I first got involved in the visual effects industry in the 1990s. I’d gone to film school and art school and thought I might try to be a director someday. I went to work as a PA at a VFX boutique house, Foundation Imaging, which was starting to do visual effects on desktop machines. It was the early 90s when most visual effects were still done by machines that cost far and away more than Adobe After Effects. I watched people using Macs running Photoshop and After Effects to break into the visual effects world and I thought, “I can do that!”
Soon I was doing screen displays on the television show Babylon 5 using After Effects. I learned on the job from the likes of Kevin Kutchaver, Mitch Suskin, and Ron Thornton. I moved up to doing more compositing, visual effects and lighting shots on other TV shows, including Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space 9, and a TV movie called Superfire. We were nominated for some Emmys for work that we did—all using After Effects and LightWave.
In the late 1990s/early 2000s, I created some visual effect shots on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and worked for Illusion Arts on the Star Trek movie, Star Trek Nemesis, and later with Pixel Magic on Daredevil and Final Destination 2. I also had the opportunity to alpha and beta test After Effects. I remember around 1997/1998 when I was working on a kids’ show for network TV and alpha testing the new version. John Carscadden, Barbara Vrana, and Dan Wilk all came down to learn more about our production environment and how we were using the software, so I put them to work on visual effect shots in After Effects. It was fun watching them use the software on a real-world project so they knew first-hand what features were needed.
The first time I beta tested the tracking tool in After Effects I was so excited. I had also wanted to be able to do brush strokes like in Photoshop, so the addition of the Painting tool was great. I’m also a big fan of plug ins. The more third-party plug ins that exist, the more versatile After Effects becomes.
Today, I work as a lead digital artist and even though I don’t use After Effects every day anymore, when I sit down to edit something I still remember all of the hot keys! After Effects helped me get started in my career, and now I’m happy to be a part of its 20th anniversary celebration!