You can find free and paid tutorials for just about any software in this industry, many of which are available on PVC. Chris Zwar has shown us everything from automatic versioning to z-depth from 3D layers in After Effects, David Torno published a massive AE Extendscript Training series while Chris & Trish Meyer have been updating their Hidden Gem series, just to name a few of the tutorials you can find right here.
Tutorials like these do an amazing job of helping viewers understand a particular tool and its functionalities, but how does that translate into the real world? How can they interact with other tools? What can they specifically do for a project?
Chris Weiher wanted to find out, which is why he created Watch Me Work, a global community for creative experts and students. The system enables viewers to see exactly how a person is working while they’re working, which means people on both sides of a stream can be learning and collaborating seamlessly. There is currently an IndieGoGo campaign running for the project, but they’re clearly off and running, which gave us plenty to talk about.
ProVideo Coalition: Tell us a little bit about your career. How did you get into the industry?
Chris Weiher: I got into the industry through theater. I graduated from the University of Illinois in 2002 with a stage directing degree, but I knew I wanted to make films. When I got out of school I made a feature-length film which led me to make short films and then to working professionally. First, editing wedding videos then working for a small production company on the north side of Chicago, and then working at a slightly bigger company in the suburbs where I produced and edited web videos.
What sort of projects do you typically work on?
Now the main projects that I work on are motion graphics videos. The role I have found that fits me well is producing. I work with a writer, graphic designer, and motion graphic artist and we create some pretty cool animated videos for clients.
You’ve mentioned that you direct, edit and produce videos at Cleaver…are you typically wearing all of those hats on a given project?
I don’t edit as much anymore though I do enjoy it. Most of the time I’m producing and project managing, the boring stuff.
How have you seen the industry change since you got your start?
The industry has changed a ton since I started. When I started working professionally in 2005, small cameras and mini DV tape were scoffed at and then they changed the industry. And then a couple years later DSLRs changed it again and I think the next big change will be that freelancers will produce as good of quality as big production facilities using file sharing and remote co-working as their workflow.
Leveraging those changes is a big part of what professionals need to deal with on an almost daily basis, isn’t it?
Yes, you have to be ahead of the curve in this industry. One curve I think most of us have struggled with is content ownership. I think that if every videographer or video producer could focus part of their business on building their own content, they could easily have sustainable revenue streams outside of client work.
How does live streaming factor into the changes we’ve seen?
Live streaming is a weird technology that people are still figuring out how to use. I believe it has real value in allowing remote workers to network, share their process, learn from one another and eventually gain clients and collaborators.
And that leads us into your crowdfunding project, Watch Me Work. You mentioned the idea came from a desire to see how an expert used Adobe Illustrator after learning the basics. With this tool, you’d be able to observe a professional as they’re working with that specific tool, correct?
That’s correct. I was trying to learn Illustrator – I had some experience in Photoshop and it was frustrating understanding the tools but not being able to just watch somebody use the program. The main forms of teaching available now teach you how to use one tool at a time and one aspect of a given program. I think there’s a big value in just watching an expert do what they do.
Can the people watching this work being done interact with the subject?
Yes, currently viewers of a given stream can interact with the content creator by chatting with them as they stream. However, because we’re using Google Hangouts on Air, the app itself makes it really easy for the streamer to invite collaborators to narrate, contribute or even take over their desktop for the audience to see.
If you’re simply watching someone work, aren’t viewers going to miss out on the creator talking through what they’re doing?
The streamer has the option to narrate or simply work. It’s entirely up to them how much they engage with the audience or leave them alone. I think one workflow in the future that might stick would be having a streamer take questions once an hour; rather than feeling the need to keep a constant eye on the chat.
So the expertise of the creators being featured on Watch Me Work is the key here, correct?
No, not at all. In fact the educational benefit of a novice streaming their work is huge. If I’m just learning Photoshop and you’re an expert, and you co-work alongside me for a while; you have the opportunity to give me innumerable tips that I wouldn’t even know how to go about Googling. That’s why I believe the real power of streaming is encouraging people at all levels to share their process, not just the experts.
In that case, WatchMeWork is for people who are curious about the way a tool is being utilized in a real world situation, but can also be used on an individual, person-to-person basis?
Absolutely, I see it as a way to allow people who were working separately to work together, virtually in the same room. Some user’s goals may be to build a huge audience, others might just want to work with other people in their field, or in a field that they’re looking to learn about. So you might be a great video editor, but you’d like to start learning After Effects – so you can pull up the stream of someone working in After Effects, introduce yourself and simply observe how they’re tackling a project.
Do you see this working in tandem with things like tutorials, or in some ways replacing them?
Live streaming definitely will not replace tutorials. Live streaming’s value is in allowing users to share a space at a given time. A tutorial’s value is recorded condensed video. The two can absolutely work in tandem.
How do you think tools like Watch Me Work will affect the way professionals can and will approach a project?
Watch Me Work has the potential to change how we work and learn. For professionals I see it as a way to remotely co-work with your peers. It can also provide a great learning tool for students, hobbyists and professionals looking to expand their knowledge base.
Any advice you can offer to some folks in the industry who are considering their own crowd funding campaign?
My advice would be, do it. You can spend a lot of time trying to decide if you’re ready, or if you’ve prepared enough to make your goal. What’s most important really, is diving in and finding out.