PDA

View Full Version : I'm considering a doing PhD in this stuff am i mad?


FluidEdge
08-17-2009, 03:44 PM
Hi

I'd appreciate some honest advice from you experts! What do you think about the idea of doing a research PhD in Digital Entertainment?

I'm a student who's just completed a masters in Visual Effects after a first degree in Maths and Comp Sci. I love CG and working on technical problems like cloth and hair etc though being completely honest I don't think i'm a good enough artist to deliver work at the higest production level. I'm not bad but the work I see others producing, i know would likely be beyond me (maybe i just need a boost of confidence).

However I'm good at finding ways to do things and i'm techincally good with things like cloth and mental ray and other technical aspects.

There is a programme run here in the UK that offers a 4 year "Professional Doctorate" that involves 3 years working at a production company working with their research team on what ever they're working on (say Framestore are working on a new fluid system or something) and 1 year doing my own research/thesis/whatever.

It sounds a really exciting scheme and i'm very interested in doing it (fees paid and a nice stripend help persuade me ;) ) but of course I'd like to know what sort of career path one would be led down doing a PhD in this stuff. I'd love one day to get out to america and work for the likes of Pixar/Dreamworks though like i said i don't think i'd ever be good enough to be "an artist". Would a PhD be beneficial to getting to the top of the R'n'D tree?

I'm at the end of my Masters degree and don't quite know if i'm ready/good enough to enter the professional world just yet. Perhaps a PhD would be a bad idea and just stalling the inevitable?

Confused myself now. Advice appreciated.

Alice
08-17-2009, 04:13 PM
I have a friend who did a PHD in real time rendering of soft shadows, (you can read a bit more about his research group here (http://www.cse.chalmers.se/%7Euffe/)) he's lucky enough to actually be able to have an own research group now, working as an assistant professor but I guess he's doing about the kind of thing your thinking about?
The things they are researching can be applied to a lot of platforms (basically, everything that renders something, from mobile phones to computers) and that's a good thing. If you have that kind of competence, the world is your apple.

So.. eum, conclusion; Do it! :)
(that programme seems to be a good way of actually heading into production work whilst still developing/researching something.But... don't trust in what I'm saying since I dont work in the technical field myself ;) )

aghill
08-17-2009, 05:16 PM
Hi
...Perhaps a PhD would be a bad idea and just stalling the inevitable.

Hey.

When you write "the inevitable" you mean a day-to-day job kinda thing, where youll be artistically challenged?

I think alot of people who make a PHD are people a little afraid of leaving the school-life. But only a little. Mostly I guess taking a PHD means that you are absolutely obsessed and interrested in furthering your skills in a very specific area, be it micro-processors, fluid simulation or optimizing the transportation of milk from the cow to the consumer...

I definately think, that you should apply for that programme. It sounds like its the perfect solution for you, especially doing a PHD in a company instead of a school/university.

There's only one way finding out if your good enough for professional life, and that is starting out.

I would say take the programme. If you have any self-doubt it seems like a good way to start out!

-Thomas.

quaider
08-17-2009, 07:44 PM
Hi

I'm at the end of my Masters degree and don't quite know if i'm ready/good enough to enter the professional world just yet. Perhaps a PhD would be a bad idea and just stalling the inevitable?

Confused myself now. Advice appreciated.


I hate to say this, but I don't think getting more schooling is going to help if your goal is to work in production. 4 years of actual experience in the industry will get you ahead much more so.

I have a friend who got his masters and then got a job as an animator. They hired him as a junior because he had no work experience. In the same 4 years (we're both the same age) I had gone from junior to senior animator and had worked at several big studios. I don't want to undermine the choice he made, but it seems like it was a bit of a waste of time and it put him in a lot of debt.

Animation is different than FX and technical stuff, but my philosophy is get on with your life and stop delaying that big step out into the world.

(but ignore this completely if you are after a more pipeline/programming department career)

FluidEdge
08-17-2009, 08:24 PM
cheers for advice everyone. All make valid points. When i say the inevitable I do mean finally getting a job in this bloody industry!

If it was a purely academic PhD i wouldn't even consider it but the fact that 75% of it is spent away from uni's and actually in production work (games companies, soho production studios etc) makes it quite appealing. The companu do not actually employ you so you're effectively an unpaid intern for 3 years :eek: however there programme pay's ~16,000 p/y and all fees paid.

One side of me is saying it'd be great to have 3 years experience under my belt with these companies and i'd be doing valuable work in the field, it's just if I go for it, i'll be 27 by the time i graduate and never have earn't more than 16,000 - not exactly big bucks, where as 3/4 years spent actually doing the work and i'd go from junior --> senior and be on closer to double that 16,000. It's just having to enter the job market and fight it out with everyone else rather than going through the back door IYSWIM!

I think my head is saying get on with life and get a proper job, but there is something about being called "Dr..." :thumbsup: ;)

forsakendreams
08-17-2009, 08:31 PM
Definitely go for it!

Some of the top studio R&D and in-house software problem solvers are armed with PhD degrees. Yours sounds like an excellent program geared towards that end.

If you are interested in pursing a career as a top developer at a major studio and publishing new papers on cutting edge cg techniques for every year's Siggraph, it sounds like the training will be very valuable indeed. On the production side, you will definitely be in the trenches solving every technical problem they can throw at you to get the job done.

FluidEdge
08-17-2009, 08:44 PM
I hate to say this, but I don't think getting more schooling is going to help if your goal is to work in production. 4 years of actual experience in the industry will get you ahead much more so.

I have a friend who got his masters and then got a job as an animator. They hired him as a junior because he had no work experience. In the same 4 years (we're both the same age) I had gone from junior to senior animator and had worked at several big studios. I don't want to undermine the choice he made, but it seems like it was a bit of a waste of time and it put him in a lot of debt.

Animation is different than FX and technical stuff, but my philosophy is get on with your life and stop delaying that big step out into the world.

(but ignore this completely if you are after a more pipeline/programming department career)

I tell you what mate, you might never know how influential that comment turns out to be. :thumbsup:

I've been thinking about that one a lot for the last couple of hours and i think you've hit the nail on the head.

whalerider
08-17-2009, 08:53 PM
as a senior you should be making a fair amount more than 2x16K.
you can make 30+K just writing PHP/Javascript...

... i'd go from junior --> senior and be on closer to double that 16,000

quaider
08-17-2009, 09:26 PM
I tell you what mate, you might never know how influential that comment turns out to be. :thumbsup:

I've been thinking about that one a lot for the last couple of hours and i think you've hit the nail on the head.

Uh oh, I hoped I wouldn't come off too strongly in my reply. If the academic persuit works with your life plans, I'd hate to scare you away from it. But if you want to work on movies, you just have to work on movies. You'll be so much more proud of the accomplishments.

Everyone's life works out differently and there's nothing wrong with that. I've just seen too many friends and family members waste time and money on extended schooling, and half of them only really seemed to do it so they could stay kids and have their parents pay for them.

Plus, there's always the possibility that after 10-15 years in the industry you'll be burnt out and want to persue something else. You could save getting your PhD for then, and get it for something completely different.

Just my two cents. Best of luck!

FluidEdge
08-17-2009, 10:04 PM
Uh oh, I hoped I wouldn't come off too strongly in my reply. If the academic persuit works with your life plans, I'd hate to scare you away from it. But if you want to work on movies, you just have to work on movies. You'll be so much more proud of the accomplishments.

Everyone's life works out differently and there's nothing wrong with that. I've just seen too many friends and family members waste time and money on extended schooling, and half of them only really seemed to do it so they could stay kids and have their parents pay for them.

Plus, there's always the possibility that after 10-15 years in the industry you'll be burnt out and want to persue something else. You could save getting your PhD for then, and get it for something completely different.

Just my two cents. Best of luck!


haha. Yeh I really do want to get into movies (or games actually) so perhaps it's best to get on and try it!

KangtheMad
08-17-2009, 10:22 PM
This was about 5 years ago, but...

A friend of a friend of mine did his PhD on physically based modeling of hair. At the time, he had finished his degree a year ago and was working for Dreamworks, I believe. His work was pretty much the pure science of computer graphics.

There were several students at my uni who were PhD students in comp sci and their specialties were physically based fx and animation. I don't know where they are now but they were all working closely with artists during the course of their studies.

Best of luck!

FluidEdge
08-17-2009, 11:29 PM
my main concern is where i'd be in 4 years time. Would i be "employable" with a PhD or is there a chance i could be "over qualified" if you know what i mean.

Carina
08-18-2009, 08:00 AM
As someone who's been there, if you want to get into research, in or outside of academia, a PhD is definitely worth it, provided you give it all you've got.

I went for a PhD for similar reasons to yours, enjoyed the art side of things but had more "natural talent" with the technical side of things (and a degree in Computer Science with Artificial Intelligence). Your professional PhD seems brilliant, as it will give you both research and industrial experience. It will also serve to make your PhD research more "relevant" in terms of industry, which you'll find is a problem with a lot of strictly academic PhD projects. Where's this offered out of interest?

Due to circumstances (well.. money issues really!) I had to move to complete my PhD part-time a few years back, and am still in the process of writing up, but over that time, my research experience has definitely opened doors for me.

In my experience though, the effect a PhD will have on your employment prospects is a mixed bag. In the games industry, unless you're going for a job somewhere with an established r&d department, all the PhD is going to do is get you through the first hurdle of getting an interview, it won't necessarily greatly affect your salary etc early on, until you've proven yourself. I can't speak for the film industry as I haven't really been in it;) What you will find though, is that a relevant PhD will really make a difference in specialist R&D type companies, many of which won't hire you unless you have a proven track record in research.

My PhD research is related to parallel global illumination (won't bore anyone with the exact title), and when I was last looking for a job, I was quickly offered interviews at a good handful of R&D companies developing high-end lighting solutions, both for games and film, all of which were offering more than twice the pay that I was on in my games programming job at the time. Ultimately, I actually decided to go back to academia (yes, am one of those, plus it meant I didn't have to move anywhere close to London!), where obviously, a PhD does wonders for your career prospects.

I wouldn't indiscriminately recommend anyone to do a PhD, but an option of doing a PhD which gives you industry experience as well sounds like a brilliant opportunity (wish I'd had the option of doing that!)

Feel free to fire me off a message if you'd like.

AlexPoolton
08-18-2009, 11:59 AM
I'm guessing this is regarding the DProf (Professional Doctorate) at Bournemouth University?


I believe when undertaking a doctorate their are two schools of thought:

A) A doctorate may get me to posts that otherwise would be unattainable or more realistically take longer to get to without the relevant qualifications.

B) The time spent actually aquiring the doctorate would have been better served simply entering the profession and moving up the 'ranks' via experience.


In your situation, I believe it's really down to where your focus lies.


From reading through quite a few posts, in the field of computer graphics/animation if you want to work at production level, on things such as films, vfx, games, then it's more down to what you can do, as opposed to what you know (ie the qualifications you possess). At the end of the day, the studios want to know one thing, can you actually aid the project. Therefore, possesing the DProf if you want to work on projections, I don't believe will help you, over someone who doesn't have one.

On the other hand, if you want to work at a research level be it at an academic institution (lecturing, research groups) or within a R&D dept. at a studio, I would suggest taking the DProf. At the top fleight studios a doctore qualification seems mandatory, if not highly desirable to work within their R&D depts. Just take a look at Weta Digitals job page at the moment.

Like I said, at the end of the day, it's what you want to do in your career, and where your focus lies. An alternative plan, if artistical (or skills wise) you don't believe you're up to the job, may be to undertake an internships, or take up the DProf and work on your skills in the meantime (however, I'm not sure how instensive the work load would be, so this might not be a realistic option). Otherwise, if a R&D dept. sounds interesting to you, the fact that it's a professional doctorate (and you'll most probably be working in smaller R&D depts) is a double barrelled shotgun, if you want to apply for a major studio's R&D dept. down the line.


Hope this helps, and good luck, in whatever choice you make :)

FluidEdge
08-18-2009, 07:09 PM
That's the one ;)

I think i'm going to have a go at getting a job in the industry (probably games) and if I can't find anything or it doesn't work out then look into the PhD option.

Thanks for the advice guys! (Keep it coming!)

AlexPoolton
08-18-2009, 07:28 PM
I'll most probably be taking the Masters (at Bournemouth) next year, after I finish my undergrad degree, and probably do the same as you and enter the industry :) I enjoy the academic side, but ultimately my goal is to work at Senior level in a major studio, and for a TD, I think the experience outweighs the PhD option (although you never know whats around the corner!).

P.S. As mentioned before, by another poster, if you want to swing a message my way, about anything else, be it invovling academics or general computer animation/graphics discussions/questions feel free :)

gster123
08-19-2009, 04:56 PM
I wouldn't indiscriminately recommend anyone to do a PhD, but an option of doing a PhD which gives you industry experience as well sounds like a brilliant opportunity (wish I'd had the option of doing that!)



Exactly,

I'm just finishing up my PhD, not in the CG areas purely but some. Mine's been purely full time academic research, one with experience in the industry would really help you get into the industry.

I'm now a lecturer at uni which I love, doing the PhD and having the opertunity to assist in the teaching allowed me to realise thats what I wanted to do at the Undergrad level.

If your going to think of doing the PhD (not too sure what/where/how funding comes from in your case and the levle of flex you have in the area) it may be worth looking into the areas that you will be researching, Citeseer and google scholar a good sites to gather papers in a subject area.

As people have said if you want to ask a question about doing the PhD then I can tell you about what I've had to do.

Cheers

rakmaya
08-19-2009, 06:45 PM
Do the PhD. But once you are done with the program, always, always (and can't stress this enough) always join the RnD team outside uni. If you are going on purely mathematical side of things. There are plenty of high paying opportunities as well as awesome jobs in CG ( as well as other industries like Finance, Economics and other ares) that are accessible only by means of PhD.

Since it is a funded program, you can't go wrong with that. Since you are not going to be doing purely artistic side of things, PhD gives you the best side. Don't stop with a Masters that is useless.

Carina
08-19-2009, 07:07 PM
Do the PhD. But once you are done with the program, always, always (and can't stress this enough) always join the RnD team outside uni. If you are going on purely mathematical side of things. There are plenty of high paying opportunities as well as awesome jobs in CG ( as well as other industries like Finance, Economics and other ares) that are accessible only by means of PhD.

Since it is a funded program, you can't go wrong with that. Since you are not going to be doing purely artistic side of things, PhD gives you the best side. Don't stop with a Masters that is useless.

Some sweeping generalisations here. Research within academia is not a less valid route than research in industry, though it might not be for everyone (though indeed industry R&D is not everyone's cup of tea either). Added to this there is often a considerable cross-over between the two, especially with funding bodies increasingly supporting joint research projects between them.

Similarly a Master's is not useless. The value of a Master's, like any other degree, depends on what came before it, what it taught you, and what you yourself put into it. There are times when people do go for ill suited Master's degrees yes, and find themselves no better off, but then that can be the case with any type of degree.

gster123
08-19-2009, 08:06 PM
Theres a lot of reasearch within Unis that otherwise would probably not get done outside of acedemia. Theres also a lot of funding that can be had from industry to a acadedmic research base, KTP's for one for joint research. We work with a lot of companys with joint research with a lot of success.

Both are valid and produce results, I would not say that you need to get out ASAP, you would be best off seeing what your options are when you get there.

rakmaya
08-20-2009, 01:07 AM
Some sweeping generalisations here. Research within academia is not a less valid route than research in industry, though it might not be for everyone (though indeed industry R&D is not everyone's cup of tea either). Added to this there is often a considerable cross-over between the two, especially with funding bodies increasingly supporting joint research projects between them.

Similarly a Master's is not useless. The value of a Master's, like any other degree, depends on what came before it, what it taught you, and what you yourself put into it. There are times when people do go for ill suited Master's degrees yes, and find themselves no better off, but then that can be the case with any type of degree.


Master is not completly useless. But inorder to be top in RnD (Finance/Econimics/Comp Sc), you need to have a PhD to get in to those well funded research. Also, if you are taking up private research, public/private funding becomes easier when you have lots of PhD guys in your team. (The list goes on. You need to have worked in both sectors to see the diff).

With Masters you can of course get there. For example, we have 2 very good quant in our team who has Masters from Princeton and Columbia. But majority are people are with PhD and now especially they look at what you did with your PhD (strong vs. weak phd).

Doing an PhD and doing a Masters requires different set of mentality. I don't know about all colleges. The level of research you do to get the PhD is very much a scale apart than providing a master level thesis. And people who are recruiting for RnD knows this very well. When you want to work with core RnD team, they expect people with similar research mentality. Unless you have top colleges on your certificate with Masters, it becomes very hard, especially economic situations similar to the current one.

Research in some universities is also very good. For example, if you are in Physics research in U.Chicago is top notch (much bigger than the biggest private/govt research).

In CG, you will have to look at what exactly your topic is. Most of the time, real world experience is very valuable. A very good example of this is what happened to the fluid dynamics research. Being able to work at the heart of the research is what matters. Depending on your topic, it may be in a university or might be in a studio. But considering the CG environment, I would say the majority of them (at least the ones I like) are outside the uni.

gster123
08-20-2009, 07:55 AM
Of course you do Rakmaya, who's going to give a R and D team funding that dont have the required qualifications?? It dosent mean that the team has to be outside of the uni.

A lot of conference papers that are presented (good ones) at the Euro siggraph's (and others) I've been to whilst doing my PhD have been developments between studios and Unis, either via partnerships or KTP's. The uni may be in a better position to provide the reasearch by dedicating either a post doc to the job in hand a research team and/or PhD students. Overhere uni's get government grants purely for research, and then supliment that with private sector funding and grants for projects, so I would hazard a guess that uni's are probably in a better funded position than a company (in these times).

There both valid routes for research, ones not better than the other, its up the the individual to decide, the good thing is that doing a PhD you can see how the uni works and if your in partnership with a company you can see how they work, but saying that "always, always (and can't stress this enough) always join the RnD team outside uni" is sweeping statement that dosent hold.

Back to the question in hand, if you get the chance to do the PhD take it but do it for the right reasons and have a think and a chat with other students both in and just finished their PhD to see the level of work required and how the institution works.

If your going to do a high level of maths one of the best programmes is Matlab, superb product.

rakmaya
08-20-2009, 10:38 AM
Yes you are right indeed. Nowadays most of the research is a collaboration between private companies and universities. That goes the same in USA as well.

But what I recommend is that after PhD, people should work in the field outside uni for some time. People don't generally work forever for outside companies for research as that does get technical after a while. They come back to uni and then joins pure research. Many of the most influential people in every field has done so, especially with fields that are not pure theory.

Simon
09-22-2009, 11:55 PM
Hey

I've actually applied to the scheme.

What center are you doing it at? I have been pursuing the application since the scheme was first advertised. (I have just completed a BA at Bournemouth uni so I can tell you what it is like here etc)

Add me on msn if you want to chat about it. It would be good to know someone else doing it. (I don't know anyone else on the scheme).

As far as whether the scheme is worth doing... (As far as I'm aware my set study areas are just being finalised between the company and the uni) .. My answer is yes. I get to work doing cutting edge RND in the best games company in the UK on a AAA title under the wings of the best academics and developers in the country, whilst being paid a tax free amount to cover my living costs and earning a doctorate. Whats not to like?


Edit:

I'd like to point out to the above posters that this is not a standard PHD. It is very much in industry, working as part of a company.

So firstly you are not doing acedemic waffly research with no application. Your work will be used by the studio so it wont disconnect you from industry or the real world.

Secondly its on the ground experience so every year at the company *is* a year in industry and your pay grade based on experience would theoretically increase also. You'll get the phd and a good few titles/films under your belt.

gster123
09-23-2009, 08:05 AM
[QUOTE=Simon]

So firstly you are not doing acedemic waffly research with no application. QUOTE]

Pardon? To get on board with a PhD your research should have an application and be far from "waffely", whatever that means. You don't wander into a PhD and do whatever you fancy, you need to publish (or at least be at the level) in a peer referenced journal so your research needs to be current and applicable to a subject.

That kind of comment belittles work done in a lot of sectors. Just because its with industry dosent mean it will automatically have an application and be used and accepted, granted it might have more of a chance of being adopted but it still could have no applicaiton at all, thats the point of research, determining new things and seeing if they can be applied, if they can they can, if they cant they cant.

pierechod
09-23-2009, 09:25 AM
interesting, in kind of the same position here! gonna look into this course you are on about, i was looking a little closer to home as a part time effort, however i have been in the industry for a few years now, and would say, that in some of the newer studios (ie. not the big few in the UK) the department heads and 'money men' will see the PHD as a distint PR benefit if you are looking to add to or set up an R&D element to the business.

i did chat in another thread

(http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?f=283&t=774978&page=3&pp=15)

about the courses i had looked into and the part time structure i had agreed with a couple of the Uni's.

Let me know how it goes!

Simon
09-23-2009, 11:57 AM
[QUOTE=Simon]

So firstly you are not doing acedemic waffly research with no application. QUOTE]

Pardon? To get on board with a PhD your research should have an application and be far from "waffely", whatever that means. You don't wander into a PhD and do whatever you fancy, you need to publish (or at least be at the level) in a peer referenced journal so your research needs to be current and applicable to a subject.


Sorry no offense meant, my post reads like flamebait. I wasn't meaning to express a negative opinion of a traditional PhD(I was set to do one before deciding to do the industry one instead). I just get the feeling from most industry veterans (and opinions in this thread) that in their in opinion academia has been left behind. Which is sad as a lot of interesting work goes unread. Very few games companys engage with PhD students, and when they do its usually just to poach them. The professional docterate gives industry the ability to bridge that gap in a much more production friendly fashion. Research areas will be smaller, perhaps less productive in a traditional sense, but allow things to be adopted quicker.

Carina
09-23-2009, 12:35 PM
To be honest, while there is clearly a perceived "applicability problem" of academic research in industry - after all, creating something that can immediately be adopted in an instantly recognisable form is not typically its aim - I haven't actually come across many "industry veterans" who work largely within R&D who would actually say that academia has been left behind, though I know a number that would happily see academic research more approachable.

Whirlwind123
09-23-2009, 12:48 PM
Hi, Just making a quick enquiry on which PhD program this is so I can read up on it.

Thanks

Simon
09-23-2009, 12:50 PM
Heres the link:

http://www.digital-entertainment.org/

If you do fancy applying make sure you have an awesome application. Several friends of mine failed to get places.

I haven't actually come across many "industry veterans" who work largely within R&D who would actually say that academia has been left behind, though I know a number that would happily see academic research more approachable.

I must say that all the vets I know are terribly jaded and bitter so perhaps I'm just asking the wrong people. :P

pierechod
09-23-2009, 02:22 PM
Heres the link:

http://www.digital-entertainment.org/

If you do fancy applying make sure you have an awesome application. Several friends of mine failed to get places.



I must say that all the vets I know are terribly jaded and bitter so perhaps I'm just asking the wrong people. :P

cheers for the link, i think i will have a look at this too! appreciate the help mate.

Simon
09-23-2009, 08:41 PM
cheers for the link, i think i will have a look at this too! appreciate the help mate.

No problem! good luck if you apply. :D

FluidEdge
09-23-2009, 09:46 PM
Hi thanks for the renewed interest in my thread!

I've decided not to apply this year. I'd like to have a shot at getting onto the front line of production as I've just had 4 years of uni education and want to see what else is out there for a couple of years, that said the opportunities this course provides for someone dead set on an R&D career look too good to miss. I however want to know what i'm right for first. It might be that a technical R&D career would be my path but i'm really enjoying texturing and modeling at the moment so am pursing that at present.

Good luck to everyone applying and make sure you leave just one space for me over the next few years, eh? :thumbsup:

CGTalk Moderation
09-23-2009, 09:46 PM
This thread has been automatically closed as it remained inactive for 12 months. If you wish to continue the discussion, please create a new thread in the appropriate forum.