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Ae & Bob Donlon

bob_donlon_AE-CS3If it wasn’t for After Effects, I just might be serving you up a burrito today.

17 years ago, I had become burnt out from my professional life as a touring musician and found myself exercising my newfound chops in multimedia design, creating interactive presentations for investment bankers at Smith Barney on Wall Street. I got REALLY good at creating animated bar charts . . . one banker even took to calling me the “Bob Ross of Excel.”

I got severely depressed.

On one particularly gloomy Thursday morning, David Westcott (who ran the Smith Barney video department) asked me if I knew how to use a program called After Effects. “Of course I do, why do you ask?” I said, lying my ass off. I was in desperate need of a new challenge, ANY new challenge, so the next thing I knew I had an assignment to create an animated opening for one of the company’s video projects.

I made a bee-line to the bookstore, picked up the Classroom in a Book for After Effects, and spent the next 12 hours completing all the tutorials, at which point I was thoroughly convinced there was nothing this powerful application couldn’t do.  A few months and several motion graphics projects later, I was invited to join the video team as the art director, cranking out motion graphics with After Effects full-time. I drew tons of inspiration from the work showcased at meetings of the New York After Effects Users Group (which in those days was run by Brian Maffitt). It simply blew me away, what these talented individuals achieved using this piece of software and their imaginations.

I became an early adopter of ICE boards (which sped up the rendering of certain functions and effects within After Effects) and in 1998 joined the company as a traveling loudmouth, demonstrating and extolling the virtues of “After Effects on ICE” to anyone who’d listen (and quite a few who wouldn’t).  A few years later, I went back to the production side of the business, making my living as a freelance motion graphics artist in the New York post-production world. I continued to live and breathe After Effects, using it on every type of project imaginable –  from effects shots for TV commercials, to motion menus for DVDs, to animated type sequences for film titles, and on many not-so glamorous projects as well.

In 2005, Steve Kilisky (then the After Effects product manager) brought me to the West Coast to join the ranks at Adobe, where I spent the next few years creating demos for After Effects and traveling the world, pimping After Effects and the rest of the Creative Suite Production Premium suite on every continent except Antarctica. What an honor, treat, and thrill. Brian Maffitt even hired me to present several training series for his company Total Training, including a healthy dose of After Effects.

Wanting to give back to the community that had nurtured me in my “second career,” I founded Adobe TV in 2008, with one of my greatest hopes being that it would educate and inspire even more people on the beauty of creating with this unique and wonderful tool — the “swiss army knife” of visual media.  After leaving Adobe in 2011, I went back into the media production world, joining Wrecking Ball Media Group which was founded by my longtime colleague and fellow After Effects veteran Joey Princz. I also had the honor of writing the Classroom in a Book for Creative Suite 6 Production Premium, which has 2 chapters devoted to After Effects. It’s come full circle for me.

I hope you can see that when I say “if it wasn’t for After Effects, I just might be serving you up a burrito today,” I ain’t kidding! I owe a world of debt & gratitude to the creators of this amazing tool, and can’t wait to see what they come up with in the next 20 years!


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