April 1st, 2015
I really appreciate how you called out the importance of good producers on projects and couldn’t agree more. The best projects I’ve worked on have always been under the supervision of a sharp producer with a keen understanding of the motion workflow and how scheduling, feedback rounds and client communication affects the process. They may not be doing the nitty gritty animation work themselves, but their own hard work and unwavering ability to stay on top of things is invaluable to a project.
Since I’ve taught motion design I can offer you some insights into how I structured the course:
Fundamentals in Graphic Design
Many of my students were fresh out of high school, so they had no experience with graphic design. I made sure to spend time—up front—covering the basics of good layout, grid systems, typography and color theory. We spent several weeks on this (not nearly enough, I know) before we even opened After Effects, and while the students were a little miffed up front, most of them expressed to me afterwards how valuable this primer section of the course was in improving their skills.
Motion Design vs. Traditional Animation
运动设计 vs 传统动画
I made it a point to emphasize, as you said, that motion design is “graphic design + motion.” Since I had a few students who wanted to be character animators and work on Pixar-ish 3D films, I felt it was important to call out this distinction. The term “animation” is often used as a general descriptor and can cause confusion, especially when artists specialize in one field but a job requires another. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with specialization, and I encouraged my students to pick an area they really felt comfortable with and hone their skills in that rather than trying to master all trades and techniques. It’s not necessary to know how to do everything, and my experience has been that agencies will always find and bring you in as a specialist if they know you’re exceptionally good at that particular skill.
Lead the Eye
This was a mantra of mine in the course and every single exercise and project we went through was weighed against it when it came time to review. If there’s one critical skill in motion design, I believe it’s this: the motion and movement of elements must always be drawing the viewer’s eye to the next important bit of information. This is as much a skill learned in traditional filmmaking as it is graphic design, and yet I felt I was seeing it undervalued in some of the other motion courses I took or observed. It’s one thing to make a sexy, fluid bit of animation that looks sweet as a standalone GIF, but a great motion designer must be able to seamlessly blend that with other moving parts over a period of time and never lose the viewer’s focus.
While I love manual keyframing, it can be woefully inefficient in many cases, especially when deadlines are looming. This is why I set time aside to teach expressions and workflow practices that, while not super-deep (no major coding as this was a general course), still tuned students in to the idea of thinking five steps ahead in everything they do. It’s not enough to worry only about the frame in front of you, you have to be conscious of how elements can connect and drive each other as well as how smart project structuring will lead to faster, more efficient workflows.