Here’s how you can learn Python, online, right now

This course, for CG and VFX artists and TDs, eases you into coding in Python (plus, here’s how to get 20% off).

Coding. For some artists in visual effects, CG and animation, that can be a scary word. But the thing to remember about coding is that it’s all about saving you time.

The popular Python language, for instance, can help automate workflows and speed up production in tools like Houdini, Nuke, Maya, Modo, Katana, Shotgun and more. That’s because those tools have Python APIs that let you write code directly into them to automate workflows and speed things up.

The challenge can be, where to start, especially if you haven’t done any coding before. Enter CG Masters School of 3D Animation & VFX. The school has just launched its online ‘Learn Python – for CG and VFX Artists’ course, which means you can jump right in and go back to basics on what learning a coding language involves in the first place, and also learn how to directly use Python practically in your VFX and animation work.

Why might you need to learn Python at all?

Here’s what Python can do: you might already know which buttons to click in certain tools, but perhaps normally the way you do it takes time or is fiddly or is repetitive. Python is about writing code that can automate those clicks, those tasks.

These tasks might be setting up rigs, crafting creature walk cycles, setting up lights in a scene, dealing with file naming and location paths, applying textures. You can construct a Nuke script completely from Python. You can set up SOPs and ROPs in Houdini. You can build a scene and load rigs in Maya. Actually, the list is almost endless

This all might initially sound kind of complex to do. But Python’s ‘selling point’ is that it is one of the most human readable and understandable —yet still incredibly powerful—languages out there. There’s also a wide community of Python users, which means help is never far away.

Once you know how Python can be used to make scripts to manage these tasks in different tools or do much larger studio-wide things (like setting off remote renders, say), it’s going to help you in your own workflows and those of your colleagues, as well.

And, if studios know that you can use Python, it may just help you land a job, too, since you’ll now be at a competitive advantage compared to other artists who might not know the tool.

Learning Python

Getting your head about Python does take some investment, but it can pay off massively. And the CG Masters course is aimed at starting slow, then jumping into real-world use-cases for where Python is used in VFX and animation.

The course is designed by CG Masters co-founder Nicholas Boughen, and run as a series of video tutorials. You’ll also do quizzes to re-apply new knowledge, and submit assignments and tasks.

Here’s the course outline, which is designed to show you where Python sits in the process of using a computer, what generating code actually does, and then using it in VFX and animation software.

Chapter 1 – Intro to Computers and Programming
Chapter 2 – Getting to know Python
Chapter 3 – Input, Processing and Output
Chapter 4 – Decision Structures and Boolean Logic
Chapter 5 – Repetition Structures
Chapter 6 – Functions
Chapter 7 – Files
Chapter 8 – Handling Exceptions
Chapter 9 – Lists
Chapter 10 – Tuples
Chapter 11 – Dictionaries
Chapter 12 – String Operations
Chapter 13 – Classes
Chapter 14 – Graphics Programming
Chapter 15 – Python in Nuke
Chapter 16 – Python in Houdini
Chapter 17 – A Final Word

Costs and study time

The course is offered in two flavors (you can see the prices and more details at the online course portal):

1. Mentored. Along with all the course material, the user has access to ten half-hour live video calls with a mentor for help with more difficult concepts.

2. Solo. The user has access to all the course materials and will use forums and colleagues to help with more difficult concepts.

Your instructor Nicholas Boughen, who is the co-founder and director of education at CG Masters School of 3D Animation & VFX.

Access continues for 365 days, beginning from the date you start the course. That means there’s lots of time to go back and re-watch key sections. The idea is that you work at your own pace to complete the course; you could do a chapter a week, for instance, and that would make it a 4 month course. Feeling extremely motivated? You might even do a chapter a day, and finish the course in 3 weeks.

Once you complete ‘Learn Python – for CG and VFX Artists’, you’ll receive a certificate of completion from CG Masters. But, more importantly, you will receive the ability to build your own tools.

To sign up for CG Masters’ ‘Learn Python for CG and VFX Artists’ course, head to their Online Training Portal. befores & afters readers can access a special limited time offer of 20% off either the mentored or solo courses. Just use this discount code: beforesandafters2020

Brought to you by CG Masters School of 3D Animation & VFX:
This article is part of the befores & afters VFX Insight series. If you’d like to promote your VFX/animation/CG tech or service, you can find out more about the VFX Insight series here.

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