Great Resources to Learn Videography and Motion Design Without a Degree
I'm sure you have heard the stories, or maybe even seen them in person. People that have incredible videography and motion design skills, but they don't have a college degree. They are self-taught and learned everything on the internet. I admittedly have a college degree in Electronic Media Production, but I wouldn't be anywhere close to where I'm at today without also including online training. Below are some YouTube channels, podcasts, and even some books, along with everything else that has helped me along the way.
YouTube crash course
There are hundreds of channels to teach you anything you can possibly imagine about filmmaking. The production values of the videos get better by the day, so it's usually also entertaining to watch while learning. Here are a few of my favorites:
Justin Odisho - Justin is a great teacher who makes Premiere and Photoshop accessible to any level of skill.
FilmRiot - A fun channel for grasping filmmaking and special effects at a DIY level. It's also great if you're into the tech side of things like gear and hardware.
Tutvid - Awesome for quick and accessible tips and easy ways to learn techniques in everything from Illustrator to sound editing to Premiere.
Useful apps to have handy
I'm trying to keep all of my learning methods cost-friendly (except for School of Motion), so here are some low-cost but worthy alternatives to having to pay for a monthly subscription to Adobe Cloud:
Full-disclosure that I have only used Resolve a few times in my life, so I don't know how to use it well. But I do know that it is a complete editing and coloring software that is becoming more and more popular in the world of video production. Best of all, it's completely free to download and use. If you can't afford a monthly Adobe Cloud subscription, then this is the way to go to get started. I would love to learn the program someday in the future because it's gaining major traction in the editing and coloring world.
This iPhone app will turn your phone into a fully-featured video camera. There are manual touchscreen controls for both exposure and focus, and simple access to changing frame rates and resolutions. Another key function is that it has a stabilization option, and it works really well! If you have the time and patience to use it over your built-in camera, you will capture higher quality footage. It does have a $15 price tag, but it's a good buy in my book!
Books and magazines
There are some phenomenal books and monthly publications that are worth your time to fit in, even if you aren't a big reader like me. My attention span for reading is nearly non-existent, but everything listed below hooked me and didn't let go:
I make it a point to read this monthly magazine because it gives such amazing insider knowledge on actual movie productions. It provides interviews with the filmmakers of current theatrical and streaming releases and what they had to do to make them. You learn basic fundamental knowledge about which cameras and lenses DPs use in Hollywood. You also get fun stories about directors being forced by police to shut down productions in LA because traffic is so backed up at their current shooting location, even though they still needed more time to shoot. It's really cool to get such an insider view of the filmmaking process.
You can have some of the best looking imagery ever, but it won't you very far without some type of story or meaning behind it. Save The Cat! teaches you how to craft a story from the ground up, including character development, story beats, and taking the viewer on a journey. Once you start focusing on story over everything else, that's when your videos will start to really shine and take off, and this book will greatly help with that.
This book is a fantastic primer on the motion design industry as a whole. You will learn the theory behind motion, the principles of animation, along with the way the industry works. There are also examples of work to look through and see how they were created. You will definitely take away knowledge after you get through this, and then it will be time to start learning the actual software that creates the art.
This is one of those books that has honestly stuck with me my entire life after reading. The world would be a better place if everyone put into practice what the book tries to teach. The name suggests that it may be an unconventional way to manipulate people, but it's not that at all. It essentially tells you how to relate to people you will come into contact with your life, and how to get them to respond positively to you. It shares wisdom like the importance of showing empathy, not interrupting conversations and actually listening to people, the consequences of talking about someone behind their back, and not always correcting people if they say something wrong. The book shares how to overall be a genuinely kind and reasonable person. I guess there is also now a version for "the digital age", but I can't comment on that edition, though it may be even more relevant today. While this doesn't focus specifically on videography, the lessons it teaches will help you interact with clients and people on set, which you will eventually need to learn as part of your skillset.
Here's an essential guide on learning some basics about stepping out into the world of freelance. It is focused on a motion designer's journey, but it's applicable to anyone freelancing in any industry. While reading this book, I learned some tricks on staying organized and garnering new business, along with pricing and networking. It's a valuable read and presented in a fun and engaging way.
The story of Pixar is one to behold. This book shares the origin story of Pixar and how it came to be, as well as deep dives into its culture and why the company thrives. A takeaway I remember is that management requires all employees to take two days per month to work on personal projects, so they don't ever get burned out. It's a great insight into the inner workings of how Pixar creates its magic, and has fun stories about the Pixar movies we all know and love. It's also a good reminder of the importance of always staying creative and trying not to get too caught up in "the grind".
This is the story of clothing mogul and entrepreneur Marc Ecko of Ecko Clothing and Complex Media stardom. The chapters fly by as you read about his upbringing, creative style, successes, and struggles. A cool touch with the book is that they break up the pages with artwork and anecdotes. It is nice to have that as you're burning through the pages to learn more about Marc's story, and once you are done, you will have a better picture of how to take your creative passions and take a chance and form a business around it. You will also take away learning the importance of adapting your business to keep up with the constantly changing times, which is insanely relevant in the video and motion industries.
The value here is more for inspiration and visual re-enforcement of what it takes to be a filmmaker, rather than truly learning fundamentals. These accounts give BTS sneak peeks of relevant Hollywood productions and commercial shoots, along with DIY tools and techniques to keep in your back pocket:
Watch more movies
I know everyone is always watching movies and television to unwind after a long day, but if you start to study the filmmaking aspects, then you will start learning more each time you watch. One of the main points of a movie is to immerse yourself in the world that it's trying to create, and the moment the viewer senses something is off, they will get taken out of that world. So making sure that things like acting is believable, camera angles are meaningful, and scripts do not have loose ends, are all a part of great filmmaking.
If you want to get more into videography and don't already pay attention to details like this, then start focusing on the technical side of things. Everything from noticing the way actors are lit, continuity between shots, details of costumes and makeup, the motivation behind scenes, believable dialog, storytelling, and all in between. It will make you appreciate the movie-making process more when you watch something that you think is good, all while carving out your personal style and taste for cinema. I also think it's just generally fun and valuable to know about cinema and film culture overall.
Paid online courses
There are a handful of online course sites that are dedicated to helping teach videography and motion design to anyone that wants to learn. A funny thing about these courses is that they are arguably better than what you would learn at a real university. Sure, the good ones cost money, but they are so well done and structured, that the price tag is completely justifiable. Here are a couple that are reliable.
School of Motion courses does require a considerable amount of money to take. They run from around $700-$1,000 and are extremely time intensive. But other than that downside, SOM is one of the best investments in myself that I've ever made. They provide multiple professionally taught courses in different aspects of motion design, which include 2D and 3D animation, and design fundamentals. Being a videographer these days, you're more marketable with these skills in your toolset. If you can schedule out the time and cost to eventually take these courses, it will be worth every dollar and you will improve your motion expertise for a lifetime.
I have to preface by saying that this site is not fully live yet. So far, they have only provided a free 10-video course that covers the basics of producing a small promo video spot, from cutting clips, adding music and a logo, then exporting. But with that being said, the videos and knowledge are presented so well that I can still recommend it to someone just starting out and wanting to get the hang of the video editing process. If you are just starting out, this site is gold.
Favorite podcasts for film and motion
I love podcasts. I listen to them more than music. It's a great way to start my morning and wind down after a workday. The key is to have a nice variety of different genres so you don't get bored too easily. Mixing it up with topics ranging from celebrity interviews to finance to history to business, keeps things interesting. But when it comes to filmmaking podcast, these are my all-time favorites:
One of the first blogs I ever followed for filmmaking. When I realized they had a podcast, I downloaded it immediately. There are two formats for the podcast, the first one being a roundtable among the editors, and the second featuring interviews with people in the industry. It's well done and has valuable and practical advice for creating movies, along with gear talk.
You have probably seen this guy's work on the big screen. Shane is a Director of Photography and DPed well-known films like Drumline, Need for Speed, and Terminator: Salvation. His topics are very technical, and he talks about specific industry-standard gear. It can go over your head sometimes, but for the most part, you get what he is saying. His wife also hosts and goes over lifestyle and self-care tips.
SOM is primarily about motion design, both 2D and 3D, but if you have any interest in it, this is a fantastic one to catch every week. It is your basic interview format, but the topics and info inside are outrageously beneficial and interesting. Topics include running a small studio, building your team, getting over creative hurdles, and straight-up geeking out over new industry news and general topics.
GSG is an insanely popular Cinema 4D tutorial site that also sells plugins and texture packs to go along with their training. Their podcast is hosted by GSG Creator Nick Campbell, along with the rest of the GSG team, and they go over the latest news, products, and general industry topics. This is a fun one that I look forward to listening to every time an episode drops.
Justin Odisiho is the king of Adobe tutorials on YouTube, and arguably one of the most popular with his massive following. So naturally, he created a podcast. Each episode he releases is packed with knowledge from fellow colleagues in the same tutorial and product space. The focus is more on influencers and gaining a following and how to stand out, but hearing the stories definitely gives you the motivation to keep on pushing to rise above the rest.
Unspooled is a hilarious podcast hosted by Paul Scheer (of The League fame) and Amy Nicholson (head film critic for LA Weekly), as they go through the entire American Film Institute Top 100 Movies of All-Time list. They are an hour-long, but the episodes fly by as you learn the amazing history of each movie, along with behind the scenes gossip and trivia about each one. It's a very accessible way to get into the history of cinema, while also having a laugh.
These are all just suggestions if you need a kickstart in the right direction. There are so many more YouTube channels, podcasts, online courses, and books out there that I can't even keep track, and I'm sure I'm not even aware of most of them. These are some of my favorites that I still go back to on a daily basis, and I hope you can find value in them too.
Do you have any suggestions or recommendations? Let me know in the comments or at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll be sure to check them out!
If you want to connect, here are my social handles:
Portfolio Site - www.jhmotion.com
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnphansel/
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/jh.motion/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/jphansel2/
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