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.
Software like Autodesk Maya and 3D Studio Max brings professional quality tools to independent artist, hobbyist, and the student with an interest in animation. Maya 3D modeling software is the industry standard for creating 3D characters and objects. Maya is used in the game, film, television and tech industries and computer generated imagery is a standard in almost every form of media.
What’s Your Experience?
In my experience as a Digital Media Academy instructor and university professor, I have seen more and more students showing up to class with prior experience creating 3D models and animation. These student artists are usually self-taught, having picked up whatever lessons they could find online and in print.
I experienced this myself when I was first learning Maya. I had first worked in Softimage and 3D Studio Max, and I had practically taught myself 3D modeling through manuals and online tutorials. (To a certain extent this method works fine, but professional instruction teaches best practices and professional techniques.) To learn Maya I thought I would go through the same experience, and was on my way to doing that when the company I worked for hired a Maya professional to come in for a few days and get our team of 3D animators up to speed on how to model, rig, and animate a character. (Yes, it’s true, even professional 3D modelling artists can benefit from Maya workshops.) I learned more in those two days than I had learned on my own in the past two years.
Not only was it personalized instruction, but I had never had someone tie it all together into such a well-organized workflow. Things made sense and were directly relevant to the 3D modeling task at hand. Now all the bits and pieces of the online tutorials and book chapters came together like puzzle pieces falling into place.
And not only was that time productive, my future self-directed learning in Maya was made more valuable because I was able to put it into the solid framework established during that 3D modeling training session.
Modeling a Career Path
Do you want to become a professional 3D animation artist? If so, you’re beginning a long and rewarding journey. My best advice? I highly recommend you take the time to get started on the right foot with some quality instruction. Digital Media Academy offers great courses to learn how to create and animate using Maya.
DMA’s Maya Certification program centers on its series of 3d modeling and animation courses. These courses are broad and deep and tackle some of the most complex problems and powerful tools in Maya, Autodesk’s industry standard software for 3D modeling, animation, rendering, and visual effects. From a beginning of how to create basic shapes in Maya I, to a finalized piece with finished facial animations, body rigging, and narrative based story – the Digital Media Academy series of courses provides an intense submersion into the Maya toolkit and workflow.
Paul Randall and Karen Laszkiewicz – who attended DMA at Stanford University as part of a partnership with NOVA this past summer – in collaboration with other students at animation summer camp created the sample project displayed below. Both Paul and Karen were among the Digital Media Academy attendees who tackled all four courses back to back. The amount of technical information was huge. The requirements to process and apply the information were quick. And the necessity to work as a team came as an extra spice to the mix. Paul and Karen were integral parts of a diverse team that included participants of varying ages, abilities, gender, and nationality. They both kept learning, kept producing and working with the team through the deadline to create the final piece seen here.
This project is based on a story from a children’s book and due to time constraints does not have voice over or final render. That said, in this format you can see the scripted words (for voice over) and the skeleton (rigged, model) and other directional tools. The important thing to remember is that Paul and Karen started with no experience in 3d or Maya and after 20 days of class were able to produce this. Digital Media Academy will get you started on your new career path! The skills they departed with will enable them to pursue the field of 3d art, modeling and animation as a viable career path. What are you interested in learning with Maya? Is it time to learn new skills to be competitive in today’s employment marketplace? Why not learn new skills and have fun too at Digital Media Academy’s Maya summer camp? Please join the conversation, and leave a comment below!
Looking for more information on Maya Certification? Please click here: Maya Certification Which Digital Media Academy location will work best for you? Take a look! Please click here: Digital Media Academy Adult Training Locations.
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.
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!
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!
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!
News from HQ by Philip Harding
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.
Stanford University: August 10-14
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 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.