I just returned from the 1st Annual After Effects World Conference in Seattle and thought I'd write up a little recap for those who weren't able to attend.
What Was the AE World Conference?
The event was put together primarily by Future Media Concepts and you can obviously check out the official AE World website, but in a nutshell it was 3.5 days of connecting with other After Effects users around the US (and from a few from other countries too). We spent a day over at the Adobe Office where After Effects is developed and we heard from a number of the AE team. We also had 2 full days of workshop-style classes teaching Workflow, Mograph, 3D, Design, and a few other topics.
What I Loved About AE World
Throughout the event, I tried to meet as many of the 140 attendees as possible. That vast majority of people including myself came alone. As a result, there was almost a "Freshman Orientation" vibe walking into any conversation or hanging out in the hotel lobby. No strangers, just friends we hadn't met yet. It seemed as if every person there was from a different random part of the country: Nebraska, Texas, Ohio, Florida, Kansas... not just groups of artists all coming from one studio in NYC or LA (which was what I was expecting). Almost everybody there was the best After Effects user in their network of creative colleagues back home, making it very refreshing to finally be able to talk "AE" with people who were on the same page.
There were a number of times scheduled aside specifically to give everyone an opportunity to meet and chat with others (sometimes even with free beer). I was surprised at how personable and accessible the AE team was. I could sense a mutual respect between artists and the After Effects staff. We need them to make powerful tools for us to use in our work, but they also need us to use their tools in creative ways. Because of this, they were not only open to our feedback, but actually seeking for user input quite actively.
I didn't realize that when we request new features and improvements to the software via the Feature Request/Bug Report Form, each submission is being sent as an email and it WILL be read by one of two team members depending on if it's a feature request or bug. It isn't just ending up in some automated spreadsheet somewhere never to be seen. That was encouraging to hear because I think we tend to feel like Adobe, like most other large companies is too big to actually pay attention to individual users. That is not the case.
Most of the attendees seemed to be in a similar position in life where they've been using AE for a number of years now and want to get more comfortable with Cinema 4D, but haven't really forced themselves to sit down and learn 3D. Because of this, there were quite a few sessions intentionally set up for an AE user who wants to jump deeper into 3D. I found these very challenging and inspiring. It reminded me that you can always make time to do the things really want to do.
What I Didn't Love About AE World
Being that this was the first year, there will always be some bugs to work out. I'm confident that most of the technical hiccups will be worked out for next year's event with the amount of feedback they asked from us.
There were a TON of sessions. Two days with four 1 hour 15 min long time periods per day and each period had four different subject options... That's 40 hours of training in two days! This was great, but I ended up missing quite a number of sessions that I wanted to attend simply because there was another one during that same time slot I also wanted to go to.
The sessions were set up much like a typical classroom where we could take notes, but with no hands-on opportunities. I think this layout works fine for some topics that are more general or theoretical, but since most of the content being taught was extremely software specific, I found myself struggling to remember things as I went back through my notes in the airport. I'd imagine that if you're anything like me, you weren't exactly known for being the kid in school that always sat perfectly still with their hands folded and listening ears on. :)
All in all, if you're a serious AE user, I think this event will be one you'll definitely want to attend in the future... even if only once. For years, NAB was always the big event that I wanted to save up to go to. I've now gone to NAB and though it was good, the intimate atmosphere and AE-specific experience (which is what I really was wanting) just wasn't there compared to AE World. Granted AE World does cost a bit of money to attend, but when you think about the 4 days you're there and compare it to an average day rate, it's a pretty decent deal. Any questions about the event or what was taught? What would an ideal After Effect Conference look like to you? Drop in a comment below!