What to do if you’re underemployed?

Production and post-production are constantly evolving and developing. If you are not actively learning you are falling behind. While you have the advantage of experience, those graduating from Film Schools, Universities and even Community Colleges have experience with Final Cut Pro, Media Composer, After Effects and usually a 3D application (like Cinema 4D or Maya). Photoshop skills are simply assumed: grade schoolers are now doing visual effects and compositing.

Whatever new skills you learn, should be consistent with your brand and unique selling proposition. Most people’s immediate thought is to broaden the range of services you offer, in the expectation of being able to service more customer needs. This needs to be done carefully, whether by improving your own skills or partnering with others, to keep true to your core brand values.

One of my friends, Randy Tinfow of Image Plant and Proscenum, chose a different path. Instead of broadening their services, he chose to narrowly define their speciality. Randy says:

“I have actually gone in the other direction, narrowly defining our perceived specialty or “value add” to be in an area of great demand.  So by developing excellence in an area of need, we’ve been able to differentiate ourselves and have as much business as we can handle.  We have not sold editing, animation, compression, or production in 5 years, but 80% of our activity is doing just those tasks.  It’s the other 20% of the work that pulls clients in our direction: “providing enhanced video delivery mechanisms.
“Being great in one important area is far better than being a good generalist.  Certainly more lucrative.  It helps that we can demonstrate how our works ALWAYS saves clients money.”

By building one specific area of expertise – “enhanced video delivery mechanisms”, including the entire Proscenum delivery technology – Image Plant have grown their editing, animation, compression and production services without advertising or promoting them!

Almost everyone will have to deal with non-tape workflows. These workflow changes are upon us so. Now is the time to read and get test footage to become totally familiar with how to edit RED, XDCAM HD/EX, AVCHD/AVCCAM, etc now, ahead of client needs. Or become an expert in getting media online with expertise in encoding and hosting. Inevitably it will drive production and post production.

Resources

If you happen to be in Southern California then UCLA Extension in Hollywood offers everything from acting and animation to television writing and visual effects. Most courses at UCLA Extension and comparable schools meet for six to 12 weeks and cost a few hundred dollars. Longer, part-time certificate programs take up to two years to finish.

The various Guilds also have classes and resources for free through the Guilds’ head offices. Lori Jane Coleman, American Cinema Editors internship director, encourages fellow editors who aren’t on a show or film crew to take a Final Cut Pro class, which is offered free through the guild.

Beyond these regional activities, companies like Lynda.com, Total Training and Class on Demand have both DVD-based training and online delivery of the same training.

  • Tip: You’ll get the most benefit out of any form of visual training by working along with the trainer, or immediately putting the skills into use with your own project materials. Passively watching online video or DVD rarely improves your knowledge. Actively applying what you’ve learnt within 24 hours cements it as knowledge in your brain. If you haven’t used it within 72 hours (3 days) research shows that you wasted your time watching.

Don’t forget, too that most software comes with tutorials. In the Final Cut Studio 2 package there are two DVDs of tutorial included free. You’ll be surprised how many productivity tips can be learnt.

Studio Daily and DV run periodic webinars on relevant topics you can use to improve your skill base.

BuZZdex

One resource you should be using, wherever you are, is the Digital Production BuZZ BuZZdex. The BuZZdex is an index to the best of free articles, tutorials and resources anywhere on the Internet. While we all know there are great tutorials at CreativeCow.net, throughout the Digital Media Net network and at places like LAFCPUG.org or KenStone.net, it is only through the BuZZdex that you can find articles from all these sites, and more, that are indexed by Application, Chapter and Topic.

For example, if you wanted to find an article on Chroma Keying DV in Final Cut Pro, you would go to the BuZZdex and choose “By Application”. Select Final Cut Pro then Articles and Tutorials by category. Select Keying from the category list and the topic sublist will appear . From there you can choose Keying DV and three articles will be listed ready for your learning pleasure.

Or if you wanted to know how to create a fake display on a monitor. Choose Articles then Articles and Tutorials by category and click ‘more’. Select Visual and Creative Effects as the chapter and Simulating Displays. Then simply choose the article that’s closest to the type of display you want to create.

As of today, the BuZZdex contained 7233 references to 4627 individual articles or tutorials. (Some articles have more than one reference in the index because they fit under more than one topic.) No other resource comes even close. These can be further sorted into type, so if you only want to see video tutorials, you can limit the BuZZdex to only showing you video-based tutorials.

 Optimally, regardless of workload, we all should be spending the equivalent of 20% of our workweek on improving our skills. Few, outside Google employees, can realistically find time to do that when our businesses are running hot, so we have to compensate by using any time when business is not running hot to improve our skills and improve our marketing.

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