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Posted by Blue_Guy on January 31, 2014 at 8:25 AM

My Question

 

I can’t live without video games. I realized this one Sunday afternoon, the day before school started. I live and breathe video games. I don’t think it would be possible for me to have a career in any other field of work. But what do video games always need? That day I realized that I wanted to pursue a successful career in 3D design and animation. Many companies are looking for young 3D designers to develop characters, maps, and logos full time. But how can I do this? How can I be successful? What colleges are right for me and how can I prepare for a career?

 

Because I have been aspiring for this dream for some time, I have played around with 3D design before so I know some of the basics. I can do simple designs and make simple games using coding. Using freeware programs I have obtained a basic knowledge of 3D design so could this give me a bit of a leg up already?

 

Adding on to the a bit of experience with 3D design, I have been able to work with 2D animation along with 3D animation. Both of these were really fun to do and I enjoyed them very much. I find it very cool that these two could be combined to create fantastic looking projects, games, and movies. Using a program called Blender, I can create 3D animations for free very easily. Blender can also be used to design projects. Through Blender I can effortlessly design characters, objects, and environments in little to know time. Although this program is easy to learn many may find it a bit difficult at first; I sure did.

 

My Search Process

 

First, I focused my research on a school that I should attend for 3D Design. I specifically looked for one that had a higher graduation rate, good reviews, and looked good in a portfolio. I also learned that a portfolio is like a resume. It is like a demonstration of what skills you have and what you can do. The schools that appealed to me most are Digital Animation and Visual Effects School (DAVE) in Orlando, Florida

Vancouver Film School (VFS) in Vancouver, Canada, Carnegie Mellon University's Graphics Lab in Pittsburgh, PA.

 

Each of these schools offered a good classes and most had great reviews.

Today I focused on finding out what jobs were available for 3D Design, specifically looking for one in the video game industry. Companies like NVIDIA and Amazon were looking for freelance artists to do work for them and other companies where looking for freelance artists to do environmental design for games, character design for games, etc.

 

After visiting several different websites I saw that most gaming companies were looking for 3D designing to develop game environments because recently, video game environments have been getting larger and more detailed which calls for the need of 3D artists. Certain websites, like Valve and Torn Banner, have listed exactly what they need (3D Character Artist is listed). I found these on bungie.net - Bungie Studios, tornbanner.com - Torn Banner Studio, and http://www.valvesoftware.com/jobs/job_postings.html - Valve.

 

Next, I focused on what I should include in my portfolio. As I stated in the last journal an artist’s portfolio is sort of like a resume but the portfolio goes alongside with the resume. A portfolio should show the knowledge of what that person can do. For example, as a 3D designer, it should include sketches of a character, a scenery or background, wildlife, a human model, etc. It should also include projects that I worked on in the past, completed or not completed. I got this information from Sheridan College’s portfolio requirements at http://www.sheridancollege.ca/~/media/Files/Sheridan%20College/Academics/Faculties/FAAD/apppbaaa.pdf

 

Next, I decided to look for ways that I can practice design and maybe get better at it. I found a rating system online at http://3d-animation-software-review.toptenreviews.com/. I found Autodesk Maya was first rated followed by, Autodesk 3DS Max, Autodesk Softimage, Cinema 4D, Houdini, then Lightwave.

 

All of these programs cost money but allow for professional use and definitely professional results. Unfortunately most of these programs cost a lot of money. Autodesk Softimage, Cinema 4D, Houdini, and Lightwave cost nearly $2,000 while Autodesk Maya and Autodesk 3DS Max cost about 200. Both of these lower cost programs also received higher scores and rating than the other more expensive programs. I was able to find these scores on http://3d-animation-software-review.toptenreviews.com/

 

I don’t know if these programs will be in my budget in the future so I decided to find programs to use that will produce the same results but for free or for much less. I found that the top rated program was Blender. Blender was then followed by: K-3D, Art of Illusion, SOFTIMAGE | XSI Mod Tool, Zmodeler, and TopMod3d.

 

All of the programs above are great tools that can produce amazing projects, like the paid for ones. I myself have already used Blender and SOFTIMAGE | XSI Mod Tools. From experience, I found Blender is a fantastic modelling program and an okay animator. Programs like XSI, is great for making games but not a very good modelling tool. I found these on http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/25-free-3d-modelling-applications-you-should-not-miss/

 

Finally, I was able to interview Tony Venezia, Associate Professor at College of DuPage. He has organized the animation program and teaches most of the classes for it. He explained the classes that they offer at COD that could aid me. I was very interested in a class called 3D Design where they teach you how to model objects realistically. This would be very helpful to me if I am creating surrounds, backgrounds, or foreground objects for an animation or game.

 

He then told me about different programs that I could use to create animations. I learned that the Adobe Suite could be used to possibly compile animations together into a better looking project. Adobe After Effects, part of the Adobe Suite, can be used to create and edit visual effects in an animation or live action film or short. Using After Effects would be very cool to create explosions, smoke effects, etc. Some other great programs that he mentioned it Maya, and Cinema 4D. These programs were listed in the top five user rated programs for 3D design. While these programs do cost money, he told me about how I, as a student, have the ability to download Autodesk programs for free for school assignments and whatnot. This would be very useful for me because I could get a great deal of preparation in for college or even a future job.

 

My Findings

 

In 2008 Microsoft launched Xbox Live Indie Games (previously known as Xbox Live Community Games). This allowed for game developers to post their own games for a low yearly cost. Since then, the indie game industry has received a nice boost in developers. Before this, there were websites like ModDB (2002) which was somewhat of a forum for indie gamers and modders. But many think that the launch of Xbox Live Indie Games really publicized it. More recently, software like Steam allowed for smaller companies to have a chance to publish indie games through their program. The program Steam (2003) is similar to a market of video games. They allow for PC games to be downloaded through them at lower costs because you only pay for a game license. Later, programs like Desura (2010) are released. The program Desura is a market for mainly indie games and software. They were released to accommodate indie developers. Coinciding the release and popularity of indie games, hundreds and thousands of new game developers have created companies. Because of this, the demand for 3D design artists, coding experts, and web designers has been astounding.

 

According to my findings, because of the release of next generation consoles, games are requiring more and more work on background details and level design. That is a job of a 3D designer which is what I want to do. But how can I prepare for this kind of job? If I want to pursue this career I should get practice in. “Many 3D designers create projects under the specific directions of a client with input from an art director in some cases. Designers who build up strong portfolios are often promoted to managerial positions after several years of working for an established design firm. They are then usually given more creative freedom with projects as well as their own teams of junior 3D designers to mentor. Senior-level 3D designers may also share their expertise by teaching higher education classes in the use of 3D technologies.” (Farrer). After reading this, I came to the conclusion that I needed to practice a lot to build my own portfolio. A portfolio is like a resume. It shows what you have done. The difference between a resume and a portfolio is a portfolio showcases the skills that you have and what you can do. Instead of using words to describe you skill, you show it using pictures or videos of your designs. From looking at college requirements and portfolio samples, I have come to the conclusion that I will have to have to have around 15 sketched drawings, around 10 images made in 3D, and still life drawings. I should also include any games that I work on, finished or unfinished, art pieces, game mods, and personal projects. I will have to be able to catch people’s eyes so projects that are impressing should be near the top. Specifically, people should be able to see these projects without having to scroll down the page. Images should be included with all the design projects along with links to downloads, a journal like entry of what went into the project, sources, and people who may have helped you or worked on the project with you. Although these are quite basic guidelines to a 3D designer’s portfolio, different colleges will have different requirements for a portfolio. Some colleges may have a guideline to a portfolio while others may have strict policies for a portfolio.

 

Portfolios are not only used for college but for getting a job too. After reading “Create the Perfect Design Portfolio: 30 Pro Tips” by Creative Bloq, I learned many valuable tips from a graphic designer. Though you should have a main portfolio, it is recommended that you create different ones for different jobs. For example, if you are applying to a job in game level design, maybe don’t include too many drawings of people. Instead replace a few with still-life sketches or drawings of nature. “Only include design portfolio examples for a full-time position that are appropriate to the role. A creative director position, for instance, won't entail much art working - if any at all - so work that demonstrates tracking and kerning ability isn't relevant.” (Creative Bloq).

 

In addition to showing what work you have done with companies or as a freelancer, they suggested that you also show personal work. This may include projects that you worked on, on the side or simply something that you may have fooled around with during your free time. As long as it exhibits your skill, you can use it in your portfolio.

 

After reading about creating a portfolio I realized that I should find out how to create my own personal projects. This would require a, preferably, custom built computer, to have quick renders for designs and games, computer software to do the projects in, and a website to showcase all of my work (Sheridan College). After looking for professional software to do 3D design work, I found that most of the programs that allow you to do advanced 3D work are very expensive. On the internet I found a very informative website that listed the top 3D design software. It compiled the list in order of user rating, modeling features, textures and materials included, animation features, ease of use, help and support, and supported configurations. I found that the top 3 programs were Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3DS Max, and Autodesk Softimage. While Maya, and 3DS Max, were only $195, Autodesk Softimage was a whopping $3,145! That is extremely expensive and totally out of budget for any aspiring 3D designer without funds (Top 10 Reviews).

 

I found that all three programs offered fantastic support for anyone on any level. Using the publisher’s website, Autodesk, I found out the exact information I needed. I saw that Autodesk Maya offered very cool features that helped out 3D designers immensely. While Autodesk 3DS Max included cool features too, it did not include as much. Although Softimage was extremely expensive, I saw that is came with cool features that could help create amazing animations and games. It allowed for easy use of advanced facial expressions in characters. It also came with CrowdFX which allowed for ease when working with large crowds in an animation.

 

Autodesk Maya allows for easy use of 3D animation. “This 3D animation software supports IK (inverse kinematics) and FK (forward kinematics), and it allows for easy switching between the two. IK allows you to tug on one part of your model and have other parts come along for the ride. FK does the opposite – it allows you to move one part of your model and have it push the other connected parts. With both types of skeletal control, you can create realistic motion patterns that will come in handy in the animation phase.” (Lee). With this program, I could potentially create very realistic animation. It would allow me to make my characters have natural looking movements.

 

Although these programs may seem like the “all in one package” they almost always aren’t. This means, I am going to have to export finished animated scenes or props that I have created or designed into different programs. If I want to create an animated short, movie, or game cut scene, I am going to have to export it into a program like Adobe After Effects or Final Cut Pro. If I have created a video game character or an object that I want to be able to use as scenery in a video game, I am going to have to export it into another program. This will depend on the file type that I have created. The file type is mainly based on the program that I use to create the file in. After researching, I found that the program Unity will accept a wide range of file types that can be used for an animation AND a game.

 

For projects that are meant to be a movie or a cut scene, as mentioned above, I am going to have to export the projects that I create into different programs. This all depends on the type of project that I am working on. If I want to create an extreme 3D animation that has tons of visual effects, I’m going to want to edit my project in different programs than a 2D game cut scene. After looking online I found quite a few programs that can be used to edit videos and add visual effects to them. I can use nearly any editing program for editing or rendering videos. Good free ones that I found are iMovie (For Apple computers) Windows Movie Maker, and Light Works. Each of these programs offers different features and are all very easy for a beginner to use. I have past experience with iMovie and know that it will be able to handle very basic editing. While iMovie and Windows Movie Maker are good free programs, they don’t look as professional as the other free program, Light Works. Light Works offers a ton of different editing features and allows you to do basic visual effects. While it looks much more professional than iMovie and Windows Movie Maker, it can’t compare with paid video editing programs like, Final Cut X (For Apple computers), Adobe Premiere, Adobe After Effects, and Sony Vegas.

 

From past experience, the animation and game design program Unity is very helpful and extremely easy to use. You can find tutorials on the website YouTube created by children and teens (Amongst many tutorials created by older people). The program Unity works as a Game Engine. It’s free and allows its users to publish and sell game for little to know cost (Excluding games created for consoles like PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and etcetera). From the times that I have used the program, I found it very fun. It allows anyone to really be creative. This is among many other programs but this one is by far, in my opinion, the best. Some people may get the misconception that if the program is free it will be limited and/or not powerful enough to create extensive projects. These are all wrong and easily disproven. You can see the capabilities when you see games and animations that have been created in the program.

 

Although it would be a dream come true to get a perfect job for a fantastic game company with just the knowledge I learned from experience with the computer program and the internet, it would be unrealistic. I’m going to have to educate myself and go to college. As I mentioned earlier, colleges are going to require different things in my portfolio. Colleges that really caught my attention are Digital Animation and Visual Effects School (DAVE) in Orlando, Florida, Vancouver Film School (VFS) in Vancouver, Canada, and Carnegie Mellon University's Graphics Lab in Pittsburgh, PA. Each of these colleges offered good classes and while difficult, they all had higher graduation rates. Not only that, but from reading reviews, the colleges listed above all looked good on a resume/portfolio.

 

My Growth as a Researcher

 

Over the course of this project, I learned many things. Specifically on researching, I found it was extremely helpful to go to Wikipedia for the website sources at the bottom. This was helpful because the people who have written the article already have done the research for websites. Although some distrust Wikipedia and Wiki pages in general because they are open to the public for editing, I found it really helpful to scan over some on difficult concepts and again the sources at the bottom of the page were provided and allowed me to go more in-depth on these topics.

 

I also learned that just because you found one website doesn’t mean that you should stop. I found that I could get more sources, more information, and actually prove that the information is true. I used somewhat of a rule that if two or more trusted websites had corresponding information, it was bound to be a correct statement on their part. While this “rule” worked for the most part, I also found trusted websites that actually had conflicting data and statistics. This also helped me grow because it led to me realizing that the dates are very important on websites. That means that before you read on about a statistic or data on a test or project, realize that it could be old. And, if another website has conflicting numbers, check the dates as well as the trustworthiness of the sources.

 

Sources

 

Irwin, Mary Jane. "Indie Game Developers Rise Up." Forbes. Forbes Magazine, n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. .

"Xbox LIVE Indie Games." - xbox live indie games. Microsoft, n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. .

 

 

http://www.joystiq.com/2010/03/09/moddb-presents-desura-an-indie-take-on-digital-distribution/

McElroy, Justin. "ModDB presents Desura: an indie take on digital distribution."Joystiq. Joystiq, 9 Mar. 2010. Web. 22 Jan. 2014. .

 

 

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-does-a-3d-designer-do.htm

Farrer, Angela, and W. Everett. "What Does a 3D Designer Do." WiseGeek. Conjecture, 20 Jan. 2014. Web. 22 Jan. 2014. .

 

Shaver, David. "David Shaver - Game Design Portfolio." David Shaver - Game Design Portfolio. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2014. .

 

 

"College Board." AP Central. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2014.

 

 

Creative Bloq. "Create the perfect design portfolio: 30 pro tips." Creative Bloq. Creative Bloq, n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2014. .

 

Sheridan College. "Sheridan College Reqiurments." Sheridan College. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2014.

"Sheridan College | Toronto Area: Brampton Mississauga Oakville." Sheridan College | Toronto Area: Brampton Mississauga Oakville. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2014. .

"Yelp - Vancouver Film School Review."Yelp. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2014. .

 

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