Can I Self Learn VFX?


Is it possible for someone to learn the skills necessary to be a Visual Effects (VFX)  artist on their own? In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more!

Can I Self Learn VFX?

Yes, you absolutely can. You need to have some talent or interest in art, design, and project management. Much free content online will help you learn the skills necessary to create visual effects for film or other projects.

If you’re serious about wanting to do this on your own, you will need to pick one stream as Visual Effects is vast and encompasses quite a few disciplines that you need to learn before calling yourself a VFX artist.

Is It Easy To Learn VFX?

If you think it is easy, then it isn’t true. It’s hard and takes a lot of time and dedication. For that, you have two choices – Art school or learning by yourself.

Learning from VFX school is a popular route, but if you have a true passion and dedication to do it yourself, you won’t lag behind. Schools/ Universities are great for the connections, using high-end tools and opportunities they provide, but it also can cost big money.

If you choose this way, I suggest you look at the various art and design schools for a master-degree if you really want a degree as learning art and design fundamentals are better than learning VFX in school.

Learning on your own is a challenging route, but if you have a genuine passion for learning it, many online resources help.

How Long Does It Take To Learn VFX?

If you are wondering how much time you dedicate towards learning VFX, it doesn’t take overnight for sure. It will take years of practice to get good at it if you’re tackling it alone. Your choice of stream and dedication will decide your learning period.

But things will get easier once you know the basics with some experience behind your back, and online video tutorials can be a great place to start.

Visual Effects as a Generalist will take time. Generalist means you know almost all the streams such as 3D Modelling, Texturing, Rigging, Animation, Rendering, Particle Simulations, Compositing, Coloring, etc. But if you stick to learn one thing at a time, each stream may take between 3 to 6 months. So, to learn like a generalist, it should take anywhere between 2 to 4 years.

What Should I Learn First In VFX?

Visual Effects can be full CGI – Computer Generated Imagery, CGI over the footage, or Superimposition of live-action. It takes a lot of skill and experience to perform these tasks. But as mentioned above, if you are serious about doing VFX, then you should focus on one stream;

Picking your First skill is precious. If you like creating spaceships – Focus on 3D Modeling, If you like creating Aliens or Cartoons – Go for Character Modelling, If you love doing Camera Moves or Actions – Try Animation. You should go for Texturing if you love Worldbuilding, as these offer the core skills that every artist should have in their arsenal of skillset.

You will need to know and master this core set before trying any other advanced visual effects techniques such as Advanced Texturing Techniques, Lighting Techniques, or 3D Animation techniques.

 So you pick your skill right now from the ones given below:

– 3D Modelling (Biped, Quad, Flow modeling, etc.)

– Character Design using ZBrush

– Architectural World Building using 3DS Max

– Rigging and Animation (So you can make believable Skin and Skeleton using MAYA)

– Particles Simulations (Physicists/Simulationist/Simplify)

– Particle & Cloth simulations (with Blender)

– Lightmaps(with Photoshop and Maya)

– Compositing with Nuke, After Effects

– Color with DaVinci

Once you have picked your skill, the next move is learning the software mentioned above. Start with the basic ones first before graduating to the advanced ones. For example – Learn Adobe After effects before moving on to the advanced compositing using Nuke.

The following step is Practice. Art without practice looks amateurish. You have to master and practice these skills to get better and perfect them. By way of hard work, practice, practice, and more practice, you will eventually get the hang of it.

Self-development must never stop. You will only succeed if you keep learning as artists grow with time and practice.

How To Learn VFX At Home For Free?

Once you have got your finger fixed on learning, it is wise to learn it for free as a beginner. Yes, it is a challenge to train in everything for free. But there are ways to do it.

So, let’s break down the learning into four steps:

1. Learning The Concept For Free:

To learn visual effects, you need to understand the art and design fundamentals like the shape of a face, how light is cast on different surfaces, the study of shadows and reflection, understanding gravity, textures, color, design, composition, etc.

If you want to pick up character modeling skills, you can get them on various websites – like 3Dtotal, AWN, etc. Next comes a ton of YouTube tutorials about character creation and 3D Modeling. A few years back, learning concepts was really tough. But today, there are millions of resources on the net that are available for free. Also, you can check on free online courses. Udemy is a fantastic resource where you get a lot of free classes.

2. Learning The Software For Free:

Free Software offers essential tools which will help you understand the principles of 3D Modeling, texturing & design in the first place. These basics are crucial to lay a solid foundation in VFX, and without this, you won’t be able to pick any advanced-level software.

Now that you know the concepts, it is time to learn the software skill to help you with your project. For this, you can try a few options- 3Dtotal and VFXworld both have free Maya and 3Dmax tutorials, Autodesk has some great learning sites for their products like Max, Maya, etc. (check Autodesk University ). Blender 3D is free, open-source software.

Software Manuals are an excellent resource, and many are available online.

Video Copilot is one of the best places to learn Adobe After Effects. But if you are looking for free software for compositing, check Natty FX, Fusion, HitFilm Express are free alternatives to Nuke. Affinity is also an excellent alternative to Photoshop.

3. Mastering It With Practice:

Now that you have learned the concepts and software, it is time to practice. The best way to do this is to practice more than one time. The skill that you have learned will only get consolidated when you use it again and again.

For example, if you want to learn Character Design in Zbrush, then make a few characters on your own and keep practicing till you are comfortable with them.

Many VFX trainers create free videos on their different streams to help you learn it from them directly. They also conduct free webinars where you get to know inside tips and techniques.

4. Free Troubleshooting From Forums And Social Media:

To troubleshoot your problems, you can check the forums for online help and assistance.

Forums are a great place to answer your queries and problems. Also, it is a great way to meet new peers and artists who are working hard towards their short or long-term goals.

Social Media is another good resource as it connects you with other like-minded artists and people in the same areas of interest, where you can get some tips and tricks to improve yourself as an artist.

Follow authorities on Twitter and LinkedIn, Join Facebook Groups, ask Reddit and Quora, Follow them on Instagram, Subscribe on YouTube, Check the blogs periodically, etc. The world is at your feet today. There is no shortage of support you will get online for free.

Network with people in your neighborhood, and you get to share and learn things for free offline as well.

5. Showcase On The Free Platforms:

Once you have learned the skill and practiced it, understanding the platform is a pivotal step to success. Yes, the platform means understanding what kind of work you can get online and which type of platform you can showcase or sell your work. It would be best if you understood which variety of platforms exist.

For example, if you are making characters for games or commercials, then learn about game engines, Maya or Max, etc. After creating your characters, check on sites like Gameart hub, Polycount, etc.

Showcasing helps get feedback from the community, and you will know the weaknesses in your work that you need to improve.

Another great platform is Imgur and Deviantart, where you can showcase your work.

Many other platforms showcase your work, but it is better to stick with the media mentioned above for a beginner.

The number of users on these platforms can be huge, and you can get a lot of feedback from them. Tools like CrowdFire and Flattr help you earn through Flattr and shares on Imgur, respectively.

6. How To Get The Graphic Workstation For Free:

Everything is free till now. But when it comes to the workstations, they are expensive. But, there are hardly any ways you can get a workstation for free. You can get them cheap if no one gifts you out of your love or passion for VFX. It is highly possible if you show your dedication.

Tip: Try to get them from your grandparents.

However, few sites can get old graphic cards and graphic cards with CPUs bundled with them.

You can buy used hardware from eBay or Craigslist for cheap. Graphics cards have high resale value on the second-hand market, so if you cannot use the card, then sell it on eBay and earn some money back.

Which Is The Easiest VFX Software To Learn For A Beginner?

There are numerous VFX programs. And as mentioned earlier, there are just two kinds- paid and free. But if you are looking at the free tools Blender3D for 3D, HitFilm Express for composting and keying, and Affinity for painting are accessible and not so difficult to learn.

But before picking on the software, learn the fundamentals first to understand how the software works.

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