I recently got a question about how I would suggest making students feel like they belong (at my university teaching position). I thought I'd share my answer:
4.Nurture mentoring behaviors and professional development: How do we develop a sense of belonging for both faculty and students?
I am not a big fan of always having to "feel" a certain way: Feelings come and go, and I like them when they are good feelings, but life is made of both good and bad feelings. My concern as a professor is not to make people "feel" good; it is to challenge them to become better than what they are, and hopefully in a way that will keep them game-fully employed. I think the student who has a professor that is helping them learn, sharpen skills and begin them on a journey towards mastery will have a student that will be grateful for their entire life. At times, this may make them feel growing pains, but are those pains worth it? I hope so. I think that is how you make some feel like they belong for a lifetime.
I started on a journey a few years ago, to learn Houdini and a more technical and procedural approach to the work I have doing. I have to say that while the learning curve is higher than the traditional 3D programs I have used (Maya, 3DsMax, Modo, Zbrush), Houdini makes me the most excited for the future of my career in CG and Teaching.
I have always been a tech guy, I have fiddled with tech from my childhood of building remote control cars, to later building my own PC's. I thought myself pretty knowledgeable about CG artists needs, but when I started down the VFX learning path, I found that my previous needs on a PC where pretty "middle-of-the-road" compared to what would be needed to create higher end simulations and renders. On my own PC (which is fairly powerful, (I thought)), I ran problems with "insufficient RAM" on some volume simulations I was trying to create. I had been working with 32GB of RAM for years now, and I don't think I ever maxed out, but apparently I wasn't pushing the envelope hard enough! To make a long story short, I just ordered more RAM for my home PC (128GB). What I have found out is that while the CPU speed is important for loading the scene faster, rendering faster and creating simulations faster, in many cases the CPU speed can just mean slower progress. BUT, not enough RAM will literally make it so certain simulations cannot even run, because there is not enough "system memory" for the simulation's data to load into. This has changed my outlook on what is more important when buying a computer. At this point I have to put a priority on getting at least 128GB of RAM in my next laptop; that being said, the AMD APEX 15 (16 core) laptop I was looking at can only have 64GB of RAM. So I may have to switch to a slower Intel 10 core chip, but with support for 128GB of RAM. I found a video by a VFX guy that used to work at ILM that shows how to build a relatively inexpensive desktop pc for VFX: https://youtu.be/dDyh2FnohdA One thing I found out was that for VFX freelance artist 256GB of RAM is the starting point for a good personal computer. This is overwhelming for many I am sure, but I don't want you guys thinking you have to go out and spend 6K on a computer, but be aware that you will have limitations to the level of quality of work you can do on a lesser machine. All that being said, making use of little resources but still kicking out an innovative and dynamic demo reel is where it is at for young artists at this stage of the game want to be. Later, if you are working at a VFX house, they will supply you with the hardware you need, or if you are freelancing, you may need to make a little investment into your "home business".
Had a student ask about becoming a professional 3D modeler here is a snippet of the question and my answer:
(Student) "I was listening to your 8a lecture where you were discussing passion versus opportunity and it got me thinking about where I stand with that. I still plan on pursuing website design for practicality, but I was wondering if you knew of any 3D modelling-related internships I could look into in case my interests in this field could develop into something professional. I really enjoy learning more about Maya with each new thing I model and would love to see the workflow in a real job environment. Also, are there any other software that I could learn to develop this skill? I know you mentioned Substance Painter for normal maps, would it be good to learn any other specific programs?"
These are really deep considerations, and I appreciate that you are thinking and thinking this way: practical and fanciful. I think really, the thing to do is to keep practicing modeling, especially in the case that you enjoy doing it. Whether or not you end up working in a field where you are modeling professionally doesn't really matter if you are enjoying yourself; however, the fact that you really enjoy doing it, means you might have that weird "modeling gene" that I have, and perhaps it could turn into a profession for you. Again, keep practicing! Learn outside of class, more advanced techniques, as this is a beginner's class, and there is much, much more to learn.
So there are many other kinds of modeling you could learn in the entertainment/graphics realm:
Procedural Modeling- Usually done in Houdini, can involve some program and scripting and math (if you want to get really good/pro at it, you gotta learn to code and do a little math). I am learning Houdini now and I love it, even as a traditional artist, once I got over the fear of coding and learning some math, I realized the potential. There are tons of free tutorials available on SideFX website, and the apprentice version of Houdini is completely free to use, though is limited in some respects (but the limitations shouldn't matter too much, you can still do most everything). As someone learning scripting and coding for web, Houdini modeling might be a perfect fit for you. Check out this tutorial demo, it is more advanced than beginner stuff, so I would not start with it, but you can see the potential. Also good Houdini Artists are usually in high demand: Lake House Tutorial Ad, SideFX software
Zbrush - for digital sculpting, there is no substitute for Zbrush, but there are a few runner-up's: Mudbox, Blender (has regular modeling (like Maya) and sculpting and is 100% free), 3D Coat, and for Ipad and Android, I suggest Nomad Sculpting. Zbrush also has a free version that is not as robust of a toolset called ZbrushCore Mini, I have never used it, so I don't know how good it is or how well it stands up to its predecessor.
And if you want to model for 3D print, you can look into Fusion 360 (I think it is free to use) as it can parametric model with exact precision. Here is an article for this type of modeling: https://www.sculpteo.com/blog/2018/03/07/top-8-of-the-best-parametric-modeling-software/
Right now I am learning Blender and Houdini. I am versed in 3Ds Max, Maya, Modo, and Zbrush, but I want to learn Blender because I see the industry starting to adopt it, and it is free so it means if you learn it you can do freelance work with it at no cost to you. To me Houdini/Blender/Zbrush is the toolset I will probably rest on for the foreseeable future, although things change so fast, who knows what is coming down the pipe? If Blender became as good of a sculptor as Zbrush, I'd just make my Pipeline Houdini/Blender.
As far as material/texture authoring, Substance is where it is at right now. There is a really amazing 3D painting program called Mari, but it is usually only used in big Hollywood studios. Zbrush also allows you to paint on your model, but I would still lean more towards Substance, it is a much better method than what Zbrush uses. 3D Coat also has good painting from what I have heard.
So, let me not forget that you asked about internships in modeling. I did an internship like that at Midway Games years ago. I am not sure what is out there right now, but the key to getting an internship like that is to get really, really good at modeling and make a portfolio with no less than 3 top notch models to show your work. Then find out if there is any internships and get into the running for the internship. Word of advice: Learn to model photorealistic, most places, even a place like Pixar wants to know you can do photorealism.
Here is a look at a great Modeling Demo Reel that might give you some direction. I am using this reel because I checked and she was working in the industry when I first saw this; it means she was hirable: Emily Bélanger - Modeling & Texturing Demo Reel
Hope that helps give you some direction!
I got another email from a student inquiring about the game industry, wondering if game companies mistreat employees and how to get your foot in the door at a company. Here is my response:
Q & A
-You mentioned that the place you worked at when you worked in the games industry had pretty long hours and didn’t value employees the best. Does that seem to be really common in the industry, or do a fair amount of companies treat their employees ok?
Some companies are great, some not so much. When you are just starting, it doesn't matter how "great" the company is, you just want to get your foot in the door and get real experience. Once you have real world experience it becomes much easier to get other jobs, not only because of your work experience, but also through connections you make in the industry. It is common to go through crunch time in the game or film industry, you just don't want that to be the normal working environment. However, I will say, it takes a few years to work through the "junior" stage so that getting out of work on time becomes a more attainable task; so there is hope that you will get more efficient in time even if you are crunching a lot in the beginning.
-Do you have any advice on how I could get my foot in the door? I imagine I might have to start out at a smaller company and maybe work my way up?
The biggest advice I could give is to really dig into your studies and explore different aspects of game development. If and when you find some aspect of development that you really enjoy and you find yourself getting better and eager to learn more about that area, then you can be pretty sure you are on the right track. However, you do not want to lie to yourself and think this industry is for you when you really don't grow passionate about an area of game dev and see that you have an aptitude for it. I will expand on this thought a little more with a personal illustration: I love fighting, I mean Boxing, MMA, Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, that kind of stuff. There was a time in my life when I thought I wanted to get into fighting for competition. However as time went on I had face there were a lot of reasons this path was not the path for me. One of the clear indicators was that I was undisciplined when it came to practicing martial arts. I mean I enjoyed practicing, but it didn't really grab me like it should have, enough that I was willing to do it for a living. On the other hand, I had been a long time practitioner of traditional arts, and when I decided to start studying digital arts, it really grabbed me, and I was willing to spend hours and hours on end practicing. It became clear that Martial Arts was an interest, but not a career for me: Art and Technology is my passion. It is a beautiful thing when a passion can be done as a career, I truly can attest to this, so it is worth a shot. But don't fool yourself into thinking this field demands anything less than a bunch of study, practice, and reflection (am I getting good enough?). All of the demands equal time, self discipline, delayed gratification, and talent, there really is no secret sauce that will change this. BTW I still practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but it is for fun, not a pay check.
-Is there anything I should be doing now (besides practicing, but I do plan on working in Blender and Maya during my free time) that would help me in the future?
Read about the Industry you want to get into, see if any of the jobs therein have any alignment to your known aptitudes. Practice and spend extra time on your studies to take your skills to the next level. Keep working and after a certain amount of time assess if you are more passionate about developing media as you are about consuming media.
-Is Blender becoming more commonly used by professionals in animation?
I would currently say Blender is not the industry standard, but it is gaining a lot of momentum, even among some big name companies: Ubi Soft being one.
-Is there any rookie mistakes that I should look out for when getting into this?
Don't beat yourself up by comparing yourself to seasoned pros out there (or even upper class mates). But do be aware of the professional level and keep aiming to achieve that level.
I recently sat in on a conversation about equity, diversity and inclusion. While in that meeting a woman of color stated that she felt like she had dealt with a George Floyd experience everyday of her life. I was taken by surprise by this woman's comments because I know that she is successful, intelligent, and as far as I can tell certainly a conqueror. Now let me be clear, being all the positive traits that I just described does not in anyway exclude her from racial injustice, (hence the conqueror description); but I wonder why, if she has done so well, does she feel like she is going through everyday being held down in a vicious manner like George Floyd was?
I literally woke up in the middle of the night pondering this whole situation, uneasy and prayerful about coming to some sense of what is going on here. A phrase that came into my mind was the old saying “seek, and ye shall find”. I looked this up and it comes from the New Testament Matthew 7:7. This is a statement I learned so long ago, I heard it from people around me early in my life and at some point I put it into practice for myself and found from my experience, it is true.
Dirt, it is everywhere! You see I have a bit of the OCD in me; my mother has it, my brother had it, it just seems to run in my family. Without professional help I have been able to overcome my tendency to want everything perfectly clean and organized though. In reality my OCD lingers in my mind, but my will to accomplish other things, things that are more important to me, I give more credence to, and try to complete those top priorities first. I suppose this is what the successful woman I am speaking about has done: She sees dirt (racism), but she keeps pushing forward despite her feelings.
But I can’t seem to shake another subject I think needs to be addressed. The notion of “seek, and ye shall find” can work in a negative manner for a person too. Imagine you are a building inspector, and your whole job is predicated on looking for any kind of flaws or potential flaws in a construction project. No doubt this is an important job, but now imagine you go home and you never take off your work hat? You see flaws all over the place and live in unrest about your surroundings, even when there is no immediate threat; true, your home isn’t perfect, but it does its job (This is actually a real world example, I have a close family member who lives this way!). The reason I bring this side of the subject up is that this woman's life and accomplishments is to be celebrated, however if she feels held down everyday, this seems tragic. I am not sure what happens in a successful and prosperous person's life that makes them feel like a victim of racial inequality on a daily basis; I don't walk their path so I can not judge them. But I hope in our daily walk we take time to reflect on all the good we have, so that we can have a larger sense of gratitude that outweighs the negatives we perceive.
Got another email that asked the question: "How much does the game industry pay junior developers? There are surveys that talk about this, so I went and found an article link, but I thought it important to explain a little bit about playing the game of moving up the pay scale. Here was my response:
Found this article, skimmed it and it seems to line up with what I encountered: LINK But remember a lot of the pay rate will also depend on where you live. If you are moving to CA for a game dev job, cost of an apartment and taxes are much higher than say NC or IN for that matter. This should dictate whether you are asking for the upper end of Jr salary (or will the lower end be acceptable). Also one thing to keep in mind is that getting your first game gig is super important, so don't be afraid to take a little hit on salary to get your foot in the door, but, BUT Do Not Stay at that salary too long if they don't want to negotiate a better wage each year!!! Work on improving your skills, keep building your portfolio (<--never stop doing this until maybe you are at senior level and even then it is not a bad idea to keep updating your resume, website, linkdin etc). In my experience it is a good idea to work to a mid level artist/programmer/designer and if you are not satisfied with your wages, jump ship and go to another company. I have known people who started as Junior level, and after a number of years and struggling to get paid more, they left, went to a new company and then started at $20,000 more than their first gig (in that case the artist was a junior, and left as a senior artist after more than 7 years). It is just the way it works sometimes with budgets; a company hires you as a junior and their budget revolves around and increases from that initial pay. If you leave for another position, say a mid level position, the initial pay for a mid level developer might be 10-15 G's more than a junior position. Getting 10-15 G's more by annual salary increases can be more difficult than moving to a new position. Now many other factors come into play when making these decisions, like where is my family, and do I want to live in "said place"? And perhaps the biggest barrier I see among young prospective game developers is "do I want to put in the work to get there"? It takes a lot of study and practice to "get there".
I think the key thing to remember in the struggle of working, and this is the same for most every field: you start off at the bottom, pay your dues, put in a bunch of extra work to make yourself valuable to any company you would work at, and then...then the money flows in (hopefully, no guarantees for any walk of life or career!)
Hope that Helps!
I recently got an email from a student that went something like this:
I recently took your CGT 116 course as part of my Game Development and Design major. I am considering my future employment opportunities for this major. Knowing how competitive it is to enter the gaming industry, I am seeking advice about alternative career paths...'
I think many students, especially those going into Games, Animation or VFX have these feelings. I wanted to share my response, I thought it might help someone else going through a similar issue:
"Yeah, it is a tough, competitive field. Having doubts is not uncommon, even when you are highly talented, it is just human to doubt. I think the best answer I can give you is: What does your aptitude point you towards? Where do you find you are naturally skilled? If that area is does not fall within one of the disciplines in the game development field, it might be best to realign your focus. I happened to be very capable in art and tech savvy, so naturally game art was within my reach. But not everyone's desires/interests aligns with their abilities. But really that is okay; it is like we all are special in different areas, we just got to figure those areas out and utilize them. If you are getting a gut feeling that there might be something else for you out there, that feeling is probably right. Sometimes people don't get to find work in any exact field they have an interest, in fact, I would say for many people this is true, but that doesn't mean you can't be excellent in whatever you do and have a happy life. Ultimately it is all about serving people, whether that is as a game developer or a cashier at Kroger or whatever. If you take any job or school and do it to the best of your abilities you are probably going to find out a few things: 1. "I suck at this job" or 2. "I am pretty good at this" - If 2 happens, then great, stick with it until you move up the chain or find something better you want to try. If 1 happens, then stick with it, but actively look for work elsewhere (this is maybe where you are at). I have a close high school friend who is extremely talented in art and music, but instead of doing either as a career, he got a job at a grocery store just after HS stocking shelves and has moved up the chain to a store management position working in the same stores for over the last 24 years! Even with his talent, his path was not the "glamorous" one of going into art or music. But he serves customers well and raises a family with his paycheck. This is absolutely okay! Okay the so that is my spiel to try to persuade you that all is going to be okay, but the important thing now is to consider where you shine. If you don't know, then it is time to look for it. So what else have you considered doing?"
I hope anyone reading this will see that your job does not equal your worth. You are an image bearer of the Almighty, and living, loving, and contributing positively to helping others is enough!
I was thinking about the old saying that it takes 10,000 hours of work in a subject to become a master, so I decided to try and make a little breakdown that mimics our work cycle in the US:
30 days in a month - 2 days off each week=
Approx. 22 work days in a month
8hr x 22 days = 176 hrs a month
176 x 12 = 2,112 hrs of work a year
10,000 hrs in a subject for mastery
10,000/2112 hrs of work= 4.73 years for mastery
The students I teach are often on my heart, I try to help them in anyway I can. I was considering how much work it takes to get into a CG related industries. The numbers above may seem bleak, but the good thing is that it doesn't take a full master to get a job in CG, yet, it does take some level of mastery to get a job; let me explain: When you take the challenge of getting into the CG world, in order to get paid for an internship, or junior position doing whatever the particular job might be, (Animator, Modeler, Technical Artist etc. etc.) you need to prove to the employer that you have the skill to accomplish the job you are applying for at a level that is at beyond "good enough" for the more menial tasks the job may entail. You must also show potential, creativity, positivity, drive, and the professionality that it takes to be a person who will grow in their work place and add value to their company.
This all sounds like a great, gritty pep talk, but it is so ethereal. In concrete terms, what is it going to take to get into the position you want? Well unfortunately I don't have an exact answer for that, this is not really a math equation that one might find the right answer for. But, for those who have worked in the field extensively, (by extensively I mean into that 10,000 hour range) the stories are usually somewhat the same: "I worked really long hours, studied hard, failed a lot, found mentors and forwent the pain and insecurity, ups and downs that went with it all". You see, until you give yourself, I mean really give your all to a study, you will not know how good you might be, nor how much it may pay off.
One last thought, what about if you do all the above and you still don't make it? You are a winner! I know, I know, you may not have gotten the prize you wanted, but winners go for the prize, even if in the face of possible defeat. Going for it with all you've got is enough.
So I have taken the plunge. It took some prep and resolve from circumstances in my life. I am now on a juice fast, it is early day 4 and I just finished making roughly 300 ounces of juice.
I had known about juicing for years and years, but watching "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead" helped me see that this might be a good idea for me. I have extra residual fat that I gained during a low point in my life in my early to mid 20's. During that period of my life I started dealing with my depression by overeating. Since that time I have lost a good amount of weight, but there has always been a good size roll was still lingering on my belly. After almost twenty years with this issue, I am just "fed up", and ready to get rid of it once and for all. You know, in a lot of ways I have walked the line for many years, believing in healthy eating and physical fitness, but not committing all the way. After seeing my family's health decline over the last few years I feel like I have been led to a place of real commitment, a radical change.
This journey did not start overnight. I think that a big component of making a change like this is personal beliefs. Family members I know believe what you eat has no regard on health. I think that allows them to go about their diet without reflecting on whether their food choices were wise. I however believe that while we cannot control when we die, we can have a great effect on how healthy we feel while we are alive.
Because I failed in changing my habits in the past, I took a slow approach to implementing this lifestyle change. I want to list the steps I took because I know I have many weaknesses, and if I can ease into this change, then perhaps, if you're reading this, you can too.
Step 1: Have an exit plan
I know that after making a big positive change, I do not want to lose my progress. I ran across Dr. Joel Fuhrman on a radio interview, and I liked what he said. I decided to buy Dr. Fuhrman's book "Eat to Live". He makes a great, scientific case for his premises. Furthermore, the lifestyle Dr. Fuhrman suggests is absolutely sustainable.
Step 2: Get a really good juicer
I spent a ton of time researching juicers. It was an extremely tedious search, but I am glad I did it. In the end I went with the Omega nc800. A good juicer is a bit more money, but if you plan on making a long term change, going with one of the best juicers is well worth it. Hear is a list of the main reasons why I went with this particular juicer: 1. suggested by many reviewers 2. slow masticating juicers yield more juice that lasts longer in the fridge 3. 15 year warranty on all parts 4. approximate cost was $279 (Black Friday Sale), which is really low as opposed to any of the juicers higher rated 5. cleanup is a breeze, which is not the case with many juicers, even the more expensive one's 6. Isn't that enough reasons?
Step 3: Enter juicing slow
Start by replacing one meal:
I started by making 3 juices at a time, one for the day of, and then two for the next two days. I replaced breakfast with these juices for two weeks. This slow introduction into juicing allowed me to experiment and get the taste right.
Continue by replacing two meals:
Next I started juicing for two meals a day, and then eating a common meal in the evening. I did this for three weeks. I actually felt really great at the end of the three weeks; I gained a bunch of space in the waist of my pants and my mental clarity was outstanding.
Small set back:
I planned on going full juicing after the three weeks, but life got busy and I fell off (travel and job interviews).
What happened next was accidental, yet seridipital. Since I had a fall off of my juicing plan, I decided to try to eat as best as possible in alignment with Dr. Fuhrman's directions. I however was not perfect, (but perfection is not the goal!). I was able to stabilize pretty close to my new pant size. I was not making forward progress though due to a lack of discipline.
Return of the Juice:
At last I was able to get some down time to get back to the juicing. That brings us to the here and now. My experience for the first few days was atypical. Typically people who start on a juice fast go through a pretty intense period of detox, and this is very hard on us weak people (I know, I have failed detoxes in the past). But this time the detox was mild, I had little trouble rolling into a full juice fast. I am assuming that the incremental juicing and healthy eating that lead into the fast allowed my body a mild cleansing period and time to adjust to the change to come.
The ongoing challenges:
There are still challenges happening now, most of which come in the urge to eat solid food. Funny I didn't feel the urge to eat when I was on two juices a day. I assume the apprehension of solid food in the evening kept these current cravings down. Nevertheless I am determined to get through a month of juice fasting.
Changes I have noticed thus far:
Day 1 (04/27/2018): My stomach became much more jiggly in just one day; perhaps massive inflammation and water was shed? Very tired the first day.
Day 2: Still tired, and a bit hungry. taking naps help.
Day 3: Finding that I feel a bit sluggish until I get up and do stuff, then I feel fine.
Day 4: I think my body is starting to adjust better as I have been energetic all day. Finally weighed myself today, I wasn't going to, but my mother-in-law said if I am going to blog I better take my weight and throw some numbers up here: Before Christmas I was around 216 lbs, I am now 197.2 lbs.
Day 5-6: Felling pretty good, was constipated for a bit but finally had a bowel movement (sorry if that is TMI). I bought some "Smooth Move" tea to alleviate future issues; drank some tea and it worked. Had to work late one day and missed a dinner juice, this was pretty tough as far as hunger goes. I made up for it by drinking extra the next two days.
Day 7: One week! Feeling great other than still going through urges to eat solid food now and again.
Day 8: Worked all day from morning to evening with no tiredness, even felt like I could go longer; my energy is really improving.
Students going into the arts need to build a portfolio, and they need to build it now! Why not build it free? I have created a new site, for free, through Weebly, and I have a guide to getting a site going and posting portfolio pieces. Visit 3dtrip2.weebly.com/ to find a guide to the practical steps to posting a portfolio site for free. Of course, the steps to create a portfolio site are easy, however creating a good portfolio is a completely different subject. This topic will be discussed more in the future, but a good start would be to look at successful professionals in the field you are studying, and see what their portfolios look like. Mimic them, heck copy their format if it is impressive to you, but whatever you do get started!
Daniel Triplett, is an artist that worked in game development for over 6 years, and now teaches in the Computer Graphics Technology department (CGT) at Purdue University.