ZBrush-model
This enemy character for the game Gears of War 2 was made using ZBrush. (Image: Epic Games)

If you’re interested in becoming a 3D video game or character designer, the first thing you want to do is learn how to use the tools of the trade. One of those tools is ZBrush.

What is ZBrush?
ZBrush is a digital sculpting tool that lets artist paint, texture and model 3D computer objects.

ZBrush uses a proprietary “pixol” technology that captures all the information an artist needs to create character or object including color and lighting information.

How is ZBrush different from other 3D modeling tools? With ZBrush, users actually sculpt their objects like traditional artists might use clay or stone. Introduced in 1999 at SIGGRAPH by Pixologic Inc., today ZBrush is used by everyone from Electronic Arts to Disney to produce characters and objects for video games, movies and television.

Next-Gen Production Tools and Techniques
“I rely heavily on ZBrush to render anything organic in an environment,” Kevin Johnstone is a Senior Artist for Epic Games, the company behind the video game mega-hit Gears of War. “(ZBrush) give(s) most of my mechanical hard surface models a degree of weathering and damage so I can avoid making things look too manufactured or unused.” Learn how Epic Games used ZBrush to create Gears of War.

ZBrush_interface_Pixol_in_action
3D artist David S. knows how to put ZBrush through it’s paces, his work is showcased on the ZBrush community Sculptcrazy. (Image: David Varady Szabo)

This advanced production tool is capable of producing anything from rocks to people and it does it with ease.

Learning how to use 3D modeling software like ZBrush starts by getting the right training – and those best practices are taught by DMA. It’s important to get the right start, why? Artist who pick up bad habits or workflow spend more time re-learning correct and industry standard methods.

Using Pixologic’s ZBrush and learning advanced digital painting and texture mapping with Photoshop® can help make you a professional digital artist. Knowing techniques for creating architecture, characters, creatures, vehicles and other objects are essential. Techniques for normal mapping, grunge-color maps and specularity maps are also important.

To create the incredible detail you see in the games, DMA teaches both fine art principles such as color theory, layout compositional design, form and structure, as well as other techniques to expand your understanding of the art of game design.

That’s right, this summer The Digital Media Academy is holding digital audio & music production courses for teens! The class covers all you need to know about digital music production. Learn to record, use loops, sample, mix, master and output to make professional music right on you desktop computer or laptop! You’ll get a sense of how to work with a variety of techniques to produce outstanding digital audio under the supervision of an industry pro who will help you bring your audio ideas to life. In addition, you’ll get your hands on the latest digital audio production equipment and musical instruments. Each student will be provided their own top of the line computer equipped Logic Pro 9 and will be guided step by step in the creation of their own music and audio productions.

This summer course is tailored for all skill levels and is 5 days of non-stop fun and learning. If you are new to creating music, have some experience, or want to know how to make music that sounds like your favorite artists, this summercamp is for you!

Sign up today for a great summer computer camp experience @ prestigious Universities across the United States.

http://bit.ly/9rZi7Q

Skimboarder shot on 6MP camera

Skimboarder shot on 6MP camera

One of the most frequent questions to settle before coming to Digital Photography and Photoshop I is: what kind of digital camera should I choose?  The answer depends on your objectives and comfort with camera technology.  If you are a hobbyist, you’ll probably focus your attention on DSLRs: those traditional-looking cameras that accept different lenses and provide an optical viewfinder through which to compose your shots.  The pocket point-and-shoot alternative is generally more  travel-friendly and affordable, although there is considerable overlap in the latter regard among high end point-and-shoots and entry-level DSLRs.

One measuring stick commonly employed when comparing models is the number of effective megapixels (MP) of the image sensor.  All things being equal, it would seem reasonable that a 12 megapixel camera  would resolve an image twice as well as a 6 megapixel model but, in fact, the comparison depends on additional variables.  If the optical precision of the 12MP camera is not commensurate with the power of the sensor, actual improvement over the 6MP camera may be nominal.  Even though the greater number of pixels will yield a larger croppable area, insufficient sharpness can render the results a wash. The smaller the size of the pixels and, therefore, the greater their density, the greater potenital for stray data, known as noise, and poor detail in low-light shooting situations. The image of the skimboarder was shot with an older 6MP camera yet reporoduced sharp enough to earn a full page spot for July in the 2009 Tidelines calendar. In this case, the quality of the lens was more important than the number of pixels.

For detailed side-by-side comparisons and actual image samples, I recommend dpreview.com Regardless of the form factor you choose, consider investing in a camera that shoots images in the RAW format.  While Photoshop CS4 can employ many of the same enhancements on JPEG images, you’ll truly enjoy the full power of the application with images shot in RAW.

Learn more about Digital Photography and Photoshop 1 class or register now.

In our Summer Digital Media Adventures Program for kids (9-13), we offer two Video Game Creation Programs. We cover several media and game-creation tools, and spend a lot of time in Multimedia Fusion 2. In this video, I’ll create a Pong Clone to show you the basics of MMF2′s interface. Unlike computer programming, MMF2 is more graphical and straightforward, and you can see direct results as you shape the game. Computer programming is much more abstract, but the basic concepts of programming are present in MMF2. In our Video Game Creation class, we teach students about game balancing and collaboration, and how to reach a deadline with a glitch-free game. In the advanced course, we go into how to manage games that quickly get very large, and how to build them well from the start. We look forward to seeing you this summer!

I love some good Apple rumor news as much as the next guy, and this is some news I can really sink my teeth into…
 

Touch Screen Apple Computer

Apple has been staying away from the Netbook market for a while. The MacBook Air comes close, but is not totally a “Netbook” by definition. I just came across a “hot news” Apple article from CNNMoney.com blogs, and it has me getting all butterflies-in-the-stomach-like. As fast as technology seems to move, sometimes it doesn’t seem fast enough to me. Here’s the article about the rumored touch-screen Mac.

I have been screaming for a larger iPhone, or a laptop without the lap part – just give me the top. You have to love the iPhone interactive experience. Let’s face it, the keyboard and mouse are sooo… 1980′s. Let’s go everybody! Let’s put the old-fashioned keyboard and mouse to rest and move forward! 

 I just had this conversation last week with a few of DMA’s top and award winning instructors: Tom Wolsky and Beth Corwin. I can hear the conversations with the next generation asking us to explain how a keyboard and mouse worked. “You mean you used to have to type everything in manually? All the graphics were on a flat surface? How did you work without holographic interfaces?” Kind of like floppy disks or computers taking up a whole room? What a crazy concept.

Written By Ben Waggoner

Wow, the year just keeps skipping past; this post has been on my to-do list for a month now. And my video compression classes are approaching at a rapid pace, with signups for Digital Media Academy @ Stanford University already open!

These classes are among the highlights of my year. I never learn faster than when I’m teaching, particularly when I get the great students that attend the sessions. Skill levels vary widely, and the course is designed to accommodate that. But everyone’s got something unique they’re trying to do, whether it’s a supervisor of a high-volume compression department getting up to speed on new formats, or an educator incorporating videos of marine animals into the classroom. And it’s those real-world projects where the rubber meets the road. The focus of the classes is on hands-on art, science, and craft of video compression. It’s all about how to get the best results out of real-world content with real-world workflows, within all the real-world constraints we have to operate under.

” When Microsoft was recruiting me back in 2005, one of my top requirements was that I keep on teaching these classes, with full freedom to cover the formats and technologies that matter, even if competitive with our own. It was an easy sell – they understand the value of me understanding everything. And of course, now that VC-1 is a SMPTE standard and Silverlight is getting H.264 support, the era of proprietary media formats is over anyway. So while we’ll certainly spend time with VC-1, WMV, and Silverlight, we’ll also cover MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Flash, DVD, Blu-ray, Ogg Theora, and other formats and players based on class interest.

Class time is roughly split between lectures/demos and hands-on time doing projects. Each student gets their own workstation loaded with the latest and greatest compression software and related tools.

And I really encourage students to bring along some of their own content and projects, particularly one’s they’ve been having trouble with. Nothing beats that kind of variety of real projects to teach the tips and tricks of our craft.

DMA computer training classes offer Stanford Continuing Studies academic credit, and so are generally covered by corporate education benefits.

Stanford University: August 10-14

Mastering Video Compression

This is the one that started it all; 2009 makes it a full decade since the very first 2-day class I did for the Stanford library science department on authoring QuickTime for education . We’ve been doing the current week-long format for eight years now. The program that ran that class evolved into the Digital Media Academy, which now runs a very wide variety of classes. My 9 year old son came along last year to take a great LEGO Robotics course the same week. He and James Clarke (who took the class) really hit it off; the three of us can deliver quite a whirlwind of nerdish intensity.

Since it’s a one week intensive, it works as a destination class; we get people flying in from around the world. On-campus dorm rooms are available (and quite nice; I stay in one), with other lodging options available, and a meal plan.

Andy Hoffman is currently a junior at Carnegie Vanguard High School in Houston, Texas, set to graduate in the Spring of 2010. Andy has known since he was 10 years old that he wanted to find a college that would allow him to get a degree in Video Game Design and allow him to go into the gaming industry.

The following is an interview with Andy. Read how Digital Media Academy inspired Andy and helped him acquire great skills that have allowed him to pursue his passion.

DMA: How old are you?

Andy: 17

DMA: How many summers have you been attending DMA?

Andy: This will be my fourth summer.

Andy has taken the following game creation courses at DMA:

In summer of ’09 he is taking Web Design and Flash Scripting for Game Design.

DMA: Which DMA location did you attend?

Andy: Stanford University. I enjoy the campus environment, it’s very easy to get around and a relaxing environment.

DMA: Prior to attending DMA, did you know what career path you wanted to take?

Andy: Somewhat. The main issue that prevented me from deciding to go into game design prior to attending DMA was the practicality of it.

DMA: Describe your experience at DMA.

Andy: In the past three summers I’ve learned a lot and had fun doing it.

DMA: How has DMA helped you in deciding what you would like to do when you “grow up”?

Andy: Meeting other kids with similar interests, and the instructors and speakers who came and spoke to us about the game design industry really inspired me.

DMA: Do you know which University you would like to attend?

Andy: Through the help of DMA and my high school counselor, I found several incredible options that are considered prestigious in the game industry. I’ve now narrowed my search down to Savannah College of Art and Design, Ringling College of Art and Design, Southern Methodist University, The University of Texas at Dallas, and University of Southern California. SMU offers a 5 year program that includes a masters degree as well.

DMA: What stands out the most for you from your time spent at DMA camps.

Andy: Being in high school, but living on a college campus for a few weeks out of the summer doing what I will hopefully be doing a year or two from now when I’m actually in college.

DMA: Describe the quality of the facilities, computers, instructors, etc.

Andy: Beyond expectations.

We also got a chance to talk to Andy’s mom, Joni Hoffman.

DMA: As a parent, please describe your experience with DMA.

Joni: My son Andy has been interested in Video Game Design since he was 10 years old. He attended several local video game creation computer camps offered in Houston. We found that Andy knew more than the instructors, even at a young age. He would ask questions they simply could not answer. We soon learned that Andy needed a more serious and rigorous program than what we had locally. I was thrilled to find DMA. It has been an incredible experience for Andy.  This summer will be his 4th summer and unfortunately his last. He will be a senior. However because of DMA he is pursuing a degree in Video Game Design. The portfolio he has created from what he learned at DMA has helped him become a serious candidate for scholarship money at several universities that offer Video Game Design as a degree.

DMA: Do you feel that DMA is your typical camp? Explain.

Joni: NO. Living on the Stanford campus was an incredible opportunity.

DMA: Do you feel that DMA has opened your son’s eyes to know which career path he wants to pursue?

DMA attracts kids literally from all over the world who have a similar passion and interest. Andy has had roommates from the UK, Canada and France.  These same kids may even reconnect someday once they are in the real world pursuing their dreams of being in the gaming industry.

DMA: Would you recommend DMA to others?

Joni: Absolutely

DMA: Anything else you would like to comment on about DMA?

With the state of the economy, many “stable” degrees no longer offer a guarantee of landing a good job after graduation. It’s more important than ever to pick from degrees that are going to have jobs available. The video game industry is booming and probably only going to get stronger. I think Andy is fortunate that his passion for this industry has great potential for a very successful career as an adult.

I truly believe that DMA helped shape Andy’s future and his DMA experience has definitively given him a competitive advantage in the college admissions process. Not to mention he had a blast. Kudos to the staff and counselors at DMA!

DMA offers fun and creative learning for the whole family!

Have you ever wished that you could attend a summer camp just like your children? Well now you can. This summer, Digital Media Academy’s adult, teen, and kids summer programs will allow both you and your children to learn the latest in creative technology. And while youre busy producing digital movies, creating web sites, or designing games, you’ll also get to share in your child’s learning experience-first hand. Imagine what dinner conversations will be like instead of the typical, So what did you do today?”

Digital Media Academy: Creative Technology Immersion

The Digital Media Academy provides adult learners, including teens and kids, college students, K-20 educators, and industry professionals with a weeklong learning experience in a summer retreat or camp environment. In addition, participants can earn 4 quarter units of Stanford Continuing Studies credit. Courses include 3D Animation, Web Design, Strategies of Game Design, and Digital Video. Digital Media Academy attracts award-winning instructors such as Ben Waggoner (“world’s greatest compressionist”), New York School of Visual Arts’ Steve Adler, and veteran ABC producer and best-selling Final Cut Pro author, Tom Wolsky among others.

Learning for the whole family! DMA Summer Camps and Learning Courses

Summer Courses for Adults

Computer Camp for Teens

Computer Camp for Kids

Summer 2014 is in full swing at Digital Media Academy! Now here’s a look back at some earlier days at DMA…

Palo Alto, CA  March 1, 2008 — Digital Media Academy is recognized as the premier summer camp for youngsters, teens and adults. The whole family can enjoy learning the latest digital art and media techniques from top instructors in an encouraging project-based environment using state-of-the-art equipment. The 5-day courses for kids and teenagers can be taken individually or combined for multi-week certifications at prestigious college and university campuses that includes University of Chicago, Stanford University (San Francisco area), Harvard (Boston), George Washington U. (Washington, D.C.), University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA), UC San Diego, UC Berkeley and more. At DMA, your child will be taught how to design and create video games, movies and websites, while developing lifelong passion and skills that translate directly to careers in design, engineering, computer science, and more.

DMA has something for each member of the family with its diverse offering of courses. Digital Media Adventures summer computer camps cater to ages 6-12, with day and residential camps in robotics, game design, web design, filmmaking and cartoon and comic creation, taught by professionals and teachers with a passion and talent for inspiring young minds.

Learning at DMA Summer Computer Camps and Tech Courses

Teen summer tech courses for ages 12-17 are offered at beginning to advanced levels with an optional residential pre-college experience. DMA is partnered with the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus (www.lennonbus.org) to offer a music and video production course that is sure to attract students from around the world. Adults can take professional level courses in film, web design, photography, animation and more.

What better summer experience than channeling your family’s creativity and passion for video games and technology into an exciting educational experience? Contact DMA online for more details or call DMA Guest Services at (866) 656-3342 to register for classes now!

Written by Jaime Walden of the John Lennon Bus

Hello Blog,
Today is a wonderful day.  Thanks to the Digital Media Academy, I will now be traveling in style with my new MacBook Air. Or, as Brian calls it, “Our first MBA!”  MACGyver and myself will be taking our first trip together to Palm Springs, CA for CUE 2009 March 5-7. Over the course of our days there, we’ll be conducting a high school recording session and video premiere, giving tours, and holding “Ask the Expert” video production, web design, iLife, and special effects demos with the Digital Media Academy at our booth.  Stop by and say hello, MACGyver and I will be the two smallest ones there.

On Mama’s Jukebox: Elliott Smith – “Ballad of Big Nothing”

Learning at DMA Course by the Lennon Bus