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From Zero to Hero: How School of Motion Plans Your Career Growth
How do you go from MoGraph Muppet to Design Deity?
You want to build a successful career, but you don’t know where to start. Motion Design offers so many different paths that it can often be overwhelming, especially if you don’t have a design background. If you’re looking to get started the right way, with the proper fundamentals and a dedicated path, where should you start? More to the point, how can School of Motion get you where you want to go?
Our mission at School of Motion is to break down the barriers to entry for motion designers. That’s all well and good, but how does that help you actually begin your journey? We have more than a dozen classes, some with pretty advanced techniques, so how do you know which one is best for you? While we encourage our community to challenge themselves and forge their own path, we actually did design a path that takes you from an absolute newbie to a fully-fledged motion designer, complete with a workable portfolio and a slick demo reel.
In this article, we’re going to show you the course curriculum we developed...and why we think it’s the best way to go from zero to hero. The courses go from:
Learning About the Industry
Before we even get into the actual training, we have to mention our Scholarship Course. Since 2020, we have partnered with Motion Forward to offer the global community a chance to participate in one of our interactive courses free of charge. This is a way for us to provide access to educational resources for historically underrepresented groups in the motion design industry. This opportunity comes around a few times a year, right before we open registration for one of our four sessions.
This is actually a short course that will walk you through some basics to get you started. There is also a challenge presented to help you learn if this is truly the right path for you. We want to encourage people to test themselves, which is why our courses aren’t easy. This isn’t to discourage you, but to prepare you for the hard work ahead.
Path to MoGraph
This is one of the best courses for learning about the Motion Design industry. The free 10-day course will help you learn the day-to-day tasks that artists face in their careers. This includes learning about some of the larger studios, how freelancing works, and what sort of jobs you might find early and later in your career.
Along the way, you'll learn about the software, principles, and techniques used in the field through in-depth case-studies and tons of bonus material. Path to MoGraph is a great way to discover if this is the career you’ve always wanted.
Once you’ve decided to start down the road to MoGraph Legend, it’s time to jump into our courses with both feet. Hold on tight.
Building a Strong Foundation
Photoshop and Illustrator Unleashed
If you want to start a successful career in motion design, you have to understand the tools of the trade. Even before you dive into After Effects, you need to have a firm grasp on the industry’s favorite design software: Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. That’s why the first step in your journey should be Photoshop and Illustrator Unleashed.
The key skills that make you a good motion designer are creative skills: Design and Animation. However, you can’t really dive into creative projects without an understanding of the software that makes it all work. That means learning the principles of design and the tools that bring your ideas to life. By the end of this course, you'll be able to create your own artwork from scratch with tools and workflows used by professional designers every day.
There are two major disciplines in Motion Design: Motion and Design (get it?) You can’t have one without the other...and honestly, Design is the more important skill to practice. If you search for the best MoGraph videos of the last year, you’ll see a dozen different motion styles, all of which work well for their given artists. The one thing they’ll all have in common is rock-solid design. If you can master that, you’re already ahead of the game.
In Design Kickstart, you’ll take on industry-inspired projects while learning key design concepts that will elevate your design work right away. You’re not just learning the principles of design, but how they are specifically applied to the world of motion. By the end of this course, you’ll have all of the foundational design knowledge necessary to start crafting storyboards that are motion ready.
After Effects Kickstart
If there is one piece of software you need to learn to be a motion designer, it is Adobe After Effects. This is the workhorse of our industry, and developing a firm skillset here can set you up for a very successful career. We don’t joke around when we call this the ultimate After Effects intro course for motion designers. In this course, you'll learn the most commonly used tools, and best practices for using them while mastering the After Effects interface. You’ll even learn about the history of Motion Design, although sadly not presented by a stuffy professor in a worn tweed jacket.
After Effects Kickstart is the ultimate After Effects intro course for motion designers. In this course, you'll learn the most commonly used tools and best practices for using them while mastering the After Effects interface. With this software in your toolbelt, you are ready to tackle any number of projects in your career.
Once you’ve gone through these courses, you’ll have developed a strong foundation and will be prepared for more advanced challenges.
Refining Your Creative Skills
Once you have a strong foundation, it’s time to learn all about motion...specifically Animation. Just like design, animation comes with a set of principles that are universal, whether you’re working in 2D or 3D, with line drawings or claymation. This is a critical course to round out your skillset before you dive into the meat and potatoes of motion design.
Animation Bootcamp teaches you the art of beautiful movement. In this course, you'll learn the principles behind great animation, and how to apply them in After Effects. While the focus is certainly on Adobe’s most popular animation software, these principles can be applied to any application you use from here on out.
While Design Kickstart is an introduction to the principles of design and how to use them in our industry, Design Bootcamp is a project-based class. This is where we put you through the paces now that you know a bit more about how to structure your creative compositions.
Design Bootcamp shows you how to put design knowledge into practice through several real-world client jobs. You’ll create style frames and storyboards while watching typography, composition, and color theory lessons in a challenging, social environment. This is a challenging but incredibly rewarding course and we love to see the work that our alumni bring at the end.
Cinema 4D Basecamp
In recent years, it has become somewhat expected for motion designers to possess some level of skill with 3D animation, and Maxon’s Cinema 4D is by far the most often-used 3D application. That’s why we think it is so important to pick up confidence with the software, so we designed the best course in the world: Cinema 4D Basecamp. Seriously, there is no better course for Cinema 4D out there, and we brought in the very best teacher to show you the ropes.
Learn Cinema 4D, from the ground up, from Maxon Certified Trainer, EJ Hassenfratz. This course will get you comfortable with the basics of modeling, lighting, animation, and many other important topics for 3D Motion Design. Master basic 3D principles and lay the foundation for more advanced subjects in the future.
Now, at this point in your educational journey, you should have a sense for where you want to go next. Motion Design has a ton of wonderful niches to explore, from character creation to user interface. For the next few courses, we’ll discuss an optimal path for someone looking to become a Jack of All Trades.
Developing Advanced Skills
At this point in your journey, it’s time to reinforce those core skills by picking up a few advanced classes. These are definitely challenging, even for experienced artists, but they will set you apart from everyone else in your peer group.
Advanced Motion Methods
If you want to take your After Effects skills to a more professional level, this is the course to take. Sander Van Dijk is one of the best animators in the industry, and we don’t say that lightly. In this advanced course, you'll learn the techniques that top animators like Sander use for the biggest studios and brands out there
In Advanced Motion Methods you'll learn how to structure animations according to geometric proportions found in nature, deal with complexity, create cool transitions, and learn tips that only a seasoned After Effects veteran with years of experience can give. This is a difficult course, but one that you will remember as a defining moment in your artistic journey.
Cinema 4D Ascent
We weren’t kidding when we said Cinema 4D Basecamp is the best course available to learn about 3D design. If you find that you’re ready to continue down that path, then you’ll be happy to learn we also have the best follow up to C4D Basecamp as well. We asked ourselves how an artist can go from beginner to expert, honed those lessons down to 12 intensive weeks, and came up with Cinema 4D Ascent.
In this course, you'll learn to master marketable 3D concepts in Cinema 4D. You’ll learn intermediate to advanced techniques, including 3D rigging and photorealism.
Illustration for Motion
It would be woefully inadequate to call this course a drawing class. Yes, you will learn some basic illustration techniques, but there is so much more packed into this. We combined a design class with an introduction to illustrative art, all taught by one of the most stylish designers in the industry: Sarah Beth Morgan. You’ll learn how to use proper drawing design techniques, but also how those apply to motion design projects.
In Illustration for Motion, you'll learn the foundations of modern illustration with a focus on bringing your art to life. By the end of the course, you'll be equipped to create incredible illustrated works of art that you can use in your animation projects right away.
Building Some Character
If you really want to make yourself indispensable, it’s important to round out your skillset with some specific, niche techniques.
Character Animation Bootcamp and Rigging Academy
Character creation and animation is a crucial skills for more advanced animation. We’ve developed two courses aimed at preparing you for all types of character work. They go together so well, we’ve actually made it a bundle. When you buy a session of Character Animation Bootcamp, you get a session of Rigging Academy for free.
Character Animation Bootcamp is where we think your journey should start, and we understand that might seem backwards. In case you’re unfamiliar, character animation usually starts with design, then goes to rigging, and finally ends in animation. However, we lean into the “push you into the deep end and hope you can swim” school of thought. Rigging is very technical, and it is easier to learn if you already know what a good rig is able to do. If you’ve ever tried to animate a character in After Effects, you know how difficult it can be. In this course, you'll learn key character animation techniques in After Effects. From simple movements to complex scenes, you'll be confident in your character animation skills by the end of this course.
Rigging Academy adds in the technical details of how to achieve a solid rig in your characters. Now that you’ve had the experience of working with properly set-up puppets, you can apply those lessons to your own custom designs. Rigging is the Unsung Hero of Character Animation, and this course is designed to teach you how to rig almost ANYTHING in After Effects.
Practical Motion Design
If you want to see what it really takes to be a motion designer, we created a course that mimics real-world client interactions from beginning to end.
There is no better way to learn the ins and outs of actual motion design work other than working on a real-world project. Since we don’t want to send you out like a lamb to the slaughter, we designed Explainer Camp. This is as close to a real freelance gig as you’ll get without actually landing a client.
At the beginning of the course, you will be offered one of three unique briefs. You pick the client that connects with your style, and then you work the gig. This includes deconstructing the brief, planning out your storyboards and moodboards, taking feedback from the client, and ultimately delivering a final product.
While you’ll be provided with all the professional tools you need, such as voice over and music, we also teach you how to find those resources on your own. What if you needed to book your own actors, or find professional photos and videos to supplement your animation? This project-based course throws you into the deep-end, giving you the training and tools to create a fully-realized piece from bid to final render. We consider this one of the best portfolio builders on offer.
Finally, we have our courses aimed at taking you from a professional designer to an absolute beast. These are not just challenging, they will add new layers of knowledge on top of your skills that set you apart from any other artists.
We say this without any hyperbole: Expressions will absolutely change the way you view After Effects. They are a superpower that too few artists utilize, and we want to show you how. Aside from being jam-packed with information, this is also one of our most entertaining courses due in no small part to the incredible instructor team. Zach and Nol are some of the best designers in the business, and they also happen to be some of the funniest people we know.
It’s no joke to say that, by the end of this course, you can animate an entire video without setting a single keyframe. Expression Session will teach you how to approach, write and implement expressions in After Effects, taking you from rookie to seasoned coder. You’ll learn how to set up behaviors, establish elaborate rigs, and create complex geometric animations that are practically impossible without expressions. This is a secret weapon that can change your career.
Lights, Camera, Render!
Currently, this is the “Return of the Jedi” for our 3D design courses. This is the master’s level class that takes all the skills you learned in Cinema 4D Basecamp and Ascent and cranks them into fifth gear. Led by the Octane Guru David Ariew, this is one of the most in-depth courses on 3D animation anywhere in the world. Beyond simple animation, this is where you’ll learn about true cinematic and stylized design that takes your projects beyond anything else.
Lights, Camera, Render will teach you all of the invaluable skills that make up the core of cinematography, helping to propel your career to the next level. It comes packed with valuable assets, and tips on tools and best practices that are critical to creating stunning work that will wow your clients! As this is one of the most advanced courses we offer, you must come prepared with a working knowledge of Cinema 4D. You’ll also be working with Octane Render, a powerful GPU rendering engine that achieves stunning results. If you’re ready to learn digital cinematography, this is your master class.
VFX for Motion
In the world of motion design, visual effects are more commonly known as compositing. This is a critical skill that finds use in television, filmmaking, and across every medium in which we work. It is a talent that will land you jobs, advance your career, and set you apart from generalists in the field. VFX can also be particularly tricky, which is why we designed a course to help you stay on top of the trade.
VFX for Motion will teach you the art and science of compositing as it applies to Motion Design. Your instructor is Mark Christiansen, an artist that has worked on Hollywood feature films for over a decade, perfecting the techniques that are used in nearly every movie of the past quarter century. Prepare to add keying, roto, tracking, matchmoving and more to your creative toolkit.
While you’ll certainly pick up how to integrate CGI with live-action, this course is very focused on the things motion designers need to know. Mark will teach you how to evaluate footage, spotting issues that need a little fix in order to properly match the rest of the frame. More than just learning skills, you’ll learn additional applications for tools you’ve used every day.
Finally, we have two courses that we believe are absolute musts for the continuation of your career. No matter what level you’re at, these will help you go farther.
Level Up is a free course that provides instant access to a bevvy of resources for artists at all levels. At some point in your career, you’ll likely look at the variety of paths available and—quite frankly—freeze up. That’s why Creative Director Ryan Summers designed this course to get you back on track.
In Level Up, you’ll explore the ever-expanding field of Motion Design, discovering where you fit in and where you’re going next. By the end of this course, you’ll have a roadmap to help you get to the next level of your Motion Design career.
This is a course that fits anywhere in your journey. Whether you throw it in after taking our first few courses, or you arrive to School of Motion as a seasoned artist, there is something in here to help you navigate the crossroads of the industry.
Demo Reel Dash
When you decide to become a professional in our industry, there are two things you must have: a portfolio and a demo reel. While you’ll develop a portfolio over time, demo reels are often the most frustrating and tricky aspects of your career. They require specific skills that many motion designers never develop, such as video editing. If there is one thing holding you back from landing the gigs of your dreams, it’s your demo reel...which is why we designed Demo Reel Dash.
With Demo Reel Dash, you’ll learn how to make and market your own brand of magic by spotlighting your best work. By the end of the course, you’ll have a brand new demo reel, and a campaign custom-built to showcase yourself to an audience aligned to your career goals. While we are proud of all of the courses we’ve created, this is one of the most important projects we can help you complete.