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John David Hutton reviews Creating Motion Graphics with After Effects

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CMG with After Effects, Vol. 1: The Essentials (3rd Edition, Version 6.5) Trish Meyer Chris Meyer John David Hutton reviews Creating Motion Graphics with After Effects
Creativecow.net Book Review


CMG with After Effects Vol. 1

John David Hutton
John David Hutton
mYth productions
Kansas City, Kansas, USA

©2004|2005 John David Hutton and Creativecow.net. All rights are reserved.

Article Focus:
CreativeCOW leader John David Hutton reviews Trish and Chris Meyer's Creating Motion Graphics with After Effects...Volume 1: The Essentials, published by CMP Books, 496 pages, 3rd Book & DVD edition (September 10, 2004), ISBN:1-57820-249-3, and writes, "Affectionately referred to by After Effects evangelists world-wide as "The Bible," the "Meyers books" or "CMG" have become not only the standard for Adobe After Effects training but also the de facto standard for all training books to live up to. The design and layout as well as the graphical elements make this set of books not only candy for the mind and eye but great learning tools to aid the reader in understanding the vast field of motion graphics and After Effects."


Book Cover
To put myself in the shoes of Adobe, I would be very thankful that 3rd party books such as this exist. Just think how differently the world of software may be if the Meyers chose to write this for any other software compositing package, say Eyeon's Digital Fusion for example. How many more users would've been persuaded over the years to check it out instead of After Effects? I know it wasn't too long before I started on AE 3.1 that I saw my first Meyers book. Would I have chosen differently? I can't help but wonder.

After Effects users who've read the previous books will inevitably ask if it's worth the money to buy the new book, particularly when they already own the previous one. "Visit the bookstore and see for yourself" is my usual response. By default I usually skip versions, meaning if I have the book for AE 6.0 I'll usually wait until the book for 7.0 comes out. This time around I had the book from AE 5.5 and as our company skipped 6.0 and purchased 6.5 this book was a convenient "book upgrade" to have. I learned by re-reading some sections how much I'd forgotten, quick keys or shortcuts or workarounds I hadn't used in enough time to remain locked in my brain.


For new users, it would be very foolish to let the CMG books go unread. For around $40-60 it's the cheapest and best resource you'll find for the price, or just about any book price for that matter; they include a lot of free plug-ins and extra bonus material (tutorials and extras) to seel the deal.

To use 180° thinking, as a publisher what would you do to make your books sell poorly? Black & white pages, no pictures, no sidebars, no design elements, dry reading, no humor, no warmth, no wisdom, facts only. In addition, you'd want to confuse the reader, make no connections, give nothing for them to follow, show only one way of doing something and remain rigid in the solution, no matter what the problem, in the way you accomplish it. Sadly, I've probably just described 50% of the stuff out there.

The writers and editors must've had these faux pas and blunders in mind, at least subconsciously, when they began assembling these books because nothing in these pages will imply the book a dull read. Whenever I read any book I always end up comparing it to the Meyer's books.


So why is the book any good?

It's tutorial-based. Nowadays that's becoming more and more the "norm" but their tutorials seem very intuitive, explaining much and showing more than one way to skin the digital kitty. The accompanying CD holds the project files and they've supplied a before and after version in case you need a finished project for the next section (if the next tutorial builds upon the previous one). This makes it possible to pick up from where you left off or start up at just about any place in the book. Very convenient!


The book is also eye-candy.
Many users scoff at this, implying that as long as the book had the required info then there's little benefit of it being "pretty." This book goes way past attractiveness, as the sidebars and page-length notes on a pitfall or hidden feature help the user in really understanding how to find things in After Effects. Their use of color (contrast) further helps the reader pick out important (and easily overlooked) pieces of information very easily. So while the book IS attractive, it's a consequence of the author's excellent use of page layout and design. It's literally stuffed with valuable information.


The opening of the book dives into a project, bypassing needless explanation and history of the program. Next it covers layers and how to handle them on the timeline. Modes, Masks, and Mattes are covered next. The world of cameras, lights, and 3D animation comes next, opening up many more possibilities and creative techniques. The sometimes complex topic of hierarchies is after that (parenting, nesting, precomposing) followed by perhaps the most entertaining section, Effects Essentials. The new "textacy" features and presets are also covered, highlighting one of the newer and more powerful enhancements to the software. Lastly and appropriately, it covers importing and more importantly rendering.

The book, with exception of perhaps the first section, does work linearly from beginning to end, taking its reader through different tutorials and more interesting work. Many of the footage items and projects will be familiar to owners of the previous versions, so much so that if an artist includes said footage in their demo reel, it's almost immediately spotted - visit the cow's DEMO REEL forum when you get a chance, many talented users often post their work!



SUMMARY

Buy It ButtonWhether or not you agree that these authors produce the best after effects books on the market, they are most definitely worth your investment in time and money to check out. You won't put the book down without learning something new!

5 cows for great authors of great training material!







Please visit the forums or read other articles at Creativecow.net if you found this page from a direct link.



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