"I need an article,"Ł says Pálos. "śAbout what?" I ask. "Whatever. Everything interests us,"Ł he answers. But as to my query regarding deadline, there's no reply. Well, it's easy to say I need an article but what the heck do I write about? I'm empty between the ears; I have not a single thought that would amount to a hill of beans. This void is no doubt a result of the inordinate amount of learning I do. I learn because I teach. In the past, I used to think that the best way to learn something (new software, for example) was to take on assignments; I knew well enough that usually the person ordering the job would ask the impossible or something that can't possibly be accomplished easily or well. My opinion hasn't changed much over the years. The only difference is that I'm smarter now. I realize that over the course of the battle with a client, a motion picture artist can only develop practical knowledge. To enhance theoretical knowledge one needs to teach.
When first offered professorship, I abruptly refused. "śI don't know how to teach anything," I said, and I meant it too. "That's not the point,"Ł replied the Wise One who offered me the position, "we want to show students that such a thing is possible. A real live computer artist with works and exhibits - it's a unique creature."Ł This is the type of employment where the possibilities are endless. "śWell, I mused, maybe taking on the role of a rare form of life for a good salary (foreign professorship!) isn't so bad after all." I signed the contract and thereafter ceased to be a simple artist. From that day forward I became a teacher, but in reality I became a student too.
It soon became apparent that the software I had known and used was not the ones my students were interested in. (The use of professional software is like playing an instrument. For example the hand must automatically press down on the correct buttons while working. Therefore, switching from one software to another requires not only theoretical prowess but plenty of practice as well.) At my former university I presented myself as a 3D animator knowledgeable in the technique of 3-dimensional animation. As things turned out, the students were not in the least interested in animation but wanted to make CD-ROMs instead. So I had a choice. I could either sit by myself in the classroom with my favorite software or I could re-educate myself for the sake of the students. In the end we did animation, but low resolution animation, which we put on a CD-ROM very nicely and added menu points and lovely buttons. So we ended up making this great interactive animated CD-ROM. The students learned something about 3D animation and making CD-ROMs, while I learned Macromedia Director.
After a while I found out that many of my students were quite impoverished. (Starving artists in college.) They could never even hope to purchase software. Of course they could all use illegally copied software but this prospect was not an option I wished for them to explore. (Everyone likes to get paid for the work they do, and I thought of my friends in the software business churning out new software at their desks, so I tend to dismiss such pilfering.) This is when I started looking around for free software. Through freewares, I found open-source software and once again got down to studying. Linux. Suse. Mandrake. Each name represented a thick book on my shelf along with weeks and months of experimentation. (To this day I don't consider myself a computer professional. A professional yes, but only in applied arts. So it is from an artist's way of thinking that I approach software.) I had this idea to compile a collection of open-source coded free software for media artists. It would contain drawing and music software, 3D design and animation, video editing and everything else necessary. On and on went my studies: Gimp, Cinelerra, Blender, Audacity, Cinepaint, etc. I downloaded additional fat volumes, printed and compiled from the internet. I finally managed to break free of this nearly two-year session of learning when a team of Italians produced a free software packet for media artists; it contained software I would have chosen and was presented in a way I was very pleased with. If anyone's interested, the compilation is called Dynebolic.
Right now I am teaching at another university. Here, instead of artists, we teach future professionals. (Ha!) This then is the reason these individuals have no interest whatsoever in my Linux open-source expertise. They're interested in software they'll be able to use in TV and film studios. I used to know this software, really I did, only I had spent so much time studying other things in the meantime that... And of course they don't want to learn professional software (and there are quite a few) that I used to know. Oh no! They want to learn different ones! So, even thicker volumes now appear on my bookshelf with titles like, Maya, 3DS Max, Combustion, Character Animation with 3DS Max Software, the 5 Basics of Maya and the like.
At the moment I am relearning my old favorite, Softimage, the basic tool of most of my former animation projects. But four years have passed since the making of my last Softimage film and during that time all the software has changed completely of course. True, this software doesn't much interest my students, only me. I'm just learning it for myself. I've really gotten the hang of learning.
Of course, all of this is strictly personal. I won't even continue. I'm off to study.
Tamás Waliczky, November 30, 2004
Translation: Zsuzsa Nagy