In this episode Nick and I bring our friend Twain Richardson on to guest as he tells us all about setting up a career right in the heart of Jamaica. Establishing oneself in a market where production is pretty sparse compared to the likes of LA and NY can be incredibly challenging. While most people feel the pressure to move to Hollywood to “go where the work is”, there are those who thrive where they are and set themselves as a niche service provider in the TV and commercial industry. I can relate immensely.
Here are some timecodes of the topics if you want to jump around:
~11:30 Introduction to Twain
~12:20 What is Jamaica’s client base like?
~13:58 Describing his workspace layout
~15:05 Twain’s origin story: go to work or go to school?
~19:09 Getting a mentor early in your career
~20:33 How do you tell a good story?
~21:19 Twain’s “Frame of Reference” site filled with valuable interviews with established editors
~25:58 The value of networking and asking questions from other editors out there; great lessons learned from talking with the pros
~31:20 Have you ever felt the pressure to relocate and why did you decide to stay put?
~33:43 Big differences in work environment depending where you are geographically – Are there still deadlines in Jamaica?
In this post I’m going to explain what an After Effects template is, some of their benefits, some of their downsides and where you can get them.
Alright. Let’s jump into it.
What is an After Effects Template?
An After Effects template is a pre-built After Effects project (.aep) that is made in a way so you can pop in your assets (i.e. footage, logo, headshots, etc.) and create a video in record speed. After Effects templates can be entire explainer videos, typography videos, logo opens, title packages, green screen virtual sets, infographics, etc. etc. And I’ve used just about all of them.
To get an After Effects template go to one of the sites I’ll list below, pick one out, purchase it, download it, watch/read the tutorial, open up the .aep, and get to work. There are usually a handful of places to check out when you first jump into a project like compositions titled “CHANGE LOGO HERE” or “INSERT COMP1 FOOTAGE HERE”. Also look for layers titled, “CHANGE COLORS HERE” and typically you select the layer and there are parameters you can adjust in the Effects Controls Panel.
It kind of goes without saying but you need a license of Adobe After Effects in order to use an After Effects template. Most templates are backwards compatible for a few versions. If you have any CC version than you are most likely fine. It should say somewhere on the website what minimum version of AE you need though.
How I work is once I open up the .aep I find the MASTER comp or the RENDER ME comp (it’s typically labeled something like that) then work my way backwards through the precomps to see how everything works together. Then I get to work.
Here are a couple screenshots of what a typical project looks like when you open it up:
This is basically what you can expect to find when you open an AE template
This is a basic example of what one of the comps *could* look like. Daunting, huh?
This is an example of what the Project Panel could look like. Fairly self-explanatory?
Benefits of Using After Effects Templates
Let’s bullet point this out.
They save you time. A lot of time usually. This is by far their biggest selling point. I’ll ballpark it that 30-50% of a project can be completed right off the bat just by using one.
They give you boundaries to work in. I was using the AE template in the little story in the intro to this post because I needed a starting point for this project. I literally had free rein to do anything I wanted which is great until you find yourself with no place to start. So I picked this AE template in order to have some basic constraints for the project, which got the ball rolling.
You learn how others use After Effects. AE is incredibly deep and editors can do one thing a dozen different ways. You will generally always learn a new tip or trick or just go, “oh, so they did it like that?” at least once. A lot of us don’t get to work with other editors and seeing another editor’s project is rare. This gives you a glimpse into how others work.
30-50% of a project can be completed right off the bat just by using one.
Downsides of Using After Effects Templates
They give you boundaries to work in. Yes, I know I just listed this as a benefit. The boundaries are great sometimes but will give you massive headaches other times because they aren’t always easy to modify. Quick example… Let’s say you want to change the length of a precomp. Cool. You go into the Composition Settings (Cmd/Ctrl+K), change the time then extend all the layers. Oh wait. They used a 10-second .mov for one of the background elements and it doesn’t loop and when you change the speed it looks weird… See where I’m getting at? Also, having a picky client can be tricky. Oh, they want all the squares made into circles? Yeah…that’s probably not going to happen.
You don’t truly know how easy it will be to manipulate an AE template until you buy it. This is piggybacking on my last point. Make sure to read the reviews if available. A lot of them are really easy to use. However I’ve found that you can also get some lemons every once in awhile.
Cost. Yes, they most of the time they cost real cash. Expect to spend $15-$45.
Tutorials are typically lacking in substance and quality. About half the time you’ll get a video that will [sloppily] walk you through how to change different elements (colors, insert logos, etc.). The other half of the time you’ll probably have a .pdf that probably isn’t worth reading IMO. Jump in and dig around to figure stuff out.
The music generally does not come packaged with the AE template. Most of the time when you watch the preview there’s this nice song or sound effects that go along with it. Yeah, these aren’t included. Most of the time they are linked on the website where you buy the AE template. FWIW I get most of my music through Soundstripe (affiliate link) (p.s. You can use the coupon code EVF for 10% off 😉).
If you have other places you like to get After Effects templates leave them in the comments!
Putting It All Together
An After Effects template is a wonderful tool you can use to spark creativity, give you a jumpstart on a project and teach you new things about such an in-depth software. However they cost money and can occasionally be difficult to adjust to your needs.
I recommend trying one out if you haven’t before. Occasionally the sites listed above will have massive sales or do something like give away a free AE template of the month. Take advantage of those if you have a chance.
I remember first getting started as a young professional video editor when the topic of compression came up. Those editing classes at JMU taught me something about compression but not nearly enough to be a competent professional. I had heard of H.264, knew that QuickTime Movies were “massive” files and WMVs were something else and my head just spun and spun. That was even before learning about bitrates and all that even tech-ier stuff. I was lost. But little by little, reading blog post by blog post and chatting in forum after forum, I finally started to get a grasp of the concept.
I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I only knew what I had experienced up to that point. Up to that point it was making high-quality QuickTime movies for my professor to review on the “huge” 50″ TV in the front of the classroom. It wasn’t about web delivery or making sure the videos were compatible with the player in the software I was making videos for.
The other day I was helping out a fellow video professional with a problem with the audio they had been recording. We were troubleshooting over the phone while I was in the lobby of convention center where my niece’s dance competition was taking place. Pacing back and forth with one hand covering my free ear so I could hear better I asked what kind of mic they were using and they rattled off some Sony U-something. I continued, “It’s a wireless lav, right?” And they said, “Ahh I don’t think so.”
Spoiler alert: it is. And I knew it was because I was fairly certain it was a lav that I used to use.
“Does the mic directly connect to your camera? Or is there a separate receiver?”
“Umm I’m not quite sure what you mean.”
They didn’t know what they didn’t know.
“Ohhh…” I hear from the other end of the phone.
As someone new to the industry they had only used wireless lavs. They didn’t even know there was a difference between wireless and traditional wired lavs so there was no way they would know some of the troubleshooting tactics that would be needed to fix their issue.
I ended up giving them a couple tips on checking the frequency between the receiver and mic and they fixed the issue.
They didn’t know what they didn’t know.
Do you remember a time when a concept that seems so simple today was completely foreign and confusing? I’d love to hear about it below.
I got a chance to talk to the one and only Norman Hollyn. Norman is a professor of Cinematic Arts at USC and travels all around the world as an editing educator. Basically Norman is living my dream.
You can listen to our conversation below. In it we talk about his time teaching in Japan and all across the globe, how students of film and their editing styles differ from one country to another, how to manipulate your audience’s emotions and much, much more.
If you enjoyed this conversation and want to stay in touch whenever I come out with a new post / podcast / video / newsletter / etc. you can go here to signup. No spam. Ever. Just the good stuff 🙂
Every freelancer video editor needs equipment. Whether you work in someone else’s edit bay or your own in your basement or a combination of the two, like me, you’ll need a handful of items to run your business.
You don’t need a $25,000 edit bay to have a freelance video editing business anymore. You need reliable equipment that fits your needs.
This post is about equipment that I have and use on a daily basis. I’ll tell you what I think are the best hard drives for video editing, my favorite head phones, what I’ve bought that grows dust and more. If you’d like to see a post on the software and services I use let me know in the comments! Alright, let’s jump right in.
The Essential Freelance Video Editing Equipment
I purchased, or rather my wife purchased my iMac back in 2012. It was a wedding present from her and fast-forwarding to 2016 it still runs fantastic. I wouldn’t edit a 4K feature on it but for what I do most days it gets the job done like a champ.
Here are some specs:
Processor: 2.9GHz Intel Core i5
Memory: 16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M 512 MB
Accessories: Magic Mouse and Wired Keyboard with Number Pad (you gotta have the number pad!) If you find them useful, an editor’s keyboard like this one can be super helpful.
Fantom G Force 2TB USB 3.0 External Hard Drive Black
I love these hard drives. I firmly believe they are the best hard drives for video editing. There are cheaper ones. There are faster ones. There are larger ones. But this one, this exact one, has never failed me. Never, ever, ever. I’m not even afraid of jinxing it. For three years the same one, now retired, traveled with me in my backpack into DC. My commute consisted of a jam-packed commuter bus with my backpack jammed in front of my feet at my seat then a mile walk to work through the city through cold, rain, snow, heat, whatever.
The only downside is that it needs a power source. That’s kinda a drag if you want to edit from anywhere but I’ve never had an issue. I highly recommend always traveling with them in the box they come in with the styrofoam. They hardly move when they are in it but with any hard drive if you drop it, spill your coffee on it or just generally treat it poorly it will fail you.
These headphones changed my life. After going through half a dozen different headphones the past few years, I’ve landed on these. I’m nearly a year into using them and can’t imagine editing without ‘em. I take them to every single gig. I take them to Starbucks. I take them whenever I travel. They are a 100/100.
These are not “noise cancelling”. However they are noise reducing. The thing is…I get startled at least 3x a day because I cannot hear a gosh darn thing when they are on.
One of my favorite features is that you can choose which side to plug the wire into. This helps me because at one of my recurring gigs the mixer sits on the left and at home my headphones are plugged in to my right. It’s such a small thing but not having to fuss with a wire in front of me all day long saves me so many seconds that continue to add up each day.
How else are you supposed to spend render breaks when everything is firewalled on the computer you’re working on?
The Non-Essential Equipment
Sony NEX6 Camera
You don’t need a camera to be a video editor. This camera would never cut it on a heavy duty shoot but for vlogging, quick interviews and small photo shoots it gets the job done for an affordable price.
I don’t believe this camera is made any longer but Sony has comparable mirrorless cameras.
A few months ago my buddy asked me to take some “professional” photos. I don’t claim to be a professional photographer or even an amateur one. But he was in a pinch and knew I had a decent camera (see above!) so I told him sure. However I didn’t have a tripod yet for the camera. I jumped on Amazon, Primed it to me and the next day had this tripod. It’s decent. I have the worst time fitting it back into its bag and it’s a little cumbersome to use but you can’t beat the price or the weight.
Since it is so lightweight you need to be very careful not to leave your camera resting on the tripod while you walk away. This tripod can tip easily if anyone bumps it. But again for the price are you going to complain?
This is a tiny clip-on lav that plugs into your iPhone or other smartphone. On an iPhone you use the Voice Memos app that comes pre-installed. Plug it in and hit record. You can also use this on a computer. It’s super handy. I’ve recorded podcasts, interviews, vlogs, etc. with this. It’ll never replace a “true” lav but it gets the job done for small projects.
You cannot adjust the audio levels so do a test or two before hitting record. You may have to move it closer or further from the speaker’s mouth. Also make sure to unplug the mic when you want to listen back to the recording. I did this like the first six times I used it and kept forgetting that the mic was plugged into the headphone jack so the phone or computer wouldn’t playback through the speakers.
Link to it on Amazon (here it’s $15) (BTW apparently there’s a double mic version of this! I might have to pick one up…)
CAD U37 USB Studio Condenser Mic
This is the mic I use for Command+Edit and the EVF tutorials and vlogs. Just being real…it’s average-to-decent quality. There are much better quality USB mics out there but again, like most of my equipment, it gets the job done and that’s all I need. I recommend it if you are in the <$50 range. Just make sure you put a piece of graffers tape over the blue light that never turns off while it’s plugged in!
I never use this. Maybe one day I will. Some editors like my buddy Nick swears by it. You might swear by it. I cannot get the hang of it. I don’t believe Wacom makes this tablet anymore but from what I hear Wacom is pretty much the top choice if you’re in the market for one.
This product gets 4.4 stars on Amazon. I also got it on Black Friday for like $45 a few years ago. It’s a tablet. It gathers dust at my desk. But if you’re curious if I have one, this is it.
Maybe I write too much but I always have a Moleskin notebook and a mechanical pencil on me. I use it for ideas, blog posts, editing notes, client feedback, etc. And it doesn’t look like I’m playing on my phone while I’m in meetings.
What’s in your edit bay?
I’m pretty sure that’s literally every bit of equipment I use running my freelance video editing business. It’s not always the fanciest of equipment. What’s important though is that it is all reliable, convenient and affordable.
You’re turn. Anything on your equipment list that’s different? Leave your thoughts below!
Two more quick things. First, if you know an editor that would like this post could you share it with them? I love the community we’re building here and want to keep the momentum going!
And second, just so you know, some of these links are called affiliate links. All that means is that if you were to purchase it or something from their site (like Amazon) I would get a very small commission. It’s no extra cost to you and maybe one day from it I’ll be able to buy a 6-pack of Dogfish Head 60 Minute or Peyton some pumpkin Fruitables she loves or my wife a bouquet of flowers for putting up with me writing three quarters of this post in bed.
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