Animation Mentor experience?

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  03 March 2011
Animation Mentor experience?

I've been interested/dabbled in 3D for years, even did some professional 3D animation at my current job, but am ready to make a change and make a career out of it. I've been thinking about applying to Animation Mentor for years, and might finally take the plunge and apply for the summer term, but before I do I want to be sure that I can handle it. I've already reached out to them and been able to email a few current students for insight, but I thought I might try here and see if anyone who has already completed the program can give me another point of view.

Right now I work part time, three days a week, and can't afford to quit in order to attend school. AM can offer loans that cover partial living costs, but certainly not enough for us to live off of for 18 months. I also have a 6-month-old, and while he's cared for when I'm at work, I watch him pretty much all day when I'm home. So realistically, I will likely only be able to do my coursework when he's asleep, or if I can get another day or two of daycare. I know this doesn't sound like much, but conservatively I think I can squeeze 20-26 hours out of a week, though my success will be more dependent on efficiency than available hours.

So my question: is there anyone else out there with an extremely condensed schedule who was able to make this program work? I know it's intensive, I understand that. I'm not naive, just inexperienced in how the program works. But I wonder if it will be possible for me to finish the coursework by focusing intently on the time that I have, or do I need to plan to have the actual hours available? i.e. is it possible to get done what they say is 10 hours of work within 5 hours, or no? What are other people's experiences?

Just to help focus the very helpful answers I'm sure to receive, here are a few preliminary answers to obvious questions:


  1. I want to work in 3D entertainment, I've known that for years. While modeling and lighting interest me, I think that animation is the process which I may most enjoy. And yes, I've had experience doing things like lip syncing and mocap in Poser, but obviously that's nowhere close to character animation in Maya.
  2. I am not an expert in Maya, but I am competent enough at an intermediate level that I don't think I'll have a huge learning curve.
  3. I am willing to give up everything else other than my day job and family to make this happen, even if it means I never finish Dragon Age II.
  4. My husband is encouraging and realistic enough to know that he will have to pull a lot more weight around the house, but I also can't forgo my responsibilities to make this happen.

If anyone can help give me some insight so I know what to realistically expect, or at least help me understand what I have to plan for to make this happen, I appreciate it. Waiting a year or two is of course an option, but given my current job satisfaction level and burning desire for something else, I really hope I don't have to wait. I need to make a change now, or continue to suffer in this corporate hell-hole that is my life. (I'm open to other suggestions!)
 
  03 March 2011
I should also note this, because I've heard the counter argument in a lot of threads and requests for info about schools:

I've been working long enough to know that I'm the type of person who functions much better within a structure and curriculum than outside of it. Work and school, assigned projects, goals and deadlines motivate me in a way nothing else can. And while I do some self-taught learning at home, I am never as productive as I am when I have a job or an assignment to do. Not to mention that I truly believe the mentor/student relationship is something that is undervalued in this day and age of the self-taught guru, and I personally will always find more value learning from a professional than I will trying to teach myself.

That's why I'm looking at highly focused online schools, and not worrying about just doing some tutorials at home in my spare time.
 
  03 March 2011
Hello,

I am AM graduate of winter 2010 and I can only say that it is really worth time and money.
If animation is something that you wish to focus on that it is the right place.
Also about time needed... I was working not full time but overtime while attending animation mentor. Last two, very important terms, I had only like 4 hours per week to spend on AM work and that is really nothing but I still managed it. It depends much of your previous experience and speed. But 20-26 hours per week you should be fine.
First 2 terms you won't have any problems, more time intensive work comes after term 3 and especially in 5 and 6 where you are working on acting shots and there is a lot of polishing involved which is really time demanding.
Also if at any time you feel that you don't have enough time or that lectures are moving to fast you can always take leave of absence one term and use that time to strengthen what you learned so far and then continue next term.
Well that is in short.. I hope it helps.

Also community there is really really great and helpful and that is also what will keep you going.
Wish you all the best!

Mirko
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  03 March 2011
http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthr...?f=289&t=147156
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  03 March 2011
I'm not married and don't have kids, but I did have a full time job while attending AM. you can still make time, even if you're very busy. I've met lots of students who have kids. Once, a student was feeding his baby during Q&A. evidently, they have jobs, too.

And it's definitely worth it. if you're willing to give it your all, that is. the AM experience is what you make of it. lots of people graduate with sub-par animation skills. But if you have the talent and are serious about it, you'll learn a lot.

you don't need to know an awful lot about maya, just learn the basic tools, and be familiar with the curve editor. they also provide crash courses before you start if you need them, but intermediate maya knowledge should be just fine.

good luck, and enjoy it!
 
  03 March 2011
@MrP - I saw that thread, but it seemed like a lot of questions and very few answers. Thanks for sharing it though!

@mirkoj & @aboullous - Thanks! Those are the type of experiences I wanted to hear about. Interestingly, the staff I've talked to at AM is rather discouraging (maybe they just want to be sure I'm serious?), but the students I've talked to have been very encouraging. It helps to know that people are joining from all different work and family situations, and that you can still get through the last term on about 4 hours a week. What this tells me is that my potential failure will be due to a lack of talent and dedication, not a lack of time, which is how I prefer it.

It's nice to know that I could take a leave of absence and then pick up where I left off, too. Thanks!!!
 
  03 March 2011
I'm a class 3 student at AM, just about to move into class 4. And I'm a full-time AM student; I don't have other responsibilities outside of my irl social life, so I don't know how much this will relate to you.

First of all, I want to say that (and I'm trying to be as ubiased as I can here) AM is the best place to learn character animation in the world. Places like CalArts and Sheridan and whatnot have their rockstars, but AM, from everything that I've seen, produces the consistently best work.

Now, for the caveats. Like aboullous said, you can only get out from it what you put in. I've been realizing recently that my own work is still very bland and generic, and I've definitely not yet found my artistic voice. Partially because of that, working on the assignments can be kind of daunting, and I tend to procrastinate (out of intimidation, really) until I know that I have to start doing it or it won't get done on time. Being an online school, it has to rely on the students to be really self-motivated. I'm absolutely nuts about animation and I'm full-on passionate about it, but motivating myself to start working is certainly difficult.

I really regret not getting into art sooner than I did. I was only switching gears from either a career in physics or in computer programming to a career in art about a year before finding AM. But being here at AM and seeing these great artists around me, it can be intimidating. I have the drive, and the work that I do, it's the hardest I've ever worked in my life. I'm sure that finding my voice will alleviate me from this intimidation to get started on each assignment, but for now, it's there.

So, AM gives you the resources to be great. But it really is up to you to be motivated enough to do the work. And, especially in your case, it's up to you to be motivated enough to do the work in the little time you have, and to really, really dedicate yourself to it. It's not impossible, certainly not. But it will be very hard, I'm sure. I probably actually spend a total of 15-25 hours a week on my assignments. I know I should be spending way more on them (and I know I WILL have to later on) but, again, getting started is the hardest part.

Maybe this post has some decent information for you, friendo. But when it comes to wanting to become a character animator, AM will NOT disappoint.
 
  03 March 2011
Thanks Ibeechu, it's really cool to hear these personal experiences and meditations on what you're going through while attending AM.
 
  03 March 2011
Another question - did anyone take the Maya Springboard workshop? How is it? As I said, I'm competent enough in Maya to say I'm intermediate...but I'm no expert by any means. What does this class cover? Is it worth it to spend the extra 3 months? Do you have to pay for it, or is it included in the overall tuition?

Thanks!
 
  03 March 2011
If you say you have intermediate Maya skills, I very much doubt you'll need the Springboard. Really, as long as you know how to navigate, and how to work with keyframes and the graph editor (in class 1, there's a video lecture that goes pretty in-depth into the graph editor, too), you'll be good. I didn't take the Springboard, but I knew a couple people who did. It's really intended for people who have never touched Maya, and the stuff that gets taught in it are really, really rudimentary. Like, if you've taken any formal class on Maya before, you're overqualified already, and I don't think you'd get anything new from Springboard.

But even so, if you want the refresher anyway, I think it's actually either 1 or 2 months, not 3. And I think the price is adjusted accordingly, but it's not included with the AM tuition; it's treated as a separate class.

Hope that helps and I hope I didn't get any information wrong :P
 
  03 March 2011
Thearetical,
I have also been thinking about joining AM for a while and might do so in the summer. From what I have heard, the maya springboard program if for total beginners and so I do not think you will need it. Frankly, IMO just watching tutorials from Digital Tutors and practicing it will probably be enough. Like ibeechu said it is around 1-2 months and it is not included in the whole tuition. Cant remember exactly how much it cost but I think it was less than $1000. BTW does anyone know what happened to the AM thread under "online classes" and the ianimate tread as well?
I had some questions about AM as well. Thearetical, if you dont mind I would like to post it here...I saw AM showreels and noticed that most are highly rendered and had intricate models for characters and set designs, so does AM also teach you to render and model as well or did students just learn them on their own and applied to their short film?
Also, has anyone seen student works from ianimate? how does it compare to student works from AM?

Last edited by Jae1234 : 03 March 2011 at 03:03 AM.
 
  03 March 2011
Originally Posted by Jae1234: I saw AM showreels and noticed that most are highly rendered and had intricate models for characters and set designs, so does AM also teach you to render and model as well or did students just learn them on their own and applied to their short film?

I'm totally stealing this thread :P

AM provides the Maya rigs for the students. The students don't have to do any modeling or rigging themselves, unless they want to have props that don't otherwise exist. In my last few shots, I've modified the characters' colors a little bit and modeled some props for them to give them costumes, as well as modeling sets for the shots. But all that was totally up to me. If I didn't know how to model, I could have just used simple geometry primitives to get the point across. Same with lighting. When I post my final shots to YouTube, I like to light and render them, but it's not necessary and the school actually recommends you not spend time lighting when you could be spending time animating.

As for the Student Showcases, those renders are actually done by the school. If your shot gets selected for the student showcase, you send them the scene file, and then they light it and render it. I'm pretty sure they also do the sets for you if you don't have one.

But, yeah, AM doesn't teach modeling or rigging or lighting. They give you all the assets you'll need to do the assignments. But, if you want some props and know how to model, you're free to do that.


Originally Posted by Jae1234: BTW does anyone know what happened to the AM thread under "online classes" and the ianimate tread as well?

I was wondering the same thing :/

Last edited by Ibeechu : 03 March 2011 at 03:41 AM.
 
  03 March 2011
thanks for the information ibeechu, great to talk to someone in the school!!
So this might be a hard question to answer since you have not graduated yet but when you say
Quote: If your shot gets selected for the student showcase, you send them the scene file, and then they light it and render it.
, if yours dont get selected, are you left to render and light by yourself to put in your portfolio? Do they help graduates to get some kind of contact with the industry in order to get started as an animator or are you pretty much on your own to market yourself? Thanks once again.
 
  03 March 2011
Smile

Hey Thearetical,

I took first 3 courses at AM about. hmm... 4-5 years ago? During the first year the school was open at any rate. At the time I lived with my GF, was going to school part time and also working quite a bit. So my AM time was pretty limited as well, usually to an hour in the evenings and maybe a few more during the weekend. I was working as a cg generalist at the time and doing some, not so good, character animations as well which I think served as extra practice for me, though. It was a bit tough but well worth it and if you're driven to learn animation, totally doable. I don't know how much the program changed since then, though.

Also at the time, in my class I think, there was a guy who had family, kids and full time job and only had about an hour or two in the evenings as well. I think his first job after AM was at ILM, if my memory serves me right.

So basically what I'm saying is if you really really really want it, you can do it. Your efficiency is going to depend a lot on how quickly you grasp the material. Since time is limited, being quick with Maya also helps a bit. For me, personally, the lectures were the most valuable part as it's loaded with the information I craved to learn. Feedback from mentor and classmates were great as well.

Best of luck and may the keyframing force be with you.
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  03 March 2011
Originally Posted by Jae1234: thanks for the information ibeechu, great to talk to someone in the school!!
So this might be a hard question to answer since you have not graduated yet but when you say , if yours dont get selected, are you left to render and light by yourself to put in your portfolio? Do they help graduates to get some kind of contact with the industry in order to get started as an animator or are you pretty much on your own to market yourself? Thanks once again.


Well remember that lighting your shot for your portfolio is completely unnecessary for recruiters. They don't care if your shot is rendered (and, if it'd done poorly, it can even be distracting). What's most important is if you have good animation. The only reason to light and render a shot is if you feel like you can do it good enough that it won't be distracting, and if you have the time. But when a recruiter is watching your reel, he doesn't care at all if it's rendered or not. He's hiring you as an animator, not a lighter.

About their job placement, apparently it's really good. The numbers are something like 70% job placement within 12 months. It was higher a while ago, like 78%, but when the recession hit, every industry dropped. But the good news is that the animation industry dropped a comparatively small amount. But, obviously I'm not a graduate so all I can give is hearsay. But I do know that they really do do a lot of things to help you get a job. They just had this year's industry night a few weeks ago where they got people from major studios to come in, so that graduates could talk to them and give them their reels. They certainly don't just give you your certificate and then throw you into the real world, though.
 
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