Animation Instructor Adam Byrd shares his ingredients for success
You’ve done your research, weighed your options and decided to pursue your passion by registering for a Digital Media Academy Virtual Summer Tech Camp. So…where do you go from here? You might be nervous or excited, new to Digital Media Academy or a long-term fan of our programs. Whatever ingredients you’re starting with, Animation Instructor Adam Byrd has the recipe for success.
When it comes to teaching at Digital Media Academy, Adam has done it all, and as he puts it, he “loves it in every capacity”. Since 2017, he has led on-campus courses at Harvard, taught virtual courses and developed curriculum. Last summer, he was the assistant director of virtual camps. In other words, if anyone knows how to help students succeed, it’s Adam. Here, he shares his top tips for making the most of Virtual Summer Tech Camp – and beyond.
1) Be Excited to Learn
“I think that probably the most important thing is being willing and excited to get in there and start learning,” explains Adam, who adds that all of his learners are self-driven in one way or another, whether they are nurturing their artistic skills or their technical skills. “With all the students that I’ve had at Digital Media Academy, the resounding trait they share is that they’re excited to try something new – something that they are creating themselves.”
In fact, according to Adam, a willingness and enthusiasm for learning can be an even greater factor in student success than talent. “Animation, like most subjects, is a skill that you have to work on,” he explains. “You aren’t born knowing how to draw a photorealistic eye – you have to sit there and you have to practice.”
Whether or not you have a talent for drawing, there are paths to success in animation.
Adam recalls, “I’ve had kids who have come in who have never drawn on the computer before, and they ask me if there is anything they can do with the picture of a stick man that they’ve drawn. The answer is yes. There’s always a way to be able to make it work. Honestly, some of the kids who have no drawing or animation experience at all come up with the weirdest and coolest animations because it’s a whole different translation of talent. I like the uncharted territory and the creativity.”
Conversely, Adam has also seen learners excel who can draw but don’t yet have a foundation in the technical aspect of digital animation. What drives all of these learners is their openness to learning something new.
“When you start a course, be it animation, video editing, illustration, coding or any other course, there are always things you’re going to come across that you could do better,” he says. “There might be things that you aren’t interested in, or that you didn’t know you were going to be interested in. It’s about being willing to go with the flow of the course and you’ll have created something really cool at the end of it.”
2) Be Willing to Collaborate
“In the field of animation, art is such a collaborative process,” says Adam. “There are parts of a project where you have to do the planning and there are parts where you have to create the drawing and then there are parts where you have to animate.”
Digital Media Academy courses are no different. Adam explains that sharing your work with the other learners in the class can help generate new ideas, and can be a great form of support – not to mention it makes the whole experience more fun.
Making connections is especially important in a virtual context. “It’s not the same as an in-person camp experience where you’re physically sitting next to somebody and you can just lean over and see each other’s work,” explains Adam. “There’s a little bit more effort that you have to put into making those connections.” That’s why Digital Media Academy instructors like Adam work hard to foster connections between learners in their courses.
And the effort is worth it. “I’ve had students who met in one of my courses and now they’re attending college together for animation,” says Adam. “It’s really cool to see former students building on what they started at Digital Media Academy.”
3) Share Your Results
They say you protect what you love, and this is especially true of art. “I often have students who are passionate about their art, so they’re very protective of it,” explains Adam. “They say, ‘This is mine, I make it for me,’ and they don’t necessarily want to share it.”
But there is a reason that Virtual Tech Camps often include a showcase for friends and family at the end of the week. Adam explains, “Showing something you’re proud of and having that positive feedback and support – everyone saying, ‘Wow, this is awesome’ – is a big part of the experience. It’s a huge boost.”
4) Expand Your Interests
Another key to success at Digital Media Academy (and in life generally) is to be willing to try things that are beyond your area of interest – you never know what you might discover. “I’ve had students who do animation, and they complete all of the 2D animation courses at Digital Media Academy, and they say, ‘Now what?’,” recalls Adam. He encourages these learners to expand their thinking: “I tell them that they’ve made all these animations – why not hop into a social media class and learn how to put them online for an audience?”
Adam also encourages young learners to explore other areas of interest. For example, if they enjoy playing video games, they might try out a Minecraft or a Roblox class.
“It’s a good idea to think outside the box,” he explains. “If you’re not sure if you’ll like something or not, give it a shot. Just try.”
A Note On Virtual Learning
Though Adam acknowledges that virtual learning, like anything, has its limitations, he also finds that it has a number of benefits. “There are so many more things that you can do when you’re actively on the computer and learning,” he explains. For example, he often provides examples while teaching that he can quickly look up and share in real time.
Adam also finds that a virtual environment fosters independence in his learners. “If a student is having trouble with something, I can have them share their screen and we can walk through it together,” he says, “but I can’t do it for them. I can’t grab the mouse and fix it – they have to take control. It helps build a foundation of learning that results in more well-rounded students who are able to navigate challenges on their own.”