A Beginners Guide to Becoming a 3D Animator
Recently graduated from Vancouver Film School. Mario Miozzo is a full-time animator and rigging artist at Trial Forge Studios. In this article Mario gives us the information and resources to be able to start your journey in to learning 3D Animation.
You Just Need A Push
Do you feel amazed by the current animation industry but still afraid that it's too complex to become a part of it? It might not seem like it, but the key to understanding 3D Animation is nothing you haven't seen already.
One frame at a time
If you open up Maya, Blender, 3D Max or any other CG software chances are you are going to feel intimidated right away. These programs have functions that range from a lot of different areas of a production. Go easy on yourself at first and focus on the essential. Learn the basics of navigating, take notes of the hotkeys and keep them next to you.
Autodesk has a YouTube channel dedicated to introducing new users to their interface. Maya has a student version if you're enrolled in a school. Blender is your other go to option that is completely free and has everything included as well. Many studios, such as Tangent Animation, have produced feature animation using Blender. The program it’s making its way into the industry
The Rookies: You are in the right place to build your portfolio and get started, what are you waiting for? Go, go!
My point is that if you have a computer and a hunger for knowledge then you’re good to become a self taught CG artist. That doesn’t exempt you from looking to enroll into a school if you have the chance. There you will find many others who are starting out, interacting with them is the key of this business.
Animators together strong.
This one is not up to debate. Going out there and joining animation communities is what is going to get you up to speed with this medium. Read about how other artist overcame their challenges, it will saved you a ton. The community has it all. From troubleshooting glitches to finding reference for your work. Here are some good places to go:
Forums: Companies such as Adobe and Blender have their own dedicated forums. There, many users can discuss their problems and aid others. Chances are most of your questions got answered there already.
Facebook: There are countless groups targeted at different areas of expertise . From these you can pick one (or join all, who’s stopping you?) that best suits what you want to focus your learning experience. The AnimChallenge Group and AnimSchool Contest are two great examples. With monthly challenges sponsored from industry professionals. These push you to improve with tons of feedback.
YouTube: Watching tutorials is the backbone of the learning process. The key is to find the right ones for what you need and a good workflow to start from. Famous animators have channels for tips and tricks that improve your workflow. A couple examples I can name are:
I Want to Be an Animator
Sir Wade Neistadt
LinkedIn: this one is no brainer. A platform that is 100% dedicated to getting you a job. LinkedIn works as a sort of meet-and-greet where you can connect and share work to the industry. Also there are job opportunities posted everyday! It is a perfect place for you to get your hands dirty and join the workforce.
Online Challenges: Lightbox Expo: Box of Mystery, Blizzard Student Art Contest, 11 Second Club are a few to name the many online competitions that take entries every month. Joining these is a great way to see the level of skill from other students and to set a personal goal. They also offer a comment section where people can praise and critique your craft. It goes without saying that getting exposed is important to grow as a professional.
The Rookies: the name says it all. A growing community. Filled with challenges, news, forums, articles and industry professionals (with a sharp eye for new talents). You are in the right place to build your portfolio and get started, what are you waiting for? Go, go!
Cool for school?
Here are some options for schools that range from presence to online based. Their teachers and mentors come from renown companies and big budget productions. So it’s great to not only get on with the basics but also take the right steps for doing so:
Do the impossible. Break the unbreakable.
Never forget. Basic principles will carry on to whatever challenge you face. Being innovative doesn't mean going against them. It means combining as many as you can to let out all that creative energy.
Vilém Flusser was a philosopher who wrote the book entitled “The philosophy of the Black Box” in 1983. It compares cameras to a “black box”. People don’t understand how they where made but still push their buttons to produce pictures. The moral of the story is: without knowing how the system works, you won’t stand out from the crowd. So you must learn how to break it apart and analyze how you can improve it.
A great example of that is the Hotel Transylvania movies (2012). Sony Pictures Animation brought the director Gendy Tratakovsky. Since his background came from classical cartoony animation. He was not afraid of pushing the animators to break the 3D character models apart. So the shapes and poses would be more dynamic and appealing. Go watch the before mentioned animator Alessandro Camporota who worked with him. This brought a whole new workflow to the pipeline. Which prepared the studio for the Oscar winning SpiderMan: Into the Spider-Verse (2018).
So what I’m saying is… GO!
Go! The best way to learn is by going out there right now, don’t overthink it. Open up your computer. Download your software of preference. Import a bouncing ball rig and let’s get going. In this business you have to fail a lot to learn how to succeed. Once knowing the shortcuts, you will avoid those same mistakes.
It is a never ending learning cycle, everyone will tell you that. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun to see the things you can create and how much you can improve overtime. So have fun and don’t stop! You got this!