Watch Don Allen Stevenson III’s Pep Talk on working in AR, VR and motion graphics
Our latest Pep Talk featured XR creator and crypto artist, Don Allen Stevenson III, who answered all of your questions on working and upskilling in VR, AR and motion graphics. Hosted by Steph Fung, Don shared his journey from DreamWorks Animation trainer to full-time digital creator; why XR skills will be essential by 2026; and how NFTs are like trading Pokémon cards. Plus, here, we’ve listed all the programs, websites and books that Don recommends to help get you started in XR.
The big talking points:
- Why you should give yourself a learning goal every week (4:16)
- Breaking down what XR actually is (6:09)
- Why it’s worth learning XR right now (7:48)
- The best XR resources for beginners (10:20)
- How to make your way into animation (14:15)
- How live streaming gave Don a gig at DreamWorks (19:28)
- Why the ever-changing tech world is an opportunity to get ahead (24:42)
- Why you shouldn’t put an expiration date on your capabilities (25:56)
- How to build an XR portfolio (28:55)
- Don’s freelancing formula, and why it works (31:27)
- Why it’s worth getting into NFTs as a creative (36:20)
- The things to watch out for in the NFT metaverse (42:27)
- Discussing how XR will impact education (45:56)
What did I miss?
After an introduction from our host Steph Fung, Don shared his own mini-pep talk with us: “Never stop learning! Learn a new skill that will put a past version of you out of work.”
For those unfamiliar with it, extended reality – or XR for short – is, according to Don, a “blanket term”, encompassing mainly augmented and virtual reality. As we continue to spend more time in digital spaces, Don thinks that XR is the next step to communication in such spaces, and will reach its peak around 2026 – mirroring the rise of websites in the late-1990s.
After graduating in 2015, Don landed a job making neuroscience videos for parents, while also live-streaming daily tutorials during the early days of Instagram Live. What he didn’t know, was that two animators at DreamWorks Animation were tuning in, and when a teaching role came up in the company, they messaged him on Instagram. He would go on to spend three years as a specialist trainer at the studio.
“Never stop learning! Learn a new skill that will put a past version of you out of work.”
Now a full-time freelancer, Don told us about how he came to his current path as a crypto artist, creating problem-solving XR experiences and offering them as NFTs, or non-fungible tokens. As well as sharing his tips for entering the world of crypto art – including building wallets and being aware of scams – he was also on hand to explain exactly what an NFT is!
Buying an NFT, as Don explained, is similar to owning a digital receipt to a collectible. Likening NFTs to trading Pokémon cards, for Don, the value of an NFT is dictated by what buyers consider valuable: “NFTs turn assets into collectibles and makes them rare.” For example, “[A Pokémon] card is paper with maybe a holographic foil, [so] the material itself is worthless.” But the card will have different value depending on the character printed on the card; a ‘Weedle’ would be considered less valuable than a shiny ‘Charizard’ – a card that has previously been sold at auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Reassuringly for anyone looking to start out in XR, Don told us how you can start simply with the technology currently available to you, and work from there. He also shared a handful of resources, including programs to learn and books to read up on, which are all listed below.
Resources recommended by Don for anyone looking to get into XR
- Blender, free 3D modelling software
- Cinema 4D, 3D modelling software
- Unreal Engine, 3D computer engine
- Adobe Substance 3D Tools, 3D modelling softwares
- Nvidia Omniverse Create, scene composition app
- Houdini, 3D modelling software
- Marvelous Designer, 3D fabric and clothing software
- EmberGen, fluid simulator
- Fortnite Creative Mode, Fortnite experience designer
- Nvidia RTX graphics cards, so that motion graphics can process efficiently
- Lens Studio, software to create Snapchat filters
- Spark AR, software to create Facebook and Instagram filters
- Adobe Aero, app and software for AR
- Apple Reality Composer, AR experience creator
- OpenSea, pay-to-play NFT marketplace
- MetaMask, a crypto wallet; here is a tutorial on how to set up and use it
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
- Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
- Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
- Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark
- The Future is Faster Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler
- Livewired by David Eagleman
- Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari
- Augmented Human by by Helen Papagiannis
About Don Allen Stevenson III
Currently working specifically within the world of XR, Don Allen Stevenson III is a multidisciplinary digital creator and crypto artist based in Los Angeles. In the past, Don has created both AR and VR experiences for Snapchat and is a brand ambassador for their Spectacles; as well as doing motion capture for the likes of Adult Swim and Lil Nas X.
A self-professed “nerdfluencer”, Don’s motto is to “never stop learning”. Mostly self-taught, Don started out by experimenting with Microsoft Paint and Photoshop at just 11 years old. Excited by the potential of new technology, Don challenged himself to continue learning new skills, and soon enough, online tutorials led him to experimenting with video, visual effects and 3D.
After graduating from San Francisco State University in 2015, Don worked across everything from animation and motion graphics to filming and directing music videos, before joining DreamWorks Animation as a specialist trainer in 2018.
Today, Don is a full-time XR creator and educator, selling digital fashion pieces and experiences as NFTs, as well as regularly posting tutorials on his YouTube channel and Instagram page.
See more from Don on his website and Instagram.
What is Pep Talk?
Pep Talk is our monthly Instagram Live event to share relatable, easy-to-process tips in conversation with inspiring creatives.
Each session begins with a ‘pep talk’, where a chosen creative gets to share their ultimate advice for anyone who might be feeling a bit stuck, before answering questions submitted by you, our readers.
Mention Don Allen Stevenson III
Written by Creative Lives in Progress