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Dale Janzen reviews Adobe After Effects 6.0 Classroom in a Book

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Dale Janzen reviews Adobe After Effects 6.0 Classroom in a Book
A Creative COW Book Review



Dale Janzen reviews Adobe After Effects 6.0 CIB
Dale Janzen
The Degaje Group
Bartlett, Illionois, USA

Article Focus:
In this article,
Dale Janzen takes a thorough look at Adobe After Effects 6.0 Classroom in a Book and concludes that it's not so much a reference book, but a great introduction to what After Effects can do. Read Dale's complete report to find out if you should get this book.


January 1, 2004

My apologies to those of you who never experienced the world of drawing boards, t-squares, rubber cement and rapidograph pens, but I don't think you fully appreciate the absolute revolution that the computer has brought to the creative process. Seeing Pagemaker for the first time was staggering. Photoshop totally floored me... and still does. I am just now transitioning from years of static imagery into motion graphics and effects by way of After Effects 6 (even better – now 6.5), and once again am experiencing that familiar light-headed giddiness that accompanies such magical discovery. I suppose those of you who for years have pushed this software as far as it will go in real-world job situations might be to some degree over the “magic” of it all, but it's still all new and wonderful to me.

And it's from this perspective that I read and worked my way through the exercises found in Adobe After Effects 6.0 Classroom in a Book, nicely put together by the folks at Adobe, and Belief – those pioneering west coast motion graphics people – and published by Adobe Press. This book will appeal primarily to those who are relatively new to After Effects, and not afraid to dive right in and get busy. Contained within each chapter are sequential lessons that by the end of the book combine to create a finished 18-second motion graphics project. Breaking complete projects into smaller elements is key to the Belief approach to managing workflow, making it easier to complete complex projects and accommodate client changes. Says so on the credit page in the back. Makes total sense to me.

This book begins to teach important concepts even before chapter one begins, and if you're one of those who typically skip over “Getting Started” sections in such books, you'll miss a few important points. For example, don't ignore the few paragraphs on page 4 under “Setting Up A Folder Structure”. Of course you can adapt the suggested method to suit your own particular circumstances but an organized, consistent workflow and proper preparation will no doubt save untold time and aggravation down the road.

Each chapter follows the same helpful sequence – outlining up front what you will learn and helping get things organized for each work session. There are finished movies of each chapter’s work (as well as the entire completed project) which helps give a sense of what you will be working toward. The text leads you step-by-step through the process of creating each chapter’s work, and includes many screen captures (black and white throughout – color would be great) that clearly illustrate the process. Because the focus of this book is on learning the basic concepts, interface and workflow of After Effects, most graphic elements and other necessary contents are provided on the accompanying CD, ready to incorporate into your project. Creating graphic elements in other software (such as Photoshop, Illustrator or the 3D app of your choice) – something routine in most professional situations – is largely outside the scope of this book. And that's appropriate for this book and its intended audience.

I found it beneficial to first go through each chapter’s lesson as presented, then go back and work further through anything that I didn't fully grasp at first. While it was not hard to make things work as the lesson outlined, the text did not always go into the level of detail that I would have liked as to why certain procedures were necessary, or what circumstances dictated a particular course of action. For me it's not enough just to get it working, I want to understand the process. And while taking this “step-by-step” approach to After Effects does make it easier to understand, from where I am at I can clearly see the unmistakable rise of the learning curve ahead.

__________________

June 14, 2004

Now let me say that a number of months have passed since I wrote the first few paragraphs of this review (frankly, it's nice to be that busy again with billable work), but this interim period has afforded me a chance to revisit the book after additional exposure to After Effects. I must say, the book’s “break-it-down-to-manageable-chunks” approach has proven invaluable. (Still worthwhile now that 6.5 has been released until Adobe Press publishes an update. Most – if not all – of the concepts and material covered are just as valid for the new version of AE.) To this relative newbie, projects that seem daunting in their entirety are do-able via this process. And keeping this way of working in mind while analyzing some of the amazing work being produced today helps direct your own creative process as you work on whatever you have on your plate.

This book is a great kick-start for the beginner. In a short period of time, things are moving and dancing on the screen. It will weed out those who find the depth and complexity of After Effects to be either overkill or simply too much work. But if it doesn't kill you (or at least your enthusiasm to continue), it will make you stronger. The lessons and exercises in this book in combination with a little time (and a generous portion of the appropriate COW forums) will solidly prepare you to move from newbie to “What’s next?”, which is exactly what it is intended to do.


SUMMARY:

Because this book remains on target in both audience and purpose, I give it 4-1/2 COWs!



It's not a thorough AE reference book, but a great introduction to what can be done with After Effects... not too little and not too much. Very readable and easy to follow... best when simultaneously working the exercises on your computer.







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