If the checkout clerk at Best Buy had told me when I bought my first video camera five years ago that one day I would be creating motion graphics content, video effects and promotional videos for businesses I would have laughed, said “yeah ok” and walked away. I was there because I had heard of this neat little waterproof camera called the “GoPro” and wanted one because I had recently learned to scuba dive. I wanted to capture some of the cool experiences I was having beneath the surface and share them with my kids and my non-dive friends.
Like many filmmakers, our beginnings are simple, and in my case, unintended. I had my GoPro and my laptop, which came with editing software. Windows Movie Maker is very limiting but it was suitable for what I was doing. Cutting clips of my adventures underwater, going deep inside ship wrecks, interacting with giant sea turtles and petting sharks. Yes, you read that correctly, I’ve petted sharks – and not while I was in a cage either! I was starting to get a little attention in the dive community; it seemed that I had a knack for editing and a growing passion to do it.
I outgrew my Windows Movie Maker but had quite literally zero no experience with any other software, so I had no idea what to get or where to get it. Like most people do when researching things, I hopped onto YouTube and found a reasonably priced product called Pinnacle studios. I purchased it and it brought me to a new level in my editing. Pinnacle offered a lot more to me than Windows Movie Maker ever did and it seemed that a whole new world was opened for me. I was starting to build a reputation for the dive videos I produced; people from all over the world were coming to me seeking advice on how they could take their dive videos to the next level. I even managed to acquire sponsors, who supplied me with everything related to underwater GoPro use and I also bagged a partial sponsorship with GoPro! It was a great adventure – I was known as the Dark Water Diver, but it would soon come to an end.
In 2013 my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and of course, my diving adventures came to a halt. There were things to manage that were far more important than shooting video or scuba diving. As you can imagine, after her multiple surgeries and treatments there was a mountain of medical debt. We pushed on the best we could until I decided to sell everything of value that I owned. That included my sizable collection of dive gear and my video equipment, which included 3 GoPro camera rigs with lights. The gear was gone but the passion for film making remained.
As our financial situation began to stabilize I purchased my first DSLR with the intention of using it for still images and to shoot videos for fun. I was finally able to get back to creating and editing, however this time it was above water. I began to shoot and film everything I could and I learned as much as possible about filmmaking. Shooting above water was a different kettle of fish – pun intended – and the camera technology was more advanced. I soon outgrew my software once again and was introduced to a wonderful company called Adobe – you may have heard of them. Boy I tell ya, my eyes were opened wide – I needed to have what they offered!
I created my account with Adobe and I jumped in feet first. The content I started to create in After Effects blew my mind (this was the pre plug-ins days of my media journey). I have a couple filmmakers for friends who asked me how I liked it and I described AE as “a wonderful world of delight and mass confusion”. There is so much to learn and even now I have barely scratched the surface of Adobe After Effect’s capabilities.
Then, I learned about plug-ins. Plug-ins are wonderful tools that add to your production level with regards to quality and time invested in the creative process. There are so many great manufacturers of plug-ins that I never knew existed before visited AV3 Software’s website. I knew about Video Copilot, Red Giant and BorisFx but had no idea that there were so many more. My media world grew exponentially; I just wish my pocket book matched so I could get them all!
My journey has taught me one valuable lesson; you have to have the right tools for the job. The right software and the Plug-ins that AV3 offer will undoubtedly make a night-and-day difference to what you are able to create. If I could offer one piece of advice to someone aspiring to be a film maker interested in VFX or Motion Graphics, I would say create as much as you can. Not every piece you create will be great but I’m willing to bet with each failure you’ll learn more about the process of film making. I could show you some of my work that I cringe at when I see it, ha! That leads me to the next point of learning as much as you can about the process. Education is the key that can take you from making something that is ok, to making something that is great. Lastly never be afraid to put yourself out there; follow your passion, Let your imagination come to life in AE and let AV3 Software help you do that the way they helped me.
Okay, so that was like four or five pieces of advice – so sue me.
Written by Todd Ehrhardt