This year was bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
Here's a thing that happened this year: We thought it would be cool to buy some drinks for a few School of Motion alumni who happened to be attending the NAB conference in Las Vegas. Maybe appetizers, too... ya know, to really make a night of it. I also knew that my buddy Chris Do was going to be there, so I figured why not split the bill with him and invite some of his audience from The Futur to hang too. And since we were both friends with Michael Jones from MoGraph Mentor / Create Academy, why not get him involved too?
Two weeks later, we were renting out the massive Beerhaus and throwing a rager for nearly 350 people which was co-sponsored by us, The Futur, Greyscalegorilla, MoGraph Mentor, Video CoPilot, aescripts + aeplugins, Red Giant, and Maxon.
A PERFECT METAPHOR FOR 2018
The NAB MoGraph meetup (happening again in 2019, btw) was the perfect metaphor for the year we had at School of Motion. We had an idea that we thought would add some fun and value to the industry, and it grew into something far bigger and cooler than we ever could have dreamed. We pinch ourselves all the time, and feel truly blessed and lucky to be able to work every day to help our students and the industry at large continue to grow and kick ass.
Alright, that's enough of the mushy stuff... let's get down to brass tacks. What did we actually do this year?
We beefed up the ol' curriculum
The first word in our company name is "School," so it should stand to reason that we spend a lot of energy and time making classes. This year, we got after it and released 4 courses, all of which are packed to the gills with MoGraph goodness.
THE PATH TO MOGRAPH
Our first free course dropped this year, and features 10-days of indoctrination into the world of Motion Design. It features hours of free training, and even has a mini-documentary about a day in the life of a working MoGrapher. Our team traveled to Detroit and visited 4 amazing studios to see what it's like inside the belly of the beast.
RIGGING ACADEMY 2.0
We completely revamped our Rigging Academy course in light of the new Duik Bassel release. Morgan Williams, once again, completely outdid himself and made the most comprehensive After Effects rigging course on the planet. Featuring lots of custom artwork and rigs designed just for this class, it's basically everything you need to learn how to rig characters for animation.
CINEMA 4D BASECAMP
This class was years in the making, and for good reason. We wanted to create the ultimate intro to Cinema 4D, and we wanted to do it right. We pulled out all the stops, enlisting the brilliant EJ Hassenfratz as an instructor, bringing on Animade to do the intro animation, and fleshing out a massive 12-week course that brings you from 3D zero to 3D hero like nothing else on the planet.
The class has proved insanely popular, and has been updated to reflect the new features in Cinema 4D R20. This class is just the first of many 3D-centric courses we have planned.
PHOTOSHOP + ILLUSTRATOR UNLEASHED
We've got an ambitious plan to create a full, soup-to-nuts curriculum for Motion Design. We want students to be able to come in super green and to have all of the training at their disposal necessary to become a professional. Photoshop + Illustrator Unleashed is the perfect class to kick start your journey into the world of Motion Design. Jake Bartlett leads you on an 8-week journey toward proficiency in the two most common design apps on the planet.
And, as if the course itself wasn't cool enough, the legendary Buck used their talents to create a mind-blowing intro animation for the class. Working with this studio has been one of my... (wait for it)... Buck-et list items for years :)
ADVANCED MOTION METHODS
So... this class went on sale a few weeks ago and sold out in 5 minutes. That should tell you something about how popular or first "advanced" course has been. We somehow managed to convince (blackmail) the legendary Sander Van Dijk to work with us on creating a beast of a class designed to teach you some of the advanced techniques he implements in his work. It's a class for the experienced animator looking to get to the next level, and it's full of amazing assets we commissioned from the likes of Illo, Sarah Beth Morgan, Gareth O'brien, Lucas Brooking, Laura Alejo, and more.
Oh, and we needed an animated intro for this class too so we asked (threatened) our buddies over at Gunner to help us out. They made this animation, which isn't bad... I guess :)
We beefed up our platform
You may not know this if you've never taken a School of Motion class, but we have a very unique and powerful custom learning platform running our classes. We launched it in 2017, and have been iterating and improving on it ever since. This year we spent a ton of development resources on improving the load times for our site, doing all kinds of fancy server-side caching and CDN'ing and refactoring. If you noticed our site feeling a bit snappier lately, you have our incredible developers to thank (and buy beers).
SITE DESIGN OVERHAUL, ROUND 1!
We now have so much content on the site (with more added almost daily) that our navigation and organization needed some love. We added featured sections to all of our main pages and have been updating them to make sure you always know what's going on and what's new.
COURSE NAVIGATOR IMPROVEMENTS
We improved the UI in our course viewer, and did a lot of work to enable much better video playback. We've also just rolled out a new feature (in beta) that will be an unbelievably helpful tool for all of our students! More on that in a bit.
MACHINE LEARNING TO THE RESCUE!
We've grown a crazy amount in terms of web traffic and in terms of students. In order to make sure we can answer any question that pops up and can handle any support issue imaginable, we've invested in a bigger support / student experience team and have started using some pretty amazing tools to enable our audience to get information from us much more quickly.
If you spot the green chat bubble in the bottom-right corner of our site, give it a click and you'll be able to ask any questions you may have about our courses, content, or company. We have been building a huge library of FAQ's that will intelligently served up, and if you manage to stump the bot your message will be transferred to the fantastic, flesh and blood humans that make up our support and student experience team. During registration periods we often have live-chat enabled so you can get near-instantaneous responses.
We beefed up our team!
It's hard to believe, but this whole shebang started out six years ago with one guy awkwardly talking about After Effects into a webcam. We are now a distributed team of around 70 people sprinkled across the globe fighting for MoGraph glory and such. From our full-time team, to our brilliant instructors, our incredible Teaching-Assistants, our stellar contributor network, our student experience team, our development team, and the other misfits helping us keep things in line we are all dedicated to the same mission: To break down the barriers to learning, mastering and working in Motion Design.
SAY HELLO TO JEAHN LAFFITTE AND RYAN PLUMMER
We recently welcomed into the full-time fold a pair of beardsmen who have been working tirelessly on our courses and our free content. Jeahn (pronounced with a soft-J) has been helping us cope with the ginormous amount of content we're currently building for upcoming courses, and Ryan has been working on the content side, helping us put out more articles, tutorials, and social content. Both are insanely passionate about the Motion Design community, and were not afraid to try eating "gaggers" on our recent company retreat to Providence, RI.
Ryan and his wife also recently welcomed their first baby! We couldn't be happier for them, and we know that fatherhood will suit Ryan just fine. It's a lot like using After Effects... easy at first and then brutal and unforgiving later on.
THE SOM FAMILY IS LEGION. THAT MEANS BIG.
We've gotten to work with a ton of new, talented people this year who have been helping us train the next generation of Motion Designers. We're grateful to each and every one of them, and consider them part of the School of Motion family. By the way, we're always looking for new friends and allies in the battle against bad MoGraph, so find out more here!
WE THREW SOME PARTIES, AND SPONSORED MORE!
In all honesty, we wake up every day excited and thankful to be able to do what we do. Our community is amazing, and as a wise man once said, "There is nothing better than being able to give back by buying people booze and food and throwing parties." This year we sponsored or co-sponsored lots of events, and we plan on doing even more in 2019!
WE PUT OUT A LOT OF CONTENT
This year we got really organized and started putting out content on a very regular basis. The Motion Mondays newsletter shows up like clockwork, our podcast runs once every two weeks, and we fill in the gaps with lots of articles and video tutorials. We've been mixing up short-and-sweet content with long form pieces that try to dig deep into topics that we find interesting. Here were some of the highlights from this year:
Maxon's World Domination with Paul Babb
How did Cinema 4D overtake Maya, 3DS Max and many other programs to achieve MoGraph dominance? The answer lies primarily in the hands of Paul Babb, Maxon's head of marketing and one of the nicest (and most interesting) guys in the biz.
MoGraph Legal Advice with Andy Contiguglia
This two-part podcast interview dives into some of the big questions Motion Designers face. Do you need a contract to do client work? Should you incorporate your business? What can you do if you don't get paid?
Growing a MoGraph Studio with Michelle Oullette of Yeah Haus
In this interview, Michelle tells us how she and her husband founded Yeah Haus, how she got so darn good at drawing, and other tales from Detroit. She also discusses some very uncomfortable situations she's faced as a female artist in this business.Dat
A brutally honest interview with Ash Thorp
Do you wish you could make work like Ash Thorp? Well, after listening to this episode you might have second thoughts. The inimitable Ash Thorp talks about his philosophies on work, mastery, and life. This episode is a doozy.
The Economics of Motion Design with TJ Kearney
TJ Kearney is an Executive Producer at Instrument and one of the co-founders of Oddfellows. In this interview he gives us a masterclass in the economics of Motion Design. He holds nothing back and talks real $$$ amounts.
The one and only Sander Van Dijk answers questions from our audience for over 2 hours! We cover everything from his career to how he manages clients to how he approaches life. There are tons of actionable tips in this podcast.
Experiment. Fail. Repeat. Tales + Advice from MoGraph Heroes (e-book)
We put together a 250+ page e-book featuring wisdom from over 80 amazing artists and influencers from the industry. Then we gave it away for free. Check out this "Tribe of Mentors" for Motion Designers.
2nd Annual 12 Days of MoGraph Contest
Our 2nd annual holiday giveaway features a combined $39,272 worth of prizes. Each day a winner is chosen, and they win the previous days' prizes as well. This year will be hard to top next year... but we will :)
How to Land a Vimeo Staff Pick
In this dense article Caleb Ward breaks down how to play the odds in getting your work chosen for a Vimeo Staff Pick. He did his homework and put together the most complete and actionable guide on the internet. Even Vimeo gave him props.
$7 vs $1000 Motion Design: Is there a difference?
We hired 3 Motion Designers at 3 very different price points, gave them the same brief, and recorded what happened next. Do you get what you pay for in this industry? The results were fascinating. Check it out.
The Ultimate Guide to Motion Design Meetups and Events
We compiled (and continue to update) a huge list of events and meetups for Motion Designers all over the world. You'll want to bookmark this one and check it every once in a while for new events.
Using Master Properties in After Effects
Master Properties in After Effects are a completely game changing feature. If you haven't learned how they work yet, check out this tutorial from Caleb where he dives into a bunch of uses for this killer tool.
Build a Render-Bot in After Effects
Did you know that you can create a render robot in After Effects using off the shelf software? Check out this breakdown of how you can use automation to build a MoGraph machine that can render animations for your clients 24/7 without you lifting a finger.
So, what next?
What? Isn't that enough!? CAN'T WE REST NOW? I kid, I kid. We have a lot of big plans for 2019. We'll build on the progress we've made this year, and try to get one or two steps closer to achieving our goals. Here are some of the things we've got in the works.
NEW COURSES IN THE PIPELINE
We currently have 5 new courses in various stages of development. In the next 3 months we'll probably add another 1-2 to the pipeline and will start developing those. After all these years we've really honed in on what makes a truly engaging and effective online learning experience, and we're bringing that knowledge to bear on Design, Illustration, Visual Effects, Title Design, and After Effects Expressions. We're working with a lot of new instructors, and the classes will be amazing.
We'll also begin adding more 3D content and curriculum with the goal of achieving a full-blown learning path from start to finish for anyone interested in the world of 3D. Be on the lookout for big, hulking news on that front early next year.
CONSTANT SITE IMPROVEMENTS
In 2019 we will be continuing to improve our platform in ways that add value to our students and wider audience. By the time you're reading this, we may have already added search to our classes. This may not sound like a big deal, but it's actually huge.
See, all of our video and audio content gets transcribed, which means that the search tool works with video.You can actually search for a term, and our site will find places where the instructor has mentioned that term or phrase. You'll then be taken to that spot in the video where your search term shows up. It's an unbelievably helpful feature, especially since our classes include so much content.
We'll also be adding a notifications feature to the site, making it much easier for students and teaching-assistants to stay up-to-date on the current session. Critique notifications, new content notifications, and other course-related information can be relayed within our platform. We're hoping that this feature improves communication, and lays the groundwork for some really cool things we're planning down the road.
We're doing an overhaul to the design of our critiquing tool and our course navigator, creating a better user experience and making things easier to find in the classes. Every piece of user feedback we get helps us to make the site better, and we're slowly but surely whittling away at the rough edges.
And finally, we're doing a design refresh to the entire School of Motion brand. We're now on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube... We're sponsoring events, we're speaking at events, and we're putting out loads of content each week. We're growing fast, and our design standards need to grow with us. To help us nail the perfect branding and design guidelines, we've enlisted the help of [NAME REDACTED], and the entire process is being documented and will be shown on [NAME REDACTED]'s YouTube channel.
MORE PARTIES & MEETUPS
We had so much fun this year meeting all of our friends, students, alumni, and contributors that we want to double down in 2019. We're going to be rolling out an official process for sponsorships and doing as much as we can to help MoGraph Meetups spring up all over the world. We're committed to helping the community IRL, not just on the interwebs.
The Keyframes Conference is in February, The NAB MoGraph Meetup will be returning in April, Blend will be happening in September, and you can bet that School of Motion will be showing up all over the place at events like these next year. If you're looking for sponsors for your event, please hit us up!
TONS OF CONTENT, MORE VIDEOS
We've already got some incredible new podcasts recorded, including chats with Joel Pilger, Erica Gorochow, and Adrian Winter. We'll be putting tons of articles, and getting back to our roots by beefing up our video tutorial production.
We recently dropped a new video about Creating a Render Bot in After Effects. That video was used as a test-case for some new production techniques we're experimenting with. Our goal is to push the production value on tutorials, and to be able to consistently release new content. We started ramping up in the end of this year, and in 2019 you'll see a lot more video from us.
The Path Forward
2019 will mark 6 years since schoolofmotion.com was registered. Looking back on what our international team of MoGraph misfits has been able to accomplish is really humbling. None of this would be possible without the tireless efforts of Alaena Vandermost, Caleb Ward, Amy Sundin, Ryan Plummer, Jeahn Laffitte, Hannah Guay, Shelby Ward, Kaylee Kean, Alana Corwin, Al and Robin Martino, Kristijan, Hlev, Danijel, and Andrej at Axilis, our Teaching Assistants, our amazing contributors, our instructors, Nol, Mike, Morgan, Jake, EJ, and Sander, and everyone else who has helped us keep the plane in the air.
It's an honor to work with so many amazing, brilliant people. It's an honor to serve one of the coolest and most open industries in the world. And it's an honor to have even one minute of your time and attention. If you've made it this far, I want to thank you for being a part of the School of Motion community. We're on a mission to break down the barriers to learning, mastering, and working in Motion Design... and we wouldn't have a chance in hell without you.
From all of us at School of Motion, happy new year! We hope 2019 is your (and our) best year yet.
-Joey and the entire School of Motion team