Friday, 9 January 2015

Why Doesn't It Work?!? How to Resolve Technical Problems

Why Doesn't It Work? Image: Wikimedia
Why doesn't it work? Computers will drive you crazy, and anyone who embarks on a career in digital media needs zen-like patience to cope with the technical problems that will inevitably come your way.

The only solution is to sit back and enjoy the ride, and remember that every technical problem, no matter how infuriating, has a solution. But how do you find the answers when you barely know what the question is?

Ask Mr Google
Below are some steps worth trying before you tear your hair out or toss your computer into the nearest bathtub.

Step 1
First of all, Google it. You are very very unlikely to be the first user to experience the problem. Someone, somewhere on the web, will most likely have a solution. The trick is to know what to ask. Try to be as specific as possible, and use keywords which are likely to pick up a solution. The more precisely you ask the question, the better the answer is likely to be.

Maya may drive you nuts

Step 2
Quit Maya (or any piece of software that is malfunctioning) and start again.  Maya is temperamental; sometimes you need to shut it down and re-start it.

Step 3
Re-start your computer. 50% of technical problems can be solved with a re-start.  Even better, close your computer down and start it up again. Sometimes this works even where a re-start has failed.

Post your question at our FB Group
Step 4 
Ask other students. Our student Facebook Group is a friendly forum to post problems and queries. Don't be shy to ask for help! Again though, be as precise as you can when you ask the question. Post a screengrab to show what is going on - a picture speaks a thousand words.


Below are some common (and not-so-common questions) asked by our students when they are starting out.

Question 1:  I just got an email from Hightail telling me to download some videos, but they won't download. What should I do?

Answer: Servers can be temperamental. You might try waiting a bit, or use a different browser - make sure your browser is the latest version. We find that Hightail works best with Chrome. Also check that you have the latest version of Adobe Flash installed on your computer.


Question 2:  I got an email from YouSendIt but the link has expired - what shall I do?

Answer: Our videos can be downloaded up to 2 weeks after we send them. Make sure you download all the materials promptly.

Mac users can sometimes experience codec problems

Question 3: I managed to download the videos but I can't open them. What should I do?

Answer: This is most likely to be a problem for Mac users. Make sure you have the latest version of QuickTime (we recommend buying QuickTime Pro) installed on your computer.

If that fails, try using a different movie player, such as VLC, Real Player, Windows Media Player, or MPlayerX.

MPlayerX is very good, and free

If you are on a Mac, and you are still experiencing problems, try this Mac troubleshooting page. If you still are having Codec problems, try downloading the k-lite codec pack.

Rest assured that while technical problems are not uncommon, all our students resolve them in the end.


Question 4:  I managed to download the video file but I can only play audio, not video

Answer: See answer above. Most likely this is a codec problem that can be fixed by updating your software. You can also try opening up the video in Quick Time Pro, then trim the first couple of frames off it, then save it as a new file. Now try opening the saved file in Quick Time, VLC, Real Player, or Windows Media Player.


Question 5: I can't download the videos because they are showing up as having no data.

Answer: Sometimes Hightail plays tricks. If this happens, we will send the videos using another file sending service, such as WeTransfer.


Question 6: My Maya file is too big to send as an email attachment - what should I do?

Most maya files are small enough to send via email, but on occasion you will find that you have a larger file size. In this case it is better to use a file sending service. We recommend www.hightail.com; it is free to sign up and very simple to use.


Maya: prone to crashing

Question 7: Maya just crashed! What can I do?

Maya is like any piece of sophisticated software - it can be unstable, and it crashes often. You should save your work every ten minutes as a precaution - this is good industry practice. If you are experiencing a lot of crashes, try re-booting your machine, or turning it off and then on again. Check the message boards - there are a lot of threads on this subject.


Question 8: I just tried to install the Parent Master plugin on my Mac, and it doesn't work. What can I do?

Unfortunately a number of plugins for Maya do not work well on a Mac. This includes the very useful Parent Master plugin. If you are struggling to install the Parent Master plugin on your Mac, watch this video.





Question 9: I enter the password to watch the theory videos and I just get a blank screen

Try refreshing your screen: Cntrl +R on your keyboard.

To see how to use the TweenMachine in Maya, see this post. For more information on finding work in the animation and visual effects business, read our post on how to find a job in the animation industry, and check out our post about what not to do at a job interview. Also see our post on starting your own small animation business, learn how to create an invoice, and see how we are helping our students find work through our film co-operative Nano Films.  Download the free Escape Studios Careers in VFX Handbook. Take a look at how awn.com can help you find a job, and read our piece about how to survive as a freelance animator. Also, find out what Cinesite look for in a student's demo reel, and read our post on setting up your own animation business.


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