In May of 2017, something exciting landed on VideoHive, Envato’s stock video footage and motion graphics marketplace. It was bold, bright, and incredibly useful. It was also really good value at $53 (US).
A collaboration between two Envato authors, Dmitriy (part of the team behind recarto), from Russia, and Alex (known as A_White on VideoHive), from Ukraine, Motion-Land’s Big Pack of Elements is the result of two years worth of work. “Before meeting Alex, I studied design at University. I was interested in photography and creating graphics in Photoshop. Then, I moved to After Effects, and started working on design for broadcast TV.”
Alex has done audio visual work for a while now too. “I worked as a video editor and colorist. After a few years working in this field, I found myself with a lot of ideas on how to optimize routine processes and started creating tools, and scripts for After Effects,” he tells me.
Alex Meet Dmitriy
During his two years of work in the field, Alex collected lots of After Effects templates, presets, and other media files. The assortment of assets came in handy when he was struggling to find the right elements to add to projects. “That’s why I started working on a tool that would help to optimize the process of organizing media collections, searching, previewing, and adding media/presets/fonts, and other things to projects,” he tells me.
The tool was called Preview Generator, and it ended up winning an Envato Most Wanted contest in 2016. “I used popular elements from 140 FlashFX for my presentation, and contacted [that item’s author,] recarto to ask permission to use it,” explains Alex. He also noticed ways the team could simplify the item’s preview elements, and get rid of pre-renders. Dmitriy appreciated the feedback, and soon the two had agreed to collaborate. “We started work together on Font Manager, AEViewer, and Big Pack of Elements,” Alex says. “I was mostly in charge of the technical aspects, such as tools, and project optimizations. Dmitriy was in charge of the graphical aspects. And, the rest of the team at recarto was in charge of the presentation.”
But as the project began, it grew bigger in scope. The three authors found themselves faced with a score of different challenges. They had to create a tool for work with animated typefaces, a script to extrude elements, smart expressions that handled in/out animation via markers, smart parents, controllers, and so much more.
Dmitriy Meets Alex
“I was creating an animated typeface for VideoHive, and wasn’t satisfied with the fact that I had to place animated characters manually,” Dmitriy begins. “So, I was looking for a solution to automate that.”
Around that time, Alex wrote to recatro, requesting permission to use 140 FlashFX in a presentation for Preview Generator, and offered to optimize the previews for elements.
“I saw the original script, and thought to order the script to handle my animated typeface,” Dmitriy tells me. But Alex was already one step ahead and was working on this already. “So, we continued to work on it together. After that I wanted to complement that animated typeface with a set of backgrounds, then transitions, and so on…”
Before they knew it, they were on the path to creating a whole pack of different elements that would all compliment each other. And, as if by some miracle, they both saw the same opportunity, with Alex now seeing the potential to make a convenient system to organize the elements of an After Effects project as unmissable. “We worked together really well, and both are really pleased with the results,” says Dmitriy.
Lifestyle and Pros and Cons
The two live in different countries (Alex in Ukraine, and Dmitriy in Russia), so they have to work remotely. “We were lucky that we were in the same time zone,” says Alex.
The situation brings its perks like the freedom to work from wherever you like, even on the road, and not wasting time traveling if you’re working from home. This can also save you money on renting office space.
However, along with that freedom come challenges.
The two had to seriously improve their self-organization. The scale of the project meant at times they would have to work 24 hour days to meet their ambitious deadlines. And communicating remotely was challenging. In certain scenarios, they had to improvise ways of explaining things via video, like using sketches on paper and holding them up to the screen.
But they made it work. “Each of us is a specialist in our own area,” says Alex. “We do not argue with each other, and we love our work a lot. [So,] It was a pleasure to work together.”
Hardest Elements to Create
The most challenging aspects of the project were the tools for working with the elements. A particular challenge was making the elements look good with and without the “extrude” effect. “[The] Extrude effect has to be lightweight, and not use too many resources on rendering,” Alex tells me. “So, we resorted, at first, to a crazy, but ultimately successful idea of shoving the entire animation of an element into one shape layer. Now, extrude itself can be increased to infinity, while painting faces in different colors.”
They also invested a lot of time into settings that allow the user to adjust the size of text, and graphic notes, while seeing those elements automatically reflect those changes in real-time.
The AE Viewer, and Font Manager, which make up the media manager that showcases all the 3D motion template elements that you can add to your project, took a huge investment of time too. It’s here that their different skills intersected the most, with the result being an incredibly intuitive system.
Easiest Elements to Create
“The animated typeface was the easiest,” says Dmitriy. “It all started from it. There was less creative responsibility. The letters spoke, and dictated their animations to me.”
Aesthetic and Style
When it comes to style, the team were keen to let the user’s imagination roam free. They played around with elements in their simplest form, shifting the focus from gradients, textures, and shadows to the way things animated.
This fits in well with the style that’s taken off in the YouTube arena. “Most authors tend to complement their videos with something bright and expressive,” says Dmitriy. “We tried to avoid too detailed elements…to [stay] appropriate in any context.”
Deciding on Which Elements to Create
The team built the elements to fit the concept of building blocks. Like Ikea, and Lego before it, they wanted to provide users with a sort of toolbox that they can then mix, match and create things with. “We made a set that will help you complete almost any task. Backgrounds…titles, badges, icons, hands…transitions,” and more, Alex tells me.
One of the most impressive categories of elements is the “Gadgets”. The team identified that everything from reviews to explainer videos tends to use mockups of devices like computers and smartphones to put the software, websites, and apps they’re talking about in context. So, the authors decided to make it easier on their users by streamlining the whole process. “We do everything…[so that] customers will not have to do anything by themselves,” says Alex.
Who’s Using It?
The timing of the Big Pack of Elements couldn’t be better. With competing packs of motion graphics designs like recarto’s 140 FlashFX pack becoming so ubiquitous that YouTube themselves used it in a wrap-up of 2016, the value and quality of Motion-Land’s pack positions it extremely well in an aggressively growing market.
“Only two months have passed, and it is gradually gaining popularity. We strive to achieve the same distribution as 140 FlashFX,” says Alex.
“Two years later, we’re very satisfied with the result,” says Alex. “The feedback stimulates us, because, by the end of the project we were very exhausted.”
People have quickly and passionately taken up using the Big Pack of Elements and have let the team know what they think of it. “People write that it’s a pleasure to use the Big Pack, and…they will be happy to buy any of our new products.” It’s been reviewed well on Envato Market and was even chosen by our specialists as VideoHive product of the week, with Motion-Land being selected as a featured author.
So, the question then becomes will the team collaborate again? “Of course!” says Alex. “We have a lot of unreleased ideas, and we will definitely create new products in the near future.” He says to expect updates to “Big Pack” and a full, standalone version of AEViewer very soon.