A popular YouTuber Anselem Nkoro a.k.a. askNK told us about his career path, talked about maintaining a YouTube channel that covers various software, and explained how to learn a new tool by using associations.
I am Anselem Nkoro, currently a 3D artist, Instructor, and Content Creator for YouTube.
I studied Computer Science and obtained a National Diploma and Higher National Diploma at Abia State Polytechnic in Nigeria, became a Chartered Computer Professional – Level 3 member proceeded to get a licensed certification degree as a Manager with the Nigerian Institutes of Managers, few months after my National Military Service I moved to North Cyprus to obtain a bachelor and Masters degree in Visual Arts at the Department of Visual Arts and Visual Communication Design, Eastern Mediterranean University.
I first started off freelancing, working with up-and-coming firms writing a few software programs, making project plans, drafting reports, making some infographics for campaigns, deploying solutions here and there. Later on, with a group of colleagues, we decided to float a software solution company – DRIFTECH LTD, where we developed and deployed software for mobile, web, and intra-network systems solutions.
I have been fortunate to work on projects with indies, small teams, and cross departments from creating software solutions to creating art for events, social media, television, and also for games. Some of the 3D related projects include Sbonda an animated PSA for the Eastern Mediterranean University, Battle Ghazi, the first indigenous game project for North Cyprus, KryptBank PSA for a Nigerian based Fintech, Z.Zero – A Tubitak Eletro Mobile Vehicle design, Mavi & Bamo, a short animated piece – on these projects I was the Lead Character and Rigging Artist for props and modeling, with a shear responsibility for texturing and rendering although not all these projects saw the final light, but what is most valuable is the lessons and experience.
Starting With 3D Art
For me, 3D started out of curiosity. I really wanted to know how to make my own toons, I was born into a home where anime and animations were very present and it’s just natural to seek how it’s done, so when I was undergoing my first degree, a senior friend introduced me to 3ds Max. At that time it was the best thing ever, but before I was able to use it, he referred me to use some trial programs to get a hang of how 3d works, so I started out with tools like AC3D from Inivis, which was relatively heavy at that time as the floppy disc was just about to fade off and USB was becoming a thing, this was sometime in 2005/2006.
My first 3D project was done in 3ds Max, and it was a short wake-up call video I presented at a West African event in 2008 at the AITI-KACE (Advance Information Technology Institute – Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence) Accra, Ghana, it was a huge learning experience. As a one-man band, I had to learn a lot to make the simplest of things work, and then YouTube wasn't a thing, so I just had to read the documentation and figure things out, with a very old version of 3ds Max I was able to get.
First 3D Project
After the AITI event, I went for an event and came first for creating a 3D game which was largely based on my then-school environment. It gained some traction and at that time I was just having fun with a free game engine which was known as Gamestudio, It was immediately after that event that I got a gig from a school, someone from the school who attended the event seemed to had put in a good word and they wanted a 20-second long promotional video but it had to be in Maya for some reason. So I got a license from them for Maya 8, and because there wasn't anyone into 3D around at the time, they had to wait for me to get a hang of the tool. So I had to learn how it worked, played with it, and got the project done. It was a hard experience but a worthy one, it felt like switching from Fortran to Java or C, a huge jump at that time, but the good side with Maya for me was, just like Object Oriented Programing, once you get a hang of it, every other programing language becomes relatively easy.
I guess teaching has always been there because I just love to level up the next person just in case they encounter the same issue or would love to know how something works. From the early days of computer science, I thought free programming classes may be because I just didn't love seeing people go through thick and thin to learn or understand how things work. Later in the years I organized and held programing and graphic events and workshops for free in various states in Nigeria. When I had the opportunity to be the National Computer Science Software Director, I used every single opportunity at upcoming events to sideload hackathons and learning sessions. I seem to have always understood that people need knowledge and as someone who scrapped everywhere for one, I think it’s only fair to provide that opportunity to as many as I can.
When I left the country and gained some more experience in visual communication, film, and 3D I also noticed that there were lots of people asking questions on forums and comment sections. I really felt it would be a good opportunity to use a platform and reach out to newbies, and artists stuck in certain situations. So when the chance to float a social media platform came around, askNK was born.
Mastering the Tools
I wouldn't really say I have mastered all the tools, I think I have learned to spend a significant amount of time understanding the ins and outs of a tool. This has helped me to learn how to approach it and furthermore explain it in simpler terms to anyone, in most cases I may have also understudied a similar tool in that regard which would make assimilation and familiarity even easier.
I think it also makes sense to mention that when I was a research assistant at the university, I was exposed to a lot of tools and apps for internal projects, test runs, and research. Other than that, I seem to see numbers and patterns differently, more like a map creation, and each time I spend with a program, just like algorithms, pseudo, and flowchart, I create and store more like a procedural pattern which in most cases not only store how to work with a tool but also the shortcuts as well. So once I open an app, the pattern and shortcuts kick in, it’s more like second nature these days, so I can bounce across apps and get things done.
I tend to spend about 8 to 12 straight hours, except for stretching and water breaks when playing with an app, and after that one long session, I only need to open it in 8 to 10 months' time, and mostly everything kicks in. The trick is, learn an app as it is and associate/connect it with something, a good example is with vehicles, once you learn how to drive, you can technically drive any vehicle with some slight changes, you treat them with their peculiarity – a sports car is for speed, a truck – heavy-duty, a Rolls Royce – luxury.
I am grateful for the community I have, as most of the videos are driven by recent software releases, tutorial requests, hacks or tips, pipeline/workflow questions, and so on. The community has not only made getting ideas for content convenient but they have been a huge source of strength to the growth of the channel.
Advice for Beginners
My advice to beginners is, get started with it, it might not be easy to understand the terminologies or even to make sense of what some features or functions are, but keep pushing and once you get to that point of understanding, create something for each stage and always remind yourself why you got into 3D. Try a team project, get engaged with the next challenging thing that you've always wanted to do, meet up with other artists, ask for criticism and feedback, stay updated, and don't stop improving.
By every means – get started with Blender, it’s free, no trial, no subscription, no registration, no bank information required, it’s an open-source 3D tool that can get you grounded with understanding and working with 3D for free. Once you're done with Blender, learn Maya, Houdini, or Cinema 4D. Those are the next tools that should follow up, progressively, depending on what your interest in 3D is, these are the tools I think you should consider.
Blender, Houdini, Unreal, and Unity have rapidly evolved over the past few years and months, we have also seen some honorable improvements with tools like the Substance line of tools from Adobe, Marmoset Toolbag, and Reallusion Character Creator as well.