We introduced the four essential beginner skills in the last blog post, “Essential Skills for Motion Graphics.” Those four skills are vital areas of expertise if you wish to become a master of motion graphics. A quick reminder before you proceed, this series assumes that you are playing the long-term game of mastering the craft. The skills we suggest here would look overwhelming at first, but remember that you do not have to master all of them. Instead, you should consider developing whatever skills you prefer over the years slowly.
This article introduces you to the intermediate to advanced skills for mastery. Following is the list of skills, in no particular order.
Every design is different and has a unique look to it. The text, images, and idents you reveal in your motion design must communicate the mood and design feeling. For example, a logo of an adventure park may come to screen with a fire effect to express the sense of power and danger, but the name of a financial institution should not. Because the fire effect would negatively impact the feeling of “trust.” So, what to do in this case? First, the motion designer has to develop a design that conveys “trust” to the audience. Then, you have to utilize the existing tools of the software cleverly to create an animation that communicates the feeling of trust. The start is to know what tools are available with their capabilities. The rest comes with the experience of applying them in projects. Following are some of the different ways a single artist has used to reveal logos. There are infinite number of ways and they all communicate a specific mood. You have to be clever about to choose the right one for the brand and engineer effects to get the job done.
The skill to create art with a 3D package could be highly rewarding for a motion designer because it could take you to a different level of high-paying jobs. In the past, learning a 3D package was expensive. However, today with the internet and Blender, it is just a matter of dedication and time. Cinema 4D is still the one most people recommend for motion designers, but the landscape is rapidly changing. If you are on a budget, we recommend that you start with Blender because it is free and almost an industry-standard tool. Whatever the software is, you will never regret the fact that you added 3D into your arsenal of skills.
Digital Debris by Nicola Destefanis
Artistic skills are also essential for a motion designer because there is art in everything we do. We don’t suggest that you become a master fine artist. However, we recommend that you build a habit of drawing, maintaining a sketchbook for doodles. Practice storyboarding and sketching out the designs in detail before opening up Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. The art skills would also save you a lot of time because hand drawing is much faster than designing with software.
We already mentioned “animation” as one of the essential skills in the previous article. Animating characters is much complicated than objects and motion elements. Even animating a simple walk cycle is a complex task because of the complexity of the body mechanics and the human’s ability to detect errors in other human-like movements quickly. The motion design domain’s rigging and animating characters are much simpler than the fully 3D feature film domain. However, since the fundamentals are the same, it takes time to learn, especially faction acting and lip-syncing. It takes time and effort to learn, but it gives you the ability to fly if you can add it to your skillset.
Intermediate level digital compositing skills are not hard to master, and it is also unavoidable. Sooner or later, you will have to composite your animated graphic elements to a live-action plate. Motion design tools, such as Adobe After Effects, are also digital compositing packages. What we do as a simple motion graphic is a composition of animated elements. Therefore, every motion graphic is also a digital composite. However, it is more apparent when working with a live-action plate because of the unique challenges it brings to the table. They include color matching, noise matching, match-moving, object removal, and tracking with tools like Mocha, chroma-keying, etc. Therefore, digital compositing is an essential skill a motion designer needs as they advance in the journey to mastery.
When you advance as a motion designer beyond the beginner level, it is essential to widen your knowledge of “expressions.” Intelligent use of “expressions” can cut down the production time significantly by automating animations. It is an essential tool for rigging not only characters but entire compositions. If you wish to become a template artist, which is a very profitable business, you cannot avoid “expressions.”
You may start learning and maybe do a couple of small freelance gigs alone. Still, when you grow, it is unavoidable interacting with people. Whether it is a client, colleague, teammate, or temporary collaborator, working with people is complicated. You have to know how to clearly communicate with every stakeholder of your project. It is essential to understand what the client wants, which is not as straightforward as it appears. Moreover, it is vital to clearly communicate with your teammates. Keeping clarity of information such as color choices, deadlines, color themes, final deliverables, the project’s status, current completion, etc., is vital for any project’s success.
This article is about the skills you need to consider if you wish to become a master of motion design. It does not mean you need all of them to survive. Also, it does not mean that you need to exhaustively learn all of them before you become a motion designer. It simply means you must be serious about your craft and gradually build your arsenal of skills over the years. It takes over a decade and tens of thousands of working hours to mature in the mentioned skills. However, there is no turning back when you do because you are a truly dedicated motion designer—a master of the art.
In the final article of this series, which is the next post, we will introduce you to the crazy advanced domain of motion design. It may not even sound like motion design, but it is the grand-master level, which may even not be necessary for most of us to reach. But we will discuss it anyway before we finalize the series.