How to be a 3d generalist..

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  12 December 2012
How to be a 3d generalist..

Hi Ive been studying 3d for about 3 + years now. I feel really confident modeling, uving, and texturing, I can rig, Im not so good at lighting and animation yet. I really like everything and want to work at a small studio as my goal as a 3d generalist -- with emphasis on modeling and animation ( my two favorite things). Besides the fact that a generalist allows you to do many different things, I also like the idea of being able to have a small studio someday for the greater creative control ( of being in charge and doing projects I like) as well as the bigger and more steady paycheck ( please tell my if I'm wrong about any of the assumptions I have just made I don't mean to sound cocky or naive).

I was wondering what's the cutoff point where you know you've l learned enough lighting to move on to animation for instance. Obviously learning is a lifelong process I mean how should you balance everything. How do you know you aren't overdoing learning lighting for instance and not spending enough time animating or modeling? I'm asking because I'm not formally enrolled in any school so I have no way of judging my skill level and know when I'm decent enough in one are to work on another area.

maybe I should just start posting things I work on and get feedback to see where I'm at. And then in my reel do I need to have a bit of everything?

Here's what I think...I'm going to put together the dozens of animations i've done and ask for feedback from people to see where I"m at skill-wise and what to focus on at this point..same with modeling, texturing, and lighting. Then I'm going to see if I have enough skill to where I can make my own model, texture it , rig it, and give it a basic walk cycle and show some emotion ( ie find an empty box and be surprised) and make a real out of that. This is basic but it showcases everything and it's good starting point to show that I have basic understanding at least of everything.

Then I can continue to improve but focus on improving mainly one area but I'll still have that general reel to show employers or people who want to work with me on projects. I already have 3d models that are uved..i just need to rig them at this point and do some simple animations so I have something. That way I'll also see where my weakness lies in the production pipeline as a whole. I'll show you guys what I have once I get the ball rolling more. I also have this video game I'm almost done making with the group so I have to finish the space ships on that. =)

my concern with the 3d character/model i want to rig is that its cartoony so the musculature isn't realistic in some parts and I heard employers want you to make characters that have realistic musculature to show that you understand anatomy properly, so I think I have to start from scratch modeling some new characters. I just wonder if it's a smart move rigging and lighting and animating it all myself or if its wiser to focus on a couple things and have people help me, as a generalist.
  12 December 2012
I'd say, if you want to have your own studio then it doesn't really matter. Your pay check relies more on your people skill, management skill and marketing skill.

Generally, even a specialist should have basic understanding of the whole pipeline. I troubleshoot rendering, but I know how to model, rig, texture, light, animate and render my own thing. Whether I'm good or not I'll leave that to your imagination

As a generalist, I guess you should be able to tackle a project alone and be able to complete it. I say, head over to some freelance website and look at their job postings. Pick one you like and try to work on it (on your own) from start to finish. You'll quickly realise what skills you're lacking that way.

As a modeler, just my opinion, as long as you're modeling character, there's no excuse not to know anatomy even if you're going for a cartoon style.

Animation is a discipline that requires the most time to be good at. If you're not planning to become a pure animator, I suggest you learn animation only enough to understand the basic and hire full time animator to do this for you.

Lighting in the other hand is closely tied to some other skills you'll want as a boos - critical eye, colour, composition, editing, etc. You want to give precise feedback to your team and these skills can help you do that.

Anyway I really think you can learn more than 1 thing at a time. There's really no need to learning only lighting and nothing else. These skills are something you want to keep learning, there's no real end to it if you know what I mean. Heck, I still buy tutorials and join workshops all the time.

Last edited by Panupat : 12 December 2012 at 03:31 AM.
  12 December 2012
I think the nature of CG work is it makes us automatically side-study other areas of it as we try to solve problems or expand our understanding of the whole playing field. If you are good at rigging, a lot of other things are easier to pick up. I'm beginning to see that the learning just never stops with CG.
I like to learn.
  12 December 2012
My advice...
Stop seeing CG as something completely separate from the arts that came before it.
I know I am going to ruffle some feathers saying this, but the best route to be a good generalist(in my opinion) is to be a good all around artist in the first place.

And by artist I mean someone with a solid foundation in
Photography, Anatomy, Composition, Sculpture,Drawing, Color Theory, Design Theory, Classic Animation theory and Film Theory (And lately I am leaning to include the theater arts, like costuming, Acting & Stage and Lighting design).

CG Tools are just tools.
:Daily Sketch Forum:HCR Modeling
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  12 December 2012
Hey panupat--
I really like ur insights. When I asked school instructors one of them said you have to know how to do everything if you want your own studio. And my partner whos working on a potential game startup with me says that you have to know everything because at anytime everyone could flake on the project if you don't have funding yet. we don't have funding and everyone on the team ( basically 10) people eventually flaked out and left so our game is far from done now and I'm the only artist. But then again I guess someone like Brad bird who was mainly just an animator ended up really rich and famous because he is good at animating and storytelling and probably business. I think it's more about what you can bring to the table and how well it is and how much people like it. Like someone who is just an illustrator could make a really cool comic book and it could potentially make millions. I guess I'm just thinking more in terms of probablitliy /odds.

I think since I've spent so much time learning everything I'm going to continue to do so but focus slightly more on modeling and texturing/lighting since that's my position in our startup company. Animation is fun too but I feel like Id rather manage animators than animate all day myself since it's so tedious. And it really is the hardest route for sure I could make animation a long term goal and start off with modeling to get my foot in the door. I heard something like for every 300 animators theres only 20 jobs.

I definitely need to get my art skills up to par too ROBERTOORTIZ you're right . There's just so much technology to master before I can even use it properly enough to make good art. But I go over my old fundamental art skills and drawing for aniamtors books every other day .

Still the reason I got into this stuff orginally was to make and direct movies so when I'm not animating I feel kind of guilty and when i do I feel guilty for not doing other things. It's stupid I gotta just figure out exactly what I want and do it already with clear goals. I guess I'm also trying to be realistic and see what I can make the most money out of and what would land me a job too , which I think is smart. Rock on guys keep going !!
  12 December 2012
The only advice I can give you is:

1) Keep learning.

2) Keep practicing.

3) Technical and artistic knowhow is power in this business.

4) The more you know, and the more you can do, the more useful you become.

Good luck with your game project!
  12 December 2012
Originally Posted by fierce86: I definitely need to get my art skills up to par too ROBERTOORTIZ you're right . There's just so much technology to master before I can even use it properly enough to make good art. But I go over my old fundamental art skills and drawing for aniamtors books every other day

You're missing the point: fundamental art skills transcend the technology.

My advice (I'm a 3d generalist) is to Just keep working. Generalists are usually made because we work small studios doing all aspects of the job, just do anything and everything to keep making stuff. And always try to learn something new when on the job.

Also if you want to direct then start positioning yourself as one now by making your own stories. You will be unlikely to be hired to direct anything without experience, so you must make those experiences yourself to begin with.
Critcal feedback example #62: "Well instead of the Stalinist purges and the divorce and the investigation ... it could be about losing a balloon."
  12 December 2012
It varies wildly. We do a lot of product rendering and almost no character work so if you are a killer lighter who could be doing product photography for magazines and catalogs you're useful to us. If your hard surfaces modeling it passable and you can handle average models quickly enough then you're a valuable generalist to us. If though you take another similarly sized studio that does all character work--having a really strong cinematography and photography eye isn't as useful but killer understanding of anatomy and rigs and animation is important. So even as a generalist at a "small studio" there is a huge range depending on what that specific studio does. So how good do you need to be? Good enough to not be a burden wherever you're applying. Usually a small studio needs someone who can do most of a project from start to finish with maybe one hand off to another person who is more focused on that area (Lighting, rigging, compositing, modeling or FX).

So look at their reel and see if you can handle one of their shots by yourself. If not, get that good. If there is just one area you are weak in it's probably ok although that reduces your chances since they might be needing someone at that moment that has that specific skill.

If you're good at a few things though that's better than being good at nothing. While your odds of being needed by a small studio for that specific talent are diminished... if you're "all around" useless artist then you have no chance at all which is worse than a diminished chance. While you have to be a generalist at a small studio you'll still probably end up focused on one kind of project that plays to your strengths.

Last edited by thatoneguy : 12 December 2012 at 06:08 PM.
  12 December 2012
Thanks for the advice everyone. I'll definnitely have to look at a generalist reel and see if I can do the things they do and also go on the freelance websites and see if I can complete a job start to finish.

I'm actually learning a lot about being a generalist by working on this video game in a team. I get to model, texture, uv, simple animations, use unity, shaders, and bunch of other things so I'm learning where my weaknesses are. I think my main focus will be modeling and texturing since that's my strength but long term goal of animation so I'm just doing that a bit on the side now. I hear shading networks are really in demand/next big thing so I should probably brush up on those too.

I'm also making an active effort to learn fundamental art skills more. I read a book called art fundamentals and i draw from a book called drawing for animators so I can learn about composition, basic art skills , etc. Are there any books or tutorials you guys recommend that are really geared toward learning the fundamental skills I need? For instance I watched a digital tutor video about color theory that was really helpful since my ship colors were way off. I also watched videos on proper concept design for robots that helped my design process
  12 December 2012
Check out community/city collage. I kept enrolling in painting and drawing class at San Francisco Community Collage for quite some time after I graduated. Only $30 per credit.
  12 December 2012
Originally Posted by Panupat: Check out community/city collage. I kept enrolling in painting and drawing class at San Francisco Community Collage for quite some time after I graduated. Only $30 per credit.

I just registered in a flayed anatomy sculpting course at the Art League in Virginia.

I would advice to you to do a BRUTAL Self-Assessment of your art foundation.
How is your anatomy?
How are your drawing skills? How are your shading skills.
Do you the basics of compostion? Do you know the rules of thirds? The Golden Mean?
Do you undersatnd color theory ?
How are your animation skills?
Do you understand well the 7 basic principles of character animation?

Wanna do scripting?
How are your Python skills?
Do you know how to write code in C?

Most modern codin languanges (Actionscript, Mel) are based on C.
:Daily Sketch Forum:HCR Modeling
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Last edited by RobertoOrtiz : 12 December 2012 at 06:08 PM.
  12 December 2012
Hey, ya most of those things I'm pretty weak in. I just took one paining class, one drawing class, one 2D art class, one sculpting class. I can draw and shade well/accuartely in my opinion but its hard to do perspective and animation style drawings off the top of my head ( especialyl since I dont know anatomy too well. I just figured that since I'm working in 3d I wouldn't need to have drawing skills that are too good since I dont have to deal with perspective. But Ill definitely brush up anyway I see what you mean.
  12 December 2012
While the drawing/painting themselves may not, the other skills you pick up along the way are universal. In these classes you'll train your eyes to see details. You'll learn how real light affects real world objects and most importantly, you'll learn how to give and receive feed back. It's a skill that really sets apart the real artist. I mean, everyone can comment on an art piece whether it's good or bad. But trained artists should be able to tell you more than that - they can pin-point exactly where the weak and strong points are and give precise advise how to improve it. Having the professors tearing your art apart is really a valuable experience to have.
  12 December 2012
I tend to think just getting experience is the key to learning everything.
As for me, I can't just sit there and just model throughout projects. I have the need to keep pushing myself to learn new things. Reason why smaller companies with small teams (4-6 people in the art department) seems like the way to go. Kinda forces you to explore other aspects of CG. But in the core of it all, you need to get one aspect down(ie.modeling). Then after this, you could explore into other things.
  12 December 2012
Hey ya definitely professors really know where you are weak at and give good advice. I miss the good old days of sitting in fine arts class it was so fun and informative. I think the main thing is to remember why you got into cg and let that guide you. like sometimes Ill be having so much fun just modeling and it feels so easy because art comes naturally to me that I'll almost feel guilty about it. I need to really step up and figure out how to make things more challenging. Today I just went through mudbox and modeled and textured like 7 different assets for this video game but it felt very repetitive and easy. However sometimes you have to just do what you already know how to do because you have deadlines and need to get stuff done.

How do you guys challenge yourselves when things feel too easy or repetitive?
here's my strategies:
-- use different softwares like zbrush to get the job done instead of modeling in maya all the time
-- listen to tutorials on color theory or fundamental art skills or even on how to start a game company as Im uving ( boring repetitive stuff) so I can multitask
-- time myself and try to crank out more things in less time without sacrificing quality
-- work on more group projects instead of on my own so other people hold me accountable

any other ways because I absolutely hate it when things feel too easy it feels like I'm not growing. Right now i'm trying to concept space ship for my game and it feels really fun and easy. maybe I just have a stupid belief that says that if things are fun and easy then you should feel guilty. I dont know must be from years of being a biology student and feeling like I had to do something like that to feel good about myself. Anyone else feel any psychological pressures like that? haha

ps keep in mind im not a keyboard jockey I know I post a lot of stuff that seems like mental masturbation on this thread but I really do work hard all day on my craft and take your advice to heart =)
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