The Education Triumvirate
If you’re like me, you may find it challenging to balance the information we have available regarding 3ds Max® (and design in general) and prioritize so we can effectively implement it. I wish I could take the blue pill, plug in the wire, then be good to go. Unfortunately, I can’t. However, I found three factors have influenced me most when learning software such as 3ds Max and accomplishing my goals as effectively as I can.
In Figure 1 are the three factors: contacts, forums, and videos and/or books. Each of those includes a circle where they meet in the center of the triangle. I’ll call this the sweet spot. This is the spot where we aren’t ignoring too much of one available resource in favor of another.
There’s a reason for this balance. First, people with information we need don’t always find it convenient to offer it in every format that suits us best. Second, while we might not find a resource exciting, the information available could lead to advances we might wish to be part of, or solutions to challenges we face. For example, the commercialization of VR technologies grew in the last few years, but if you were to visit Google’s Scholar site and look up information concerning VR technology you’ll find people have been preparing for this for more than a decade while presenting their theories of implementation in their research and studies. Having been aware of this, some have positioned themselves to take the most advantage of it.
By staying close to the sweet spot, we can control the amount of information we absorb so it’s not too overwhelming for us or others. For example, if we find that spot slides too far toward the forums section, we are focusing too much on one element and limiting the amount of information we could obtain from others. Or if we are burdening our contacts too much, we can shift and rely on forums or videos. The key is to remain sensitive to how we are spending our time and using the resources available to us.
Now favoring a resource is fine—it helps to prioritize when we have limited time or when other methods prove to be more difficult for obtaining the information we need. If you refer to Figure 1 you’ll see on the left I’ve placed contacts on the top of my triangle. This means that when I try to learn something or face a challenge I need help with, I’ll lean toward contacts first. Alternately, if I find a forum to be more helpful than contacts, I’ll shift its priority to the top of my triangle.
The trick to advancement is to not lean too much on any one element. If we do, we become co-dependent and if that resource becomes impractical (such as forums become too expensive to participate in, or our contact changes disciplines, passes on, or moves) it leaves us with few options to move forward.
Although it takes a lot of hard work, time, and sometimes cash to develop a structurally sound triangle that will last, it is never too late to get started.
It’s important to broaden our perspective by engaging with others outside our typical environments. You might think resources are limited in this area, but they aren’t. Autodesk and its partners hold events all over the world covering various topics related to 3ds Max and the partners’ respective software. We can participate and begin to develop contacts with people who are just as interested in learning and advancing as we are. These people provide both a different perspective and widened branch of experience we can tap into. To see such events, visit https://www.autodesk.com/events.
Next are user groups. AUGI maintains the most active independent Autodesk user group on the planet. Local groups meet face to face to discuss everything from challenges they face to presenting upcoming technology. To learn more visit https://www.augi.com/local-user-groups.
Finally, Autodesk University is arguably the largest gathering of design professionals and Autodesk software users in the world. The event brings together some of the greatest minds to present what’s coming and ways to tackle existing challenges. To learn more about it visit http://au.autodesk.com/
Forums are a powerful way to obtain information. In a sense, forums are a platform for discovery learning, where users draw on users’ experience to solve problems, gain knowledge, and discover new ways to use that information. Outside of AUGI and Autodesk, some of the forums I find helpful are:
- Area by Autodesk – Autodesk continues to strive toward providing a platform for CG professionals through the Area at area.autodesk.com. The Area offers tutorials, blogs, galleries, forums, and more.
- CGTalk by CGSociety.Com – CGSociety members are probably the most experienced and diverse set of professionals I’ve come across. They know the ins and outs of their software and industry and aren’t afraid to show it.
- CGArchitect.com – Jeff Mottle created CG Architect nearly two decades ago and it remains one of the more active forums around.
Although videos and books take a respectable amount of dedication to get through, they are often powerful resources for step-by-step instruction and often offer a gem or two that are likely to completely alter the way we do some things. With regard to video learning for 3ds Max, I found Lynda and Pluralsight pretty much offer everything we might need to know to advance with the software while masterclasses available through sites such asGnomon (https://www.thegnomonworkshop.com/tutorials), thecgschool.com, learnvray.com, and private instructors have always been well worth the investment (and support).