Should You Go to College to Study 3D (3DS Max Houdini Maya)?

The big question I get asked a lot is “What’s the best 3D school?” or “Should I go to college to study 3D?” I’ve asked a lot of people both in the industry, as well as teachers at VFX schools that I trust about what their opinions are on this. Because I have my beliefs around this but I wanted to get others takes on this as well.

Now I wanted to dive into the PROS and CONS of these 3 options:

1) Go to 3D College to study Visual Effects

2) Study online on your own – using free content

3) Study online doing paid courses

I am excited for this episode! I’m keeping an open mind and an unbiased opinion about all 3, as well as sharing my own experiences. As I personally invest tens of thousands of dollars every year into learning and studying myself. There are some great options out there from Gnomon Workshop, FXPHD, Digital Tutors, Lost Boys, Vancouver Film School (VFS), Sheridan College, Full-Sail University, SCAD and others. Just as there are great options online ranging from CG Spectrum, Gnomon, and dozens of courses on Gumroad and more.

I, of course, have my FXTD Mentorship which is open once a year. And that has given me a lot of insights into what works in studying online, as well as the struggles some people have as well. Like I said I want to keep this completely unbiased and I think I’ve successfully done that in this video.

Questions also come down to whether you’re studying 3DS Max, Maya, Houdini, Blender or Cinema 4D, After Effects, Photoshop, Nuke, Fusion or many others. Or whether you want to be an FX Technical Director, Character Animator, 3D Modeler, Character TD or so much more. So what do you do!?

I’m excited to answer that in this video – so let’s dive in!

Youtube comments:

Maxime Fartoukh
Hey !The livestream was really nice, I'm gonna watch that video now :) again, thanks a lot for everything you're doing for us Allan ! 😁
Marno Franck
I'm from South Africa, I really want to go study VFX and game development but South Africa isn't the place to do so. I've talk to people that go to collage to study VFX and they say the first 2 years is a waste of time. So I'm learning VFX on Youtube and I'm still struggling to model a vehicle after doing 7 years of VFX..
Brian Kisely
I went to Fullsail University Online for Computer Animation to get into a VFX job. 3 and a half years I went through the program, wasted all of my G.I. Bill and I couldn't get through the benchmark courses and wasted all that time just to get an associate degree that I can do nothing with. Even now, I am trying to teach myself 3DS Max, Unreal Engine and Houdini. So, even if I have a super good demo reel, I don't think that's enough to get me an interview. Right now, if I were to send out a reel of my work, I'd be laughed at. I know I'm not ready, I still have much to learn and in my opinion Fullsail really only taught me the basics of the program (Maya). Like you said in this video, Self motivation should be paramount and staying hungry to learn is a very good key to being a successful VFX producer. Thank you for the video, very good information!
Tarang Pandya
what are the types of book behind you ? are all related with VFX ? suggest us as well .btw brilliant work as usual .
Matthias Backmann
Thanks for these informations. I can endorse a lot of what you said. Nevertheless, speaking as a former graduate in Germany (international filmschool cologne), the main issue is a little less pressing here: Money. My school wasn't free, but the whole bachelor was ~2.000€/term - so 14.000 all in all. And we could take interest-free loans to cover this (or even get a scholarship). And a few good filmschools are even inside the public system like Filmakademie Ludwigsburg or HFF Munich and are therefore nearly free. Even for non-EU-Students, the prices are moderate.This takes a lot of pressure of the students and you can really express your artistic side inside a "3-4-year-sandbox". But as you said, you have to be aware, that your Diploma/Bachelor/Master isn't worth a lot, what counts is the reel you could built with the projects you did and the network you established with your fellow students and tutors. For me that really paid of, because my prof took great care to show us this important part of our career.
What's up Allan, i'm totally agree with your point of view about college but i would add "you can't go to college to learn ART" cause Art is the "job" where you do not do same thing everytimeRegards, Newlc (3D modeler) PS: if you are visiting Paris, i 'll glide to meet you
Hey Allen, are there any books that you would recommend for learning special effects? Thanks!
Julien Denamur
Hi Allan, great content as usual! I'm completing a degree in Anglophone studies while building my demo reel on the side. In my case, can I qualify my first reel as a student reel to look for an entry-level job even though my field of study is different/irrelevant? Thanks!
saqib hussain
i am a self taught 3d Generalist agree with all of your points,
your genius man i mean your a crazy vfx artist..dammm i also want to do such crazy vfx stuffs...
Jebus C. Gaming
So, I'm about to graduate, and I've beeen taught primarily 3DS MAX for animation and limited use of particle effects. My problem is that, I personally feel that despite being here for 4 years, I haven't learned as much as I could. What has interested me is the animation mentor site, even though they use Maya. Any suggestions on what I can do now that I'm pretty much done?
Manu M
Hi this manu I'm from India I have done my 12th and I have joined in engineering but discontinued my studies because some financial problems. Am I eligible for VFX course or else is there any specific graduation needed and I'm very excited in donig VFX course and work in abroad. And we have bunch of institutions in India like pixelloid, redchillis, reliance so many or else I want to join in animation college and if I want work in other countries what is the eligibility please suggest me confused.
Sammy Diaz
do you know where i can learn maya houdini and 3ds max vfx in general in FL, like a college?
I'm from Brazil and I really admire your work, allan mckay.
Monhoo Batraa
I very like option 2 because I didn't have internet and I can't go to any school then I am focused on the only very important thing as well but this actually this is what I doing since 5 years. Also, I focus on the wrong thing I don't have any demos now I try to make one demo. Maybe this is key. I watched your demo and it's was very cool. and I love this tutorial too.
Jony Shefranov
I'm in this phase where I have some knowledge in VFX and even some experience ( as a freelancer and as someone who worked in a studio ) but I don't have enough Design knowledge which is really important from what I figured out in my last job ( and the main reason why I didn't continue to work there ), and unfortunately I don't see a place where you can get that design knowledge except from universities ( with degree ). So what do you think I should do ? continue to search for jobs in VFX industry and learn from experience about design or maybe just waste those 3/4 years to learn it from universities ?
Tahleek Studio
Very nice piece of advice. Love your content, it sometimes gets pretty boring though. (You should hire a video editor, Your tutorials, videos, your whole content is really mature, but can be taken to next level with some editing. Film Riot or VC for example)
Tristan Marquez
Unfortunatel, I went to a college and dumped 80k into the most expensive I have ever had. Now the school is closed and I'm working at an insurance company in Downtown Portland. I'm still doing 3D Modeling on the weekends for fun and going through your tutorials Allan. Thank you!
Berk Çetin
I m your Turkish follower and I will be VFX artist 😎
Aniket Patil
Should i work in a startup or in a well known studio or company By the way i just graduated