Home > Articles

Jason Busby on Educating Future Animators

Daniel Dern interviews Jason Busby, the guy behind video-training firm 3D Buzz. They discuss the challenges in creating realistic animated characters for games and other environments, what's changed about the technology, and the frailty of most video-based learning systems.
Like this article? We recommend

Like many active creative professionals, Sams Publishing author Jason Busby wears, or has worn, several hats. Busby is currently CEO of 3D Buzz, Inc., a technical education company he founded in 2001, where he also teaches and does video training course development. Previously, he was a software developer for a decade and a half, and, until relatively recently, director of animation for The Renaissance Center, an arts and technology education and performing arts center near Nashville, Tennessee.

Busby is also coauthor of three books from Sams Publishing about Epic Games, Inc.'s Unreal Engine:

With Michele Bousquet, he wrote Mastering the Art of Production with 3ds max 4 (Delmar Cengage Learning), published in 2001.

I recently interviewed Jason via email for InformIT.

What's changed in animation/game-creation, in terms of creating, the business, etc.?

It seems like every year, animated characters are looking more stunningly realistic, [and] they are placed in more richly detailed environments. For games, it's a bit difficult to fully quantify just how far we've come in only a few short years.

But that detail doesn't create itself. It takes teams of artists more time than ever to come up with the visual assets for these projects, especially in the gaming world.

What's changed about the technology available to students, and that they'll be using as professionals? Any particular products or tools? What would you like to see become available?

Some of the biggest changes in 3D animation technology are the advances in procedural workflow. It's a way of thinking that is only just now starting to really catch on, even though it's been with us for a while now.

And the tools are evolving to a point that they are finally becoming easily accessible to artists, not just to strictly technical-minded developers.

I like that some companies still believe in the value of providing a free learning edition of their software to the thousands of prospective students out there who want to use their software. For example, Side Effects Software's incredible animation tool, Houdini.

Where else is computer animation being put to use besides gaming, movies, and TV? I'm speaking of its commercial (job) prospects.

I'm always blown away by the not-quite-so-obvious places that 3D turns up. It's on billboards, in magazines, on clothing; it's being used in manufacturing, visualization, real-time 3D interactive classrooms, 3D visual databases, medical imaging[el]the list just goes on and on.

You spent over a decade and a half as a programmer. How and why did you get into it?

I've always had an affinity (read: obsession) with anything technical. While in high school I got caught up in an aircraft mechanics class. After high school, I went into the Air Force as a way to pay for college and quickly found myself working as a SATCOM technician.

Out of the Air Force, I continued my education in electronic engineering, and discovered my true love for programming. This eventually took me to running my own consulting agency, where we developed custom applications.

After a couple of years of that, I realized that, at that particular time in my life, running a business on my own just wasn't my thing. I ended up taking on a job in middle Tennessee at a software consultancy firm, Stone Ridge Consultants. One of the largest projects I worked on while there was all of the software and necessary graphics for "Dream Mission," a 70-foot replica of the Space Shuttle.

The Dream Mission project was sponsored by The Jackson Foundation, and it was through it that I came to know Tennessee state senator Doug Jackson. About a year into the Dream Mission project, I was offered a job at a new facility The Jackson Foundation was developing, known as The Renaissance Center. The idea was to create a high-tech learning environment in the heart of middle Tennessee. I was originally hired on as a systems engineer, but after working with a variety of specialists to help lay out the technology for The Renaissance Center, I eventually became their resident IT specialist.

It was not long after this that I was offered the job of director of animation at the Center, due to all of the graphics work I had done throughout the completion of the Dream Mission project.

Meanwhile, my company, 3D Buzz, began in 2001, as really little more than a side project while I was working as the Center's director of animation. At the time, 3D animation training was scarce in general, and what little was available was astronomically expensive. I hated having to turn away talented individuals who were clearly eager to learn, for no other reason than that they didn't have the thousands of dollars needed to get into our program.

3D Buzz provides professional-quality video training for the hottest applications in the 3D animation, game design, and programming industries. It's become the pioneer site for free video education about 3D animation. We also have what we feel is one of the most helpful and friendly online communities you're ever going to find on an education-based website.

I was the director of animation at The Renaissance Center for about six years, until 3D Buzz grew to the point that it demanded a full commitment on my part, and so I was put in a position in which I had to make a choice. Four years ago I chose 3D Buzz, and the rest, as they say, is history.

What led you to do and pursue video-based education/training?

Written tutorials are great, but I never felt I could really get that personal touch across in my written lessons. I needed to be talking with my hands and pacing around the room and doing everything I could to make sure that the student was as excited about learning this stuff as I was at the opportunity to teach it. There just isn't (yet) another way to do that outside of video.

Training videos—at least the way we make them here at 3D Buzz—are about bringing the all-too-often-overlooked human element back into technical training.

But the training video experience isn't perfect. First off, it's only one-sided. You can't ask questions of a video tutorial (yet), nor can you get any sort of back-and-forth interaction with the viewer. It can't really encourage, it can't compliment your good work or criticize poor efforts. In short, it can't push you.

This is exactly why 3D Buzz wouldn't be what it is today without its vast community of friendly forum posters and site users. They help fill in that vacuum of detachment between the video and the viewer.

Each day I receive email from students all over the world who are landing their dream jobs, be it through animation, programming, or game development, or even just learning a new hobby with which they'd always been fascinated but is only now making sense to them, and they send me a message to say "Thank you" for helping to make that possible. No words can describe how inspiring and uplifting that is, and how proud it makes me to be able to be a positive force in so many people's lives.

What led you to write/co-write your SAMS books?

I had done a technical book, Mastering the Art of Production with 3ds Max 4, previously, so I'd already had my first experience writing a technology book.

The book Mastering Unreal Technology: The Art of Level Design came from my doing some training videos about using the editor that came with the original Unreal game.

I was working a booth at a SIGGRAPH show, and Mark Rein, the vice president of Epic Games, came over to visit. He had this great idea for us to write a book about Unreal Technology. I was fortunate enough to have Zak Parrish—who is in his own right a very talented and capable writer—on the 3D Buzz staff and eager to help out. It wasn't long thereafter that the contracts with Sams Publishing were signed, and we wrote the book.

As the years passed and Unreal Engine 3 started to peek over the horizon, it became apparent to Sams Publishing that an update for our book would soon be necessary. As we began the project, we realized that a mere update was just not going to do the changes to the technology any kind of justice, and we ended up doing a full rewrite.

When we were finished, our documentation of Unreal Engine 3 was so vast that the book had to be split into two separate pieces; there was no way to bind it as a single volume. So now we have the upcoming release of two separate books, Volume 1 and Volume 2.

How do you juggle all these activities?

Juggling would definitely be the word for it! Time management is a hard skill to stay on top of, but I really think it's about keeping your priorities straight (which of course makes the process sound many times easier than it is).

First and foremost, I have to keep the best interests of 3D Buzz in mind, but we're a small team. I can't just step away and let others handle the development of training content. Not yet, anyway. Plus, I love teaching too much to simply walk away from it.

I think that's the hardest thing to keep track of: Knowing when to delegate and when you can get your hands dirty. 3D Buzz is steadily growing, but it's hard to let go of the reins sometimes and let someone else handle tasks that you've been doing for years.

As for how I do it, really, it just boils down to being patient with yourself (and those around you) and in a best-case scenario having a talented team and a supportive partner to back you up. For instance, if I didn't have the ongoing support (and seemingly infinite patience) of my lovely wife, Angela, I'd probably have to whip out the credit card and invest in a straightjacket and some Best of Queen albums.

Tell InformIT readers something about yourself.

As far as hobbies and favorite activities go, it's really a toss-up between my two favorite loves, which strangely enough are each at vastly opposite ends of the spectrum: flying and SCUBA diving.

A few years back, I finally gave in and invested in getting my Private Pilot's License. There are few things in life that I find as simultaneously engaging and exhilarating as flying an airplane.

And then there's SCUBA—I know, I'm just asking for some sort of altitude or pressure sickness, aren't I? I'm a PADI-certified [Professional Association of Diving Instructors] Advanced Diver and an Enriched Air Diver.

SCUBA for me is like going to an alien world. No matter the dive, be it something as simple as descending at a rock quarry or as vibrant and intense as diving the reefs of Bonaire, there's something so peaceful and fascinating about the underwater experience. One of these days, I hope to be able to go diving off Sipadan Island in Malaysia.

Daniel P. Dern is a freelance technology writer based in Newton Center, MA. His website is www.dern.com and his technology blog is TryingTechnology.com.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020