School of Motion: An Animator’s Review
As a small studio that specializes in a mixture of 2D character animation and motion design, our artists need to have a mixture of skills. Jen Sanchez joined our team fresh out of SCAD with strong animation training and she was familiar with After Effects, but she didn’t have formal motion design experience.
We believed in Jen, and knew that with some more specialized instruction she could be a well-rounded animator. So, we invited Jen to enroll in School of Motion’s Animation Bootcamp class, an immersive online course that teaches the principles of great animation, and how to apply them in After Effects. After Jen wrapped up the course, we sat down to discuss her experience.
Hi Jen! Let’s begin with why you chose School of Motion?
I was a recent graduate of SCAD, where I primarily studied character animation. The software that we used was mainly Toon Boom, and occasionally Flash, programs like that. I only knew the very basics of After Effects, but I didn’t know a lot about motion design, so I thought this was a great opportunity.
It seems like some School of Motion students have After Effects experience, but not much actual animation experience. You came in sort of the opposite of that, since you already had animation training. Did you find that helpful or hurtful?
There were a lot of methods I had learned in school that SoM taught, like the bouncing ball technique, overshooting, follow through, but what was interesting was that I had only applied those techniques to character animation. I never realized that you could apply the same principles to motion graphics.
That’s cool. Can you tell me a little bit about how the classes are structured?
In Animation Bootcamp, every day during the week they would share the lesson content, which could be a tutorial video from SoM founder and head instructor Joey Korenman, a PDF, or a podcast. Then, they assign you a homework project based on what they shared. Once you complete your assignment, you post it back and the Teacher’s Assistant follows up with you to review your work.
Were you the TA’s only student?
For the fall course, each TA had around twenty students. But they still made time to go through your files and offer one-on-one instruction. They have access to your full project file so they can really get in there to see what you did right or wrong and make suggestions. My TA, the super-talented motion designer Patrick Butler, was very supportive.
As a person in his (cough) forties, remote learning wasn’t an option when I was in school. How do you feel about this method? Does it work for you?
You don’t look a day over thirty-nine. I’ve taken on-line courses in college before so it was normal for me. I enjoyed it. It was nice being able to work from your own room, to have that flexibility.
Does taking an on-line course replace the experience of working with someone face-to-face in a classroom?
I would say that while it doesn’t necessarily replace face-to-face interactions, it’s probably the best online course I’ve ever taken. The benefit of SoM is that it saves all of the instructor’s comments onto the site, so there’s no chance of forgetting anything. And you have access to review the tutorial videos whenever you need to.
How long was the course?
It was an intensive eight weeks, but they allow you two more additional weeks to catch up, which is nice.
How in the world did you manage to attend the course while still working full time?
I would like to think that I have a decent work ethic, so I’m able to motivate myself. I told myself that I had a certain amount of days to do my homework, and needed to finish by a given date. But, if you don’t have the drive, I could see this being difficult.
Do you have an example of a lesson that was especially beneficial or useful?
There are a lot of valuable things that I learned during my time at SoM. I would have to say, though, that learning about the value graph and the speed graph was incredibly useful. It gave me far more control in terms of timing things out and making them move in a way I wanted. There are honestly far too many tools and tricks that I learned during this course to name, but overall I would say that the entire course from beginning to end was incredibly beneficial.
Can we see some of your work?
Of course! On this Pong Challenge assignment we were introduced to Duik, an AE plug-in that allowed me to manipulate the paddles in such a fun and noodle-y way. The main reason why this assignment stood out to me was because it pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to think and animate in a more energetic way than I usually do.
Have you had a chance to apply your newfound motion-design skills?
I certainly have! The first project I worked on after completing the course was Utah Futures. I focused on really using the value and speed graphs to my advantage and timing things out just so. I also made sure to use expressions and really play with the settle of each object. Oh, and trim paths were a huge element in this project.
Last question, have you kept in touch with anyone from the school?
After the course, I was invited to join the school’s alumni Facebook page where you can connect with other animators. It’s a great forum to discuss animation tips, find answers, share your work and receive feedback from your peers, or offer others feedback.
I lied, this is the last question. Will you attend more classes at School of Motion?
Yes! Definitely. After a little break. 🙂