If Adobe After Effects 6.5 is a buried treasure,
then the 13 DVD-Video training set from Total Training is a detail-rich
treasure map designed to unlock its secrets. Hosted by Brian
Maffitt, long-time After Effects aficionado, and Total Training's
Director of Animation Training, Steve Holmes, the DVDs provide
a detailed look, within the context of real projects, at Adobe
latest incarnation of After Effects, v.6.5.
These DVDs are targeted at beginner through advanced AE users,
and there is something for everyone in each set. Each DVD commences
with a "getting started" section with introductory
material on setting preferences, composition settings, and window
placement. Users can elect which computer platform they are using,
and tailor the preferences accordingly. Then the DVD moves to
the main menu detailing that set's topics. The DVD-Video format,
of course, permits the user pause, fast forward or rewind to
review materials as needed. And each set includes a paper index
of the items covered.
The list of covered subjects is lengthy. Total Training provides a downloadable pdf file detailing the chapters, lessons, and instructions. Needless to say, the instructional DVDs are a cookbook of recipes from "introduction to interface" to "color correction" to "rotoscoping" and "3D space." And just about EVERYTHING else in between.
In Set 1, beginners are introduced to
the application's interface, while more experienced users will
learn short cuts, key commands, and other tips to improve workflow.
Set 2, which covers Animation and Special
Effects, is both a primer on parenting and character animation
for the beginner and a detailed examination of Maffit's favorite
effects, Shatter, Card Dance and Wipe, Colorama, Radio Waves,
Wave World, and the very versatile effect, Foam for all users.
The lengthy special effects section in
this set introduces design elements are well as detailing use.
This aids the intermediate and advanced user in project composition,
and still provides basic instruction to the new user. There are
preliminary and advanced discussions of the basic set of special
effects in AE 6.5, and discussion of the newly released effects
and re-released effects from CycoreFX.
In Set 3, the more advanced capabilities
of After Effects are explored - 3D space and Expressions. Maffit
sets the 3D "stage," initially, and then details the
pitfalls a 2D designer may encounter when working in 3D space.
Expressions, basic and advanced text and animation, design topics,
and more advanced features, including AE's beefed up paint tools
The final set examines keying, motion
tracking, color adjustment, and rotoscoping -- topics that involve
part art and part science. Maffit and Holmes reveal these tools
within the context of real projects, such as adding a stationary
sign to moving footage using motion tracking. Similar instruction
is offered on how to use 3D Assistants to position multiple layers
in Z space, and the versatile uses of fractal noise. A section
on audio filters is included.
Both instructors have their own style in presenting the information.
Brian Maffit is more whimsical, and a little corny at times.
But neither presenter's style nor delivery detract from the wealth
of knowledge presented. Maffit clearly shines when discussing
the plug ins he authored -- as noted above. And he reveals some
unique capabilities of these plug ins. For example, how to use
Radio Waves to create locomotive smoke or Shatter to create a
Matrix type revolve effect.
Unlike DVD-ROM, these DVDs can be played,
stopped, fast-forwarded, and rewound on your DVD set top box.
This approach frees your computer for the AE lesson plan, and
facilitates self-paced learning using the remote control of your
DVD player. Load the project files, and follow along with your
DVD player. Replicated DVD-Video can be more expensive, but I
like the idea of watching the instruction on television. On the
downside, I experienced some play issues with one or two of the
DVDs. Contact Total Training, and the company will replace the
If there is some flaw in the learning
experience, it resides in what I see at times as excessive detail
in the learning process -- and this is purely subjective. Maffit
and Holmes, in my view, sometimes spend too much time tweaking
the particulars of a project to illustrate techniques. This can
be a frustrating to more advanced users, but perhaps a bonus
to the beginner. You be the judge, but temper your opinion by
your level of expertise in After Effects
After Effects is a deceptively deep application. Total Training
AE DVDs reveal that depth and more and provide an excellent general
reference for AE users. On shear instructional content, these
DVDs are a best buy.
Copyright ©2004 David
A. Saraceno is a motion graphics
artist located in Spokane, Washington. He has written for DV
Magazine, AV Video, MacHome Journal, and several state and national
legal technology magazines. David also moderates several forums