Advice for a noob?


#1

Hey everyone! I don’t know how often people come on here so I hope somebody sees this but I’m new to maya actually just downloaded the student version. This might be a long shot to some people but I want to have the quality that big studios have. I know it’ll take time but I’m still young. I want to use HumanIK in maya and afterwards learn Houdini. Of course it’s not easy but I’m trying. Does anybody have any advice? I’m barely in HS so my best shot is learning online.


#2

Just dont stop learning and give you a time frame around 5 years to learn it.
There are no shortcuts.


#3

Thanks for the reply! Very true. The last skill I learned actually took me five years and a couple months to master. But how did you get started? I’m still young so I know I’ve got time. Do you recommend focusing on one program at a time? Ie Maya


#4

Staying focused definitely helps, but you’ll likely jump around a bit. I think that it’s important to find a tool which is both inspiring and intuitive to use, and it might take some time to what that tool is for you. Once you find that tool, though, it would be best to stick with it so that you are spending your time learning universal principles, as opposed to nuances of specific software packages.

When I was first learning in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, I went from 3D Studio Max, to Maya, and then finally to Softimage. By the time Softimage was killed off, I was already working professionally and using proprietary software at work. Now I dabble in Houdini and Blender at home.

In terms of how to get started in learning, what are your goals in all of this? What is it that you would like to create? Knowing the answers to those questions would be helpful in regards to providing guidance.


#5

I want to make a quality five minuets short that’s rendered. I have the student version of RenderMan.


#6

Which aspect of an animated short appeals to you most? Is it the story? The character design? The character animation? The FX? The cinematography, i.e. the lighting and camera?

If you look at the credits of your favorite shorts, you’ll see that it takes a lot of people to bring these things to life. I would start with familiarizing yourself with the various stages of the production process and seeing which one appeals to you the most.


#7

I would say the animation but ultimately I want to direct


#8

The career path of someone who directs a short or full feature animated film is usually through storyboarding. Someone will start as a storyboard revisionist, then a storyboard artist, then a head of story, until finally becoming a director. This doesn’t involve any CG work, just 2d. There are a lot of great resources out there if you are interested in going down this path.

That’s not to say that someone who is a character animator cannot become a director, but it’s a lengthy detour and I’ve personally only seen it happen once.

If you’re interested in learning how to animate characters, there are online courses such as Animation Mentor and iAnimate. I’ve seen people be successful with these online courses, but they’re not for everyone, as some people do better with a structured curriculum which is offered at schools such as CalArts and Ringling.

There are some free rigs available at Animation Mentor if you want to give some of them a try:

https://www.animationmentor.com/animation-program/animation-characters/


#9
  1. ART FUNDAMENTALS. Color. Light. Composition. Anatomy. Perspective. Timing. Balance. ETC. There are numerous concepts in art that transcend medium. Learn them. Whether you’re into 2D or 3D, knowing what makes art appealing is as important as the actual creation process itself.

  2. YOU CAN’T BE EQUALLY GOOD AT EVERYTHING. Just because you’re amazing on the piano doesn’t mean that you can rock an electric guitar. They may both be musical instruments, but guitar may not be your thing. CG is no different. You might be an awesome sculptor or texture artist, but be mediocre or terrible at character animation. That’s fine. You’re human. Some people are natural born generalists. Others are better as specialists. Find your strengths and play to them.

  3. "DO I HAVE TO KNOW HOW TO DRAW?" The answer tends to be “yes”, but the truth is more complicated. Real talk? Sometimes, even the best artists can only manage to hack out stick figures. It is what it is. You might be one such artist. If so, you can certainly practice and try to get better, but you might never be great. That’s fine. You’re human. Instead of sweating over whether or not you can draw, focus on the more important issue of communication. If you’re creating a concept, your goal should be to get your ideas out there in a manner that’s clear and provides ample direction for whomever is going to implement them. I’ve seen amazing art grow out of concepts scribbled on scrap paper or napkins.

  4. KNOWLEDGE IS ADDITIVE. Crawl. Walk. Run. Fly. Every skill you’ll learn tomorrow builds on the ones that you learned yesterday. Ambition is fine, but it’d be foolhardy to attempt the creation of a mech model when you can’t even manage to a basic chair or table. When speaking of the lengthy process of creating the light bulb, Thomas Edison was once credited as saying, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work." As his rival Nikola Tesla would point out, a little math and research could’ve saved a lot of trial and error. How does this apply to CG? Every newbie wants to create something grand or epic. Ambition is great. It’s what drives our dreams. However, certain topics are advanced. You can certainly attempt to make a complex human model while you’re still a newbie. However, like Edison, you’re probably going to find 10,000 ways that won’t work. You’ll be working harder instead of smarter. Pace yourself. Learn all of the basics. Build off of them. It might a while before you’ll be ready to make a realistic human. However, when the time comes, you’ll make far fewer mistakes since you’ll be better prepared for what’s ahead of you. Every little skill you learn is like depositing money in the bank. A penny here. A dime there. Eventually, before you know it, you’ve got a dollar.

  5. KNOWLEDGE IS ALSO PORTABLE. Apps come and go. That’s a basic truth. It’s hard to imagine that a mainstay like Maya will be discontinued tomorrow, but nobody knows what the future holds. I’ve used a number of apps over the past 30 years. Some of them were quite popular and highly regarded. Today, nobody remembers them. It happens. Take some comfort however. All of those techniques that you developed aren’t lost. Quite the opposite. They’re transferable. Maya. Blender. Cinema4D. LightWave. They’re all basically the same. Sure. They have specific strengths and special features, but they’re all designed to do the same things and, usually, in the same basic manner. Mastering that first app is the hardest. Once you do, however, learning the next is easier. You won’t be starting from scratch. An extrusion in Maya is the same as an extrusion in Cinema4D or Blender. You already know the concepts and how to apply them. Moving from one app to the next, the bulk of your learning curve will finding the tools and options that you most frequently use.

  6. THE TEN THOUSAND HOURS RULE. It’s almost a cliché at this point, but it’s universally held that, to master any new skill, you need to put in about 10k hours of practice along the way. 10k hours seems like a lot, but it’s really not. To put it in context, 10k hours just about amounts to a little over 4 years of college - provided that you’re putting in the equivalent of an 8 hour day. That’s not so bad, right? It’s downright sensible. You don’t suddenly become a surgeon because of an online class. It takes years of reading, homework, and practice. Why would becoming a master 3D artist be any different? Anything worth doing never came easy.

  7. ITERATE AND REFINE. Ideas are rarely born fully formed. Just because your first sketch looks great, don’t assume that it can’t be made better or differently. Always come up with few different takes. Figure out what works and what doesn’t. Separate the strong poses and silhouettes from the weak ones. Take the very best from each version and synthesize. Polish that composite until it looks like something worth devoting the next few days, weeks, or months on.

  8. WORK PROGRESSIVELY. While we’d all love for it to be so, there’s no “Make Cool 3D” button out there. As such, everything you’ll create will be born of hard work and a few sleepless nights. Just don’t drive yourself crazy though. Big projects can seen intimidating at first. However, if you just break them down into smaller pieces and steps then they’ll seem much more manageable. Just as knowledge is additive, so is the creative process. Concept. Reference. Base mesh. Sculpt. Retopologize. UV. Texture. Rig. Animate. You should never move on to the next (harder) step until you’ve nailed down the current one. It’s easier and less time consuming to avoid mistakes early on than it is to correct them late in the process. Work in pieces. Work methodically.

  9. GETTING CRITIQUES. Stare at your work for too long and you can become blind to obvious mistakes, inconsistencies, and flaws. That’s why it’s important to have a few pairs of fresh, honest eyes helping you out. Solicit advice from your peers. Hearing that your work isn’t perfect can be hard to hear at times, but that’s how you’ll grow and get better. Just do yourself a favor. Don’t ask friends and family. They’re often more likely to spare your feelings and not tell you what’s wrong. Even if they’re honest, they’ll usually be unable to tell you in specific terms how to fix things. We all want to hear that our work is the best ever, but that’s rarely true. The best critiques are the ones that tell you what’s wrong and how to fix it. That’s not to say that every critique is right, as some things are subjective. Don’t automatically dismiss a critique because it’s negative though. Most people aren’t trolls. Most are trying to help you get better.

  10. REPUTATION IS CURRENCY. This is the one topic that no CG course or book will cover. Be kind. Be helpful. Be responsible. Be professional. The internet isn’t so big that you can hide. Your reputation WILL follow you. Say something stupid and that’s how you’ll be viewed. Do something stupid and nobody will ever work with/for you. In short, if you ever want that job or client, don’t be a dick. You can’t build a network of connections if you alienate everybody who crosses your path.

  11. DOES TOOL CHOICE MATTER? That all depends. Blender. Maya. Cinema4D. 3dsmax. LightWave. Objectively, considering all of their strengths and weaknesses, no one app is really better than the next. At their heart, they’re pretty much the same. Why wouldn’t they be? They serve the same general purpose. HOWEVER, if you want to be employable, it pays to know and understand the industry in which you hope to work. If Maya is standard in the film industry, don’t think that learning MoI (Moment of Inspiration) will take you all that far. You often have to hit the ground running and fit into a preexisting pipeline. You need to be compliant. Smaller studios may be more flexible and allow you to use other apps so long as you can exchange data. However, larger studio have stricter requirements. No studio is going to hire somebody whose CV doesn’t reflect their needs. They don’t have the time or energy to retrain you. Be aware of that job market. Research the studios.

  12. PLUGINS WON’T LOVE YOU BACK. With the click of a few buttons, a plugin can sometimes save you hours or days of work. In an industry where time is money and deadlines are tight, a good plugin can be a real time saver. However, it’s all too easy to forget that they’re not an official part of the program. That can backfire on you. Plugins sometimes (read: often) get abandoned. Either the developer finds that there’s not enough money to be made or it’s just too much trouble making it compatible for the next app version. No matter how much you love that plugin or how much time it saves you, don’t become wholly dependent on it. Plugins sometimes disappear or stop working. C’est la vie.

  13. STYLE. As a newbie, you want your work to stand out and be a certain kind of cool. You can certainly emulate your favorite artist, but you’re ultimately speaking their truth, not yours. That’s why it’s important to understand that style is something that you develop over time. You grow into it. This is why a firm knowledge of the fundamentals is essential. For example, anime characters look the way they do not because the artists don’t understand anatomy, but because they do. They know how to push the limits, but keep it believable. That requires a certain degree of knowledge and skill. Creating a personal style is all about first knowing the rules and then knowing how/when to break them.

  14. TRAINING MATERIAL. Learning CG doesn’t have to cost you a dime. Thanks to the internet and YouTube, there’s no shortage of good tutorials on any given topic. That said, your mileage may vary. A tutorial is only as good as the instructor. When it’s free, you sometimes get exactly what you pay for. You can usually find good, free tutorials on the developer’s site, but - like it or not - it often pays to invest a little money. Pluralsight and Udemy offer subscription plans that give you access to tons of tutorial with countless hours of material. Of a subscription service is not your thing, you can just piecemeal your self-education curriculum and buy the odd tutorial on sites like Gumroad or Cubebrush. Additionally, I can’t stress it enough how a good IRL old school paper book can save your life. The books that will serve you the best and last you for years are the ones focusing on concepts, not apps. Books on anatomy, color, and so on. Build a small library if you can. You’ll be glad that you did.

  15. THE EMULATION PROBLEM. This speaks to the style issue, but in a different way. In emulating somebody else, you don’t actually get to be yourself. That makes it hard for you to stand out. There are a bunch of pro artists online whose style looks all too similar. They’re not bad. They just don’t come across as unique. They don’t have a voice all their own. When, technically, you get good enough that you can start experimenting, just be you. Prioritize the elements of that appeal most to you. Whether it’s about color, fashion, proportion, or whatever, find your own way. There’s an old quote by Japanese poet Basho Matsuo. “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise; seek what they sought.” In doing so, you’re emulating their passion and driving force, but not their style.

  16. EVOLVE OR DIE. Short and sweet? Those 10k hours are just a deposit. You’re never going to stop learning. The moment you do, you’re dead in the water. There’s always some new technique or concept to learn. Even if you’re current on the latest trends, you should never stop trying to grow creatively. Stagnation and complacency are your enemies.

  17. A FAILURE TO PLAN IS A PLAN FOR FAILURE. Nobody goes to war without a battle plan or some recon. That’s a recipe for disaster. Starting a new CG project is no different. Do all of your research early on. Take photo references. Draw lots of sketches. Do lighting or color studies. Try out various poses or camera angles, depending on what you’re doing. The more work that you do now, the less that you’ll have to do later. Pre-production is everything. Even small projects can benefit from it. Just stick to the plan.

  18. QUALITY TAKES TIME. Every new artist has an idea for a cool image or animated short. It’s a little too easy to forget how much work goes into this stuff though. In the old days of 2D animation, the best Disney animators could only draw 7-12 seconds of polished animation a week. You would think that computers would make your life easier and thus save you time. While that’s generally true, the added 3rd dimension only makes things more complicated. A pro animator can, on average, only create 3-4 seconds of polished animation per week. If you’re looking to make a 5 minute character driven animated short, expect it to take you 1-2 years to complete - provided you’re looking for a highly polished pro look. That says nothing of the time it’ll take to model or render stuff. Animating in 3s, setting a new keyframe once every 3 frames, and working at 24fps, you’re looking at 2,400 keyframes that all have to be manually set and tweaked over and over. That’s why big studios employ so many animators. If it takes 2 animator 100 years to do something, it stands to reason that 100 animators can get it done in just 2 years. It becomes a numbers game.

  19. BE FLEXIBLE & REALISTIC. If you decide to go pro, stay open to the notion that you might have to relocate and move overseas. If you want to live the studio life, be prepared to go where the work is. Also, be prepared to move on a moment’s notice. Unless you’re working in some big studio, it’s not uncommon for a studio to close after the first or second major project. Funding sometimes runs dry. Projects sometimes fail to be profitable. Personality differences sometimes fracture/splinter the management. It happens. Life as studio artist is sometimes a nomadic one. I’ve got friends in the industry that have lived in London, Kyoto, and the Philippines.

  20. BE DARING, BUT INOFFENSIVE. Don’t ever forget your audience. Create a portfolio with a lot of busty, half nude characters and you’ll have a hard time finding a job at the more family friendly Disney. Likewise, you’ll have a hard time appealing to an international audience with different sensibilities. The same thing goes with too much gore or violence. You want your stuff to have an edge, especially if you’re looking to apply to some hip studio. You just don’t want it to be TOO edgy. Walk that fine line. You can make this other “too edgy” stuff if you want, but you probably don’t need to include it on the reel you make available to audiences with more delicate tastes.

  21. DIVERSIFY. Robot. Robot. Robot. Superhero. Superhero. Superhero. Pinup. Pinup. Pinup. Ideally, you want to be able to fit into any pipeline. Showing that you’re not a one trick pony and can do other things will serve you in the long run. If you can demonstrate that you’re as good at making environments as you are characters or vehicles, you’ll be far more attractive to prospective employers.

  22. BE ORIGINAL. Certain topics are a little tired at this point. Robots. Hulk. Hot girls. At some point or another, you’ll want to make one or all of these things. That’s fine. Just don’t lean on them. There are a lot of clichés that flood the internet. It’s nice that you can make an amazing Wolverine. Just know that yours will be Wolverine #1275. If you want to stand out, don’t build our portfolio on a stack of old, tired concepts that have been done to death. You may be able to prove yourself a master of execution and style, but not fresh ideas.

  23. CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE. If you’re going to work from somebody else’s concept art, give them credit. Ask permission if you can make contact. Even if the 3D version is all yours, the concept isn’t. Be honest and assume the credit that’s rightfully yours, but also give it up for the artist whose concept got you there. Also, be careful with how you create new ideas. There’s not a lot of truly new ideas out there. Everything is inspired by something to one extent or another. Just don’t be SO inspired by something else that you’re ripping it off. Acknowledge your inspirations if you must. “Hide” them if you can; That usually involves synthesizing something new by combining elements from a larger pool of inspirations.

  24. YOU’LL ALWAYS SUCK. Yep. It’s true. When you’re a newbie, everybody can see it. Your flaws and failings are on display for the entire world. Once you’re more experienced, your harshest critic will be you yourself. Others may laud your work, but - on some level - you’ll always hate it. You’ll eventually find that art is abandoned, not finished. There will ALWAYS be something that you’ll want to improve, change, or fix. On an objective level, you’re going to suck less (to others) as time goes one. On a subjective level, you’ll always suck to some degree to yourself.

  25. REST. Your physical and mental health are important. Be very careful. Weight gain. Diabetes. Repetitive stress injuries. Migraines. Lack of sleep. Anxiety. Nervous breakdowns. Chronic back or neck pain. Burnout is VERY real. CG is not a 9-to-5 job. If you’re “only” working a 40 hour week then you’re taking it easy. It’s not uncommon to put in 60 or 80+ hour weeks, especially during crunch time. There’s no job or project that is worth your life. The amount of money you stand to earn relative to the amount of time you put in, along with the physical/mental stress, might not be worth it to some people. Weigh your options. Small studios or freelance might be your thing if high pressure situations with excessively long hours aren’t.

  26. STAY UP TO DATE. You’re only as good as your last piece. Being busy is fine. Showing a lack of new work, personal or professional, isn’t. Keep that portfolio current.

  27. RECYCLE. If you’ve made a really great base mesh for a character or knife, save it. If you had to re-model the same soda bottle for every new project, you’d end up wasting a lot of time. Build a library of models that you can fall back on and kitbash from. Again, work smarter, not harder.

  28. VALUE OTHERS’ IP RIGHTS. It’s nice that you want to model that brand new Ferrari. Your probably don’t want to try and sell that model though. You might own the model, but you don’t actually own the design. Car manufacturers, for example, have started to crack down on the sale of such models. You put yourself at risk, legally speaking. You want to also be careful with fan art. A company like Nintendo might look the other way if you make Bowsette #237, but they’ll probably shut you down hard if you try to remake one of the 2D Mario games in 3D or animate a fan movie of Metroid. These companies value their own IP and rightfully so. You should too. That’s how they make their money. They don’t want anybody to dilute the perceived or monetary value. I’m sure that you’d feel the same way if you were in their position and had a property worth millions of dollars. Like BMW or Nintendo, you’d want to protect your money makers.

  29. PAY IT FORWARD. Help others as they’ve helped you. It’s only right and fair.


#10

Great post overall. I would also say however for #25 do your research on a studio’s reputation with current and former employees as well. Small studios can also mean ‘desperate startup’ which can give you even crazier hours combined with irregullar pay just before they fizzle and die! Compared to the steady-as-she goes veteran studios.

To get a idea on how reasonable the hours are talk to employees with especialy young families for example. Studios that burn-out everyone have a hard time getting and maintaining Senior Level employees. aka those that have been around awhile and settling down-not fresh out of school. Watch out for this to assess ‘constant crazy hour factor’ with those that know whats a reasonable amount of OT.


#11

I have an easy solution… I’ll specialize in Pinup Robot Superhero :slight_smile: