As a visual effects supervisor at Pixomondo, there’s never a dull moment. Working in visual effects is fast-paced, and we’re always pushing the limits of what can be done. Throughout my career, I’ve had the opportunity to work on a number of really great projects. I started out mainly as a digital compositor and naturally evolved into visual effects, compositing, and computer graphics. It’s been really incredible to be a part of films like The Day After Tomorrow, Sin City, Spider-Man, Shutter Island, and Hugo. I can only hope that I can continue to work on more projects like these that push the limits of visual effects.
My first version of After Effects was actually CoSA v1.1. I found it on a Japanese warez site with a program called Hotline in 1993 and downloaded it just to see what it was because it sounded interesting. I was in a log cabin in Alaska on a 2400baud Dial-up Modem and it took about six days to download. Once I got it reconstructed, and played around with it a little bit to figure out what it did, I was hooked. I had bought a Powermac 7100/80 and sometimes my little tests would take six days to render. At the time, I was working as a photographer at a newspaper, and the possibility of animating photographs and text was pretty addicting. Since winters in Alaska are usually -40º cold for weeks on end, and the sun comes up less than four hours a day, I had a lot of time to play around with it next to the wood stove. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zouJsRRx6zs
After Effects was my first introduction to digital video. I hadn’t even seen a video editing program at that point, and I enjoyed making little animations with text and pictures in After Effects for fun. Eventually, I did go to work for a TV station, and took those skills to start making TV commercials in Alaska. We didn’t have a non-linear editor, so I would make animations and then record them off the screen with a Beta cam, or I would feed the video signal into a linear editor, and do insert edits frame by frame of single images in After Effects. Queue up a frame, mark an in point and an out point, do an assemble edit recording one frame to tape, then advance one frame in After Effects and repeat the process. Eventually, I could export files into a non-linear editor, and I was off and running. It always gave me a “visual effects and motion graphics” advantage in any videos I shot, and eventually gave me the confidence to move to Los Angeles to take a shot at the big leagues in Visual Effects.
Adding 3D to the After Effects interface was a pretty big deal. It saved so much time and hacking that we used to do to emulate the same perspective effects, and I still love it. It gives me a whole new appreciation for how simple it is to animate things in After Effects. Also, adding 3D plugins like Trapcode’s Particular working in After Effects 3D. The auto-roto tools were amazing when I first used them on a feature. I think the timeline and graph view is still better than anything out there. Combined with the simplicity of the pickwhip for making expressions you could build some really complex things simply.
Every day, I see something more amazing come out of After Effects than the day before. It’s impossible to keep track, but I really like a lot of the stuff people make with Peder Norrby’s plugins.