DMA Central

THE OFFICIAL COMMUNITY FOR DIGITAL MEDIA ACADEMY

World’s Best Tech Camp Starts Summer at Stanford

Summer is here and if you’re like most families, summer camp will most likely be part of your summer plans. But summer camps today are way different from those your parents attended. Now instead of making leather bracelets, kids and teens are making technology.


Digital Media Academy’s classroom at Stanford—air conditioned and decked out with brand new iMacs and Mario pixel art.

“I Will Create the Next _______”
Learning app development for the Apple iPhone and Video Game Design camp is a different kind of “screen time” and can be a great way to inspire young imaginations. At DMA, campers aged 6 to 17 choose their area of interest during week-long or two-week courses. They all create technology while meeting other young people like themselves and forging lifelong friendships.

This year Digital media Academy has added exciting brand-new tech camps to all twelve university locations across the United States and Canada:

DMA’s Adventures in Science & Engineering program brings kids age 8 through 12 face to face with science and some of its coolest applications. Campers construct buildings with CAD technology, learning about concepts such as structural stress. Junior inventors also get to build water rockets and solar race cars while grasping key principles about aerodynamics and how machines work. Kids even use Scratch to make their own 2D video games. This is hands-on science coupled with the summer camp experience of a lifetime.

Meanwhile, PS3 & Xbox 360 Game Development with Unity is perfect for the youngster (age 13 to 17) who wants to design and build a next-generation game for the Xbox 360 or PS3. Campers use the industry-standard Unity game engine to help them put together a playable first- or third-person game. Topics covered include game-development work flow, asset preparation, integrating animation, controlling characters, collision detection and weapon interactions. This summer camp experience is ideal for the dedicated gamer.

Another new program debuting at DMA’s Stanford location is the Academy for 3D Modeling, Animation and Visual Effects, for ages 12 through 17. Campers in this program get to go behind the scenes of Hollywood’s coolest blockbusters and find out how special-effects artists are able to work their special visual magic. And by using cutting-edge software like Maya and After Effects, students are exposed to animation basics, motion tracking, color correction, green screen technology and 3D rendering. Learn how the pros do it…by doing it yourself.


At Digital Media Academy’s tech camp (located at Palo Alto’s scenic Stanford University) a teen learns to create a Web site.

Est. 2002
This summer DMA celebrates more than ten years of delivering the finest technology summer camp experience around. It is the only tech camp founded at Stanford University by Stanford technology educators—and it’s grown. The company now operates programs at locations across the country, hosted by some of the nation’s most prestigious college and university campuses. It’s no wonder Digital Media Academy was ranked the world’s best technology summer camp by Worth.com in 2011.

With world-class industry-based instruction and the best in today’s latest software, a DMA summer can deliver lasting benefits and inspire kids and teens to get moving on their career dreams. Make summer vacation count…with Digital Media Academy.

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posted by Phill Powell in Technology Summer Camps and have No Comments

What’s Next for Pixar?

Disney * Pixar is readying a whole new batch of animated classics and none of them involve cars or toys. In fact, the next batch of Disney * Pixar blockbusters focus on a feisty redhead, a dinosaur, a monster sequel/prequel and a celebration of the Mexican holiday of Día de los Muertos.


The title card for Disney * Pixar’s dinosaur movie – before it had a name.

So what will the folks behind “Toy Story,” “Cars,” “Up,” and “Finding Nemo” be thrilling us with at movie theaters for the next few years? We called up our connections at Disney to find out:

“Brave”
Release Date: June 22, 2012
Why It Will Be Awesome: The Pizza Planet Truck – a fixture of every Pixar film, with the exception of “The Incredibles” – makes an appearance here, too. Look for the truck in the Witch’s Hut. Touches like this will make this another Pixar favorite.

The Back Story: Originally titled “The Bear and the Bow,” Pixar’s latest effort, “Brave,” went through many changes before it finally made it to the big screen. The film tells the story of a young fiery red-headed princess named Merida who must trust her archery skills and bravery to fight a dreadful curse. Set in Scotland (“Brave” is also the first period film for Pixar), the film promises to add a new face to the Disney Princess lineup.

The official movie trailer for “Brave”:

“Monsters University”
Release Date: June 21, 2013
Why It Will Be Awesome: The film will be the first in 8 years for Frank Oz (he also provided the voice of Yoda and The Muppets’ Fozzie Bear), and is the very first prequel for any Pixar film.

The Back Story: Announced last year, “Monsters University” is the story of how Mike and Sulley met at the University of Fear – when they weren’t exactly the best of buddies. The film is in production now and will be helmed by Pixar’s Dan Scanlon. “Monsters University” will be also be Scanlon’s first time directing a full-length animated film – although Pixar fans shouldn’t worry too much; Scanlon does have experience bringing computer generated characters to life onscreen - he also directed the Pixar short “Mater and the Ghostlight.”


The official logo for Disney * Pixar’s “Monsters University.” 

Monsters University” re-unites the original cast of Billy Crystal (who again voices the one-eyed Mike Wazowski) and John Goodman (the voice of Sulley) and introduces new characters, too, including The Abominable Snowman (voiced by John Ratzenberger) and Fungus (voiced by Frank Oz). Think “Animal House” (Mike and Sulley are in a fraternity together, Mike wears a retainer) meets “Freaks and Geeks” in Disney Digital 3D – and with monsters.

“The Good Dinosaur”
Release Date: May 30, 2014
Why It Will Be Awesome: Two words: Pixar. Dinosaurs.

The Back Story: Originally titled “Frozen” and “Pixar’s Untitled Movie About Dinosaurs,” the film tells the story of how Earth is missed by an asteroid, and instead of the dinosaurs becoming extinct, they thrived and kept evolving. Dinosaurs have always been a Disney favorite – both in its theme parks and movies – so it’s going to be very interesting to see what kind of take Pixar will have on the subject matter.


Concept art from “The Good Dinosaur” features a young boy. Pixar hasn’t confirmed if humans will remain in the latest version of the script.

The film will be directed by Bob Peterson (co-director/writer of “Up,” writer of “Finding Nemo”) and Peter Sohn. Pixar is promising a “heartfelt and original” story but honestly, would you expect anything less from the studio that turned a bitter old man with a passion for balloons (“Up”) into an Oscar winner?

“Untitled Pixar Movie That Takes You Inside The Mind”
Release Date: TBD
Why It Will Be Awesome: It’s a pet project for Pete Docter.

The Back Story: From director Pete Docter (the guy behind “Up” and “Monsters, Inc.”) comes a film that promises to take us on incredible journey inside the human mind. Disney Studios hasn’t released much more information beyond that, although considering the title, we’re reminded of the long-forgotten Walt Disney’s Adventures Through Innerspace attraction at Disneyland.

“Untitled Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Movie”
Release Date: 2015
Why It Will Be Awesome: Director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson are driving it creatively – and they’re the team behind the Academy Award-winning “Toy Story 3.”

The Back Story: The vibrant Mexican holiday of Día de los Muertos (or Day of the Dead festival, as it’s also known) is a time for celebration – a celebration of the dead. While not many details have been released, the potential of this movie has us dying to see concept art, a trailer, anything! The film, which was announced recently at CinemaCon and is slated for sometime in 2015, promises to feature the skeleton-ish characters that are a hallmark for the festival. It is the movie we’re most looking forward to on this list…


The Day of the Dead festival is probably better known for the skeleton figures that tourists bring home from Mexico.

Computer-Generated Character
Pixar and Hollywood special effects artists bring characters to life by spending years learning to use Maya, the industry standard for 3D character creation (although Pixar also uses its own proprietary tools). But creating computer characters and bringing them to life is something Pixar mastered many films ago. We can’t wait to see the next batch of Pixar creations. How about you?

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posted by Vince Matthews in Comic and Cartoon Creation,News Blog and have No Comments

Making Immortals: Special Effects Techniques & Pre-Production

This weekend, the 3D sword-and-sandal epic Immortals is set to make its bid as one of the year’s biggest blockbusters. In the film, Greek mythology receives the big-screen treatment with amazing special effects that help make the story larger than life.


Henry Cavill (who will star as Superman in the upcoming Man of Steel) plays Theseus in the sword-and-sandal epic, Immortals.

The Road to Immortality
Immortals was brought to the screen by the same production team that made 300, that movie earned $456 million internationally. For this blockbuster, no expense was spared to create the stunning visions necessary to tell the tale. The supervising producer of VFX estimated that more than 100 shots within Immortals required special effects. And because the producers did not want their movie to look as though it was composed solely through CGI effects, some twenty enormous and intricate sets were actually designed and built.


In addition to amazingly complex battle sequences, there are stupendous visions of mountains falling, tidal waves being created and more.

Immortals’ Cameron Connection
All of the massive production was housed under one roof at film studios in Montreal. And if Immortals looks like no other adventure flick ever filmed, there are several technical reasons why. For starters, during pre-production, the filmmakers relied upon a green screen method called InterSense, which James Cameron used when making Avatar.

The technical system called Moses was used during production for similar purposes. For example, when composing a shot set in a monastery, the director was able to use Moses to look down from that monastery onto an enemy encampment and see exactly where CGI creations would be placed within the actual shot.


Another unique technique used in Immortals involves action speed; the gods featured in the films will be able to move and fight at speeds considerably faster than mere mortals.

Immortals will showcase its amazing visuals in 3D. However, unlike many 3D movies, Immortals was built from the ground up to be a 3D film. Foregrounds and backgrounds were designed specifically so the 3D effects could be shown for maximum visual impact. The filmmakers sought help from Prime Focus, a 3D effects house that had worked magic on blockbusters like Star Wars: Episode One –The Phantom Menace and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 2.

All in all, more than 4,000 artists and technicians helped to create the 3D world shown in Immortals. And this figure doesn’t count the number of visual artists who contributed to the making of the film through their mastery of Maya, the software program now driving how characters are generated for films of all types.

Take a look for yourself with the official trailer for Immortals:

Immortals in 3D opens 11/11/11.

The Next Great Action Star
There’s another special effect in the film, in the form of actor Henry Cavill, who will soon be appearing as another larger-than-life character: Superman.

In Immortals, Cavill portrays a fatherless child (Theseus) raised in shame and ridicule who eventually meets a wise old man who counsels Theseus and trains him in combat and philosophy (kind of like the training Bruce Wayne received in 2005’s Batman Begins). Theseus’ mother is murdered and he is put into chains by the evil King Hyperion (played by Mickey Rourke). This all leads to Hyperion facing off against rebel forces led by Theseus in an earth-shaking battle royal.

Cavill will next appear in the action blockbuster Superman: Man of Steel. Warner Brothers is hoping to use the film to rebrand the Superman film franchise and set it onto a fresh and new path, much in the same way that Christopher Nolan’s series of neo-Batman films has accomplished so successfully. There’s been a lot of excitement by fans who want a first look at Henry Cavill as the new Superman.


Look, up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…Henry Cavill in 2013′s Superman: Man of Steel.

The Future of Special Effects
Today technology allows filmmakers to make films they couldn’t have even imagined twenty years ago. Tools like After Effects and Final Cut Pro make filmmaking accessible for everyone. Film production is an amazing process that requires the time and expertise of hundreds of creative professionals who pool their collective talents in the service of a major project, such as Immortals.

Becoming a part of the film industry has never been easier for driven and talented professionals who’ve received the right training with the latest tools. You can start a career in special effects by spending your summer at a film camp that teaches visual effects. Summer camps like Digital Media Academy use cutting-edge software like Autodesk Maya to teach character creation and Final Cut Pro to teach film editing. With hands-on training from DMA, creating the gods on Mount Olympus is just a few keystrokes away.

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posted by Phill Powell in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

App of the Month: SketchBook Pro (Review)

Game: SketchBook Pro
Developer: Autodesk
Rating: 5 out 5 stars
Price: $4.99

From Autodesk, the makers of the industry standard for 3D animation (Maya), comes SketchBook Pro. The app is not only for artists, but for anyone wanting to express themselves using a fully loaded graphics illustration app.


An art store worth of tools and colors is available at the touch of a finger with SketchBook Pro

Users start out by choosing a brush from the extensive selection, then they sketch or paint using a finger or an iPad stylus. The app allows you to export layers as .psd files and has a customizable user interface as well.

The Features 
SketchBook Pro is one of the most capable illustration apps out there. Just take a look at just some of its amazing features:

• Full-screen work space, with support for any device orientation
• A canvas size of 1024 x 768 and supports up to 12 layers on iPad 2
• Optional High Resolution canvas on iPad 2 = 2048 x 1536 with 4 layers
• Multi-Touch Interface, with two-finger pan & zoom navigation with 2500 percent zoom
• More than 60 preset brushes, including pencils, pens, markers and natural media
• Precise brush strokes
• Install more than 90 additional brushes and stamps brushes from the in-app store
• Flood fill and smear tool (just like Photoshop), and other great tools additions, like 20 levels of undo/redo on iPad 2 and dynamic symmetric drawing


A customizable UI allows users to set up their most used tools within SketchBook Pro‘s own interface. 

You can also import images from Photo Library or the camera on iPad 2, too. Plus duplicate, merge and reorder layers (just like Photoshop) and toggle and adjust the layer visibility/opacity. Everything you would expect to do with a high-end graphics application or learn using Photoshop, you can do with SketchBook Pro.

The app exports photos, has in-app email and sharing features, customizable color swatches, eye-dropper selector, custom erasers AND (if that wasn’t enough), video output using either the Apple Component AV Cable or the Apple Dock Connector to VGA adaptor.

Becoming a Digital Designer
Artists have more digital tools available than ever before, but if you’re a digital designer with an iPad or someone who wants to start learning digital art and graphic design, SketchBook Pro is a must-have.


Create both complex and simple pieces of art using SketchBook Pro. Click the image above to enlarge. 

The app gives artists full control over their creativity and the import and export features are easy to use and set up. Creating complex works of art will still take time, but the app supports you with tools to express your vision every step of the way. And at just five dollars, the app is a great investment, and should be a no-brain’er for artists now using the iPad.

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posted by Vince Matthews in App Development,News Blog and have No Comments

Creating Asymmetry with 3D Models and Animation

When you create a 3D animated character there are several things to keep in mind. 3D modeling and animation is a process that requires you to constantly evaluate what you’re creating. That’s why it’s helpful to group the thousands of visual choices you have available to you according to basic, fundamental principles. One of the most important of these principles is the idea of asymmetry.


In the context of design (particularly in 3D modeling and animation), asymmetry is vitally important in establishing both believability and interest.

Finding Balance
Why is asymmetry so important in 3D creation? Asymmetry helps establish believability. Just take a look at the world around you. For the most part, unless it’s a car, machine or other man-made device, it’s naturally asymmetrical. Asymmetry also helps establish interest because of variations in the object. Take a look at the example below…


The image on the left side is asymmetric, while the image on the right side is symmetric. As you can see, my face isn’t as interesting to look at when it’s the same on both sides.

How does this translate into 3D modeling and animation?  How do we achieve asymmetry in 3D creation program like Maya? Actually, there are some easy ways to accomplish this:

Mirror Model
One common approach to modeling characters is to work on one half and then mirror the geometry to the other side.  This is a smart way to work, as it resembles the rough symmetry of most characters and simultaneously cuts the work in half.  However, this leaves us with a completely symmetrical model when we want something more believable.  It looks manufactured. Avoid this by simply altering certain elements of the object on one side of the model. Do this by scaling or sculpting or using lattice deformers.


Altering little details (like eyebrows or the corner of a mouth) can help make a character asymmetrical.

Animation Asymmetry
Modifying a 3D model can easily add asymmetry, but how do we incorporate asymmetry into animation? One is posing your model with asymmetry. Take a look at the two poses below:


Of these two poses, the model on the right is more dynamic and more believable.

Finally, during the animation process, motion curves representing opposite sides of the body can be offset to provide a sort of temporal asymmetry. This creates a pleasant overlap and flexibility to a character action, and it’s an important step in creating a believable sense of weight.

In summary, asymmetry is a vital step in creating believable characters. When you use asymmetry, you demonstrate to the viewer your thoughtfulness as a animator, modeler and designer.

Geoff Beatty teaches 3D modeling and animation using Maya for Digital Media Academy. He was previously profiled on DMAC. Geoff is one of only a handful of Autodesk-Certified Instructors in Maya, the leading 3D animation software program.

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posted by Geoff Beatty in Maya,News Blog and have No Comments

D23 & Tron: Uprising, First Look

The D23 Expo is in Anaheim, California, this weekend. The show is a Disney fan’s dream. This year Disney is pulling out all the stops for Disney collectors, mouse fiends and, this year, Marvel Comics fans (Disney recently acquired Marvel). D23 Expo is like Disney Comic-Con.


Tron: Uprising takes place between the original Tron and the recent Tron: Legacy. The animation has a heavy anime influence.

No surprise then Disney is quietly showing here (and on its DisneyXD YouTube Channel) its much-anticipated 2012 animated series, Tron:Uprising. The animated show was also previewed recently at Comic-Con 2011 in San Diego. The trailer features Beck, a new character in the Tron universe, while Daft Punk provides the soundtrack.

Although what we’ve seen is mostly concept art, an extended classic-Tron chase scene gives viewers an idea what the show will look like…and that’s nothing short of amazing.

The Return of Tron
The story that takes place between the original 1982 Tron movie and the recent 3D blockbuster, Tron: Legacy. Beck (voiced by Elijah Wood) is a young program that is trained by Tron and becomes the arch-enemy of General Tesler (Lance Henriksen). The cast is rounded out with Emmanuelle Chriqui, Mandy Moore, Nate Cordry, Paul (“Pee Wee Herman”) Reubens and Bruce Boxleitner – who will reprise his role in both Tron films.

It’s no surprise that Disney is making a 3D animated series about Tron. Disney is finally getting behind the Tron franchise (which makes perfect sense in the digital age) and the XD sci-fi series looks very promising.


The world of Tron plays a big part in the animated series on Disney XD. 

Tron’s New Horizons
While plans for a Tron ride at Disneyland have been rumored around Imagineering for years, they have remained just that: rumors. However, Disney may have more recently tested the waters for an in-park Tron attraction; management turned an entire section of the Hollywood Studios Backlot at California Adventure Park in Anaheim into a Tron nightclub - including an End of Line club.

Are you looking forward to Tron: Uprising? It brings together art and digital technology like 3D animation using Maya to create a state-of-the-art animated experience.

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posted by Vince Matthews in Art & Animation,News Blog and have No Comments

DMA Course Profile: Learn How Maya Can Animate Your Career

Courses: Maya 2011: Character Modeling & RiggingMaya 2011: Animation & Visual EffectsMaya 2011: Texturing & Lighting

DMA Instructor: Adam Watkins

Education: Master of Fine Arts degree: Animation. Utah State University; Logan, UT (Undergrad Major: Theatre Set and Lighting Design). 

Professional Portrait: DMA Instructor Adam Watkins is a teacher and noted author of multiple books on the subject of graphic arts, with special emphasis on Maya. He’s also written more than 100 magazine articles on the subject. An Associate Professor of 3D Animation for the School of Interactive Media & Design at San Antonio’s University of the Incarnate Word, Adam also serves as Art Director for the Justice Media Lab. Recently, Adam has been using his animation skills to produce ultra-realistic simulations for nuclear training facility inspections while serving as an animations developer at the historic Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

DMA Campus: Harvard University
___________________________________________________________________

Adam Watkins is a longtime Digital Media Academy animation instructor and when he’s not teaching DMA’s summer sessions, he’s a full-time teacher. He’s also a published author, with a handful of books and more than 100 articles on the subject of computer graphics. However, there things we can’t tell you about Adam. Why? Because it’s classified.


Adam’s work, like this character and environment he created, are featured in his latest book about Maya.

As the Artistic Director and animation developer for the VISIBLE Team, based at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Adam is using animation skills to develop training tools that can improve the quality and safety of inspections of nuclear facilities. This August he’ll leave New Mexico and head for Harvard University, where he’ll be teaching animation with Maya at DMA’s Harvard summer computer camp.

Putting Maya into Motion
“Maya is very robust,” Adam says. It’s true. Maya is recognized by the videogame and film industries as the premier computer graphics 3D modeling tool. This summer Adam’s again looking forward to sharing his experience. In terms of creating characters, Adam will show students how to model, UV map and texture a character…and then rig that character for animation. At that point, Adam will teach students how to animate the character with some basic animations (like walking and running). After that Adam will familiarize student campers with a collection of Maya’s amazing special effects.

Teaching Tech with Passion
Adam keeps his teaching skills sharp as an Associate Professor at the University of the Incarnate Word, a liberal arts college in San Antonio, Texas. Adam calls it “the largest university you’ve never heard of,” with multiple campuses in China and Mexico. And although the school is run by a charitable organization it still functions like a normal university, in most respects.


Under Adam Watkins’ instruction, DMA student campers will build a complete 3D environment like this one, also created by Adam.

The 3D Animation and Game Design program that Adam teaches for the University is an intensive, four-year program that concentrates on utility.“We are product-focused and students who successfully complete the program have many projects and a robust demo reel upon graduation,” Adam says, “A degree is nice, but as part of the mission of the university, we make sure to graduate people with the reel, tools and skills to get real work…fast.” He brings that same practical industry focus to the courses he teaches for DMA.

The ‘Ah-ha!’ Moment
We asked Adam Watkins about what motivates him as an educator. “My philosophy of teaching in very general terms, is to focus on helping students do real work (and will show off their skills to an employer.”

“I don’t do tutorials,” he says. “I believe that especially for beginning 3D students, tutorials simply teach students how to follow recipes, not how to solve problems. Great 3D artists are great problem-solvers, and they get this way from practice. When I teach, I give assignments that require students to help define a problem, and then grow into the solution. I’m there to assist in the process.”

And that process pays off big for him when a student learns how to solve the problem for themselves. “I love the ‘Ah-ha!’ moment that students have when working through complex ideas,” he says. “3D technology can be abstract, and good 3D is a complex collection of technical and artistic skills. Helping students harness these divergent ideas to create good work really gets me going.”

For aspiring 3D animators, videogame designers or graphic artists, DMA instructors like Adam Watkins can help you learn how to turn your passion for computer graphics into a career…so you can experience your own ‘Ah-ha!’ moment.

(Images from Creating 3D Games with Unity and Maya: How to Develop Fun and Marketable 3D Games, Adam Watkins, Focal Press.)

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posted by Phill Powell in 3D Modeling,News Blog and have No Comments

Making 3D Characters, Far-Off Worlds and Dazzling Special Effects with Maya

The word comes from Sanskrit language and refers to the Hindu concept that means illusion. Maya is a perfect name for a piece of software that literally creates digital magic. In fact, Maya is the industry standard for creating anything in a computer-generated 3D world.


Game developer Bungie used Maya to create the cinematics for Halo 3.

Making Movie Magic With Maya
Maya is used to render to photorealistic features like clothing and textures and 3D characters for hit video games like Halo. It’s also used to create stunning special effects and it even breathes life into animated blockbusters like Kung Fu Panda.  For anyone who wants to design video games, make computer-animated features or create special effects, learning how to use Maya is an absolute must.

In 2004, Sony Pictures Imageworks faced a serious technical challenge on its upcoming superhero sequel, Spider-Man 2. Sony needed a computer graphics technology that could realistically simulate cloth textures over animated characters. Alias worked to ramp up Maya and created just such an effect.


For Spider-Man 2, filmmakers needed a tool that would simulate cloth fabric over an animated character. Developers pioneered a simulator option in Maya exactly for that purpose.

Historical Effects
Maya was developed by Alias Software, back in 1998, and since then Maya has received multiple upgrades. For example, a fluid effects simulator (that supports cloud and fire effects) was added to Maya 4.5. Over the years, Maya’s makers have added more effects and additional options to the program, including options to generate fur and hair.

The “nParticle” simulator can enhance effects that involve smoke, liquids and dust (or anything made up fine-particulate material). Recent additions, like a nifty “Camera Sequencer” from 2009 (that enables smoother layout of animated footage that contains multiple camera angles) and 2010’s “MatchMover” (that helps marry CGI elements with regular footage) has made the program even more flexible.


From dinosaurs to dark storm clouds, you can create anything in Maya.

The Only Software You Need & Where To Learn It
When it comes to 3D video game, computer-animated feature films or any kind of digital production, Maya meets every need: modeling, lighting, animation and rendering. It’s no wonder that Maya is the world’s leading 3D creation tool. Learn Maya Texturing and Lighting this summer from an industry expert on the campus of one of America’s most prestigious universities, Harvard, during the week of Aug 8–12.

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posted by Phill Powell in Maya,News Blog and have No Comments

Thinking of going to school to learn 3D? Don’t gamble. Do DMA.

By Kevin Appel, Digital Media Academy Instructor.

*Note: I am not advocating DMA as a replacement for a college education. Rather, I am suggesting it as an appetizer, if you will, to make sure you’ll like the main course.

I’ve never been much for gambling. The prospect of taking something valuable of mine and putting it up against the unknown on the off chance that my bet paid off never seemed like a particularly savvy thing to do. Therefore, it may come as some surprise to some to learn that one of the biggest decisions I have made to date in my life was a bit of a gamble.

That decision was deciding what to study in college. The question, “what do I want to do when I grow up?” rears its ugly (hideous, even) head for everyone at some point. And one day, I’m sure that question will probably come up for me, too.

But that question’s evil little sibling of a query is “what am I going to go to school for?” I consider myself lucky, because at the tender age of I-forget-how-old-I-was-when, I saw some Saturday morning TV show that left a permanent impression on me. If I can recall correctly from my days as a second-grade terror (I think that’s when it was, at least), that show was titled “Movie Magic,” or some such. And it made a part of my weekly routine. On some network or another, every Saturday, they’d fill my little head with dreams of creating movie visual effects.

As I grew up, my experiences with computers grew. I became a nerd, and got into online gaming. I became a bigger nerd, and got into mods for those games. I became a bigger nerd still, and learned how to edit them myself. For the most part, I would edit textures on 3D models in games to change my favorite characters’ shirt, or face, or edit my face into a hockey game so I could be a bigger nerd.

Eventually, though, I came to realize that as computers got bigger and badder, 3D animation did, too. And not only that, but video games kept getting better and better, and soon games and movies were using a lot of the same 3D animation techniques. So, now-17-year-old-me thought, “I keep with this hobby, so I can work in either field when I grow up!”

And so, I made my gambit. I applied to a big fancy-shmancy school that had enough money to buy all the latest and greatest software and workstations and labs. And with big, fancy labs came big, fancy tuition.

I am happy to say that I was right. For me, the gamble paid off.  I did love 3D modeling and animation. The desire to create fantastic wonders the likes of which I’d seen in countless movies as a kid stuck with me all these years, carried through my college education, and has now brought me to DMA.

My gamble was that I chose to get an education in 3D animation (and some other stuff) without ever knowing if I’d actually like it. What if I could not grasp the software? What if it was all too complex, if I was no good at it? All of my tuition dollars would have been wasted, at least for my freshman year, after which I would have had to transfer to another major (assuming my University would have allowed it), or go to another school, or jump through any number of hoops just to try to find something else that I liked.

College is expensive, especially if you’re looking at a very technical field like 3D animation and want to have access to the newest tech. For me, it was a necessity. I didn’t have access to the software I needed, or more importantly, the know how and instruction I needed to make the sorts of crazy things I’d always dreamed of. It is possible to dig through this stuff enough to learn it on your own, eventually, but what if I had had an alternative? How much more sure of myself could I have been, coming into college, if I had had the chance to get my grubby little paws all over Maya, or 3D Studio Max, and start pushing polygons around so I could make the animation, video game level, or random abstract whimsical thing that I wanted to?


A 3D thing I made once.

For me, the gamble paid off. I did love 3D modeling, and I could eventually make stuff like this.

I didn’t have that option – but today, Digital Media Academy offers fancy PCs, the latest software, and experienced teachers who’ll answer all the questions you can throw at them without investing in 4-5 years and many thousands of dollars.  That’s not to say a one-week summer camp takes the place of a full education.  But it helps to get a taste before committing to school. I’m proud to be one of those teachers, because my gamble paid off and I hope I can make the choice and learning curve easier for some grubby-pawed kid to make the next great animation or game for the still-nerdy, present-day version of me to enjoy.

See you this summer, everybody…but please, wash those grubby paws before you lay hands on our computers. They’re shiny. (Just a suggestion.)

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posted by Instructor in News Blog and have No Comments

Maya Hands On Training Courses 3D Modeling and Animation

Finding the Best Maya 3D Modeling and Animation Learning Resources

By Geoff Beatty, Lead Maya Instructor

Just about everyone is familiar with the endless creative possibilities made available by the latest 3D modeling and animation software. Software like Autodesk Maya and 3D Studio Max bring professional quality tools to the independent artist, the hobbyist, and the teenage student with an interest in animation.  Maya 3D modeling and rendering software is used in the game, film, television, web, multimedia, marketing and communication professions, and the need for up to date and efficient 3D modeling and animation Maya training is growing rapidly.

In my experience as a Digital Media Academy instructor and university professor, I have seen more and more students showing up in class with prior experience creating 3D models and animation, 3D modeling training is in high demand.

These 3D artist students are usually self-taught, having picked up whatever lessons they could find from the internet and in books. This is fine to a certain extent. I’m always impressed by how these 3D artist students are constantly seeking 3D modeling answers on their own, not waiting to simply be handed the information but actively searching.

However, in order to really get the most from these learning resources, in fact the best way to really learn the software and become a 3D Artist, is to get some hands-on instruction with a knowledgeable teacher. I experienced this dynamic myself when I was first learning Maya. Prior to this I had worked in Softimage and 3D Studio Max, and I had practically taught myself 3D modeling through manuals and online tutorials. I was certain that I was going to have to do the same with Maya. I 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.  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 tying it all together into 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 fitting into their places. 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.

So, if you would like to become a professional 3D animation artist, and you are beginning the long and rewarding journey of learning 3D software, I would highly recommend you take the time to start out right with some quality instruction of the type that Digital Media Academy offers . This could be a summer pro or teen summer camp course , or perhaps it’s an instructor coming to your workplace to offer specialized training . In any case, not only will the hands-on instruction be of immediate benefit, but it will add value to whatever 3D animation learning resources you pick up afterwards. And there are a lot out there, which is why it’s good to have someone be a guide through it all.

To that end, here are a couple that I highly recommend: Autodesk Area is the official hangout for Autodesk Maya users. It offers a wealth of well-moderated tutorials, plugins, models, and other resources. Creative Crash (formerly know as HighEnd 3D) is another well-established repository for tutorials, models, and the like. It’s also got a great responsive forum community, in case you run into any problems. 

Hope to see you at Digital Media Academy this coming summer for some great Maya 3D modeling training!

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You’ll enjoy these related posts:

Digital Media Academy’s Maya-Certification-Program-An-Amazing-Immersive-Experience!

3D Modeling and Animation Tip – Asymmetry!

The Digital Media Academy Difference – Success Stories!

A Teen’s Summer Camp at Digital Media Academy Review

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Ready to register for summer camp for teens or Maya Certification Program?  Click here for more information and registration:  Digital Media Academy

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posted by Geoff Beatty in News Blog and have No Comments