Adrienne Leverette is a principal at Fat Pencil Studio.
Remember when you used to have to go somewhere to buy software and it came on a CD (or more likely a whole bunch of CDs) with a book about how to use it? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Now, of course, you don’t have to leave your computer at all to acquire even advanced software, and information about how to use it can be vast and available in many different forms. This is great and all, but it puts us up against the quintessential problem of the digital age: more information doesn’t necessarily mean better information. When I’m using a program—say, Adobe After Effects CS6—and come up against some conundrum that I need to solve, I have a plethora of online sources to consult: the manufacturer’s Help page, user forums, video tutorials, miscellaneous search results, etc. And often I find that one of these sources has the information I need. However, with After Effects in particular, I just as often find myself frustrated by outdated version support, close-but-no-cigar topics, and snarky comment threads featuring the authoritative wisdom of gurus like “moobootoot,” “dblkickdrum,” and “Neon High.”
So I broke down and bought a book: Adobe After Effects Classroom in a Book, to be exact. Now when I have a question about how to use After Effects, I can flip to the handy index and…maybe find what I’m looking for. I confess that the Luddite in me hoped that the book would be my one comprehensive, well-organized resource for AE info. But not too surprisingly, it functions more as a valuable supplement to the other sources described above.
The book is set up as a series of lessons that give the student a reasonable overview of the major features of After Effects. If you are willing to follow the tedious, step-by-step instructions, you, too, can make some very cheesy motion graphics! (See above…What? Am I making Janet Jackson karaoke videos?) Luckily, the index helps cut to the chase, locating the portion of the lesson that is relevant to the issue at hand. And indeed, once you find what you are looking for, the information is presented in a clear, logical way, with helpful context and commentary.