School of Motion

Staying Sane When Work is Slow

  • By Ryan Plummer
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Let's take a look at how to maximize your free time as a Motion Designer. 

As a Motion Designer you will inevitably have seasons of long-hours and tight deadlines, but there's also a good chance that you'll have free time, with no major projects to work on. 
So if there are no projects, how can you maximize your time as a Motion Designer?
Your brain would say that what you are about to read is common sense, and this is probably true. However, we (artists) can sometimes get caught up in the work itself and forget about things that might seem mundane but can actually have huge benefits — both artistically and personally.
So for the sake of motivation let's take a look at how you can make the most of your free time.

Adding Value

Downtime is a great time to build tools and processes for making your day-to-day work easier. Here's a few ways to add more value to your work.

Building Templates

With the release of the Essential Graphics panel, Adobe has made it even easier to create templates for everyday items. This includes lower thirds, opening titles, transitions, and much more.
So, are you tired of changing those lower thirds in After Effects, creating duplicate composition after duplicate composition, only to rearrange the animated elements to fit each new name and title? Well my friend you need to use the Essential Graphics Panel!
Using the EGP (as the cool kids say) you can take tedious repetitive MoGraph tasks and put them in a user friendly panel that can be edited directly inside of Premiere Pro. Letting you change elements like color fills, stroke widths, text kerning, or make transformations. You can also use expressions to make these templates do ridiculous stuff. The Motion Design industry has seriously only scratched the surface of what is possible with this incredible feature. If you’re not familiar with the Essential Graphics Panel check out our tutorial here. We've put together an entire video and post that will help get you started with this new feature.

Organizing Assets

Anybody have a messy hard drive? I get it. Your server may be full of disorganized assets. Maybe you rushed a project and your project files have multiple iterations of 'final' tacked on to the end of them. Maybe it's time to organize those files?
Maybe you never learned about the different ways in which you can organize a folder structure. While it may not be the sexiest thing to learn, it is wildly helpful to organize your projects with a consistent folder structure. 
Check out our pro tip about building out detailed folder structures with ease using Post Haste. You can also read up on how you can incorporate that into your workflow here.
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Let the power of organization flow through you...

Clean up the Office

The almighty coffee is powerful and wonderful, divine in nature. We come in, we gulp it down, we’re thankful, and then we put our mugs (or holy chalices) in the sink when we’re done. Add that sink begins to fill up...
Do yourself, and your team, a favor and clean up your workplace. Some say that people are more productive with messy workstations, but where does the line between messy and gross begin to blur?...
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Hopefully your office isn't this messy

Learning

Downtime is a perfect time to grow your skills. Here's a few different ways to learn new things as a Motion Designer.

Reading

Books in any digestible format, whether it’s words on a page or audio, are amazing ways to elevate your thoughts and deepen your understandings of the world around you.
Reach out to those that influence you the most and ask what books they recommend. Sometimes, they already have a reading list published on their website — like The Futur’s book list. If you want to learn about how to grow your skills as a Motion Designer the Freelance Manifesto is a great book to help you refine your skills and land bigger projects.
School of Motion Recommended Books:
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Sounds about right...

Tutorials

There are TONS of people on the internet sharing their knowledge about so many different applications it’s bananas. Not only can you learn about different software, you can also learn how to speak to clients, budget, learn legal speak, and have a personal yoga instructor lead you through mountain pose. All of these things can help you level up at alarming speeds, so much so, that your only obstacle should be how to properly manage the information overload.
Use tutorials to learn new skills, and grow. What I would recommend is taking them in one at a time. Watch through it, try and replicate the process, and then save the tutorial to an archive where you can come back to it in the future.
I don’t recommend you binge watch 10 tutorials in a day without actually practicing the content. You may gain some insight, but you’re very liable to forget what was taught unless you put what you learn into practice.

A Few Recommended Tutorial Resources:

3D:
2D:
Conceptual:
Lil' Bit of Everything:

Paid Motion Design Resources

If you've never taken a Motion Design course you are seriously missing out. Tons of experienced industry folks have created detailed courses covering just about every conceivable concept in Motion Design.
If you like working in a group environment with critiques from professionals I seriously recommend taking a School of Motion Bootcamp. They are really quick ways to learn essential Motion Design skills the 'right' way in only a few weeks.
Another great option is the Path to MoGraph. The free 10-day course is the best introduction I know into the world of Motion Design. Even if you've been in the industry a while it can be a refreshing look at the day-to-day workflow of professional Motion Designers.

Research

You’ve gone through so many tutorials, and you’re kinda burnt out from the last project. You need a low energy task to help repair your brain while at work, and you can’t lay back and nap or play on Facebook all day. Or, I guess you could, but... come on... you're better than that. 
There are great sites on the internet that offer really fascinating artwork and project files to pluck through.
Think of it as a treasure hunt, but instead of gold dab-loons you get MoGraph inspiration. Which is really more valuable than gold... amiright?
Inspiration Resources:
Here are some websites to check out artwork:
As a side note, I would like to recommend Notion.so as a place to start your own personal wiki for the content you find. Both for saving images and tutorials, generating your own personal reference paradise.
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Research can lead to enlightenment, Gandalf goes to it often...

Giving Back

Turn your me time into we time. (Sounds like a t-shirt slogan if I've ever heard of one...)

Community Investment

Remember when you first started out? The world of Motion Design was very scary, exciting, captivating, odd, and many other extremes. Well, there are still multitudes of new Motion Designers pouring in to the industry every year. They need a community to help guide them.
You can help right where you are, from Facebook groups to forums. To start, simply give feedback to people who are asking for it. There are plenty of people out there that are unsure of themselves. By you encouraging them where they are doing well, you can help boost their confidence. On the other hand, giving them constructive feedback where they might need improvement can help them aim their focus and grow.
If you are already giving a lot of feedback you may have the opportunity to teach the community. For that, you have a few different options!
  • Starting a YouTube Channel
  • Applying to be a TA at School of Motion (an SOM approved way to give back)
  • Blogging about what you are seeing happening in the industry. Hit us up if you're interested.

Case Study and File Release

Holdframe allows Motion Designers to dig through professional project files. It's an incredible service. Digging through someone else’s project is a good look into their brain. 
Maybe you can do this too? Why not offer up a file to those in your community and let them poke around and see how you accomplished certain tasks? Post it, let them download it, tinker, and if they don’t download it, well that’s fine too. You’re just seeing if you can help the motion world.
Another super cool way to let people in to your mind is to publish a case study. If you've never seen one before a case study is simply a web page documenting the major steps in accomplishing the end goal. It's helpful for other Motion Designers and wildly helpful for marketing your skills. 
Here's a few questions that can be answered with a case study:
  • What was the initial pitch? 
  • What did the mood-board look like?
  • What Hurdles did you face? 
  • Show us the concept art!
  • What initial animations tests did you have?
  • How did the animatic turn into the final animation?
  • What were your favorite parts to animate?
  • What was the most valuable lesson for you?
  • If its a personal project, are you going to release the project file?

Awesome Motion Design Case Study Examples

Here are some case studies to read up on!
This is just a brief list to help you grow and keep busy at work during the slow season. When you have down time you can randomly, or intentionally, pick one of these suggestions and run with it. You never know where it will take you. Spare hours across a year add up. If anything, I hope that this list acts as a new found guide for your down time. Now go out there and get after it!
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