As promised earlier in my posts, I will share with you my tools that I use for animation and graphic design, however before we start with the tools lets explore my background a bit.
I’ve started learning graphic design and animation in 2010. Until then, I edited my home and travel videos and shared it on my YouTube channel. As you can imagine, I already had a powerful Windows based desktop computer for my video editing. However, when started animating with Adobe After Effects I realized that the most important component in my computer was the RAM memory. I had only 6GB of RAM which was far beyond any expectation for an average PC computer at that time, and although people usually would be surprised that I had such a huge RAM installed, it was extremely small for After Effects.
Few months later I upgraded my computer to 24GB of RAM and was happier than ever. Finally I could use the full processing power of my 8 thread processor and run long RAM previews within After Effects. Using all that memory, in other words, made my After Effects rendering up to 8 times faster than with the same system with only 6GB of RAM. Quite an impressive improvement in the performance!
In 2012 we set off with my family to a long term trip to South East Asia, followed by relocation to Australia. I wanted to continue developing my career as a motion graphic designer while I travel, that’s why I had to replace my desktop computer with a portable laptop. My new laptop has to be powerful enough for animation design and yet, as compact as possible. The most powerful but lightweight laptop that I could find was Lenovo x220 with i5 4GB RAM and SSD drive. Later I added additional SSD drive and upgraded it to 8GB of RAM.
That is the machine that I am working on up till now and unfortunately, there is no much better alternatives for this laptop. There is its little brother, Lenovo x230, though, which has slightly faster CPU and officially supports 16GB of RAM, but other than that, I could not find anything. Please share below this post in comments if you have in mind some powerful yet compact laptop as Lenovo x200 series offers.
And the worst part is that all the new ultra compact laptops using a new type of processor which are not as powerful at all. This was done in order to extend the battery life of the laptop. Even Lenovo x240 is not as powerful as its predecessors anymore.
As a pointing device I use a simple Microsoft Bluetooth Notebook Mouse 5000 (2008 model). This mouse is very small and the tracking is very accurate even on glossy surfaces which is very important for me because when I’m travelling I’m often forced to work on all kinds of desks (if any at all). Bluetooth is not as good as dedicated transceivers, though. The connection is dropping from time to time and for me it happens at least one or two times per day for 3 to 5 second. However, Bluetooth connection does not require any additional hardware such as external usb transceiver as its transceiver is built in into the laptop and that keeps the system simpler and does not occupy any of the USB ports. On the other hand wireless mice require batteries and this specific mouse is not super power efficient so I carry a battery charger which I use to charge my Garmin GPS batteries as well.
Laptop speakers are very limited in terms of sound quality which will require to use a headphones to work with voice overs, sound effects and music. Up till recently I used a Sennheiser HD 202. It is very light and provides a good sound quality. They are also can be disassembled, which is important for my travel needs. The downside is that they are on-ear type of headphones and if using for a long time it creates a pressure on ears. Recently I’ve purchased a new Philips Citiscape Uptown Headphones which cost me $59 including delivery. Those are over-the-ear type headphones with a microphone build in to answer calls when using with your mobile phone. However this mic does not seems to be working with Lenovo x220 unfortunately.
In terms of software, I use Adobe Illustrator CS5 which was available when I started my animation career. Since then there were three new version releases from Adobe: CS5.5, CS6 and CS CC (Creative Cloud). I dont see any urgent need to upgrade the software to the latest version, though. The new subscription based version Adobe CC cost only $50 per month so it is quite affordable for one who are not able to make such investment in software like for the full version of Creative Suit.
What tools do you use for your motion and graphic design, what would you want to upgrade and why? Please share your thoughts in comments below!