Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I'm at the Student Level. How Many Hours Should I Practice? How Many Hours Do I Need to Work at a Professional Level in the US?

This is another difficult question, because the answer is different for everyone.

Malcolm Gladwell writes that it takes, on average, 10,000 hours of practice and study for anyone to become truly proficient at something.

For myself, I just added up on a calculator all the time I spent studying/practicing animation in school (including stuff like figure drawing), time with my mentors, and animating on my own. I added all of that up, and it turns out that my animation education time before landing my dream job at ILM was 18,400 hours.

That might sound daunting, and it clearly took me more than the requisite 10,000 hours, but really we're just talking about 5 years of focused studying in order to have a reel that got me into ILM. I have no idea if that's average, fast, or slow, but we're all going to have different speeds as we study and absorb this animation stuff.

I would guess that the number of hours "necessary" to excel in animation would be radically different from one person to the next. I think the actual number of hours is irrelevant -- what matters is how much you can focus on animation.

For me, especially during the 4 years where I was focusing the most on learning this stuff, animation was my life. If I was awake, I was animating. That literally isn't really much of an exaggeration. I wasn't going out much with friends, I didn't have a girlfriend, I was missing movies I had been excited to see, I didn't get to play the video games I wanted to play, etc. Animation was my life.

Maybe that isn't always the healthiest way to approach something, but it's probably the fastest, and certainly works.

I know not everyone has the option of focusing their whole day on animation - you have families or non-animation jobs and other responsibilities. Well, my advice then is to just focus as much time as you can. If all you can do is 5 hours every night after your kids go to bed, then start spending those 5 hours animating or studying animation.

5 hours a night is 1,780 hours per year. If you manage to squeeze in an extra 10 hours each weekend, then you're talking about 2,300 hours per year, and suddenly that 10,000 hours doesn't seem so far off!

I wish animation was something you could learn in a few months, but it just isn't. It's an endlessly complex art that takes a lifetime to master, and that first 10,000 hours will only get you to the tip of the iceberg. Luckily for us, the rest of that iceberg is a ton of fun to spend that next 100,000 hours exploring!

Hope that helps!
Shawn :)

Guest Blogger Shawn Kelly


Mahesh said...

This is incredible .. :)

I must start counting my hours .. . How much more specific anyone can go than this precise aim of 10,000 hours of animtion!!


Richard Vaudrin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard Vaudrin said...

Wow! I was actually calculating that exact number myself! Good article Shawn!

And for anyone struggling to find the focus, I found this quote and link helpful:

"Consider what you give your attention to each day. It’s a precious resource, & determines the shape of your life."



Nilabh said...

Wow! I need to work a lot more. I am being lazy I feel now! Thanks!

Akash Verma said...

quite helpful.
Hey Shawn, how can i ask some questions to you. any email address or such site to contact ?

Clinton said...

Thanks for the info. I try to squeeze in as much time as I can on drawing and animation between my non-animation jobs. I'm trying to squeeze more hours in.

Jonah Sidhom said...

Hey Shawn, thanks for the great advice!
Would you say that time spent reading animation theories/studying other people's animation count towards that time, or are you talking only about actual time spent putting the pencil to the paper (or mouse to the nodes or whatever the computer equivalent is)?

P Chau said...

Well, after reading this, I better get back to the drawing board! but seriously, that does sound like the time needed to get to the big leagues. So in the meantime I'll get back to work!

Herman Gonzales said...

Got me more motivated, thanks Shawn

Guilherme Guidetti said...

Thanks...this was very usefull to me, I just started study animation 6 months ago, and I discouvered that is my life. I don`t have enough time as I wish to pratice, but now, I will pratice every night about 1 or 2 hours by day, Thanks again.

Francis Jasmin said...

5 hours a day with a family and work ?

On the other side, it think that if, like me, you animate already 8 hours or more sit in front of a computer...Then if i was to spend like 3 hours more at my home and 5 in the weekend and ending up with no life, i will probably hate animation after.

Pari said...

As always shawn's article is so inspiring for me thanks a lot for sharing :)

AmyV said...

Good advice, thanks.

I'm lucky enough to be studying animation at uni so I guess I clock up a few hours a week then. I've never thought of calculating how many hours it would take to become proficient!!

Coming Soon said...

Hi shawn , i'm from argentina and i'm wanted to know if it's much more difficult to me get in studios of U.S?
maybe you can tell me what do i have to focus in.


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