Webmaster Ben Nash wrote to me to let me know about his new website, effectsportal.net. Effectsportal fills a great niche in tutorials – with both practical and digital solutions side by side – and, the best part, all tutorials are available free.

The first one I checked out was on DIY green screens. It has some recommendations for going cheap with matte green paint. There’s a handy chart on the cost of painting wood, cardboard or buying purpose-made fabric. The tutorial then has some recommendations for cheap lighting, but no camera recommendations – for example, turning the camera ninety degrees because you can get more resolution on the horizontal axis.

The second part of the tutorial is an After Effects screencast on what to do with the greenscreen footage once you’ve shot it. Not being an After Effects pro myself, I can’t evaluate if anything is missing, but it seemed straightforward and easy to follow.

Other tutorials on the site that caught my eye were How to create a splatter effect with fake blood, How to make your own real fire composite element and How to make stunt-double dummy.

The screencasts aren’t fancy – they don’t zoom in on the cursor or anything – but they get the job done. I imagine as the site grows, they will grow in sophistication. It’s selfish, but I’d also like to see budgets listed in US dollars as well as pounds. (The site is UK-based.) Also, I caught a number of typos, which is irrelevant as far the informational value of the site, but does speak perhaps to the site’s attention to detail. [See update below.] It’s hard to complain about minor things, though, when someone is going to the trouble to put out very useful tutorials for free.

In conclusion, there will always be a place for paid After-Effects tutorial sites like Creative Cow or Lynda.com, but I’m happy to see a tutorial site that takes an indie approach, and that is willing to show solutions outside the computer as well as inside.

UPDATE: Nash writes, “Thanks for the review, I’m … addressing the constructive criticism issues you have raised, which is really useful. I have sorted out the currency, so you should be able to view in dollars and just checking tutorials for typos!”

UPDATE 2015: Tiffany from Udemy wrote in to share their After Effects basics tutorial. Looks pretty comprehensive. Another nice free learning option.

Ben Nash’s site address has changed to http://www.bnash.co.uk/effectsportal/ but it is still active as of January. Good to see!