So you're a big fan of Game of Thrones, Star Wars or the latest Marvel Blockbusters, but have you ever wondered how these films actually get made? Hundreds of thousands of hard-working people around the world call this their career and it could be yours too!
One of the fastest growing and popular components of film production is called Computer Graphics (CG). This is the process of creating digital elements with a computer which are then seamlessly inserted into a film to create images things that might not be otherwise possible in reality. The shot below from The Avengers (2012) is a good example of the impact computer generated visual effects (VFX) can add to a scene.
Finding out MORE information
It's a great dream to want to get involved in the film industry, but how do you make that goal a reality? The next step is to seek some more information to understand what career opportunities are available and what skills are required for them.
Creative Skillset is a fantastic website that outlines prospective careers in the screen-based creative industries in the UK, but most of the information is relevant for students worldwide. Head there to get a good grasp for what is needed to gain a foothold in the industry and check out the video below.
GetTING Your Hands Dirty
Don't wait to be taught. If you're interested in computer graphics, the best way to learn is by doing. A large number of the software used in the industry is available for free to students and educators. You don't need to wait until you finish school to start, there are some excellent resources available online now!
Get involved in the online community and see what fellow artists are working on and talking about. Check out ArtStation to get inspired (and daunted) by the amazing art people are creating and also forums like CG Society. Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for help!
Pixar has been a leading computer animation studio for over 30 years, responsible for some fantastic films such as Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Monster's Inc and Finding Nemo. They have partnered with Khan Academy to create a series of tutorials that showcase how they create their films. You can see them here.
As mentioned previously, computer graphics involves creating digital elements to add to film footage. When these elements are complex and need to be created in 3D, we use a piece of software called Maya. This is one of the most popular tools used in the industry today and you can download a non-commercial edition for you to learn with by signing up with an account here.
At first glance, Maya can look quite complicated to use and different from anything you have experienced before. Autodesk have produced an excellent series of tutorial videos to guide you through your first steps on their YouTube channel, here.
The process of adding these 3D elements seamlessly back into the film footage is called compositing. The industry standard tool for this is Nuke. Much like Maya, it also has a free, non-commercial version available for students to learn with, available here.
In Nuke we are generally interacting with the image in a different way to 3D software like Maya, so again the interface might look a little strange to you. But the quickest way to learn is to follow some tutorials, luckily The Foundry provide some excellent ones here.
LEARNING DURING SCHOOL
So you're connecting with artists online as you learn the software at home, but how can maximise your learning in high school if there is no computer graphics classes?
You might be surprised to find that some core skills required to being a successful CG artist can be found in classes at most schools. Learning the fundamentals of art in an art class, might seem obvious, but use this opportunity to start producing more digital work rather than the traditional everyone else is doing. If you're looking to enter this more technical field, maths, physics or programming classes will absolutely contain elements relevant to your chosen career path.
Creative Skillset has created a useful guide so you can understand the kind of skills that are useful in the Computer Graphics industry here.
PlanNING for the future
As you build familiarity with the animation and film industry, you can now focus on planning your next steps through high school, so on completion, you have a clear direction to follow. A degree or graduate course is normally a good foundational path to follow. It provides the opportunity to work directly with accredited tutors to learn industry relevant content in a creative and controlled environment.
Research local universities and colleges in your area and see what computer animation courses are on offer. Be prepared to move to ensure that you obtain the best education, but don't be disappointed if this option is not available to you. There are many ways to enter the industry and some artists are completely self-taught, even though this may be the harder road. Find out what studios are operating in your area and see if they offer courses for high school level students.
- Gain knowledge on aspects of the industry at Creative Skillset
- Get involved in the online community via forums like Artstation and CGSociety
- Download a free copy of Maya or Nuke and learn to use them
- Take art, maths, physics or programming classes at high school
- Investigate what university or college animation courses are available to you
I hope I've provided you with some useful resources to kick-start your journey into the film industry. Just remember to learn hard, have fun and ask tough questions. Good luck and don't give up!
If you have any further questions or suggestions reach out to me in the comments below!