If like me you have been an avid After Effects user for many years, creating motion graphics, Idents, stings, title sequences and the like, that people generally approved of (otherwise they wouldn’t come back for more). Then like me you are probably considering what skill / piece of software you should bolt on to your repertoire next.

The truth is there are almost too many factors to consider in this question.

  • 1.Affordability
  • 2.Time (how long is it going to take to get half decent)
  • 3.Practicality (how often will I need to employ this skill in my day to day work)
  • 4.Affordability...
  • 5.Cost...
  • 6.And price…

I’m sure the list goes on, but in all honesty if money were no object then one by one I would purchase all the software and every tutorial subscription necessary to learn them and then gradually in my own time get better at them all.

As this isn’t the case, I follow the general rule of “I know After Effects pretty well so any further learning I can do online and in books”. Therefore Cinema 4D is the next port of call for me.

I feel as though I have an intermediate understanding on C4D I’m still at the place of doing the necessary research as a project requires it I try my best to replicate and combine a variety of tutorials into my own project specific requirements. This learning model kind of follows the old; push an eagle off a cliff to teach it how to fly ideology. In my defense this is yet to let me down, as I always deliver on the project. But suffice to say it’s a pretty stressful and uncertain time getting to that delivery.

Face to face courses for 3d are expensive so again online is the way forward. But as I’m far less confident in C4D than AE I would recommend a tutorial site such as pluralsight (formerly digital tutors). They are an excellent learning resource with clear learning paths and objectives. I’m hoping to sort out a membership in the New Year.

You can find face to face courses for a much steeper price but They seem to all follow a similar curriculum more suited to taking you from Zero to Hero… rather than from … “I can import paths from illustrator and do some extruding, beveling and camera moves”. To … “Yeh sure I can texture that cube and make it rain blood on my awesome 3D city scene while helicopters fire missiles from above and destroy everything.” … (Over the top, but you catch my drift?).

Now after you consider these things. What about compositing and VFX. The other great functionalities and abilities of After Effects.

Truth be told, at this level AE is best for these. But if you want compositing realism on par with commercials and blockbuster award winning films then Nuke leaves AE in the dust, and in terms of procedural Special Effects creation and control, neither have a thing on Houdini.

So now it gets confusing. I’ve not even looked at 3DS or Maya as alternatives to C4D as for my purposes C4D wins out. But for your situation the aforementioned others might do the trick.

In short you need to look at your job now. And where you want to be in 5 years time. In order to strengthen your current career position and prepare for future positions in your field (or field to be). What will help most, soonest, and go from there. It won’t always be the sexiest piece of software that you were hoping to jump straight into. But it will get you there. In a sustainable, long term, achievable way.

It’s that simple.