long-winded art student with a couple(?) of questions

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  01 January 2012
Thumbs down long-winded art student with a couple(?) of questions

I attended a junior college for 2 years while playing sports. While being an athlete gave me priority registration, it also meant that my practices interfered a lot with the classes I wanted to take. At my JC I was only able to take 3 art classes; 2 in art history and 1 in 3D design. The 3D class really interested me and I very much enjoyed both the modeling and animation aspect. While I didn't have enough units to graduate with an Associates degree, I did end up with an athletic scholarship for a four year school. After transferring to the four year, about halfway into the semester I found out that the art program had been cancelled.

So now I'm an art major stuck at a school that doesn't have any art classes.

I'm trying to figure out another school I could transfer to, or if there are any online courses that could help me. My parents and I looked into the Art Institutes. I liked the school and the faculty, and thought it would be cool to get a Bachelor of Science degree (to have SOMETHING to show for my work), but there's no way we can afford 100,000 + in loans.

Now I've been looking into online courses (like Animation Mentor, AnimSchool, and IAnimate) and I just have so many questions.

The idea of a school being solely online is very new to me. How can I be certain of the quality and integrity of these websites? Should I be concerned about schools that might rip me off?

I noticed that Animation Mentor is solely for, well, animation. I don't know if I want to give up the modeling aspect. I guess my question is, at this stage is it important for me to pinpoint a specific field in 3D design? Would it be foolish to learn about both modeling, animating, and rigging, because any career I end up getting will only focus on one aspect anyway?

Is a degree important? Even if I can't get my Bachelors, would it be wise to go back to my JC and at least get an Associates?

I'll post more questions as they come to me...
  01 January 2012
Regardless of whether the school is online or in person it will ultimately depend on how much work you put into it. There are artists that make it into the industry without a degree in hand as well so you can also consider learning on your own if your financial situation makes it too challenging to complete your degree (or maybe put it on hold). As far as learning multiple aspects goes, I think it is a good idea to at least start out knowing the basics of all the steps in a pipeline. You don't have to be a master modeler or rigger, but being able to know what goes into each can help you communicate and work with others. Just like if a modeler knows what happens to their mesh when it deforms from animation they will be able to make better topology for it. Also after learning other aspects of production you might find something fits you better and is more enjoyable. Many people learn everything in general and then realize what really fits them and even then you can still jump around between jobs if you find you want to try something else.

The whole degree vs. certificate vs. self-taught debate can go on and on easily. Ultimately the most common trend seems to be that your end result regardless of the origins is what counts. If you never went to school but have the most incredible demo reel anyone can find around the internet a studio won't care about your lack of formal education. The opposite can happen where someone shells out all the cash for a 4 year college to get a degree but their reel looks like something a 12 year old playing with 3ds max produced.
  01 January 2012
Should you get a degree?

I see alot of folks noting that a degree isn't necessary for an animation position. Since, I am not in animation, I accept what everyone said about this. BUT!!! Let me present a different point of view.

There are some very good reasons to get a degree among which are:

1. As Leigh noted, in foreign countries, it might be necessary to get a job there.

2. More importantly, it opens up many doors that might not be available otherwise: I have found that folks never know where their life will take them or what changes will ocurr in their life. What happens if suddenly studios start wanting degrees or want those with degrees and experience for higher level positions?
This has certainly been the case for other professions and can certainly start happening here too.

More to the point, what happens if you want to leave the field of computer graphics? This could happen due to outsourcing, problems with the industry ,or simply changed objectives by you. Having a degree opens up more options.

I know someone who switched from animation to eventually going to law school and specializing in intellectual property law. Having a degree will open up other doors.

Also, if a school has a stringent admission policy, you will learn from other top students as well. Top schools also tend to attract top faculty. Lets face it: faculty would prefer to teach the better kids.

Also, I would bet that top faculty have a lot of industry connections. If you go to a good school and do well, it is common for faculty to recommend students to employers and for employers to ask top faculty for recommendations. This happens all the time in many fields of endeavor.

Personally, I STRONGLY recommend that you get a degree. Now once you have one, you don't need a second degree unless you want to teach. You can attend a trade school to get the skills needed such as Gnomon or Animation Mentor or even study books or take online programs for the skills. However, having a degree can't hurt you. It can only help!

With all this said, you still will need a strong demo ( which should occur if you work your butt off at a good school) and would need decent interviewing skills.
  01 January 2012
Good points taxguy, I wasn't trying to downgrade the benefits of having a degree because I know there are many and personally plan to go for one as well. I just wanted to point out that if Changeupplz is in a financial bind there are ways to still find sucess without diving into debt for more school or even waiting a while before starting again.
  01 January 2012
Thank you both for your fast responses. This really helps me feel a little less stressed about the predicament I'm in. I guess it just comes down to pinpointing a school that will most benefit me.

In regards to the programs, are there any that might benefit me more or less to know? For example, I've been introduced to 3Ds Max, and I've seen that quite a few online schools seem to primarily utilize Maya. Are both of these used in the industry a lot? If someone could give me a list of important programs, perhaps I could utilize both the courses at my Junior College, as well as the ones I find online.
  01 January 2012
Maya is pretty common across the board but regardless if you know one program you can jump to others over time because the same fundamentals apply. Personally for me I learned on max by reading "the 3ds max bible 2010" and then after I while I learned Maya by using their books. The same tasks can be done in just about any of the programs out there, they just have different methods and each their own pros and cons. Also if it's any help skim through this: http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthr...f=283&t=1024964
  01 January 2012
It might be worth mentioning that there are places online that can get you up to a decent standard of knowledge free of charge. 3D Buzz has very good Maya tutorials designed to teach you the basics, though I don't know about the Max ones. I'm about 90% self-taught and found that video tutorials tend to be a good way of learning things. More so than books, in my experience.

I'd learn Maya, unless you specifically want to get into games, in which case Max may be slightly better.

Whether or not an employer will want a degree would probably depend on the person hiring. I would expect the majority wouldn't mind either way, though some might prefer you to have a degree. On the other hand, some people might be more impressed if you've taught yourself.

Also, as I just said in another forum thread, I think it's better to have a general skillset, particularly at the moment. It may be different in the US, but over here it seems that there are more people working at smaller companies now, where you have to do a lot of different things. I think things are going backwards a bit in that respect. One of the downsides of having a 3D-based job in any industry is that there's only so many places that could hire you, and the more specialist you are, the more likely it is that you'll have to move every time you start a new job.
  01 January 2012
Just to add one more thing...

I do see that many have recommended that you should develop expertise in Maya and other 3d software. Although that is certainly desirable, animation is more than just being able to master the software. You need the drawing and 2d skills developed. A tool is only as good as the underlying skills of the person.

In addition, having strong writing and reading skills will benefit you the rest of your life. My daughter worked for an animation house creating trailers for movies. She was asked to read the movie script and work out what should be in the trailer and prepare a report for the head of design. Not being able to do this type of thing well, will hold you back in your career.

If you want to get into upper level management at sometime in your life, you will need the skills of good writing, reading and skills in drawing, 2d work , 3d etc. In fact, although you will need to specialize at some point, being competant in other areas of the animation pipeline can be very desireable to studios. Many times, firms will ask for someone who understands rigging or lighting. Being able to "fill in," will make you more essential.

I can't emphasize enough the need to get a college degree that will hone all these skills.

Last edited by taxguy : 01 January 2012 at 05:53 PM.
  01 January 2012
Wow you guys have been so helpful! Thank you all so much for the information.

Andrew, I'll look into getting the 3ds Max Bible. Maybe I can use the Barnes & Noble gift card I got for Christmas...

Thanks for the tip on the tutorials Al. I am leaning more towards games, so I'm thinking I'll at least continue with Max before getting into Maya. Having a broad range of skills makes a lot of sense. I'll do my best to learn as much as I can! And hopefully I'll find my niche during the process.

Taxguy, I understand the need for underlying skills. I like to think that I'm a strong artist traditionally, but I know I have much to learn when it comes to digital art programs... Is it difficult to make that transition?
What you said about writing intrigues me! I'll keep all that you said in mind.

Thanks again!
  01 January 2012
Here's another question:
Are there any majors besides art that might help me with a career in 3D design?
For example, my advisor said that it might be a good thing to major in business. If I got a Bachelor in business, would that benefit me any?
  01 January 2012
Not much. Not unless you want to start your own company.

It seems as though having a 'pure' art qualification is considered to be a good thing, but if you could do a course covering the software skills as well it would save you having to learn those yourself, at least partially. Your educational system is a bit different to ours, so I'm not entirely sure what courses are available to you, or what stage you're at.
  01 January 2012
Definitely take the other advises about self-learning. But as others said, there are many reasons to go to college and get a degree besides just getting that degree. If you are still considering transferring to another school and money is an issue, there are some state universities that have a decent art/animation department. For example I hear lots of good things about San Jose State University's art department, and I believe they are well connected to Dreamworks. One plus about going to school versus self-learning is connections. Maybe your athletic background will help you as well?
  01 January 2012
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