Is self-education valuable?

I’m 16, and completely self-educated, I just wonder what chances do I have against people that have studied some sort of special 3D focused schools… (I would have gone to that kind of school if there actually were any in my country)

I know that it’s probably is all about the skills / your results, but let’s say that one day I’ll knock on the Pixar studios door, and they’ll ask me “so what have you studied?”, and then I say that I’ve studied Food and Culinary, but I don’t care about food, I’m self educated and I just wanna do 3D…

Is self-education proof that I love 3D so much? or does it mean that I lack some sort of important knowledge? and how much does it matter?

At the end of the day, a lot of places are still going to ask for that piece of paper that shows that you have gotten a college education in a certain field.

The main thing that you can do if you decide to go the self-education route rather than devoting four years to a degree is if you started your own 3D-related business, because those places that require a degree, it doesn’t matter how much truth there is to the fact that there’s enough information online to potentially bypass college completely.

Being involved in projects can be of use. By being able to show your experience you can bypass the educational system. If you can’t find a project that will take a chance with you then you can start one. If you work hard and smart and produce some cool things you’ll be able to get your foot in some doors. Just work hard and publish work.

Self-education is very healthy for this field, and your demo-reel and relevant experience is the most important thing you can have on your CV. However any relevant education can only help you get a job. True, some employers may not give a hoot, but that is not to say there are no employers who do care, either…

Computer graphics employs many skills such as traditional art, design, programming, IT or even maths. If you have the opportunity to obtain a qualification in such things, then I recommend you take it. It doesn’t have to be a Degree, but even a small first year certificate in programming or Art & Design is a nice addition to your CV.

There could be other opportunities such as local groups or activities. For example, if you are aiming to become an animator, then being involved with a local theatre production of Hamlet is a good start for experience. Don’t misunderstand me, that on its own is not going to get you a job, but its still relevant as an animator is another kind of actor. King Kong, Gollum, the creatures in Avatar all require timing with other character’s performances - some of them live action via motion capture. It is still a performance…

Its good you learn this now. Many your age will assume that a university degree is a given right to a job. And many that believe that will be sorely disappointed when graduation day finally comes. The sad thing is they will overlook the many opportunities available to them. There is a program here in the UK called “Dragons Den” where budding business wannabes pitch their ideas to four extremely wealthy and successful business celebrities and try to not only get them interested in their pitch but also cut a good deal with them. Anyway, many will hold a grudge against these “Dragons” for being damned rich and “nasty” but unlike a lot of wannabes who expect life handed to them on a plate just because they have a business degree or whatever, these Dragons have usually have started off from very poor beginnings but made the best of their situation by even doing voluntary charity work.

Anyway, sorry for the long winded reply, but in short by all means be self-educated, produce regular updates of your demo-reel and don’t overlook opportunity for relevant activities. As you have the advantage of youth I wish you the very best and hope you enjoy what is come.

Pixar’s first question is not going to be, “What have you studied?” The first thing out of their mouth is going to be, “Show me your demo reel/portfolio.”

So you need, first and foremost, to work on your 3D projects, learn to do them the best you can, and be brutal in your self-assessment to weed out your weak work.

There are some academic studies that can be very useful for various careers in CG. If you are going to model characters, an academic background in drawing, sculpting and anatomy can be very valuable. If you want to become a rigger, math and programming will be helpful (not because you need math or programming to rig, but the way of thinking is similar.)

Are you at a disadvantage with respect to people who have gone to CG related schools? Maybe. One aspect of formal study is deadlines, and quickly available support. Someone with a project to finish at a CG school is not going to wait three weeks for an answer about a piece of software or some rigging technique with other students, teacher assistants, professors and a two week deadline looming. You CAN assemble your own support group and put deadlines on yourself, but at a school it is a structured part of the experience. So people who go to school, AND take advantage of those opportunities, may be ahead of you in knowledge and skill gained in a short amount of time.

But in the end, it will come down to the quality of your work, both technical skill and artistic sensibility. Best of luck :smiley:

Thanks guys :slight_smile:

I agree with this - I have a long list of former employers who never gave no two winks about me qualifications, who only cared that I could do the job, and do the job well. Some of them joint bosses also offered me incentive to stay when I says I gotta move on . . . but I moves on anyways - there’s greener pastures else where . . . and the chance to make a few new friends and learn a few more new things and the adventures with it.

I heard from someone a some time ago (I can’t remember where) that if someone makes you pay for a “title”, then he’s
"cheating (I’m not sure if this is the right word but it will do) " you, all what is needed is a good portfolio.
if its a free course then there’s no problem.

As someone who had resumes land in their inbox every day, to pick and choose to forward on to the management, it came down to what kind of quality the individual produced.

If you could produce professional content in a reasonable time, you had a high chance of your stuff being seen by the people that did the hiring.

Education wasn’t a factor.
Knowledge of specific tools were a bonus, but still not a factor if you had the skills. After all, you could always learn a new tool set.

If you’re doing modeling, know about topology and polycounts.
If you’re doing level design, make sure you understand flow and layout.

And if you have a portfolio with a hundred pieces, hack it apart until only your very best is ready to be submitted.
We got too many submissions with substandard content that had to be filed away, never to be seen again.

Self education is a good tool, even as a working coder for 30 years, practically everything I knew was self taught and I was lead developer on most of our code.
One thing I would say is, you will learn much quicker in co-operation with someone else, even a buddy learning the same thing. Nothing drives the little grey cells more than feeding off another and bouncing ideas around.
Plus, when you get frustrated with not knowing something, it helps to not feel alone, two heads is better than one as they say. :slight_smile:
There are literally hundreds of Gigabytes of tutorials out there to aid you, but you must watch and do, ideally, do them several times.
Each time, you may pick up something new, find a shortcut, avoid things that failed, solidify things that worked.
Doing a tutorial or process once does not build up your “muscle memory”, as with any other discipline, it’s repetition that helps.

One thing I would say about courses is, a LOT depends on the tutor, a great subject can be killed by a “meh” tutor, so do not just plump for a course simply because it is there. It would be your money you would put down, so expect a service as a result, even a free course isn’t worth it unless you get something worthwhile out of it.

There are many kinds of people recruiting so I can’t speak for everyone. But generally what you can demonstrate to be able to do is everything that should count. Aka your demo reel.

For the longest time there weren’t even any respected schools pushing out pro modelers/animators. IMO you can’t even teach some things like proportioning and graphics composing in school. They boil down to artistic talent and capital, some people naturally have it and others no so much. I’ve personally seen some people get a degree in the field, look at their work and think how I much better I could do myself having no official papers. A paper is just for attending the courses and large scale of various amount of talent pass. Some don’t even attend and that’s something I think is only natural.

Long story short: self-education for the win.

If you don’t have a plan for your life, other people have. And it won’t be in your best interest. I say that self education is very valuable as soon as you understand that being successful means, you have to learn and train a lot more than just 3D. For example, ethical marketing, personal development, project management, ethical selling, and communication in general. A bit of psychology doesn’t hurt either. Unless you leave all that to different people, being an employee for the rest of your life, you need to improve on that. And even as an employee, if you don’t learn to communicate well and market yourself, you might be the one who gets downsized.

Make a schedule and devote a few hours a week to specific personal development areas.


Thanks a lot guys, :slight_smile:

Make a schedule and devote a few hours a week to specific personal development areas.

-I’m a bit afraid of the communication… is it really that important? I’ve always been that unsocial “weirdo” at school, so might try to improve on that :), though I never had any problems talking to adults…

If you could produce professional content in a reasonable time, you had a high chance of your stuff being seen by the people that did the hiring.

-Since I’ve been doing everything just for fun so far, I don’t have much experience with deadlines… guess I should enter competitions?

The first thing out of their mouth is going to be, “Show me your demo reel/portfolio.”

Any tips on how to have a good one? And when should I start making one? I already have few videos on YT…

How to get a good portfolio:
Brainstorm for 15 minutes. Get every idea out. No censorship. write everything, really everything down that you find in your head according to the topic. Then pick the one you like best. Then break it down into parts. Then take one part (can be as simple as a tree) and estimate how long it will take you to do it really well. Concentrate on quality over quantity, if you’re not going for ultra simple/stylish which can be a quality of its own.

If you decide on a goal, then finish it. Ram it down in one go or give it weekly, holy hours so you just do until it’s finished. Another reason why starting with the epic 150 different war ships in one 8k picture is only for the most stubborn of beginners.

My telescope in the sketchbook section looks like nothing and is still over a hundred different parts. I started by making a complete list of all of them. Easy object because it’s measurable and very defined.

Finish your stuff and focus on quality. And maybe give your pictures or animations emotional meaning. Tell stories in one picture.

Communication starts when you want other people to provide money for value. The better you can make them see what you can do for them, the faster you have a leg to stand on. There’s always exceptions, sure. That’s why many actors have agents.

Communication is a trainable skill practically anybody can train. That goes for singing and drawing as well.


Quoting this for agreement. Give yourself a minimum time to work on things and ideally set a specific goal. Even if you have to come back to finish something, stick to that goal.
I would also say, aim low for the first few goes, do not try to build a killer model and render first time around. Get comfortable with hte tools and how they work, pick a simple object, deconstruct it, it is mainly boxes? curves, look at it as a selection of parts, not the whole.
Take a coffee table, are the legs square or turned? do they have little toruses on them. Is the top a single piece, or a piece with bracing around it. How is that bracing put together. Does that torus on the leg HAVE to be part of the leg or can it be another object just ‘sat’ on the leg.
Do not try to create a “solid” mesh if the object is not one solid part in real life, the coffee table is a perfect example of that, unless it’s made from a tree trunk or driftwood, it WILL be in various parts glued and screwed together.
As you perfect one model, move on and aim higher, each one being a stepping stone to the next. :slight_smile:

Hey swift

Can you post a good picture of your work so we know what base level of progress we’re talking about? Colkai’s post made me wonder ( :

There are websites now, where you can test your skills to get accredited,

I found one through linkedin,

But I am sure there are many out there.

What do you wish to do in the future?

If you have the food, shelter and time, learn by doing.

If not, college can frequently be payed for with government aid.

if that is not an option, then find a nice niche to make money in while you learn.

Academic education provides “a diploma” that actually turns out to be of very marginal value in most disciplines … engineering, medicine, law, and so forth being the notable exceptions.

(So, if you want to be a lawyer … your poor schleb … stay in school. Or, better yet, just shoot yourself now.) :smiley:

Education does give you “a sip from the fire-hose.” But, if I had it to do all over again, I probably would have gotten a two-year Associate’s degree that was packed full of information about my chosen area-of-interest … uhh, had such a degree existed at the time I went to school. (Most of this stuff hadn’t been invented yet.) I would want to fill my head with as much information about that, and(!) to surround myself with fellow students who were also pursuing that, and entirely skip the days (and dollars) that I wasted in Dr. Fossilbone’s irrelevant-to-me history lectures.

At 16 years old, I would say that you definitely should try for at least a couple years’ industry-specific education at a good local school that doesn’t break your bank-account to attend. (Don’t throw your or your parent’s money away here … there is no Golden Ticket.) You want the experience of being there; of being in the company of fellow students and of teachers who actually know things that “you don’t (yet) know that you don’t (yet) know.” You need to put a sense of balance into your perspectives of whatever-it-is that interests you.

And, I think, you’ll benefit from having a lofty goal set in front of you, of being required to reach it, and of driving yourself to do it. Make this your academic goal … that you will make the Dean’s List every semester … and do whatever it takes to (honestly! really!) achieve it, “no excuses.” Because that is what the real world will demand of you, especially in things like CG. You’ll be challenged by things that you don’t know; to learn on-the-fly; to succeed against fierce competition.

It will matter very little how “good” you are. And very much, how “disciplined” you are.

Remember that. Always.

This may be slightly broader than the questions you are asking but I would recommend always having a lifelong enthusiasm for learning many different things. Study in your field to get a job - however you accomplish that, through formal education or life and work experience that is recognized - and be the person who has that extra edge of quality and dedication. But don’t only focus on those specific subjects. Study the world, its art, literature, locales, study nature and science and all manner of things. It will add depth to your work and make you a well rounded person. That should also help you when you feel awkward because you’ll have a wealth of topics you can converse about. Good luck to you! :eyebrowlift:

There is one most important skill you are taught early in your life and it’s the one you really need. Literacy.
With that you can get all the information you want nowadays.

The problem is, this only generates knowledge - today a vast amount and lots is useless or false one.
The next thing is to use intelligence to evaluate the knowledge and filter for the good information.
Once done and comprehended you got wisdom.

Seemingly easy process, but takes a lot of time.

Being taught is basically the same process, but the initial knowledge is already refined to a level were you should be able to rely on the teachers intelligence that it’s valuable, making it easier to evaluate additional information and combine it to wisdom.