Skill Growth in After Effects

By Jean Mendoza

Project Objective

The project I gave myself to work on for the last three and a half months, was to apply the video production skills I’ve gained fro the last three years and to mix it up with my small set of Adobe After Effects skills. The objective was to dive deeper into After Effects, to get better and more efficient at using it. I learned a total of four new special effects based off some of my favorite movie scenes. I also thought, that if some of the special effects edits were good enough, I would add them to my portfolio.

Here is an example of one of the special effects I learned to do:

Challenges Encountered

There were a mixed bag of challenges within the last three and a half months of working on this project. There were challenges within the production and post-production stages.

When it came to production days, filming the scenes, I would sometimes forget specific things to help prep the footage being shot to make the post-production process easier. Because I did forget some of the prep work while in production, it made my editing process in After Effects much longer and more tedious.

When it came to post-production, I sometimes had issues with the tutorials I was trying to learn from. Sometimes there were steps that were missing, jumping from one thing to another. I would get lost and confused. Sometimes I ran into issues that I couldn’t just Google or YouTube to find the answers to fix my problem. Sometimes, plug-ins cost money or had free downloads that could possibly be questionable.

For the most part, I would say the biggest challenge was in being self-taught for 90% of the editing process. The other 10% of the editing process was always better after meeting up with my motion graphics mentor and getting his feedback and advice on the special effect I was learning.

Project Process

My process was simple.

  1. Pick a special effect I’ve always wanted to try.
  2. Pre-production: create the shot list, schedule the time and place to film, get the gear prepped for filming.
  3. Production: get the shots.
  4. Post-production: learn and try to finish most of the edit by myself.
  5. Mentor meetings: after doing what I can, show my mentor what I have so far, ask him questions on parts of the edit I’m stuck on or struggling with, and get other feedback/advice from him.
  6. Apply what my mentor told me and finish the edit.

My Experience

My overall experience working on this project for the last three and a half months was good, challenging, exciting, and most importantly, fun. Being able to use the video production skills I’ve gained in the last three years and incorporating After Effects into it was breathtaking. By breathtaking, I Ean that it winded me at times. I sometimes found it physically exhausting renting out equipment, traveling, hauling it to different film locations, setting it up, and taking it down. It was time consuming. But, I also think that it was breathtaking because of the pure joy I got after learning each special effect and seeing that I was able to do it.


There are many insights and takeaways I gained from working on this project. I learned that you really can learn anything on your own for the most part. “YouTube University” had so many helpful tutorials.

But, I also learned that the internet won’t always have the answers you’re looking for when it comes to specific issues and struggles. This is when having a mentor comes into place. I had met up with two different mentors for this project. They both have decades of professional experience within video production and special effects. They’re the ones that can answer more of your questions, give you feedback/advice, and help you sharpen your skills.

One of themes important key takeaways from working on this project would be that you need to “learn to appreciate the struggle. It would be hard to find the joy of accomplishment without it”. This quote has stuck with my the last three and a half months. I think that if you want something badly enough, you’ll do the work, struggle, make progress towards it. Eventually, you’ll get to where you want to be.