I spend a lot of time looking at ways of increasing either the efficiency and quality of our video output, and did the same when working as a designer. Workflow improvements are always welcome - saving a minute or two off a task can add up over the course of a project - but sometimes a more radical change comes along.
I’m going to use an animation example for this post, but there is an applicable moral at the end. Promise.
For our videos the majority of the preparation is done in Adobe Illustrator, and then brought in to After Effects for animation. When I first started out with After Effects I looked at a feature called Shape Layers and could not for the life of me figure out how they could be useful. They seemed to my untrained eye so basic and primitive that I had a serious failure of imagination. I spent a good chunk of time trying to create anything that looked half-decent with them and failed pretty hard (In fairness some of the options are… obtuse, to say the least - figuring out repeater options, anyone?).
As with any other feature I’m trying to learn I poked around for tutorials but didn’t find anything that caught my attention so I mentally filed them into the ‘look at one day’ category and only used them at the most basic, static level.
Back in 2012 the CS6 version of After Effects was released, with a new option to automatically create Shape Layers from Illustrator artwork. This looked exciting enough to be worth a look, and shape layers started to creep into my work. I eventually stumbled across this tutorial on morphing letters and I consider it €6 very well spent. I’m not gonna lie, it was difficult getting my head round how they work and then trying to include those techniques into an efficient workflow took as much thinking again, never mind the problems like having to find hacks and plugins to reverse path direction because my objects were turning themselves inside out.
The Kong teaser video was the first time that all of these skills came together, and the result was something unlike any video I’d produced before (along with Andy and Georgia who designed most of the artwork). But that was good, because we want Kong to be a bit different from anything that’s come before too.
And with that one in the bag I sat down and produced the next video, which pushed the same techniques even further and came easier. There were the beginnings of fluency with a feature I had previously thought wasn’t worth the effort to learn.
Shape Layers are fiddly, difficult and complicated. They are also incredibly powerful. It’s taken me a long time to get comfortable using them (and I’m sure I’ve got just as much still to learn!) but spending the time getting to grips with them has opened up a wealth of new options for our animated output. This is better for us as we can communicate better with you, and hopefully better for you as you’ll have a more enjoyable experience.
The moral here is that it can pay to dig into something that initially doesn’t seem interesting. The same can be as true for your online store as it can for turning haircuts into burgers or gherkin shops into rockets - looking deeper at a new way of doing things might just be they key to finding your niche and making it big.
PS You can apply pretty much all of the above to AE text animators too ;)