How did you learn Flame?

Hey everyone :slightly_smiling_face: - need your help:
How did you learn Flame?
Any schools/online courses/organizations/self-teaching methods etc. you would recommend to someone who wants to become a Flame artist?

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The short answer is “find a shop that will train you”, at least for me.

I knew Photoshop and After Effects and landed a gig doing night archives. When the machines were idle I would plod my way through the manual and learn how to use our beloved, convoluted piece of software. I showed enough aptitude that they started to give me real tasks after a few months, which is when the real learning began.

The tutorial situation his pretty good in flame now between Grant Kay’s, FXPHD, and now this place, and they’re a fine place to start if you’ve got your hands on a flame.

If you can’t get your hands on a flame, learning Nuke, After Effects, or Fusion is a great way to get the general concepts down. Moving over to flame will (mostly) be a question of relocating the buttons.

I don’t know of any Flame ops who went to flame-school or took courses at college on Flames but I’m old and maybe that is a real thing now.

One last thing: quitting the job is the key to consistent advancement. I sincerely wish that weren’t the case, but it is. A new company will see you as shiny and special in a way your current shop won’t. They’d take risks on you and be excited about you. To lead more jobs, to earn more money, you’re going to have to jump ship now and again.

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What @andy_dill just said :arrow_double_up:

I would only add that when it comes to self-teaching, tutorials are all well and good but you can’t beat doing an actual project. No matter how small.

It will have elements that you can learn in a tutorial but it also has things you are compelled to struggle with yourself. Often it is the struggle and the self discovery that really pushes you along.

This is a little wanky but the fear of failure is what often holds us back. Don’t be put off if you need to scrap everything and try it again. Whether that is a complicated track or a big bit of roto.

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To echo this, start with a little creative project, or some vfx shot you want to replicate. Have your creative goal determine the techniques you need to seek out and learn. Having that result-driven motivation is way more fun and inspirational than spinning up a bazillion tutorials in a vacuum. As @PlaceYourBetts said, self-discovery is what will inspire you to go further than what any isolated tutorial may teach.

This forum ain’t bad, either.

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Cracked Floctane

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I brought home both sets of manuals , when it was two volumes of books and read them, then I played with the software and asked questions . I think I am only one of a very few people that probably read those cover to cover, yea I know I have problems.

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Ha. They were real page turners. Great for insomnia.

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Thanks for this @andy_dill! Super insightful.

For me it was a sequence

  1. Worked my way that orange-red tutorial volume doing all the exercises
  2. Struggling with the software for a month with real projects (no priority editor and only 3000 PAL frames for storage)
  3. One week training session at Silicon Studio in London. (I skipped thursday, it was the paint module day)
  4. Neverending on-job experience points

For all complicated software/systems I try to find a set of tutorials that will explain the infrastructure/framework to me. This is how I train my juniors, explaining the modules generally in this order, with a little history of how they developed over time and with more advanced techniques on each iteration

  • Hardware - cpu, gpu, i/o, video
  • File structures - array, volume, project, workspace, desktop, reel, clip, track, segment, frame
  • Editing
  • Conforming
    ::::iterate :::::
  • Masking
  • Tracking
  • Color correction
  • Keying
  • Compositing
    ::: goto iterate :::::

One thing we can’t “teach” is managing the client. Be it over email providing details or asking for direction. Or in-suite sessions, creating a social bond with them. I don’t know if this is relevant anymore in the days of the pandemic but it’s always positive to communicate. I try to nudge in the general direction:
“Talk to them about something other than the project when you are doing tedious stuff. Most of the time they will be on their phones but you need that connection to communicate. Talk to them about what they read, what they watch, ask for suggestions…"

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The manuals were terrible when i was starting! i mean absolutely had no information/solutions in them! I taught myself in a place that was fast paced but allowed a lot of creative freedom so i could experiment a ton. That was Foxtel in oz, a tv station, but then when i went to a proper commercial vfx house i learnt a lot from my peers and again concentrated on the art of it instead of the technical. The technical can be learnt along the way but the creative side of flame is what kept me interested! I can imagine its totally different these days. So much of the work is technically tricky cleanup, little chance of learning off your peers, walking into the next suite to go see what they are working on, picking up different techniques. That doesnt happen anymore! I work with people in larger VFX shops, mid level artists who dont have anyway of getting better, of picking up new tricks! they want to get better, but theres little training! i think these days nuke artists have a better chance of collaboration that flame artists.

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There are a lot of good suggestions in this thread.

Not many applications these days work like Flame, so it can be a bit of work to wrap your head around how it functions – it doesn’t (thankfully!) even have a menu bar with the standard “File / Edit / View /” etc. options. Once you get up to speed in Flame, though, it’s likely you’ll enjoy the experience!

That said, it does take time learn how to do what “I want to do” in a program that doesn’t operate like most others.

A few suggestions that haven’t already been mentioned…

First, the granddaddy of online Flame training is fxphd:
https://www.fxphd.com/courses/

I can’t link directly to their Flame courses but select “Flame” from the above link. fxphd was started in 2006 by the three Flame artists behind fxguide.com, a site that goes back to the late '90s. Legit, quality, downloadable training.

Second, discreet (later Autodesk) used to include training with the purchase of a megabucks Flame or Inferno system back in the day. Training was either at your location or at select discreet / Autodesk offices. An Autodesk Certified Instructor (ACI) would run the training for as many days as you wanted to book at your location or you could go to a discreet / Autodesk office and take a five-day course.

The benefit of a five-day course is that it puts you in a situation where you have an instructor that shows you the concepts, has you execute what has just been illustrated, and then is right there to answer your questions (you will have many!).

Free YT clips are excellent for artists that know their way around the application, but if you’re coming in as a first-time user, a structured program (like the one Sinan mentions) will be very helpful and that’s something like you’d get with a week-long course.

Autodesk gutted their training program in the early 2010s (brilliant – right before the transition to the Anniversary Edition re-write) but one of the OG ACIs still runs her own training program and can do it at Autodesk’s Venice, CA office or remotely. The quality of instruction is excellent!

http://www.smokeflameacademy.com/index.html

Good luck with whatever path you choose!

Edit: An acknowledgement that Mr. Dill did mention fxphd in reply #01.

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All I can answer to this is my own relatively unconventional experience.

Started in motion graphics, After Effects and C4D - that kind of thing.
Got recommended by a friend to an editor who was intent on buying a Flame.
Rocked up and got told I had a couple of weeks to figure it out, but if I could hack it the job was mine.
Did a couple FXPHD tutorials and watched the youtube channel a few dozen times and then got thrown into the deep end. This was coupled with the fact that this edit house worked with heavyweight directors (in my region anyway) who were used to a more traditional facility experience. You had one chance with them.
It was not the ideal situation to learn in by any means, but my saving grace was really the Logik community.
I had no one to learn from and no recourse, but found a wonderfully willing bunch of guys on the interwebs who would indulge someone completely in over their head.

  • My first lesson was learning by doing. If an opportunity presents itself jump in. You’ll figure it out.

Admittedly a very stressful time, not least because this was 2014 / 2015 where Flame was buggy as hell. I still have nightmares about my project being “eaten” while in session and having to figure out how to wire bits over - until the next crash. My second job is a spaghetti-like-monstrosity of project versions up to the mid 20’s with names like - “broken” “broken2” “hopelessly broken 10”…

And it was on Red Hat, something I had never encountered before, with no engineer type people to figure it out. I got really good at defecting and then furiously googling when no one was looking.

  • My second Lesson was learning Linux. Mostly applicable to a chaotic one man show type deal that I came up in, but nothing like getting an HFS+ usb from an agency and not knowing how to actually read or write to the damn thing. Happened too many times…

  • My third lesson was - and what, I believe, sets flame apart from other toolsets - client interaction.
    I think the social and room management angle is a massively important skillset for Flame (in commercials anyway). Keeping clients engaged and distracted goes a long way to covering the problems lurking under the surface, gives you time to figure out what you need to do, both technically and creatively. Having a solid producer running interference is really great, which brings me to:

  • Fourth thing I learnt - producer magic. Can be your shield or a stick. Communication is such an important part of client sessions, and having someone who you can shorthand too when you need some space is invaluable. Learning how to work with them and forge an ally - not an enemy - was key. With a brave and willing partner - good cop, bad cop isn’t just something from the movies.

In terms of technique and craft. That will come. Like mentioned, learning comp theory in whatever software is available. Underneath they do the same thing in a different way. The “technical” parts of Flame are not that hard to sort once you get going, and the workflow is quite freeform and flowing compared to other toolsets.

In terms of commercials, which is my only frame of reference really, the social dynamic is as important as “doing stuff.” Getting it done - but being pleasant to work with - is pretty much key methinks.

I will say that when you under pressure you learn quickly.
Having to figure it out with a deadline and a room full of people behind you is fantastic motivation - if a little ulcer inducing. Being able to be nice to everyone while fear and doubt courses through your veins is pretty important too.

If given the choice I would have loved to have learnt from seniors in a traditional pipeline, but “c’est la vie” - it all worked out in the end.

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Wrote a long reply but most of it was just reminiscing which is probably of no use whatsoever.

I still don’t know how to use flame. I’m constantly amazed by things that people do. I have a couple of tricks that get me through the day and still fly by the seat of my pants. Every day is a learning day.

As @andy_dill says, learning other packages helps and you will find similarities and crossovers even figure out new ways to do things.

I would also add one more thing to the list because it helped me: do some art and learn perspective. For me it was painting. I like it and I learned so many little tricks that I apply at work albeit in a computerised fashion.

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Self-taught, on the job, after ten years as an editor with extensive experience with Harry and K-scopes. I did my first job after spending 2.5 hours sitting in on someone else’s 3 day training session. And everything @johnt said is completely true.

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Amen @johnt, I’m still figuring it out too!

These days, one of my favorite ways to figure stuff out is to use the Keyboard Shortcuts menu. I think of it as a card catalog. I type in something I want to do, figure out the key command and press it. Then see what happens. It’s usually a gateway into a process I’m already working on and it jumpstarts the activity.

The other thing I would suggest when testing or trying out stuff is to work on short shots. I know this sounds obvious, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve played around with things that take waaaay too long to show results.

I love (LOVE) Grant’s videos, but they’re not the only ones. There’s so much content on YouTube that it sparks ideas. Remember, the cure for writer’s block is a library. Joel Osis’s stuff is flat out amazing as well. And for goodness sake, watch the LOGIK Live videos! Those are gold.

Good luck and be patient. There is NO substitute for time on the box.

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Thank you @Josh_Laurence, @ytf, @johnt, @Taliessyn, @chris, @theoman, @Sinan, @space_monkey, @eric_mason, @PlaceYourBetts for sharing! You guys are great.

for me, the biggest step is finding somewhere to ask questions…and being on this forum is probably the best resource you could have. The accumulated knowledge on here is astounding.

I learnt Flame (and Smoke) all on my own, with no one to ask, and the only forum i knew about was the ghost town known as Autodesk Area. Even for a seasoned pro (25+yrs) that was a tough wake-up call.

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Andy Dill: jump ship. Best advice. And do it when you feel comfortable. Learned it the hard way. Comfort zones makes you lazy and fat. In the end you will find yourself disconnected to what’s really important to you, your work, your purpose.

And Flame isn’t a purpose by itself. It’s a tool that helps to enjoy purpose by realising work that matters to you. This community is full of diverse characters who do precisely this: enjoy their work. Most of them jumped ship many times. In the end, jumping ship is all about networking and learning.

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