Welcome! My name is Alan Shisko, and I'm a freelance motion graphics artist working out of Toronto, Canada. I've been very lucky in my career to have had many inspiring teachers, and decided to start this blog to give back to the community that has enriched me both technically and aesthetically. Perhaps my words and images will inspire you to do the same! If you wish, take a minute to view my demo reel at Shisko.com, or view a comprehensive gallery of my past work Here.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The End of the DVD Reel


There. I said it. DVDs are done like dinner. Disappered like dodos. Disposed of like dirty dishes. Dissapated like disparaging alliterations that I'm now going to stop, please and thank you. Yes, I've burned my last DVD, and I'll be a richer, more dynamic and connected man for it.

I'm a freelancer in the motion graphics world, and I've been thinking quite a lot about self-promotion of late, specifically how I get my work out there to be seen. I've got a reel, of course. It's my calling card, a spicy, sizzling little morsel, easily digestible, that summarizes what I do. How one gets said reel out and about and into the hands of clients has always been one of the trickier aspects of self-promotion. In the olden days (so I'm told), you'd have your work on a big 'ole 3/4" video tape. That was, I might point out, before my time, but I did enter the business just at the end of that particular epoch and heard stories about art directors who insisted on a 3/4" reel because that's the only machine they had in their office. The lovely, much-maligned VHS format then reigned supreme for awhile, nicely butchering many a fine reel. A few hardy souls then played around with various formats on Cd's once they became standard on desktops, but it wasn't until you could author and burn DVDs on your own machine that physical reels finally reached their technical apogee. And so it remained.

And then, along came the Internet.

I remember the first few reels that I saw online (yes, I am THAT old). They were teeny little quicktimes with lousy audio that took forever to come down my 28.8 KB data pipe. They weren't effective, and for some time the DVD remained the de facto standard, mostly because it was "full resolution", portable, file-able and tactile. Electronic reels were adopted fairly slowly by the industry, mostly because of data rates and encoding techniques. But once these hurdles were overcome, most everyone moved online.

I've maintained my reel as a DVD for some years now, but as I've mentioned, it's time has come. I have decided to move to web-only delivery for the following reasons...
1) The Expense. There's no denying that it ain't cheap. A good quality blank DVD can cost a buck, or more if you go with ink jet-printable (which you should have). Stylish clam shells add to the cost, too. Print a hundred, and that's a pretty nice dinner out.
2) The Printing. You didn't send in reels to potential clients with your name written on it with a sharpie, did you? Of course not! You picked up a DVD-printing ink jet. And of course the thing would break, or start printing funny, or run out of ink, or simply refuse to print at all.
3) The Coasters. I'd usually take a day once a year to 'update my reel'. I'd prepare for the upcoming season by printing off a whole bunch of DVDs, so that they'd be ready to get to clients right away. Of course, come the end of the year, that always meant a great big pile of drink coasters or car-mirror accessories.
4) The Fishermen. And of course there is the problem of how to actually get said disk into the hands of a client. If they were local, I'd take the opportunity to go for a little bike ride and drop it off, maybe squeeze in a quick 'hello'. But most of my clients are international, necessitating shipping charges. Now, the big question is always, "how serious is the potential client?" If it's Sergey Brin on the line, you can be sure that it'd be a quick trip to FedEx for that package. But then there are the fishermen. They're motion graphic artists who want to find out how much to charge. It usually involves an email, asking something vague like "We'd like you to do a TV show opening. How much do you charge?" I always assume that any contact is a potential client, so no problem, I'd send them my day rate, and that's usually the end of it. But sometimes a request is more sophisticated, necessitating a more sophisticated response on my part. If I feel that they're a potential client, then that might mean an offer to send them a DVD reel to compliment my web reel. I'd send it by mail if I wasn't sure, but usually I'd go the FedEx route. If a gig comes of it, then all is well, but every now and again I'd pay the $45, ship the reel, and never hear from them again. That's painful, not just because of the courier expense, but because it takes me time just to GET to the courier!

So, those are the reasons for dropping DVDs from my promotional package. But It's also worth discussing why I believe you should embrace Internet-only promotions. First off, consider 'how' and 'where' your potential client might view your work. Sitting in front of their computer? Quite possibly. But consider this article by Allan Tepper. Six million iPhones have been sold to date, and you've got to think that some of them are art directors, and that some of them may want to view your work on the subway, or at lunch in the park, or with a colleague in the hallway, or at 35,000 feet on their way to meet Sergey Brin. Don't tell potential clients when and where they can see your work, let them choose. Encode your reel for web viewing, but consider creating a version sized for iPhone and other mobile media platforms. There's a reason why Adobe ships 'Device Central' with their production software.

But the most important reason to fully embrace the Internet is because it is dynamic. How often did you update the 'recent work' section on your DVD? Did you even HAVE a 'recent work' section? Motion graphics artistry is evolving rapidly. You can't wait six months or a year to publicize some great work that you pulled off. Clients want to see it NOW, not next year. There are a number of ways that you can pull this off. If you're good with the web, put a 'recent work' section on your site. But don't let the medium slow down the message. If it takes you six months to get around to updating your recent work because of the exquisite flash code that you have to re-figure out every time you sit down to modify it, then find another way. I chose a blogger page. Simple, easy to update, clean in execution. It's not perfect, because it's not 'my site'. But I might encourage you to not let perfection get in the way of promotion. Get your work up there, make it easy to link to, and let the client chose when, where and how they're going to see your work.

In the meantime, I've got a lot of coasters seeking a nice, cold drink.

Friday, September 26, 2008

TechTip: Knoll Light Factory pt. 2


It's easy enough to track a lens flare along a straight line, but what to do when you want it to trace an arc? Take a look at this quicktime (h264, 9:20, 22 megs) for my technique, and view the complete clip here. Bonus: This tip isn't necessarily exclusive to Knoll Light Factory and can be used with any plugin that has an emitter source, such as Trapcode Particular.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

TechTip: Knoll Light Factory pt. 1


This is the first of two little 'power tips' to those who use Knoll Light Factory in the course of their work. This one talks about how you can use an After Effects animation preset to simplify the process of viewing all available options in the KLF effect setup window. Click here to view the quicktime (h264, 4:42, 9.2 megs).

And yes, I will never use the 'audible mouse clicks' option in my screencap app ever, ever again :)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Recent Work


Some of you have noticed a distinct lack 'o posting on my part of late. Doesn't work just always get in the way of FUN? Gah! I'm hoping that there is a payback for you, my loyal readers, though, as I've (finally) decided to put together a little site that features much of the work that I've done over the years. It's something that I'll be adding to as projects are completed from now on, and I'm hoping that it'll be a nice resource for those times when you're stuck and looking for something different to try.

You can take a gander at the library here, and of course my current demo reel and web site can always be found at shisko.com