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Hi Everyone. I'm fairly new to the field of motion graphics, and I first want to say that this online community is an excellent place for up and coming motion graphics artists like myself to study trends and get a feel for what clients might be looking for. I've been using After Effects for about three years, and Cinema 4d for a year. I am just starting to land some good paid gigs, but at the current time not enough for me to hand pick a great selection for a reel. However I have built up a decent toolset as far as techniques go, from some good online training series, as well as exploring creatively for countless hours. I've also been studying the principles of graphic design, creative direction, and animation for about three years. So I guess what I'm wondering is, when you don't have a large body of work to draw from, where do you get your ideas for personal pieces? Motion graphics is just a complex set of tools for communicating your message in a very creative way, but when your not advertising for a client, what is your message? I guess I'm looking for some real basic ideas to work with, and I'm just curious where and how some of you guys arrive at your messages? It seems useless for me to just make pieces that display techniques, but really don't have a point to them. I'm totally not looking to take any of your ideas and run with them. More looking to find out how your arrived at them, and some good tips for finding my creative motion graphics voice. Thanks to everyone who contributes to these sites regularly, so guys like myself can learn and eventually grow into the next generation of people who can contribute more... and sorry for the vague question.

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Maybe look into whats happening in the news or politics and do up some short infographics. Pick a random word from the dictionary and try to portray that meaning perhaps. Also Nick's 5 second projects are great for following a themed topic which can be realized very loosely. They also restrict you to telling a story in only 120-150 frames and give you the chance to try new styles & animation techniques. Animate a famous quote or poem even. Or just smoke a bunch of pot and see what happens down in the rabbit hole. Also you can find old time radio ads or speaches of famous people and come up with visuals to interpret what you hear.

 

The guys at playairways.com did exactly that and ended up winning a ton of awards for the short film they made.

https://vimeo.com/11661493

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It is a catch 22 at the beginning. You can't get work without past work, but if you look like you are doing nothing but spec or free work it doesn't help either. If you want to get paid for this stuff, keep everything you do within a domain that holds commercial value (ie no personal pieces). Nobody is going to hire you to produce a marketing video for their company if your body of work consists of silly cartoons. Maybe other artists will hire you based on how they perceive your personal work because they can see how it would cross over, but that type of stuff holds no value to direct clients.

 

The suggestion I always make to this question is to take a few recordings of radio commercials and animate some graphics to them. Stay away from big brand names and just hammer out a few local mattress shop etc ads. The bigger the brand, the more people will question whether or not it was a real gig when judging your work. Spec work is less valued than local low-paying work on a real gig.

 

The most common problem I see with fresh reels is a weakness in sense of timing. Its the #1 givaway for spec works. If you stick with the timing of an audio commercial, you can put the tools you know to work without worrying about the bigger picture quite yet. That will come with time and experience. Right now, just focus on putting your newly aquired tools to use so you can land a few gigs that give you the real experience.

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It is a catch 22 at the beginning. You can't get work without past work, but if you look like you are doing nothing but spec or free work it doesn't help either. If you want to get paid for this stuff, keep everything you do within a domain that holds commercial value (ie no personal pieces). Nobody is going to hire you to produce a marketing video for their company if your body of work consists of silly cartoons. Maybe other artists will hire you based on how they perceive your personal work because they can see how it would cross over, but that type of stuff holds no value to direct clients.

 

The suggestion I always make to this question is to take a few recordings of radio commercials and animate some graphics to them. Stay away from big brand names and just hammer out a few local mattress shop etc ads. The bigger the brand, the more people will question whether or not it was a real gig when judging your work. Spec work is less valued than local low-paying work on a real gig.

 

 

I have to kind of disagree with this. If your personal projects are good they can function better than cheap local spots. The key is to give yourself a brief and show that your work could apply in a commercial contest. I always think the best advice for a real when you want to move up is show the kind of work you want to do not just the work you have done.

 

If you give yourself a brief to make a project that you are really inspired to do it will come out better than just aping a local spot. Yes you don't want to just do a bunch of silly cartoons but stuff like making a music video for a song you really like, or a PSA for a cause you care about (even if it isn't commissioned) show how your skills could apply in a commercial context while hopefully getting you fired up and giving you a chance to do something creative.

 

Also if you want to beef up your reel you don't need to make the whole music video or PSA, you need your concept to be strong and fully developed but you can just produce a short excerpt just what you need to cut into the reel.

 

Nothing wrong I guess with hammering out fake cheap mattress ads for practice, but wouldn't say it's necessarily a better route to adding to your reel than doing something where you set your own brief.

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Thanks guys. I appreciate both of your comments. Hamilton, I love the idea of making an info-graphic out of something going on in the world today, as well as some of the other ideas you had ::cough::. AromaKat, I also am definitely interested in attempting animating to a radio ad as well. Many of the new info graphic pieces I'm seeing out there are paced to some really good sound design, and since I don't really have access to that, a radio track would probably work perfect.

 

As far as not using personal pieces for reels go, I'm sure there is a ton of shitty personal pieces out there that should not be in reels. However, I've also seen some reels from professional freelancers, and even some studios that do contain some personal pieces. If something looks so good that it almost can't be necessarily detected as a personal piece, should that go in the reel?

 

AromaKat, I know you had said to stay away from big names with the spec ads. However, one of my paid gigs so far actually was for a big name brand. Now I'm a little afraid people will think it's a spec ad, since it's one of my only paid pieces. Unfortunately the studio I did it for only requires my services a few times a year. The idea of gaining local business clients is great to me. Do you guys know a good way to solicit my services to local businesses other than just spamming? Or should I maybe just spam? Thanks for all the great advice guys.

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However, one of my paid gigs so far actually was for a big name brand. Now I'm a little afraid people will think it's a spec ad, since it's one of my only paid pieces.

You should always have credits with your reel, that explain what you did in each piece. This will also show that, your ad was a real spot for a real agency. For the love of god if you have a real spot you did for a big name client of course put it in your reel.

 

 

 

Do you guys know a good way to solicit my services to local businesses other than just spamming?

Go to any kind of meet ups or trade shows for that industry, or anywhere that you can meet people in person.

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AromaKat, I know you had said to stay away from big names with the spec ads. However, one of my paid gigs so far actually was for a big name brand. Now I'm a little afraid people will think it's a spec ad, since it's one of my only paid pieces.

 

As anothername said, if you did real work on a big brand that was acutally distributed by the client, definitely put it in. I just can't tell you how many times I see doritos spec in reels. Its pretty insane. If I am looking for a legit freelancer I can count on and am digging through reels, as soon as I see doritos, questions start coming to mind and I just move on to the next reel.

 

Basically what I am trying to get at is that if you carry the stench of a FREElancer around with you, no money will be made at this game. These days, everyone knows someone who has a kid, cousin or whatever that just graduated from school claiming they can do all of this type of stuff on the cheap. You have to somehow rise above that, which is the real challenge of newcomer's careers in this industry. Everyone, and I mean everyone, will exploit the fact that your hungry for work and pay you either nothing or peanuts. Even worse, if you work with someone within our industry who views you as a noob, you will only get grunt work and none of the real designing.

 

People will ask about each and every spot you show in your reel. What you did, who it was for, if it was aired, etc etc. Every time you have to explain that it wasn't for a real client, you weren't responsible for 100% of what is seen, or that it was a personal piece, your value in their mind goes down.

 

This may seem like a bit of an off-topic rant, but the underlying context of what is being shown is often overlooked by new talent.

 

 

Nothing wrong I guess with hammering out fake cheap mattress ads for practice, but wouldn't say it's necessarily a better route to adding to your reel than doing something where you set your own brief.

 

Mattress ads are just an example. You can do whatever, as long as its not an obviously over-speced brand and you believe you can get away with poeple not asking too many questions about whether or not it was real. And don't make it look cheap. That goes against the cause.

 

The "setting your own brief" comment is exactly my point though. In the real world, we very rarely set our own briefs. Thats why I personally hold less 'working' value over such pieces. A person's work might look amazing, but when it comes time to do a spot for Company X, they need to be able to adhere to the brief of the brand / project at hand. Working with a real client shows that you can work well with people breathing down your necks, disagreements in the execution, working within deadlines, and everything else that comes with working on paid gigs. Some people who are a bit green flat out snap on the job and can't deal with it.

 

As a person who digs through reels to bring on help at times, that artistic quality of the work is just a fraction of what I am looking for in a reel. That's just me though. Some will think like me, some will think like anothername. Neither is right, neither is wrong.

 

 

However, I've also seen some reels from professional freelancers, and even some studios that do contain some personal pieces. If something looks so good that it almost can't be necessarily detected as a personal piece, should that go in the reel?

 

When you are truly ready, sure. As you stated, you see this from more established entities. The underlying reason you see this is mostly because they are trying to move more into the directoral game. If you are trying to take on more Art Director type work, then yes - show what you can do on your own. But if you are starting out, its more valuable, in my opinion, to show that you work well with others and can follow provided direction.

Edited by AromaKat

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I like to have a mix of personal and client work on my reel, I'm selling myself as a Motion Graphics Designer, which requires such a broad range of disciplines so If I look at my body of work and there's something missing - something that I'm not showing off for some reason, I'll set myself a brief.

 

Having said that, I think it's so much easier to create something that looks great when it's just for myself, it almost feels like cheating - there's nothing stopping me from designing, redesigning, manipulating concepts or even starting again if I come up with something better due to the complete lack of time restraints and this is something that everybody will note when viewing personal projects (whether you have set yourself a strict timescale/concept or not).

 

As a student, I loved the idea of being a freelancer, but I took the route of a studio job after graduating at first (partly because of the catch 22 situation described by AromaKat) - not a great one but the amount that I picked up about working with clients, everyday business and general professionalism was so valuable to me, not to mention the 'real' work that I was able to put in my showreel as a result. This seemed like a better route for me, employers looking to take on a junior will expect to be looking at mostly student work and personal projects.

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