Teaching Tech with Tablets and Tutorials
October 10, 2013

Teaching Tech with Tablets and Tutorials

Andrew Carnegie, a noted lover of the arts, once said that “a library outranks any other one thing a community can do to benefit its people.” He was of course referencing the book-filled variety, but if you extend this message to pertain to the Internet, his message of “education benefits all” is still a piece of applicable wisdom.

And it's true; the Internet brings all of us more access to information with ease. With the removal of older impediments to the learning process, self-improvement has never been easier. Success, however, still hinges on discovering the best path for your intended goal. For VFX artists, that road leads them to Digital-Tutors (www.digitaltutors.com/11/index.php), the world's largest online training center for creative applications. With over 1,100 full-length courses on over 50 software packages created and accounted for, Digital-Tutors is responsible for helping over 100,000 active students explore the tools and tricks that get beginners to production-ready and advanced users to elite.

"We know artists can be skeptical of learning resources, especially when a financial or time commitment is required," said Justin Marshall, Lead Modeling Tutor at Digital-Tutors. "Over the last 12 years, we've dedicated ourselves to not only proving why our content deserves both, but also to the idea that if we do our job, then a whole community of great artists can either begin to or continue to do their job at the highest levels of film, game, and ad industries."

To aid this mission, Digital-Tutors has built Wacom tablets into its coursework so students are able to learn theexact methods established artists use in their workflows. The natural and intuitive pen-on-pad functionality that Wacom products provide also enables Digital-Tutors teachers to conduct lessons in the style they are most accustomed to. "Trying to create training for digital illustration or digital sculpting applications without a good tablet device would be impossible for us and other artists," added Justin Marshall. "Through years of first-hand experience, we know that if you want the most reliable, intuitive, production-proven tablet devices on the market, you go with Wacom."

Wacom products are designed to promote creative freedom and artistic control, making them great companions on the road to higher education. That's why, from Digital-Tutors' first day on, the tablets were closely integrated into courses that required subtlety and nuance. Whether sculpting in ZBrush, or 3D painting in MARI, or even making color adjustments in Photoshop, basic principles are aligned to follow the tip of Wacom's pressure-sensitive pens. With advanced techniques this becomes even more mandatory, as little errors can assume the appearance of big flaws when held up against a client's critique.

"The greatness of a digital artist is hampered when they aren't able to translate their vision onto the digital canvas. Cintiqs and Intuos bridge that gap. They bring artists closer to their work, and help them express their unique vision, which is ultimately what makes them distinct," stated Kyle Green, Curriculum Manager at Digital-Tutors.

Standing out is key to attaining employment in competitive creation industries or maintaining it once you are there. Studios don't trust multi-million dollar projects to guesswork; they want artists that represent the top levels of what is currently attainable as anything less is a liability. Digital-Tutors infuse this benchmark into their coursework, and consistently draw from the tricks artists are either creating or discovering out in the trenches. And since Wacom tablets are on every desk of every major studio, Digital-Tutors makes sure that their videos present a realistic view of today's professional work environment.

Training doesn't just begin and end with software at Digital-Tutors; Wacom tablets actually have their own lesson plan. By using the "Maximizing Your Wacom" series, artists can learn about workflow tips that promote efficiency so they can save time, and their studios can save money. Covering features like the programmable Express Keys and the navigational Radial Menu allows these artists to digest commonly-used shortcuts that will come in handy during a crunch. It also encourages sharper thoughts into how they are working, and the things that will make that work day go even smoother.

"Getting the most out of devices is as important as getting the most out of your software," added Green. "We teach to both so students and developing artists have the strongest foundation possible to draw from. A proper foundation can save you in a moment of crisis, or propel you in a moment of inspiration. We prefer the latter, but make sure our students can confidently handle both."