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Explainers Shouldn't Explain Everything

Joe Clay | Aug 30, 2018

I'm Going to be Real with You

Let me preface this. I'm not talking about explainer videos that are supposed to be instructional—I'm talking about explainers that are supposed to give you an overview about a product. But this isn't just limited to explainers.

This article may be hard-hitting. But I think it's important to break the illusion, especially for people on the client-side.

No one cares about your product.

Many companies want to tell you every insignificant thing about their product in a video but they never mention the most important part.

Why Should I Care About Your Product?

Answer this question first: why should I care about your product? We make products to fulfill a market need, but when we're marketing we often completely forget about the need we're fulfilling. Someone dying of thirst doesn't care that your fizzy water has 2% carbonation after being run through a perfectly-tuned, reverse-osmosis filter that you had engineered in Stockholm—they just want to be quenched.

Always Think About the End Goal

Why does someone buy a new computer? Because their old one was too slow. So they need a faster machine? Yes. OK, why?

That last question is the most important one. Most companies just want to make their video and they stop just before asking why someone wants their product. That doesn't make any sense.

We don't buy a computer because it's fast. We buy a computer so that we can do something with it. Having a faster computer means we can do more of that thing or get it done quicker. Speed isn't the goal—it's what we need to achieve the goal. It's a subtle difference, but an important one.

Maybe you like gaming. Telling a gamer that your video card has 2,000 cores of 2.5Ghz processors isn't as effective as showing them a video rendered in real time, utilizing that card at the limit. Of course, people can logically figure out that more power means better gaming. But showing them your video card in use will lead them to thinking about gaming versus specs. And if they check out the competition, they'll be thinking of that sweet real time render you showed them while they're being bored with your competitor's video.

It's About Market Differentiation

The example I use all the time is Apple. They are in an incredibly crowded market. And most of their competitors make similar machines and advertise on specs alone. So there's tons of competition and Apple is usually the most expensive player. On paper, that sounds like a disaster. But their marketing is incredible.

Apple's marketing is heads and shoulders above all of the others. While their competitors hash it out over specs, Apple tells you what you can do with the machine. They show you lifestyle footage instead of spec lists. When they talk about a quality, they tell you how much more you can do with this product versus the old one.

Remember all of the great stuff you did with your machine before? Well now you can do more of that so you can either improve your work, or be done sooner.

When they talk about battery life, they don't just say this thing has 28 hours of standby. They compare it to how many songs you can listen to. When they say their machine is quiet, they don't say the fans are 3dB. They say it's whisper-quiet. They illustrate the product in use rather than educate you with specific facts. Remember the MacBook Air ads? The selling point was that it was super thin. While Steve Jobs did give the spec for thickness, he brought it out on stage like this:

Remember that? It was such powerful imagery that people sold cases for the MacBook Air in the shape of an envelope.

They show you what you can do with their products, or show the lifestyle their products help you achieve. Their videos are a tool to get you thinking about how you can use their products. And eventually that probably leads you to their site.

Look at all of the things you can do with that processor.

But even on their website they don't just show you specs. They talk about the engineering and the care that went into designing the product, and they leave you with what is important—what you can do with it. That is what people will remember when it comes time to hit that buy button.

You Still Want to Talk About the Features, Don't You?

The sad news is this—if you're selling on features and your competitors are selling on features, you're saying the same thing. You're basically making it a direct cost comparison and whoever has the lowest price wins. You're in a race to the bottom. Congratulations.

If that's the route you really want to take, skip the explainer. You're not going to get anyone jazzed by wasting 2-3 minutes of their time on an explainer that is too long to get them excited about a product that you're not even excited about.

Of course I'm excited about my product! That's why I made it!

Then it should be easy to explain to someone how your product helps them.

The Biggest Mistake People Make

A video is not a selling tool. Most people don't make snap judgements to make a large purpose after seeing one video. Instead you need to plant the idea that your product will be so helpful to potential customers that it is stupid to ignore it.

Ideally, you want to get them interested enough to go to your website to look for more information.

Scaring Your Customers Away

The problem with throwing a ton of specs at your customer, is that any omission in a detailed video might lead someone to assume your product is lacking something they need. Listing features is essentially selling someone away from your product.

But if your video talks about the problems your product solves, they might just inquire about what they need. And then you can tell them all about it. That let's you develop a personal connection with your customer, and they will appreciate the time you spent answering their questions. You've then established a relationship that your competitor who stuck that info in a video will never have with their customer.

How to Make a Great Explainer

You're going to need a script. If you're good at that, do it. At least rough it in and then find a good artist. Maybe someone who is good with scripts too. It makes the product better if you can find someone who can write a story while thinking of animation. If you can't find someone that can do both, hire a small studio, or hire a scriptwriter so you can tell the story.

The next thing is to work with your artist. Find someone who isn't just a button pusher, and don't advertise the gig that way either. You're not looking for someone to create a video for your idea. You're looking for someone to work together to make a great video. Hell, I'd even mention that you're hoping that it can be a portfolio piece for them. Artists work harder on something they know they can show other people as an example of their work, and it's always helpful to have an example for future clients to see how it should be done.

Collaborate. Teach your artist about why your product is amazing, and let them show people why it's amazing. Have them help you find flaws in your script and ideas. Often, things that make sense written one way suck in motion. So be willing to change your script and be receptive to input.

KISS - Keep it Short Stupid

And please, if it hasn't been obvious, keep it short. One minute max. If you can't explain how your product helps people in one minute, you're doing something wrong. This is not only a smaller investment of time for your potential customers, it's also easier on animation—and cheaper. I've done videos from a few seconds to 5-10 minutes. It's much easier to animate and make things visually amazing if it's shorter. Transitions are better. Creative is better. Everything is better.

See N' Say Sucks

My other suggestion is to leave text out of it. Unless you're putting it on Facebook or a platform where there won't be audio, try to use as little text as possible. Often I'll just use text to punctuate something. Let people watch and enjoy the video. The truth is that people are watching the video so they don't have to read something. So don't put text where something can be illustrated, even abstractly—especially if there's a voiceover. I don't know why there's a tendency to do see n' say. It just distracts from what you're paying an artist to show.

Good Luck

I promise you that these tips will lead to more interest than going the utilitarian route. Don't waste people's time. That's the number one rule. Good luck out there.

Waking up at 5:30 Will Change Your Life

Joe Clay | Jul 16, 2018

If you listened to my appearance on the excellent Ukramedia Podcast last week, you heard that I've changed up my sleeping schedule. I used to be all over the place with my sleeping. If left to my own devices, I'd end up looping over. But I can't. So that means less sleep. But now I get up around 5:30 every day.

Why the sudden change?

The algorithm. Yep, that's right. YouTube suggested a video to me. It's one of those clickbaity kind of list videos that litter the platform. Instead of ignoring it like countless others, I watched it. It's even a whiteboard animation. I'm not making this up. A whiteboard animation has changed my life. Here it is.

I've seen a lot of other videos about the topic but never really thought about it because it seems like something I should do, but could never accomplish. I'm a professional night-owl and sleeper. But I saw this video at a pivotal time and it asked a question that struck a chord with me:

How do you normally spend your time after 10 pm? Are you working diligently at 100% capacity—no distractions?

That 10 pm part was especially important to me because I was sitting there wasting time on YouTube enough that it suggested that video to me. As usual, I was sitting on the couch and 10 pm had come and gone. My wife had already left me there and gone to bed. And that's about the time I should be getting ready to work if I'm going to get something done at night. But the truth was this: she goes to bed and I keep sitting there blowing time on YouTube. I'm spent creatively and don't have the will to start something new. So I sit there watching other people building things on YouTube. That's pretty sad, right?

I spend most of the beginning of my day working on client work or procrastinating and then I work later than I intend. I'm always rushing to get started before lunch or before dinner. I come inside for family time, and then I have to go back out to the studio to finish something or I end up wasting time on YouTube because I'm burnt out. I never even get to Netflix! Because of all of that time spent on other work, I feel the need to do my own work or something else to complete my day but I don't have the will to do it. So the net result is that I feel guilty about not doing more and I'm unable to change that fact.

So what are the benefits?

Going to sleep around 10:30 and waking up at 5:30 has additional benefits I didn't foresee. For one thing, when I did actually work at night and I finally got into a groove, I'd stay up really late getting things accomplished while no one was awake. That's the same as getting up early, right?

Well, no. Here's the thing. You technically get all of those hours alone to focus either way—assuming you actually stay up to work of course. It's great. But when you go to sleep at 5 am and force yourself to get up at 10, there are already fires to put out or distractions online by the time you roll into the studio.

But when you get up at 5:30, it's just as dead as 3 am and there are no impediments to getting started. You make some coffee, sit down at your computer, and you just work on whatever you want. You're just ready to go. This is a major shift in perspective that sets you up for further success in your day.

We worked late the night before I'm writing this, and so I got up closer to 6:30 today. But even with writing this, I'll still get started on client work hours before I would have in the past. And since I'm already focused, because I'm already working, I tend to get right to work rather than wasting time on the internet. So I'm way more efficient with my time. You might've seen my tweet that at 1:30 pm I felt like I'd gotten more done than I usually get done by 6:00.

That's a sad truth that has become an amazing advantage. With the same amount of effort, I get more done with less procrastination. I've finally kept that beast at bay. It has plagued me since elementary school. In high school, I wrote a term paper the day it was due. If you're wondering how so many people get so much more done than you, either it's an instagram trick or they're getting up way earlier than you and getting to work.

There are other benefits that I discovered. Obviously I have more time for my family. But what I discovered is that the time I have for my family now is of a much higher quality. I'm present in my life. I'm not cooking or helping with bedtime thinking about what else I need to get done. When I'm done, I'm done. There's no regrets, there's no worry that I need to get further along on something. And having a normal sleep schedule means I'm not out of time with the rest of the world—which is a common problem with night-owls that can lead to depression.

Work/life balance

This is the work/life balance I've been looking for. I've heard all of the ideas. I want to hustle like Gary V but I also want to be with my family. Those things are incompatible if you're trying to do it at night. Unless you have enough resolve to actually sit down and work at the end of the day when willpower is at it's weakest, you're not going to succeed that way. And if you have a family, you're going to spend most of your day without them.

Now, instead of being asleep while my wife and kids wake up and then leave in the morning, I'm already awake. I can see them for a little bit before I head out to my studio and then I'm done and can hang out with them at the end of the day. And I'm not sleeping in on Saturday morning because I stayed up late Friday night, which is a fact I'm sure my wife loves.

The best part is that I get more done and there's a lot less of a rush. If a client request derails my plans for the day, it's ok because I already did what I wanted to do for myself, and I'm there to help them out. I don't have to hope I can fit them both in my day before dinnertime.

And as my friend Max pointed out, my day seems less rushed because I've started so early that instead of having an hour or two before a lunch break, I've got 6 hours. That's a ton of time when you're not in a hurry. It's almost too much sometimes!

I can't do this

I know what you're thinking because it's the same thing I think when I read any article or watch any video about getting up early. That would be nice but I can't do that. Plus I like staying up late and sleeping in—especially on the weekend! So do what I did. Try it for a few days. You'll find the same benefits that I did.

The biggest problem you'll face is getting started. If you're like me, you'll probably need to put your phone in another room. I've seen excellent suggestions about putting your phone in a place where you'll work. I ended up convincing my wife to join me because I'm a professional alarm disarmer and few sounds wake me, so alarms are a terrible option for me anyway. So if you can tag team it, do it.

It might also help to leave a task somewhat unfinished. That way you'll have the double-benefit of wanting to complete it and might also come back to it with a fresh perspective from taking a break. That's also helpful when you leave your house. I took a break from writing this before coming out to the studio so that I'd keep working when I got out here.

Believe me, I'm probably one of the least likely people to be able to accomplish this. I've always stayed up late—too late. I think in college I averaged about 4 hours of sleep a night because of it. I've got permanent bags under my eyes. But now I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything by going to sleep. I've made my days complete, and I'm no longer feeling like I need to accomplish more. And I even get a little bit more done on the weekends before the kids get up.

So if I can do it, you're just making excuses. I promise you, it will change your life.

Ukramedia Podcast

Joe Clay | Jul 12, 2018

Sadly, I'm a little late to post this, but I've been trying to hit some deadlines this week. If you can't tell by the graphic above, I was a guest on the Ukramedia Podcast! It was an incredible honor. I can't stress enough how good this podcast is. But I'm going to try because whatever their numbers are, they're too low.

I hate that I have to disclaim this, but I was not paid to say this. None of these links are affiliate links. And it wasn't a condition of being a guest. Other than me telling Vladimir that I was going to write something, they have no idea I'm even doing this. I just think that they're fantastic and their podcast is fantastic too. I had seen their tutorials on my jaunts through YouTube but I hadn't heard their podcast. So when they asked me to talk with them I checked it out, and it's great! It's also amazing how good it is with only 23 episodes so far. I feel like most podcasts take much longer to find a groove if ever.

If you don't know, Vladimir and Sergei are twins running Ukramedia. Sergei has made tutorials for years in a similar fashion to my own—short and to the point—but they've also started some more natural, unedited tutorials that are also excellent. They've also come out with an expressions course as well.

Vladimir is the host of the podcast. And he's such a good interviewer. While he starts off with a similar set of questions, it is crazy how different each podcast is. Vladimir brings his own experiences out and builds a great rapport with his guests so it's not just a one-sided conversation. But he also knows when to get out of the way to let the story unfold.

Unlike a lot of other podcasts, Vladimir gets excellent, actionable information out of the guests so you're not left wondering what steps you can take to better yourself. I'm going through all of their podcasts now and I don't think there's one that has failed to teach me something, give me an idea, or show me a new perspective that will help me to improve upon my goals.

Aside from that, I just love their story. You can hear it in Episode 1 of the Ukramedia Podcast and there's also an excellent interview with Sergei on the School of Motion Podcast. It's an amazing tale of how they arrived in the United States as twelve-year-old refugees from a dissolved Soviet Union. The friendships they forged, even while only beginning to learn English, led to the brothers taking a path into motion and design-related fields. And the help they gained through others led to them helping others today. That's all I'm going to summarize because it's much better if you just listen to the podcast. So go do that already. If you've spent time reading to this point instead of listening to their podcast, you're doing it wrong.

Failbench

Joe Clay | Jun 19, 2018

If you're following us on Twitter, you've probably seen that we've started a Twitch account. After trying to find a channel name that worked and wasn't taken, I kind of took a different direction taking inspiration from this Simone Giertz TED Talk. Workbench is a place where we basically go to work and show you the results of that work. But Failbench is where we put in the time to figure out just what we're doing and showing you all of the fails along the way. It's a place where we might not know all of the answers, but we'll do our best trying to find them.

While our main tutorials will always be quick and to the point, I think it's important for you guys to see that sometimes developing this stuff takes way longer, and it's not always perfect. As the YouTube algorithm has become a mindreader, I happened to stumble upon this video by Andrey Lebrov that sums it up perfectly—I struggle too. We all have our struggles—even our idols—and even when we succeed we feel like imposters.

Failure and struggle are more important than anything in life. Everything comes from failure. Failure is our greatest teacher, and it ensures we succeed and help others to learn from our mistakes too. This is why I stress for you to always go out and experiment with your tools. I've had people ask me to basically spoonfeed them my tutorials. But success doesn't work like that. Copying me won't make you better than me.

I've been using After Effects for about 15 years now. I've experimented a lot. And I've failed a lot. Thankfully that experience can see me through a lot of things. But I still fail. Sometimes I know exactly how to build something and sometimes I spend hours figuring something out—like the way I built Tutorial 126: Number Crawl. I initially intended that to be my first stream but it took so long I never uploaded it.

I'm still learning to show that side on stream. Sometimes I make a mistake that I normally wouldn't because I'm trying to multitask and be entertaining, and that's kind of embarrassing. But who hasn't done that? In these days of our insta-culture, our society demands that we present our lives and ourselves as perfectly infallible. Our currency has become likes, views, and subs. And while being perfect and admirable certainly gains those things and can be a relative gauge of our success, I think we need to take a step back and embrace that failure. I'm not perfect, and neither is anyone else. I've just failed so many times that I figure things out quicker. Don't look at your idols' perfect work and compare it to you. You don't see their failures unless they choose to present them.

So come along and check out our failures. Let's learn and grow together. And definitely join us on stream if you see that we're live. Even if we're working on something else, ask questions and interact. Interaction helps me. Otherwise I try too hard to be entertaining!

Hopefully soon we can figure out how to get both Sev and me on a stream too. Collaborating on making last week's tutorial frames would've made a great stream, so we're hoping to get something like that going. We just didn't think of it until after we were done because we're dumb.

So follow us on twitter @workbench_tv and hopefully I'll remember to send out the notification that I'm live when I actually start. That was a fun fail I did on the first Twitch streams. Today, I remembered but I didn't remember to record the stream. Thankfully, Twitch lets you download it if you're archiving. Always remember to turn that on. That's a great mistake to avoid. Find more mistakes to avoid in the latest stream below.

Memorial Day

Joe Clay | May 28, 2018

Words cannot express our gratitude to those who have given their lives so that we may be free to do what we do. In honor of Memorial Day, I made a flag based on one of our tutorials last week for you to use. I made it into wallpaper sized for a retina Macbook Pro (2880x1800) so it should fit most screens. And there's also an iPhone X version. Have at it.

Text Breakup Advanced

Joe Clay | Apr 9, 2018

In Tutorial 118: Text Breakup I noted that it should be possible to do that effect with one text animator instead of one per character. That makes sense, since the expression selector allows us to use the textIndex variable in order to write per-character expressions. So guess what?

Here's the first part of how to do it with an expression selector—note that it may scroll on your screen. I'll explain this code in more detail below. The setup for this is basically the same as in the tutorial as far as the sliders go.

group = thisProperty.propertyGroup(3).name.slice(-1);
amt = effect("Slide " + group)("Slider");
d = effect("Frame Delay " + group)("Slider");
seed = effect("Random Seed " + group)("Slider")+textIndex;

d = textIndex*d*thisComp.frameDuration;
amt = amt.valueAtTime(time-d);
seedRandom(seed,true);

amp = random(0,100)*amt;

if(random(0,1) > .5) {
    [amp,0,0];
} else {
    [0,amp,0];
}

This code is added to an Expression Selector's Amount property. The text animator is named Slide A. It doesn't matter what it's named as long as that A is at the end. I'll explain why next.

group = thisProperty.propertyGroup(3).name.slice(-1);
amt = effect("Slide " + group)("Slider");
d = effect("Frame Delay " + group)("Slider");
seed = effect("Random Seed " + group)("Slider")+textIndex;

The first line looks up from our Amount property using propertyGroup(countup) to get the name of the parent group this property resides within. In this case, it's 3 groups up and the name of the text animator is Slide A. So we take the name and use javascript's slice() method to get just the final character of the string—A.

If you looked at the image above, or watch the tutorial, you'll notice that I named all the sliders with an A at the end. This way, if we want to add multiple text animators, we can duplicate and rename those sliders (unfortunately you have to do that). Then we can just rename our text animator and it can look at a new group of sliders. The expression will fail when you duplicate the animator since After Effects will name the next one something like Slide A 2, so you'll just have to toggle it off and then back on again once you've named it something like Slide B. That's quicker than having to modify the expression at least.

So that's what we use to grab all of our sliders. We take the name and append the group variable to the effect name so we can grab the slider that matches the name of our text animator. amt and d just grab their slider values. seed takes the slider value and adds to it our textIndex value so that we get a different seed for each character—otherwise they'd just move together completely.

textIndex is a variable the Expression Selector gives us. After Effects evaluates this expression for each character of the text, so the value is just the index of the character that it's currently running our expression for.

d = textIndex*d*thisComp.frameDuration;
amt = amt.valueAtTime(time-d);
seedRandom(seed,true);

amp = random(0,100)*amt;

Next, we set up our delay so that each character waits a little bit after the previous character before it starts moving—unless you set the Frame Delay slider to 0 of course. So we take our textIndex and multiply it by d which is our slider value in frames. Doing this makes sure that each character is delayed by that number of frames. This needs to be converted to time, so we multiply that whole thing by thisComp.frameDuration which is how long a frame is in seconds according to our composition. If we're at 24fps, this value is 1/24. But if we use this property instead of hardcoding it, it'll change to whatever the comp is set to.

Then we set up amt. amt is a value from 0-1 representing our animation—1 is the extent of our animation, and 0 is the base position of our characters. We're taking the value of that slider at time-d so that we can get the value offset in time by our characters. This is what sets each character's delay until the previous one begins.

Next, we set up our random seeds using seedRandom(seed,timeless). We pass that our seed value and we set timeless to true. This means that our random value will stay constant. Normally, a new random value is calculated per frame. With timeless set to true it only happens once.

Now that we have our seed set up, amp—short for amplitude—is then set to a random value from 0-100 and then multiplied by amt. As amt is basically our animation offset for each character but represented by the range 0-1, multiplying those two values remaps that range to the values we need to output for the Amount property—an array of three values from 0-100%.

In this case we're randomizing that percentage range so that each character can move up to 100% of the max value we have set.

if(random(0,1) > .5) {
    [amp,0,0];
} else {
    [0,amp,0];
}

Finally, we grab a new random value from 0-1 so that we can use a conditional to make values above .5 affect the x value, and those below affect the y value. If you had 3D characters you could make this affect all three values since the Amount property is 3-dimensional. But I only want to use 2 dimensions. So we just output an array with values for x, y, z and we're done with that property.

We just have one more expression to do. You might have noticed that I mentioned a max value, but we didn't bring that slider in. Well, the issue is that we can only output a percentage for Amount, not a value. But that's actually a nice flexibility. That means we can set all sorts of different values for the properties in our text animator and they will scale accordingly.

group = thisProperty.propertyGroup(2).name.slice(-1);
max = effect("Max Value " + group)("Slider");
mul(value,max);

I've added this simple expression to a Position property within the animator containing our Expression Selector. We set up a group variable as before though this time it's just 2 groups up.

Then we grab our max slider value, and then we use mul(vec,scalar) to multiply our value array by that maximum value. The cool thing about this is that we're using value so you can change the value of the property to modify what we get from the max slider. So if the slider is 500, you can set the property to [2,.5] and the final value will be [1000,250]. In my case, I wanted my text to possibly go right and up so I set my Position value to [1,-1].

You can also set it to [1,1] and set the random for amp in the Amount property to go from -100 to 100 so the text can move in either direction. There's a lot of different combinations of things you can do with this effect. I've added another project file to the download for Tutorial 118: Text Breakup so if you purchased that, you should've gotten an email about that. And if you didn't you can grab this setup from our Gumroad shop if you like.

HomePod - Welcome Home by Spike Jonze

Joe Clay | Mar 30, 2018

You might have seen this excellent looking spot by Spike Jonze for Apple's new HomePod. I had a feeling when I was watching it that at least some if not all of it was practical. It felt just perfectly imperfect enough for it to be real. Well, it was. It looks like the only VFX was just removal work, and there might not have even been much of that other than the guys moving the couch. This would be a fun set to play on! That table is amazing!

Make sure to watch the final before checking out the BTS that CollideTV put on below. With the way Spike dances in this, I think they had a missed opportunity to shoot a second version.

Sundial

Joe Clay | Mar 29, 2018

Sundial

Where's Sundial? It's said "Coming Soon" for as long as this site has existed.

Fair enough. I've had a few inquiries into this one. The short of it is that it's now available as a name your own price with some caveats. The long of it is that it's incomplete and macOS only.

Boring History Lesson

I developed Sundial in 2014. One of my goals was to make a plugin. I originally tried to remake Pete's Plugins from his source, especially for his legendary halftone effect, but I could never figure out how it all went together. So I went about building my own from scratch.

I had this great idea. Everyone was trying to make long shadows and had developed all of these different hacks. For quick things, I had always cheated by stacking a few drop shadows. But I figured that I could probably turn that process into a way more efficient plugin. How hard can copying a layer over and over a ton of times be? It was difficult. The docs were ancient and my C++ experience is still low. But eventually I got it working. I even optimized it so that it didn't draw a ton of layers, but grouped them and repeated those groups to get to the desired length.

The only setback I faced, and could never recover from, was that it wouldn't work well with raster images. Every once in a while you'd need to purge. And moving the controls around usually seemed to have the effect of stacking the copies, especially if opacity was used.

So I stopped development completely when an alternative hit the market. I found out recently that others had been working on a similar path and had similar setbacks. I think the code they worked on ended up in a viable version somewhere.

So that's where it stands. As I use Macs, it's macOS only. Had I been able to get the kinks worked out, I probably would have ported it to Windows, but that didn't happen. If those two drawbacks aren't a concern feel free to name a price and download it. But please remember, there is no active development on this one, and it's offered as-is with no support available.

Improvements

Joe Clay | Mar 23, 2018

Today, we're making some changes with how we do some things so that we can bring you guys more value and make Workbench more of a focus for us both. Right now there's a ton of stuff we want to do, but we have to balance that with running Yellow Dog Party. So in that vein, the first big change we're going to make is to switch around our Patreon setup. The goal is to get more content out for our patrons and lower the price of the tiers versus 4 videos a month so that it's a more attractive offer. Obviously we'd rather have more patrons paying less than less patrons paying more.

When I started this thing, it seemed like a good idea to set it up per video. But as I've posted every week consistently for a couple of years now, it makes more sense for us to go monthly, especially with Sev now being more involved. We won't have to bother with explaining that we're not charging for extra videos and we'll have a better idea of what's coming in from Patreon each month. And we might also be able to curb the few people who've joined our highest tier, downloaded our stuff, and then skipped out on paying. We're making free tutorials so it's a little disheartening to be stiffed. But it makes us really happy for all of you who have gone above and beyond to chip in.

One of our other goals is to make sort of a Patreon-lite experience with regards to project files and elements. When we make our tutorials, we build up these project files, and then we strip out what we can't distribute—like music—and then we strip out content destined for Patreon, and then we put up the project file. If you're a patron, you have to go to two places to get everything. If you're not, you get a project file but it's lighter than it could be. And if you're us, you have extra work ahead of you to do all of that and distribute it.

Well, starting with Tutorial 115 we're hoping to change that. We're now putting our project files up on Gumroad—free for patrons and $1+ for everyone else. Our patrons will still get extra content outside of the tutorials of course—we haven't forgotten the displacement maps we owe you guys!—and we won't have to make three versions of everything. The idea is to make is as easy for us to get you guys useful content, and easy for you to get it.

Hopefully this will be a better solution as we grow. And when that time comes we'll probably have more improvements to make!

Easyrig + Simmod Lens S2 Connector

Joe Clay | Mar 7, 2018

Today we're talking about something different—production equipment. While we probably won't get into full on production tutorials as there's plenty of great content out there already, there's not a lot of stuff geared at people who might find their way onto a set for other reasons—VFX supervisors for example—that might wonder about equipment or perhaps even certain practices.

This started because we were asked to do a quick demo for a product that I've personally bought—the Simmod Lens S2 Connector. Full disclosure: I'm getting a discount on future purchases for talking about it, but it's a product I really believe in and recommend from a company—and owner—I really like. The KONG Frog clips are already excellent, and using them to build this solid, purpose-built clip that melds securely with an Easyrig makes a perfect piece of support equipment for anyone who uses similar setups. It also keeps the camera higher than the usual Frog clips with the strap.

That offer led to the idea of talking about things you might find on set. I live in a right-to-work state so our shoots are typically non-union. That means I've often helped out other departments on set—though I work in the camera department—because we're not as regimented as union shoots. That means we often help with other departments' equipment. So I figured it would be helpful for people who are starting out and find themselves in an open set to know about various items they might come across.

Anyway, if there's anything you're curious about, let us know in the comments and maybe we can make a video for it. And I promise that the next intro won't be as long. We felt like having a play shooting with Sev's A7R and some cheap RGB lights I bought a while ago!

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