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What is the Future of Motion Design? Nobody Knows!
Everyone wishes they knew the future—of their lives, their careers, the market—but the truth is...nobody knows
It is incredibly difficult to know where our industry is headed—almost as challenging as defining "motion design" itself. Where is animation or experiential or VR/AR going over the next five years – or even the next five months? Then there are the tools we use everyday, and the ones on our list to learn. Does anyone have the answers?
Today, we'll take a spin around the industry to get experience-driven advice, an exploded view of the entire motion design industry, and some guesses at where this is all headed by some friends and new faces. What you're about to see is a sneak peek into our brand new, FREE course: Level Up!
To infinity and beyond, Motioneers.
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.
Now strap yourself into a comfy chair and rustle up a stack of pancakes, eggs, and home fries: this podcast is part of a balanced breakfast.
What is the Future of Motion Design? Nobody Knows: A Sneak Peek at Our New Course - Level Up
Hello Motioneers, today's episode of The School of Motion podcast is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. We've launched a new course, a free course called LEVEL UP! where we talk all about making your next move in Motion Design. Whether you've just graduated looking for your first job or if you're an industry veteran trying to figure out what's next, LEVEL UP! has something for you.
Over the 5 lessons, we'll talk about what stops us from getting where we want to go, how to take control of your career – and yes, even a bit about demo reels. We talk to a mental health expert about what Impostor Syndrome is and how to manage those moments where you feel like you don't know if you belong in the industry or not. And we work through the eternal motion design debate of specialist versus generalist.
But first, let's figure out where the industry is headed! It's hard to know what to do if you don't know what's possible in the first place. And I can't pretend to know everything, so I've reached out across the industry to see where everyone else sees this exciting industry is going. From Nasya Kamrat to Jonathan Winbush, from Capacity Studios to Coat of Arms Post, we're going to find out what's working right now and where everyone is aiming their sights.
Now, if you find this podcast interesting, there's a WHOLE lot more to be found within LEVEL UP! I built this class with conversation in mind – after having over 300 talks with artists around the industry, it just feels like there's so much left unsaid. LEVEL UP is our attempt to get those conversations kickstarted and out in the ether. So sign up and let's all start figuring out our next move in motion design as we LEVEL UP together!
And now, we invite you, if you dare, to step aboard because in today's podcast? The future is the star. And we'll start with one of the deepest thinkers on where motion design is headed – Joel Pilger of Revthink!
Well, I have this concept I call how it all stacks up, and that is, imagine a little pyramid and at the top of the pyramid is what we all want. Great work. I want to produce great work that matters, that's meaningful, that makes a lot of money and that makes me famous, whatever. And I say, "Great. Well then, what's stopping you? Go do it." And you'd say, "Well..." And then I'd say, "Well, look, here's what you need. You need better clients. You actually need people that have more interesting problems and appreciate you and understand and respect you. Go get those."
And you say, "Oh, that sounds tough." You're right. Because underneath that is this thing called outreach. Meaning you just have to be out there. You have to be connecting, reaching out and doing it in a way that's sticky and that people want to engage with you. So go do that.
"Well, wait a minute. That's complicated. How do I do that?" Underneath that is positioning, right? Let's carve out a place in people's minds so they actually get who you are, what you do, what you're about. Okay, now we're getting somewhere, but there's actually a layer beneath that. And that is genius. Meaning, what is the thing that you do that is truly, gives you energy and produces huge results and energizes you not drains you, that kind of thing.
And now you stack all those things up. Genius, then on top of that is positioning, then there's outreach. Now there's this better clients, now there's this great work. There's this myth called, well, if I just produce some great work, everything else will take care of itself. And that's just not true. It's not true. So, please, anyone that thinks that, just I'm begging you, don't fall for it.
Now, that's a trap as artists we've probably all fallen into, at least once in our careers, right? But I had to press Joel a little bit further because, yes, we have a lot of great, strategic, big thinking we can do in the world of motion design, but he's talking about a lot of things that maybe we haven't done before as freelancers or people working at a studio, I wanted to find out more specifics and he gave me a great example.
One that comes to mind is, I've been working with Marcel at State Design for years. We go back quite a few years now. And when I first started working with Marcel, they were already crushing it. But Marcel, to his credit, was like, "I want to be even better. I think we're great, but I want to be even greater." He had this true hunger for, "Joel, tell me from your perspective, how can we be even better and stronger?"
And so, we went through this whole positioning exercise, and guess where we ended up? We ended up right where we started, which confirmed your positioning is right where it needs to be. But guess what? That gave Marcel the confidence to put that out into the universe with reckless abandon. He was fully convinced. "Okay, great. I'm going for it." And what they did shortly thereafter was produced what I would call a showreel, that's called Understated.
And many people in the industry have seen this thing because it almost reads like a manifesto. And compared to the classic sizzle reel of a bunch of work just slammed together and with a nice cut and some cute music and you put your logo with the head and the tail, uh-uh, this thing was a game changer. And it got attention because when it went out there, it went out as, this is a point of view and this is an expertise, it's not, we do After Effects. It's not, oh, we do design. It was a point of view and people resonated with it.
And for me, probably the seminal moment in this story was not quite a year later, I'm at Promax in L.A., at the conference, and Marcel is on stage with Steve Viola from FX Networks, leading the state of design session, okay? To about 2000 people in the room. These are all the industry leaders, buyers, the top players in the entertainment world. And Steve Viola says, "I want to play something for you that I think is one of the best pieces I've seen this year. It's not a spot, it's not a promo, it's the showreel that State produced."
I mean, I was so happy and so thrilled. I was at a point of almost in tears. So that, I think, is a great example of when you really get serious about this, you can stack it up. It takes discipline, it takes understanding, it takes follow through and commitment.
Now, positioning, branding, all great concepts, great ideas, but tell me if you feel this way. Don't they really feel like something that applies uniquely to large studios that have tons of resources that can reach out to every corner of the industry and not necessarily freelancers or the artists working within those studios. I had to double back with Joel, because I really didn't know how this fits with everyone in the industry and he actually showed me a really unique perspective.
I think, especially businesses, so if you're running a studio or a production company, this is especially true. But even to the individual, we're all in this journey, from what I describe as from order taker to expert. Okay, because experts diagnose, they advise, they recommend they prescribe. So the order taker is the one who is going to try and find ways, how can I be more efficient? How can I slice and dice this? How can I bring in remote? How can I, whatever?
But the expert is the one who is finding ways to create new forms of value and is actually guiding and leading, not reacting and not saying to the clients or the needs out there. "Oh, you've figured it out, now I'll go execute it." They're the ones actually entering into the situation, the need, and saying, "I see something that you don't see and motion design is going to solve this problem in ways you can't even see it. You have no idea how awesome this is going to be."
When I look into the future and I see 5 or 10 years out, I know this, every brand, and I mean every brand. We're talking not the fortune 500, we're talking the fortune 50,000. They're all going to become some sort of a platform, content network, some sort of way that their audiences and customers and so forth can interact with them. And motion design is going to be right in the middle of it.
I would say for any artist that's getting started right now, or that's contemplating, "Someday I want to open my own studio, run my own shop." I would say that on the one hand, you've got to be incredibly well-rounded. And by well-rounded I don't mean learn every software program. No, no, no. I mean, you have to get outside of your box. You've got to interface with people from different cultures. You need to travel, you need to be exposed to literature, and history, and culture and art.
But guess what? Business, get exposed to what makes the world go round. It's money, it's finance, it's business. These are all these things. So, there's this well-rounded, we'll call it, category. On the other hand, I would also say that it's critical that you specialize. And now I'm talking out of both sides of my mouth, right? "What do you mean, Joel? How can I specialize? You just said..."
Well, what I would say is specialization can take any number of forms. And people often make this mistake when I tell them you have to have a narrow positioning, and you could be a business, but you could be a person. How are you as a creative or as an artist positioned? So, if I was to read your resume, your CV, or watch your reel, what's my takeaway? What's the reason that a week later, when a project comes across my desk, I immediately think, "Boom, oh, I've got to call Ryan. He would be perfect for this." Okay?
What's happening in that person's brain is they've positioned you in their mind relative to all the other competing things in their brain. That's why we call it positioning. That has to be narrow. That has to be specific. Now, most people think, "Oh, so I need to be a 3D lighter. I'm all about 3D lighting." Or someone might also say, "Well, I'm a director and I do children. I'm a director and I shoot children."
And then there's also verticals where we would say, "Oh, I'm the automotive guy, so I do automotive CG." Or, "I'm the person who does CPG or I'm the guy who does in-tags," or whatever. And it's like a vertical specialization. What I have to try and advocate to people is look at having a horizontal specialization. And examples are maybe your mission in life is, "I just want to make the world smile. I want to make people laugh. I want to do humor. And how I do that, it might be cinema, it might be After Effects, it might be paper cutouts and stop motion."
But guess what? Are there people in the automotive industry that need to laugh? Heck yeah. Right? Are there people in the consumer packaged goods and are there in-tags that need to make people smile and make them laugh? Yes. So, I think of having a horizontal. So, these are things like your why and your how that really should be narrow, because when that project comes across my desk and I immediately think, "Wow, Ryan would be perfect for this."
It's not because of a technical specialization, it's probably because I know that the purpose, the mission behind this project I've got to get done, I know that Ryan is a perfect fit for this. And he's a smart guy. He's talented, he's incredibly friendly and genuine, he has integrity. All of those boxes he's checking. And therefore, of course, he's a perfect fit for this thing.
That's, again, I know I'm speaking out of both sides of my mouth, but I think there's a place for the generalist, absolutely, but there's also a place for the specialist. And how can you be both at the same time?
Now, that's a pretty crazy turn of phrase, huh? Joel is a wizard when it comes to these things and I trust him, but horizontal specialization? I thought specializing meant I got really good at After Effects or Cinema 4D or maybe one day I'd become a creative director and I'd learn how to pitch and win in the room. But when you really do think about it, there's something interesting about being the funny guy in the room or be known as a futurist. Or specializing in something like knowing everything to do with pop culture and being the person they call when a client has a project that involves count books or video games or movies, kind of like that because it means what I love and what I do can overlap each other without being stuck in hardware or software.
As I started thinking more about this, I actually thought of somebody that I wanted to call and see what they thought. Did they agree that there's something really out there like horizontal specialization? I gave a ring to my friend, Nasya Kamrat, the owner of a company called Faculty. And she specializes in what she likes to call spatial storytelling. And it's definitely more on the experiential end of things. But motion design is at the core of everything she does.
The beautiful thing about motion design is it's all storytelling, right? And I think now more than ever, the ability to tell stories in that way in places that you don't normally expect, the element of surprise, the element of like, "Oh my goodness, I had no idea that this would happen then."
And I think that coupled, like you mentioned, with technology and with what's possible right now, I think is amazing. And I think the minute you take it off of traditional screen and you start thinking about how you can create story and narrative through motion design out in the world, the sky is the limit. It's amazing what's possible when you move away from the traditional like, "Oh, I'm just going to watch a video on my computer or a 32nd spot on the TV."
So, I'm sitting on my porch having a glass of wine, early days of COVID, I think probably march-ish. And I'm like, "I wonder what we can do with all this dead mall space." I was like, "All this mall space and all these malls across the country, across the world, really. But across the country specifically that are just not being utilized."
And so, one of the ideas that I had as I was drinking a glass of wine on my porch was like, what if you took all that fallow space and created sustainable farming practices that could feed a city. So, this is the problem with me is that I'll take on 20 ideas that I have, whatever. And so sometimes staying focused is my issue. But we're developing it. It's not what we do, right?
Really, I'm not a farmer. There's not a single part of my bone that's a farmer, but I see that there's a problem in the world, right? That there's a problem with supply chain and there's a problem with feeding our population. There's a problem with the way that we grow food. I think COVID showed us exactly what happens. All that huge lens was put on that.
And then we have tons of space that have incredible infrastructure to build things. And so, I've been talking to really smart people who are in the farming space and the Ag-tech space. And I've been talking to some developers and just learning about this thing, I don't know about. Really, it's been challenging for so many reasons, but I think it also has shed this light to the fact that we, as creative thinkers are able to solve bigger problems than just making a video.
And I think if we are able to harness that power together to really come up with solutions that will make the world a less stuffy place, I think, and I'm still trying to formulate what that all means. But I think, for our company specifically, we do experiential stuff, right? We do things that are in the world. We do sound digital and virtual versions of that, but really the thing that people come to us for is creating magical spaces that people can go to and evoke an emotion from.
And so, I think finding ways to translate that level of storytelling in that level of immersion and experience to maybe things that also are not just for some big brand activation, and not that that's not great, I think that's important. But finding something that it goes a little bit beyond that to really help so that the world heal after the crazy time. I think it's my personal five year goal of how do you take all the skills and these hard skills that we have and utilize them maybe in a format that we haven't really explored.
Now, there's a word I love and there's a word I can buy into. Nasya said explore, and not only can motion design let you take all of your passions and interests, whether they're fashion, or science, or the natural world, or photography, or animation, or film. You might love letters, you might love drawing, but it lets you take all of those things and you get to explore your passions along with your job.
Not only do you get to explore those passions, but you can actually explore those passions around the world. And I've been so lucky to say, even though it took me 10 years to get into the point where I thought I was even starting in the industry, I've been able to go to places I never thought I'd be able to; Melbourne, Tokyo, Abu Dhabi, Las Vegas, yes, I've been to Las Vegas more times than I care to admit.
But the projects that motion design takes you, the surfaces that you get to work with, the technology, the people you get to collaborate with, I don't think there's another creative arts industry that offers up this much variety and this much opportunity, if you only know where to look for it. Now, Nasya is one of the people who knows where to look. And I know she has a very special project brewing in her brain that I convinced her to share just a few of the details with you. Because I really think it's good to understand how far motion design can get, and honestly, how close it can get you to your passions. And not only lets you play with them, but possibly change the way the rest of the world interacts with those passions.
Now, it's not something you get to do every day, but Nasya has got this really cool idea.
I've gone to ship yards in Italy, which is weird and another story altogether, and I've been in the middle of the ocean putting stuff together. But I think one of the coolest things that we've been working on currently is we're actually working on this idea of a drive through museum experience.
So, think like carwash for museums, for lack of a better word. So, one thing that I know that I've been feeling since COVID-19 has hit is I just miss walking around museums and experiencing art and just getting lost in a space and appreciating something that I wouldn't normally see. And it's been really, and for me, for my kid, for all of it, just having that moment of just expanding your thinking and your appreciation for things.
And so, we have an incubator side of our business where we just come up with crazy ideas. This is one of the things that came out of that, of this missing of museums. And so, we have this thought of, what if you can create a experience where you can drive up, it clips you into a carwash technology, for lack of a better word, and you drive into a space and you are completely immersed in art.
And it is a beautiful, rich narrative storytelling that takes you through this journey. And you are just completely in this moment where you're surrounded by beautiful art. And the cool thing I think about a virtual digital museum experience is that you can then change it up. So, you can do Rothko for week one and then next month you could do Ansel Adams.
And you have this ability to change out the material relatively easily because you're not having to wait for a painting to be shipped to you from across the world. So, it's actually an amazing moment. And then you leave and you can have a great gift shop experience where you could get the stuff delivered directly to your car, so it's fully safe and social distance. But still gives you the ability to leave your house, which I think we all want to do these days and actually bring something back to life and you can do it in ways that allows for all of the ways that we communicate effectively to come together in a really seamless way.
That's what experience is, right? That's when you go and you experience something and you actually feel something tangible that changes minds and changes hearts. And that's how we like to create motion design. For us, it's not just like, "Hey, let's do a little 15 second TikTok with you," whatever the kids are doing these days. It's actually like, how do you create something that mails all the different disciplines into something beautiful and impactful that actually takes consumers and turns them into loyalists? And that's how we try to approach every project.
Consumers to loyalist. Now that's a really interesting concept, especially when we spend most of our time, if not all of it, just creating commercials to help sell products that disappear faster than it took for us to actually create them. To be able to create that kind of affinity would be pretty powerful. But I started thinking about it. What about if we could actually create clients as loyalists? Not necessarily just with our tools and our After Effects tricks, but with the way we interact with people, how do we do that?
Is there an operating system for artists that we don't know about that the successful companies use? Are there guidelines? Are there rules? Are there tricks like our After Effects tricks? Well, I reached back to Joel because if anybody knows, Joel would know. And he, of course, had an idea. And he used a different word for it, but the more I think about it, what he's talking about is the basic idea of just likability.
Well, I'm being reminded of something I was taught by one of my coaches. So I've had always coaches and mentors throughout my career. That's, of course, a very common pattern that even Tiger Woods has a coach. So, I would encourage people, have mentors and have coaches.
And one concept that was taught to me by Dan Sullivan, he's heads the strategic coach. He taught me many, many years ago and they were these very soft skill things. And he said, "If you do these four things, Joel, you will be referred endlessly for the rest of your life." And it was so simple. It was;
1. Show up on time.
2. Do what you say you're going to do.
3. Finish what you start. And,
4. Say please and thank you.
Now, those things are so simple, they almost sound basic and almost pedestrian. But if you apply them consistently, guess what? I'm going to be like, you know what, that Ryan he's got it. I can count on him. He is going to deliver, he's going to be amazing. I trust him and so forth. And then of course I bring you in for whatever specialty I might need. But those soft skills are very generalist.
Oh boy, that's a pretty loaded response. Isn't it? We're talking about the specialist versus generalist debate and what's this soft skills. Now, there's some other thing I need to learn on top of all the other tools that are sitting out in the world waiting for me to buy tutorials and sit on YouTube and ask everybody how they work.
Well, there's actually a lot of truth to it. And I decided I wanted to reach out to someone who is probably one of my favorite people in the industry because she just shines so brightly. And she's the perfect epitome of somebody who's likable. I'd like to introduce you to Dorca Musseb. She's a designer, a director, an animator. And just a wealth of knowledge about what it's like to work in all these different workplaces. She's worked remotely, she's worked staff, she's been freelance. She's been permalance. She's the best person to ask, I think, about how do you raise your game in the fields that aren't necessarily software-based.
And on the talk about skill is the soft skill. Interpersonal skills are important. I think that if you're a person that can work with the team, regardless of like I know that we're in COVID and we're in a pandemic and we're working at home, but you still have to be able to work with a team of people.
You still have to be able to communicate well what you want to say or what you want to do. I think that that's an underrated skill and that's something that I don't think I've read a lot of articles about in our industry about how to talk to clients or how to talk to your fellow teammates.
I'm art directing at the moment with a studio and I feel really strongly the communication, like if there's anything that my animator doesn't understand, let's talk it through so that we're both clear. What do you need from me so that you can understand how to do the job and deliver what I'd like to see you animate.
It's important. It's an important skill that I don't feel a lot of people talk about. And I just had another conversation with a fellow industry person who told me the same thing. They're having issues with an animator because they're not communicating clearly. And I think that learning how to communicate on top of learning your tools, I feel that would be a really good way of people to not just get the foot in the door, but also to stay there.
Because a lot of the times if you get your foot in the door, but you don't stay because you can't work with the team or you're being unreasonable or have an attitude or anything like that, that really matters. It matters more than people think.
So, we talk a lot of strategy in this course, big picture stuff, but I really wanted to push on Dorca to find out, what are the tactics? How do you actually communicate better, especially we're living in these crazy times where you're remotely art directing or teaching a team when you can't even interact with them.
I think the first tactic is obviously to talk it out, write it out using a lot of emojis. I sound like a hun bird sometimes, but just being friendly or being kind, I think, goes a long way. After all, you're working for the same goal, right? We're working towards the same goal. We're just doing this together. So that's the first thing to keep in mind that you're working with someone to, you have the same goal.
And then after that, if the person has questions, which they did today, they send me a little sketch of what they thought was supposed to be. And I was like, "No, no, actually that's not right." So I send them back a little sketch of how I see this moving. And they got it. Had they not gotten that, I feel the next step would have been to do a call or a Zoom call and be like, "Hey, can we talk it through?"
There's always ways of communicating what you're needing to communicate. And it doesn't have to be in any exasperated way or in any, we're working towards a common goal, always remember that you're working with a human being there. It's important to me that people understand that they're working with people. These are the humans that you're working with and they're going to mess up or they're not going to understand, or their brains may be turned off that day.
We all have those days just, I think a little patience and kindness goes a long way. And yeah, that's how I approach things or how I approach communication. As far as the passion, I worked with this guy once, his name's Raul Alejandro, I think. He's a very prolific typographer and he's in Instagram.
And I actually worked with him throughout the years that he was developing his typographer skills, not developing them, but nurturing them. And because he already loved typography to begin with. And then he started nurturing that. And the way that he would nurture it would be maybe this may not be possible now, but he used to just put something to render and then sit and do his topography by hand.
And in the downtime, that's when he would start. And I know that we don't have a lot of downtime, which we could get to talk about work/life balance on another point, but it is through in those moments that he would sit and take his time. It took him two years.
And I remember clearly him turning to me and saying, "Eventually, this is what I want to do. This is eventually where I want to end up at." And I saw him develop this through about two and a half years to where now he's a very prolific typography in Instagram and you can see his work there.
I think he ended up being hired by Nike eventually as a designer and as a skill level. He's just an amazing, incredibly talented person. But I saw him put the extra effort to feel out what is it that he wanted to do first and feel out what is it that he was clear on? Like what are you attracted to?
And the only way to do that is to follow people on Instagram and follow people... You're saying Instagram, because Instagram is king right now. What is it that exactly you're looking for and you're looking to do? And what attracts you and what drives you? And I think that's the way in to knowing what you want to do eventually. I man, you don't have to learn everything.
[inaudible 00:33:52]. This is so much pressure. I need to learn all of the tools. No, you don't. You really don't. This person that I was talking about before, his tools were conventional, ruler, ink and pen. And that's what he made sure that he learned about. Learn the tools that you feel are going to make your passion better. Right?
Learn the tools that you know are going to get you to where you want to be eventually. I think that's the thing to learn about, right? This industry can be a little unsustainable at times and feel that find it... But it's also a very young industry, right? We just got started. It takes decades for industry to get to the point where they're balanced out. And it feels to me like we're also passionate about what we do and there's a sense of us wanting to do a really good job. And sometimes that will drive us to be at the computer for way too long.
And those long hours, which we've all done, sitting in front of the computer, waiting for a render, waiting for feedback, waiting to hear from a client, what does that do? It creates fatigue, it creates frustration, it creates burnout. You don't have a lot of really good ways to deal with that other than telling people to take the day off, come in late, go out and get lunch.
But there's some bigger things at play here, aren't there? When I reached out to friends in the industry to see what they thought about the next five years, not everybody responded with a rosy, beautiful, hopeful picture of the industry. I was actually surprised by quite a few people who said that they don't feel like motion design is going to scale for them as a profession. They don't think that it scales for most people in the industry.
You spend a lot of time comparing yourself and you work to the top 5%, but that top 5% is almost impossible to achieve. There's people who feel like they're struggling with the lack of talent, the lack of opportunity. And in the end of it, they're really just afraid, there's fear. So, where does that fear come from? In my mind, it comes from a lack of confidence. But why? Why do we have so many skills and so many talents but there's this overriding sense that we're imposters and we lack confidence in the industry?
Part of what challenges people's confidence right now, I think, is it's a noisy and competitive world. And what many artists fall prey to is what, I did a podcast with Dallas Taylor at Defacto Sound, and we called it the pick me, pick me mentality. And the mentality goes like this.
Well, if I show up and I act like I'm cool and I have a cool reel and I make a bunch of promises and so forth, you'll pick me. And it's like we're on some sort of a parade or I'm thinking of a police lineup. And each person in the line is basically waving their hand and saying, "Pick me, pick me, pick me."
And if I get passed up, "Oh, damn it. I missed out. I lost that money," and so forth. And so, there's that mentality of course, it creates this race to the bottom. And what is at the root of the problem? It's you have to dig several layers deep is, it's how easily can a client replace you? And the problem is, I think Ryan is, that as artists, as motion designers, we think we're replaceable.
We haven't gotten really in touch with our genius. What is the thing that we do and how we do it and why we do it that makes me different than everybody else? And I'll just say this because I could riff on this whole positioning and marketing thing for hours. I'm happy to do it, but I like to think of it this way. How many colors are there in the rainbow?
Okay. Do you remember when we went from 8 bit to 16 bit to 24 bit color? Okay. We're entering this realm of the industry where I want everyone to think in terms of 32 bit color, meaning you are not like any other designer creative out there. Get in touch with the thing that makes you not a motion designer, makes you the... Okay. Now fill in the blank.
And this is the leap I want everyone to make. Because I think the conversation shifts when you can get to a place where you've effectively positioned yourself and you're really clear, there's specificity there and you're bold, you're loud and proud about it. You're going to start finding people that really love that, resonate with it, want it, and you're going to create customers, which is what we all want.
But you're also going to realize that there's a lot of people that aren't a fit for me. And I don't need to be desperate and think, "Oh, I got to grab onto this and sink to the bottom, just say all the usual tropes and cliches and so forth because I'm in this crowded field and I'm falling back into the pick me, pick me mentality."
So, it sounds easy. How do we become completely irreplaceable? Well, one way that I know of is to getting to know something before anyone else and then tell as many people as possible. As Joel says, you've got to let people know about your genius. And I know there's an elephant in the room and we haven't talked about it yet, but Real-Time it's coming.
You've heard about it. Maybe you've played with it a little bit. Maybe you're scared of it. Maybe you're excited, but Unreal, unity, who knows which one's going to win on the end. But one thing I do know is, there's one person to call if you want to talk about it, Jonathan Winbush.
I've been doing, I can say 90% of my work in Unreal these days. You still don't have to pay unless you make $1 million of revenue on your product. So, like if you put out even just a mobile game, if you only make $900,000 on it, that's 100% yours to keep free. You don't have to pay any royalties to Epic at all.
And then for motion graphics and television and movies, the Mandalorian, that's about $10 million project that they worked on and they don't owe Epic and the royalties on it because they used it for broadcast. So, Unreal, I mean, you can use it at its base, but you usually have to have some type of 3D background to bring your assets into Unreal. So, like I build my assets and my scenes out in cinema and then I transfer those over to Unreal Engine and then give it that finished polished and that tight look that we get there.
And the thing that's cool about Unreal is, no matter what DCC you use, Unreal is your final piece in your pipeline. So, you could come in being a Houdini artist or a Maya artist, or even a Blender artist, which is another free program out there and you could just pretty much take your scenes, export them and then bring them into Unreal.
So, if you are a 3D artist and you already have a base skill set, I mean, jumping into is that much more easier. If I had to choose between Unreal and Unity, I put my foot into the Unreal door just because there's so much accessibility there. And they're really putting their hands out to artists like us. They want to be in the television and the movies and interactive. Anything that we're doing right now, they want their hands in.
So, that's why you're seeing with these updates in Unreal, like when I first started off, it was pretty much just like a gaming templates, but now they have templates for television, they have templates for archivists, they have templates for AR VR. They're really expanding the accessibility for the different artists that are able to use it.
And that's because Real-Time, I mean, it's amazing. The system I'm using right now, I just have one GPU in there. And I just worked on a project for discovery. And I had to render it out at 60 FPS at 4K, which if I was using Redshift, that would have took forever. But I literally rendered out a two minute sequence for CG in two minutes, like 60 fps 4K in two minutes, which is crazy.
And it looks good. It looks amazing. So, it's just those small steps that you have to take to really get your game up and be able to work faster because now when the clients come back with a request like a revision or something, I don't have to say, "Oh, I'll get that to you in four days," because I have to send it to a render farm or render it overnight. Is like now I could just render it, make the quick change, or actually make that quick change then render it and then send it off.
But not too fast. You don't want to let them know that you can work that fast. You want to hold on to it a little bit, but we're not worried about hitting those crazy deadlines anymore. It's all really accessible.
And that's the dirty little secret about Real-Time. It's not entirely brand new when we're talking about motion design. So, I reached out to a studio that I know has been playing with it for quite a while. Now, they're one of the first studios I ever heard of using octane in the actual pipeline for a studio. And they've been using realtime for a while.
I reached out to my friend Benji at the studio Capacity to see what's really behind all this, is it hype? Is it just a faster render engine? Which one should we be picking? And how fast should we be ditching everything else?
There's so much more to the Unreal thing than just the ability to render quickly. And I think we're just scratching the surface right now. We've done several projects, and we actually just finished a whole graphics package that we did completely in Unreal. But yeah, it's a lot, there's a lot more to it than just, "Hey, I can render things quicker."
And that's the really exciting part is, and it's very timely because a lot of it has to do with relationships with our clients. That's a huge part of why we're able to do what we do. I think the way we foster and build those relationships then allows us to take those leaps of doing something different. And they trust that like, "Hey, if you try this new method and it doesn't go well, we know you're going to fix it because you always come through for us."
So, I think just the idea that you want to constantly be in that level of slight discomfort. I think that that's such a huge concept is, whenever you feel like, and that feeds into the whole imposter syndrome thing as well. Whenever you feel like, "Oh, I actually really know what I'm doing and I've got everything handled," then you should be worried about what next year is going to bring because the people that are out of their comfort zone at all times pushing things forward, finding out what is newly being developed, those are the people that are going to be ready for what arrives next year. When it hits you, you're going to be like, "Wait, I'm way behind because I've just been comfortable in my zone doing my thing."
That last thing that Benji said immediately made me think of one of my favorite studios. Now, a lot of shops figure out how to do something and they get really comfortable. They rest on their laurels and they get caught blind and the industry passes them by. Not Coat of Arms. I reached out to John and Clara to find out what was the journey like for them? And when they started their studio, was there something that they wish they would have known that they know now after being open for quite a long time?
Having confidence to say no to the low paying or what you know will be stressful jobs and just having a better sense of what you, again, thinking about the goals for yourself, for your career, for the styles, the things that you want to do and working towards that and being okay saying no. And using that even as an advantage.
Like one thing that we've done a lot recently that has been so rewarding is we say no and then we're like, "Hey, check out the studio or check out these [inaudible 00:46:05]," because then it's like we're just like that, what's the saying? All boats rise with the tide or something. And it's like this [inaudible 00:46:13] thing. We want everyone to succeed and so saying, no, there's also good that comes out of no, whether you're not the right fit, you don't want to deal with it, you're not passionate about that project. And looking back, we definitely said yes more than I think we needed to. Whereas we've gotten better now about having intention with the jobs that we take and what we do.
Oddly, Jonathan says that I'm the barometer for nos. And there's this gut feeling I get. And I feel like maybe it's hard because it's like, I can't really describe what it is. It's like mixture of small micro, not aggressions, it's micro things that might happen with a client like delayed feedback, or maybe before you've even started. Is the email 20 pages long. And I know that sounds strange, but like-
Or are they saying, "Hey, we really want this to be a good process and want you to let us know for..." Usually that's almost a flag too where they've probably had difficulties in the past and have been told, "Hey, these are things you can be better about."
You're a difficult client.
And so then when they start with the sort of like, "Hey, we want to be a good client," versus just being a good client, you know there's going to be a lens, that added layer where you're doing the work but they're also already thinking about that exterior layer that can sometimes be time consuming. And I think the easy ones are the timeline is short. The budget is low and the expectations are high.
And they won't bend to any of those when you suggest that those are not reasonable. And so, that immediately is a red flag and I am of the opinion, I would rather be not buying a nice, quality dessert or some steak this week than to work with a client that is going to abuse me.
And so I always end up leaning into no, versus, just as I'm proving to you as a vendor, you have to prove to me you as a client are going to be kind, and good, and fair.
And compromising when that time comes. Something always happens, right? There's that extra round of visions. There's a change in schedule. Somebody gets sick on our end. There are so many things that come naturally and the best relationships are ones where the two are unified rather than, "Hey, I'm hiring you to just do this, just do it." Versus being people and collaborating.
Five years ago we were saying yes more rather than saying no so that we can do the things we want to that are authentic to us. Whereas now, and I feel like there is a little bit of this trend, which is a good one. It's like, hey, by saying no to this project that you don't care about, or that's scary, or stressful, you can spend the next three weeks building towards something with that intention that, towards that goal that you're after and telling stories that you care about or trying techniques that you're developing.
Because that's going to be more rewarding than that one job. If you can weigh the one job thing versus the next 10 years, you see value of investing in yourself and in the stories you want to tell and your voice as an artist.
The strange thing that happens is literally then you start getting the projects that are like, "Hey, I saw that personal project you did, I want that for me." You can even offer those services to a client that you admire and does not have a budget to pay you. Right? And so [inaudible 00:49:59] on that with South by Southwest for three years now. And it's been phenomenal.
And maybe it's funny to say that South by Southwest can't afford something, but what I'm saying is our shoe got in the door by offering our services at a markedly lower rate. And it was an investment that we put more money into than we are paid, but that return has been phenomenal and the clients is exceptional and kind. And so, that sacrifice felt comfortable for us.
To us, we want to be happy in five years. And to us, happiness isn't being the best studio in the world, it isn't being the largest or the whatever, it's finding that middle ground. Now I'm getting Buddhist, like the middle way. And where you feel comfortable and balanced and happy. And it changes every day, but I feel like that's what we are working on and working toward and want to continue.
Happiness. Isn't that a strange concept when you started thinking about motion design and where you might be in your career? For those of you listening right now, can you honestly sit back and think and say, if was calling on you right now and asked, "Are you happy? Are you satisfied? Are you where you thought you would be when you started this career? Do you raise your hand for any of those? Do you raise your hand for all three? If not, I think it's okay.
I just think we all need to be talking a little bit more about where we want to go, and what we want to do, and how we want to do it. Now, before I leave you, I have one more wise set of words from my friend, Joel. And it brings up a really good point. Motion design hasn't been around for very long.
Well, here's what we're observing. And this is a bit of a macro view is, motion design wasn't even called motion design until this past decade. So, even as a discipline, as an established discipline, it's just now becoming a thing. Now, arguably, you could say it has its roots in the early two thousands or the nineties when I got started.
And that's great, but compare that to architecture that's been around thousands of years and you realize, "Oh right." There's a body of knowledge. There's truly a discipline there. There's a rigor and an academic process and all these traditions and so forth of what it means to be a great architect or a master architect.
So, I think there's the same opportunity coming in motion design. We're just in the first or second generation, right? I feel like myself and my peers that are my age are the ones who started, perhaps, in the nineties. We ran our businesses, we went through all this evolution from the democratization of digital and moving from these giant computer systems to desktop, all these changes. And the internet, of course, the coming of Google and all that.
And we then phased out of running those businesses and being those artists. And we're now passing the torch to the next generation. But to your point earlier, I think what is needed is some body of elders. Like who are the elders that are stepping forward and saying, "Hey, I'm an advocate for this industry that I love. And I don't want to see these people miss out, but I also don't want to see them be taken advantage of."
So, I have all sorts of agendas, but I no longer have a dog in this hunt, so to speak, as running a business. And I'm not on the client side, I didn't go to that side and become a buyer of the services that are in the industry. So, I really enjoy the position that I'm in, but don't you think that we're just in these very, very early stages, this first or second generation of motion design?
Well Motioneers, I hope you enjoyed this episode. We took a look around the entire motion design world to find some safe harbors and some new avenues to think about with what going to happen in motion design in the future. It's just a small glimpse into some of the incredibly deep conversations we dive into during Level Up. Just wanted to add that Level Up is a 100 percent free course and you can access it instantly. That's right, you can binge everything all at once. Thank you for taking the time to listen and stay tuned for the next episode of the School of Motion Podcast