Tech Re­views

Animation Magazine - - Tv -

It’s been a while since I cov­ered some of the places for on­line train­ing that I hap­pen to like and use on a pretty reg­u­lar ba­sis. And since then, there have been some changes in the ser­vices worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

First up is Dig­i­tal Tu­tors — well, Plu­ral­sight, ac­tu­ally. Not too long ago, Dig­i­tal Tu­tors was in­cor­po­rated into the Plu­ral­sight fam­ily, which added the li­brary of tu­to­ri­als on the soft­ware we use and love for mak­ing pretty pic­tures, and com­bined it with a wider pack­age and va­ri­ety of tu­to­ri­als for pro­gram­ming lan­guages and de­vel­op­ment tools from Code School as well as IT cour­ses. And it doesn’t stop there! There are cour­ses on busi­ness lead­er­ship, ar­chi­tec­ture, cy­ber se­cu­rity — even eth­i­cal hack­ing! I don’t even know what that is and I’m in­ter­ested.

The col­lect­ing of train­ing li­braries has made Plu­ral­sight lit­er­ally into a plu­ral site, a one-stop tech­nol­ogy shop­ping mall of train­ing. If you were a mem­ber of Dig­i­tal Tu­tors, none of your access went away; it sim­ply ex­panded to in­clude all of the other cour­ses. And, as be­fore, train­ing is bro­ken into bite-size chunks, so you can ei­ther search for very spe­cific so­lu­tions, or you can go through en­tire learn­ing paths to mas­ter a new skill.

But, as ex­cit­ing as all this train­ing is, the things that ex­cites me more is the way they are ap­proach­ing men­tors and ex­perts to help you out. I mean, fo­rums and such are all well and good, but Plu­ral­sight has take a wel­come cue from Hack­Hands — an­other Plu­ral­sight com­pany.

From the way I un­der­stand it, the ex­perts for Plu­ral­sight are kind of like the Uber driv­ers of the cod­ing world. When you run into a spe­cific prob­lem with your code (and I think they are ex­pand­ing it to DCC soft­ware), you re­quest a Code Uber Guy, a.k.a. Hack­Hands. Peo­ple who are on duty are no­ti­fied, and when one re­sponds, he or she gets con­nected to you and as­sists you through your prob­lem. If you re­solve it within five min­utes, you aren’t charged. If it takes longer, well, the me­ter starts run­ning.

Like Uber, the Hack­Hands ex­perts are vet­ted, but there is also a com­mu­nity feed­back sys­tem to rate the ex­perts and keep them on the up and up. And, like Uber, the ex­perts ben­e­fit fi­nan­cially from the whole process.

I like Uber, and I like the idea of hav­ing ded­i­cated, free­lance ex­perts that can help me through prob­lems that could take hours of trou­bleshoot­ing or Googling. I con­sider my time valu­able, and not spend­ing it sort­ing through web­pages is more than worth the cost of hav­ing an ex­pert guide me.

sign up for up to five cour­ses for that quar­ter. The cour­ses would be 10 classes parceled out over 11 weeks (there was a one-week hia­tus in the mid­dle of the term). In this way, your in­for­ma­tion would be titrated to you in con­sum­able amounts. I kind of liked this be­cause it didn’t be­come over­whelm­ing — if you kept up with classes.

Around the be­gin­ning of the year, fx­phd changed this busi­ness model to be­come a flat monthly sub­scrip­tion rather than quar­terly and based on the num­ber of cour­ses you take. Now you have access to the 140 cour­ses at any time. The stan­dard sub­scrip­tion al­lows you to stream the cour­ses any­time, any­where (that there is an in­ter­net con­nec­tion). The pre­mium pack­age gives you the op­tion of down­load­ing the cour­ses to watch off­line.

The great thing about the cour­ses on fx­phd is the own­ers also run fxguide and have access to the lat­est and great­est soft­ware and tech­niques, so you are learn­ing the things that stu­dios are us­ing to­day to cre­ate the vis­ual ef­fects you see in cur­rent films. Mike Sey­mour’s Back­ground Fun­da­men­tals should be re­quired view­ing sim­ply for the breadth of top­ics that he cov­ers, from cam­era gear to ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and deep learn­ing to VR to how to bud­get out vis­ual ef­fects to ef­fec­tively man­ag­ing projects.

The men­tors are not only ac­tively in­volved in the in­dus­try — Sheena Dug­gal, Ri­d­ley Scott and Scott Squires are some of the quest profs — but they are vis­ual ef­fects artists who have moved on to big­ger and bet­ter things. Gareth Ed­wards ( Godzilla, Star Wars: Rogue One) and Wes Ball ( Maze Run­ner) are pre­vi­ous fx­phd profs.

And on top of all that good­ness, fx­phd has a re­la­tion­ship with the soft­ware de­vel­op­ers. So along with your sub­scrip­tion, you get a VPN con­nec­tion to an ed­u­ca­tion li­cense for the soft­ware you are train­ing on. 3DEqual­izer, Nuke, Maya, Hou­dini, etc., are all at your fin­ger­tips dur­ing your train­ing. This fea­ture alone is worth the cost of the monthly sub­scrip­tion.

I’m a fan of each of the train­ing sites listed here to­day, for vary­ing rea­sons, but as a vis­ual-ef­fects su­per­vi­sor, its fx­phd that I draw the most knowl­edge from to help me be the best su­per­vi­sor I can be. Todd Sheri­dan Perry is a vis­ual-ef­fects su­per­vi­sor and dig­i­tal artist who has worked on fea­tures in­clud­ing The Lord of the Rings: The Two Tow­ers, Speed Racer, 2012, Fi­nal Des­ti­na­tion 5 and Avengers: Age of Ul­tron. You can reach him at todd@tea­spoon­vfx.com.

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