Someone on CGTALK who I don't know asked me a question via email recently so I am going to change the names post it here.
Originally Posted by Questioneer
I've been trying to decide on where to get my training since I recently decided that getting my Masters in vfx was simply too expensive. (approx 70k total!!)
But the issue is there are so many options. You listed a few I hadn't seen before and I was wondering if you'd give me your opinion.
Everyone talks about fxphd a lot, any experience?
Did you use the Gnomon on-line classes or the DVDs? What did you think? If you used the DVDs, how do they compare to DigitalTutors dvds?
I've never heard of Buzz, but I just checked out their site. Thoughts?
You mentioned Keith Lango and someone else mentioned him along with Jason Ryan, David Weinstein and Aaron Holy? What did you think?
Any experience with Escape Studios On-line?
There is soooooo much out there to pick from and I find new options every day. I just want to make sure I'm getting the best training. One of the advantages of traditional school that I really like is the predefined curriculum, something I'm now having to develop myself. I just want to put together the right combination.
I agree, 70K is exuberant. You could study on your own for a fraction of the cost. It's mainly practice anyhow. Your biggest challenge is as you say, defining a course outline. Design one and stick to it. Also, understanding the level of depth you need to go to be marketable and what's overkill. Round the instensity by only spending 1 or 2 month limits on each study focus. You can come back to something quickly once you know it, but spend enough time not to forget what you learned. Refresh newly learned info every two weeks or if you are good at it, you will lose it.
VFX and Compositing:
I didn't even know what Live Action/VFX and compositing were, Roto, or matchmoving until recently. Knowing what area of research you want to specialize in is the hard part, and each area has subsets and specialty studies. Research, and make an overveiw chart and follow it based on a schedule. Critically manage your progression...Eat it and sleep it every waking moment. Keep the schedule as best as life allows and don't change your chart. It should be an overview that encompasses the discipline (areas of study) you need to know.
Charting Your Course:
You may find a cirriculum on line and just fill it in. I took my studio and made each wall a step in my progression of learning. It didn't turn out to be very linear in the end but it was like a giant compass. It was very informal, but I never got lost and was surround by my goals. My 3D character has been very successful. I got much work before I finished studying, for which I thank God. I worked for Puma, BMW, Disney, all kinds of stuff and I'm getting more work as I continue to study. Freelance was the short term goal and studying is the long term. Have a sensical short and long term goal with markers you can achieve (plan A and plan B).
Still I forget to look up at it but as long as I was pushing forward, I was in the right section. Study production house pipelines and flowcharts. It's a good way to keep your progression and focusing on product completion. Actually my next study is VFX/live action but I will be learning 3D technologies towards it. Notice in the video, I using motion tracking. I will start integrating my character into video and I bought a HDV with a SteadCam. I also bought a mocap system with the proceeds of my freelance (while I studied).
Surround yourself with community and learning groups but only join contests that will specifically challenge you in the area of study you want to grow into. I recently joined the Zbrush action hero contest because that's where my focus is right now. RADii
Try to keep a positive and purposeful online persona. You never know who is lurking that could give you your next multimillion dollar contract. You don't want to appear to be "hard to work with" by posting abrasive, unprofessional remarks. Believe me, when jobs come up, it makes a difference.
Concerning DVDs or Online training.
Look at it this way. No amount of DVDs you will buy will cost you $70K. That's how I look at it. I remember spending my last unemployment check on a CGtoolkit DVD which cost half of my check for food. However, the DVD had 3D character tricks on it that helped me complete a project that I bought a new computer system and even won an award. DVD tutes are the best thing since slice bread. I say that as someone who has taught 3D in college, and as a 3D DVD vendor (ReadRigs). Problem is you have to be dedicated and there's so many to learn. Learn only what you need to learn to meet your goals, if it's one area of interest then buy all the DVDs you can on that ONE specific topic from as many vendors at you can. Don't try to learn calculus or binary code just to be a Photoshop software users. You don't need to go that deep. Now that there's is a wealth of DVDs and Online Training, content providers will start breaking their DVDs down into megapacks for full course outlines and you can just choose advance or overview. Digtal Tutors is starting to market like this now that they have a full repertoire training material.
You have to be careful of burn out. When your brain just says "no". Listen. Rome wasn't built in a day. Some of this stuff just takes time to marinate. Get your mind off it for a week and do something else less strenuous. When the concepts are BRAND NEW it's like Alien Martians talking to you. After you get use to the ideas, when you comeback to it, it just makes sense. Don't overload but you never know where that one TidBit of info is going to come from that just makes it happen for you..like the day on the Platter recommended SimplyMaya.com Dog tutorial. I couldn't model Cupitron until I got that free tutorial.
Digital Tutors are great for getting started. If you need to know every to get your first character or project out the door. They have completed projects that directly focus on getting you up to speed or completing a deadline. However, it's 1,2,3. If you mess something all you can do is repeat something. Most of the great speakers. There's one who isn't but he still knows his stuff. LOL. I constantly buy their video and online DL's. I credit them for my Zbrush training. (Also a Fur and lots of other stuff that I had to learn quickly on a deadline.)
Gnomonology and Gnomon Online.
Gnomon is awesome for indepth study. Alex is a genesis, fast and knows exactly what he is talking about. They also feature many "traditional" video. One area that is going to be hard to market is the "Business" of the work. Videos that actually show Behind the Scenes of full productions are going to be invaluable once uses learn the basics. Gnomon is doing this. They even have a new video where major films discuss the movies. Now that's incredible. I constantly buy their videos and their Gnomonlogy works. However, their forum see to be lacking, I asked a question about their next BTS video on rigging and never got an answer. I don't think you can get any closer to the film industry traing than Gnomon. I mean, you can watch a feature films and see one of the instructors being interviewed in the "making of" feature (Hulk: Aaron Sims). Does it get any better than that? You're watching the Hulk and you say, Hey I know that guy! There's guys understand "workflow" and not just buttons.
Without these guys I wouldn't know Maya or MotionBuilder and it's "FREE". (Ok better got better). Very complex areas of Maya I was able to learn understand. Buzz is also detailed but it depends what you are trying to learn. I have only use them for those two areas but they also teach C++, Houdini. I would also like to get into their Master Classes. Buzz and Zaks friend banter makes learning a fun process in the midst of very keen execution of advance rigging and modeling routines.
one of the Best "Full Outline" Character Animation Online training. Keith Lango' VTM training course is one of the first of it's kind. It's actually so deep and fundamental that you actually don't have to practice it to become an animator. Keith will shoot me for saying that but it's true. His is one of the first "Non App Specific" courses on animation. It's how to "Be" an animator not how to learn software buttons. You understand the core philosophy of animation foundation before you touch the keyboard. There are other course but I haven't looked at them like Jeff Lew, Animation Mentor. One that does have my interest that Keith could actually applauded with be Animation Survival Kit. I think the guy was actually one of the "Nine Old Men". I mean..what can you say to that?
They are practically throwing away these full DVD sets for cheap. They seriously changed my life. They very Maya specific but they have help me with immensely with my EIAS workflow. They are probably dated now but it's stuff I need to learn from them. It's very production oriented training to deal with complex problems. I would like to see more of this kind of work that deal with "tricks". Ropes, cloth, hair, fur, backpacks, winged creatures all the stuff that you want to accomplish in a character project. Often I have to find stuff like this in Max tutorial and translate the technics. With CGTK I am able to translate most of the techniques into EIAS. Most of my many advances in EIAS came from these Maya DVDs.
I only recently heard about FXPHD but what I know is great for VFX which I consider live action compositing. I haven't looked at this yet but I hear it may be great for VFX. Mind you, my main study is 3D character. Anyway there's principles and there's practical application. Great industry talk podcasts.
Is another I have become familiar with for Zbrush training.
Very good for Photoshop and tradigital stuff. I like the very inexpensive, fast DL's from thems as well as Gnomonology. Only $15 in most cases.
Yes I have purchased Max Dvds.
Use all resources available online...including YOUTUBE. You will surprised how many great tutes are there.
Tons of free Podcast as well.
Again I studied 3D <Maya, Zbrush, Character Design, StoryBoarding etc. If you are learning VFX you will probably need Keying, Tracking, Shake, Rotoscope etc.
I havent' seen this but I think it might be really want you need to get started.
AFX301 A Guerrilla Filmmakers Guide to After Effects
Once you have a clearer view of your vocation, then you can research of area of special interest.
Hopefully one day there will be more business of film and game DVDs. More like How a company works, their service.
Pixar and Disney DVDs "Making Of"s are great for stuff like that.
All the Alias/Autodesk books are good. However some of the very specialized DVDs lack structure.
This is my personal experience from the last 7 years of going from not knowing CA, modeling, Rigging or character animation to paying my rent every month as a freelance in a city where their is no 3D market.
If I didn't mention a vendor, I either forgot, or don't have work by them. Feel free to send me a DVD or sample and I will review it.
Hope that helps.
Alonzo Von Threet