Study plan


Hi eveyone,
I started learning C.G. one year ago.
After consulting various forums, I enrolled on one of the biggest online schools 6 months ago.
During these 6 months I have tried several SW programmes.
I have also watched a lot of trailer and showreels by C.G. artists and have decided to go into the movie sector.
Unfortunately, I live in Italy at the moment and haven’t got the money to go to the U.K. / U.S.A. / Canada to do a professional course.
I am currently out of work and have a lot of freetime.
I am writing this post to ask for assistance with creating a 6-month study plan to simulate a prefesional course.
So far, I have established the following through various forums:

  • Maya is still industry standar for movies.
  • Houdini will become the new industry standard.
  • In U.K. Maya is more used than Softimage instead in U.S.A. Softimage is more used than Maya.
  • It is necessary to learn 3DS vbecause its modelling tools are the best and it would give me the additional option to entering the gaming sector in the future if I decide to.
  • It would be good to lear Mari because it will be place Photoshop as the industry standard for texturing.
  • For molelling artists, it is also necessary to know a sculpting programs like ZBrush and / or Mudbox.
  • Zbrush is better than Mudbox for sculpting but Mudbox is better tha ZBrush for texturing and compatibility with Autodesk.
  • It’s important to focus on only one sector but understand the basics of all the C.G. sectors. And as such, an eventual study programme could include:
    ° Modelling and texturing.
    ° Rigging and animation.
    ° Lighting and rendering.
    ° VFX like Flame, smoke and fluids.
  • If I decide to specialize in VFX using Houdini and / or Maya (Eg. Flame / smoke / fluids), I will need to have strong knowledge of all sectors of the program(s).

Please could you let me know if my information is correct and I am on the right path. Please could you alse add any additional information that I have omitted above.
Any suggestion that you might have to help me create a detailed study plan would be more than welcome.

Eg. (Considering that I have 8 -> 10 hours of freetime per day to dedicate to my studies).
Week 1 + 2
-> Please advice me of what I should be able to create by the end of this time period and which skills I can expect to have learnt.

Week 3
-> Please advice as above.

Week 4 + 5
-> Rigging… etc…

I know that 1 - 2 weeks on each discipline is not enough, but my idea is to try to simulate a prefessional course with realistic objectives and I need your guidance to help me.

I would also like to get some experience working as a member of a team on a real project (Even in a limited capacity and obviously for free) to understand the workflow of a project in real time.
Is there anybody who could help me or let me know I can contact?

Thank you all in advance for your help and I hope that this guide can be helpful to pthers who are starting out like me.


Hi There,

Good that you have done some research on this subject, and I bet by searching this forum even further you might find a lot of additional useful information.

First of all, don’t be to negative about Italy and their vfx industry. It has one, and there must be at least a few places that are a good fit for. Find those places and find out how you can fit in. Nobody starts at the top, remember :wink: I come from the Netherlands, a tiny movie industry, and still they have heaps of exciting stuff going on.

The thing that struck me the most from your post is that you are very new to this field, but very serious at the same time. I feel like you want to move too fast. Most of us here have played with 3D software for ages before even considering doing it as a profession. Although any time spend on learning and moving towards a goal is good, 6 months might be to short.

I think in general it is good to come up with a few projects for yourself. Goals really. Moddel a detailed house, car, etc. Texture it. Light and render a scene. Animate a character. Keep the projects small at first. They will frustrate you as it will be hard to get what is inside of your head. I guess at some point you might think of a little short (full cg, or combined with real footage) where everything comes together. After that its just a matter of getting better and better.

This way you’ll build a portfolio while learning (as long as the end result is good enough) and you’ll figure out which part you like most so you can focus more on that.

So I can’t really help you with your study plan, but I hope this will help you out a bit.

Oh and remember that software is just software. Although it helps to to work with a program that you might end up working with, its more about the theory and the understanding of how things work. I can garantee you that at some point you’ll be forced to move on to another program. Like you said, Houdini looks promising, but I don’t think we will ever be seeing a one software monopoly again (not that it has been a Maya monopoly though).


While I don’t agree with all of your points, I think your overall research looks to be good.

  • Houdini will become the new industry standard.

uh… :wink: well… i wouldnt hold my breath… while Houdini is great, its clearly not “everybodys style”

  • In U.K. Maya is more used than Softimage instead in U.S.A. Softimage is more used than Maya.

and that cant be right ;) ... Maya has far more users in the US than Softimage.... maybe this would work: " In the US and Europe, Maya is used more than Softimage, while in Japan, Softimage has (probably ;) im not sure about this…) a bigger userbase than Maya…


One thing to keep in mind that will never change, is that knowing what to do with those tools, and not necessarily knowing the latest and greatest. For example: Mari is steadily becoming the global standard, but the final result could be achieved in Photoshop regardless.


Overall I wouldn’t get too wound around specific software solutions as much as the concepts being applied. No matter what program your using you need to know how to perform things like creating effective topology, understanding how rigging deforms a mesh when animated to troubleshoot issues, wrapping and unwrapping UVs, etc. Numerous programs accomplish the same thing just with different workflows which usually can be learned quickly if you already know what you want to accomplish.
I have jumped between max and maya quite a bit and even though the processes can be quite a bit different I usually don’t have much hindrance since I know the concepts behind what I am trying to accomplish. Once in a while I might have a small issue like recently trying to generate 3d text which for me was extremely easy in max but I had to do some digging to perform the same operation in maya.


Id first start downloading some trial software and actually seeing if you like using it, it really doesn’t matter what you use, its the end result that matters and you will find quickly what software you like using.



Thanks to all for your helpful replies.
I understand that I will need to focus on only one sector but at the moment, I’m still undecided between modeling, animation and FX.
Over the next few months, I would like to touch on the essential parts of these sectors to help me decide.

This’s what I’m currently thinking:
Pros: D.T. has loads of modeling tutorial videos and they have recently uploaded lots of ZBrush training ideas.
I have always been fascinated by C.G. characters in films, cartoons and games.
At the moment, I understand the workflow for creating characters but I’m still learning the software.
And so, as you’ve said, it’s better to understand the workflow before knowing the software.
Cons: I think there are loads of people who are trying to learn modeling. And so, I think that this sector as saturated.
Even if I’m fascinated in ZBrush, I’m scared of finding myself in difficult because I haven’t got a background in drawing by hand.

In all honesty, I’ve watched a few animation training videos but I haven’t tried to do it yet.
I’m excited by what I’ve seen and want to find out it it’s right for me.

I’m at the same point as I am with animation. if I decide to specialize in rigging, would it be better to concentrate only this or combine it with either modeling or animation?

I thin that this would be the best choose for working in movies.
I’ve watched a lot of showreels and the results are amazing.
But I think that this sector is the most difficult and requires a solid C.G. background.
I think it would be crazy to start with this, is this true?
The only things I know from browsing the forums are that it is better to learn particles before learning fluids, there is a lot of maths in Houdini and in FX in general, it is essential to know the “C” language and that it’s important to know RealFlow.

I apologize for my newbie questions and my generalizations.
I’m just trying to understand better in order to choose the best path for me to embark on a career in this industry.
Based on your replies, I would like to use the next few months to understand better which field suits me best.
I thank you all in advance for your advice on which to concentrate on over the following months within each of the sectors mentioned to help me decide on which path to take.


If your still wanting to learn as much as possible there isn’t a rush or requirement to specialize, when I first started learning I was simply doing photography and Photoshop. My own curiosity lead me through different things from video editing to composting and eventually 3d animation. I encourage you to experiment and learn as much as you can until you find what you feel most comfortable with and enjoy. Smaller productions will still welcome generalists as they have more ground that needs to be covered with less people.
Also an expanded knowledge helps you even if yous specialize, modelers need to know what actions animators will perform so they can provide the mesh density in areas to account for deformation, same goes for riggers needing to know what actions will be taking place when constructing the foundations for us to manipulate them. The simplest way for you to learn everything would be creating your own project. One of my first personal project goals was I wanted to film a street with my camera and put a mechwarrior on the footage. This simple 10 second goal lead me thorough learning concept drawing, modeling, rigging, animating, matchmoving, rendering and compositing.


You might want to look into compositing as that is another cool field to consider :wink:


Well i am not you but maybe you are overthinking. Do it first and then think afterwards. Start small


You want too much. And why do you want to know so much? Do you need a job or spend 10 years studying to discover you’re already 30? You need not weeks but years for each of those to become good enough.

Usually people study first hard-surface modeling. Spend this half year on this, building portfolio. This will be much more productive. Zbrush will be needed only if you will model organic things, but this will require a lot of anatomy and sculpture study, so it’s not easy unless you’re a traditional artist.
Then for texturing for games using bodypaint is more convenient than Mari. Mari is more for big projects like film creature texturing, from what I heard. It had problems with overlapping uvw’s, which is not suitable for game texturing. I’d wait another several years and see if it’s polished enough to try it.

Studying lighting and compositing makes sense only after you know texturing and modeling. Also animation is a very different beast, and takes enormous time to master (5 years I think is a good bet. Or, 2 years at animation mentor just for basics).

I think if you like games, you can go with max, and if you are serious about entering into vfx and working on films, choose maya. Then bear in mind, it’s a very serious choice. It’s not easy switching from one program to another, as it will lead to consequences. Because with years you get more experience in one package, and re-learning lighting, modeling, animation, rigging, and other stuff is not so fast. So probably you will pick one and stick with it for years.
Later, I’d recommend sticking with Zbrush, as it’s faster developed and polished. AD does a bad job at improving its software. Go with Vray instead of Mental ray if you will go into rendering, as it’s the same story here.


Ideally you should start working as an intern, and after a few months you should get the idea what is interesting and what is waste of time for you.
If I were you I would send an emails to studios around Italy and ask for internship position.


As of version 1.5 Mari supports overlapping UVs, and it’s being used on some fairly high profile games projects, like Starwars 1313 from LucasArts.


Hy all,
firstly, thank you so much for your interest and advice.
My ideas are now clearer.
Please bear with me and help me to resolve my last remaining doubts.
I’ve decided to dedicate the next 6 months to studying modeling full-time before deciding on which sectors to concentrate on next.
I’m already enrolled with D.T…
My goal is to enter the movie sector.
And so, it will be essential to learn Maya.
I’ve also heard that Modo is similar to Maya and may be worth learning also. Is this true?
My last doubt is 3DS because there are a lot of jobs in the games sector and so I don’t know if it would be worthwhile to learn this software to increase my work opportunities.

In your opinion, is it realistic to learn the basic of modeling in these 3 software programs in 6 months on am I expecting too much?

Thank you all for your patience.


Depends how much time and effort you put into it, start with one and become very comfortable with it. I would come up with a benchmark project that you do in each application you are interested in. For instance create a certain object, character or environment and then start from scratch duplicating the same process in a different application. This will help you learn how to accomplish the same tasks and better understand workflow variations and issues you might face.


Sometimes is not what you learn but in what order you learn stuff. I could start all over again
I would have learnt organic modelling before non-organic stuff.
NLA animation before keyframe animation.
Digital photography before learning lighting and rendering
Compositing techniques before anything about lighting and rendering


Wait, why? Starting with non-organic stuff seems far more natural, if only because it’s (normally) much easier. Trying to simultaneously learn how to capture a likeness and use the 3d tool set sounds like a recipe for frustration.


There’s absolutely nothing in your study plan about the most critical foundations of visual art, and if you go down that road, you’re going to end up just like the rest of the rejected portfolios. The lack of foundation training/knowledge is exactly what is missing from 90% of all the portfolios out there, and it’s the number one glaring weakness in most portfolios. Learning all that software and production pipeline will only take care of your technical ability, but if your artistic sense is terrible, you’re still going to produce really weak and amateurish looking work. Polishing turd is what most people do in the rejected portfolios. They know how to operate the software and create detailed models, renders, animations, etc, but with horrible composition, bad anatomy, stiff and inexpressive looking characters, incoherent and ineffective lighting, weak color sense, clumsy stylizationetc.

You absolutely must study the critical foundations of visual art, such as composition, perspective, lighting/values, color theory, anatomy/figure, etc. In fact, you should be focusing on the foundation in your first year of study, and then as you learn all the software stuff, you should continue to supplement with more advanced foundational studies.

You might want to also read this:


Yeah, it’s not obvious, but most of the time you will sort out not technical but artistic problems. If you want to become good at all those disciplines, you will have to learn tons of material - classical lighting, photography, composition, anatomy, sculpture, concept design, compositing theory, topology, painting for texturing etc. Then you’ll have to practise it. It’s an enormous amount of information.
For gamedev, you can model in maya, no big problem. Go with maya if you want to work in vfx. If you specialize just in hard-surface modeling, then later you will be able to switch packages in 2 weeks.
I think starting with organic is too complex, and it’s a different kind of job. Learn to model environments, vehicles, game props of the current quality bar and higher. Look for requirements of quality for VFX modelers and make your portfolio appropriate for this position.