Getting past technical skills

This week I’m preparing for one of the most exciting projects I’ve been involved with in a long time. Without giving too much away, I’m helping produce a regular video podcast. This is a project that involves a lot of different skills. I’m helping with writing the script, lighting, filming, and editing it, and on top of all that, I’m creating the opening sequence. I love projects that stretch me to my limit. Unfortunately, sometimes projects can stretch us not to a creative limit, but a technical one. That’s what happened this week.


For the introduction to the video I’m using graphics drawn by an artist, and doing some simple animations myself. I had this cool picture in my head of what it could look like, and so I wanted to get right to work. So, after sourcing the music and grabbing the files from the artist, I booted up Adobe AfterEffects and prepared to spend an afternoon editing. After 20 minutes of trying to launch the program (it kept crashing), I walked away from my computer.


I came back to my desk and finally opened the programs I needed. A half hour later I had created a basic draft of the graphics, and I started trying to animate. It went terribly. It’s been years since I used AfterEffects which means not only have I forgotten how to use it, but the program is also three versions later than what I was using before. The files I made looked awful, and the animation appeared stilted. Frustrated, I quit all the applications, closed my laptop, and walked away. I had forgotten the most infuriating roadblock in creativity: technical skills.


If you’re like me, you love creating things in as many different ways as possible. I am always eager to see something in my brain take shape, whether it is a piece of music, an image, a book, or a photograph. There is something exhilarating about when it comes together. The problem is that we can get stopped by our technical skills, or lack thereof. Even the greatest imagination can get shut down by a purely technical roadblock.


Let me give you a few examples. I am horrendous at drawing. If you tell me to draw something by hand, even a stick figure, I will manage to mess it up. The head will be too large, the arms disproportionate, and the body will somehow never manage to be straight. Now I know that if I wanted to get better what I would need to do is practice, and practice a lot. On multiple occasions, I’ve said to myself “Okay, I want to get better at drawing.”  The problem that has always stopped me is that my hand is never able to equal what I see in my brain. There is a disconnect between what I imagine and what I can physically create.


Here is another example, this time of something I’m trying to improve in my photography. I have no more natural talent with photography than any other fine arts, but from a technical side at least it was something I understood. So, I set my expectations. I always had that part of my brain that could imagine what the photo should look like, and time and time again I would take a picture that looked nothing like that. But unlike when I was drawing, with every photo I took, I reminded myself that I was closer to getting the image in my head. On top of this, I have also spent hundreds of hours reading articles, watching videos, and experimenting with my camera. I have purposefully worked on my technical skills so that I can continue to be less and less hindered by them.


So, even though I walked away from my computer in frustration this week, I know that I need to set my expectations and develop my technical skills. In the end, the animation probably will be alright. It will never be as good as what I had in my head, but it will be better than what I was making before.

A recent addition to my photographic portfolio. 

A recent addition to my photographic portfolio.