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Is going VFX school worth the cost? Kind of lost here.

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Hi VFX people. I have recently found out that my passion is 3D CG, specifically VFX. I've been spending the past 4 months sitting at home by my PC learning all I can about 3D CG and exploring different fields, testing what I like and what I don't. I noticed that I really like learning Houdini and want to become better at it but I doubt I'm going to be able to become "job-ready" and hireable within a year or two if I study on my own. I can't just sit at home learning from YouTube videos cause many people look down on me for doing so. I looked up some VFX schools and found that I really like ArtFX in France but it's expensive cause I'm from Latvia. I would have to pay for not only tuition but also the living cost and the student apartment as I don't have any friends or relatives that live in France. I have calculated that approx. cost for 5 years would be 100k EUR. My family has some money saved but I would still need to take like 20-40k as a student loan to finish my studies. The price is kind of shocking to me but also seems to be worth it as they have equipment and tools I don't have access to - green screen rooms, cinema cameras  and accessories, educational software, renderfarms, art gear. Another bonus is that I would have an interesting life as I would be somewhere else other than Latvia. It's getting really boring here. I have been in my house for 3 months without going outside, just trying to focus more on learning 3D but I'm not progressing as fast as I would like to. So what I would want to ask is if it's worth it to go to a VFX specialized school that would give me a good, solid experience and probably get me a job later on or should I just keep staying inside and trying to get better? Maybe I should just blow the money on traveling? The experience would be good but after the money is gone in like 2 years I would have no future. I'm really lost here. I hope someone gives me some advice, I really need it. Thank you for reading this.

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Hi Anna,

Self studying is one of the most proven methods in VFX as many of my highly skilled colleagues all learnt Houdini and VFX themselves often alone by experimenting and watching tutorials. The trick is to not replicate the same effect verbatim but go beyond what's shown and take it further. That alone will teach you so much.

It's now easier than before with countless Houdini tutorials you can find online, both free and paid.

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It depennnddsssssss. :)

Some bullet points:

  • It used to be a very binary choice; be self taught or go to a school, nowadays (esp with covid) there's several options in between
  • generally some kind of collaboration component is useful, i often compare vfx to a team sport, the more time you can be 'on the field' the better
  • I taught a 1 year masters degree for a few years, we focused heavily on big teams, lots of collaboration, making mistakes. Our success rate with grads was great, but yes, masters degrees are expensive
  • Other options these days range from free, like joining a discord, to cheap, like paying for mentoring or a patreon, to mildly pricey, like rebelway/cgma, through to full costly tertiary education courses
  • Totally self taught is possible, but hard. It's good to have at least some component of interaction with others, regular feedback, accountability. 
  • Know yourself. If you think you can get that level of feedback from a free discord (or forum like odforce), great. If you need more direct feedback via patreon, great. If you need the accountability of paying lots of money and a strict classroom structure, great. Work out whats best for you.
  • DO NOT make the mistake of thinking that paying lots of money for a course will be the fix for everything. Every year we'd have 1 or 2 students who wouldn't put in the work. We'd point out how much money they were paying, what the stakes are, maybe they'd be better off dropping out, they wouldn't listen. They'd finish the course passing by the slimmest of margins, and then be confused why they couldn't find work, while all their peers got jobs. I heard a line once, 'an education is taken, not given', and thats especially true at the teritary level; you can't buy your way into a career, you have to work at it.
  • The perks you mentioned of certain schools (green screens, cameras, farms etc), they're nice, but not essential. You can find cheap or free greenscreen material online. Pretty much all the software worth learning have cheap or free education versions. An iphone shoots better footage than a top of the line prosumer camera from 10 years ago. Gridmarkets and the like offer cheap(ish) farm rendering should you need it. That's all gonna be way cheaper than paying for a expensive course.
  • There's lots of videos around now from recruiters, heads of departments in various big studios, talking about what they want to see on a reel. If often feels like students and beginners misconstrue what skills they need to show, and either set the bar way too high for themselves, or get trapped/distracted showing the wrong things. Find those videos, study them, stay on target.
  • My gut feeling is anyone who is mildly competent should be able to get a okish gaming pc, houdini indie, lock themselves in their bedroom for a year with a helpful discord, and be able to get a job. The big variable there is the discord, finding the right mix of people who know what they're talking about, can offer appropriate advice, honest but not cruel feedback.

Ah, I see animatrix has replied already, i just checked it, doesn't conflict with stuff I've written so far. I'll stop writing and hit submit. :)

-matt

 

  • Haha 1

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6 hours ago, animatrix said:

Hi Anna,

Self studying is one of the most proven methods in VFX as many of my highly skilled colleagues all learnt Houdini and VFX themselves often alone by experimenting and watching tutorials. The trick is to not replicate the same effect verbatim but go beyond what's shown and take it further. That alone will teach you so much.

It's now easier than before with countless Houdini tutorials you can find online, both free and paid.

Thank you for the reply. You're actually spot on. I've been focusing a lot on just copying what the person does but then I forget what I even did. I'll try your method. Thank you!!

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6 hours ago, mestela said:

It depennnddsssssss. :)

Some bullet points:

  • It used to be a very binary choice; be self taught or go to a school, nowadays (esp with covid) there's several options in between
  • generally some kind of collaboration component is useful, i often compare vfx to a team sport, the more time you can be 'on the field' the better
  • I taught a 1 year masters degree for a few years, we focused heavily on big teams, lots of collaboration, making mistakes. Our success rate with grads was great, but yes, masters degrees are expensive
  • Other options these days range from free, like joining a discord, to cheap, like paying for mentoring or a patreon, to mildly pricey, like rebelway/cgma, through to full costly tertiary education courses
  • Totally self taught is possible, but hard. It's good to have at least some component of interaction with others, regular feedback, accountability. 
  • Know yourself. If you think you can get that level of feedback from a free discord (or forum like odforce), great. If you need more direct feedback via patreon, great. If you need the accountability of paying lots of money and a strict classroom structure, great. Work out whats best for you.
  • DO NOT make the mistake of thinking that paying lots of money for a course will be the fix for everything. Every year we'd have 1 or 2 students who wouldn't put in the work. We'd point out how much money they were paying, what the stakes are, maybe they'd be better off dropping out, they wouldn't listen. They'd finish the course passing by the slimmest of margins, and then be confused why they couldn't find work, while all their peers got jobs. I heard a line once, 'an education is taken, not given', and thats especially true at the teritary level; you can't buy your way into a career, you have to work at it.
  • The perks you mentioned of certain schools (green screens, cameras, farms etc), they're nice, but not essential. You can find cheap or free greenscreen material online. Pretty much all the software worth learning have cheap or free education versions. An iphone shoots better footage than a top of the line prosumer camera from 10 years ago. Gridmarkets and the like offer cheap(ish) farm rendering should you need it. That's all gonna be way cheaper than paying for a expensive course.
  • There's lots of videos around now from recruiters, heads of departments in various big studios, talking about what they want to see on a reel. If often feels like students and beginners misconstrue what skills they need to show, and either set the bar way too high for themselves, or get trapped/distracted showing the wrong things. Find those videos, study them, stay on target.
  • My gut feeling is anyone who is mildly competent should be able to get a okish gaming pc, houdini indie, lock themselves in their bedroom for a year with a helpful discord, and be able to get a job. The big variable there is the discord, finding the right mix of people who know what they're talking about, can offer appropriate advice, honest but not cruel feedback.

Ah, I see animatrix has replied already, i just checked it, doesn't conflict with stuff I've written so far. I'll stop writing and hit submit. :)

-matt

 

Thank you for replying. A lot of great points. I definitely need to start communicating with others and sharing work. I haven't started collaborating yet. Thanks for the points again, they really help a lot :)
 

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Hi anna,

if you target a houdini career, i would definitly not recommand to spend 5 years in a VFX school, you will pay too much for what you need and for what you will get.

If you live in latvia, you live in a country with very good computer science guys around you. and i guess there must be some strong academic school in computer science very close to you. 

So if you target a Houdini TD career , i would start with a 2/3 years generalist computer science gaduation where you will learn Math / Physics / Algortithmic / C/C++/Python / some good OOP methods, if by chance you can have a computer graphics option with OpenGL/GLSL/HLSL course that would be even better.

And during your 2 years learning computer science i would eat as much houdini tutorials as i can,  trying to do small exercices just to practice with houdini 1 hour everyday.

then i would assemble a small reel of what you can do with code and also with houdini during those 2 years and then apply in a school for a 2 years houdini focus training, i would not spend more than 18.000 euros for this.

the good things about learning computer science , is that you will be a better houdini artist than anyone in your school cause you have train your brain to solve hard problems doing math and code.

and when you will get older and want to leave the vfx circus like many people around 40/45 you will have a strong academic diploma to move to tech companies. 

people from eastern europe have strong skills with math and code, you had to exploit this to your advantage. 

 

for the tutorials to watch in priority :

1- during your computer graphics academic, focus on learning the basics and the vex/vops/sops fundamentals :

https://www.hipflask.how/courses -> good start

https://entagma.com/ -> best in class to play with code and solver

https://www.tokeru.com/cgwiki/?title=Houdini -> best in class to get advanced info

https://www.pragmatic-vfx.com  ->  i don't watch it but friend tell me it's AAA for advanced vex

 

2 - In VFX school now that you have strong basis with houdini logic on top of your houdini class, you can start mastering the solvers FLIP / PYRO / RBD

https://vimeo.com/goprocedural/videos/search:masterclass/sort:date  -> sidefx masterclass are AAA

https://www.rebelway.net/ -> for pyro / flip / rbd

 

3 - at anytime

For online help :

https://forums.odforce.net/ -> THE place to be

https://www.sidefx.com/forum/ -> good info too

For discord help :

Houdini-and-chill -> best houdini artist around

Think Procedural -> very good too

 

with this you will be ready to go :
2 years in computer graphics + self training on houdini basics then 2 years in a Houdini TD focus training + self training with advanced tutorials on solvers.

Good luck and whatever you do obstinacy and hard work will get you there.

Cheers

Edited by sebkaine
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4 hours ago, sebkaine said:

Hi anna,

if you target a houdini career, i would definitly not recommand to spend 5 years in a VFX school, you will pay too much for what you need and for what you will get.

If you live in latvia, you live in a country with very good computer science guys around you. and i guess there must be some strong academic school in computer science very close to you. 

So if you target a Houdini TD career , i would start with a 2/3 years generalist computer science gaduation where you will learn Math / Physics / Algortithmic / C/C++/Python / some good OOP methods, if by chance you can have a computer graphics option with OpenGL/GLSL/HLSL course that would be even better.

And during your 2 years learning computer science i would eat as much houdini tutorials as i can,  trying to do small exercices just to practice with houdini 1 hour everyday.

then i would assemble a small reel of what you can do with code and also with houdini during those 2 years and then apply in a school for a 2 years houdini focus training, i would not spend more than 18.000 euros for this.

the good things about learning computer science , is that you will be a better houdini artist than anyone in your school cause you have train your brain to solve hard problems doing math and code.

and when you will get older and want to leave the vfx circus like many people around 40/45 you will have a strong academic diploma to move to tech companies. 

people from eastern europe have strong skills with math and code, you had to exploit this to your advantage. 

 

for the tutorials to watch in priority :

1- during your computer graphics academic, focus on learning the basics and the vex/vops/sops fundamentals :

https://www.hipflask.how/courses -> good start

https://entagma.com/ -> best in class to play with code and solver

https://www.tokeru.com/cgwiki/?title=Houdini -> best in class to get advanced info

https://www.pragmatic-vfx.com  ->  i don't watch it but friend tell me it's AAA for advanced vex

 

2 - In VFX school now that you have strong basis with houdini logic on top of your houdini class, you can start mastering the solvers FLIP / PYRO / RBD

https://vimeo.com/goprocedural/videos/search:masterclass/sort:date  -> sidefx masterclass are AAA

https://www.rebelway.net/ -> for pyro / flip / rbd

 

3 - at anytime

For online help :

https://forums.odforce.net/ -> THE place to be

https://www.sidefx.com/forum/ -> good info too

For discord help :

Houdini-and-chill -> best houdini artist around

Think Procedural -> very good too

 

with this you will be ready to go :
2 years in computer graphics + self training on houdini basics then 2 years in a Houdini TD focus training + self training with advanced tutorials on solvers.

Good luck and whatever you do obstinacy and hard work will get you there.

Cheers

Thanks for replying!

That plan sounds good, it really does, but maybe not for me. Sadly, I'm an absolute 0 when it comes to math. Almost flunked it in high school. I've considered studying CS but as I already struggle with basics I'm scared I won't be able to even finish the first year CS courses. And I don't really like math and logic thinking. Never been into programming either, except for a little web development. I would say that I'm more of a creative artist than a logical thinker. I think if I study CS and do Houdini on the side I probably won't have time for Houdini and other programs like Maya, Substance Painter, etc. cause I will be busy with solving homework for like 8 hours a day. But I really like Houdini and want to learn it. Thank you for listing courses! I'm going to check them out and start learning already.

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You looks to be more on the CG artist side than the TD side. So better focus on this. and it's never too late to learn coding and explore TD side later in your career if you really need it.

then replace the 2 years computer science academic program in your country , by a fine art degree in whatever you love the most ,

- drawing / painting / sculpting 

- photography / cinematography

- architecture / design

and focus more on a generalist artist / environment artist portfolio , the idea is the same, learn the fundamentals of your craft in an academic place instead of a CG school to avoid spending 3 years of your money in a school with very expensive fees.

start the button pushing training on your own during your first years, then when you have develop your artistic skills and 3d skills apply for a good VFX school that will allow you to specialize and get good contact and reference to apply for your first jobs. 

 

what is very useful in a school like artfx / esma / gobelins / supinfocom in France it's the contact they have with the best company, they have meetings with recruiters and they do help to get your foot in the doors. 

that's why i would recommand going in a school for 2 years, it will not give you great course, but it will give you connections , with people in the industry. 

 

i spend 2 years only at artfx , and they do deserve the money i give them ( 5700 euros per years at the time ) , i get my first gigs thanks to them  , but i would never have been able to pay the money they ask today ( 8500 euros per year * 5 ).

 

i also think you need time to discover what you love most , and sometimes it's not what you expected, i start with the idea of being a lighter and ended up doing fx for exemple. sometimes discovering what you love most in VFX and most importantly what you are GOOD AT, take time.

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by sebkaine

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Totally agree.
I have nothing to add to what Sebkaine said
It's very good advice.

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