Review - CGWorkshop Scripting & tool development for Maya

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  03 March 2017
Review - CGWorkshop Scripting & tool development for Maya

Okay so here are my thoughts on the course. This is going to be very long to read, so I've included some TL;DR parts throughout the page.
I've been writing this while the course was in progress, with some thoughts at the end of each week; 8 weeks in total.

DISCLAIMER: These are the subjective thoughts of ONE student only and may not be representative of the actual quality of the workshop for someone else. Even less so of the quality of other workshops.

A bit about my background (so you can have a better idea of where my thoughts come from):
I worked as a 3D artist for 3 years, mostly using maya for modelling. I had studied some programming in high school but I forgot almost everything.
Around 2 months before taking the course I started watching a course on C++ for programming in Unreal Engine, then I left it hanging and started another course: "Python for Maya, artist friendly programming".
Basically, I had some basic programming skills and knew how to use maya for modelling quite well.


A bit on the website itself: the CGMA website/platform is quite nice, but the main issue I had is that the videos are embedded from Vimeo, not YouTube, which is a pain because it’s missing all the nice YouTube features like speeding up/slowing down, the frame that adapts if you enlarge the window, etc... If you don't have 2 monitors this is very annoying.

Course review!

Instructor: Nico Sanghrajka
Attending students: 4


- Week 1

Long thoughts:
Basic introduction to the fundamentals of programming and MEL syntax inside Maya.
How to use the script editor and the help; procedures, loops, variables, conditions, etc.; basic UI stuff.
I skipped through the videos because I already knew most of the things, except for the MEL syntax and the UI things.
The assignments were quite easy overall and allowed me to do some practise with MEL.
I had some trouble with some weird syntax that wasn't working, so I took the chance to ask Nico on the forum. He replied quickly and tried to explain where my problem was. It took me 3 messages back and forth to understand what mistake I was making, but ultimately, we managed to explain each other and solve the problem.
It gave me the impression that he surely is really good at what he teaches, but not great at explaining things at my monkey-dumb level. I reckon though that it's a hard thing to do in an online course.

Also, we just learned that in this course there won't be any live Q&A sessions from the teacher, which is WHATREALLY?! ... I mean, they could have said it before you enrol, but of course not, why would you say it?! (sarcasm)

TL;DR: Introductory week, nothing crazy. Only now they told us that the course won't have live Q&A sessions, which sucks.


- Week 2

Long thoughts:
Started with a 25 mins long video on what you can do with Maya scripts. It was way too long and he often got lost on little unimportant things, which is not a problem if it was just for one lesson, but it's pretty clear that he didn't plan the lectures very much and this sometimes leads to the videos feeling like a live stream instead of pre-recorded videos.
The rest of the videos were about writing 2 example scripts. I decided to start writing in Python instead of MEL (which is allowed in this course if you wish to do so), because I find it much more intuitive to write, and also it could be used in other apps other than Maya.
The assignments were fun this time. Challenging but not too much. I asked for some feedback in the forum but I got no reply (I'm writing this at start of week 3), and I saw that also another student didn't get a reply, so I tried to reply to her myself.
Pro tip: when you are learning anything, always try to explain it to someone else, as simply as possible. This will help you a lot in wrapping your head around the concepts you are learning.

Thoughts so far: I feel like the main reasons that keep me going in this course are, 1) I really want to learn scripting; 2) I payed bloody 700$ for it. ...
I think (so far) that this course is not much better than the one I got on Udemy for 15$ (teaching-quality-wise). The only difference is that this one has some assignments.

TL;DR: The teacher wrote 2 basic example scripts. The assignments were nice and challenging. I'm still waiting a reply from 2 days ago.


- Week 3

Long thoughts:
The lectures were about 3 different scripts, a very useful mirroObject script, a createObjectOnCurve script and a resetControls. This last 2 were not very useful and contained things that could have been found by searching on google.
There is still the problem where the instructor sometimes gets stuck while writing the example scripts ("oh, this doesn't work... let's see... hmmm... maybe if I do this...").
I feel like this adds to the fact that the lectures are not engaging at all; I could be watching a youtube tutorial and it would be more or less the same. I think a good teacher shows you the way to do things and then lets you try before showing the solution.
The assignments were a good challenge and I feel I learned a lot from them.
Also, the teacher gave me the feedback on the previous assignments when I asked on the forums. Better late than never. The other guys didn't receive any feedback though.

TL;DR: Except for some one useful script, the quality of the lectures is low-average in my opinion, but the challenging assignments keep me going. I received the feedback on the previous assignments when I asked in the forum.


- Week 4

Long thoughts:
Not much better than the previous weeks. Some interesting information here and there, but most things stuff I have already discovered by myself while researching for last week assignments.
Overall the lectures are still slow with plenty of mistakes and phrases like "Uh, why is this not working... Okay if we try like this..." ... and while for some might be useful to see what mistakes you can make while scripting, I just find it very frustrating. I never heard the phrase "Learn from you master's mistakes"...
Just edit the video, jesus. It's clear that he is a professional in the field, but this doesn't mean he makes a good teacher.
In a video, referring to something of which he talked about in the 1st week, he actually said this: "Actually maybe we talked about this before, I can't really remember now..." I mean... WHAT! You are not suppose to say that; a random dude in a youtube tutorial can say it. It can happen of course, it's not a big deal, but that just make you appear very unprofessional... all these small things together make me regret taking this course.
The assignments were pretty easy this time.
Also the teacher wrote in the forums that he is going to vacation for 2 weeks starting from the next weekend, so he won't be able to answer. This is... Ugh, it takes away the teacher's feedback, which is one of the few useful things of this course. It sucks.

TL;DR: It doesn't get better. Teacher will go on vacation for 2 weeks. The other students still didn't get any feedback on their assignments.

- Week 5

Long thoughts:
Nothing has changed.
The first video is 30 minutes long but could have been summarised in 5 seconds saying: "Hey guys, there is this thing in Maya called scriptJobs, they run the specified command under certain conditions that you can find at this link here... Now why don't you try it yourself and do a simple script that does this simple thing?".
Instead it starts writing an example script with simple concepts that we already covered several times, like object attributes and conditions. It's also clear that he didn't prepare the lecture but he's making up things as he goes along, ending up repeating things and making small mistakes. Same thing in video 2 and 3, for most of it he goes through how to build a UI when we already covered this weeks ago.
Only in video 4 things get interesting and we learn something new and useful. And FINALLY the last 3 videos are something special that you often wouldn't find in any other similar course: a useful list of tips and tricks for scripting in general. This was really useful.

TL;DR: Same as previous week, except for some really useful tips in the second half of the lectures. Still no feedback on the latest assignments.

- Week 6

Long thoughts:
Introduction to Python and writing a very useful animation exporter script. Although it's still plagued with the instructor making mistakes and confusing everyone. If he just wrote the code in an IDE like anyone, most of the mistakes could have been solved in a click.
Of course, all of this wouldn't have happened if the lectures were actually thought, prepared and edited before releasing the course. I am so bitter right now...
The assignments were a joke. The last one was actually a simpler version of a script we did on week 2... yes, WEEK 2...

TL;DR: Not much to say. This week touched the rock bottom. I just want to finish this course because I paid and I want the certificate. Yeah, it's sad.

- Week 7

Long thoughts:
Mixed feeling about this week lectures. It was good overall but still suffering from the problems I already mentioned above. Some new concepts were explained very quickly and not very clearly (compared to another python course I took), but I already knew most of the things.
The assignment was quite hard for me. It took a lot of researching and I couldn't finish it in time. That was my fault of course.

TL;DR: good overall but still suffering from the problems I already mentioned above.

- Week 8

Final week: Introduction to writing plugins for Maya. A very brief introduction to a huge topic that could take its own course, but he wanted to give us an overall taste for it.
Not much to say here.


Final thoughts:
I have mixed feelings about this workshop. I surely learned a lot, but the main reason that kept me from dropping out was the money I paid for it, which is... sad?
I had high expectations for this, having read a ton of good things about CGWorkshop and how you feel like in a real class, and the teacher is your mentor, and so on...
Unfortunately, this just wasn't the case.
The quality of the lectures was low. The instructor wrote the code explaining what he was doing, often making a lot of simple mistakes that could have been edited out. The lessons were overall boring and never exciting.
The worst thing was not getting feedback for the assignments. I only got feedback for the first 2 weeks, only because I asked in the forum. From what I saw (the submission gallery is public), the other students never got any feedback at all.

Ultimately, I think this workshop is highly overpriced for its content and, unless you want to pay a lot to get the motivation out of you, you might want to look for other resources out there.
 
  08 August 2017
I had taken the rigging with Nico....had issues with the reverse spine setup...never got it to work...didn't get the chance to ask him either (heavy workload) so I kind of feel like I didn't get the opportunity to get much out of the class after week4. 

Last edited by bujin9 : 08 August 2017 at 05:52 PM. Reason: wrong post
 
  09 September 2017
I don't remember doing anything with a reverse spine, sorry :/
 
  09 September 2017
Detailed review.
Main reason I do not purchase CGsociety courses is price. Who pays $700 for the intro course (But people do)? For example introduction to Arnold was very basic for it's price.
Other websites have intro courses for much less price. That's what I think about CGsociety courses.

I purchased "Python for Maya, artist friendly programming" course months ago but only started watched it few days ago. What do you think about this course?
 
 
  09 September 2017
Originally Posted by Giorgus: I purchased "Python for Maya, artist friendly programming" course months ago but only started watched it few days ago. What do you think about this course?
I finished that course and I think it's great. It's clear and covers many topics in depth. It goes very fast though, be prepared to pause a lot. Also it doesn't really leave you space to pause and do the work by yourself.
So my suggestion is: try to not simply watch and copy whatever he does, but pause after the explanation and try to write the code yourself... then un-pause and see what he did differently compared to you and correct yourself; this is the best way to learn, in my humble opinion.
 
  09 September 2017
Thank you
                         
 
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