I gather that this is probably the wrong forum entirely for a question like mine, but I'm a long-time lurker here and I really don't know where else to ask about this sort of thing. If you think this shouldn't be here, please tell me where to take it and I'll be glad to, but most of the other places I can find don't have very promising forums.
I've been trying to learn how to draw for years. I can get basic sketches of my ideas down, but I've had to face the fact that I'll never be as good as it takes to do what I really wanted to do: traditional animation. Despite all the books I've gone through, I've never gotten past the point of sketches. I don't have any "finished" artwork.
So, moving on, the next best course to pursue seems to be 3D graphics and animation. But I don't know how the 3D programs at the various schools stack up against each other. I'll just tell you what I'm after, and maybe you can suggest a school somewhere.
What I don't want is to be one of those people who makes ugly, lazy, cheap 3D. I want to make something better than the sort of stuff you see on the average TV show or video game. I want to be able to make my own short projects that look just as good as anything at the cinema, and I'll go anywhere in the world to find a school that will help me get there. I've had friends who went to bad schools and they're stuck going from one crap advertisement to another, or doing knock-off movies for sale at dollar stores. I don't want the "Full Sail" experience, where in the end I haven't learned anything that I couldn't have done with tutorials off the web. I want to have a chance at making real art.
I've got some Gnomon DVDs, and they're excellent so far as they go. But when I checked on their actual school, it turns out that you need a portfolio to get in. I haven't any such thing. What schools are there that will teach me what I want to learn, without having such portfolio requirements that it would be hopeless for me to apply?
To be clear, I don't want to learn just how to animate, or just how to model or rig, or just how to do texturing or effects. I want to learn everything there is to know about making a finished, professional quality 3D animation - except for motion capture stuff, which I'm not interested in. I want to be able to fill any role in a studio, and to see my own personal projects through from start to finish.
Where should I apply? Which school is the best that would have me?
The people who make ugly, lazy, cheap 3d are the ones who make 3d without a background in traditional art. With only a couple exceptions, the best 3d artists are at least tolerable, and in many cases excellent, traditional artiststs. You shouldn't be looking for schools that teach 3d instead of 3d; you want somewhere that teaches both.
Secondly, you're not going to be able to do cinema quality work in all the fields related to 3d animation. Each one takes many years to master. If you want to be a generalist, fine, but be aware that you'll be working on low budget adds and indie games. If you want to do film or high end games, you're going to have to specialize. If you want, you can diversify your skills, but only after you've gotten to the point where you're one of the best in the world at your chosen specialty.
Finally, if a school requires a portfolio, put together a portfolio. It's really not that hard.
As for actual schools, look at SVA, Ringling, VFS, Gnomon, and TAD.
If you are not a good traditional artist, you will not be a good 3D artist. How will you make models if you're not good at sculpting? How will you create textures if you can't paint? etc, etc. Traditional art skill translate into 3D. Digital programs are just another tool for you to make art with.
If you want to get your feet wet with 3D and see how an entire small production is created, I suggest you check out 3Dbuzz's maya or max fundamentals. You do short animation projects, and they teach you how everything works from the modeling to the texturing to the animating.
No school is going to make you good at anything; you make yourself good at something. School is just a tool to keep on track and help you get there.
It's true that the best 3D artist have a background of traditional art. Putting a portfolio together is not that hard. I heard that it is not that hard to get into Gnomon (as long as you dont show them crappy stuff like anime or cartoon drawings). I want to go to Gnomon. I want to take the modeling and texture path. And for that I am going to SVA and Im currently taking drawing classes to make up a decent portfolio. I walked around the 3D department and they make some good stuff. I might take some 3d classes at SVA before I even apply at Gnomon. But anyway if you are close to New York you should come and pay a visit to SVA. They have a good 3d animation department. A word of advice is that they open more 3d classes in the summer than in spring or fall.