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026: An Interview with Freelance Designer and Animator Kyle Martinez

Kyle Martinez is a freelance designer and animator. He loves using multiple techniques, technologies, and styles to solve problems for studios and clients. He also developed and shared a few tools for After Effect that help make life as an animator a little easier.

Kyle is very active in the motion graphics community. His work has been featured on LesterBanks, School of Motion and many others.

Show Notes

RESOURCES

Obsessive Layer for After Effects

Cyclops

The Visionary: 6 Unusual Applications of Computer Vision

Lester Banks

School of Motion

After Effects

Odd fellows

SCAD

VFS

MoGraph Mentor

Cinama 4D

Toggl

Kyle-Martinez.com

Ukramedia.com/Community

 

Find this podcast on…

Kyle Martinez Interview Transcription

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:00:05] Hello Ukramedia Family, Vladimir Prokhnevskiy here and welcome to episode number 26 of the Ukramedia Podcast, where I serve our Ukramedia family with weekly interview from highly creative people.

Today’s guest is Kyle Martinez. He’s a freelance designer and animator. Kyle is very active in motion graphics community. His work has been featured on Lester Banks, School of Motion and many others.

Kyle, welcome to the show. Feel free to fill in the gaps from the intro and tell us about your personal life.

Kyle Martinez: [00:00:31] Hey Vlad! Thanks for having me. This is my first podcast. I’m a little bit nervous, but I’ll do my best.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:00:37] Hey, I’m nervous too.

Kyle Martinez: [00:00:40] I’m a freelance animator and designer based out of Phoenix, Arizona where it’s 120 degrees, but it’s a dry heat. So, it’s all good. I live here. I have a daughter. She’s beautiful. I have an awesome dog and we kind of just hang out. I do animation design. That’s my primary focus. I do have a little bit of side work that I do. Development stuff. So, scripts, Obsessive Layer for After Effects. I have an extension called Cyclops, which is pretty cool.

And then I have a couple of things in the works that I can’t talk about yet.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:01:12] Maybe we’ll get it out of you.

You said you live in Phoenix, Arizona. I know it gets pretty hot. You said 120 degrees. That’s crazy!

Me and my family, we go to Palm Desert Springs pretty much every year and I think it’s very similar to Phoenix, I’d say. I remember it was like 120 degrees. Me and my son, we tried to fry an egg and it actually kind of worked.

I did a vlog about it, so I have to link it in the show notes. But anyway, that’s a whole another conversation. I’m very excited to talk to you. I’ve seen you work on Lester Banks and School of Motion. By the way, you do great work.

Kyle Martinez: [00:01:49] Thank you!

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:01:49] I’m excited to learn more about you and your creative journey. So, let’s start from the very beginning.

How did you get started in design and animation? Walk me through that.

Kyle Martinez: [00:01:57] My story starts out very similar I think to most people, but during college it kind of gets a little strange. So, it’ll be interesting.

When I was 6, I told my parents that I wanted to be a film editor in Hollywood, which I think is a really weird thing for a 6 year old to say. But that’s where I was. And so, I kind of have been sort of on this one track of doing media stuff my whole life.

In high school I started exploring After Effects, mostly out of necessity. I had a stop motion film I did and in that film there was a sequence with sort of like a time lapse of a sunrise and the streetlamp wasn’t noticeable. I wanted you to see it sort of like beyond that night and then as the sun comes up and it turns off.

And so, I went into After Effects and kind of messed with sort of creating a big streetlight and I thought wow, After Effects is really powerful. You can do a lot of really cool things and so I started doing some titles here and there or simple VFX like Reno, replacing a sign or a badge.

Just kind of the basic stuff and compositing sort of took over from just editing. And so that’s how I kind of got my started in After Effects. When I went to college, I got accepted to a film school and I talked with my parents and they were saying, OK that’s fine but that’s really specific. What if for some reason you can’t get into the industry or it doesn’t work. What’s your fallback going to be?

So I got all freaked out and like, oh I don’t know. What was cool is that at my college there was actually a computer science track. It had sort of a focus on multimedia and graphic design. So I had sort of this backup plan. I can do programming if I needed to, but I can also still do multimedia graphic design. That’s sort of where I kind of developed these two sides where I have this artistic side. I want to animate and create stuff like that, but then there’s the more technical side when it comes to like programming and JavaScript and things like that.

That’s sort of how I went through college and it was after college that I had some odd jobs here and there. Then I realized that After Effects included both those sides and something that stood out to me a while back, Adam Plouff, he’s the guy who created RubberHose and stuff like that.

I talk to him pretty regularly and he said that After Effects is like tricking a calculator into making art, you know. It is a computer with ones and zeros but then you can do something artistic with it. A lot of my work has the artistic side and animation, but then I also love to do the technical side when it comes to like expressions, rigs, scripts, extensions and all those kind of things too. It’s always a struggle to figure out like okay, which should I be focusing on now? So that’s kind of where I’m at right now.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:04:40] Sounds good. You didn’t mention School of Motion. I’m curious, how did School of Motion come about? Was it something that you decided to attend later?

Kyle Martinez: [00:04:48] Yes, so I graduated from college and was sort of just kind of working regular media type jobs. Kind of doing all sorts of things and then researching tutorials and stuff. I came across School of Motion and at the time they didn’t have any of these bootcamps that they have now.

Joey basically sent out a link that said like, hey we’re going to be doing this beta class. Basically, how to be an animator. Sort of the basics that you need to know. And I was like, oh that’s interesting and he did like a little introduction sort of open house thing for it. And in that video he said, here’s a logo and there was this basic like feather logo. It was very simple and he said if you’re going to animate this, you could do quite a few things, right?

He showed us some examples, but if you know the animation principles, you can take this rather boring feather logo and make it really interesting. The minute that you put in like some overshoot and so I was like oh my gosh! That was amazing! I want to know how to do that. That’s the thing that got me hooked and so I signed up for the beta class. I was on the very first class that ever ran. It was so interesting. I learned so much and that’s what got me really focused on animation. because up until then I haven’t been doing any freelance or anything like that.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:06:01] Why did you decide to go freelance route instead of the corporate route?

Kyle Martinez: [00:06:06] I did actually do the corporate route for a while and it was just one of those things where you get hired to do something. Whether it’s animation or video production in general and then sort of what happens is, especially like a corporate environment, like a studio but like real corporate. They would be like, hey I need you in this meeting, then I need you in these three meetings. Now I need you in ten million meetings and you never actually get to do what you were hired to do. That’s kind of what happened and so I decided that wasn’t for me. I’d rather actually animate.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:06:38] That is so true because they pull you into these meetings about meetings. I found most of my time in the corporate world just balancing my checkbook and organizing my calendar and planning my vacation and all that stuff. It’s amazing how many meetings people have. I hope there’s some kind of solutions for the future, where people can eliminate all these unnecessary meetings. I think I’m allergic to the cubicle life too, so I’m not too crazy about that either.

Kyle Martinez: [00:07:05] Yeah, definitely.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:07:07] You’ve been freelancing for a while. Tell us a story of your worst moment as a freelancer, a designer or animator. Walk us through that story.

Kyle Martinez: [00:07:16] Okay, so I’ve been really lucky that my clients that I’ve worked with and the studios I’ve worked with have all been great. I get paid on time and I haven’t really had any issues like that and so my struggles and my worst experiences come from just my ability to like… Maybe my eyes are bigger than my stomach kind of thing or I’m like… oh I could do this awesome sequence and then I get to the point where I need to animate it and I’m like, oh no! I don’t know how to do it.

So what I’ve learned from that is that our community is amazing. My very first freelance project was in 2015, so it wasn’t all that long ago. It was for a greeting card company. I wanted them to kind of float into the screen and I had no clue how to do it. And you know After Effects doesn’t really support that kind of style very well.

So you usually have to go to a Cinema 4D to do like some spine wrapping or whatever and of course I didn’t know anything about that at the time. So I was searching around online and I came across Odd fellows. One of their videos had kind of a perfect idea of what I was trying to achieve, but obviously just a little bit differently.

I was this little no name guy just getting started in the industry and Odd fellows are incredible. And I’m like, I wonder if I should just reach out to them. And so I don’t know if it was like an email or a DM or something. I said hey could you guys let me know how you achieved something like this? I’m trying to do it for my client. And it was amazing! Whoever it was, was like, Oh yeah! Here you go. And they sent me the Cinema 4D project file

They were like this is how you do it. If you have any questions, just call us. And I was like whoa, OK. Well thank you! I was totally blown away by how willing they were to help and send the project file. It was no big deal. That sort of attitude is something that I’m hoping I can do. Like you said in the intro. I try to stay active on Twitter and answer questions as much as possible and just try to give back as much as I can and so that’s sort of like the attitude I learned from that and I’m really glad I learned that early rather later.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:09:27] I agree with you and there’s something about community. We have a private Facebook mentoring group, which is free to anyone and we have a little over 2.1k people in the group. That’s what I love seeing in the community. Everyone’s collaborating, asking questions. Someone has a problem and all of a sudden, four or five people jump in help them solve the problem.

I love how the motion graphics community is so willing to help each other even for podcasts. People like you, Joey Korenman from School of Motion, Chris Do and others are so reachable. If you write to them, they will actually respond. And I’m surprised that not a lot of people take advantage of that.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:10:05] So that’s definitely a big takeaway, because a lot of people don’t take advantage of the community.

Now, share your best projects you worked on to date?

Kyle Martinez: [00:10:13] I feel like every project that I work on is better than the previous. I’m still at that point in my career where I feel like I’m growing a lot, because I sort of started from the bottom, you know. With every project I develop a better eye as an animator and improve my design skills or something like that. My best project I would say would be my most recent one which hasn’t been released yet, so I can’t share it but I will definitely do it as soon as I can.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:10:39] Alright!

Kyle Martinez: [00:10:39] It is something that I designed, which doesn’t happen very often. I’m not that confident as a designer. I animated and I was sort of like the director for it as well.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:10:49] Definitely send it to me when you’re finished with it. I’d love to share it with our audience and our mailing list. I will be more than happy to do that.

Share one of your personal habits that contributes to your success. Do you have a daily morning routine or anything that you do every day that helps you staying creative?

Kyle Martinez: [00:11:05] This is the part where people are going to start to think that I’m totally weird and crazy. I don’t really have a regular morning routine. However, I have to take a shower in the morning and I have to wear a belt. If I don’t do either of those things then my day is completely off. It is something that just happens. I don’t know, but it’s weird.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:11:25] That is funny because I have one thing too. I always have to have a chapstick with me and if I leave the house without a chapstick, I go into panic mode. It affects my whole day. Interesting how we all have these little things that I guess help us throughout the today.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:11:39] You said that you’re a father. How do you balance work and personal life?

Kyle Martinez: [00:11:44] I’m definitely very purposeful about spending time with my daughter when she is home, but sometimes you just have to work and so, I sort of realize that I can work in the morning when she’s not awake. I can work at night when she goes to bed and then I can work during the day when I need to. It is really just about scheduling your time. I try not to answer e-mails unless there is like a fire. I try not to sit on twitter and stuff while were hanging out, because I think it’s very important that I show her that she’s the priority.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:12:15] I totally agree with that and the guilt that comes with being on the phone in front of your kids. I hate that. As soon as I have that guilt, I go straight to my room and now I actually plug up my phone in my closet. As far away from us, because once you’re on the phone, that’s it. You’re hooked. You’re on there for hours.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:12:38] What is the best advice you’ve ever received in this industry?

Kyle Martinez: [00:12:42] I actually really like this question a lot because I hope I can pass stuff on to someone else. I heard that you should always surround yourself with people who are better than you.

A while ago someone told me that you should never be the smartest, the best or the most talented person in the room. And if you are, you need to find a new room. That sorta seems like almost counterintuitive, because people obviously want to be the best of what they’re doing and so you can’t get better if you’re not growing. And so that definitely stuck with me over the past couple of years. I definitely try to reach out to people who are better and just learn from them so that I can get better.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:13:21] So true. I think it’s Jim John that said it once that you were the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And that’s so true. I think there’s one other quote that I heard. Friends are like elevators. They’ll either take you up or down, but they’ll rarely leave you where they found you. That’s another powerful one. And it is so true. You want to be really good? Stick around with people that are amazing and just being around them, you automatically will have to set up your game a little bit just to be close to them, you know.

Kyle Martinez: [00:13:50] Yea definitely.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:13:51] I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this and I ask all of my guest this questions, well most of my guests. Because you went through Schools of Motion. I’m curious to hear your response. I want to know, what are your thoughts about higher education?

If you had to do it all over again, would you go through a more traditional route or would you go more through something like Schools of Motion?

Kyle Martinez: [00:14:10] That’s a great question and I think I have sort of a unique outlook on that because right around the time that I was going to college was when the U.S. stock market crashed and all the housing issues and all that kind of stuff,

So people were losing their jobs left and right. But my parents were adamant. They said, you got to go to college and get a degree. I did it and that degree hangs on my wall and does nothing else. It has never helped me get a job or anything like that, but like I said. I went to school for like computer science and it was a little bit different route.

I think if I had to do it again, keeping in mind that the motion design industry was sort of in its baby stages at that point. I wouldn’t go to a brick and mortar traditional college school or something like that. I would try to do an online thing. It’s kind of crazy. You can go on YouTube and learn basically anything that you want.

There’s you know like 13 year old kids like Kazakhstan or whatever that are incredible and they’re just starting. So it’s kind of interesting, but there are a lot of really cool opportunities. You hear about good schools like SCAD and the VFS and stuff like that, you know. MoGraph Mentor has a brand new physical campus in Florida. They just opened up and so there are other options and I think that’s important that someone do the research before they commit to a college. I was lucky. I had a full-ride scholarship, so it didn’t cost me anything.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:15:34] Ow wow!

Kyle Martinez: [00:15:35] It is definitely not the case for most people. They either spend a lot of money or they try to spend a lot of money and go in debt or whatever. You couldn’t be a doctor and be self-taught. That’s not quite how it works. But for our industry specifically, I would say do your research and decide what’s best for you.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:15:53] Definitely! How did you get a full-ride scholarship? What did you do?

Kyle Martinez: [00:15:56] I was not allowed to have a job in high school. My parents said school is your job and so they paid me for my grades, which at the time was frustrating but I’m glad because it pushed me to be more of an academic. And those grades helped me get that scholarship.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:16:12] Wow! that is pretty cool. Something that maybe I should apply with my kids. I mean, yeah! You are a student. I think juggling between two things, you rarely get good at both, you know?

Kyle Martinez: [00:16:24] Yea

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:16:24] So if you are a student, be a student. Your parents are very wise. That’s pretty cool. I hope there’s no copyright on that. I’m going to have to steal that one.

Kyle Martinez: [00:16:33] Definitely! You can have it. That’s for free!

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:16:36] Thank you! It is very generous of you.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:16:38] You’re a freelancer. How do you price your work? I feel like that’s a very sensitive topic that no one wants to talk about too much, but I’m curious. It seems like you’ve been very successful for a while. Do you have any tips or advice for us how we can price our work better?

Kyle Martinez: [00:16:54] That is a good question and like you said, there’s not a lot of transparency in the industry. But it’s been interesting. I would say probably 60 percent of the work that I get, someone comes to me and says this is my budget. This is what we want to achieve and it’s up to me to say no I can’t do that for that budget or hey I am still interested in working with you. But that budget is not going to work.

Maybe I’ll reduce either the length or kind of like how fancy it’s going to be. So it’s kind of like going back and forth and that’s something I had to do for this last project. They came to me and said hey we want to do something… How much do you think it would cost. And then I threw out a number and they said, Oh that’s way too much. We only have this much.

I wish they would just tell me what they had in first place, but I still wanted to work with them and so I said that’s fine. I would like to work with you. Can you increase by X dollars because I want to do these other things. Maybe it’ll be a radius scope, maybe it will be shorter, maybe I won’t include something that’s more time heavy 3D.

So I kind of go back and forth. So 60 percent of my jobs are sort of like a fixed budget and then maybe 40 percent are like, hey this is what we want to do and then I say that’s great. I think it’ll take this long. It’s going to cost this much based on my day rate and then we sort of go back and forth. So it’s like one way the money is coming to me and the other is I’m saying I need this much money. But either way, it’s important to know how long it took you to do something so you can price accordingly, right?

So I use a web app called Toggl. It’s free to use and so I can basically track how much time I spend on a project. I’m a little bit neurotic and so I’ll tracked home much time I spend storyboarding, illustrating and animating. If I’m in Cinama 4D, specifically. I’ll track rendering and all those kinds of things. So I can look back over the past three years of every project that I ever worked on. I can see how long I spent on it.

The nice part is that I can see if the video was this long and it was this kind and this style with the content, then here’s a couple averages of time that it took me to do it, so I can better price in the future. Now, I don’t show the client any of that. It is none their business, but it helps me to make sure that I’m going to be bidding on something that is fair for me but also fair for them.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:19:15] Pricing your work is something that most people are not good at or not very comfortable doing. It is a skill. Making money is a skill. Is it something that came naturally to you or it took you some time to figure it out?

Kyle Martinez: [00:19:28] It was something I heard in the very beginning, like if you don’t bring up money, then the client will. If you’re the one who wants to get paid and you’re the one who wants to do it, then you kind of have to take the bull by the horns. So I try to do that.

By nature, I’m not really like an assertive person or really like confrontational, but when it comes to money I’ll straight up lay it out and say look, here’s the deal. Let’s talk about it. It’s kind of cool because it sort of forces the client or the studio to realize like oh this guy is serious. Let’s actually take this serious. So it gives you sort of an upper hand, but in a fair way.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:20:01] Now, you’re the very first person that I’m going to ask this question. I think I’m going to throw this one in. If you could have lunch with any famous person who would it be and why?

Kyle Martinez: [00:20:10] I don’t know who it is and I don’t even know if they’re still alive. But I would say that the animators who worked on any of the scenes from Aladdin with Jeannie. I would love to sit down with them. My daughter is very young. She’s almost 5. So we watch a lot of Disney movies but every time we watch it, I just sit there and think like how much fun was it to work on it… they basically had free reign to do whatever they wanted. He’s not bound by like real physics. He’s not bound by anything. And so it just looks so fun and I would love to hear their experience and what they learned and that kind of thing. So if anybody knows who it was or whatever. I’d love to find out.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:20:52] That’s a great response. That’s pretty cool. Now think about that… yeah. I would love to talk to that person too.

Share one online resource?

Kyle Martinez: [00:21:03] What’s funny is that this question is actually harder than the famous person question.

I guess it kind of depends on sort of what you’re looking for online. When it comes to advice, suggestions and help, Twitter is a great. The best part is that it’s real time and a lot of people are on there. The motion design community is really active on Twitter, but if you need something sort of maybe a little bit more official. There is a motion design slack that has quite a few members and it is really active.

I’ve gone there a lot really when it comes 3D, because it is not my strength. But if you need Cinema 4D help or whatever, this slack has a bunch of different channels. You can join it for free as long as you are a motion designer.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:21:58] Cool. Thank you for that. I’ll definitely include it in the show notes not.

What are you most excited about today?

Kyle Martinez: [00:22:04] Do you mean like literally today?

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:22:07] It could be about your work.

Well, you’re working on a secret project. Tell us a little more about that. I’m trying to squeeze it out of you.

Kyle Martinez: [00:22:14] Right. OK, I will talk a little bit. So, I partnered up with a friend of mine in Ohio and we’re working on a tool for After Effects. It is a workflow improvement and it’s something that I think pretty much every animator does every single day and it comes down to parenting and sort of making that process easier and better and quicker and more efficient. I’m pretty excited about it. It’s actually a really cool product. I try to make it a habit of not working on things that I myself wouldn’t use and I definitely use this one. So that’s all I’ll say for now.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:22:50] I’m excited by that. Whenever you are done shoot me an e-mail. I’d love to share it with our audience and including in the show notes. Now, one last question. How can people get in touch with you?

Kyle Martinez: [00:23:01] I’ve sort of been a spokesperson for Twitter today but if you reach out to me on Twitter @KyleTMartinez. Don’t forget the T. I will totally be able to respond. It’s kind of cool, I had a couple of people actually email me recently and say, Hey! thank you so much for always being available on Twitter to help out and stuff. My response is always sort of like a rising tide lifts all boats and so that’s sort of the mindset that I want to take from this. It goes back to that first interaction with OddFellows.tv.

So Twitter is a great one. I do have an instagram. I try to be active on there. I’m not very good at it yet. And then my website is just www.Kyle-Martinez.com. I have an email on there. I do have a web form that never gets used, but you can see my work on there. But yea, definitely twitters is the number one way for me.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:23:45] Well thanks so much for being available. Appreciate it. Thank you so much for your time.

Kyle Martinez: [00:23:49] Yeah thank you for having me. This has been awesome.

Vladimir Prokhnevskiy: [00:23:51] Alright, I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Kyle Martinez. Kyle thank you again for your time. I appreciate it. Make sure to check out Kyle’s website, kyle-martinez.com.

All the links and resources mentioned in this episode are also available on our website at www.ukramedia.com/26. And while you’re there, check out our course on After Effects Expressions. We also have lots of useful products that will simplify workflow. So definitely check them out.

Don’t forget to join our online mentoring group on Facebook. Simply go to www.ukramedia.com/community. We have well over 2,000 people in this group. It’s a very active group. It’s a great online resource for those trying to grow. And it’s absolutely free!

Thank you so much for joining me on the journey of this podcast. I appreciate you and I look forward to serving you the next episode of the Ukramedia Podcast!


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August 1, 2018

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