Specializing as a Generalist

Last week, Newtek held a live streaming video presentation on their website to show off the latest developments in Lightwave 9.6 and the upcoming Lightwave Core. I was in “attendance,” watching via live streaming web feed as the Lightwave experts demoed some of the more interesting additions to Lightwave 9.6 that I hadn’t really gotten around to checking out yet. It was a bit later on however, that they mentioned something that really made me feel good as a Lightwave Artist; in an interview with some guys from a UK studio, they mentioned that Lightwave artists are generalists rather than specialists, making them invaluable, particularly for keeping budgets affordable and on quick-turnaround projects.

I started my 3D career in school, learning on 3DS Max software (I think it was version 5 or 6 when I started?). We were taught how to do an entire project,  from concept sketches to modeling, to texturing, rigging, skinning, animating, and rendering. Pretty much any school will do that, and generally people will pick a thing they are best at, stick with it, and become a specialist on huge projects like EA games or Pixar films. That is, if they can do something to make their specialist work really stand out. More often than not, you need prior field experience to get a job as a specialist, which can make doing that right out of school really hard.

When I came to DDA and found out I would be using Lightwave, I was a bit apprehensive since I had no experience with the software. But before long, I found my familiarity with programs like 3DS Max had me working the ins and outs of Lightwave in no time. And while I’m always learning new things in the software (probably because Newtek is always adding them via their iterative updates,) I really do feel I have a decent grasp now of how to model, texture, rig and animate in Lightwave’s Modeler and Layout programs. What’s cool is the more I work in Lightwave, in all the roles, the better I become as a generalist. I think developing all the skills required to create detailed 3D animations from scratch is a great thing for me going into the future; as I become a better generalist, my specialist skills in each particular step of the process increase.