I went to school for computer animation in 1998. You can go and look up the first release of the juggernaut graphics package Maya. When I started school Maya hadn’t been released. We learned for the first few months, the ins and outs of Power Animator. Before the School year was over, we had transitioned from Power Animator to Maya on Irix Silicon Graphics O2 computers.While finishing up my final class reel I was running pirated copies of Maya on a pentium 2 machine at home running windows NT and carrying the files back and forth to school on zip disks. Everything was moving so fast it was hard to keep up. Adobe also had their main video compositing program move from Mac only to both Mac and Windows I concluded that year creating animation and assembling video with tools that didn’t even exist when I started. It seemed that if you blinked, the industry would pass right by you.
Many times through the years I have thought that I had gotten too far behind, I had lost touch with the current software trends. I had missed the only chance I had to learn about dynamic tessellation or creating a perfect walk cycle. Everyone else had kept up the pace and I had not. As one popular computer language fell out of favour to be succeeded by the new hotness, I would never have the chance to board that train. It was gone.
I have used no fewer than five different 3D programs at actual jobs, and lord knows how many I have messed with on my own time. I have used nearly as many video editors, image editors, sound editors, and IDEs. Every single one of them had their own quirks and workflows. Every single one of them required a training period. I would flail hopelessly at the keys and menus attempting to produce a result until something approaching acceptable fired out the other end. I continue to do that. Every time I open up LightWorks (my current favorite video editor) I have to relearn some part of it. Every single time. I have never, and will never master it, but every time I create something in LightWorks, I get just a tiny bit better at editing video. Every time I adjust some vertices in Blender or Silo or Unity or whatever it is I’m working with that day, I get just a little better at 3D modelling. When you are grinding for levels, it really doesn’t matter what monsters you fight. XP is XP.
The tools still change at an incredible rate. There are always new ways of solving problems or accomplishing tasks. It can be tough to keep up with every iteration. Entire generations of tools can whiz right past you before you find yourself picking them up again. I don’t worry about losing touch anymore. I don’t worry that I will be left behind. It turns out that while the tools get better, the results, creating interesting art and solving problems are the same as they ever were. If learning the new tools is incorporated as a part of the process of creating you can never really get left behind. Fearing that flailing period while you learn can slow you down, but building it into your process gives you license to try anything.
So flail. Flail at everything. Flail at art, flail at process, flail at technique, flail at creating. You can really only get better.