Computer Graphics World

Education Supplement 2009

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Page 9 of 23

Beyond the Classroom Industry education leaders chime in on today's self-help methods By Courtney E. Howard "S elf-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is," Isaac Asimov, a famous science-fiction writer, has stated. While his may be an extreme view, self-education, most would agree, is important, especially when used in conjunction with more traditional methods. Many forms of learning exist beyond the formal multi-year programs that many colleges, universities, and trade schools offer. Although a brick-and-mortar school is often the route most taken, it is not the only option. There is something to be learned everyday in everything we do, and this is especially true in animation and computer graphics. According to many players in the education segment of the digital content creation industry, several options and resources are available to further one's education without having to go to—or, in some cases, go back to—school. On the Job One effective way to extend education is through your job. "Never be afraid to take an entry-level or more junior position in an area in which you do not have much experience but are interested in," says Alastair Macleod, head of animation at Vancouver Film School (VFS). "Sometimes, to be qualified to work in another field or country, you must master the one you are currently in, and then you may only be qualified for a junior position. "Put yourself in a situation where you are surrounded by people who are doing what you would like to learn," Macleod continues. "Observe, then ask questions. School is a good place to do this, but not the only place. If you are already in production, you should sit in on dailies, production meetings, or any discussions where you can hear the issues as they unfold, and listen to the solutions that are used. Find out how effective those solutions were." This method of learning through experience is, according to some, the only way true knowledge and education are gained. 10 Another interesting approach for the experienced professional does involve going back to school, but not as a student. Why not teach? "Taking a teaching position will generally expose you to a wide range of subjects, often brought to you in the form of interesting questions," says Macleod. "You'd also be amazed at how much can be learned when working with talented and creative students. Teaching does require a certain type of personality, but this is another interesting method in which to gain education while actually earning money." On the Interwebs Given the ever-expanding bandwidth of the Internet and continued gains in technology, many novel online and digital media formats now efficiently deliver interactive and educational courses based on myriad subjects. Many sources exist for educational material today, and one of the more popular available is This online resource offers so many education methods and titles that it is easy to get lost among the many instructional books and video courses on a wealth of topics, from Autodesk's Maya to Adobe's Photoshop, and anything and everything in between. Peter Weishar, dean of Film, Digital Media, and Performing Arts at Savannah College of Art and Design, recommends online and video methods for seasoned veterans, but cautions newcomers on their initial use. "For a beginner, I would strongly suggest a class," he says. "Relying on software tutorials will not help you avoid clichés and aesthetic pitfalls that can be reflected in your portfolio. For professionals, I prefer training DVDs." While training in the digital medium is growing, Jim McCampbell, department head of Computer Animation at Ringling College of Art + Design, reminds us not to forget the importance of talking to our peers. "Videos and books are fine for learning tools, but it is incredibly important to get individual, personalized feedback on your work,"

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