If you were a complete novice. Where would you start?


Alright so this forum seem to be comprised mostly of very talented and very experienced people when it comes to model, animating, and everything else going into CG production, so please excuse my, assumed to be, extraordinary leak of both.

I have always wanted to get into modelling, animation, I guess CG production in general. I remember fiddling with some obscure modeling program when I was little, in an effort to try and add models to a game (Warcraft 3) I was playing at the time. I’d say my Serpent Guard turned out alright, but I never did figure out how to actually import it into the game, and being a kid of 12, I quickly found other things to do with my time. That said I never lost the interest, and came back now and then try and build different things.

Its been a “dream” of mine to really give it a go, and see if I had what it took to become part of this industry, I just never had the time. More then that it seems like an impossible task, when pondered on with my level of ignorance. However I have been fortunate enough to have a year (or longer), with nothing to do professionally, and the economy to live without a job, so I thought this would be the time to try and make it happen!

So I’d like to ask you fine folks the following; If you were a complete novice, with aspirations of getting involving in game making/film making. What would start off learning, and in what order would you learn what? (I have a particular interest in modeling and animating, but I suspect I’d like to learning a bit of everything before I can choose which art to specializing in)

Thank you for your time and replies.

/The Novice


Learning all the technical stuff will only get you so far, if you don’t have any artistic sense. The worst rejected portfolios are always the ones where the person learned how to push all the buttons in the CG software, but not an ounce of artistic knowledge or sense. Every single image in the person’s portfolios has terrible composition, bad lighting, horrible color sense, complete lack of understanding of anatomy/figure, and not a clue on the inner workings of visual storytelling.

Read this thread: http://forums.cgsociety.org/showthread.php?f=166&t=1028244

That will help you far more than just learning how to use CG software.

As for learning how to operate CG software, the web is filled to the brim with free tutorials, and the bookstores are also filled with tons of instructional books. There are also lots of instructional videos available, and online workshops too. But without a solid foundation as a visual artist, none of that will help you rise above the intense competition in the CG market.

Learning resources for CG is everywhere these days, so in order to compete, you can’t get away with just knowing how to push the right buttons in software anymore, because everybody else has access to those same learning resources. So when everybody’s got the same technical skills and can operate the same software, what will set them apart?

It’s how good they are as visual artists that will set them apart.


Did you read the Truth about the Industry thread?

It’s the forum primer and it’s really good. Give it a go here:


Yeah like Lunatique said there is no substitute for classical knowledge. Having said that it is really difficult to immerse yourself in only theory for a year. There is so much classical traditional information you could spend an entire year just doing that, well you could spend 10 years and not be finished :slight_smile:

I remember all those years ago going through the basic tutorials that came with the 3d software which I still think is the quickest way to feel comfortable with digital graphics. Tutorials are pretty clever in that when you reach the end you do get a feeling of accomplishment. At the same time I would choose a free game engine and go through those tutorials as well. The big three are UDK, Unity3d and the Cryengine. For the Cryengine you have to buy the computer game because it has the content for the engine.

So I would split my time between studying art fundamentals, 3d application tutorials, game engine tutorials and keep an eye on the best and brightest in the world for a guiding light.

Bingo, one year gone!
Have fun.


In my opinion, knowing the engine won’t get you a job, but portfolio will. So I wouldn’t spend time in first years on the game engine, as they get outdated fast.
I agree with Lunatique. Bear in mind, all in this thread have a proper artistic education for many years. This will be very important for character modeling, but also for any other one. I would learn one by one, not trying to learn everything at once. Usually people start learning hard-surface modeling. Then photoshop knows the majority of artists. Don’t touch character modeling unless you are really certain you are into it. And if you do, start with anatomy study, preferably in a local arts school or university if possible.
For animation, you also have to start from fundamentals. Animation mentor is a good representation of how animation student should learn. They study for 18 months if I remember correctly, and it’s just character animation principles. No clothing simulation, no rigging and skinning.
Maya perhaps is a safe bet, as it’s widely used both in games and in vfx. Be careful choosing software, as it can be a big hit or miss.


I’m a newb myself, but from experience i’d say first, if you have the chance, invest in an arts education, its invaluable to have a solid foundation in what makes us artists. Fine arts, design, film school, all give you knowledge that separates you from just being a button pusher, and its the sort of learning you won’t get easily later as you do with CGI as if you had a college degree in those

Learning the programs, although its fine if it happens simultaneously, comes second. If you go to 3d modeling with a base in scupture, design, or VFX with good knowledge in photography, cinematography, composition etc, you’ll realize programs are just tools and its who you are as an artist that is important.

In animation, i.e., you’ll very soon realize the overall mantra is: learn the principles of 2d animation first. Get the Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams or other book of that sort. Its amazing how in 2012 the “rules” created by Disney’s Nine Old Man, Frederick Bean and other fine gentlemen from the 1940’s are still the stepping stones for all animation. You surely can go jump right into Maya and start to fiddle with the graph editor and make stuff move, but without the principles they wont be more than that, stuff moving on screen.

Learn the basics, learn the programs using the basics and develop your own style, make your own small projects to consolidate knowledge and most importantly: never give up! i think perseverance is on part with talent as an essential trait. You will hit walls from time to time, you will question yourself if you’re in the right area, you will even occasionally think that its “a silly dream and job x would be safer, wtf are you doing with your life”, but let me assure you that every artist I’ve known has gone through that. Never give up!

I can’t or have the experience to say that you’ll make it for sure and your dream will come true, but trust me, if you do your part at least your chances increase greatly. Good luck, work hard :slight_smile:

(sorry i just realized Kanga and others have basically said the same in other words, but as you see it is the general opinion) :arteest:


Some basic self learning at home, and then go for a pro education maybe.


Well I would take some Art History/ Design Classes.
Photography/ Lighting classes are also will help you a lot.
Learn you way around cameras, and editing.

Ok now if you want to be a TD, I would do all of the above and then
I would STRONGLY suggest an engineering degree.

If you want to be an animator,
you need to learn Anatomy, Color Theory, DRAWING, and and I would brush up on Animation history. You cna take some very good classes for this a your local COMMUNITY COLLEGE.


That is exactly how I feel but I’ve had some talks with people from Crytek on this years FMX they were not happy that I don’t work in cryengine, and that was the end of discussion basically, no job no nothing. I could’ve lied that I worked a bit in cryengine but it is unethical to me and I wasn’t desperate enough to go there, but there you go.


Is that an Engine or a cult?(I am saying that without a hint of Irony)


I would start learning CG with a fast, artist-friendly 3D software like Cinema 4D.

Then, when I understand the basics, I would learn a 3D package that is more used in industry, like Maya, Max or Softimage.

Knowing NURBS modeling in a CAD modeler like MOI 3D would also help a lot, particularly if you are going to model “manufactured looking” things.

And then of course there is post-production. Here you are looking at software like After Effects or Nuke.

Any art classes you take will also help. Particularly Anatomy/Figure Drawing, Painting and Photography.

Good luck!


Something like half year ago (if I remember correctly) I applied to Crytek Ukraine, and had two interviews, one with recruiters and then one at the Crytek office after I made the test. I didn’t manage to properly load materials on the model, as the documentation is not too easy and there are few who can help about it. They did mention it, but it seemed not like a big deal. I then decided not to apply to the final interview (I don’t know if I would pass for sure), as I didn’t want to model hard-surface and texture it for another several years (I’m just too tired from it, and the project wasn’t that interesting, not Crysis, just a PC game. And, dealing with the engine, like they said, is 50% of the time. You will be very involded with it at such a company. So then the engine dies, and all your knowledge is useless pretty much. At least, I decided it’s not what I wanted to to at that point, it wasn’t quite clear from the outset what the job is about). I wouldn’t learn an engine just in case, only if I would apply to a certain company which uses it. Remember Renderware? Right, no-one does.


Why would a TD need an engineering degree? Leaving aside the fact that TD is a broad term with different interpretations at different studios, it also covers a wide range of disciplines, like lighting, rigging, etc. I fail to see how a degree in engineering has any relevance.


To be frank.
To give the kid options.


For sure. I would love to be a lighting TD, or even just work in IT at a large studio.

But obviously its hyper competitive, and my chances are slim to none.

I just started on a computer science degree at a local CC. I’m taking mostly math classes, but when my VFX dreams fall through, at least I’ll have options.



Because it’s more relevant than an art degree for a TD. Isn’t the word Technical Director a big enough hint?

Most successful TD’s I know have started out with an engineering background. Yes, I know others with art or completely unrelated degrees, but it’s the minority.

To say that you can be a TD with any background is true, but to say that an engineering degree has no relevance is downright wrong.


In my opinion if you had 2 people applying with same experience and one has a degree most people would go for the one who has a degree.


Wauw sooo much advice! Well to be honest I have no idea what I’d specialize in, and much of the advice given seem imply that I have to pick something before starting. Its not usually how I do things, but the wealth of information given in itself is extremely useful :slight_smile:

As it is right now, I earn a living on the internet, so education isn’t something I have much of, though I at times earn a lot more then most of my well educated friends. In my opinion education is way overrated with how the internet works today, at least anything pre-university, and unfortunately for me, I’d need to sink in 3 years of mental torture, in college in order to open those doors. Given that I can make a living just fine without it, I do not plan on going there.

If something interests me I can learn it much faster and efficiently on my own, and put it to practical use much faster. Web Design for example. To get a degrade as a Web designer in denmark, will take a good 2 years, and 3/5 more if you want to go to university for it. After that you might be able to make anything when it comes to a website, but you have no real practical knowledge, nor network of people broaden your opportunity range. I got interesting in web design, which lead to SEO optimization, which lead to article writing. After 3 months I made my first profit, and after 6 months, I had small empire of 30 websites, all generating income passively. At this point i simply started outsourcing any work I needed doing for any new project, to people who were really passionate about each needed segment of the project (Online freelance websites are a dream). Invest 200-1000$ and expect a return of 50-200$ on that investment pr month, depending on varying factors.

Had I gone the educational route, experience tells I’d be bored to death within 3 months and dropped out, and even if I had spent the minimum of 2 years, I’d be no where near as equipped to make the above happen, because it doesn’t focus on real life uses, only on actual designing. Instead because I could go at my own pace, and let curiosity guide me, the above happened, and today I have the somewhat vast network of people, consisting of freelance article writers, professional web designers, and entrepreneurs, all of which I hire/get hired by, on regular basis, providing more flexible work hours, and a stable source of income then I could ever have in a standard job. It might not be conventional, and it might not be formal, but it works wonders.

I take what interests me, learn about it, use it, and then use that knowledge gained to synergies with future interests.

Its actually why I have the time to take on something like this, because unlike the above, which is just one of many examples btw, I do not see 3D modeling, animating, and so on, to be able to provide any income for a long while, though I do have plans for what I can do with it way before you’d call my a professional. I know some of you will shake your heads at this, and I’m sure I will too if I look back as this thread in 2-5 years, if I by then have figured out that this is actually a subject I can and did sink my whole life into. But learning 2D and drawing, while DEFINITELY something I want to learning, it is not what my passion is focused on at the moment, so trying to force myself to go down that route, will do nothing but kill my interest. I feel the need to start out learning this stuff, and when I start to hit road blocks, which having read all of your advice, I know will come, interest/passion will naturally guide me to learn what needs to be learning to get over it. It might not be the most formal nor step by step way of doing it, it might not even be the fastest, but I’m sure doing it this way will lead to results, rather then disappointment.

Like I said in the beginning, this doesn’t mean I do not intend on taking all the great advice. I suck information like this up, and it’ll have guide me in the coming months, of that I have no doubt :slight_smile: So I thank you very much for your time and value input, and thank you for really opening my eyes, and help create some transparency on this matter, that I’m sure would have take a lot of research to gain just by look around.


Exactly how does a degree in engineering have even the remotest relevance to CG? I’d love to hear how knowing how to design and construct buildings is going to help someone learn how to light a 3D scene.


This explanation makes no sense, Roberto. You said it was specific for a TD. How is an engineering degree useful for a TD? For a start, if you’re going to start recommending education for TDs, then you need to specify what kind of TD first. And you should then explain why your suggestion is relevant.

Posting unmotivated advice really just confuses the discussion and overwhelms the OP with options that they then can’t really make head or tail of.