Upgrade Your Skills by Learning 3D

Jumping into the world of 3D, from animation to printing, has never been easier than it is now. Get started, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how useful your new skills are.

Written by Todd Shepherd
Published on May. 27, 2021
Upgrade Your Skills by Learning 3D
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I’m a huge fan of ’80s movies, and one of the staples of the era is the montage. You’d be hard-pressed to find a mainstream movie from that decade without a compilation of clips set to music. The Rocky series always has a training montage that shows Rocky Balboa getting into fighting shape for the big bout. Movies set in a college environment such as Real Genius or Back to School feature a studying montage in which the main character tackles a daunting amount of coursework. The montage is an effective bit of cinematic shorthand, showing a lot of activity spanning long periods of time in just a few on-screen minutes. 

One vital component of a good ’80s montage is the song.  You could hear some of these songs on your local Top 40 radio station while some were otherwise unreleased and could only be accessed by listening to the movie’s soundtrack.

The World of 3D

Jumping into the world of 3D, from animation to printing, has never been easier than it is now. Get started, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how useful your new skills are. Studying 3D will improve everything from problem-solving to root cause analysis to project management skills. Taking something complex, breaking it down into simpler pieces that are easier to manage, and then combining those pieces to achieve the end goal is a process that works both in art and in business.

I occasionally revisit movie montage songs I’ve enjoyed over the years, and I recently rediscovered one that I’ve always found positive and motivational. It comes from, of all places, Revenge of the Nerds. After being displaced from their dormitory, unable to successfully join any fraternities and resigned to sleeping on cots in the gymnasium, the nerds find a dilapidated house and make it their own. 

The montage shows the guys turning the house from an abandoned deathtrap into a sweet suburban pad with major curb appeal, soundtracked by “One Foot In Front of the Other” by Bone Symphony. I’ve never personally heard it on the radio, but I can assure you that whatever it lacked in airplay was made up for by the number of times it played on my VCR. It’s a great tune that encourages the listener to keep going even if progress only comes in small increments. I’ve been playing it often lately, and it’s given me a boost each time.

I listen to it during the time of morning that I dedicate to working on 3D projects, and it got me thinking about my learning journey in that field. Learning how to create 3D assets and artwork is something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember. I’ve been fascinated by it ever since I saw it used on MTV and in Max Headroom ads as a kid. Maybe you’ve been similarly curious and fascinated by 3D coolness, and you’d like to try your hand at it. Well, allow me to offer some words of encouragement.

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No Reason To Wait

If you’re interested in breaking into 3D art, there’s never been a better time to start your journey. Until recently, a neophyte would be stymied by numerous barriers to entry. The software was expensive and limited in availability, training was difficult to come by and creating and rendering your ideas required powerful hardware. 

Now, all of that has changed. Numerous 3D software packages are available, and many of them are either free or affordable. Autodesk Maya, 3DS Max, ZBrush and Modo offer subscription or single-user licensing options, and Blender is the king of open-source 3D digital content creation.

Several on-demand training resources are also available online and are similarly accessible financially. You can always get started with some good resources on YouTube, and training services such as Udemy have great content that’s very affordable when you’re ready to take the next step. You can work your way through the training content on a decent mid-tier rig, so you don’t necessarily need a ton of horsepower or cutting-edge components to get the job done, either. 

You no longer need to save up money over time in order to start your own 3D learning journey since the initial monetary outlay is minimal and can be completely free, depending on which packages you select. All you need to get started is the curiosity you already have and the decision to take the plunge.


Numerous Options

The range of applications for 3D knowledge has broadened dramatically in the past few years. Take 3D printing as an example. Just a few years ago, relatively few people even knew what 3D printing was. Those few who knew about it probably also knew it was only possible for companies and institutions that could afford the high-priced equipment necessary. 

Fast-forward to the present day, and a 3D printer and print media take a relatively small investment and just a few minutes of assembly and calibration before you’re up and running. This improved accessibility has spawned numerous cottage industries and revenue streams for creative individuals with a little know-how. 

And that’s just considering 3D printing. Countless other similar opportunities exist in fields like 3D modeling, art and animation. Investing a little time into learning something you’re already curious about could turn into a nice side hustle much sooner than you think.


New Upgrades for Your Mind

Even if you aren’t looking to make money at it (at least not right away), you probably have some sort of dream project that you’ve always wanted to be able to create. Pursuing that dream project alone is richly rewarding. That isn’t just a flowery notion about the power of dreams, by the way. Learning 3D is the kind of undertaking that stretches your mind in numerous directions, sometimes at once, and there are ancillary skills you’ll develop as you progress. 

For example, you'll become acutely aware of things you normally may not have been. Suddenly, you’ll find that your mind is able to perceive the scale of things in relation to one another or how the shape of an object is affected by its depth in space in addition to its length and width. You’ll look at a complex object like a building and begin mentally breaking it down into primitive shapes and considering how those shapes combine to form the whole.

Over time, breaking the complex down into the simple just becomes second nature. When I started my own 3D journey just a few years ago, I heard artists mention this phenomenon. At the time, it was so far from how I was used to looking at the world that I thought it just sounded like outlandish nonsense, and I’d never be able to do it myself.

But as I got better at things artistically, I found that my other problem-solving, root cause analysis and project management skills increased as well. Taking something complex, breaking it down into simpler pieces that are easier to manage, and then combining those pieces to achieve the end goal is a process that works both in art and in business.

These new skills are congruent with the other technical problem-solving skills you already use, and those existing skills will be augmented by the new ones. And this is in addition to the general benefits you can expect from a challenging pursuit such as increases in focus, patience, satisfaction and sense of accomplishment. You won’t just be learning something cool. You’ll be expanding your skills and capacities across several domains. And you’ll also be learning something cool.


Little by Little

I can’t recommend starting to learn 3D strongly enough. All it takes is consistency and curiosity. It’s a daunting task for certain, but trust me, you can get it done. 

In the montage I referenced earlier, the nerds begin by staring at the dilapidated house and doubting they can do the work. But they decided to tackle the task piece by piece and before long, they were able to admire and enjoy the fruits of their labor. So take a lesson from these men of Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity and begin your 3D learning journey. Put one foot in front of the other and it won’t be long before you’re feeling the words of Bone Symphony: “It’s coming to life, little by little.”

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