The Challenge of Learning New Skills

I’ve set some very high goals for myself this summer.  I’m not taking any classes towards my Master’s Degree, as they aren’t really offering any of the ones that I want.  Instead, I’m focusing on heavily diversifying my skill set.  In the past 2 weeks I’ve acquired Adobe CS4 Design Premium, and Avid MediaComposer 3.5.  My goal for the summer is to gain a familiarity with Avid, since I will be using it to do some rather advanced editing in the fall.  I am also aiming to become proficient in Photoshop and Flash over the summer, and to build a familiarity with Dreamweaver, so I can give my site a truly custom layout.  Wordpress themes are very  nice, but I feel that they aren’t really suited to building a site that will really amaze people.

Photoshop has not proved much of a challenge yet.  However, upon starting Avid today, I was immediately faced with the fact that learning this new editing system will not be easy.  For someone who has been editing on Final Cut Pro for 8 years, it’s quite a culture shock to suddenly start using a completely different system.  I now understand the frustration editors must be feeling when their companies switch systems.  (Some major stations in my area have switched from Avid to FCP due to cost issues.)  I’ve built an extremely efficent workflow in Final Cut, which is in part due to the fact that their user interface has been very consistent .  I’m personally hoping they keep it the same in the next version as well.  It just works beautifully.  While I have no doubt that I can build an equally efficient workflow in Avid, I know that the initial culture shock is going to really set me back initially.  I’m used to being a pretty darn good editor, and I’m a bit uncomfortable with the idea that I’m not on Avid.

Regardless, I’m determined to push forward with it.  I have all my source footage from Issues, Season 1.  I’m planning to gain practice by recutting some of the episodes and trailers in Avid.  I already know what the final composition of those pieces should look like, so I feel I can really focus on the interface and learn it.  It’s much more symbol driven than FCP, which is the first thing I’ve noticed.  When I have the $550 it takes, I’ll sign up for the online training that will get me extremely proficient with the system.  For now, I’ll muddle through on my own.

I think one of the principle challenges to editors expanding their skill sets and really diversifying their abilities is cost.  I could not have afforded to do any of what I’m doing right now (learning Avid, Photoshop and Flash) if it weren’t for my rather unique circumstances.  My employer does quite a lot of business with Adobe, and as such, was able to secure copies of CS4 Design Premium to give to employees who had completed Adobe training in the past.  And I was able to buy Avid MediaComposer 3.5 utilizing their extremely generous academic discount.  My employer also affords me discounts on PeachPit Press training materials.  PeachPit also offers discounts to customers who have shopped with them in the past, independent of my employer’s affiliation with them.  That means the total cost for CS4, Avid MC, and Adobe’s Photoshop and Flash training books was $300, which I was able to fund with my tax refund, so it means no additional debt for me.  (Which is good – I’m still paying off my camera.)

My situation, which I wouldn’t wish on anyone because it’s not financially sound or healthy at all – has afforded me a rare opportunity to work with the best software out there for little to no cost.  By contrast, most editors must pay hundreds or thousands for training on these systems.  The one piece of advice I would offer to all of them to is utilize self-paced, independent training if they own their own software.  $550 will give you a year of access to Avid’s training resources, including all the classes you need for MediaComposer certification.  Apple and Adobe’s training books give you media to practice with, and typically cost $30 to $50 per book.  It puts training much farther in reach than classes.  (Apple’s cost ~$600 each, and Avid’s can run upwards of $2,000.)  It let’s you work at your own pace, which I find invaluable when I’m learning new software.

Another option is to think about taking some money and subscribing to Lynda.com.  A Lynda membership runs ~$375/year.  With it, you get unlimited access to their training library.  I have access to it through a work account, and have been highly impressed by the video based training they offer on Apple and Adobe products.  They offer a truly amazing range of training.  Like the books, Lynda gives you media so you can work along with the instructor with their premium membership (which is the price I quoted above).

Know of another good, affordable means of training yourself?  Feel free to leave a comment.  I’ll post them to my site and share them with my groups on LinkedIn so we can start building a decent database of options.

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