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What are digital skills and why should you care about them?

What are digital skills and why should you care about them? You're an artist, right? Well, if you are and you are reading this from the AWN Web site, you're already tuned into digital skills in a big way whether or not you're aware of them. The truth is, to be an artist today and get paid for it, a working knowledge of computers is a necessity.

Steve Pitzel

What are digital skills and why should you care about them? You're an artist, right? Well, if you are and you are reading this from the AWN Web site, you're already tuned into digital skills in a big way whether or not you're aware of them.

The truth is, to be an artist today and get paid for it, a working knowledge of computers-what they can and can't do for you, and how to nudge more out of them than they're actually built to do-is a necessity. That goes double for the software that talks to you, obeys and disobeys you, and provides both the precise results and just as importantly, all those happy mistakes that spawn the magic and, yes, the fun of the digital workflow.

But it's not just about the workflow. It's also about communication: how you find what you need, how you network and connect. That and understanding that eschewing technology for the sake of artistic purity can be professionally fatal.

You've likely grown up on the Internet-lucky you. (You probably learned to type in chat rooms.) You may never have gone through the "awkward stage," the soon-to-be computer artist's equivalent of puberty, marking one's transition from analog to digital.

It wasn't always that way. Years ago, one of my animation tools students, a cel animator from Walt Disney Feature Animation, was attempting that passage.

I remember him grumbling, "But I can do this in seconds with a pencil!"

"Yes," I said. "You can draw one frame in seconds. Now I'll show you how to draw 24 frames in one second!"

Most got it. They learned that the computer and software really just amounted to a pencil. (Okay, an expensive pencil, since at the time workstations went for about $50K and the software wasn't much cheaper. But that's another story . . . ) Some didn't get it and they're doing other things now. The patient ones quickly transferred their knowledge of squash & stretch, anticipation, and follow through, and shot way past all the computer droids hired during that initial "hey, anyone can animate with a computer!" boondoggle.

The same thing had already happened in the music industry. Just before "digital" hit the world of animation, a lot of great session drummers had run screaming from the LA studio recording scene certain that the LinnDrum machine, with its hot arsenal of sampled drums, would soon put them out of business.

The smart ones stayed in LA and learned how to program that infernal machine. Amazingly, those guys quickly learned they could gain digital skills and still keep their artistic souls.

Those guys cleaned up!

- Pitz

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For more info related to Digital Arts technology be sure and visit www.intel.com/software/visualadrenaline.

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