”.

Lastly one of my favorite formats to render video in is xH.264. This produces a very high quality video that that is small in file size. At times this can be a very complex format to use because of all the setting variations, so stick with the factory presets if you are unsure. Here are some general settings I like to use: NTSC, CBR of 2Mbps, Progressive field order, square pixels and “main” profile with a level of 3.0.

Written by Jeff McIntosh

5 Sites for Royalty Free Music

1. Stockmusic.net
A great stock music site with some nice features like “find more like this” links, embedded flash music preview players, and one click download available demos. Tracks sell for $29.95.

2. Revostock
A growing collection of stock music and sound effects. The site offers rollover music previews, extended license options and in depth file specifications. Tracks sell for $10-40 depending on the licensing agreement you choose.

3. Narrator Tracks
A nicely composed collection of stock music in a user friendly format with well written descriptions. Tracks sell for $34.95.

4. The Music Bakery
A well categorized collection of stock music and effects available in different audio formats and lengths. The tracks sell for $34-47.

5. The Beat Suite
An expanding site of music beats that are well categorized and easy to preview with embedded flash players. The tracks sell for $20-60.

Honorable mention: The Best Sites for Royalty Free Music

Written by Jeff McIntosh

9 Places for After Effects Tutorials

1. Ayato@web
Ayato Fujii from Japan is the producer of this fantastic resource and has provided over 50 exceptional After Effects tutorials with step-by-step instruction, screen shots and video previews. A moderate understanding of After Effects is required to complete these tutorials and many of them require third party plug-ins from Trapcode and Red Giant Software.

2. VideoCopilot
Andrew Kramer from the USA is the producer and host of over 70 After Effects all screen-casted for easy reference. Andrew has kindly included the sources files for most of the tutorials however some of them require third party plug-ins or rely on other visual effects software.

3. Layers
The fine people at the Adobe Layers magazine have been posting an assortment of After Effects tutorials and have a collection of about 30 now. The tutorials come as either screen-casts or written documents and will inspire both the begginner and intermediate. Tutorials for CS4 are becoming more prominent on the site and of course the integration of Illustrator and Photoshop are showcased as well.

4. Pixel2Life
This is a portal for an assortment of different tutorials provided by many different designers. The site boasts around 100 tutorials ranging from animation, text effects, video correction and audio. With so much to choose from it is a good starting place for anyone looking for tutorials.

5. CGArena
Despite only having 9 tutorials, CGArena is a diamond in the ruff. It holds many interesting tutorials created by different designers in screen-cast and written form. Some even include the source files so check it out and you might find something you like.

6. Graymachine
Harry J Frank is a After Effects and scripting wizard and has provided almost 2 dozen tutorials that look at the finer details of the program and the third party plug-ins we know and love.

7. Rhys Works
Rhys Enniks is an up and coming designer from the UK who is producing some one of a kind After Effects tutorials. His collection consists of a dozen or so screen-casts and most them rely heavily on the Trapcode Particular plug-in. His tutorilas are getting literally tens of thousands of hits and his site is defiantly worth the click.

8. Designer Today
This is my second least favorite site out of the collection because it lacks thumbnails showing the effect making the site very difficult to navigate. Its collection of over 150 tutorials seems impressive, but once you drill down inside of them you start to realize that a lot of them are outdated. Learn at your own risk.

9. Creative COW
My least favorite place for After Effects tutorials is Creative COW. Its endless pages with poorly designed thumbnails, oddly shaped advertisements, unnecessary text, red coloured headings and blue coloured links make me run for the hills whenever looking for a specific tutorial.

Written by Jeff McIntosh

Film Burn Preset

ProLost posted a nice After Effects 7 preset called Film Burn.

filmBurn.ffx is an After Effects 7.0 Animation Preset that automatically creates the overexposed “roll-out” effect, where the tail (and the head if you want) of a clip flickers into overexposure. It’s aware of the in- and out-points of your footage layers in the After Effects timeline, so you can experiment with different effects just by trimming your layers differently.

Demystifying Video Sizes

I hope this chart will help you to understand the differences between the many video size standards available. NTSC is missing for some reason, but I suppose it could fall under the VGA (640×480) category. NTSC is 720×480 with a pixel aspect ratio of 0.9 giving it a video resolution of 648×480.

Trapcode People Resurrected

When I heard that Trapcode-people.net was abandoned I was very disappointed. It was a one of a kind community where people contributed there Trapcode plugin presets and allowed users to download them freely. Within the collection were a few very high quality files that became an important asset to my work flow. Whenever I had a project with a new challenge I would always click over to Trapcode-people.net to see if there were any solutions ready to be downloaded. More often than not I could find something that could be adapted to meet my needs. Now with the site gone I am at a loss and I know that other designers are too.

While the site was up I did manage to archive some of the preset files and find more using Archive.org. I want to offer all these files to you and hope that the spirit of Trapcode People will live on.

Here are some of the files the zip contains:

Download file
(Some of the files have errors in them and you cannot open them up directly. The workaround is to import the After Effects project file into an existing project file.)

3d-particle-line.aep, 3Dboxs2.aep, 3dlines.aep, 3dplant.aep, aboveclouds.aep, adifferentkindofsphere.aep, alphabet.aep, atom.aep, aurora.aep, birds.aep, confetti.aep, fireworks.aep, flare.aep, fuzzyflower.aep, glowball.aep, grass.aep, grassfreebie.aep, impacticular.aep, leavesparticular.aep, lines.aep, neon.aep, new_partiulcar_#8.aep, novaticularlux.aep, pyropackpalfireworkscascade.aep, rain.aep, slowrisingdust.aep, spermticular.aep, splaticular.aep, supernova.aep, text2circles.aep, tunnel.aep, volcanolavaexpl.aep.

Related posts:

Trapcode People Resurrected 2

Trapcode People Resurrected 3

After Effects Scripts

A great place to find custom made After Effects scripts is aescripts.com. Lloyd Alvarez is the creator of the site and is a genius at creating AE scripts. He was even gracious enough to create for me a custom script that installs a video output control panel for my external video monitor. Go check out his work and see all the goodies that he has created.

Choosing the Perfect Computer

It is very important to have a well tuned computer when working with high end motion graphics and video production work. Every part of your setup needs to be configured to provide maximum speed and power. I currently run a Mac Pro workstation and I have done what I can to increase performance.

Fast Processors and Lots of Cores
Computers today come with fast processors and multiple cores. When looking for a workhorse of a station it is best to find one with a fast processor and lots of cores. Currently Intel Xeon processors are rated to be very fast and an eight core processor is ahead of its game.

If you have a lot of cores, you will need a lot of RAM. After Effects can render files quickly by utilizing each core in your computer, however each core needs a minimum of 500MB of RAM to complete its job successfully. For example if you have a eight core machine you would need 4GB of RAM just for multi-processor rendering, plus more RAM for the OS and applications running.

Graphics Card
You want a graphics card that is fast, powerful and with a lot of memory. I think it is standard to find cards with 512MB of on-board memory. After Effects uses OpenGL for faster screen render times so make sure your card is supported by Adobe to make the most out of your system. Here is the compatibility chart.

Hard Drives
As for hard drives this can be very important because they are usually the slowest component of your work-flow. When rendering AE is reading and writing from your hard drives. This is why I like to keep one for reading (source drive) and one for writing (render drive). Currently I am using one fast Raptor drive for my OS and programs, one fast Raptor drive for my renders, one standard drive for personal files, one RAID 0 for my digital assets.

Operating System
Mac OS X is a great operating system and works well with the Adobe Production Suite. If you are working on a PC you might want to keep your workstation from being connected directly to the Internet. From my experience little peices of software from the Internet tend to get hijack your OS no matter how careful you are. The safest way to go would be to not have your computer exposed online at all.

Written by Jeff McIntosh