Tuesday, March 9, 2010

In His Own Words: Trent Armstrong, After Effects Guru

Trent Armstrong, Founder of the Dallas After Effects User Group, was kind enough to answer some questions about the industry and provide some valuable advice to young artists. Here is what Trent had to say...

Tell us about your career:
In 1994 (shortly after graduating college), I became Media Director at First Baptist Church, Tuscaloosa, AL while in school at The University of Alabama. I also did video for the football team as an undergraduate. I got my feet wet with Lightwave 3D back then and began to learn the craft of video editing.

I worked as a video producer and graphics designer in New Orleans doing legal video. It wasn't glamorous but I learned a lot about gear and got my first experience with non-linear editing.

After moving to Dallas in 1997 I started working in After Effects and found it hard to stop. After a few years into my job at BlueFishTV, I began creating video series graphics packages and DVD menus.

I'm now employed at Igniter Media and am still doing the things I love: directing, shooting, editing, and motion graphics.

In 2008, I founded the Dallas After Effects User Group

Given your expertise with After Effects, what advice can you give to students and graduates about understanding and using this program?
Experiment! Go down the list of effects and play with the controls. Start combining them and see what happens. If you only rely on what you already know, you won't grow.

And get involved with a community! That community could be your fellow students or a few people you admire in the business, but you need to have someone else to bounce ideas back and forth and show off your stuff. The Dallas After Effects User Group is a great place for that. I have been using AE for over 10 years and still am able to learn new techniques from our group members.

Finally, ask for honest criticism and don't be afraid of getting it.

What is a reasonable expectation of a career path for a newly graduated Media Arts & Animation student?
It's not typical to get the exact job you want right out of school. It does happen, but not often. Be willing to take a job that can grow with you. Then take that job seriously and blow people away with what you create. Be willing to learn new things like shooting and editing to make yourself more marketable.

What challenges have you seen in the industry in the past 2 years?
The industry seems to be saturated lately so it's difficult to get the exact position you would like.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you see young artists make?
With the explosion of great video tutorials by Video Copilot and Grayscale Gorilla, a lot of demo reels are starting to look the same. Artists are taking the tutorials and just changing text or colors instead of learning new techniques and making the effect "their own". Being inspired by someone else's work is part of being an artist. However, using someone's work with a few tweaks and calling it your own is not honest or creative.

What is your best advice for students pursuing their Media Arts & Animation degree?
Find a mentor. Connect with someone you admire and learn from them. Then use your skills to become a mentor for someone else. Part of being a mentor could involve creating your own tutorials.

What project are you most proud of and why?
I love what I do so it's hard to pick one project. If I had to settle on just one, it would be SMART created for Igniter Media. I combined a number of simple and complex techniques in After Effects including 3D rendered elements, advanced masking, and expressions.

Visit Trent's online tutorials:

Dallas After Effects User Group: http://www.dallasaeug.com/

Contact Trent: trent@ignitermedia.com

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