Future Flasher
September 11, 2008 11:22 AM   Subscribe

My son, it turns out, is a genius with Flash animation, at least as far as his high school has allowed him to pursue it. He is very excited (and that means a lot in a teen!) about the idea of animation now that he is thinking about career plans for his future. What resources, advice, schools, courses, etc. can I give him to help him leverage his interest into a possible career path? We're in central Florida, if that means anything.
posted by misha to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Well, that’s a pretty marketable skill. I don’t know if he’s at the point where he wants to hit Craigslist looking for odd jobs but that’s one option.

Education wise I’d encourage him to look at design and animation courses that are more generalized than flash – he’s going to get everything he needs to know about flash by actually doing it. If he really knows his stuff TBH I don’t know how much he’d lose out on by just saying fuck it and getting a job – probably more life-skillsy stuff than anything job applicable.

I don’t know how much he’s into the ActionScript side of things as opposed to just animating, but that would be a very good skillset to have and he shouldn’t neglect it.

Congratulations on raising more fodder for the web dev industry!
posted by Artw at 11:43 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

(Also the amount of high end web dev work available tends to be a bit of a regional thing, so he may have to move to exploit it. Even with work being all electronic, physical presence counts)
posted by Artw at 11:45 AM on September 11, 2008

Best answer: I am going to second the ActionScript recommendation... my developer friends who are comfortable writing code make a LOT more money, and have told me that it often comes down to their coding ability.

Good luck to your son! It's great to find something you love to do, and when it's a marketable skill, all the better.
posted by allen8219 at 11:46 AM on September 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

Maybe you can contact someone at Ringling College of Art and Design. It is close enough to central FL to visit and talk to someone in person. I had a friend who went to college there and then went on to work for Pixar.

Congratulations on supporting his interest!
posted by MiggySawdust at 11:49 AM on September 11, 2008 [2 favorites]

(dang slow typing)

Echoing the above, as someone who manages some pretty amazing Flash developers, I can say in the professional / commercial realm, pure animation, while still important, has become secondary to knowing ActionScript (Flash's programming language) and knowing how to use Flash for dynamic websites, getting Flash to work with XML, pulling content from a database, etc.

If he's much more the creative, let's make an amazing movie type of thinker, I certainly don't want to stifle his enthusiasm, but from a career-path angle, I'd say study and know the "back-end" bits that make Flash particularly functional. My guess is the continuing technological knowledge will ultimately help his creativity, in terms of presenting new ways to solve problems and create things.

Education wise I’d encourage him to look at design and animation courses that are more generalized than flash

From a personal enhancement angle, I'd recommend that heartily; if he becomes a true Flash developer / coder, it won't be super-important to an employer - but it certainly woudn't hurt.

As a specific resource, most of the folks here like the "Friends of Ed" series of books - I might start here.
posted by jalexei at 11:52 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Flash is a wide topic, it could involve pure art, pure programming, or any mix in between. Figure out the best niche and have him do a few volunteer jobs for charities around the area, and perhaps try to land a $1000 - $2000 dollar contract off of craigslist.

Or... even better, go to a web developers meetup in the area. I'm sure there's something around. Perhaps he could get an internship, or even subcontracting work (yay, no clients to deal with!).

For education, focus on the more general art and computer science skills. Then self-teach the tools. Tools will change a dozen times over in the course of a career. The design and algorithm skills will stick with you the whole way through.
posted by cschneid at 11:53 AM on September 11, 2008

He might get a lot out of an internship with Future Media Concepts.
posted by glibhamdreck at 11:54 AM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'll add another vote for learning ActionScript and XML. I work for an entertainment dot com which is heavy on the Flash. Almost all of our designers have experience with AS and XML and use it daily. Those designers with the most coding experience tend to be in high demand here.
posted by Constant Reader at 12:05 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, get him to sit down with a professional animator / animation instructor and make sure he understands that drawing is a core skill.

Plus, get him a stack of sketchbooks and an electric pencil sharpener, and you may want to see if there's some place that does weekly life drawing sessions.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:10 PM on September 11, 2008

Best answer: I don't use ActionScript as part of my job as a programmer but I've worked with Flash designers and I agree that being able to do some coding is very important for Flash designers in the real world.

If his school provides any kind of programming courses, even if they are not related to Flash, I would suggest that he take one. In my experience a lot of people can learn and use programming languages as part of their job even if their main focus isn't coding, but there are some people who really hate any kind of programming at all. Doing some basic programming tasks can help him decide if he's comfortable developing professional-level skills in that area or if it's just not for him.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:39 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Personally I hate Flash and anything that uses it, despite having created some stuff with it myself. If he's into animation, and I assume likes games, some 3D tutorials such as this, for example, might encourage further interest.

I had fun with the basic 3D game engine tutorial, but I also had coding experience already. If he can code, and learn how to do it by doing fun stuff like 3D games, it should open a lot of doors career-wise, even if ultimately they don't involve 3D. I went through a few phases like this and found they ultimately made me more marketable by rounding-out the skill-set, and demonstrating enthusiasm for the field.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 1:02 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Very good online character animation college (not oriented toward Flash) -- Animation Mentor.
posted by madmethods at 1:19 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

(Flash is superb for electronic signage. There could be more outlets for Flash development in your area than just web-only shops. Just a small extra bit of data to add.)
posted by gimonca at 1:23 PM on September 11, 2008

Best answer: I would suggest you get him a subscription to lynda.com. those are some of the best software tutorials I know and he'll probably get even further using them. (let's face it, we can never know enough.) I'd encourage him to look into a career in either design or programming and would suggest you two check out the best colleges in either field nationwide. don't limit yourself to any specific location. you want to find the one place where as many as possible kids with similar talent and drive congregate to learn because college is about making contacts.
posted by krautland at 1:27 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Central Florida is definitely not a bad place to be if your son is interested in a career in computer animation of any kind. As far as colleges go, the University of Central Florida and Full Sail University both have programs that would probably work well for him (full disclosure: I work as a researcher for UCF's Institute for Simulation and Training). UCF has a great Digital Media BA program. Full Sail has bachelors' programs in Computer Animation (though that is centered on 3D animation; think computer/console games and movies), Digital Arts & Design, and Web Design and Development (which would be the best fit if he wants to focus on Flash). Full Sail is a bit on the expensive side from what I've seen, but it is a more "hands on" school. Out of the team of ten people I work with on game-based training simulations, three are Full Sail graduates (with degrees in Computer Animation). All three of them are excellent at their jobs. The only complaint they had about Full Sail was the cost.

If you have any questions about either school, I'd be happy to try to answer them (I'll ask my coworkers about any Full Sail questions). Feel free to MeMail me if you like.
posted by XcentricOrbit at 1:37 PM on September 11, 2008

Seconding Miggy's suggestion about the Ringling school. A lot of people dismiss it because of the circus stuff, but it's actually a pretty good school.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:58 PM on September 11, 2008

Maybe an obvious answer, and a more broad graphic design/fine arts emphasis, but you should also remember to check out the family of Art Institute schools and any of the various Colleges of Art and Design (don't believe any of these are necessarily institutionally related, just similar names).
posted by dahliachewswell at 4:05 PM on September 11, 2008

Best answer: I second Lynda.com.

Also second the advice to take some courses (or pick up some books) in Object Oriented programming and focus on Action Script.

We were trying for 4 months to fill a flash developer (action script) position and finally found someone on Monday.
posted by Mick at 5:15 PM on September 11, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding Full Sail...they have some great teachers (with actual industry experience) and they have an increasingly impressive list of graduates.
posted by KTrujillo at 5:47 PM on September 11, 2008

When planning for college, don't forget to include basic business classes – even marketing and/or management courses – if freelancing/starting small company will ever be a possibility.
posted by PixelatorOfTime at 6:17 PM on September 11, 2008

If he's interested in animation for cartoons and films then it's probably not necessary to learn actionscript (although AS coders are much more in demand than artists right now, and I'll wager this will probably always be the case, and beyond that, AS is fun. Frustrating, painful, race condition fun, but fun.). Instead, he might want to learn some of the other major animation packages. I hear Toon Boom Studio is one of them, he should do some internet research to figure out the other ones. I would highly recommend reading John K's (the creator of Ren And Stimpy's) blog -- he makes daily posts about the industry, improving as an animator, etc etc.

If he's interested in Flash, interactivity and games, a CS degree is a good choice if he wants to come at it from the programmer side. If he wants to be designing games or the like, he'll have a long trudge ahead of him to break into the industry as a game designer (although at which point he'll have much more influence over the final product than a programmer would). Gamasutra is a good website to read for game industry information both about programmers and artists.

If he's interested in motion graphics, I would probably look into design school, or maybe just start to put together a portfolio.
posted by fishfucker at 7:57 AM on September 12, 2008

Response by poster: There are so many great answers to my query, I really feel like marking all of you as best answer! I high-lighted a bunch that I thought would be my son's favorites (anything mentioning money!), and XcentricOrbit's generous offer for advice.

Thanks for coming through for me yet again, Mefites!
posted by misha at 8:41 AM on September 12, 2008

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