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.
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 principals 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.
What do you want to be?
“One day I want to be an animator or a movie director. I love anything has to do with a computer and I am always drawing, so this camp was made for me! My dream job would be to design animation for DreamWorks!”
What did you learn at DMA?
“At camp I learned how to animate my drawings. Before this I was trying to use stop motion photography and it took forever! I got Toon Boom Studio® for my birthday and have been animating ever since. It’s awesome to see my drawings move around!”
What was your most memorable camp moment?
“One of my most memorable moments at camp was the first time I saw my thoughts come to life. I was so happy! My first film was pretty simpIe but it was a start and it was funny. I also made some good friends at camp that I am still in contact with today!”
Are you hoping to attend DMA camp next summer? If so, what campus and which program will you select?
“I plan to return to DMA next summer. I want to take the 3D animation or moviemaking course. I also want to return to the Stanford campus. It’s beautiful and I’m planning on going to school there one day!”
Aspiring young animators who want to learn how to create cartoons don’t have to wait to be old enough for visual arts school. Digital Media Academy’s animation camp and cartoon camp give kids a chance to create the next Spongebob Squarepants or Bugs Bunny while exploring and learning about technology and art.
Summer camp is an experience that only gets better when you bring family and friends along. Take, for example, these two brothers who attended Digital Media Academy’s tech camp at UCLA in 2012.
Koa and Kaipo both spent a week at a brand new kids camp based around science and engineering. DMA’s tech camps support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) skill sets, and that’s great news to parents since the Department of Labor estimates there will be 1.2 million STEM jobs available in the next 5 years.
What isn’t such great news is that there aren’t enough skilled graduates to fill those jobs!
This is where DMA comes in. We help provide kids and teens the tools to make STEM subjects not only interesting but a possible career path. For kids like Koa and Kaipo, they get the real-world experience—and get to show off what they’ve learned to friends and family at the end of the week. We caught up these two aspiring engineers after their DMA summer:
What do you want to be?
Koa: “When I grow up, I might be a drummer, an architect or a designer.”
Kaipo: “Someday I want to be a scientist because I want to create something useful.”
What did you learn at DMA and what did you enjoy about the Adventures in Science & Engineering camp?
Koa: “I learned how circuits work, Bernoulli’s Principle of Flight, and Programming. You know, science and stuff. I also learned cartooning, like how comics are set up and how to create basic animation. Another thing I learned was architecture, where I did stuff like make a bridge out of popsicle sticks and design my dream house on a website.”
Kaipo: “My favorite part was solar energy because we got to learn about how sun beams power solar panels.”
How did DMA inspire you?
Koa: I play with LEGOs (at home) and build on Minecraft®. I got inspired by designing my dream house. I want to be an architect some day.”
Kaipo: “DMA inspired me to be a scientist because I did a lot of fun stuff in science and engineering.”
What was your most memorable camp moment?
Koa: “My favorite moment was when we built solar-powered cars and we learned about solar energy. It was really fun and I especially enjoyed racing the solar cars!”
Kaipo: “My favorite time was when we built water rockets. It was fun to make them and shoot them.”
Are you interested in attending DMA camp this coming summer?
Kaipo: “We want to come back to UCLA.”
What DMA program will you take this time?
Koa: “I want to take the Adventures in Science & Engineering program again.”
Kaipo: “3D Video Game Creation.”
We’re excited that Koa and Kaipo are returning to DMA. Concepts like solar-powered cars and engineering don’t have to be out of reach to kids. In fact, they’re more accessible than ever. DMA offers a variety of STEM-related camps and courses that will inspire the future engineer in your home.
Last year’s Documentary Filmmaking class was a fantastic experience for me as a teacher. The students included:
• a businesswoman from Boston,
• a sociologist from Japan,
• a teenager from France,
• a flight attendant from Miami,
• a scientist from Texas,
• and a teacher from South Carolina
Imagine what you could learn from a group like that!
Here’s a small snippet from the course. Since I’m an editor I can’t resist an example of phenomenal documentary editing. Have a look at the following clip, from the documentary Carrier, about the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz.
So first, one of the pilots introduces the idea that everybody on the carrier needs to do their job correctly, at the right time, for the carrier to function properly. And that sets off this montage of flight deck operations, set to—wait, can it be?—the “March of the Wooden Soldiers” from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.”
Notice how similar motions are grouped together—there’s a beautiful series of circular motions, for instance. And at the end, somebody declares “it’s like a ballet.” Which makes perfect sense, since the filmmakers have already make that perfectly clear from a visual standpoint! But then they extend the metaphor to other areas of the ship, particularly the people feeding the ship and cleaning it up.
This is actually an important priority of the filmmakers: making the viewers understand that an aircraft carrier isn’t all about the planes and the flight deck, but that there are people greasing the cables and cleaning the toilets as well. And they’ve done a great job of conveying that visually at every opportunity.
Want more? Well, you’ll have to come to Stanford. Not a lot of people regret spending a week in Northern California, and I’m sure you’ll learn a tremendous amount and enjoy yourself as well!
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…
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.
See what teens made at Digital Media Academy film camp this summer in Chicago!
This video was made by shooting hundreds of individual JPEG photos and piecing/editing them together in Final Cut Pro. This was made during DMA Film Camp in Chicago this past summer in the Teen Film Editing and Filmmaking Course. Learn how to make a movie like this at a DMA course this summer!
Andy Hoffman is currently a junior at Carnegie Vanguard High School in Houston, Texas and will be graduating 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 showcasing how Digital Media Academy inspired Andy and helped him acquire great skills that will allow him to pursue his passion.
DMA: How old are you?
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:
- 3d Game Creation I with 3ds Max (July 06)
- 3d Game Creation II with 3ds Max (July 07)
- 3d Game Creation III with 3ds Max and Maya (Aug. 07)
- Advanced Video Game Production I with 3ds Max, Maya, & Zbrush (July 08)
- Advanced Video Game Production II with 3ds Max, Maya, & Zbrush (July 08)
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?
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.
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.
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.), U of Pennsylvania – Philadelphia, Brown (Providence, RI), Dartmouth (Hanover, NH), 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 7-13, 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.
Teen summer tech courses for ages 13-18 are offered at beginning to advanced levels with an optional residential pre-college experience. New for 2009, DMA has 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? DMA is offering a Spring special discount off each 2009 course for everyone who registers by March 31, 2009. Visit www.digitalmediaacademy.org for details.
By Katy Scoggin – Lead Instructor Hands On Digital Filmmaking for Teens
Last August, I taught Hands On Digital Filmmaking for Teens at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. The class was a really successful exercise in collaboration and one of the highlights of my summer. I think everybody realized during that week that what you can accomplish as a group is a lot bigger than what you can create on your own.
It took me a lot of years to realize the value of teamwork. As a high school student, I loathed group projects because they always meant the same thing: I would end up doing all the work for several people. What a drag.
Since becoming a filmmaker, though, I’ve learned that teamwork is not about a bunch of slackers and the over-achievers who pick up after them. Real teamwork is about getting a bunch of creative minds together, bouncing ideas off one another, distributing work evenly and according to different folks’ strengths, and eventually coming up with a project that is bigger—and far cooler—than what any member of the group could have created alone.
That’s what my Philly students did last summer in the film camp course. They began by working individually on script ideas, which they later pitched to the class. Everybody got really excited about one student’s thriller idea. The story is about a girl who reveals the identity of a serial killer by posting a video of his latest murder on YouTube. After developing the script to suit everyone’s taste, we cast the project with some of our more performative members and broke the script down according to location.
Everyone who was interested in shooting—including the actors—had the opportunity to get behind the camera. Other students learned how to slate each take as camera assistants; lock the set down and watch for oncoming pedestrians as production assistants; and hold the boom pole as sound recordists. Everybody always had a job to do. And if each individual hadn’t held his or her own weight, we would not have completed the movie in such a short time span.
They say each movie is made three times: First you write it. Then you shoot it. Then you edit. After our two-day production period was over, we hunkered down and started to put the movie together. If you’ve ever written a paper, you understand that editing is basically rewriting. It’s the same in the cutting room: once you put the images you’ve captured into order, you can reorder them in a thousand different ways. Finding the best way to tell a visual story is one of the most challenging and, ultimately, most gratifying aspects of filmmaking.
In our digital film class, we decided to keep things collaborative through to the end: Each student picked one scene to edit, after which we cut the entire story together. At the end of the week, when we screened our short film for parents, I think everybody was happily surprised to see how much they’d been able to accomplish as a group in just one short week. The experience was a great one, and I look forward to having more like it this summer!