So You Want to Learn 3D Animation

3d animation school

Well this is something a bit different. We’re amateur 3D animators here at WP Dev Shed and our own interest lead us to think that maybe some of you might also be interested to learn more. The focus of this article is all the best places online to learn 3D animation and visual effects. Enjoy…

Learning 3D animation opens the door to careers in film, game development, product design and other industries that require realistic computer renderings of people and objects. With skills in 3D animation, the sky is the limit as to what you can create.

Why Learn 3D Animation?

Becoming a 3D animator expands your creative abilities beyond traditional mediums and gives you the freedom to experiment with form and movement. This type of animation can be used to illustrate complex systems from every angle, recreate natural phenomena or invent entirely new people, places and things. The combination of fun and practicality makes 3D animation an attractive option if you have a mind for both the creative and the technical.

To start a career in animation, you need a solid background in computers and a foundation of technical knowledge to aid you in mastering the intricate tools used in the industry. A willingness to learn is just the beginning. Once you know that animation is the path for you, it’s time to find the right place to develop those all-important skills.

Online Courses

You don’t have to head off to a distant college to study 3D animation. Many schools and resources are available on the Internet to help you get started with the basics and advance to a deeper understanding of the craft. These options are often cheaper than traditional schools. Some offer degrees that prepare you for jobs in the industry; others provide self-guided tutorials for animators of all skill levels.

  • Animation Mentor calls itself The Online Animation School. Founded by Bobby Beck, Shawn Kelly and Carlos Baena, the mission of the school is to give students a complete knowledge of 3D animation, starting with the basics and working up to advanced techniques.
  • IAnimate focuses on character animation. The school connects students with long-standing industry pros and offers the opportunity to take its seminars one at a time. Tips, reviews, live question and answer sessions and other tools are also available.
  • Lynda.com, a resource from LinkedIn, is an online learning resource that offers videos on a wide variety of topics. Its animation tutorials can be sorted by skill level, topics, software type and more to find exactly what you want to learn. The service requires a monthly fee, but there’s a ten-day free trial for new subscribers.

Free Learning

Some online resources are free for aspiring animators to use to get started or brush up on difficult concepts.

  • The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers a non-credit version of its Algorithms for Computer Animation course through the MIT OpenCourseWare program. Resources include readings, lecture notes and course notes that can all be downloaded from the MIT site or accessed via external links.
  • Digital-Tutors provides a vast library of video tutorials for creative professionals. Everything is free, and you can find relevant videos by choosing the “3D” option under “Learning Paths.”
  • The Animation Mentor blog, formerly Animation Tips & Tricks, is run by Animation Mentor and provides news, tips and information for aspiring animators.

College Degree

One of the best schools in the world for 3D Animation and Visual effects is the Media Design School in New Zealand, who offer a Bachelor of Art & Design (major in 3D Animation & VFX). They were recently voted the #1 digital design school in the Asia Pacific region in the 2015 Autodesk CG Student Awards.

MDS is based in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, but their programs are also available via partner universities in Adelaide (AU), Milan (IT) and San Diego (US). The scene in New Zealand is really strong in no small part thanks to the huge industry which revolves around Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop, which is based in Wellington, NZ, but regularly pulls graduates from the MDS programmes.

If you have ever considered studying abroad, New Zealand would be a pretty cool destination and Media Design School a great option. Learn more about studying in New Zealand at Media Design School.

Popular 3D Animation Software

Everything involved in creating 3D animations requires powerful software. Certain schools and tutorials may focus on just one option, but having multiple tools at your disposal gives you more flexibility in your projects.

Maya by Autodesk is considered the standard for the animation industry. A free trial lets you get a feel for its powerful features, but purchasing this professional-quality tool may not be cost-effective for a beginner. Cinema 4D is touted as being more accessible than Maya but still powerful enough for the professional world.

If you’re looking to get started with feature-rich animation software but don’t have the budget for a mainstream animation suite, try Blender. This free open source program can be used for any kind of 3D animation and features an extensive support forum complete with tutorials and demo files.

Through a combination of online schools, free tutorials and software resources, you can get started on the path toward a career in 3D animation without ever having to leave your house. Learn at your own speed, expand your basic knowledge and enjoy the freedom that comes with being able to create anything your imagination dreams up.

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Charles Coxhead

Written by Charles Coxhead

Charles has been building and promoting websites and services in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and China for nearly 20 years.

One comment on “So You Want to Learn 3D Animation
  1. I like how you mentioned that you don’t have to physically go to a faraway college in order to learn how to do 3D animation because of the existence of the Internet as well as various online classes. There are quite a few places that offer to teach 3D animation at affordable rates even from the comfort of your own home, so it’s best to take advantage of the technology available and learn even if you’re in another state. Also, becoming a 3D animator can let anyone experiment with bringing complex systems to life with the aid of a computer as well as knowledge on how to animate objects and bring them to life.

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