Life Changing Decision...need insight please!

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Old 03 March 2010   #1
Question Life Changing Decision...need insight please!

Hi. I have a huge life decision coming up and I need some insight, advice, or constructive input. Before I say the decision, let me give you a bit of background to better understand my dilemma. I'm a 26 yr. old single, full-time father. Me and my daughter currently live with my parents due to financial issues. I make almost 33k a year, but with daycare and other bills, I can't afford to pay for my own place. I don't get child support because I don't know where her mother is seeing as she's been gone for over 3 years now. I graduated from ITT (biggest waste of time ever) and I'm still paying that 33k loan off to this day. The job I currently work doesn't pay too much more than this and there's not a whole lot of opportunity for growth and/or promotions. They took away any and all matching/contributions to our 401k from them and it's in a field I can't stand. When I went to ITT I wanted to VFX/Animation/Modeling. Something pertaining to those three fields. I was duped, but I was determined to finish seeing as my daughter was going to be born soon and I thought I could still use the degree for a slightly decent job. I was wrong. It's been 5 years since I graduated and I still haven't hit those fields.

Now that you have the background, here's the decision. I have a chance to go to SCAD for a 4 year degree in VFX. My daughter would stay with my parents. I'm currently going to a community college to get what classes I can out of the way so I won't have to be gone as long from my daughter. I'm just concerned with the amount of the loan I'll have to take out. Will the job be worth the investment/risk? I know a job isn't guaranteed, but I already know a decent amount about those fields (not enough to land a job yet) and I want to go to school to learn from a professional in the industry who can teach me standards and what not. I feel this would help hone my skills and help me put together a good reel. Yes, I could teach myself, but who's going to pay for my daughter's daycare if I'm not working 50 hours a week? Who's going to pay my other bills? If I go to school, then my parents will pick up the daycare, but not if I'm not going to a real school. So again, would the pay from a job, if I theoretically landed one, be worth the risk? I don't want to go and realize that a job STILL doesn't pay enough money to support me and my daughter while paying off those loans. Please, no flaming, etc. I just need some insight into the industry or people's experiences. Also, if you know of another school that has a really good education in those fields that might be potentially cheaper, but still produce excellent quality reels, let me know. Those suggestions are welcomed.

Last edited by MPiland : 03 March 2010 at 07:38 PM.
 
Old 03 March 2010   #2
if someone told you to go a head and take the plunge and add more to your debt would you still do it? knowing that there's no guarantee of landing a job after you finish school? the only difference between the cg/art industry and any other industry is that the companies you'll be applying for would hire you for your work and not for your diploma. this could be to your advantage given your current situation.

my advice would be to first take care of your debt. keep your job. at this point, having income is better than none...spending money you don't have and adding to your debt isn't a wise decision no matter how you try to justify it...the fact that your parents are helping you out with your kid is a huge deal on its own. like i mentioned before, a diploma isn't what cg companies hire you for. they hire you for the quality of your work/demo reel. so do cg on the side, after work or on your free time. lots of affordable training dvds, just save up for a decent computer setup and work away. reality isn't so much about doing what you want to, but doing what you have to. make smart decisions and good luck!
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Last edited by ragdoll : 04 April 2010 at 02:55 AM.
 
Old 03 March 2010   #3
All opinions from the web should be taken with a grain of salt.

CG education in general isnt ready for the financial commitment asked quality wise. Get a part time job so you can stay at home with your kid and do workshops and tutorials in you own time. They grow up too fast and those little gifts from heaven should be enjoyed while they can. A folio will get you a job.
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Old 03 March 2010   #4
That was my other thought, to be honest. I really don't want to go, I just figured it would teach me what I need to know and to make those networking connections. On the other hand, I have my little brother who's about to graduate from SCAD and hopefully start working for Pixar. That would be a great connection right there. It's such a hard decision.
 
Old 03 March 2010   #5
Edited: Nevermind, if you have a brother at SCAD you've heard most of what I have to say.

As an aside, does "hopefully" mean he was an intern and hopes to be offered a full time position or does hopefully mean he is one of the delusional many (no offense) that for some reason believe there is a job at Pixar waiting for them? I find this thought pattern disturbingly common in VSFX undergraduates who somehow think even though their work is not of feature film caliber that they are going to be able to compete for jobs with industry veterans, which is why I ask.

Last edited by Almaghest : 03 March 2010 at 10:59 PM.
 
Old 03 March 2010   #6
What the most pragmatic thing you could do, at this stage, is to give yourself a 6month test period. Make it your mission to have as much quality material for your demo reel as possible...just as if you were in a production environment, and you're trying to squeeze as much as you can in a short span of time.

Make a plan...you'll find you won't get too far without one. Decide exactly what job in 3D production you'd enjoy most, and let that be the focus for this 6 month period. If it's modeling, find the best DVD/online training content for the task and type of content you're interested in doing. After you've gone through that training material, modify it sufficiently so that it's not so easily apparent that it's content from a tutorial. Then, perhaps take what you learned and model a few other different one's on your own. You could also follow along in the tutorial, and instead of modeling exactly what they do, make it something of your own choosing and try to adapt to what is being taught.

Being proficient in a number of areas might be great if you were planning on being a generalist, but it takes you the long way around the block, as opposed to focusing on being a specialist. If you really dig sculpting in ZBrush, just get after it and sculpt the hell out of some models in that 6month period. Your chances of getting hired on thereafter are far better than trying to master everything...which you won't do anyway...not in that time frame.

What this period will do is reveal the level of dedication you have as well as your ability to focus on the task at hand; and it can help you develop some good habits. Let it be a 6 month sabatical from entertainment...abstain from any TV or internet browsing during the week, except perhaps 30 min before bedtime. Reward yourself a little on the weekends if you've been meeting your goals during the week.

If after this 6 month period, you haven't gotten much done, then you may find that you need the externally imposed discipline that school provides (in some measure anyway). You have the luxury though, of being interested in a field that offers a wealth of training material outside the college environment. If you are taking classes at a Community College, you could try to do an Internship, thereafter, at a studio close by...even a local news station, if necessary. That should give you additional material for your demo reel and perhaps a foot in the door...at least a networking opportunity and reference for your resume.

Last edited by dnashj33 : 03 March 2010 at 06:38 AM.
 
Old 03 March 2010   #7
SCAD has a reputation as a school that routinely offers half tuition scholarships (they offered me one years and years ago out of high school) and they have done so for many others.

I'd polish, polish, polish your portfolio on the cheap at the cc level and keep talking to reps at National Portfolio Day until they deem you good enough to offer you scholarship money. Even if it took several years to do, the main thing is that receiving scholarship money would make a huge difference in your financial outlook long term. Especially since you already have a large debt, I think you have to carefully weigh taking on any more, with a daughter. Don't pass on to her the lesson that taking on great debt is the solution to a problem.

Also I'd be realistic and honest with yourself about your skill level - if you are not able to receive scholarship money, you will have to evaluate how competitive your skills will be in a very tight market.

I would never discourage someone from 'pursuing their dreams', but that catchphrase is an overused term used by those who stand to profit from those who are willing to go into any amount of debt - be smart and plan your course of action wisely.

Where are you geographically located?
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Last edited by Rebeccak : 03 March 2010 at 06:18 AM.
 
Old 03 March 2010   #8
I was going to point out exactly what Rebecca was saying about scholarships. SCAD is very generous with them compared to most private art schools and you can keep submitting over and over again until you get the money you need. Just remember SCAD likes traditional art in undergrad portfolios, it doesn't have to relate to your field of study at all.

I know how hard it can be to focus and get quality work done when you have family life/50 hours of work on your plate. Perhaps if you can get the scholarship money and grants/loans you need, SCAD would be worth your time just to be able to have a place to focus on your goals for a couple years. But like someone else said - SCAD will always be here waiting and the VSFX program and facilities are only getting better every year.

Also another thing to consider is what you want to specialize in, because some areas like modeling and animation are very competitive and much harder to get a high paying job in (I wouldn't recommend SCAD for either of these tracks), while other areas (namely shader/texture artist, rigging TD, render TD/wrangler, and anyone good at Houdini) are in much higher demand. Knowing what you want to specialize in will also allow you to make the most of your time at SCAD if you were to come here, versus most undergraduates who waffle around between specializations sometimes up until right before they graduate.

I think that attending a state school to study commonly offered things like computer science could be just as beneficial to you. Would your parents consider this "real school" and help you out? Maybe you could be closer to your daughter that way as well. A computer science background is just as useful, if not more useful, than a BFA in VSFX will be, especially because it will help you get those higher paying jobs. A much cheaper CS degree + training in CG on the side may in the long run be not only cheaper but set you apart from others applying for entry level jobs (most of my peers have little/no knowledge of programming/scripting which are very valuable skills to entry level artists.)
 
Old 03 March 2010   #9
smaller shops might be the only place that would consider comp sci as useful, the smaller the shop, the more generalist they want their employees to be...and by small i mean like a start up company or one that's still growing...larger studios would prefer to hire someone that's really good at just one thing...if you check say Pixar's website, they have comp sci as a requirement for interns applying for the TD department...the more programming languages you know the better your chances. so pick your target, and go for it...tho at this point it would be more beneficial for you to specialize rather than generalize. if i were to specialize i'd go for animation, but that's me. knowing you took comp sci, maybe you'd prefer to become a TD, technical and artistic sides are completely different but still need to understand each other to work well together. again, lots of information available online. i also agree with what dnash said...if you're doing the self taught route, set goals and stick with them.
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Old 03 March 2010   #10
Ok, lots of good stuff here. I think I may go self taught so I don't have to leave my daughter and from what I HEAR the starting salary is, it won't be enough to offset the loan amount plus the current loans I'm paying on now. I have some training stuff and like four official Autodesk Maya Training books to get started.

When I said that my brother hopefully will get a job at Pixar I meant that he's a senior this year and applying for the summer internship. He tried last year and they told him he was the last one NOT picked. If they would've gotten one more choice, it would've been him. So he beefed up his demo reel and he's going for it again this year. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for him. What sucks, though, is that he's 5 years younger and I'm the one that got him into this stuff when I was going to ITT. I showed him 3DS Max and he fell in love. It's like he stole my dream, but I can't be mad at him for doing good, I'm very proud of him. He got a full ride at SCAD.
 
Old 03 March 2010   #11
Originally Posted by Almaghest: Perhaps if you can get the scholarship money and grants/loans you need, SCAD would be worth your time just to be able to have a place to focus on your goals for a couple years.


This is exactly why I want to go to school. It's hard to focus on goals when you're working 45-50 hours a week and raising a kid. You don't have time for much else. I wish I could afford a part time job, but I pay over 700 dollars a month just for daycare. It's ridiculous.

Oh, and Rebecca, I'm located in Ft. Worth, Texas. There isn't shit out here for schools. It's so funny when people ask me if I have considered the Art Institute...I just laugh.
 
Old 03 March 2010   #12
Originally Posted by Rebeccak: SCAD has a reputation as a school that routinely offers half tuition scholarships (they offered me one years and years ago out of high school) and they have done so for many others.

I'd polish, polish, polish your portfolio on the cheap at the cc level and keep talking to reps at National Portfolio Day until they deem you good enough to offer you scholarship money. Even if it took several years to do, the main thing is that receiving scholarship money would make a huge difference in your financial outlook long term. Especially since you already have a large debt, I think you have to carefully weigh taking on any more, with a daughter. Don't pass on to her the lesson that taking on great debt is the solution to a problem.

Also I'd be realistic and honest with yourself about your skill level - if you are not able to receive scholarship money, you will have to evaluate how competitive your skills will be in a very tight market.

I would never discourage someone from 'pursuing their dreams', but that catchphrase is an overused term used by those who stand to profit from those who are willing to go into any amount of debt - be smart and plan your course of action wisely.

Where are you geographically located?


Well, I was trying for SCAD's academic scholarship because my GPAs were always above 3.8, but they recently lowered their max amount to only 10k a year while the school still costs roughly 40k a year to go to. So that's 30k a year and I'm estimating I would have to go about 3 years if I took all the semesters including Summer. That's 90k in loans, add interest and then add my current 34k loan. That's a huge payment. This is why I think I should just discipline myself and go self taught. I just don't have much time for anything. Hell, I don't even go out with my friends as it is.
 
Old 03 March 2010   #13
Originally Posted by Almaghest: Also another thing to consider is what you want to specialize in, because some areas like modeling and animation are very competitive and much harder to get a high paying job in (I wouldn't recommend SCAD for either of these tracks), while other areas (namely shader/texture artist, rigging TD, render TD/wrangler, and anyone good at Houdini) are in much higher demand. Knowing what you want to specialize in will also allow you to make the most of your time at SCAD if you were to come here, versus most undergraduates who waffle around between specializations sometimes up until right before they graduate.


I was thinking about going into dynamics. I like particle systems a lot and After Effects. I truly like the whole aspect of it all. 3D modeling was so much fun, but I think I would get burned out if it was a job. Dynamics I think I could do, though.
 
Old 03 March 2010   #14
Collin County community college is very close to you and actually has one of the ONLY Computer Animation degrees at a community college in the country. I took some studio art classes there while living in north Dallas and had a professor for Drawing I that was actually better than most of my studio art professors here at SCAD. That Drawing I class DID transfer so that is an excellent place to look at getting your foundations done with and transferring them to save even more money.

Are you positive that this does not mean you could get a combined academic/artistic scholarship for $10,000? There appears to be nothing on SCAD's website stating you cannot qualify for both scholarships, e.g. you could get $10k for your GPA and $5k for your portfolio for a total for $15k, max $20k.


.larger studios would prefer to hire someone that's really good at just one thing...if you check say Pixar's website, they have comp sci as a requirement for interns applying for the TD department..


The fact that Pixar has computer science requirements/suggestions indicates that large studios DO want to see that you have a multifaceted education. They are looking for specialists meaning they do not want people who can model, texture, and light semi-well, they want people who can do one of these things very well. Animators are probably the only people in the pipeline not expected to have any technical background. I would not advise taking out heavy loans to specialize in Animation because the competition is FIERCE. EVERYONE besides concept art/graphic design and animation will benefit from programming/scripting knowledge and familiarity with LINUX.

Anyway Mehkit specifically mentioned VSFX so I immediately assumed he wanted a technical position, in which case a computer science background would be helpful. Many of the people here at SCAD blowing away everyone else's work have backgrounds in computer science/software development that has allowed them to pick up on things like MEL very quickly that make their workflows infinitely more productive. An FX TD especially would benefit from Python/MEL knowledge, no doubt about it.

SideFX seems strangely open to who they accept as interns. I have known people who had only generalist knowledge of Maya and a very basic exposure to Houdini (but computer science background) that got into the internship, did incredibly well, and got hired as FX TD's almost immediately afterwards. This is food for thought. If you can get into it, that internship is said to be one of the most beneficial in the industry.

Last edited by Almaghest : 03 March 2010 at 06:48 PM.
 
Old 03 March 2010   #15
Originally Posted by Almaghest: Collin County community college is very close to you and actually has one of the ONLY Computer Animation degrees at a community college in the country. I took some studio art classes there while living in north Dallas and had a professor for Drawing I that was actually better than most of my studio art professors here at SCAD. That Drawing I class DID transfer so that is an excellent place to look at getting your foundations done with and transferring them to save even more money.

Are you positive that this does not mean you could get a combined academic/artistic scholarship for $10,000? There appears to be nothing on SCAD's website stating you cannot qualify for both scholarships, e.g. you could get $10k for your GPA and $5k for your portfolio for a total for $15k, max $20k.




The fact that Pixar has computer science requirements/suggestions indicates that large studios DO want to see that you have a multifaceted education. They are looking for specialists meaning they do not want people who can model, texture, and light semi-well, they want people who can do one of these things very well. Animators are probably the only people in the pipeline not expected to have any technical background. I would not advise taking out heavy loans to specialize in Animation because the competition is FIERCE. EVERYONE besides concept art/graphic design and animation will benefit from programming/scripting knowledge and familiarity with LINUX.

Anyway Mehkit specifically mentioned VSFX so I immediately assumed he wanted a technical position, in which case a computer science background would be helpful. Many of the people here at SCAD blowing away everyone else's work have backgrounds in computer science/software development that has allowed them to pick up on things like MEL very quickly that make their workflows infinitely more productive. An FX TD especially would benefit from Python/MEL knowledge, no doubt about it.

SideFX seems strangely open to who they accept as interns. I have known people who had only generalist knowledge of Maya and a very basic exposure to Houdini (but computer science background) that got into the internship, did incredibly well, and got hired as FX TD's almost immediately afterwards. This is food for thought. If you can get into it, that internship is said to be one of the most beneficial in the industry.


The only problem with the a portfolio is that I don't have one. All my work was lost a long time ago before I even seriously considered going into this. I'm currently taking classes at Tarrant County College and they are going to transfer, I made sure of that. Fortunately, SCAD does have special consideration scholarships that I might be able to receive. I'm still going to apply and see how much of a scholarship I can get before making my decision. If I'm not mistaken, doesn't SCAD offer some computer science classes? I suppose it would be cheaper at a comm. college, but I was trying to get into SCAD this fall. I don't want to wait much longer because then my daughter will be older and I'll miss more of her school years than I would like. So, I'm still going to apply and wait for that letter, then make my decision. But thank you all, you have given me much to consider. I appreciate it.
 
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