So, you've chosen your software program. What now? Well, there are a few different ways to approach training as John Edgar Park explains.
So, you've chosen your software program. What now? Well, there are a few different ways to approach training. Some animators appreciate the hands-on approach of sitting in a classroom, in front of a workstation, learning from an expert. If you live near a big city, you may have a lot of choices. There are private training schools, programs taught at public schools and community colleges, and training programs certified by the manufacturers such as discreet, Alias and Softimage. Schools provide high-end workstations, the latest software, and instructors to answer questions and demonstrate the software firsthand.
For the adventurous, you can run out, buy the software and stock up on books to supplement training. Usually a beginner-to-intermediate level is covered in the training manuals. Beyond that, there are many third party books that teach more advanced topics. Project based books, like the New Riders Press 3D Studio Max Effects Magic series for example, are good at teaching a range of techniques that are used for specific results in a short time. You'll find recipes for lava, exploding planets and winter storms. Character modeling, skeleton rigging and animation techniques are topics of great depth that can be coached by reading and following along as experts in the field describe their secrets. Of course, there is no substitute for simply logging hours on the application, be it with the direction of an instructor or the guidance of a manual.
In the space between schools and books lies videotape-based training. There are excellent tapes for most 3D packages, which can give the visual learner an advantage over somewhat dry book learning. Trinity3D.com is a good source for tapes on Maya, LightWave and Max. Students should check the Journey Education Website (www.journeyed.com) for collections of these tapes at discounted prices.
Of special interest to the animator who has decided to switch from Max to Maya, is Trinity3D's Max to Maya QuickStart set. This video, book and CD-ROM set shows the Max animator where to find similar functions in Maya. A similar product is the Maya Transition Guide: From Softimage-to-Maya, available from Alias|Wavefront's Website.
John Edgar Park is a 3D animator, instructor and writer based in Los Angeles. He received his B.A. in Drama from the University of Virginia.