By Kevin Appel, Digital Media Academy Instructor.
*Note: I am not advocating DMA as a replacement for a college education. Rather, I am suggesting it as an appetizer, if you will, to make sure you’ll like the main course.
I’ve never been much for gambling. The prospect of taking something valuable of mine and putting it up against the unknown on the off chance that my bet paid off never seemed like a particularly savvy thing to do. Therefore, it may come as some surprise to some to learn that one of the biggest decisions I have made to date in my life was a bit of a gamble.
That decision was deciding what to study in college. The question, “what do I want to do when I grow up?” rears its ugly (hideous, even) head for everyone at some point. And one day, I’m sure that question will probably come up for me, too.
But that question’s evil little sibling of a query is “what am I going to go to school for?” I consider myself lucky, because at the tender age of I-forget-how-old-I-was-when, I saw some Saturday morning TV show that left a permanent impression on me. If I can recall correctly from my days as a second-grade terror (I think that’s when it was, at least), that show was titled “Movie Magic,” or some such. And it made a part of my weekly routine. On some network or another, every Saturday, they’d fill my little head with dreams of creating movie visual effects.
As I grew up, my experiences with computers grew. I became a nerd, and got into online gaming. I became a bigger nerd, and got into mods for those games. I became a bigger nerd still, and learned how to edit them myself. For the most part, I would edit textures on 3D models in games to change my favorite characters’ shirt, or face, or edit my face into a hockey game so I could be a bigger nerd.
Eventually, though, I came to realize that as computers got bigger and badder, 3D animation did, too. And not only that, but video games kept getting better and better, and soon games and movies were using a lot of the same 3D animation techniques. So, now-17-year-old-me thought, “I keep with this hobby, so I can work in either field when I grow up!”
And so, I made my gambit. I applied to a big fancy-shmancy school that had enough money to buy all the latest and greatest software and workstations and labs. And with big, fancy labs came big, fancy tuition.
I am happy to say that I was right. For me, the gamble paid off. I did love 3D modeling and animation. The desire to create fantastic wonders the likes of which I’d seen in countless movies as a kid stuck with me all these years, carried through my college education, and has now brought me to DMA.
My gamble was that I chose to get an education in 3D animation (and some other stuff) without ever knowing if I’d actually like it. What if I could not grasp the software? What if it was all too complex, if I was no good at it? All of my tuition dollars would have been wasted, at least for my freshman year, after which I would have had to transfer to another major (assuming my University would have allowed it), or go to another school, or jump through any number of hoops just to try to find something else that I liked.
College is expensive, especially if you’re looking at a very technical field like 3D animation and want to have access to the newest tech. For me, it was a necessity. I didn’t have access to the software I needed, or more importantly, the know how and instruction I needed to make the sorts of crazy things I’d always dreamed of. It is possible to dig through this stuff enough to learn it on your own, eventually, but what if I had had an alternative? How much more sure of myself could I have been, coming into college, if I had had the chance to get my grubby little paws all over Maya, or 3D Studio Max, and start pushing polygons around so I could make the animation, video game level, or random abstract whimsical thing that I wanted to?
I didn’t have that option – but today, Digital Media Academy offers fancy PCs, the latest software, and experienced teachers who’ll answer all the questions you can throw at them without investing in 4-5 years and many thousands of dollars. That’s not to say a one-week summer camp takes the place of a full education. But it helps to get a taste before committing to school. I’m proud to be one of those teachers, because my gamble paid off and I hope I can make the choice and learning curve easier for some grubby-pawed kid to make the next great animation or game for the still-nerdy, present-day version of me to enjoy.
See you this summer, everybody…but please, wash those grubby paws before you lay hands on our computers. They’re shiny. (Just a suggestion.)