What happens when a filmmaker learns to code?

Zac Metin learning web development at Enspiral Dev Academy.

Enspiral Dev Academy is an 18 week web development school in Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand.

When I started studying at Dev Academy, I was a freelance videographer and I expected things to stay that way after the course. I initially just wanted to code because I thought it would work well with my video projects to be able to create the business home-pages that they were viewed on as well. However, I ended up enjoying coding so much that I’m now looking to pursue it full time, having just graduated.

Looking back on my time at Dev Academy, I think the main reason for that change is how you’re pretty much always working on code with at least one other person. Like most people I had the coder stereotype as the hoodie-wearing lone figure working away in the corner with headphones on. I never would have guessed that web development was such a collaborative effort, and it gave me a taste of what I was missing out on working as a solo video freelancer: the ability to collaborate with others to create something that you never could have done on your own.

At Dev Academy our cohort was a group of 16 students from various backgrounds, and also with a couple decades of age difference between the oldest and youngest. It was such a mix of people you’d expect we wouldn’t get along or that there’d be huge personality clashes, but every group project was such an enjoyable experience and everyone brought their own unique skills and perspectives into the group, allowing us to learn and create in ways that we just wouldn’t have ever thought to on our own.

Another nice surprise was that coding equally engaged both the creative mind and the logical mind, and there’s something incredibly satisfying about having to utilise both of those skillets in the same project. It was something that I didn’t really get to do when I was working in film, as there isn’t really any heavy algorithmic or deductive reasoning involved. There also isn’t this constant tangible progression. With coding, each individual skill is very defined and quantifiable and so you can quite easily get the sense that you are continually improving. Especially when you are rapidly acquiring so many of them as you do in the 9-week bootcamp.

I really got the sense that Dev Academy recreates what it’s like to work in a team of developers — or at least I really hope it’s that fun! The actual teams of developers working in the same space as the bootcamp definitely helped that atmosphere. It’s almost unbelievable that sitting passively in lectures is still the dominant learning model when there are so many benefits of studying in an environment that mimics what the work is actually going to be like.

Having come from a video background, I had some of my own side-interests in the field of coding, the main one being Virtual Reality. I was pretty excited upon starting at Dev Academy to find that there was actually a lot of scope for me to explore VR while still learning the main fundamentals covered in the course. The first part of the course is 9-weeks of self-study that takes about 25 hours a week, so I had plenty of time to investigate how to code for VR. It took me a little while but eventually I was able to find something called A-Frame, which was simple enough for a VR (and general coding) newbie to pick up and use. So before the bootcamp I was familiarising myself with that and expecting to forget about it once the intense part of the course started.

However, I was pretty stoked to find I was able to keep doing work with A-Frame when we were allowed to choose personal projects about whatever interested us. Using the libraries we had learned in the course, which also meshed well with A-Frame, I was able to create a VR Video Viewer as a learning tool. There’s also a good amount of leeway in the end of the course which is focused on the transition from student to developer, where you are also able to spend some time investigating whatever coding field interests you the most.

In doing so, you learn that there is this massive ‘playground’ of libraries with basically any purpose you could think of. My classmates looked at libraries for data-representation, animation, page jumping and tons of other stuff. When you learn to code, the coolest surprise is that you become part of this massive open-source code sharing, and have access to all this amazing stuff that people have created and let you use for free. Unlike other cutthroat industries where progress is hoarded and monetised, for the most part the world of code feels like a real community. A quote from our mentor in the self-study phase sums this up the best I think — “A rising tide floats all boats”. Many developers seem to have this mindset, so it’s a great field to get yourself involved in.

The best web developers come from a wide range of different backgrounds. If you think Dev Academy could be for you, apply today for the next Auckland or Wellington intake, and we’ll be in touch to answer any questions you might have.

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