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February 27, 2013 /Ae & Me /

Ae & Michelle Higa Fox

9yiNGVfPOIenS6kKYgnygzkujfhRS1QYCy0m53zZ4DcLike most 22-year olds, I finished college without a specific career in mind. I thought about pursuing interactive art, or maybe working as a video editor. Then, while working in the trenches of the nascent motion graphics industry, I realized Adobe After Effects meant I didn’t have to choose.

We used After Effects as the main tool for everything back then, from keying green-screen plates to breathing life into hand-drawn illustrations to compositing a dozen CG passes into a photo-real image to building fully-fleshed character animation rigs. This software broke down the barrier between traditional filmmaking and animation, leaving my interests not as separate career options, but as equally feasible ways to tell a story. Thanks to its flexibility, After Effects allowed me to become a professional storyteller who was not restricted to a single visual style.

And of course, that career wouldn’t have gotten very far without the help of the After Effects community. As a tool for creating art that also has a strong technical component, After Effects naturally attracts both left brain and right brain folks. That mixture of people has created a community that generously shares both finished work and teaches each other new techniques. Every day there is a new inspirational piece to watch or a new trick to learn.

On the creative side, early adopters shared AE-enabled short films and experimental works that shaped my development as an artist. I still remember sitting with a friend in a windowless multimedia lab, beneath a spiral staircase made of concrete, and cueing up a video off of a CD ROM (or perhaps it was an “enhanced CD”). The video was Electronic Behavior Control System by the Emergency Broadcast Network (EBN).

It was utterly overwhelming. This was way beyond split-screen content, it was a whole new level of information overload. Soon after came Rodney Ascher’s Buddha Bar and MK12’s Man Of Action: The Terrible Cosmic Death. I remember thinking, what would you even call this? It’s like they’re taking photographs and layering them in space?!?

On the technical side, I had one of my first “a-ha” moment with After Effects when I learned that alt-dragging an asset would replace one thing with another. It seemed like a mundane feature, but I think the way the After Effects architecture allows the user to think of any asset – from a photograph to a piece of footage to a drawing – as all swappable, opens up doors to a different type of filmmaking. When any material can replace or become the mask for any other material with relative ease and immediacy, you’re getting into thinking of visuals in a new way.

Ten years after I created my first pre-comp, After Effects is still an integral part of my career. It enables me to realize my visions and shaped the type of stories I tell. Thanks AE!

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Ae & Me