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How Technology Has Changed 3D Animation School

How has technological invention affected 3D animation schools?

Balancing Technique With Technology

animator at laptop looking over his work

If you're currently attending a 3D animation school, you won't be surprised to hear how much the modern animation industry relies on computer technology. Video games, movies, television, mobile apps, and the Internet all show the telltale signs of modern animation techniques such as 3D rendering and motion capture. Traditional animation in which each cel is drawn by hand has been replaced by powerful software that fills in or "tweens" frames automatically and 3D animation programs such as Autodesk Maya and 3ds Max, Cinema 4D, and Houdini are standard throughout the industry.

The audience for animation has changed, too, says Ann Daly, COO of Dreamworks Animation, in an interview for Forbes, "It's moved from being viewed as an artistic medium for children into something that has much more broad audience appeal. Animated movies are now being released worldwide and are often the top-grossing movies of the year."

However, this sophistication isn't just a result of cutting-edge technology—also critical is an emphasis on the traditional visual fundamentals and storytelling techniques that every animator needs to know. A good 3D animation school will stress these universal basics as well as the specific software skills standard in the industry

But Has the Curriculum Changed, Too?

As the animation industry has changed, so too has the curriculum taught by 3D animation programs. If you're thinking about attending 3D animation school, you can expect to learn about the following:

  • Hardware and software necessary for design, animation, rendering, special effects, and post-production
  • The creation of convincing character animation and fully-rendered computer-generated worlds
  • Storytelling skills
  • Production modeling with Maya and ZBrush
  • Compositing skills

A lot of essential curriculum in 3D animation school hasn't changed, however, because the basics continue to be vital to animators of every stripe:

  • Traditional art techniques are always a big part of any 3D animation program
  • Color theory, composition, and life drawing are just a few of the skills that computer animators find handy
  • Filmmaking techniques like camera angles and lighting are another key part of animation coursework
  • Traditional techniques, such as storyboarding, remain an important part of the animator's arsenal
  • Many art schools will also offer the opportunity to study earlier animation techniques that use cameras, animation stands, and hand-drawn frames
  • Most schools will expect you to create a dynamic reel for your portfolio.

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