Eran Stern in his studio. (source: Natasha Newrock-Stern)
Israel native Eran Stern, who I recently had the pleasure of interviewing, is a much in-demand teacher, speaker, musician, and expert on motion design and filmmaking post-production. But, here, I’ll let Stern introduce himself in his own words. “I am a motion designer with more than 25 years of experience. In the last decade, I’ve been concentrating on teaching and educational authoring. My incentives in life are art and music. I also love watching people on the train.”
Stern’s interest in music and the arts began at an early age. “My love story with music began when I was 12 at the peak of the Maxi-Singles 80s era,” he explained. “Record covers served as the window for modern art, especially those indie labels such as Mute and ZTT records. I remember buying albums just because I fell in love with the record cover. Upstairs at Eric’s [pictured below] is one great example.
The Upstairs at Eric’s album cover.
“My love for books and movies came from drawing. I used to paint and sketch from a very early age—5 years—and drew tons of comics inspired mostly by Marvel and DC Comics magazines as well as horror stories by Stephen King. When these stories were adapted to film, I watched them night and day. To fuel my addiction, I turned to literature, and this created a never-ending cycle that persist until now.”
Given his artistic interests, it’s surprising to learn that Stern didn’t major in the arts in his academic studies. “I first studied Business Management because I thought that I must acquire some serious education that will help me in ‘real’ life, so I have a BA in that department. But then I realized that I was doing something that I didn’t like and couldn’t care less about, so after 10 years of acting as a sales manager for Autodesk, I decided to reevaluate my life and decided to follow my heart and learn design. As a self-taught person, I started on my own, and few years later joined Shenkar and finished there a graphic design degree. Then I stayed there for 12 years teaching and managing the Motion Graphics department.”
Given the roundabout way Stern approached his artistic career, it figures that his interest in filmmaking also came from an unlikely source. “As part of my service in the army in Israel, it was my duty to create a training video which explained the uses of optical gear inside a tank. Since I was coming from a paint and drawing background, I used Macromedia Director—this was 1991—and created a short animated movie. It was a huge challenge to print it back to video and we ended up filming the computer screen. But the effort was worth it. I got my rank and also realized that I had found my zone. Hopefully I’m getting better at it as time goes by.”
Eventually Stern decided to start his own business, SternFX. “The business started for two main reasons. First, minimizing my erosion as a lecturer. I realized early on that if I continued at this rate, my energy would quickly wear out, and I looked for a way to preserve the courses I taught, which led me to the early insight that I should record myself teaching, and thus conserve energy and make it accessible to as many people as possible. The second reason was a bit more personal; I had to generate extra income. My wife got cancer and could not work anymore. The financial responsibility rested solely on me, and I had to find a way to bring in another salary while I was still in it, without leaving home.”
The next step in Stern’s professional evolution was to sell himself as a trainer and consultant on visual effects. “I applied the principle of ‘getting a foot in the door,’ meaning I simply offered my wares to everyone I knew, and with a little Israeli chutzpah, I continued to nag until I got a green light. As soon as someone gave me a chance, I did everything I could to keep the momentum and establish my position. In short, there is no magic recipe here—a combination of tenacity, a few connections and, as with everything else in life, some good timing and luck. Among my clients, I can name international graphics teams from Disney, Weizmann Institute, and Adobe, as well as a handful local media agencies, broadcasters, and post houses.”
Stern’s contribution to the 2019 NAB Show New York will be a couple of workshops, “Focus On: Typography & Title Design” and “Compositing with After Effects and Cinema 4D,” which will both be presented as part of the Post/Production Conference. “My first time at NAB Show was 22 years ago as an attendee. Then, in 2005, I taught my first session at the Post/Production World conference. I will always remember Ben Kozuch, president and co-founder of Future Media Concepts, who gave me my first chance. Since then, I’ve been part of the team that produces the event, and continue to speak at NAB and other conferences. NAB Show is one of the best places to make new connections and strengthen existing networks, and I still believe it’s the most important show of the year.
“Text is often the most important element in video projects, but many underestimate the complexities of bringing letters to life. In the first session, I’ll focus on Typography and Title Design, and demonstrate a variety of techniques for working with type in After Effects. I’ll also show how to combine text and video in After Effects to create stunning scenes. 3D text is also a big thing, so we’ll extrude light, texture, and animate text, and combine it with other 3D effects. I’ll also devote time to ligatures, indents, kerning, glyphs. This double session is aimed to anyone who wants to make type legible and beautiful and animate it in After Effects.
“For the compositing session, I’ll demonstrate how to improve renders coming out of Cinema 4D with a little help from After Effects. For example, you can isolate elements, work with different render passes, use the Take system, and even export cameras and lights. This can help to finesse the result at the post stage, without the need to re-render every time you want to make changes. There are also effects that can be applied at the post stage more effectively. In this session, you will learn a variety of techniques to improve and speed-up your compositions. All thanks to the tight integration between After Effects and C4D. This session is aimed to anyone who wants to add 3D objects to video and comp it in post.”
As for Stern’s future ambitions, he told me that his priorities are as follows. “Create more on-line titles in both English and Hebrew. Teach in conferences, and help people who are making their first steps in motion graphics and design. Be a good father and family man. Continue to run and listen to music and, most importantly, be healthy, smile, and catch up with my playlist on Netflix.”