I’ve always been amazed by movies and special effects. I studied Film at the University of Kansas, which is where I started learning about visual effects and picking up Adobe After Effects. After graduating, I moved to Los Angeles and found an opportunity to work for Stargate Studios. I started out as a lowly production assistant but moved up the ranks quickly. My experience with Adobe software in college, including Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Photoshop, put me in a good position to move into the creative department. I became a full-time After Effects compositor, and eventually the compositing supervisor for the whole company. For the last few years, I’ve been wearing the hat of VFX supervisor, but I still find uses for After Effects just about every day.
I bought my first copy of After Effects 4.0 at my college bookstore. It was on sale as a new version was coming about; this was probably in 2000, so it’s been 12 years! Wow, that makes me feel old. It’s safe to say I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for After Effects. It has been the number one tool that I’ve used to express my creative vision and to become a professional artist. I can’t think of any other tool that is as accessible, flexible, and powerful. I’ve learned from some of the smartest, most creative artists anywhere. They taught me After Effects both as an artistic tool, and as a problem solving tool. I feel like you can achieve just about any vision with some creativity and After Effects.
When I think about my favorite features, I don’t really know where to begin! I love so many things about After Effects and take them for granted every day. The ability to create scripts and write expressions is one of my favorite features. Working with the other video tools in Adobe Creative Cloud is also very useful. It allows you to focus on the creative process and not get bogged down keeping track of a workflow between applications. I also love the wide variety of plug-ins available: having a platform with so much third-party development makes for a diverse and constantly evolving creative environment.
I first came to After Effects as it was just beginning to add 3D features. Seeing how far the 3D toolset has come since then is amazing! The latest version with its sophisticated 3D rendering engine is a very exciting development. The transition to 64-bit in the last few years is also a major achievement; that has a huge impact on the speed and power of the software.
Over the years, I’ve seen lots of amazing visual effects shots done in After Effects by the talented artists at Stargate Studios. It’s gotten to the point that it’s hard to surprise me as far as what’s possible, because so much is possible! Lately, the most remarkable thing to me is the scale and scope of the projects that After Effects can now handle. In the 32-bit days (CS4 and before) RAM was a limiting factor and you just couldn’t create comps above a certain size. Now, with the latest 64-bit software, I’m constantly impressed by how big I can go without hitting a limit. I’ve worked on several specialty applications where we need ultra-high resolution animations. I can now build comps at 18 or 20 thousand pixels across, AMAZING!