Hello! I used the search function for a bit and I couldn't find the answer to my questions. So to begin, a little bit of background info, I'm a high school senior preparing to go to college. I'm currently taking a 3D Animation course, but there are several issues. The company I want to work for uses Maya , and I am learning Max right now. The college I will most likely be going to, teaches Max. I really want to get into environment art, so this is the path I decided to go.
Learn Max in college, teach myself Maya Build a portfolio containing both Attempt to get the job I want
So here's the question, should I opt to go to a school that teaches Maya rather than Max.
Regardless of which way I go, I want some books on modeling, lighting, and texturing, and I want some recommendations of any great ones.
I would try to learn both at least to know how to use them, but choose 1 you want to use primarily, and learn it inside out. I use Maya primarily for example, but i know how to use Max too, and sometimes use it for very specific things.
If the company you *want* to work at uses Maya, possibly look at going to a college that will teach you the basics of it that you can grow upon, or learn max and teach yourself maya. Do you have any 3D application experience? You have to keep in mind any college may not teach you how to use Maya or Max all the way through. I remember my college taught Maya, but on a very rudimentary level... but then asked big things of us such as "model and texture a character", and we would have to teach ourselves to know how, but then that may have just been my college....
There's no final answer here, just remember, if you're quite computer literate, and have learned a large program like Photoshop well, you can learn either of these applications. Just look online for help, and you'll pick it up; all 3D applications are similar, although i would personally argue that max is different from most others in that maya and softimage work very similar ways for example.
As for books, i always found the cheap thinner maya books like "maya at a glace" were more useful than the thick books. The stuff found in thick books always seemed quite specific and detailed, but then those sort of tutorials seem easier to find online instead to me.
RichCT gave you some great advice, and as an environmental artist myself, I want to add a little to his comments.
1) As an artist your always judged by your work, commonly called your portfolio or demonstration reel, and as such your education history less important compared to other professions. In the end all an employer wants from you is to bring their vision to life, so you should never stop learning, buying books, watching tutorials, or working on your own personal projects. That is the key to success.
2) You made me nervous wanting to take a course specializing in 3D Animation when you want to specialize in static, non-squishy, environmental art. I went that route myself, and while I did learn a good amount of information about 3D Studio Max and Maya, a great deal of classes I paid for didn't benefit me in the job market. In the end I overpaid for my education.
3) You may starve. Make sure you can pay off your student loans, if any, within the first two years of employment.
BTW: Maya is my primary tool. A few years ago Autodesk made a push to make "Max for Games" and "Maya for Animated Movies and Special Effects" however it didn't work. Artists still use the tools they are most comfortable (and productive) with. In this case I like the Maya interface, and level of control it gives me.
Maya Studio Projects: Game Environments and Props (All around great book, but not for the faint of heart. It assumes a good bit of knowledge, but the overall concepts it teaches are excellent.)
Maya for Games: Modeling and Texturing Techniques with Maya and Mudbox (A above average book, but published in 2008. It's dated. Get it used, ignore the proof-reading errors, and burn through it fairly quickly.)
Anything produced by http://www.digitaltutors.com is pretty good or excellent. They have a large focus on Unity projects now, along with excellent Maya resources. If your not aware Unity is a free / paid modern game engine. You can check them out at http://unity3d.com/