Article Archive

The NL issue 880 - Into The Third Dimension

Author: Darryn King
Friday, 12 October 2007
Think a 'graphics tablet' sounds like some sort of hallucinogenic pill and a 'z-plane' sounds like the name of a Nazi warfighter- Seeing as this is 3D world, the NL's Darryn King thought it was about time we looked into, well, the 3-D world…

The miracle of 3-D animation has given life to a room full of children's toys, and an ocean of fish. It has resurrected creatures that became extinct 65 million years ago. It continues to bring us all sorts of cyborgs, robots, monsters, beasts and fantastic creatures. It can also give you a bit of a sore back if you're not careful.

Last Saturday I ventured all of three blocks from the 3D office to spend a day in Qantm College in Surry Hills. As Australia's leading media college, I thought it'd be the best place to get a glimpse into this - cliché alert - exciting and vibrant industry.

I do a bit of doodling myself, but I stick to pencil, paper and Photoshop. When it comes to art, I'm something of a Luddite by today's standards. You might say (if you were a massive nerd) that I've never flown the z-plane - the dimensional plane that gives depth, or the illusion of depth, to your standard 2-D object.

Anyway, that was all about to change. I took my seat at one of Qantm's industry standard machines in one of their dimly lit classrooms (apparently people in this industry like the dark) and got up close and personal with Autodesk Maya 8.5.

Navigating this program for the first time is a bit like patting your head, rubbing your stomach, riding a unicycle and singing a Gilbert and Sullivan tune all at once. Having said that, like any program, you get the hang of it. Our tutor insisted, and we eventually realised, that a program like Maya isn't all that different to Photoshop - it just has an extra dimension. Try not to let your brain explode at this next little revelation, but 3-D isn't really 3-D. Like I said, it's the illusion of depth rather than actual depth.

I'm not writing this to give you a crash course in 3-D animation - I'll leave that to the good people at Qantm. Suffice it to say that, by the end of the day, we were all zooming around the third dimension like nobody's business. Little sailboats were floating around our little lakes, then bursting into flames; magnificent stone castles - detailed and textured and built from scratch - sat atop our 3-D islands; and I was particularly proud when I managed to send my pair of flying saucers into a frenzy high above the ground…

There's a certain creative satisfaction in animating one of your own inventions, let me tell you. Sure, the product of my first day's work wasn't exactly Tropfest material, but even the animators at Pixar had to start somewhere.
As well as Animation, the college over courses in Graphic Design, Games Programming and Digital Video in a friendly, if occasionally dimly lit, atmosphere. If your vocation is in this field, you'd do well to check it out. Just remember your posture when you're sitting at a computer for the best part of seven hours…

WHAT: Open Day @ Qantm College, Surry Hills
WHEN: Saturday 20 October