After Effects: My Journey to Learn Motion Graphics

A little over a year ago I became fascinated with motion graphics. I thought motion was an awesome art and got super inspired to create some of my own motion pieces.

I started with YouTube tutorials. I knew very little about After Effects, so this helped me learn the basics. I’ve found YouTube to be great for learning at an extremely rapid pace. Doing tutorials helped me quickly learn and retain things like effects, tools, keyboard shortcuts, and fast ways of doing things.

Here’s an example of a tutorial I did successfully.


I also enjoyed playing around with some branding, incorporating motion graphics with film and time lapse footage I had. Stuff like this, while super basic at the time, would pave the way for me to apply these concepts in bigger things later on.

james trent

After a while, I started incorporating these into my school projects. My process for projects has always been 2 steps:

  1. Decide what I want to do
  2. Figure out how to do it

This is simple on the surface, but since the first step isn’t dependent on my knowledge, this process makes me extremely motivated to learn certain things (because I have to use them in the project). This is similar to the idea of forcing functions, something I use a lot in my life.

So I would find relevant tutorials for things I needed for my projects. This exposed me to a lot of different areas of motion graphics. For example, in the following video, I wanted to use a time counter (at 1:23), so I figured out how to animate one in After Effects.

My Applications for Motion Graphics

As I learned more about motion graphics, I knew I didn’t want to simply create explainer videos or animated ads. That wasn’t my goal. Rather, the knowledge and experience I’ve gathered has allowed me to use motion graphics as part of other projects. Being able to use motion graphics has proven extremely useful in multiple instances for projects that I’ve been a part of.

For example: here’s one instance where I used motion graphics to support my video footage and to convey the relevant information in an aesthetic way (1:54):


I plan on continuing to use motion graphics in my work. This skill set has been extremely helpful so far, and definitely worth the time I put into it. It’s also given me confidence to learn other things – to approach other areas of digital media and tackle new creative challenges and projects in whatever form they come in.

Sarasota Time Lapse Still

My Sarasota Time Lapse Is Finally Here!

I’m super excited to say my time lapse film of Sarasota is complete!

This was a big side project for me – I worked on it throughout my sophomore year. This wasn’t used for any class projects, as I wanted full creative control to execute my vision. So I spent a lot of time after class, at night, and around sunset, driving downtown and shooting these sequences. I’m fairly certain I spent well over a hundred hours on this.

I started the project in September, but as I shot more sequences, I realized how much I wanted to add motion to them. So in November I bought a Dynamic Perception Stage Zero kit, with Stage R rotary controller. This is a camera slider and motion control system that allows you to slide, pan, and tilt your camera – and control all of this from the iPhone app. It’s very well-designed and I had a blast using it.

Over the course of the project, I shot over 100 time lapse sequences (I used 31 in the film). There’s an art to shooting time lapses, and I can say I’ve improved exponentially. Not only do you have to get everything right technically – camera settings, exposure, motion timing, etc. – but you must also choose a good scene to film. This is probably the most tricky part. You want a scene that has the right amount of motion, stillness, and interesting subject matter. And of course, you want to portray it in a beautiful way. Balancing these two parts – the creative and the technical – is essential for a good sequence. And I can confidently say I’ve gotten much better at this over the course of the project.

This project was one of my longest creative projects ever. I’ve noticed that most of my projects – videos, photo series, etc. – happen in short sprints of less than a month each. I started Sarasota Lights in September 2015 and just finished it in May of 2016. I don’t think I’ve spent that long on a single project before. Why was this one different?

I’ve been into time lapse for a long time. I remember getting really inspired in 2012 by this one I saw on Petapixel. I’ve wanted to do one for a long time, but I wanted to do it well. And as I started working on it, I realized it was going to take a lot of time. I didn’t want to rush it and sacrifice quality.

Enough talk – I’ll let you guys watch it:

Shot on:

  • Canon 5D Mark III
  • Canon 6D
  • Canon 16-35 f/4L IS USM
  • Dynamic Perception Stage Zero (slider)
  • Dynamic Perception Stage R (pan/tilt motion)
  • Induro AT214 tripods (2x)
  • Manfrotto 054 ball head
  • Manfrotto 056 Junior 3-D Pan/Tilt head
  • Neewer Intervalometer for Canon (One of the best purchases I’ve ever made. The Dynamic Perception NMX controller has its own camera trigger and interval settings, but for shots without motion, I often used this. Amazing value.)

Here are some of my favorite stills from the project.

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Spring Training, 2016 Edition

After enjoying shooting at last year’s Orioles spring training game, I went all out this year. I borrowed a Canon 1D X and a 200mm f/2L IS from CPS, and bought tickets to 5 games in one week – 3 at Ed Smith Stadium, one at George Steinbrenner Field (Yankees) in Tampa, and one at McKechnie Field (Pirates) in Bradenton. I called it “MLB Week” – running around between classes and baseball games all week. Once I had two games and one class, all in one day (it was awesome).

I had a ton of fun, not just shooting, but watching baseball up close in good seats.

I averaged around 1000 photos per game. However, I present to you my 11 favorite shots:

James Trent - Orioles Spring Training James Trent - Orioles Spring Training James Trent - Orioles Spring Training

Adam Jones blowing a bubble after hitting a home run.

James Trent - Orioles Spring Training James Trent - Pirates-Yankees Spring TrainingJames Trent - Yankees-OriolesSpring-training-11 Spring-training-10 Spring-training-12 Spring-training-9 Spring-training-8

Book Review: Superhuman by Habit

Over spring break I read Superhuman by Habit by Tynan. I loved this one! It’s short, broken into easy-to-read sections, and every section contains actionable advice, along with the theory to back up that advice.

Tynan uses the first half of the book to talk about forming habits, then in the second half gives practical advice on specific habits to form – everything from positivity, to health, diet, exercise, work, productivity, organization, and more.

I underlined a ton of stuff while I was reading. Here are some of my favorite ideas from the book.

  • The main premise of the book is this: most of us try to use willpower to make our lives better with things like diet, exercise, work, etc. The problem with this is that we have limited willpower. Tynan’s argument is that instead of using our limited willpower each time we do something, we should use that willpower to build habits out of these things, so we do them automatically. This way we won’t have to rely on our limited willpower to do them each time. As we accrue more and more positive habits that improve our lives, we can use our willpower to keep building new habits and grow at an even faster rate.
  • We all already have a ton of habits – we just aren’t aware of most of them. Some are positive – like brushing your teeth at night – and some are negative, like eating junk food when you’re tired. Humans are creatures of habit – we just have to eliminate the negative ones and add more positive ones in their place.
  • “The benefit of a habit isn’t the magnitude of each individual action you take, but the cumulative impact it will have on your life in the long term.” I.e., working out once won’t make you much stronger, but spread over a year it could have a huge impact.
  • Missing a habit is to be avoided at all costs. If after a week of jogging daily, you skip a day, that threatens your entire habit formation. It kills your momentum and makes it less likely that you’ll form the habit. Skipping two days dramatically reduces your chances. “Make your habits relatively easy, but never miss doing them.”
  • If you really don’t feel like doing the habit that day – give yourself permission to do a terrible job. “Remember that the power of a habit isn’t actually in the individual execution, but in the consistency.”
  • “Mistakes will happen, but the most important thing is how you react to them. If successes push you forward, but mistakes also push you forward, you will have a lot more forward progress than if success moves you forward but mistakes pull you back.”
  • Take pride in process, not in results. If you get process right, the results will come in the long term.
  • Assume it’s always your fault. “Not everything is actually your fault, but by assuming it is, you give yourself an opportunity to take responsibility for the future by coming up with a plan to change things.”
  • “Start small, become consistent, and increase at a manageable pace. That’s how you optimize for the finish line, rather than the starting line.”
  • Triggering habits – you can build your habits so that one habit triggers the next. This way you can build a chain of positive habits. This is good for a morning or bedtime routine, for example.
  • “Having friends who support you as you rebuild your habits is a major advantage.” You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
  • “Remember that everyone is just doing their best and trying to be happy, just like you.”
  • To give yourself enough sleep: regulate your bedtime instead of your wake-up time.
  • To eat healthy: replace the bad foods you eat with healthier ones, rather than just trying to cut them out. Plan all your meals in advance. 
  • On pushing your comfort zone: “Whenever you have that feeling of wanting to do something, but being too nervous, you should immediately think, ‘Okay, now I have to do it.'”
  • More about pushing your comfort zone – focus on the process, not the results. He gives the example of being scared to go talk to an attractive woman. Since you’re scared, you force yourself to go do it. If she turns and tells you to leave, you’ve succeeded, because you did what you were scared to.
  • If you’re always late: make a habit of showing up 5 minutes early to everything, and just waiting in your car or around the corner. I definitely need to work on this – ask my friends ;-).
  • “Delete or contact” was an interesting habit he does. Once a month, he goes through his contact list and either deletes the person’s number, or texts them. This, he says, turns you into one of those people that is great at staying in touch with new friends. But for me, once a month seems a bit much, especially for acquaintances.
  • Writing a thank-you note daily is a habit that I want to build. I’m just not sure if I’ll have 30 people a month to thank. Maybe once a week?
  • Writing 500 words for the blog daily is another that I may add. Seth Godin writes multiple posts a day, but only publishes the best ones.
  • Often the reason we don’t get a task done is that we delay starting – aka procrastination. Tynan says to track what time you start working on your main task each day. It will naturally get earlier. This made me realize that often the barrier to getting something done is not its difficulty, but rather how long I wait to actually start. By starting sooner, I get it done faster, and it’s usually not as hard as I thought.
  • “A lifelong process of building and maintaining habits is far and away the greatest benefit you can receive from the advice in this book.”

On the last page, I wrote my main takeaway: “Process, not results.”

I also wrote down what habits I want to start with:

  • Delete or contact – some variation of this one. See above.
  • Eliminate all refined grains/sugars
  • Eliminate starting procrastination
  • Always being on time
  • Writing thank you notes

Overall – this is a quick read (read it in 2 days) and totally worth it. One of my favorite books for sure.

Studio Lighting Final Project – Food

I took studio lighting last semester, but I never posted these photos – so here we are. Studio lighting was a really fun and productive class. I got a lot of good portfolio pieces out of the assignments.

For the final project I took photos involving literal interpretations of food names. The foods are, in order: bowtie noodles, elbow noodles, rotini noodles, veggie straws, chessmen, and cadbury fingers. I wanted to put the foods in unusual situations to allude to their names.

Check them out below. Overall – pretty happy with how it turned out. The veggie straw photo was accepted into the Photography department’s Best of Ringling show, so that was cool.

James Trent - Studio Lighting James Trent - Studio Lighting James Trent - Studio Lighting James Trent - Studio Lighting James Trent - Studio Lighting James Trent - Studio Lighting

Sarasota Business Portraits (Location Lighting Final)

Really enjoyed my location lighting class this semester. Not all of my assignments turned out great, but I definitely got 2 or 3 portfolio-worthy photos from doing the assignments. One of them even got accepted into Best of Ringling.

For my final project, I took photos of business owners around Sarasota, inside their shops. I ended up with 6 images. Here they are:

This is Ron Zammit, owner of Cakes by Ron. He makes some pretty awesome wedding cakes. He also gave my friend a free cupcake when we were shooting. Really cool guy.

Ron's Cakes - Sarasota Business Owners

These are the owners of C’est La Vie, a French bakery on Main Street. The bakery is an awesome place and they were really nice to us.

Cest La Vie - Sarasota Business Owners

These are the owners of Vom Fass, a specialty oil, vinegar, and liquor store on Main Street.

Vom Fass - Sarasota Business Owners


This is Riccardo Mastroianni, who owns Mastroianni Custom Tailoring. His shop is 2 minutes away from Ringling. He’s one of the classiest guys I’ve ever met. I had one of my shirts altered by him and he did a great job.

Mastroianni Custom Tailoring - Sarasota Business Owners Mastroianni Custom Tailoring - Sarasota Business Owners

This is Georgia, owner of Bookstore1Sarasota. She’s really sweet and runs a cool bookstore.

Bookstore1Sarasota - Sarasota Business Owners


Overall – I’m really happy with how these images turned out. Definitely will be using them in my portfolio going forward.

As far as the technical goes: shot on 5D Mark III and 6D, using 16-35mm f/4L IS and 35mm f/1.4L. Lit with a single Alien Bee B1600 with a 34″ octabox. Used the Vagabond Mini to power the ABs for most of these.

A HUGE thank you to everyone who allowed me to take their photo, as well as to my friends Jeffrey and Michael for helping with the lighting.

Orioles Spring Training Game – Sports Photography

This past spring, I went to an Orioles spring training game in Sarasota.

A ton of Oriole fans fly in for this, but for me, it was just a 5-minute Uber ride away.

Spring training games are a lot more fun for photographers than regular season MLB games. There’s no restriction on big lenses, and the best seats are under 35 bucks. Big lenses + good seats = happy photographer :).

I was able to get super close to the action. I brought my 5D Mark III and 300mm f/4L IS. The first image below was taken with my 35L.

I sat just behind the 3rd base dugout. It wasn’t as crowded as the O’s side, and it proved to be a great vantage point.

I moved around a little bit throughout the game. Spent a few innings behind home plate. There were moments when I was scary close – even making eye contact with a few players. It was surreal. And I had my camera the whole time.

It was a ton of fun to shoot – I wish I had gone earlier in the spring training season. This spring, I’ll definitely be going a lot.

(Sarasota is a great place to live in the spring, if you’re a baseball fan. The Pirates are 20 minutes north in Bradenton, the Red Sox are an hour south in Ft. Myers, and of course the Orioles are here).

Ed Smith Stadium

Danny Santana digs in.
Danny Santana


Chris Davis swings and misses…

And then hits one out.

Adam Jones follows…
Adam Jones

…with a long ball.
Adam Jones

The ball leaving the yard.
Adam Jones

Adam Jones

Adam Jones

Adam Jones

Ricky Nolasco dealing for the Twins:
Ricky Nolasco

Travis Snider also had a long ball.
Travis Snider

Travis Snider

Travis Snider

Ricky Nolasco

Orioles Spring Training

Caleb Joseph

Manny Machado

Kennys Vargas

Kennys Vargas

Alejandro De Aza


Kennys Vargas

I noticed Manny Machado would be in the air for a split-second before every pitch.
Manny Machado

Jonathan Schoop & Kennys Vargas

Play at the plate!


Adam Jones

Adam Jones

Adam Jones



Adam Jones


Choose Wonder.

There are a lot of situations in life where we’re given a choice between being annoyed and being filled with wonder.

Last week, our English class had to do presentations. One of my friends was doing a presentation on a movie she saw. She told the class what happened to her in the movie theater.

My friend was watching the movie in the theater. In front of her was a boy with his mother. My friend explained how throughout the movie, the boy would constantly notice things about the movie and whisper them to his mother. He would see something happen and make a comment about it to his mom.

When she said this, I thought I knew what she would say next. I expected something like, “It got pretty annoying, this kid in front of me talking throughout the whole movie.”

Nope. What she actually said was totally different. It went something like this:

“I thought this was awesome. I could see the wonder on his face. I could see he was fascinated with the movie. It inspired me. I want to help create movies that inspire joy and wonder in people.”

Wow. Isn’t that awesome?! I want to be like my friend. We all have situations in life where we can get annoyed, or be inspired. I want to be inspired. I don’t want to see everything in a negative light.

Join me in rejecting negativity and seeing the beauty in every small encounter throughout the day.

Choose wonder.

Ringling Murder Mystery Party Photos

Last week, my RA asked me to take photos at the Ringling murder mystery event. I didn’t want to go at first, so I asked two of my photo major friends to cover for me. But then I thought, why not, I’ll go for a while. My friends agreed to shoot the event, so I didn’t have to be there the whole time.

Since there was no pressure, I decided to shoot the entire thing in black and white. I only brought one lens: my 35m f/1.4L.

Throughout the event, since I didn’t have any pressure to provide photos, I decided to have fun and get some funny/crazy/interesting images. I talked to lots of people, took some interesting photos, and just had fun.

The event was actually pretty fun. There was a lot of dancing, chilling, and people just having a good time. And I was having a good time taking pics. It was a fun night!

Here are some shots.



This girl was sitting by herself so I asked her what she was doing. She said she was supposed to sit there and make sure nobody stole the photo booth props. For fun, I asked her to pose like she was watching over the props.


Robson trying to use a camera.


I thought this guy’s hat was cool so I asked if I could shoot it.



Just asked to take this guy’s photo.


Thought this light was interesting. Underexposed it and I really like the way it turned out.






Random poses. Why not?




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I loved the light on his face.

















Cleaning up spilled soda… I was watching and then I thought it’d be an interesting shot.



The music was pretty loud.




Someone said I should get a shot of people putting their votes in. I thought to myself, meh. Then I tried it and saw it could be a great shot. I took a few and this was my favorite one.


Alyson at the photo booth.



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I threw that balloon in there before I took the shot.


Lots of dancing and having a good time.

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She won tickets to the Dreamworks Halloween event.


I saw this lady doing video throughout the night.



Overall, it was a lot of fun! Thanks to everyone who organized the event.