In this age of interconnected, open-source, crowd-funded, and shared technology, communication and online interaction are easier than ever. It’s simple to share information, and easy to learn from multiple sources. With so many online options available to mold us into video professionals, face-to-face interaction and community development may seem like foreign concepts.
But they shouldn’t.
What we do is difficult. We need to learn to stay on top of technology. We need to learn fundamentals and sets of rules before we can figure out how to effectively break them or bend them to meet our needs.
So with resources like Lynda, Total Training, FXPHD, developer sites with learning channels like RED, Imagineer Systems, and Red Giant Software, as well as plenty of independent sites with tutorials such as Video Copilot, Greyscale Gorilla, and Gray Machine (and of course, Videomaker!), we should be all set, right? We can learn everything we need to know from them.
Well, not entirely.
Most tutorials show a snippet of information, like a tip, technique, or trick. Training sites can definitely help with software and hardware fundamentals. And publications such as this one can show and describe hands-on time with hardware and software.
But there’s another option that can be the most rewarding of all, and most of them don’t cost a cent: User groups.
This industry, whether it always succeeds at it or not, strives to push users to create, grow and participate in a community with like-minded individuals. Adobe wants you to reach out to your local Adobe User Group, and if there isn’t one there yet, start one. They’ll help get a group rolling with built in sponsor benefits, prize and swag donations to groups, and more. Maxon has a similar program, and is looking at options to interconnect a global network of groups so they can share resources.
It’s in their best interest to encourage this community. User groups voluntarily arrange meetings – some formal, taking place in posh theatres, some informal, around a table at a pub – and for a couple of hours have freedom to indulge in their passion, for the sole purpose of talking about their hardware or software. To them, we’re grooming more people who can take their tools and make great work with it.
It can be a real blast, too. Get out of the house for a night. Talk shop. Be nerdy. Maybe have beer. Make some friends that don’t look at you funny when you talk about f-stop. All good things.
The magic of user groups is in the inherent value that comes from bringing together those in the same industry to actually press flesh. That value comes in the forms of networking, opportunity for sharing work, finding new resources, learning how to interact with other creatives, and trying a hand at public speaking and presenting.
For those who have a desire to get involved, most user groups will welcome the help. Present at a meeting. Offer to run a raffle. Offer to arrange a venue. As a user group founder and co-chairperson, I can attest to how rewarding running a group can be. Working with sponsors who are interested in helping a group out of the goodness of their hearts, spending a night a month with a room full of people who get excited by new animation workflows, and working with a team of like-minded group leaders is as good as it gets. There will be challenges, but the reward outweighs them greatly.
User groups also use their passion to help grow the community by creating events throughout the year. For example, the Supermeet in Las Vegas at NAB each year is put together by CPUG Net, or the Creative Pro User Group Network, a conglomerate of Final Cut and creative pro user groups. The Supermeet itself is essentially one giant user group meeting with a way better raffle than most of us can put on.
So, that’s it. User groups are great fun, and can be very valuable and highly rewarding. Learning online is excellent, and serves a brilliant purpose, but if there is more that you want to learn, or if you want to take the pulse of YOUR industry in YOUR own area a user group could be the way to go.
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