Q: Which software will I use on Computer Animation Arts?
A: Autodesk Maya 2017 & Arnold, Mental Ray for Maya, Mudbox 2017, and the Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, Animate/Flash, After Effects, & Premiere).
Q: What is Autodesk Maya, Arnold, Mental Ray, and Mudbox?
A: Autodesk Maya is virtual studio / workshop that allows you to create 3D films. It is the same software that Disney, Dreamworks, and Pixar use to make animations, and it is the same software used to make VFX work like in the Marvel films. Arnold & Mental Ray are rendering ‘plug-in’s for Maya that transform basic 3D objects into the lit images you see on screen. Finally, Mudbox is a virtual ‘high poly’ sculpting tool, which allows you create detailed models.
Q: Can I get the software at home?
A: Yes. A free student version of Maya (with Arnold) and Mudbox are available to download once you have enrolled onto the course. Mental Ray for Maya can be download for free too. The Adobe Creative Suite can be purchased as a subscription. These can be found here.
Autodesk Maya (with Arnold): Link
Mental Ray: Link
Adobe Creative Cloud for Students: Link
Q: Do I need to buy a computer before I enroll onto Computer Animation Arts?
A: Yes, we would recommend purchasing an appropriate computer if possible. However, there are computers available for student use in the University. They are accessible Monday to Friday between 8am-8pm. Each computer contains the software and hardware necessary to create 3D work.
Q: Shall I buy a laptop or desktop PC?
A: We would recommend that you buy a desktop PC and not a laptop for 3D work. The hardware required to process 3D software can be more expensive in a laptop. Due to space restrictions and the modifications needed to make it portable. Overall, you will get more for your money when buying a desktop PC. Making is more powerful, last longer, and easier to update in the future. Working on 3D (or concept art) on a laptop is not recommended either due to the reduced size of the screen.
Q: Shall I buy a Windows or Mac PC
A: A Windows PC. A Mac can be problematic / restrictive when using Autodesk Maya.
Q: What standard of computer shall I buy?
A: You will need to purchase a Windows PC that works well with Autodesk Maya 2017. Autodesk’s minimum requirements for Maya can be found here. However, the basic requirements are;
- CPU: 64-bit Intel® or AMD® multi-core processor with SSE4.2 instruction set.
- Graphics Hardware: Refer to the following pages for a detailed list of recommended systems and graphics cards - Maya Certified Hardware (English)
- RAM: 8 GB of RAM (16 GB or more recommended)
- Disk Space: 4 GB of free disk space for install
- Pointing Device: Three-button mouse
One of the more expensive (but necessary) requirements on the list is an appropriate graphics card. This will make up most of the cost of your PC. Autodesk have a list of tested graphics cards on their website (link). If possible, buying an Nvida Quadro Card is recommended. A Quadro M2000M is a good intro option costing around £450 (currently, the top of the list of ‘Quadro cards’ is the GP100’ costing £7000.) An Nvidia Geforce card is another option, such as the GTX 680 costing approximately £250. In each case make sure that the card you purchase is on the Autodesk Maya certification list to ensure you don’t encounter any problems.
Q: How much will a PC cost overall?
A: With a monitor a PC capable of 3D can cost anywhere from £1200 - £2000+.
Q: Where should I buy a computer?
A: Dell or HP (Hewlett Packard). Even though they may be slightly more expensive, both of these companies are experienced builders of ‘3D Workstations’, both for the animation and VFX industry. They also test their computers to ensure the components work together correctly. Staff will work with you over the phone to ensure you are buying the right type of computer and you can ‘spec’ a PC on their website to gauge costs. If you wish to buy from another seller you can use the spec generated by Dell or HP to make sure you are know what you need too. We would suggest not buying PC’s from local seller such as PC World or similar. They will rarely have a PC that works well with 3D and they focus more on selling ‘Games PC’s’. These are different to the ones used to build 3D.
Q: Which monitor should I buy?
A: A HD 1920x1080 monitor. Again, there are options via Dell and HP.
Q: Shall I build my own PC / Shall I have a friend build my PC?
A: No. Try not to go down this route. Buying separate untested components can lead to problems.
Q: I’m still confused?
A: Please feel free to email me (Alan) with any further questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can download this Q&A as a PDF here.