Mar 10, 2011

Working with Tutorials

What's up, guys!?
So I was surfing teh interwebs checking out videos for 3D tracking (since I've been looking into getting into it) and I realized something shocking!
As good as people are on the net (and by good I mean really good), it really pains me to see someone using something straight off a tutorial and just changing around the text.
Now, you can see from the link above that the guy really knows what he's doing when it comes to VFX (and the soundtrack is epic) but when you come to around 12 seconds into the video, you'll see something very familiar...
So, I've decided to write a little lecture talk on understanding tutorials:

Tutorials are not meant so you can create the same effect!

A good lesson I learnt from back in the days of music production that has helped me grow rapidly in imaging and vfx.

So what do I mean exactly?
When you do a tutorial, don't just go out there and do the exact same thing! EXPAND IT!

If the camera panned up at some point, why not make it pan sideways or twist into the next view, change around the color scheme, use different effects to give various looks, combine this tutorial with another.... the list goes on!!
I've noticed that some people have the wrong mentality when it comes to doing tutorials, and let me explain a scenario here::

I met a guy a few days ago who was showing me his vfx stuff, he had done quite a number of videos and I found that about 70% of them were straight off of tutorials. I asked him "So... could you show me something you did yourself that wasn't off a tutorial?"
And a search began. A search that involved Ava Find and a bit of thinking and "now what was that thing called?"
As time went on, I came to learn that he didn't even know how to apply Ease keyframes. Why? Because he didn't know what they were. He just knows when creating the Shatterize effect, he has to press F9 to a certain keyframe because the tutorial said so.

Do you see what I mean?
If you want to grow in anything, you must experiment! I mentioned this quite a while ago (it's that important that I'm saying it again).
What my friend above should have done is headed over to AE in a new comp with some text and figured out exactly what this F9 is doing. Head over to the help system and find out what else about keyframes there is to know. I remember the first time I heard about Ease I did exactly that, and I shortly learnt about Keyframe Interpolation, Hold Keyframes, Rove Across Time and all those fancy keyframe stuff, all from the Help system inside AE.

I'm hoping that you understand what I mean? Rather than wait for a tutorial that mentions Hold Keyframes (which I still haven't come across), it simply means that you would never know about it :-S

The other thing! Take the effects combination you learnt while experimenting after a tutorial, take the camera techniques you learnt from another tutorial, take the particle system knowledge you've gained from all the tutorials you've done. Put it all together harmonically, and you have yourself a unique product!

So the next time you do a tutorial, don't just memorize the process to how the effect was achieved. Make sure you UNDERSTAND what is happening. Understand why a certain step was taken and question why it was done this way and not that way. You'll find that you can watch the beginning of a tutorial and think "Aaah, I see what he did! He used this effect and that effect and animated this and that."
It'll come to a point where you can have an idea and won't need a tutorial to pull it off, because you start to understand how working in After Effects or Photoshop, or any application for that matter, is simply a series of steps broken down from tutorials or gained from experimentation. (Which is why I like Eran Stern's approach to tutorials).

If you can learn how to understand how they work, rather than memorizing the process of getting to work, you will gain a whole level of experience just by doing that. You will gain a level above the others who are still fixated on tutorials.

So the next time you see an interesting video you like, don't think "where can I find a tutorial for that?", simply ask yourself "From what I've learnt, to my current knowledge, how can I do that?"
And should you try and fail, try again and fail... well that's when a tutorial comes in. Because even with that failure, you have learnt something.

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  1. Hey man, I like reading stuff on your site, I fully agree with your opinion and has came across the same situations as you did. I will also use some of the tips given here in my own work.
    Kind regards mate ! 

  2. Thanks! Appreciate your comment. Have fun, I hope you enjoy the content I'll be dishing out