3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 109: Understanding 3D Technology
Lesson 109 - Understanding 3D Technology - Part 1
Over the past four years, I've received a steady stream of mail from people seeking advice on how to get started in 3D computer graphics and animation. I'm commonly asked about programming. How much programming skill is required? What programming languages are used? These questions are often rooted in a basic ignorance about how 3D content is created.
My answer typically involves an explanation that 3D graphics and animation are produced in standard software packages, such as 3D Studio MAX, Maya or Lightwave3D. The fundamental skills of the 3D artist involve learning to use such packages, which are astoundingly complex. Learning to create, texture and animate models using the standard applications is the central task, and requires years of dedicated study. Programming skills, in the sense of writing code in programming or scripting languages, are secondary, though certainly useful in many contexts, most particularly in customizing the standard applications with their native scripting languages.
This answer, however, has become increasingly unsatisfactory to me. Longtime readers of this column will certainly be aware of my own move into programming in the context of developing interactive 3D graphics. I believe strongly that interactive 3D is the future of 3D, and my new book on Shout3D is, above all, an introduction to Java programming for 3D artists. Interactivity is programming, and interactive 3D is therefore a marriage of 3D arts and programming.
But many, and perhaps most, people will be drawn to 3D arts for purely graphical purposes. 3D imagery will continue to expand in film, broadcast and print markets. There will always be demand for the talented pure modeler or animator, working in the standard packages. I have taught modelers and animators for years and seen them move on to professional employment without ever being exposed to a line of programming code. Does this kind of individual have to know anything about programming?
This is not the right question. The issue is not one of programming exactly, but of the underlying nature of 3D technology, which is implemented through programming. Allow me to explain.
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Created: January 2, 2001
Revised: January 2, 2001