In the motion graphics industry the goal is always to build cool things as simply as humanly possible. Whether its to make your project easier to work in or change … Working smarter and not harder is kinda a no brainer.
It’s the bane of every mograph artists existence when he or she builds a project only to realize the things that took all that time and effort could be solved with a plugin or script some super genius made. And in the C4d industry people are sharing the love everyday by developing things that not only speed up the workflow, but they share or sell that noise so the masses can be equally awesome. Here is a list of plugins that myself and some totally rad friends of mine (which you should follow on twitter, I’ll link them below) use on a regular basis to stay sane.
SHOW ME THE PLUGINS
First on the list is the Kern Effector (link) … This piece of magic allows the user to kern MoText (and only MoText) in C4d rather than importing an Illustrator spline and having to adjust in another program to correct things. It’s super easy to use (… here’s a linkie poo to to show how awesome this is) and the last awesome thing is it’s free
Yes majority of the plugins I’m about to describe to you are 100% free (BUT you SHOULD throw these people some spare cash because it’s just good karma) …
SHOW ME THE PLUGINS … AGAIN
Next on the roster is Hangover (link)… Now before you wander to the bar to drink away the pain, set this little bad boy up to send you either an e-mail or text (growl) notification to let you know the render finished or totally failed. The email portion is totally free but to get iPhone notifications you’ll need to purchase the Prowl (linkie) for 2 bucks. Both methods are super rad, so if you want to essentially “set it and forget it” this is a great plugin for you. It’s also fo FREE!
For the client that wants animated arrows (ugh arrows) the ArrowMaker plugin (linkie) is pretty much a one stop shop to streamline that process. Pretty much you just have to make your spline or Illustrator path and click the ArrowMaker plugin button. It give you the option to extrude, add to a mograph cloner and add a spline to deform to automatically. Once you do that it’s up to you to animate that start and end growth. This awesome plugin is also free.
Now if your a fan of deformers (like I am) you’re gonna love this … The bend deformer is a great and powerful tool but sometimes setting that thing up is kinda a pain in the butt … ESPECIALLY if say for example your object isn’t zeroed out and just sitting on the floor. The PyBend plugin (linkie) automatically sets a bend deformer to the selected object regardless of where it is or how it’s rotated. It will create the boundaries based on the object, but once it’s set up tuning it to work perfectly is pretty damn simple. Still Free. (FYI this plugin just upgraded to be more awesome but version 2.0 will cost some cash)
But what if your like “well Mike the bend deformer is cool but want to use a bulge deformer” I would tell you to not interrupt daddy whiles he’s talking and to use the EasyDeformer plugin (linkie). It does the same thing as PyBend plugin but you have the option to apply a Bend, Twist, Bulge, Shear and/or Taper deformer. Price = $0
The next piece of C4d magic is the Solo Plugin (linkie) … You know how you can solo layers in After Effects so you can either focus on one thing or to speed up your RAM previews, we’ll guess what, this is kinda like that. The Solo Plugin allows you to add a solo tag to your object so you can solo an object with a simple mouse click (no more clicking the traffic lights of 50 f&@*in layers) and bring it all back with a second click. This plugin does go a lot deeper (check the pixellab for more deets) but it’s definitely an invaluable tool to any mograph or 3d artists arsenal especially if your working with complex scenes. El Freeo
I’m finding that I use the ground plane to help keep all of my animations flat and a little more “organized” more and more with my last few projects and this little ditty came in handy. It’s called “Drop To Floor" (linkie) and this plugin sets the selected objects minimum y coordinates to 0,0. It also respects the objects size so it will never break the ground plane. These guys also make a bunch of other plugins (also all buttons have ninjas on them … How cool is that!) that you guys should check out (linkie) and see what works for you … this plugin is free.
Now if your a mograph artist odds are you like to break shit (c’mon who doesn’t like breaking shit) then you are in luck because here are 2 FREE break shit plugins:
First up is Xbreaker (linkie) and this little slice of heaven immediately gives you the option of how many pieces you want to break your object in (randomly of course … if you want control of the chunks you might want to go a little knife happy with the knife tool … just saying). Once you customize the settings to how you see fit hit break now.
*Disclaimer* save before you do this every so often this can crash C4d and losing work always sucks … you’ve been warned.
Now it will automatically break the object, apply a crappy white texture, make polygonal selection tags AND put the object in a Dynamics tag. After that it’s all up to you
Second up is Thrausi (linkie) … It’s just like Xbreaker but you have some more options to customize your break. Like Xbreaker you’ll select the object and click the button and you’ll get a menu to set up your break, dynamics, materials and you can even bake the animation to save your self the headache of doing it later. Depending on your selections you’ll have a broken object in a fracture object to help animate later. You can download a free version but you can also buy a more advanced version for a little under 15 bucks (10 euro) and if you can afford 20 bucks you can get the bigger brother Catastrophe (linkie)
Next up is for the spline wranglers … It’s called Smart Outline (linkie). It creates an outline of a spline much like the “create outline” tool, but the plus is you can animate the offset and distance. Sadly its only accessible while editing a spline in pointmode so it is destructive (bummer) but hey … it’s free. Also the same site has some more free shit (linkie)
Wanna control your iTunes without having to leave C4d, now you can with iTunesCTRL (linkie). This gem creates a small dockable menu that allows you to change songs, pause and select playlist so you don’t have to click out of a project just to change that Lady Gaga, Nickelback or Coldplay song your too embraced to tell your friends you like (awkward look away) … still in freesville
So if your into matching colors and the Kuler scale is your friend the Blee plugin (linkie) links to the Adobe Kuler site and shows the color palettes that are on the site. After thumbing though em and you like one of them you can create materials (with the same color values and specular enabled) instantly … A nice add-on if you want to select your colors more accurately for free.
Now if you HATE animating multiple cameras (like I do) the SteadyCam Pro plugin (linkie) might be right for you. This used to be 100 bucks but now it’s free (THANK GOD) and it’s awesome … you can set up multiple cameras and with sliders you can use simulated steadycams (amongst other things) to tween or animate between them … By far a super rad camera and I use this plugin pretty much every day. This plugin is huge and it has multiple options, if you want more info a simple google search yields plenty of awesomesauce results.
The next bit of extreme awesome is Render Elements (linkie). Render Elements is a scene manager for C4d, even though that doesn’t sounds super cool or awesome. This plugin upon implementation will record all your camera, layer and render settings allowing you to set up multiple render settings in the same scene without having to save multiple versions (now thats rad) … The current beta version is 7.13 is ONLY available for mac and its compatible with version 12. Older versions are cross platform and work in versions 11 and 11.5. I could prattle on about how awesome this plugin is but I’ll let you discover its totally free awesomeness.
Now this is a recent find … it’s a script that automates unfolding polygons. A guy (slash god among men - https://vimeo.com/36915151) called Rown created this re-donk-ulous script that allows you to unfold polygons with extreme ease and control. It’s original set in german (if you speak german than you are set) but @wischie was nice enough to sacrifice his day and convert that sun’bitch to good ole ‘merican (a.k.a english) right here … It’s free but you should thank rown and @wischie for their hardwork.
Last but certainly not least is CSTools (linkie) … These are a set of plug-ins using Xpresso and UI objects that Chris Schmidt designed to speed up his workflow. In an act of awesomeness he’s sharing his labors with the world fo FREE. It’s a really amazing set of plug-ins and his site (linkie) has tons of information so get over their and check it out.
Some other awesome plugins that I’ve not yet found a use for but I downloaded them anyways … Selection Tools, Ivy Grower, Reeper X
And some more links to plugins I’ve heard about but haven’t explored yet … stab, NitroBlast, SplineGen, copy and paste polys, arch spline, Shadowcatcher, EnhanceC4d, Global Light Adjust, Control Center, multi target
WELL THE FREE RIDE IS OVER
Now I have only scratched the surface of the amount of free plugins that are out but now comes to the shit that costs money. Depending on your discipline, skill level and job requirement some of these plugins aren’t necessarily for you but here’s what I use.
First up is PlaneSmart (linkie). PlaneSmart allows you to import a layered PSD file, then map the individual layers in Z space. With the imported file, you could then individually adjust or remove individual layers in Cinema. It’s excellent for mapping multiple images to magazines, photo mosaics, etc. Mike Senften did a great piece about it hurrrrr (linkie). Now you can only get this plug-in if your a Cineversity member which at first is 300 bucks (and 100 a year to stay active) but if you want to learn advanced C4d from the pro’s I’d recommend dropping the extra cash
For anyone that uses text or typography as a major staple of their work this plugin should be a no-brainer … It’s called Text Edge Effect ( http://c4dtools.net/text-edge-fx/). The Text Edge FX is a quick and east way to add custom bevels and edge to text beyond the defaults that C4d has. This isn’t only limited to type, anything that uses a spline can be altered to look even more badass. The controls are super simple and for 15 bucks you really can’t go wrong. Also this totally awesome plugin was brought to you by @eyedesyn and @SamWelkerTV so you should probably send them a thank you beer … just sayin
If your like me and you composite alot in after effects you probably use a buttload of object buffers … Buffer Booster (http://c4dtools.net/buffer-booster/) might be a good choice for you. @RagingClaw (and his brilliant mind) developed this plugin that adds object buffers to all of your selected objects and inserts them into your multipass automatically … which as we all know is a pain in the ass. Also for the staggeringly low cost of 10 buck-a-roo’s (or 2-3 beers at the bar) this is a plugin that you really can’t pass up.
Ok if you’ve ever worked with dynamics you know that its a pain to work with in a scene … it slows things down, can’t be effected easily, etc …. BUTTTTTT NitroBake (http://nitro4d.com/blog/donationware/nitrobake/) might be an awesome solution. NitroBake allows you to easily (easily being the keyword) bake your animations and export it into another software if necessary. You can use it with C4d objects, generators, TP, Mograph, Hair and Dynamics. It makes it’s all PSR or PLA animations and it optimizes the file so it’s easier on your system (which is super awesome). so for only 40 bucks you can have an easy to use solution for keyframe baking.
Next is TurbulenceFD (linkie) … a super swag-tastic fluid simulation plugin that integrates directly into C4d without having to go to another program. The days of unit convert and triangulated meshes are over, it’s super simple to setup and the level of control is incredible. The learning curve is pretty steep (maybe a 6 out of 10) but it’s truly an amazing plug-in and the level of detail and precision make this a must have for advanced VFX and Mograph artists … Now the downside it it’s 530 bucks, but you can download the trial to learn, it’s just watermarked.
Last but not least is VRAY (link)… VRAY makes your renders look extremely sexy with advanced calculations for lights, shadows, displacement and environments. BUUUUUUUUUT it destroys rendertimes … but it’s the sacrifice to make amazing looking renders. Now the learning curve for VRAY is extremely steep (like 12 out 10) and the refining process to maximize the effectiveness of the engine is a constant trial and error dog fight. And it costs a little over a grand … But at least your renders will be sexy.
WERE ALMOST THERE … IS YOUR MIND OFFICIALLY BLOWN
Now this is a lot of information and I appreciate anyone who managed to make it this far before going on a download frenzy ( god knows I would have been gone at Kern Effector haha). I truly hope that this helps everyone improve your workflow, try something different, share love for the people that develop these amazing plugins (don’t steal it, thats just bad karma) and in general help guide an already amazing community to become even more awesome.
I would also like to thank the crew that helped me wrangle all these plugins and showed me some new ones along the way … Follow them because they’re cool and super smart … did I mention they were cool :)
If you guys have any questions please feel free to comment or get ahold of me on twitter (@mrmikeflorio)!
PS I apologize for my horrible grammar … thats why I’m a digital artist haha
The company you keep
Now from personal experience I’ve found that I was the most productive when I had energetic/creative or interesting people around me. Even if they aren’t in the same creative field as myself, their perspectives really help me think outside of my comfort zone. And as we all know (or are learning) design is about pushing the boundaries of both your imagination and (sometimes) the software you use.
So with whom do you hang out with?
I hang out with such a mashup of people its scary. On a regular basis I hang out with motion designers, DP’s, editors, student directors, UN web developers, Apple retail employees, Japanese teachers, hip hop directors, digital media strategists, actors, audio engineers, shooters, etc… so naturally my crowd is super diverse but one things is a constant among us … ambition.
Yes ambition. They all want to be the best, make cool shit, work on features, etc … they all want to progress and evolve. They are all their own worst critics and lastly they help me evolve every time I work with them.
How do they stack up?
The caliber of people I work/hang with is all over the board. Some of them are just starting and for lack of a better work … they suck … for now. Some are on par with my skills and we evolve and grow together. And lastly there are a few monsters of the industry that I talk to that just blow me away in talent and knowledge but they help me a lot and they give me a goal of what I want to be.
Choose your friends carefully … well kinda
You can’t pick who your friends are, and you shouldn’t really have to but I’m a firm believer in the philosophy that your friends should elevate you to the next level, never hold you back. I’m very blessed that everyone in my life supports me a lot and they have helped me successful so far.
But to answer the real question
I think it’s extremely important to find people that inspire or motivate you regardless of what skillset or art talent they have (or don’t). I would recommend that you find people that are better than you so you get a goal. Find people whom are on your level so you can evolve together. Finally find people who are “below” you and help them reach their goals … don’t be a dick. Sharing your knowledge shows how much you really know and also one day that guy/girl might be helping you rock a project.
A lot of people have been e-mailing me with more questions and concerns about the VFX/Motion Graphics world since I wrote my article on freelancing (seen here: "How do you get freelance work?"). Since people liked the article so much I have decided to take the most common/interesting questions and answer them every week or so.
With my schedule being extremely busy I’ll try to answer as promptly and regularly as I can.
So keep sending me those e-mails …
The most notorious question in the creative industry. Last night I was going through my e-mail and I came across a name I haven’t seen in a while. It was one of the interns I had when I was out in California. He started with the usual “hey how are you?” “I just graduated” blah blah blah and then he said he wanted to know how to get into freelancing.
Unfortunately I sat at my computer for about 2 hours writing and re-writing my response. Sadly I couldn’t give him an answer, or at least the answer that I wanted to give him.
Ask anyone in the creative, design, animation or motion graphics industry and he or she will tell you … every scenario is different. I wanted to give him a perfect, step-by-step answer and I can’t … realistically I don’t think anyone can. I remember the time when I struggled for work and now I want to give someone a chance, just like I was given a chance years ago.
Jessica Hische wrote a blog about this a couple weeks back and this is the best way to put it (I’ll put a link at the bottom)
because what works for one person does not necessarily work for all people.
This is absolutely correct … I have never heard of any of my freelancing buddies getting work the same way. Every story is different. Everyone has a different background. Hell I know a guy that went to school in Kansas and he received a degree in theater but now he is one of the most successful 3d freelancers I’ve ever met.
So in this diatribe is my advice on getting work if you’re a video editor/motion graphics artist or 3d animator:
BE COOL BABY
The creative game is one that requires a cool head, the ability to react to a situation and not "freak-the-fuck-out!". Being cool both personally and professionally will be huge in getting work. Realistically, would you want to work with someone who is a total ass?
I’m notorious for being very social and when the job is done I want to celebrate with the men and women that made it all possible. Having drinks, dinner, playing putt putt (hey don’t knock it haha), etc and building personal relationships with editors, directors, producers, CD’s, etc is not only a great way to expand your friend base but realistically it will make them want you to come back.
Once I took the head a studio (that will remain un-named) out the dinner just to introduce myself … I made it very clear from the beginning that I was a freelancer but the dinner wasn’t about getting work but just meeting the people in the community … We are now good friends and ever so often he’ll throw me a job, but he constantly invites me out for drinks with other producers and directors
Also build relationships with other people in your field. I have freelance buddies that give me work and anytime I have too much on my plate I hand stuff off to them. Also your friends will know people you don’t and they’ll be able to introduce you to other studios that might require your services.
Makes sure your comfortable as yourself (i.e. how you dress and act) … in the design world I’ve never seen a real 9-5 week. If your unable to get along with people, those 16 hour days or 3-day crash sessions may feel like an eternity.
PROMOTE THYSELF or WRECK THYSELF
Rule number one of getting work is having a medium that people can use to see your work, therefore they’ll want to hire you. And I can’t think of anyplace better than the internet. SO GET YOUR SELF A WEBSITE! And once you have said website unless you are a graphic designer don’t bedazzle the hell out of it. People like to see the information in a clean and organized fashion.
This I hoped last night was a no-brainer, but tons of people still don’t have websites. That right there is a recipe for disaster. So do yourself a favor go to vimeo get an account (its free) and load some videos … then go to squarespace (costs money but is totally worth it), wordpress or tumblr (both are free) and link up your stuff. It’s not rocket surgery. The most important trait to have in a portfolio site is the ability to update the damn thing … chances are once you start working you’ll be putting everything you work on, on the internet.
DEMO REELS & RESUMES … THE TRUTH
Most of the time studios don’t ask for a resume … the reel, the rate and the availability is what they need to know. And it’s all about the reel baby. Nick Campbell at Greyscale Gorilla did a great segment about this (you can find that here: Say NO to DVD Demo Reels!) about sending in DVD Demo Reels and resumes at random. He also has a great post about how the length of demo reels (http://greyscalegorilla.com/blog/2010/07/why-your-demo-reel-should-be-really-really-short/). Since he does such a great job at this, I’ll let him give you the low-down on that:
I have a resume that every year I update but 95% of the studios I work at have never asked for one. But the format is short, simple and to the point. Studios don’t have time to read a mass of dribble. I myself have thrown away resumes when I had a studio gig simply because it took too long to get the required info. A novel isn’t required for companies to see your skills. Also make sure you keep it too ONE page … I’ve seen wayyyyyyyyyyy too many that break a page … if your resume is legitimately 2+ pages long odds are they’ll call you for work not the other way around.
My current resume has my past STUDIO and FREELANCE experience … I don’t include any other irrelevant jobs purely on the fact that studios/production houses could care less, My skills and software certs, my rates and my reel … oh and my name haha. If they like the simplified info that you layout for them they’ll respond. Just give them what THEY need, not what you want them to know.
Craigslist is NOT the answer
Craigslist is great if you’re looking for an apartment or a coffee table but not for a job. That is the number one place if you want to get screwed over big time. Rob Loukotka (fringefocus.com or see below) had a great statement about this:
When looking for shitty clients, Craigslist is a great place to start. The ‘gigs’ section is a virtual goldmine for the bad work you’re looking for. Be sure to look for posts that say: “Student Needed” or “This will be great for your portfolio!” ALL CAPS posts are exceptional resources.
And the man couldn’t be more right. I’ve taken a few craigslist jobs and the results are as followed:
If your going to use the web to find work use the right sites.
Popular design and motion graphics sites generally have a jobs listing section. And if the site is popular odds are employers, producers and directors go there.
STRENGTHEN YOUR LIVER
Now this part might seem like a joke but its not. The amount of work, time, blood, sweat and tears that go into the design jobs you see companies put out is extreme. And after a 3 day C4d/AE bender I know plenty of people that want to go party and celebrate another successful challenge conquered. So most of the people I’ve meet love to drink (I myself am one of them haha) so learn to be social at bars and restaurants, but don’t overdo it … the last thing you want is to be super drunk in front of your peers/employers. Now if they get you that drunk than that’s a totally different story.
BE NOT AFRAID
Lastly don’t be afraid to take a hit the first couple of jobs. Unfortunately it is kind of a rite of passage.
If your right out of school, don’t charge what the senior guys charge. If you walked into a studio and wanted 100 bucks an hour odds are you’ll be laughed at until you have some years under you. This is where having a day-job is key.
Also don’t be afraid to say no … just because your new, companies might try to squeeze you for less money … remember if they have already invested in you, they’re not going to fire you unless your a dick about being paid shit. Be polite but firm and if push comes to shove you might have to yield, but that director now knows you have some balls.
Also ask your co-workers for advice once you start working … If they are total assholes then avoid them, but if you meet some people and they’re cool, hit them up for some tips over a beer. People who have lived and breathed the life can give the best advice.
THANK YOU FOR LISTENING TO MY RAMBLE
Odds are I rambled alot during this, so if you have any questions please feel free to e-mail me. Obviously we only scratched the tip of the piece of frost that is the very top of the iceberg known as “freelancing” but hopefully this should fill in some of the gaps.
I wish you the best of luck
P.S - Some of the blogs that I read (trust me I got 50+ more haha), and you should: