A lot of people have been writing me lately what they can do to learn animation and also one of the most asked question is which software I used to create my short films. There are quite a few 3d softwares out there, but the one I started learning when I dove into the field of 3d Animation was Autodesk Maya. All my short films have been created with Maya and most of the projects I worked on as an animator involved using this software. It’s being used a lot throughout the industry and for me it was pretty clear to deepen my skills in it as much as possible.
But there are also many other 3d softwares like Blender, 3d Studio Max or Cinema 4D just to name a few. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the open source (free) tool Blender, but in the end everyone of these tools are fully capable of producing an animated short film. Learning the software of course is a big part for creating 3d animations. The way I started learning the tools I used for my projects was by watching videos of other people using the tool. It sounds pretty boring to look at someone else’s computer screen for over an hour and see him click through menus and work on a 3d scene and there were quite a few times where it has been the perfect video to instantly fall asleep at night. But most of the time I was staring at the screen and tried to memorize every click and command.
PluralSight (formerly known as Digital-Tutors) have a massive archive of instructional videos or tutorials for pretty much most softwares you can think of. They are perfect to quickly learn the tools. Another website I would look into is The Gnomon Workshop which has a lot of tutorials for more advanced levels.
Besides using a software you should also work on your artistic skills. I always drew as a kid and tend to think very visually in general. Even though drawing is not a required skill to learn for computer animation it always ends up being a useful skill. It helps to communicate your ideas quicker and also helps to increase your workflow as well as your overall quality. Carry a sketchbook with you, visit figure drawing classes and try to find artists who inspire you. Write them an email and ask them about advice, it never hurts to at least give it a shot.
Books I can recommend are Drawn to Life Vol 1-3, Illusion of Life & The Animator’s Survival Kit
The most common schools I know that teach animation are the following: Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, Gobelins (usually requires great drawing skills), Cal Arts, Ringling College of Art and Design
There are also a lot of online school which specialize in teaching computer animation. Here are a few: Anim Squad, Anim School, Animation Mentor,e iAnimate, CG Tarian
Being in an environment with other students was crucial for me. And Filmakademie was great at providing me with a creative environment and giving me the time to work on my projects. Without their support I wouldn’t be where I am today.