I’m the owner of HimAnI Productions, Inc., a studio that specializes in the creation of original visual effects for feature films, television projects, and home entertainment releases. In the past 30 years I’ve worked as an animator, visual effects supervisor, roto artist, digital compositor, 3D supervisor, and more. When I look back to where it all began, I remember seeing the COSA team at an expo and asking if the program could emulate a multi-plane animation stand. The answer, of course, was YES!
I was animating electricity and Neutrino wands on Ghostbusters 2 up at ILM and sneaking into The Abyss dailies to see what the computer with Adobe Photoshop was capable of doing. Based what I was seeing in The Abyss, I knew I had to get a computer as fast as possible. I grabbed a Mac Quadra 700, a flatbed scanner and a 1 GB hard drive for about $11,000 and proceeded to break down the need for large facilities, especially in TV work.
Prior to Adobe After Effects being on the scene, I animated stage-photographed gears in Joan Cusak’s head for the movie Toys using Photoshop, a scripting program called QuickKeys, and Macromind Director as a way to “pencil test” my animation and matchmove. Later, I composited Thing in Addams Family Values completely in Photoshop, automated once again with Quickkeys to advance to the next still frame, etc. The trickle down from big company software to off-the-shelf user was almost non-existent, but die hards were figuring out how to make this stuff work for us. It was really an exciting time. And then I found After Effects.
My career was built around what After Effects enabled me to do. All the things I was getting software to do using brute force now became a complete software package with After Effects. And, in a synchronous fashion, the television show Babylon 5 came along. After Effects let me do with compositing what Ron Thornton was doing with Lightwave for 3D: take this kind of post work completely out of edit bay system and for the first time completely desktop the visual effects for a national TV show. Following my stint on Babylon 5, I co-founded Flat Earth Productions and used After Effects exclusively for compositing the Hercules and Xena TV shows with 15 to 20 artists in tow. I remember one particular month we had to deliver 500 shots between the two shows. After Effects allowed us to execute that kind of output with a relatively small crew because everything we needed was right there included with the software. The pipeline was pretty simple: it was After Effects.
Early on, it was a godsend that After Effects did field rendering, and was capable of adding 3:2 pulldown. If anyone was going to “home studio” the process, especially back then, if a Macintosh was mentioned every video engineer blamed every technical glitch on the “amateur computer.” The fact that After Effects let me render, and deliver in whatever spec editorial required let us all fly under the radar until the rest of the industry caught up with the fact that this was the future! And for me, coming from an effects animation background, the After Effects filter set let me emulate all the glows and exposure I used to use plex layers and diffusion filters under the camera to get.
The constant evolution of features in After Effects always seemed to be just ahead of the curve. The ease of interface is the most important to me. As the toolset became more complex and features tripled and quadrupled, After Effects never lost the ability to be a composite program that let me design as I worked. Unlike node based programs, which is a great system for having an army of people follow orders and march through work, the After Effects interface allows changes and creative experimentation easily, and most importantly, really fast. The timeline gives you everything you need to adjust mattes, color, and complex layering without having to backtrack and damage the work you’ve already done. Plus, I’ve worked on shots with about 500 synced mattes, and it’s nice to see the information laid out in front of you like an exposure sheet to double check counts.
I’m always excited to start working on something new with After Effects. I never get tired of being able create images and animation wherever I am. It sure beats scratching electricity bolts onto 8mm film with a straight pin!