Mo-Graph Mentor

{Student Interview} Derek Lieu


1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name’s Derek Lieu, I was born in Massachusetts to Taiwanese parents. I went to NYU to study film, and lived in New York for 11 years. I work as a video editor cutting trailers mostly for video games.

I first got into motion graphics because of job security worries since nowadays a lot of jobs want editors to be After Effects savvy too. I keep trying to improve because I don’t want to have graphics that people look at and think “Those graphics look good… for an editor…”

My biggest achievement in motion graphics was animating the cutscenes for The Behemoth’s 3rd game BattleBlock Theater. I also edited and animated all the release trailers for the game.

Editing trailers is my main passion because I love cutting short, exciting and dramatic stories with cool music and sound effects. I like doing motion design mostly for fun side projects, but I do enjoy doing both in one project when the opportunity arises.

In my spare time I like playing video games, watching movies, cooking, practicing Chinese martial arts, making silly videos for YouTube, and occasionally doing stand up comedy.

I now live in Los Angeles with my two cats Uni and Ebi (they’re brothers).

2. How did you find out about MoGraph Mentor and what made you interested in joining the program?

I found MoGraph Mentor from a mention on a School of Motion tutorial. When I saw that it was an online class that focused on design, critique and improving non-technical skills I was immediately interested. I had reached a saturation point with video tutorials where I was less interested in duplicating the exact tutorial, and instead watched them for small nuggets of information that I could use for my own projects.

I had asked people what I should do to improve my motion graphics, and the vague and slightly passive aggressive answer I usually received was “learn design.” But no one would ever follow up with suggestions on *how* a working professional should go about doing that if they can’t go back to school. A course where I could learn better design and apply it to a personal project was exactly what I was looking for!

3. What do you like best about MoGraph Mentor? Anything that can be improved?

What I liked most about the class was having an experienced artist critique and guide my designs in the right direction based on what I wanted to accomplish. Equally important were my classmates of unique disciplines and levels of experience. I enjoyed seeing the variety of topics and styles that each of them brought to the class.

Seeing how each student applied the suggestions from each critique was always exciting to see the week after. Also, I was able to better understand how design principles applied to everyone’s project regardless of whether it was a hand drawn illustration, vector art or 3D renderings.

It was also just fun to hang out with a bunch of people and talk about film, storytelling, design and animation.

I’m not sure what the class needs in order to be improved. My only wish coming out of the class is that I wanted to be pushed more to do design work. Design is my weakness which is why the first Class 1 assignment was the most difficult. But for the other two projects my ideas required very little design on my part.

I don’t think arbitrarily saying “You must have X number of designed elements” is the way to go, but I kind of wish I had felt more pressure to confront my weaknesses.

4. Do you feel like you have grown as a motion designer since joining the program?

Yes definitely. I think that watching tutorials got me into the mindset that there are ways to do things quickly and easily. But from taking this class I can see just how much work it can be to get a good result. I like how we were encouraged to sketch out a lot of ideas in order to hone in on the ones that stood out, and then refining the design of those sketches before reaching the final product.

From now on I plan to do lots of sketches before I open Illustrator, Photoshop or After Effects, and to take the extra time for the details once I get in there. My problem has been that I get impatient when spending a long time on one project, but now I want to spend that extra time to make my work that much better.

5. Do you have any advice for future students?

Do your best to push yourself out of your comfort zone. The class is a safe environment to learn, and improve your designs. I had some cringe inducing designs in my first project that might’ve had a good idea behind them, but were executed horribly. The critique from Colin and other students helped make my final designs come out much better than my first draft. I think they could still be better, but the class gave me a direction to find where I ended up.

Engage with your fellow classmates, critique their work and learn from their experiences as well as your own. Be really sure that you can spend the time necessary to work on your projects. A couple students had to drop out of our class for various reasons. I felt bad that they couldn’t continue, and also I wanted to see more of what they could bring to the class.

Try to find the right balance of pushing yourself but also scoping properly so that you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Some styles and processes just take a lot of time regardless of your ability to execute them. There are only so many hours available to you each day.

6. Any last comments about the program?

MoGraph Mentor was a great experience, and it motivated me to do more work! Again, watching tutorials can be fun, but they don’t usually inspire me to make my own work. I often find myself thinking: “What can I make that will use this tutorial’s effect?” when instead I should be looking for a tutorial only if I need to achieve something for a story I’m already working on.

It was a great class and not only did I come out with some more design knowledge, but I also have drive and new colleagues that I’m excited to both show my work, and follow as they improve their motion designs!


Connect with Derek : Website | Twitter


For more information on our motion graphics courses, contact us today!

Tags: Motion Graphics, Motion Design, Online School for Motion Graphics, Motion Graphics Courses