The point of diminishing returns in learning

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  11 November 2017
The point of diminishing returns in learning

Have you noticed that first stuff you learned for CG gave you a lot? And then you spend a lot of time for some fiddling with additional matters, but it gave you not as much value for the buck?
 
  11 November 2017
I would say it really depends on what you spend your time researching.

Basic foundations are always sound knowledge. Youtube tutorials are usually just ways of doing certain things in a certain way which can derail you if you tend to just click the next and then the next. My advice would be focus on learning the basic foundations thoroughly and then when you completely understand whats going on then you can build upon that knowledge. Write things down, test them, reverse engineer them and see whats going on. Read the manuals - I always spend a few days reading through the manual of any new software or technique.

For example, lets take something simple like photoshop. Most of the time when learning you would probably throw a few overlay modes on, multiply, screen etc and say oh thats fancy I can make things darker or brighter, but if you understood the maths behind the overlay modes you would have a better understanding of whats actually happening to the pixels and when it comes time to building a technique you can automate over a lot of images or build your own process tools (or outsource it) you can tailor this exactly how you need to keep things linear. Another example would be bit depth, and how this affects things in 3D & 2D, and when/why to use them.

One of the best manuals Ive read would have to be the Nuke manual, understanding things like alpha and channels and colour go a long way to helping you keep mistakes from occurring in your work (how many times do you hear people complaining about the white aliasing line around their renders between the rendered object and the sky. New 3D artists and sometimes old don't really know why this is happening - but a simple understanding of how multiplying against the alpha channel is baked into your images will give you aliasing issues).

If you are interested, have a quick look at page 262 of the Nuke manual:
http://thefoundry.s3.amazonaws.com/...6_UserGuide.pdf
__________________
James Vella
3D Visualization
Portfolio
 
  11 November 2017
Thank you James, some good thoughts.
 
  11 November 2017
I am an objective based learner.
I really must have a clear objective
(actual planned VFX,animation etc)
before learning any new aspect of CG.

Indeed a solid foundation of the basic concepts is crucial
(what is a vertex or UV map??)

However I do not believe in this concept of "general education"
that covers broad aspects for I have particular ,immediate use.


Many times I see new people who watch some great Demo reel
for Blender or Houdini and excitedly declare "thats it !! I am learning Blender
or Houdini apprentice this year!!".

They "dig in" and quickly burnout from the tedium of
rote memorization in the absence of a clear objective.

There are things that I know C4D can do but have never even bothered to try to learn them
because I have no actual project that needs the Mograph "delay effector".

I used After effects for over a decade for only basic post color grading my animations.
But since I started my solo feature length animated film project 4 years ago
I have learned so many new aspects of AE as each VFX shot demands.

I have gathered a massive hoard of video tutorials that I use as an on demand knowledge base
and there is no shortage of new ones online to be had at zero cost.
 
  11 November 2017
Originally Posted by ThreeDDude: I am an objective based learner.
I really must have a clear objective
(actual planned VFX,animation etc)
before learning any new aspect of CG.

Indeed a solid foundation of the basic concepts is crucial
(what is a vertex or UV map??)

However I do not believe in this concept of "general education"
that covers broad aspects for I have particular ,immediate use.


Many times I see new people who watch some great Demo reel
for Blender or Houdini and excitedly declare "thats it !! I am learning Blender
or Houdini apprentice this year!!".

They "dig in" and quickly burnout from the tedium of
rote memorization in the absence of a clear objective.

There are things that I know C4D can do but have never even bothered to try to learn them
because I have no actual project that needs the Mograph "delay effector".

I used After effects for over a decade for only basic post color grading my animations.
But since I started my solo feature length animated film project 4 years ago
I have learned so many new aspects of AE as each VFX shot demands.

I have gathered a massive hoard of video tutorials that I use as an on demand knowledge base
and there is no shortage of new ones online to be had at zero cost.
Agreed. I learn the most to accomplish something specific. If I learn something -for the sake of learning-but never use it-I soon forget it.
Almost pointless except i have the knowledge that it-can-be-done.
 
  11 November 2017
The law of diminishing returns applies to pretty much everything, including learning.

When I first started learning Blender, everyday saw huge gains, but as the basic become second nature, the advanced stuff takes longer to learn. Takes longer to learn compositing than how to make a cube. When I first started racing I was trying to knock seconds off my lap times, then I had to work even harder to knock tenth's off. Then hundredths.

Those able to plow through the slower progress become great, the rest of us settle for that balance point where we simply maintain status.
__________________
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Ryeath sketchbook
 
  11 November 2017
Originally Posted by ThreeDDude: I am an objective based learner.
I really must have a clear objective
(actual planned VFX,animation etc)
before learning any new aspect of CG.

Indeed a solid foundation of the basic concepts is crucial
(what is a vertex or UV map??)

However I do not believe in this concept of "general education"
that covers broad aspects for I have particular ,immediate use.


Many times I see new people who watch some great Demo reel
for Blender or Houdini and excitedly declare "thats it !! I am learning Blender
or Houdini apprentice this year!!".

They "dig in" and quickly burnout from the tedium of
rote memorization in the absence of a clear objective.

There are things that I know C4D can do but have never even bothered to try to learn them
because I have no actual project that needs the Mograph "delay effector".

I used After effects for over a decade for only basic post color grading my animations.
But since I started my solo feature length animated film project 4 years ago
I have learned so many new aspects of AE as each VFX shot demands.

I have gathered a massive hoard of video tutorials that I use as an on demand knowledge base
and there is no shortage of new ones online to be had at zero cost.

Thats the best way to learn, no doubt!
__________________
There are no men like me, only me
 
  11 November 2017
I think diminishing returns are natural if you stick to doing the same thing or have no reason or need to branch into something else.

I agree that necessity is usually the primary drive in a lot of people to learn a whole new skill. I think after you master something, improving that skill going forward should come from trying to outdo your previous work. If you have spare time you want to further improve your skills, focus on widening your skillset.

Also, CG keeps getting easier to do things you may already know how to do the hard way, so spending time learning new tools to do the same thing will help give you an edge, but it won't really improve your total knowledge.

Everyone can benefit from going back to the basics, but I can't help but feel like if you already know enough to complete your work well, then maybe move onto the next thing - how will you use CG and art skills as a foundation for collaborating with people or leading a team? Maybe do some leadership-oriented things with groups of people. Give some presentations, learn management/people skills, teach, start initiatives, maybe start a blog/youtube channel to share what you know, figuring out how to script so you can automate your techniques and processes, work with team members to help solve common problems you deal with, etc might give you better return of investment of your time than trying to get that extra .5% better/faster at whatever.

You always hear teachers say they learn more from teaching than when they were learning. Going back to the basics is perfectly fine on your own, but having a newbie ask basic questions puts you in a position where you have to (by necessity) think through your process more carefully in order to teach them it. It helps having someone else to hold you accountable, because that's hard to do on your own sometimes

Some things might not make sense for your own situation, but there's always something else you can do.

Last edited by sentry66 : 11 November 2017 at 07:11 AM.
 
  11 November 2017
Diminishing returns in learning CG actually means that there are no more new functions left to learn.

Lets say you have a fur creation toolkit with 8 main functions. Of course, after learning 7 of them, you will only have 1 left to learn, maybe a particularly hard to grasp function that takes some time to master.

But if that fur creation toolkit has 57 functions you can learn, you will not hit "diminishing returns" after learning 7 functions, because there are 50 more functions you don't understand yet.

If you are at the point where you feel "there is nothing much left to learn", you are a:

a) Either doing the same types of CG tasks over and over with the same functions

b) Or your CG software just isn't innovating or adding new functions at all anymore, so there literally is not much left to learn at all - you've hit the limits of what the software provides functionswise. Your only option to "learn more" would be to open the script editor of the software and start adding new functions to the software yourself.

A healthy, growing, innovating CG software should never let you feel that "learning more has diminishing returns".

It should be the opposite - learning the new stuff should have increasing returns, letting you do stuff you couldn't do before, or letting you do old tasks better, faster, with more control.
 
  11 November 2017
There is just 'learning tool sets' and then there is solving problems that a given shot and context gives you.
Thats whats fun and challenging and a gained experience for another day.

Some shots are easy. Some are real puzzlers. But its all about context of a given shot that makes things 'easy' or 'hard' to do.
Its not I wish I had a button that does 'this' because in most software you can make 'that' button if its needed.

Making the impossible possible is never going to be easy. But that is where the quality time is spent. And its also why the challenge never stops.
 
  11 November 2017
Originally Posted by sentry66: I think diminishing returns are natural if you stick to doing the same thing or have no reason or need to branch into something else.

I agree that necessity is usually the primary drive in a lot of people to learn a whole new skill. I think after you master something, improving that skill going forward should come from trying to outdo your previous work. If you have spare time you want to further improve your skills, focus on widening your skillset.

Also, CG keeps getting easier to do things you may already know how to do the hard way, so spending time learning new tools to do the same thing will help give you an edge, but it won't really improve your total knowledge.

Everyone can benefit from going back to the basics, but I can't help but feel like if you already know enough to complete your work well, then maybe move onto the next thing - how will you use CG and art skills as a foundation for collaborating with people or leading a team? Maybe do some leadership-oriented things with groups of people. Give some presentations, learn management/people skills, teach, start initiatives, maybe start a blog/youtube channel to share what you know, figuring out how to script so you can automate your techniques and processes, work with team members to help solve common problems you deal with, etc might give you better return of investment of your time than trying to get that extra .5% better/faster at whatever.

You always hear teachers say they learn more from teaching than when they were learning. Going back to the basics is perfectly fine on your own, but having a newbie ask basic questions puts you in a position where you have to (by necessity) think through your process more carefully in order to teach them it. It helps having someone else to hold you accountable, because that's hard to do on your own sometimes

Some things might not make sense for your own situation, but there's always something else you can do.

Very well said!
__________________
James Vella
3D Visualization
Portfolio
 
  11 November 2017
This happened for me once I got to the point where I started realizing that I didn't need the actual technique tutorials so much anymore. There was a point in time where I'd happily sit down and hungrily consume every last second of a 4+ hour tutorial. Now, I get annoyed if I'm 30 seconds in and they haven't started on the technique I searched for. lol

Basically, for me, the "How to do this specific thing" tutorials were great at helping me learn how to do the nuts and bolts things we all need to do. Kind of like learning how to stand up and walk. Once I got those down to the point where I was able to start figuring things out on my own and didn't need to run a Google search or check a forum every ten minutes, I kind of burned out on those types of tutorials. I can remember being so excited for every single issue of 3D World and 3D Artist. Now, I couldn't even tell you where to buy them.

I've found that in terms of "industry learning" ie - any kind of learning that's directly related to my career, I'm much more interested in the higher concepts and some of the intangible things like effective team building and the higher concepts of art direction. I feel like that's a natural progression. If you stay at this long enough, you will eventually get to the point that you can pretty much figure out almost anything in a particular program without help. That's when it's time (imo) to start looking at the "bigger picture" I think. I agree completely with sentry 66!
 
  11 November 2017
Originally Posted by Crotalis: This happened for me once I got to the point where I started realizing that I didn't need the actual technique tutorials so much anymore. There was a point in time where I'd happily sit down and hungrily consume every last second of a 4+ hour tutorial. Now, I get annoyed if I'm 30 seconds in and they haven't started on the technique I searched for. lol

Basically, for me, the "How to do this specific thing" tutorials were great at helping me learn how to do the nuts and bolts things we all need to do. Kind of like learning how to stand up and walk. Once I got those down to the point where I was able to start figuring things out on my own and didn't need to run a Google search or check a forum every ten minutes, I kind of burned out on those types of tutorials. I can remember being so excited for every single issue of 3D World and 3D Artist. Now, I couldn't even tell you where to buy them.

I've found that in terms of "industry learning" ie - any kind of learning that's directly related to my career, I'm much more interested in the higher concepts and some of the intangible things like effective team building and the higher concepts of art direction. I feel like that's a natural progression. If you stay at this long enough, you will eventually get to the point that you can pretty much figure out almost anything in a particular program without help. That's when it's time (imo) to start looking at the "bigger picture" I think. I agree completely with sentry 66!
Man, so true! Used to watch tutorials for any tip or technique I could get my hands on. Now it's so difficult to focus if I already know the things they are covering. Takes me 2 hours to watch an hour long tutorial these days.
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www.psvisuals.com - 3D Visualization and Content Creation
 
  11 November 2017
i get lost in the multitude of skills to learn. I work best when i focus on one particular area, one new skill. Then practice and practice without getting sidetracked or attracted to another way of developing a new skill set. Its great to read about how everyone else is learning their craft.
 
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