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From Politics to Education with Nol Honig

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We sit down with Nol Honig to discuss how his experience as a political Motion Designer led to teaching After Effects in college and online.

Have you ever messed up so bad on a Motion Design project that it makes headlines on the news? We’ll our guest today has. In today’s interview Nol Honig, the creator of our After Effects Kickstart course, tells us about his experience in the Motion Design industry.  

Nol made a name for himself by working on political campaigns for high-level politicians like Barrack Obama and Hillary Clinton. After working his way to the top of the political world Nol switched gears, by becoming a teacher at Parsons New School. As a contributor to Motionographer and Staff Pick awardee, Nol is no stranger to the MoGraph industry. He just so happens to be one of the most interesting people in the world.  

Nol even goes into talking about how he created the After Effects Kickstart course on School of Motion. His storytelling makes this one of our favorite episodes. Enjoy!

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Podcast Transcript Below 👇:

Intro (00:00:01):

He's about 455 yards away. He's going to hit a button.

Joey Korenman (00:00:07):

This is the school of motion podcast. Come for the MoGraph stay for the puns.

Joey Korenman (00:00:15):

I'm in this because I think this is the greatest medium ever developed by humans to make art. Okay. You know what I mean? Like I think motion design incorporates everything like filmmaking and design and animation and music and sound effects. And like basically every art form combines into this one. As far as I'm concerned, this is the most interesting modern art form that you can work in.

Joey Korenman (00:00:41):

Our guest today has been involved in a national scandal involving presidential candidates. He's made a film with Christopher Nolan. He's legally changed his first name because nobody could pronounce it today. You're going to meet one of the most interesting people in MoGraph. No honing, no is a busy man. He runs a small studio in New York city where he does brilliant motion design work. He runs the collaborative project motion corpse. He's a contributor for Motionographer. He's created tools and assets for motion design. He teaches at Parsons, and now he's even taught a course for school of motion. Knoll is the instructor for our after effects, kickstart class, which, and I know I'm biased is the best after effects course in the world. Like seriously. It's amazing. So sit back, grab some coffee and enjoy this very entertaining interview with no, no, Hoenig welcome to the school of motion podcast. And, uh, thanks for doing this. I'm excited to ask you a million questions. Uh, not the least of which is why your name is Nicole.

Nol Honig (00:01:50):

Well, thanks for having me on Joey. I've been wanting to do this podcast for a long time, so this is probably more exciting for me than it is.

Joey Korenman (00:01:56):

Oh, that is certainly true now. Uh, so let's, let's start with this. Um, you know, we, we've actually gotten to know each other pretty well over the last several months is, you know, as you, as you built a class for us, um, but I've never actually heard the story behind your name. No, it's not what I've seen before. So I'm wondering if you can, uh, give us the lowdown.

Nol Honig (00:02:19):

Yeah, no problem. So, you know, the, you know, I was born N O E L uh, Noel, Noel, or however you pronounce that. And, you know, I changed it myself. Um, not that long ago, actually. I sort of, I always thought it was like a confusing name and some people would pronounce it like Noel and sing me that first Noel song, which I completely hate. So I think when I was around 30, I just shortened it myself down to NOL is like a nickname. And then like I just left it like that and for like 15 years, but then like whenever I bought plane tickets or fill out official paperwork, I kinda like had to write my real name and it, it always kind of like irked me. And after awhile it just felt like it wasn't me. So I changed it officially in 2014, which was like this tremendous amount of annoying paperwork, basically, not very exciting, but like I did have this kind of funny thing where, because I live in New York city in order to change your name, you had to like go in front of a judge or a court official and like make your case as to why you wanted to do it, which I was like slightly and give it to Dubai.

Nol Honig (00:03:22):

Like, I just remember when I got up there finally, after waiting a long time, the court official that I had to talk to was kind of this, you know, older Jewish man with a yamaka. And I kind of was like, yes, I've totally got this. And so I told him the truth that, you know, Nolan means Christmas and French and I'm Jewish and it kind of bothered me. And he just like, basically took out this stamp and stamped it. And I looked at it and said valid religious reasons. So that's I game the system. Yeah. But actually then, you know, then I had to get like a new birth certificate, a new passport and like all this, like even just to like change, you have to like change, like with con ed, like who provides your power or something in New York, I had to like send them the official paperwork. It was like a complete pain in the butt. So anybody out there I suggest don't do it unless you absolutely have to.

Joey Korenman (00:04:07):

Right. And just think really carefully when you have children about how you name them to

Nol Honig (00:04:14):

You. I don't think my parents thought about that at all.

Joey Korenman (00:04:17):

Uh that's that's a really funny story. So let's talk a little bit about your career, which it's really interesting to me. So you run your own, you know, sort of small boutique shop, the drawing room. Uh, you also teach at Parsons, you also run this really cool sort of online motion graphics event that is sort of a recurring thing called motion corpse. And you write for Motionographer and now you're also teaching a class for school of motion. You know, it seems like you were just built to be part of the motion design industry. Um, you know, from the outside, it looks like you've effortlessly inserted yourself in all of these things. Um, can you tell us how you ended up in this position of being so involved and having so many things going on?

Nol Honig (00:05:01):

Yes, definitely. Uh, that's a really good question. Um, you know, and it's not the easiest thing to answer. I mean, it's like with anybody that achieves a certain level of success, it's, there's a lot underneath the surface that, you know, you don't realize, I guess, and for me it's like, I am a bit older than most people in the biz. And, you know, I think about it a lot, like potential energy versus kinetic energy. And I worked kind of for about a decade in political advertising and I worked a lot. And, um, even before that, you know, I always wanted to be a filmmaker and I went to film school and then I was always like involved in the fine arts and my parents are artists. And so, you know, I kind of grew up both making films and wanting to be a filmmaker and also kind of making art and wanting to be an artist at the same time.

Nol Honig (00:05:48):

And, you know, eventually I worked at film and I realized I wasn't really that into it. And eventually I brought it together and worked in motion graphics and that kind of came together for me, like around 1996, just as the whole industry was basically kicking off. And so for about a decade, like I worked really hard in political advertising and just really like cut my teeth. And I kind of put in my 10,000 hours doing that. And that was a fast and furious world where you would kind of like sometimes make three spots in one day and, you know, you just have to like crank out work all the time. So I, you know, the way that I think about it now that that's done, like, I quit all that in 2013 when I opened drawing room. And, you know, basically from that point on, I felt like I had a ton of potential energy.

Nol Honig (00:06:30):

I'm sorry, can I say potential energy? So like, if you think about kinetic energy versus potential energy, like I ride a bike a lot. So I'm thinking about this metaphor, which is like, I basically rode a bike up a really, really, really long hill for a really long time. And I sort of, I kind of like as I built myself up into the political advertising world and sort of got to the top of that, I sort of, you know, I reached the top of this hill and then I had like a ton of potential energy basically. And I kind of jumped out of that game and I was just used to working really hard and working really fast. And I was also, I felt like a real lack of being in the community and I saw the community growing up around me and I used to sort of always read Motionographer and kind of want to be like in that group of people.

Nol Honig (00:07:14):

And, um, you know, just like because of NDAs non-disclosure agreements in the political industry and also like not really having that much pride necessarily in the work that I was putting out, even though I felt like it was for very important because the work itself, I didn't think it was that great. So basically like once I started being able to share my work, I just sort of exploded in this huge potential energy, like explosion all over the place. And I just wanted to do kind of everything at the same time, because I felt like I had sort of been held back or maybe I held myself back or whatever it was, but I just sort of had all this enthusiasm for this industry and just felt like I hadn't been able to express it before. And it just kind of like came out in a big flood. I mean, I've been teaching for a while and doing my work for a while, but I can understand why for almost everybody they're like, wait, who the hell is this guy that just came out of nowhere?

Joey Korenman (00:08:04):

Yeah. That's, you know, I really love that metaphor it's and it's funny cause you worked in political ads for so long and it reminds me almost of the concept of like political capital. Like you build it up by doing things and doing things and you wait and you wait and all of a sudden you can cash in your chips and, and that's not, I mean, the metaphor is not perfect, but I like the idea that, you know, someone listening who is in the situation you were in and from 1996 to 2013 where you were doing work, that wasn't very sexy and you didn't really have any, any way in to, to the, you know, the, the cool club I guess. And all of a sudden you come out and you've got all these skills and you've got experience and now you're, you have something really valuable to contribute and you're able to do that. Um, so let me ask you this though. So I mean, you know, you could have come out and, and you got to the top of the hill and you point your bicycle down the hill and you ride really fast towards doing really great client work. And you could just focus on that and your work is really good. So why spread yourself out and do so many other things?

Nol Honig (00:09:09):

Yeah, I guess I'm, I'm just that kind of person. I'm not, I dunno if there's like a really great answer for that, but I just, I'm interested in quite a lot of things, you know, and this whole time, so I've been teaching this whole time as well while I was working in politics. So I've always had kind of those two interests. And even before that, I actually, you know, was a little bit of a writer before this. And so the idea of writing like for Motionographer kind of comes naturally to me. And I just think also partially like, you know, I love my clients, uh, but, um, I think there's something a little bit limiting about only doing client work for me. Um, most of my favorite work that I see in the industry is actually not client work. It's sort of the personal work that people make.

Nol Honig (00:09:52):

And I don't know, I still think of this as really being a great art form. And that sort of is what kind of scratches my itch a little bit more than making some awesome commercials. So, um, yeah, I just think that my interests are really varied and, uh, I'm not, I'm really just not interested in doing one thing even though, um, you know, and also I think when I worked at political advertising, my focus for almost the whole time was making money and supporting, you know, so I only worked for Democrats and only at the very high level because I'm a big old lefty and, you know, that's what I believe in. And I don't know, I'd made a lot of money. And then I think after a while that whole scene just started to bore me both making money, you know, using this only to make money and also even just trying to do good things for the political realm. I don't know. I just, after a while it just felt limited to me. That's a good answer.

Joey Korenman (00:10:41):

No, it is a good answer. And, and, you know, it's something that, you know, I've talked about a lot and I've written about it and, and I think it's a, it's actually a healthy way of approaching the industry where you can, you don't have to just do one thing and you don't even have to just do 10 things. You can do as many things as you want. And some things you can do for money and some things you can do for experience some things you can do because you love them and it makes you feel good to do them like teaching. Um, and, and it's great that you just sort of naturally sort of realize that and you've done it. I do want, I do want to talk about the political ad world a little bit, cause I I've, I have a teeny bit of experience with it, but, um, you know, it was basically clients coming to the studio I worked at, um, you know, and I would edit some of these things, but I'd love to hear what is it like inside the machine? Like our, you know, our politicians, great clients, you know, like what, what's it like to, to work in political advertising?

Nol Honig (00:11:37):

Right. Well, first of all, it's very, very fast paced. Like I said, sometimes you would like somebody would say something, you know, and then you would need to have a spot on air the next day that responded to that, or they'd released an ad and then you'd need a response ad really like as soon as possible. So it's very fast. Um, you don't actually really deal with the politicians themselves a lot. So the way that it works is politicians are kind of surrounded by these political consultants and they're very, very important people, but they tend to be kind of under the radar. Like for example, I was one of the lead, uh, designers and animators for the, for Obama's second, uh, when he was, you know, in 2012. And so I never worked with president Obama once I never was on a phone call with him.

Nol Honig (00:12:18):

I never even got to meet him. I wish I had, but I did not, uh, yet in any case, but we dealt a lot with a guy named Mike Don Lin, who is not a, probably a name that, you know, but he's actually a really important political consultant. And he was Joe Biden's chief of staff and he started his own consulting company. And so he basically like wrote all the ads. So they work with like pollsters, these consultants work with like polls and pollsters to write messaging and then they shape them into these scripts. And then basically they're just throwing these scripts at you and you're almost no visual explanation whatsoever. So, you know, it becomes this game of trying to like find visuals to represent these scripts, which are always about kind of issues that are happening. And, uh, you know, it's good training, I think for like taking kind of weird, you know, ideas and turning them into visual concepts and stuff. Um, I was once on a phone call with bill Clinton, uh, cause I also worked for Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2008, uh, during the primary. Uh, and this was the closest I came to any of the politicians and he was basically just like yelling at the entire team, like 20 minutes uncomfortable. But for the most part it's, it's, you know, in a way it's probably just like any other advertising at the design and animation level, you know, you're just dealing with producers basically.

Joey Korenman (00:13:36):

I wonder if you have any sense of how big the political ads industry is. I mean, I, it's not something that most people have experience with and it kind of, it's one of those things where most people don't know how the sausage gets made. Is there a lot of money behind this or is this like down and dirty, a bunch of aftereffects artists in a room just trying to get done?

Nol Honig (00:13:55):

Um, there's definitely a lot of money in it. Um, and it's, it's kind of both actually, I think you've got a lot of money, especially for the, you know, the agencies and for the shops that are kind of hiring the animators, um, seem to bill out quite a lot. Um, and there's lots of ways to make money, you know, off of it for those shops. I think like closed captioning stuff, like every ad in politics needs to be closed captions. So if you could do that in house, you can charge like X amount for every spot. And you're basically churning out spot after spot after spot. So there's, there's a lot of ways. I mean, definitely people in that field are making money, especially if they're being clever. Um, I definitely know people that double and triple kind of would book themselves sort of on different roles.

Nol Honig (00:14:38):

Like they'd be a producer and they'd be an executive producer and maybe they'd be a writer on one spot. And like every time they'd be getting paid three ways from that, I mean, there's definitely, there's huge budgets and there's a lot of waste. I mean, I'm not even convinced that political advertising works by the way, but, uh, you know, there, there's definitely, there's definitely money in there. And also there's a sense that you're, you're just kind of cranking stuff out. Um, you know, it's got its real ups and downs for me eventually I realized like I could give the client exactly what they wanted on the first go because I had been doing it for so long and there was no surprises. Like they always wanted it to be blue, for example, you know what I mean? Like you, like, you'd never would make it orange ever.

Nol Honig (00:15:19):

Right, exactly. You know what I mean? Especially on the democratic level, it would just always be blue. And if it was a negative ad, it would always be like black and white and like great. Right. Definitely. There just weren't interested in like mixing it up a lot. Yeah. Sort of sort of limiting and boring honestly, but uh, exciting too. Cause like, you know, people on the daily show would like your commercial would come up and they'd talk about it. And like I worked on like some really famous political ads and stuff like the Hillary Clinton 3:00 AM at. I dunno if there's anybody out there that knows political advertising, that's really famous.

Joey Korenman (00:15:46):

That's really funny. I mean, well, I know about that ad it's, it's very, it's gotta be really, there's an interesting dichotomy to it where your clients I'm assuming are not very visually sophisticated. They're not art directors, so they're not, yeah. They're not concerned with how beautiful of a frame you've created. It's literally just function over form. But at the same time you must have worked on some things that at the time it must've felt like this is really important. I hope this message like actually gets through

Nol Honig (00:16:14):

Oh yeah. Oh no, definitely. Certainly working for Obama both times, uh, in his presidential campaigns, I mean we made a million negative ads against Mitt Romney. Some of them were pretty well known and like we just hammered them. And I think in that case, actually some of that advertising was very effective and I felt like, yeah, I was sort of doing something at least that I believed in and I thought it was like a good cause. Definitely. Yeah. So it's exciting like that. Um, but it's really limiting. I realized when I got out in 2013, I was, I looked back to stuff that I had been doing in 2006 and I realized that I just wasn't trying as hard, you know, and that's sort of not the way that I want my career to be. I don't want to like get,

Joey Korenman (00:16:50):

Yeah, you don't want to rest on your laurels. I want to ask you about, you know, you mentioned that your, your, your politics are very left leaning. So obviously working on Hillary Clinton's campaign, Barack Obama's campaign, that's gotta be really fun. And I'm sure that a lot of their values align with yours, but you know, not, not, everybody's very politically motivated. Were there people that you worked with who would work on Republican stuff some days and they work on democratic stuff where they didn't really care who the client was? Or is it, is it pretty split?

Nol Honig (00:17:19):

It's pretty partisan. Um, I know somebody who does voiceovers that would occasionally jump onto a Republican spot. Um, but I, I, I think for the most part, certainly the shops and the agencies that do democratic work only do democratic work and the shops. Yeah. So, you know, certainly at the top levels like that and the consultants definitely. But I guess you could probably jump around as an animator, um, if you really wanted to, but it's sort of one of those things where like, I just didn't even know anybody who did that work. You know, I only knew people in the dump, you know, that's who would always approach me and that's who I would work for. It was sort of very partisan, I think just like everything else, you know,

Joey Korenman (00:17:55):

That's very interesting. I can remember in Boston when I was freelance, I got a call one time. I never actually worked freelance for political ads, but there's, there was a company there that pretty well known and they called me and they said, Hey, we're wondering if you're available. And, uh, we've got some stuff coming up. And, and I was, you know, we talked rate, we talked availability and I was like, yeah, sounds great. And they said, well, one more thing. I want to let you know that we, uh, work with Republican candidates. And he said it in a way where I knew that he'd had countless phone calls, cause this was in Boston, which is very liberal where people probably hung up the phone at that point. And it was very interesting to me cause I I'm, I'm fairly a political, uh, you know, I think my politics lean more left than right. But I just, it's just a very small part of my life. But I'm assuming that, um, there must be a lot of emotions involved in stuff like this in a way that doesn't happen when you're working on a GM commercial and then the next, and then you're working on a BMW commercial, you know,

Nol Honig (00:18:55):

Definitely, definitely. I mean, it was practically a requirement that you would read the newspaper every day before going to work because people would just be throwing, you know, certainly during the campaigns, things happen every day and if you're not on top of those, and then you're trying to make a spot about that, you're just falling behind. So it kind of, yeah, definitely developed for me, I think I got much more political and even to the left working amongst people like that, um, definitely I think I was the kind of guy that I would probably read like wired, but then I became the kind of guy that read the New York times, like every day, you know what I mean? So I focused kind of shifted a little bit and I still I'm still there. It's like once you get hooked into that, I feel like it's, it's hard to break away from that, especially nowadays when the news is so interesting.

Joey Korenman (00:19:37):

Okay. Would you feel, would you feel almost like, um, like a team spirit sort of thing, like if your candidate won, everyone would celebrate where you kind of emotionally invested in the actual result? Oh yeah.

Nol Honig (00:19:47):

Yeah. I mean, certainly. I mean, so, okay. Like for example, in 2008, I was working on the Hillary team during the primary and that if you remember, when she was up against Barack Obama, before he became president, that was a really tough democratic primary. It was a real slug. And uh, and like all of us, uh, I guess I probably shouldn't say this, but a lot of people let's just say on the Hillary team eventually knew that she was not going to win and it got really a little bit demoralizing. And since I, you know, I, myself supported Barack Obama the whole time, even kind of, even though I love Hillary, I thought she was great back then too. I was kind of more of a president Obama fan or a Senator Obama fan. And so it was a little bit emotional and then like certainly when I was working for him and then he won the first time and I think that was an emotional election for a lot of people just because we had our first African-American president and it was such a milestone, but like having worked on that, I mean, yeah, that was just an amazing day actually.

Nol Honig (00:20:44):

And you know, they would always have a big election night party at all the shops. And if you won, it was a great party. If you lost it's,

Joey Korenman (00:20:54):

It's such, it's such a different vibe than I can, then it really, any other type of client you can work with. That's really, it's really fascinating. You must, now you must have some, some interesting stories from that time. Did you ever, uh, you know, were you ever involved in anything controversial?

Nol Honig (00:21:10):

Yeah, I was one time. It's a pretty funny story. And it's the only time in my entire motion graphics career when the shop that I worked at because of something that I did had to actually release a press statement to the press, believe it or not, this was in two, in the 2008 campaign and I was working for Hillary and, um, we were making negative ads against Senator Obama who would go on to become president Obama and, um, you know, th the negative ads that you make in a primary against other Democrats, they're not like the ads that you would make against a Republican. You keep them pretty light. It's more about the issues, but you don't try to like pause on them while they're making like an ugly face. Like you would, you know, if you're going up against the public or something. So you generally, you know, you try to keep them looking good and you try to not make it quite as negative, but you're trying to get the point across and re accidentally really missed that mark in a big way and got in trouble.

Nol Honig (00:22:07):

And what happened was we had this kind of split screen, I think it was a split-screen shot. And we had this footage of, of Barack Obama speaking, and he was kind of in front of this, some sort of TV monitor or something. And behind him in the image, it was very, very red and he all this sort of red light kind of spilled onto him and onto his skin. And I had them cropped in kind of a closeup and I was trying to kind of color correct his face essentially, and do as good a job as I could. And, um, I guess I didn't do a very good job because we released the spot and then kind of almost immediately, it became this huge issue where people on the very far left, like on MSNBC and daily coast and those kinds of things, if you're aware of like the really left fringes of politics, they thought that the Hillary team had darkened Obama's face to make him as a way of kind of discrediting him, which I guess, you know, honestly is a real thing.

Nol Honig (00:23:05):

Um, we didn't do it that way on purpose at all. And it was horribly embarrassing, but there have been some famous political examples that came up that I didn't know about, but there's this like Willie Horton cover of time magazine. I think it was where like they darkened his face and made him look more scary and sort of since then people have been very sensitive about that kind of thing. And wow, we didn't realize it at all. And it got kind of out of control and we had to release this press statement sort of showing like, here's the original footage here are the, basically like the steps we de-saturated at 10%. And then we changed the levels here. And like, you know, it was, it was really a big deal at the time and it was in the newspapers and yeah, it was, it got kinda ugly.

Nol Honig (00:23:44):

And it does make you realize that like, I mean, politics is a pretty dirty game. And I think when people can take advantage of something, even if it's not a hundred percent truthful, if it kind of feels right, then they will. Um, and that was the only time I was ever on that end of that. And it was, it was pretty scary actually. I wasn't sure if I was going to like lose my job at this place, but they were luckily believe it or not. I actually sat down with the sort of the lead producer when I changed the color of his face a little bit. Cause we were kind of aware that we didn't want to get in trouble, but we still did anyway. So yeah, it was ugly. It was definitely

Joey Korenman (00:24:20):

Wow. I mean, that, that is the, by far the craziest story I've ever heard in this industry, like, you know, the, the human saturation adjustment layer making national news man

Nol Honig (00:24:35):

And like kind of called like a racist on top of it kind of really, I totally love Barack Obama. And the last thing I would've wanted to have done was like anything like that on purpose, you know? So,

Joey Korenman (00:24:46):

So this is just hysterical, man. Oh my gosh. Well, I bet you're really, really, really careful when you're color correcting footage now. So I guess it's a lesson came from that. Totally. So let's, let's talk, let's talk about your post political work. Um, so we're, we're, we're going to link to, uh, to the drawing room and to your real and everything. Um, and you know, your work is super cool. Uh, it's it. And you kind of have developed this style that now when I see it, I sort of say like, okay, that's kind of NOLs thing. And you know, you, you mentioned that you're older, you're a motion designer from a, from a previous time still it's still kicking around. Um, but, but, but you know, with the experience that you've had, I mean, you must've seen tons and tons of styles come and go.

Joey Korenman (00:25:33):

And right now the hot thing still seems to be fair, you know, flat shapes and simple things, maybe with textures kind of making a company, I think, yeah. You know, things always have to have a little texture on it now, but you, a lot of your stuff is this cool mixed media. And it kind of reminds me of the stuff that, that I remember seeing when I got really into this, you know, in like the early two thousands and eyeball in New York city was known for this and Shiloh and even some of the early buck stuff. Um, so I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about just your experience seeing styles come and go and, and your opinion on even having a style. Do you think that's even necessary or should we, should we all strive to be generalists? Well,

Nol Honig (00:26:18):

Alright, well, that's a big question, but, uh, you know, I do, I consider myself kind of a generalist and I don't think, I don't think I am one of those, I guess maybe I'm contradicting even what you just said, but for the most part, when I work with clients, I try to figure out really what they want and then not apply just one style to that. So, um, you know, recently I have been working toward this sort of mixed media thing. And I think for me, that's just trying to play toward my own strengths. Um, right now what we see is a lot of, um, illustrated work. And I'm not really much of an illustrator. Like I actually think I am a sort of a good illustrator, but my style is not at all, like kind of the, the style that you see today. Um, so that's a hard thing if you just can't illustrate in that style.

Nol Honig (00:27:04):

I think that's a really hard thing to kind of fake. I can certainly animate anything like that, but, um, in terms of creating art in that style, I think the reason I've been going toward mixed media more is just because, you know, it's something that I can do. I'm really good with imagery and I, in general, I do think of it as like trying to tell a story in some sense. And I think I reached sort of the limit of what flat, you know, geometric shapes can kind of do for me in terms of telling a story. Um, I think in general there is kind of a, uh, like a style churn or like a trend churn that we go through a lot and, you know, we saw this with flat and now we're seeing this definitely with textured stuff. And I think once I realized that something is kind of a style, I get bored of it right away.

Nol Honig (00:27:50):

Like it's definitely not my goal to like, do what everybody else is doing. Like, I, I just think that's terrible, you know? And like also for me, I think in the last five years or so, or since I started my own shop, I got to say that I don't derive my inspiration from motion graphics anymore. I'm not like a Vimeo junkie. I mean, I look at all that stuff and I keep up, but I'm kind of bored by it stylistically. I mean, yeah, I think I've seen every style come and go and, you know, in certain things like, I'm just, I've never been into like 3d, like I'm really not into shiny things. And like, I understand the talent and the craft that goes into that. But like, I don't care if the fibers of the shoe form, the Nike sneaker that bores the out of me.

Nol Honig (00:28:34):

Like I could, I'd never need to see that. You know what I mean? Like, what I see is a lot of people that I think is like, Ooh, I could do this cool procedural thing in 3d. Let's make a whole spot based on that idea or whatever. And like, to me that's boring. I, I don't think that one leaf is a whole tree. Like I'm bored by like so many of the styles that I see today. Um, I tend to find inspiration and museums and bookstores and, uh, and that kind of thing. So yeah, I do, you know, on one hand I think of myself as a generalist, like whatever the client needs, I could do that for them, but if I'm going to push something in, into a direction or into a style, I think it's going to be, I do, I do really like photos a lot.

Nol Honig (00:29:13):

And I do have some peoples that are working today that I really admire a lot, um, who are working in a kind of mixed media style. And that would be like Ariel Kosta definitely jumps to mind. Uh, Tom Mccartin, I think is a genius. Uh, even some of the more recent stuff that Ben Radatz is doing. And, uh, also like, um, Leo G punchy, I'm not sure how you pronounce his name and like Anthony Sandra and mirror Rito and Ignacio. Sorio, there's a bunch of people that I think are working with mixed media really well. And I think that's, what's exciting to me when I see those people's works. And I also, I really do still love like Gretel and block and tackle and anybody that like has a really old school kind of formal design training. And you can really see that, you know what I mean? I think that's also really exciting as well. Um, yeah, I'm a real like design lover and art lovers. So that's sort of what I go for and just not things that are like trendy. I just think that's boring. I dunno.

Joey Korenman (00:30:08):

Yeah. You raised a lot of really good points there, buddy. So what I want to call out a couple of them. Um, so one thing you said right off the bat was that, you know, you play to your own strengths. And I think that a lot of times that's where style comes from and the, you know, there's a lot of discussion on podcasts like this and articles and interviews and things like that, where people talk about finding your voice and finding your style as kind of this, uh, I dunno, it's almost like this lofty goal. Like you're climbing a mountain and you're, and you find it. But I think that from a practical standpoint, it's really looking at what are you good at? And generally you're good at things you practice in, generally you practice things you like, right. Um, and so you seem to be inspired by a lot of the same people that I am.

Joey Korenman (00:30:55):

You mentioned Ariel Kosta, who's sort of the, you know, a lot of ways the S the second coming of Ben Radatz, you know, it's sort of the, you know, the, the, our generation, like the, the new generations. And it's interesting because his style, when you see it, it fits right in, in something that I ball would have done in, in 2002 or 2003, something like that. Um, and you know, the, for a long time, the, um, and, and still today, like that flat illustrated style, uh, is so popular and, and new students from school of motion are new artists coming up in the industry. They look at that and they think that that's what they have to be able to do. Right. And the truth is not everyone is able to do that. If you can't draw like Brian Gossett draws, you're not going to be able to design the way he designs, but you can, you know, learn some design skills and learn some art history and do the mixed media thing, and still convey a message in a beautiful way. And I think there's, you know, there's something about cropping, you know, an image of a newspaper from 1920 that conveys this feeling that you can't get by drawing something in Adobe illustrator. You know what I'm saying? And, and so you've got, you've got this quiver of arrows that you're able to pull from that to me, has more depth to it. Um, so let's talk a little bit go cause I'd love to get your opinion on that.

Nol Honig (00:32:15):

I totally agree. I totally agree. And I mean, even like, I don't know when it was 2006, maybe when quote, unquote new people like Jr S and Phil Borst and Lucas Brooking, and there was this kind of new generation sounder Vandyke also that like, they were really into geometrics and they were all killer killer animators and not necessarily designers. And they made that for themselves. And I was also really inspired by that, that to me. So I'm like really inspired also by like punk rock and by the idea of punk rock and let, like, you know, the punk thing is like, oh, you don't have to be good at playing an instrument to start a band. And you don't even have to be a good musician to have to be in a really good band, like, you know, the Ramones or something. I mean, they only knew three chords.

Nol Honig (00:32:59):

Right. Right. And I feel like that energy, it kind of comes and goes. And I saw that with Jr and Phil Borst and Saunder, and Lucas, Brooklyn, all these people that, you know, just used really flat geometric styles, but animated the heck out of them. Right. And like understood curves and like the graph editor better than anybody else at the time. And like, to me, that was really inspirational in that sort of punk rock sense. I'm inspired by that, but not necessarily to make that work anymore also because I think that's played out. I mean, I even think that those guys are kind of played out, like if you see what Phil Borst is doing now, it's completely different, you know, and same with Lucas Brooking. And I guess Saunder still works pretty much a geometrics, but, you know, there's only so far that you can do one style before he get bored. And I think that's just at least for me, so yeah. I mean, yeah.

Joey Korenman (00:33:47):

And, and there's, there's also that the deck, the dichotomy, I guess, between, you know, what, you're, what clients are asking for, what, you know, that, that flat vector style. One of the reasons I, I personally think it became so successful is because it's cheap or it's cheaper, you know, um, it takes a lot less time to design something like that and to animate something like that then to, to come up with in design and animate something like, you know, uh, Gretel does with like the rebrands and stuff like that, you know, where it's just so cerebrally designed where it's, it's like classically designed. Um, and I see, I see a lot of that stuff in your work and, you know, looking at your work and, and talking with you, you have a pretty deep knowledge of, I guess I'd call it art history. Um, but just art in general. I mean, you just rattled off six modern motion design artists, and I only knew like half of them. Um, so I'm wondering where did that knowledge come from and how has that influenced the work that you know?

Nol Honig (00:34:49):

Yeah. Yep. Yep. So, um, my mom was a painter and actually both my parents were painters. My dad gave up painting to work in advertising and became an art director. And so certainly with my mom, she was a painter my whole life. And she would drag me and my brother to like every museum show ever. I grew up on long island and we would always be driving into the city to go to it's New York city to see art shows. And my mom was kind of this self-taught art historian. And she had just a wonderful sense of how, you know, this movement sort of became this. And then, you know, Picasso went from doing, you know, represented representational stuff into abstract stuff, and then into cubism and then into so-and-so. And so-and-so so like, I think I really, I got that from my mom basically. And, you know, also I am a fan of history and, uh, and I, so I like to read that kind of stuff, but yeah, definitely for my mom and you know, how I think it's, it's forced me to, I mean, quite honestly my understanding of this field is that I'm in this because I think this is the greatest medium ever developed by humans to make art.

Nol Honig (00:35:57):

Okay. You know what I mean? Like, I think motion design incorporates everything like filmmaking and design and animation and music and sound effects. And like basically every art form, you know, writing every art form combines into this one, as far as I'm concerned, this is the most interesting modern art form that you can work in, you know? And so unfortunately I think we're fortunately, or unfortunately it's, the medium has been adopted almost exclusively by advertising and, um, you know, I think that's great as a way to make a living, but I don't think that's really the maximum potential of this art form. So, you know, that's, I don't know. I think I still have a pretty artistic focus and think about this work, even in the context of art history a little bit. And so I, yeah, I do think about that kind of stuff when I work. And like, even just the idea of artists that like an artist doesn't want to rep it doesn't want to repeat somebody else's style or something that they thought, you know what I mean? That's, that's how I feel like everybody should be. Yeah.

Joey Korenman (00:37:00):

That's a really good philosophy. So you mentioned, I love your description, emotion, design, you know, it's everything. Um, and you mentioned things that I think, you know, if, if you kind of came into this field in, I don't know, 2013, and you saw what was going on, you might think motion design is just Adobe illustrator and Adobe after effects, you know, and, and basic basic design. Um, but you're right. It encompasses filmmaking. In fact, I think that, you know, at a base level motion design is storytelling, um, or at least communication. Now you, I want to ask it how about graphic design, but you actually went to school for film. You went to the Tisch, old-school very famous, uh, film school at NYU. So I'm wondering if you could talk about that experience a little bit, um, and, and how that education did or did not prepare you for

Nol Honig (00:37:49):

Yeah, well, Hmm. Yeah. I have mixed feelings about my time at NYU. Um, so I always wanted to be a filmmaker my whole life. And I think, you know, I was this kind of serious young teenager and I read in the New York times that like the way to become an indie filmmaker, which is what I wanted. My heroes were like Jim Jarmusch and spike Lee and the Cohen brothers and those people. And, uh, you know, what they did is the path that I thought would be the right. One, of course it shifted by the time I got there as is the way of the world. But, uh, I like basically read something in the dark times that said, like you should major in writing, you know, go to a really good school and get a degree in writing and then go to grad school for film at like NYU or UCLA or one of those schools.

Nol Honig (00:38:31):

And that's like the best entryway, because you'll know how to write and you'll know how to tell. And then you'll kind of translate that into a visual thing. And so that's basically what I did. I majored in English and I studied writing and then I went to Tisch and I went to film school and I kind of went straight from being an undergrad to being a grad student, which I think was actually a mistake. I think people should take time off, but that's what I did. And, you know, for me, it, uh, at my time at Tisch, I, I realized kind of like even what we were just talking about with motion design is that like, you know, I love that medium of filmmaking, but the actual industry of making films was not something that I really liked. And also it was not something that I was necessarily really good at.

Nol Honig (00:39:12):

Like, you need to be the most confident person possible to be a director. I feel like, especially once you get to like a higher level and, um, you know, I kind of saw this firsthand a little bit because, um, so I'm going to digress a little bit and tell you a story here. But, um, you know, I, when I was an undergraduate and I was studying writing, I decided that, um, I was going to go and study in England for a year as part of my junior year abroad. And I was really into filmmaking then as well. And I made films and did writing the whole time that I was an undergraduate and I went to England and I sort of picked the school UCL because they had, um, like a really good English department, but they also had film equipment and they had this film society where you could take out film equipment and make films.

Nol Honig (00:39:56):

And I was like, I'm going to go to study in England and let's live in London. I love big cities. And, uh, I'm going to study Shakespeare and Dickens and all these things that I love, but I'm also going to make films when I'm there. And I kind of like, um, the very first day, uh, when I was there, I went to their film society and I said, you know, like I'm here and I want to make films. And I've made a bunch of 16 millimeter films before. So I just really, you know, I know how to use all the equipment and I want to make a film here. So basically just give me a camera. Right. And, uh, you know, at the same time, on the very first day, there was this other guy who was about my age, who came in and was saying the exact same thing and he made films and he wanted to make films while he was there.

Nol Honig (00:40:34):

And he was really inspired and they kind of like looked at us both. And they were like, why don't you guys make a film together? And we were like, yeah, another one was really wanting to do that, but we kind of said, okay. And then like, so, uh, basically, uh, that person was Christopher Nolan. Okay. And so you see, oh yeah, that guy. And, uh, he, we made a film together and I actually started in this film and the way that it worked out working with Christopher was that, um, he was, and still is, I assume the most confident guy I've ever met in my whole life. And he just always knew exactly what he wanted to do in every sense. So that's how it seemed. I mean, you know, as I get older, I realized that the way that confidence works, I think is actually people who often seem the most confident and maybe are the most insecure, really.

Nol Honig (00:41:23):

I'm not sure, anyway, that's a little bit of philosophy, but, uh, but like, I was never that confident. So like, even when we made this film together, he kind of like wound up directing this film and I of wound up starring in it and sort of producing it and stuff. And then like, you know, I still continue to make films and everything. And I went to film school, but I remember when I went, I asked him like, oh, do you think this would be a good idea to go to film school? And he said, no, I don't, you'll be basically in competition with people. And you'll feel really weird about that. And you should just make your own film basically, rather than paying all this money and going to school. And, uh, you know, that's what he did. And it worked out really well for him.

Nol Honig (00:41:58):

I went to film school and what actually happened to me was I kind of lost my love for film or for, for making films at that time. Like I just realized I wasn't that good for it. I, I got out of school and I just started working in the film industry. And I kind of thought, I dunno, that like I sucked at it in every sense. Like I realized that like post-production was going to be like a way better fit for me, but, uh, yeah. So I, I don't know if that really explains my time at film school, but that's kinda like how I experienced it was just like, kind of like, I'm really glad because I really did quite honestly learn a lot about pacing and about storytelling. And, you know, that was really, my focus was like how to direct and like visual communication.

Nol Honig (00:42:43):

And that's what I thought about a lot when I was at school. And I think all of that has really paid off. Um, so I don't regret that, especially now that I've paid off my student loans, which happened a few years ago, I was psyched about, but, uh, I think I got good training and it did lead into all of my early work experiences. I mean, I did, I got into film school, I've directed a bunch of music videos. And, uh, some of them actually did really well. Like I made this music video for guided by voices who are kind of my favorite band in the whole world at that time, and actually made that in after effects. And so that kind of started like both my film directing career and my motion graphics career. And I, I did okay. Directing music videos for a while, but, you know, I even worked with David Byrne who was like another childhood hero of mine and stuff, but like eventually it just like the budgets went way, way, way, way down. And like, you just couldn't make any money doing that. And I don't know, I just kind of like flamed out as director. I couldn't really make it work on my own terms. And so, you know, that's kind of when I took my fine arts education and my filmmaking background and kind of put those together and started working in motion. Yeah.

Joey Korenman (00:43:47):

Yeah. You're a lot of your experience reminds me. I had a very short stint in film school. I actually started in a film program and quickly learned that I didn't want to be in the film industry and that alone, that realization and how quickly it happened was probably worth the tuition, save me a lot of years of pain. Um, and I think it was for a lot of the same reasons it's, you know, uh, filmmaking is such an enormous undertaking and, and you, you give up a lot of control, um, unless you're, unless you have the personality type Chris Nolan and can actually wrangle, you know, $150 million production in 400 people to, to do your bidding and tell them you

Nol Honig (00:44:31):

Actually do that over, even though it costs production like a million dollars a minute. Nope. We have to do these five times until it's my way. Yeah, exactly. No,

Joey Korenman (00:44:40):

Yes. And D and dealing with the egos and this and that. And, um, it's just really interesting to hear you say that. So, um, so, okay. So you went to film school and you learned about story and things like that, which by the way, I think is actually super important. And a lot of motion designers forget that, you know, if the goal is to make the audience feel a certain way, and you can do that by pointing a camera at, uh, you know, a single Daisy blowing in the wind, you know, like if you can do it that, that way, or you can do it by design, right. It's, you're solving the same problem. It's what am I communicating? And, and it's, it's just sort of like different dialects of the same language. So, you know, now transitioning into motion design where graphic design is more, the technique you use more than cinematography and shot choice, things like that. Um, where did your sense of design come from? Because I look at your work and it's clear that you know, how to design and you understand color and composition. Uh, how'd you get there? Well,

Nol Honig (00:45:40):

Like I said, I did grow up in this really artsy family and, uh, so that really helped. And I was always super artsy and like encouraged. And like, I would do the drawing that the art teacher would put up on the wall kind of thing. Like I always had that kind of going on. Like, it was a little bit easier for me, I guess. Um, but you know, it's funny because initially I learned after effects the software, and that was what allowed me to start teaching at Parsons, which is this really famous design school. And once I got there, I realized that I had never studied design. And I actually, I really thought that my design totally sucked and I'm completely, self-taught in design other than like having grown up, going to museums and like this kind of thing. I mean, I just really have been trying to teach myself design in the last like 15 years.

Nol Honig (00:46:25):

I mean, they have a great design library. I've gone a few times, but I think I don't, I think it's just been through constantly practicing that became something that I really wanted to get good at. And so I just kind of kept working at it for a really long time. I don't really even know, except for, to say that my stuff sucked for a long time. And, you know, I think, I think maybe partially it's, this is that I have kind of been trying to develop my own voice. And I think it is really actually very important for people to do this, to feel good about making their own work, especially with design, because I think it's very personal. And for me, one of the things that I did about five years ago was I made a list of all the things that really, really inspired me when I was about 15 years old.

Nol Honig (00:47:10):

And, uh, it seems kind of silly, but like in a way, those are like the purest, my purest sense of inspiration that I can find. Like, I feel like when I was around 15, I was still like I hadn't yet gotten jaded about things and I was still super enthusiastic about everything. You know what I mean? Like if I was into something, I was like a hundred percent into it. Like if I liked, I love to David Lynch and I would just go see like every David Lynch movie, including like the student shorts. And then I would like try and write a letter to David Lynch and ask him how he did that, you know? And I just like, and that kind of person. So I just like really deeply dive into stuff and, you know, just anything that was important to me back then, I try to like really figure out why it was important and then figure out what it is about that I still really admire. And I think for me, that's been like a very nice kind of loop of about getting back to things that I was inspired by in the past and remembering those and like bring those out because I think that's what helps people develop their own, like really authentic voice.

Joey Korenman (00:48:07):

Yeah. That's good advice. I, you know, you're, I kinda said it before that you, you get good at things you practice and you practice things that you're passionate about and it's, it's almost like you reverse engineered what causes you to be passionate about things. And then, and then, and then that gives you sort of the stamina to S I liked the way you said that you're like, I sucked for a long time. You have to have there's, uh, an element of stamina involved in getting good in, in anything. And it's cool that you didn't really have a formal education in it, because I think it just shows that, you know, that's not necessary. I mean, it certainly helps. I'm sure. I'm sure that I'm sure that, you know, you, you wish you'd, uh, you know, instead of, I don't know, maybe getting that undergrad degree in writing yourself, gotten like some, some design education or something. Um, but you have actually now, um, you know, that you're in the industry, you've taken many classes. I know you've, you've taken some of ours. You've done MoGraph mentor. I'm sure you've taken other ones. Um, I'm wondering if you can talk about sort of the experience of taking these online classes as a working professional and how that compares in sort of effectiveness and, and depth to the traditional college experience that you've already had.

Nol Honig (00:49:20):

Right. Well, you know, okay. So I like, I, like you just said, I never studied design formally. So my college experience in my grad school experiences were kind of different, but I think because I've been teaching a long time, I think I can kind of handle this question and I think everything's good for one, I don't think there's one superior system or another, I think anything that you could do to get yourself to the next level is awesome. You know what I mean? Like, um, and I think both, even though school emotion and MoGraph mentor are very different in terms of the approach. I think they're both awesome. And I think I could definitely, I did benefit hugely from both of them. Like when I took animation bootcamp, it forced me to get really good at the graph editor, which is something I had been personally kind of lazy about.

Nol Honig (00:50:04):

Um, so that was a huge thing for me. Like when I took the character animation class, I'd never done any character on Asian before, and that helped me realize that like, Hey, I'm pretty good at that too. Actually, you know, when I did MoGraph mentor that, um, forced me to kind of figure out what do I really want to make a project about a personal project? And again, that's sort of like that thing I was talking about was like, what really inspires me and MoGraph mentor was really good for that, you know? Um, but I also think that like traditional college education is super valid as well and has certain things that you're just not going to get from an online program, like a sense of companionship and camaraderie. I mean, you get that from like your Facebook group for example is awesome, but, you know, I don't think, I think there's something to really be said about being in the same kind of meet space as a whole bunch of other people for like a few years.

Nol Honig (00:50:54):

And we just bond in a different way and you get to know people in a different way and, you know, the online classes, at least the ones I've taken, but I think this is pretty true is that they're, they're kind of result oriented, you know, they're like, um, they're very practical. Like, um, you know, even like, for example, uh, I just visited Joey and we went down in Florida and we went and spoke and talked a little bit in the classroom at Ringling. If you remember, I'm just telling people, uh, and like, I was really impressed by, um, by Ringling and like, you know, just the fact that even when we were there, like, and cheat him kind of wanted to like pick my brain in front of his class and talk about like, you know, experiences that I've had. And I think that that kind of stuff is really cool about a traditional educational experience.

Nol Honig (00:51:37):

And, you know, also I went to this mode summit, uh, two years ago, which was a motion design education. I met some people who teach, you know, MoGraph and, uh, it made me realize that that, like talking about design and gestalt and some of this sort of theoretical aspects behind our work, which is something that, you know, I don't think it really gets taught in these sort of more practical result oriented online classes is actually really cool. And for somebody like myself who is sort of theoretical that, you know, I was like, oh, that's really cool, you know, color theory and things like that. I mean, I guess maybe you talk about that in design bootcamp, but you could take a whole class just in like color theory, for example, you know, at a traditional school. And I, I think that's pretty cool. So, you know, I just think any education is basically good, you know, I mean, like, even for me, even Tish, I know I was negative about my time at Tish, but, um, I have no regrets about going really, because I did learn a lot of things that otherwise I wouldn't have been able to learn.

Nol Honig (00:52:33):

Like I even learned how to edit on avid when I was at Tisch. You know, I'd pick that up while I was there, you know, but even like teaching for school of motion, I picked up a ton of new things. I mean, I think just teaching and education are just kind of the best gifts that you can give to yourself no matter what really.

Joey Korenman (00:52:50):

Yeah. You bet you've run up a lot of good points and I agree with everything you said too. I mean, I I've, I've, I'm on the record saying a lot of incendiary things about, about colleges, but really it all comes down to just how much they cost. Um, you know, the, the, you cannot argue with the value that you get from being at a place like Ringling for four years, with the amazing staff and the COO and just the random conversations that happen, you know, in the hallway. And, and, and there's kind of, you know, one of the things about online training, um, I think is a blessing and a curse is that you have the ability to edit it and make it perfect, but in the classroom, a student can raise their hand and contradict you and make a good point and basically shoot down the thing that you just spent 30 minutes talking about.

Joey Korenman (00:53:37):

It turns into this whole discussion and that doesn't really happen online. Um, and, and it's interesting. I had, I just had a long conversation, uh, with Michael Jones that will be a, an episode of next podcast. It may already be released by the time you're listening to this. Um, and you know, we've both kind of come around, especially talking to, to people like Christo, that there's validity in everything. And, you know, trying to find that sweet spot of cost versus interactivity and, and, you know, trying to get the most bang for your buck, that's one way to do it. But then there's also the way that it has been going on for years, which is spend a ton of money, but get insane amounts of knowledge and value and interaction and friendships and, and all that kind of stuff too. So you've now taught, uh, you've produced and you've taught a couple of sessions now, uh, for us, and you also still teach in-person at Parsons. And I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit about the differences that you've noticed, um, you know, between the online teaching and learning model and the in-person.

Nol Honig (00:54:43):

Wow. Oh, wow. That's a huge question. Um, I, you know, I think my answer to that is that for technical training, um, the online is great. And like, what I've been doing at Parsons is actually since I took animation bootcamp, since I took more online classes, I realized for myself personally, that watching videos about learning after effects is a much better method, uh, for my students than my sitting at a computer in a live classroom and giving the same lecture. And, you know, just because, you know, I don't think this is true of all types of education, but for motion design, especially for learning basic after effects, which is one of the things that I teach at Parsons, I think, and what I also teach for school motion. Now, I think that these video classes are completely invaluable and it's definitely the best way to go because it's like, you're trying to look, you know, for example, my students in, at Parsons before I did this, if I'm trying to explain how a track mat works, you know, and I'm like, okay, the, you know, the there's the mat, and then there's the fill.

Nol Honig (00:55:49):

And then the mat always has to go on top and then you press this button and it's actually not a button. It's a pull-down. And then there's four options in there. And it's like alpha matte alpha inverted, Luma, matte Lu, you know, and like, if I'm just sort of casually pressing that button and showing those things in a classroom situation, and somebody has to take physical notes on a piece of paper about that. That's like impossible, basically, you know, and like you have to kind of have for a member it, and then when you sit back down to do it, you have to remember exactly what the button was, or look at your notes, which are like hastily, scrawled, and involved like a bunch of doodles and things trying to sort of figure out where on the screen the button is or whatever, what it looks like, you know, and, and that kind of thing.

Nol Honig (00:56:26):

I just think video classes are way better. I also teach, you know, one of the missions at Parsons is diversity because it's a, the new school it's, uh, it's, you know, part of the new school and the new school is all about social justice and diversity. And, uh, so I have like, you know, every semester in a class of maybe 20 students, at least 10 English is not their first language, you know, and it's not even like, there's one other language that everybody else speaks. I mean, it's a range of people who speak Spanish or people be Chinese or Japanese or whatever. There's quite a lot of languages. And, you know, it's very tough. I speak fast. And then we use all this technical terminology, like interpolation and continuous rasterization and stuff like that. And I just think like, it's really hard if English isn't your first language, and then you start teaching expressions and you're, you know, working with a new language.

Nol Honig (00:57:15):

And yeah. So I just think that, like, I think video classes for learning after effects are definitely the way to go. I mean, I think, you know, then there's the larger question of sort of like online versus brick and mortar schools. We were sort of covering that in the last question, but, you know, I just, like I said, I think they're really different and I think, I think it's all valid. And like I said, yeah, I just think, no matter what, if you are getting an education in something you're better off. I mean, I think especially once you're an adult, I think once you're in an industry, the more training I think you could do just the better, I mean, just to go back for one sec, like it does irritate me though that it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to a school.

Nol Honig (00:57:54):

And I do think that's really unfair and, you know, I guess here's my political side. I just don't think education should be a for-profit industry at all. Like that. I think that's one of the worst things happening in America right now and has been for awhile. And it's not even just education. I don't think our healthcare should be for profit. I don't think our prison systems should be for-profit. I mean, we have a very skewed capitalistic way of looking at everything in America, including education. And I think that's yeah, AFT up actually, I think that's really messed up. I think it holds,

Joey Korenman (00:58:23):

I, I agree with that there. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's see to me when I talk to people who teach at the schools, you know, and, and, and it's like, there's this weird dualism to it where, you know, you're, you're, you're teaching because you, I mean, if you're teaching at a college, you're generally not doing it for the money. Um, you know, it's a sweet gig, but you're doing it because you enjoy it and you like teaching and you like interacting with students and watching them grow and getting those aha moments. And for the students, you know, you go to Ringling and you have state-of-the-art equipment, you have all of the software and you're given a laptop with everything on it. And you're surrounded by faculty and equipment and gear and knowledge and, and students that know more than you. And, uh, it's unbelievable. It's just, there's a big trade off.

Joey Korenman (00:59:15):

And, you know, I mean maybe one day, uh, you know, the, it just becomes socialized or something, and that problem goes away. And in that situation, um, but you also, you, you brought up another point earlier, which is interesting. I want to dig into is that, you know, if you're trying to learn technical skills, things that are complicated video makes a ton of sense because you can play it 15 times in a row. Uh, you can, you know, we now get every single video for every single course. Um, you know, some titled and we provide transcripts. So we have a lot of students that English is their second or third language. There's a lot of advantages there, but if you were teaching something like, I don't know, uh, how to develop a personal style, a video course might be more difficult. So, um, you know, what are some of the things that you see in, in that you do in a live environment that aren't possible, or,

Nol Honig (01:00:12):

Yeah, that's so obviously it's just a lot more of the personal work with the students and sort of getting to know them. Uh, and, you know, w we kind of on, you know, like for example, in the alumni groups and the Facebook groups for school of motion classes, you know, it's pretty easy to kind of always put your best foot forward when you're making comments or whatever. It's definitely more difficult in real life. I find, uh, both for the students and for myself, you know, you wake up one morning and you're in a crappy mood and you might get into an argument with a student, you know, that's not happening like, right. You gotta control myself better. But, uh, yeah, I mean, I think, I think I'm also probably connect a lot more strongly with my actual in real life students. And, you know, it's easier for me to tell, having taught for so long.

Nol Honig (01:01:00):

I feel like I can see students kind of break down more easily into a few different categories. Uh, although everybody, you know, okay, I want to say the teaching in a classroom, I think is more difficult than teaching for school of motion or online. And, you know, it is because of the personal reactions and because of what you would expect that you would have to do. So like every student in my classroom is a unique individual person like everybody is, and nobody learns at the same exact rate and nobody kind of learns in the exact same way. And there's different, you know, there are some students that I sh I've learned that there's a certain type of student, I should say that like, they are their own harshest critics. So like, and I think I'm actually like this myself personally. So like, I have to have a very, very light touch when I critique their work.

Nol Honig (01:01:49):

Right. Like, because they've already said that thing to themselves 50 times louder than what I'm saying. So if I kind of like, just pause on a frame, that's got a mistake in it. They'll, I don't even need to say anything about it. If they know that I know they're going to change that thing, you know, there's some students that like, I have to bring up every single time, every error that they make. And over the course of the semester, they might fix that thing. You know, it's not like anybody's better or worse, but it's just, people have different rates and ways that they learn things. It's just, you know, it's really funny when you're a classroom and you're trying to really tailor the class for everybody. I find it's really challenging. And that I essentially, like, I take time in my class every semester to meet with the students individually and kind of just check in with them. And I think I do a lot more of that in person is like really checking in with them and seeing how it's going and letting them know that like, I'm happy with their progress, even if they're not. And it's just a lot of like subtle kind of human things. I think that you're doing in a classroom. I don't know. I guess those things do come up in the online classes, but it's, it's less subtle I find.

Joey Korenman (01:02:56):

Yeah, I love the way you described that. And I think that that's in a nutshell that's today anyway, in 2017, almost 2018, that's the big difference? The quality of the training is pretty comparable. I think, you know, you get a good teacher in a classroom, you get a good teacher online. The quality of the training, frankly, online might even be higher just because of the accessibility of it. And you can S you can pause and go back. Um, but yeah, well, you're talking about that soft touch, looking someone in the eye and giving them just the right word at that point to motivate them is not, not yet possible, although MoGraph mentor does from what I hear a pretty good job of that because they have a more live model than we do. And I really think that in the future, there's going to be more companies and different models, and sometimes it's live, you know, Michael Jones, uh, has got this amazing idea of doing sort of a half in person, half online thing.

Joey Korenman (01:03:51):

Christo's has got some similar. I think there's going to be a lot of interesting ways to learn. And, and to your point, they're all valid. And I think they will always be valid. Let's talk about the aftereffects class that you pretty recently completed for us and has been going insanely well, uh, the, the, you know, the student work that we see at the end of it, I mean, we've talked about it. It's pretty mind blowing, you know, someone coming in with no experience what they're able to do by the end and the reviews have been awesome. Um, so I'm wondering if you could just tell everyone listening a little bit about the class and why did you want to make this class the way it is?

Nol Honig (01:04:24):

Okay. So after effects, kickstart is like, you were just saying basically the beginning level school of motion class that you can take, if you know, nothing about after effects, you can jump into it. And after four weeks, a really intense four weeks, I should say, you will know basic after effects backwards and forwards and feel much more comfortable with it. So that's, you know, that was our goal for the class. And, um, you know, so the reason I wanted to teach this class was actually goes back to my teaching at Parsons. And when I first started teaching there, they offered two classes in motion, and I was initially teaching the more advanced class. And every semester I would get students that didn't know the basics coming into the advanced class. And I just kept complaining about this at the meetings. And finally, they just sort of were like, all right, smarty guy, you know, you're teaching the basics class.

Nol Honig (01:05:19):

And I was like, gulp. And then I realized at that point that actually it's really, really hard to teach the basics in a, in a, in a way it's, it's kind of the hardest thing to teach, because if you're already a working professional and, you know, after effects really well, and you know, the theories of motion design really well, then you're constantly doing things that you like to go back and try to explain those things that, you know, really well is actually really tough because you're already kind of just doing them. So, you know, and, and also like for years, I had this question in my syllabus is like, well, what's the first thing that you need to learn. And what's the second thing that you need to learn and how to really like, make it, so that one thing builds upon the next, in a really natural way.

Nol Honig (01:06:02):

And that just kind of, I've been teaching basics for over 10 years. And that was something that, you know, I really put together over time and kind of made sense to me that it had to be taught in certain way. So basically when I took after, uh, animation bootcamp, um, I thought kind of the same thing was happening and that, uh, as awesome of a class as it is that, um, some people that there was a mixture of levels of experience and that some people were feeling actually discouraged in the class because they didn't know enough basics about either after effects or about motion design to really take that class. Um, as much as they wanted to be like better, they still needed more fundamental training. So I actually really like, you know, at the first blend, I remember we all big group of school emotion students sat along the water that one day and had lunch and you and I wound up sitting next to each other and I had it even back then that I wanted to teach this class.

Nol Honig (01:06:54):

And I brought it up with you because I was sure that you already were developing it and sure enough, you were like, yeah, we're sort of developing something like that. And I was like, oh, darn it's too late. And then like a year went by and I realized they're not really developing classes, so I contacted you again. And then if you recall, at that time you were selling, I think your house and you were like, I'm too busy. And then we finally, yeah, it's like, it took about six months, I think before we actually really started working on it. But then yeah, once it started happening, it was just this incredible burst of work and energy to get that thing off the ground. But yeah, I think that class is amazing. And in fact, I want to jump back one sec. You asked about the differences between people in school of motion classes, sort of in my Parsons students and something.

Nol Honig (01:07:35):

I learned like a really good lesson of that after teaching, after effects kickstart, I decided I need to needed to make my basic after effects class at Parsons, even more in depth. You know, I had just made 25 hours of video content and all these projects and all this stuff, as I was really inspired to like really add like bonus lectures and all this stuff that, you know, school of motion classes are really known for. Yeah. And I realized at a certain point that my grad students didn't want that much bonus content. And that like what works for a school of motion class to have just like an insane amount of additional materials, like actually put a lot of pressure on my grad students because they're taking four or five other classes the same time. And some of them are taking the class just as an elective.

Nol Honig (01:08:19):

Cause they're like, oh, I should probably learn after effects while I'm at school. But I don't want to do motion graphics. I'm like in fashion or I'm in, you know, like coding or some completely other thing. And, you know, I was like just overwhelming them with how much I expected them to actually like watch and listen to potentially, whereas the students at school of motion glasses, all they want to do at that time is just work on motion graphics, you know? So is this actually a really like a difference in terms of focus? I think

Joey Korenman (01:08:47):

That's a really good point. Yeah, you're right. And I've noticed that too, that, you know, if you, if you're at a college and they offer a course, you might take it because it looks fun or maybe you have to take it. But if you take a school of motion, course you're poor. You're whipping out your credit card and you're paying for it and you, and so you better want to do it otherwise you're wasting your money and, and, and yeah, the, the question of motivation and how much people are willing to suffer, it's a learn because our, our classes are hard and this one's no different. Um, you know, for, for me, when we actually started making the class, um, you know, the, you know, you did the lion's share of the work, but one part that I, I still to this day very involved in is the, the initial outlining of the class where, you know, and the way we do it, I mean, you know, it takes, probably took about two months to do it. Um, and at the end we have this, you know, 40 page document with all these notes. I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about sort of the way that the class is structured and how that might differ from some other aftereffects training you've seen out there.

Nol Honig (01:09:51):

Well, Hmm. I actually haven't really taken any other basic level after effects training, which I probably should've done to put together that class. But, uh, you know, the way that the class is structured is really, really from the ground up. I mean, like basically the first lesson is like, I'm showing you how to actually make a key frame, like things that, you know, almost everybody who listening to this right now completely takes for granted that they know how to do, you know, and like for half the class we're working with just linear key frames, because I don't even want to, you know, there's just so many other things to teach before you get down to easy, you know, and things that, you know, once you start getting good at motion graphics that you really think about, you know, there's so many other steps just even before you get there, like just how to like parent something, you know, and when to parent and, you know, the difference between, you know, or even how to just make a mask on a layer.

Nol Honig (01:10:41):

I mean, there's so many things that we forget about, or even just like those dumb gotchas that come up right at the beginning, like defaulting the spatial interpolation to linear preference, or just like, you know, how to render. I mean, we go through all those things and, uh, yeah, I mean, we, we try to not take for granted that, you know, anything at the start, uh, and, and then take it from there and build it up. And by the, by the end of it, it's kind of amazing because, you know, we've got, um, know if I'm allowed to say, but we got an amazing artist to design the final project. And, you know, we asked him to do it basically in a very professional way. And so they get these very professional boards and they have to put together a 32nd spot. I mean, it's kind of an amazing progression. It's a little bit magical.

Joey Korenman (01:11:25):

Yeah. Yeah. And we can definitely, we can definitely, uh, spill the beans about that. So, so th and we've seen this now, uh, many, many times with students coming in knowing zero or very, very little after effects. And, um, you know, we've got this sequence of, you know, a couple of weeks of training. There's an orientation week. There's a catch-up week. There's some extra weeks at the end. And at the end, yeah. We, uh, we hired Ariel Kosta to do a full set of boards for a 32nd spot. We provided a soundtrack with voiceover and everything, and these students are producing these insanely cool, 32nd spots with Ariel Costa's work that they can now put on their portfolio and say, you know, I didn't design this, but I animated the whole thing. Uh, and it's, it's pretty special, man. And, you know, you brought up earlier the fact that in our first class animation bootcamp, it's more of an intermediate class. Um, and we, for, for years had students take it and struggle because they didn't know really how pre comps worked and things like that. And so the class that you've built totally answers that. And I am, I hope you are too, but I am super proud of how it turned out. And I think it's going to be the gateway drug for a lot of people.

Nol Honig (01:12:36):

I hope so. I mean, you know, we definitely kept saying that we hoped it was the most fun way to learn after effects. And I think it really is like, we definitely brought a sense of fun to it. And, you know, we did like that history of motion graphics series, which I thought was like really, really cool and really important for people to understand, like, cause you're just getting into the game now you've missed all of that early stuff that could really inform you. So like, you don't understand, like how did G monk get their start? You know, like who made the first, like Emmy award-winning title sequence in motion, you know, in after effects and that kind of stuff. And I think, yeah, also we have great interviews with people that, you know, I've just started out in the industry, but I've started working at top studios. And I think, I think there's just a ton of value in it. I mean, yeah, I am really proud of it. I, I listened to your podcast with Jake Bartlett and he talked a lot or a few times about kind of having imposter the imposter syndrome as a teacher. And I definitely went through that a bunch both at Parsons and teaching this class, but yeah, I'm, I'm super proud of it. Yeah. I think it's great.

Joey Korenman (01:13:32):

That's awesome. That's awesome. Well, we will definitely be linking to it in the show notes, if anyone's curious, or if you have any friends that need to learn after effects, I, I would definitely go on the record as saying, I don't think there's any class that will teach it to you in a more fun way, a more thorough way. Um, and the students that have taken it, rave about it. Uh, last question for, you know, um, you've been very generous with your time here. Do you think teaching has made you a better artist?

Nol Honig (01:13:59):

Oh, without a doubt, without a doubt. Um, and I think that's because I mean, teaching is, I think teaching is the hardest thing that I ever tried to do. Maybe it's just because I'm not like a natural at it, or maybe it just really is the hardest thing. But I feel like for myself, like I sort of said this earlier, was that like, when I started teaching at Parsons, I saw that all these students were way better designers than I felt like I was. Uh, and so I started trying to really step up my game and I definitely did a few projects where my students saw it and they kind of, there was like kind of crickets in the audience when they saw my work back in the day. I just thought like, oh, I got to get better at this. And so I think there's like an inherent pressure that might come from teaching at a school, like Parsons, where for me, at least I'm a serious person.

Nol Honig (01:14:47):

So it made me want to kind of step up my game. But even, you know, like essentially, like I discovered you Joey, because you were making the 30 days series and it was just at the time that I was kind of starting to pull down my entire syllabus and try to start it over and, and sort of say like, how could I teach this better? And a lot of that involved me having to learn new things, like, for example, the graph editor. I mean, that's really why I took that class and I learned a lot about it and I was able to teach it a lot better. So I think it kind of goes back and forth a little bit, you know, and I think that's why some of my MoGraph educational heroes are people that have both worked in the industry and then went into teaching or kind of straddled both of those, like, like you, for example, you taught and you worked in the industry and then you started school of motion.

Nol Honig (01:15:36):

I think that's really important. But also like my hat's really off to somebody like Joe Donaldson, who I, my impression is in any case had a very successful career and worked at buck. And then at a certain point kind of, uh, you know, I w I don't know Joe enough well enough to say, but gave that all up to teach full-time at Ringling. And I think that's like one of the coolest things that anybody could do, I would call out also, um, Austin Shaw, uh, who teaches at SCAD and who was full-time designer for the industry. And basically now just teaches full time. And, uh, I, I, yeah, I think that that's really impressive. And, um, yeah, I, I, like I said, I think teaching is even harder than animation and design, but I do think that I learned a lot about, I think they've really fed each other, you know, at root, they are all about communication, really, both teaching and design.

Nol Honig (01:16:28):

And, uh, I think for example, teaching has made me a better listener because if you're not listening to your students, you're just not honestly teaching. And then I think for me, when I opened my own shop, I could sit down at a meeting and listen to my clients that way. And that's informed, you know, the way that I just communicated in general. I mean, I think, yeah, I think teaching has made me better at everything. Honestly, even like a better husband, it's just about community clear communication and being a good listener, basically. Yeah. I've heard,

Joey Korenman (01:17:00):

You know, a wise person once said that you never really know something until you teach it. And, uh, I, I definitely agree with that. Hey, I want to say thank you for coming on. No, this was an amazing conversation. And, uh, yeah, I do not think this will be the last time we have you on the podcast. Thank you so much, Joey. I really appreciate it. And great job school of motion. I'm really impressed with everything that you're doing. You can check out Knoll's [email protected], and we will have links to all the stuff we talked about in our show notes. And if you're looking for a fun, effective way to get really comfortable with Adobe after effects, check out after effects, kickstart at school of motion, you can go to school, motion.com/courses, and you can check that out as well as all of our other, one of a kind online courses that we love to make. That's it for now. Thank you so much for listening. You stay classy.

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