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Vizfizz
01-24-2006, 05:32 AM
I'm opening up this thread for general Q&A about breaking into the animation industry. I have a lot to say about this particular subject and I feel I can give you some spot on advice. This thread isn't limited to EI Users, so please, feel free to ask. If you want to know a little more about me, and what I've worked on, you can check me out on IMDB. I've worked freelance, for the studios, and now own my own business...so here's your chance. Fire away.

NorthernLights
01-24-2006, 02:53 PM
Something I've been mulling over recently ever since ILM moved to The Presidio is the high cost-of-living where VFX/3D/Animation companies are located. I really wonder what Lucas was thinking when he moved ILM from one high-dollar area (Marin) to the even higher-dollar area (downtown SF). Employees had to live pretty far out in order to afford a house and now they have an even more horrendous commute...across the Golden Gate :eek: .

Does it seem to anyone else that you can only really work in this business if you're a starving student or an even more starving recently-out-of-college person and don't really care about quality of life outside of work?

harryb
01-24-2006, 07:32 PM
Hi Brian,

Thanks for starting this! I'm a CG artist trying to find a home in a production studio. After freelancing for six years, I realized the independent thing really isn't for me. I really enjoy the variety of work but I think I must spend about 1/4 of my time doing what I love (3D modeling, animation and illustration) and the rest trying to find clients, negotiating contracts, writing proposals -- generally running a business.

If you wouldn't mind, could you take a look at my demo reel and website and give me a roadmap of where I could go with what I've got? Here are links to my reel and website:

http://www.harrybsmith.com/movie.html

harrybsmith.com (http://www.harrybsmith.com)

Thanks again, this is just the thread I've been looking for!


Barry,

Give me this evening to review your reel and I'll write something up for you then.

Brian

Thanks Brian! -- HBS

Vizfizz
01-24-2006, 08:01 PM
Something I've been mulling over recently ever since ILM moved to The Presidio is the high cost-of-living where VFX/3D/Animation companies are located. I really wonder what Lucas was thinking when he moved ILM from one high-dollar area (Marin) to the even higher-dollar area (downtown SF). Employees had to live pretty far out in order to afford a house and now they have an even more horrendous commute...across the Golden Gate :eek: .

Does it seem to anyone else that you can only really work in this business if you're a starving student or an even more starving recently-out-of-college person and don't really care about quality of life outside of work?

Blair,

You would think that studios would choose to set up shop in the cheaper parts of the country, but the problem with that is the simple lack of talent that exists in those areas. You could attempt to pull them in from around the world to live in Podunk, North Dakota (or where ever) but the problem is, most people in the film industry are burdened with the ideas of prestige, glamour, and the rock star life style and would never want to live there. Animators, filmmakers, etc... are creative people. They need to be stimulated and their lifestyles and choice of living locations tend to reflect that. The larger cities are more appealing and the studios have little choice but to accomodate them.. unless of course we start talking about sending work out of country. Pay 100k to an animator in the US or pay 30k to an animator in India. Hmmm..

When I worked for ILM, I had to live in Petaluma and I drove an hour to an hour and a half to get to work. It sucked. But my tiny apartment in Petaluma was $1600 a month while the same thing in San Rafael would have been $2200+. Why Lucas moved into the Presido is beyond me. I would have thought he would have moved further north into Sonoma county instead.. but perhaps its a status symbol thing too. He is trying to expand his offerings.

As for being a starving student or someone who disagrees about their surroundings...well I disagree. I know several people that make a decent living doing animation and are quite comfortable. Those who can make it in smaller markets in the midwest actually do quite well because they're the only game in town. Where it gets tough is in cities like Los Angeles where there is tons of competition. However, even here, I'm doing well and can't really complain. I would like to save more of my money.. however, I made the choice to live here because LA is the film community. This, however, will continue to change. Advancements in technology will continue to drive the creative process down to everyone rather than the select few. Viewers today are quite selective about what they want to watch. Formula studio based movies are drawing fewer and fewer crowds because people are bored with the same old thing. The public is drawn to these indy type films until they've seen enough "bad" ones. Then they want flash. Fickle.

There will always been the big summer blockbusters...but the time is coming where even the little guy can make it big.

Vizfizz
01-25-2006, 12:06 AM
Hi Brian,

Thanks for starting this! I'm a CG artist trying to find a home in a production studio. After freelancing for six years, I realized the independent thing really isn't for me. I really enjoy the variety of work but I think I must spend about 1/4 of my time doing what I love (3D modeling, animation and illustration) and the rest trying to find clients, negotiating contracts, writing proposals -- generally running a business.

If you wouldn't mind, could you take a look at my demo reel and website and give me a roadmap of where I could go with what I've got? Here are links to my reel and website:

http://www.harrybsmith.com/movie.html

harrybsmith.com (http://www.harrybsmith.com)

Thanks again, this is just the thread I've been looking for!


Barry,

Give me this evening to review your reel and I'll write something up for you then.

Brian

Thanks Brian! -- HBS


Hey Harry,

I took a look at your reel.. I'll try to get you some feedback soon. Probably after I get home from work.

Brian

BDismukes
01-25-2006, 03:53 AM
Brian, if you have a few minutes and are in the mood to look at yet another flying logo reel, I'd be very interested in your opinion.
http://homepage.mac.com/b_dismukes/iMovieTheater5.html
Thanks!

Vizfizz
01-25-2006, 05:35 AM
Thanks again, this is just the thread I've been looking for!



Hi Harry...

Ok...here we go. I may be blunt, but I'm gonna give it to you like I see it. I'm judging you as if you were applying for a job at my company in LA.

1. Reels that show multiple disciplines aren't usually well received. They seem like a good idea, but you should focus your demo reel towards the job you're applying for. Research the company or studio you wish to apply at and then cater your demo reel towards the discipline you wish to work in. Cycles for animators, turn tables for modelers, motion graphics for broadcast, etc etc etc. Unless you're a generalist who wants to work in a smaller firm or in a job that requires a jack of all trades...stick to one thing.

2. Ditch the intro and end live action tag lines. The comedic element doesn't work and they have little to do with getting you a job. Not trying to spoil your fun, but things like that rarely work and your demo reel is remembered for that, not your animation.

3. Length of reel is too long. Trim it by at least a third. Start off with a strong piece to capture your viewer's attention. Studio HR personnel have short attention spans and they look at hundreds of reels. If you were applying for an animation position, they probably would have ejected the tape during the new media segment and stated, "not an animator".

4. Get a new intro/contact slate. The western style font is difficult to read, and the bars and tone background plate is used. There's so much color and contrasts going on, I have difficulty looking at it.

5. Now your animation reel is starting to show promise. You seem to have a decent grasp on camera animation and your timing seems fairly good. The editing on this segment could have been tightened up a bit. We don't need to see entire animations play out. Animators that don't have a large amount of animation in their portfolio can make the mistake of wanting to show everything. I'd rather watch a 60 second demo reel that smacks me in the face than one that makes me want to press fast forward.

6. Limit the use of wipes. Stick with cuts and cross dissolves. Only use a wipe if it serves a distinct purpose.

7. Find new music or try to variate the tempo with other cuts to add musical variety. Sound is really important to a demo reel. It sets the mood and can be used as an effective method of providing a strong cutting template.

You obviously have skills, its easy to see, but you're suffering from freelancer's syndrome. What is that you ask? You've reached a plateau and you need to be challeneged by someone who is better than you. Working in a studio does just that. Suddenly you realize that there are some extremely talented people out there an you have to step up your game.

Don't get discouraged. Your work has lots of potential. Study and find ways to push the envelope.

As for a road map, a lot depends on the direction you wish to take. Think it over and tell me what discipline you wish to pursue and I'll give you a strong course of action.

harryb
01-25-2006, 04:42 PM
Thanks Brian,

This is just the kind of feedback I was hoping for! You obviously put a great deal of effort and thought into this critique and I certainly appreciate it. I'll work on putting together a reel that more specifically relates to my modeling skills (that's what I'd like to do most and where I feel I can make the best contribution). As for the "jack of all trades" thing -- that pretty much describes my freelance career.

You're right again about my feeling like I'm stagnating. I think one of the best things a studio can offer is cross-training by association. I used to work in a design firm with a great group of designers and artists and our creativity exploded when we worked on a project together. There's something that happens when we collaborate artistically -- something almost spiritual. It's as if there's already the artist you'll become ten years from now burried in your head somewhere and working in a team manages to bring that out. I'm looking forward to that again.

Thanks Again!

Vizfizz
01-25-2006, 06:10 PM
Brian, if you have a few minutes and are in the mood to look at yet another flying logo reel, I'd be very interested in your opinion.
http://homepage.mac.com/b_dismukes/iMovieTheater5.html
Thanks!


You're up next Brad... I'll get to it when I can.

Vizfizz
02-08-2006, 04:00 AM
Brian, if you have a few minutes and are in the mood to look at yet another flying logo reel, I'd be very interested in your opinion.
http://homepage.mac.com/b_dismukes/iMovieTheater5.html
Thanks!



Hi Brad,

Sorry about the delay in getting back to you. I'm posting things publicly for everyone to benefit. Hopefully you don't mind ok?

First off, let me begin by saying that its obvious that you already possess a certain mastery of the subject. There's is no doubt in my mind that you can fly logos with the best of them. Animations appear clear and follow the basic rules of motion graphics. Where can you improve? Here are my suggestions.

1. Motion graphics, if that's what you want to do, thrive on impact and wow factor. Your overall reel left me feeling a little lethargic. That would be because of two accounts. One for the choice of music and the other were the visuals themselves. Both were ok on their own, but not good together. If becoming a motion graphics designer is your ambition, you're going to have to step it up a notch or two. There are only so many ways to fly a logo in from off screen, so you really need to find more unique ways of doing things. Right now, you're only using 20% of your capabilities.

2. Your work area seems flat. Even though you're working in 3D space, the bulk of your work doesn't take advantage of the camera or any sense of power and speed. Don't be afraid of getting gritty with the camera. Work on new methods of moving the camera through world space showing new and unique angles on your subjects.

3. Your logos seems generally stiff. There's little life in them. Invest in some plugins and start deforming your shapes and take advantage of the deforming capabilities within EIAS. Flexpath or Contortionist would be good investments.

4. XXI Century Design is probably your best work on the reel. Why? It holds your interest. There is multiple actions occurring at the same time and you have more than one center of interest. It keeps the eye scanning the entire work area, but not in a bad way. You're also using a camera move which assists in drawing the viewer to the design. Polaris, on the other hand is your worst design. Simply remove it from the reel. It does nothing for you other than making the viewer say blech.

5. Work on your compositing skills. Integrate some roto in there. More layering. Explore your texturing capabilities. Think like a designer first and conceptualize new methods of exploring a hard surface object. Use objects like transitional elements. Move the viewer along and build his anticipation.

6. Lighting. Again.. you're using pretty standard setups. Lighting creates mood. Lighting can be used to fool the eye that there's more there than there really is. Your lighting is flat and uninteresting. Decay, falloff, gobos, use em.

So.. there yah have it. You're doing quite well so don't feel discouraged. You have the foundation laid for a even greater visuals. Just think outside the box.

BDismukes
02-08-2006, 04:17 AM
First: Thank you so much for your time here. I know we all really appreciate it and especially for taking the time to review my reel.
Next: Oh boy have I been a rut and your suggestions are right on the mark. The reason XXI Century Design is better than all the others is because it was a job that became a vanity project and I got to spend a lot more time on it. As for Polaris, it's my Uncle's compnay and well In any case, it's coming out of the reel NOW and from now on, when a client says "Just keep it simple" I won't. Staying within the budget of course.

But thanks again. I really need the push.

Now I just have to find some music I like better.

Giacomo_M
02-08-2006, 08:48 PM
I'm not sure this is the right place to post this, but: Harry, how did you integrate the vehicle into its environment on the "bus-train" segment of your reel? I've looked at it over and over and I can't figure it out.

It looks like the background is a cubic map of some sort...how exactly did you create the maps and how did you get it in place?

Please advise,

GM

harryb
02-09-2006, 04:38 PM
I'm not sure this is the right place to post this, but: Harry, how did you integrate the vehicle into its environment on the "bus-train" segment of your reel? I've looked at it over and over and I can't figure it out.

It looks like the background is a cubic map of some sort...how exactly did you create the maps and how did you get it in place?

Please advise,

GM
Hi Giacomo,
I'd be happy to tell you. I'm not sure this is the right place either but here it goes: Both the briefcase animation and the rail bus animation DO use cubic maps as background elements. Both are equirectangular maps wrapped to either a cube (in the case of the briefcae) or a sphere (as in the railbus case). I took the VR of the townhouses in Phoenix myself and repurposed the VR for the rail bus background. The background for the briefcase came with a sampler of the Reflection Toolkit that shipped with the 3D Toolkit from DV Garage. The three brass "target stands" in the briefcase animation were put in just because I wanted to see what would happen and I wanted to make the floor reflective in the center. I had to build a reflection plane object for the support post (the one with the plaque) to get an accurate reflection on the floor, but the cube environment matched the lobby almost perfectly from the get-go.

How it works is you map an equirectangular image (horizontally flipped) onto a huge sphere (spherically mapped) into the luminance channel with the normals reversed. The size of the sphere is not really important, just as long as all your scene elements fit inside the sphere. The same equirectangular image (NOT flipped) can be used as a map for illuminators or you can use LightRig (if you have it) to set up believable lighting right from the sphere. Naturally, the same equirectangular image can be used as a spherical reflection map too. The shadow is just a semi-transparent plane with a Payne's Grey color with specularity set to zero (darkened all the way down) with the object set as "shadow mask".

Please note that this setup only works while orbiting (also called tumbling) the camera from the origin by pulling the reference arrow. No dollying, no tracking, just animate the REFERENCE from the camera only. This setup, while restricted in some ways, is very fast and relatively easy to set up. I've used this several times in production and rendering is very fast.

For lack of a better description, I'm calling these kind of scene rigs "Tumble Spheres" because that's pretty much all you can do with the camera. I hope this helps.

seansea
02-09-2006, 05:27 PM
Hello Brian:

First, thank you for taking the time to do this. Currently I'm a freelance storyboard artist, and I'm starting to get into conceptual creature/character artwork. Eventually I'd like to get into CGI (I'm unsure if I want to be a modeler or character animator yet). This is my problem. I'd like to attend Gnomon but due to the cost it's out of the question for now (unless I can get to the point where I'm storyboarding union scale). I was debating trying to train myself via their online program, but I'm worried if that wont be good enough on a resume when it's time to hunt for work.

I realize that ultimately it's the quality of the work in the portfolio/demo reel, but isn't education still a key thing companies look for?

Vizfizz
02-09-2006, 06:06 PM
Hello Brian:

First, thank you for taking the time to do this. Currently I'm a freelance storyboard artist, and I'm starting to get into conceptual creature/character artwork. Eventually I'd like to get into CGI (I'm unsure if I want to be a modeler or character animator yet). This is my problem. I'd like to attend Gnomon but due to the cost it's out of the question for now (unless I can get to the point where I'm storyboarding union scale). I was debating trying to train myself via their online program, but I'm worried if that wont be good enough on a resume when it's time to hunt for work.

I realize that ultimately it's the quality of the work in the portfolio/demo reel, but isn't education still a key thing companies look for?


Seansea,

First off: Gnomon. Wonderful school, wonderful people. I went there myself for two semesters before getting hired on at Lucasfilm. It can be a bit pricey, but when compared to other schools of similar offerings, its not too bad. If you're just starting off, it can seem rather daunting. Will the investment in education pay off? Usually it does. But is education everything? No. Don't get me wrong. I personally believe that everyone should obtain some higher education in the field of CGI. There is just too much to try to learn on one's own. Being in an environment like Gnomon, or any other creative art school, energizes one's perceptions about what can be attained in this field.

Being self trained however, isn't a bad thing. I survived for years with my own business on self training. However, I eventually reached a plateau. I couldn't progress any further because I wasn't being challenged enough by people who knew more than me.

Can you obtain an animation job without a degree? Yes. I've met several who have. Even some of the big time artists up in Lucasfilm only have a high school diploma. But the difference these people had were an abundance of talent and a lot of drive. Makes up for education nearly everytime....but not all the time.

My advice is to take some classes somewhere. Gnomon would be great, but even your own local collage would be helpful. Brush up your skills and start putting together a demo reel. Show your work here. Whether you use EI or not, the community here is more than willing to provide you some feedback. Then start targeting companies you want to work for. Analyze what they've done in the past and start gearing your portfolio with related work. Choose a specialty and then put that kind of work into your portfolio. Don't make the company try to figure out what you want to do. Tell them. A lot of people will tell you to take any job to get your foot in the door. I can somewhat agree with that because everyone needs to earn their licks... however, don't compromise too much. Set your eyes on your goal and take action. Life is short. Don't waste it.

Giacomo_M
02-09-2006, 06:08 PM
>I took the VR of the townhouses in Phoenix myself and repurposed the VR for the rail bus background.

Thanks for the explanation! Just one question, if you don't mind...how exactly did you set up the camera to shoot the photos that were used for the maps? Was there any special software involved?

Please advise,

GM

Vizfizz
02-09-2006, 06:11 PM
Hey guys.. lets try to limit the discussion in this thread about becoming an animator and getting into the CG industry. Finish up soon or transfer to the techniques sub forum.

Thanks.

seansea
02-09-2006, 09:29 PM
Hi Brian:

Thanks so much for the advice. What you said definetly made me pause to reflect. Although I said I am interested in modeling and character animation, I think I'll need to do some more research on all types CGI jobs so I can narrow exactly what I want to do. Then things will be easier when I go to Gnomon (you only live once, so I'm goin' for it). Right now it feels like I'm all over the map but I think that's because I'm looking at it from the outside. Sure it would be great if I could walk up to a recruiter at Siggraph and say "I can rig, previs, texture, shade, etc." but their response would be "That's great but what do you wan't to apply for."

In the meantime, besides interning, do you think it's realistic to "get my foot in the door" by doing conceptual art? Would an FX house even utilize concept artists? I'm assuming that's done all before a studio gets to do FX work. I've got the drive, I just have to make the right decisions to attain my goal.

Vizfizz
02-09-2006, 11:08 PM
Hi Brian:

Thanks so much for the advice. What you said definetly made me pause to reflect. Although I said I am interested in modeling and character animation, I think I'll need to do some more research on all types CGI jobs so I can narrow exactly what I want to do. Then things will be easier when I go to Gnomon (you only live once, so I'm goin' for it). Right now it feels like I'm all over the map but I think that's because I'm looking at it from the outside. Sure it would be great if I could walk up to a recruiter at Siggraph and say "I can rig, previs, texture, shade, etc." but their response would be "That's great but what do you wan't to apply for."

In the meantime, besides interning, do you think it's realistic to "get my foot in the door" by doing conceptual art? Would an FX house even utilize concept artists? I'm assuming that's done all before a studio gets to do FX work. I've got the drive, I just have to make the right decisions to attain my goal.

Seansea,

Well let's see here. Being a conceptual artist is an entirely different track in the film industry than the typical CG artist. Its a niche profession and pretty difficult to crack into, though the rewards are usually pretty great. Concept artists are typically well paid and sought out after if they're really good. Just take a look at the Ryan Church, Feng Zhu, Erik Tiemens and Doug Chang types out there.

At ILM we had a dedicated art department where these type of guys came from. They're more classically trained and don't really focus too much on the 3D stuff unless called for. Most of their work is done in Photoshop, Painter, and other programs like that. If they use a 3D package, its usually used as a foundational layer to be later painted on with Painter or PS. Artists at ILM would apply with their portfolios and show human figure studies, character designs, mechanical illustrations and so on. Really tough to break into. If they were lucky, they usually started off as an intern. Their career track doesn't take them to the CG side of things usually. Normally they're groomed to become Art Directors or Production Designers of some sort, not modelers or animators.

The ILM art department would work hand and hand with the VFX supervisors and director and concept artists would produce imagery before and during the preproduction phase. If you wanted to become a modeler or animator, there are a number of various fields you could do to break in.

1. Roto
2. Dust Busting
3. Tracking
4. Integration
5. Previsualization
6. Layout

However, the previs and layout tracks are a type of hybrid career track. They share a lot of traits of the directing profession because previs and layout artists are so directly involved in the storytelling process.

My suggestion would be to also check out television studios and do a little work in broadcast design. Its a fast paced field, but it gets you rapidly familiar with animation and modeling and it requires good work. The problem is, however, staying in it too long may pigeon hole you. It used to be difficult to jump from Games, to Broadcast, to Film. Each industry kinda sees the other as less then them... with the film community usually being the most snobby.

Just keep your chin up. Don't take no for an answer. But if you cop the attitude, so to speak, you better be able to walk the walk. Practice, practice, practice.

harryb
02-10-2006, 07:59 PM
Hey guys.. lets try to limit the discussion in this thread about becoming an animator and getting into the CG industry. Finish up soon or transfer to the techniques sub forum.

Thanks.


Sorry Brian. We're done.

harryb
02-10-2006, 08:45 PM
Hi Brian,

Thanks for the great description of how to break into the industry. And thanks to you too Seansea, you're a mind-reader -- just what I wanted to know too!

Regarding the list of jobs for breaking into the industry (roto, tracking, layout, previz) it seems that layout and previz would require a lot of interaction with the director, concept artists, storyboard artists and production designers. This, it seems to me, would take a strong and particular talent for grasping the nuances of a director's vision, unlike rotoscoping or tracking. I saw that George Lucas gave a lot of freedom to you and the other previz artists for creating the Clone War battles (stunning stuff!). Is this getting to be the norm in the industry? I mean, it used to be that directors would film their own scenes, then they started hiring DOPs and colorists. It seems that film-making is getting to be more and more collaborative but the lines across disciplines are getting blurred. Is this so? I understand that during a couple previz shots on Episode II, Lucas had to ask whether the animatic was a finished shot from ILM. Is that right?

My main questions (finally) are: Are the models and animations for previz getting more and more sophisticated, and what level of modeling skills and animation skills are previz studios looking for these days?

. . . and . . .

How do you, as an employer, judge whether or not an applicant would be skilled at deciphering a director's idea?

kevmo
02-10-2006, 08:58 PM
1. Roto
2. Dust Busting


What is dust busting?

Cleaning up frames?

Vizfizz
02-10-2006, 09:13 PM
What is dust busting?

Cleaning up frames?


Its basically the process of cleaning up film frames after they've been digitized. Its right up there with wire removal.

kevmo
02-10-2006, 09:19 PM
Its basically the process of cleaning up film frames after they've been digitized. Its right up there with wire removal.

Or right DOWN there. I recall reading that wire removal is the worst job to have.
I would think with the Digital Video Cams available the Dust Busting work would be becoming obsolete?

thanx for the input Brian

Vizfizz
02-10-2006, 09:57 PM
Hi Brian,

Thanks for the great description of how to break into the industry. And thanks to you too Seansea, you're a mind-reader -- just what I wanted to know too!

Regarding the list of jobs for breaking into the industry (roto, tracking, layout, previz) it seems that layout and previz would require a lot of interaction with the director, concept artists, storyboard artists and production designers. This, it seems to me, would take a strong and particular talent for grasping the nuances of a director's vision, unlike rotoscoping or tracking. I saw that George Lucas gave a lot of freedom to you and the other previz artists for creating the Clone War battles (stunning stuff!). Is this getting to be the norm in the industry? I mean, it used to be that directors would film their own scenes, then they started hiring DOPs and colorists. It seems that film-making is getting to be more and more collaborative but the lines across disciplines are getting blurred. Is this so? I understand that during a couple previz shots on Episode II, Lucas had to ask whether the animatic was a finished shot from ILM. Is that right?

My main questions (finally) are: Are the models and animations for previz getting more and more sophisticated, and what level of modeling skills and animation skills are previz studios looking for these days?

. . . and . . .

How do you, as an employer, judge whether or not an applicant would be skilled at deciphering a director's idea?

Hey Harry,

If you remember in my previous post, I mentioned that previs and layout are somewhat of hybrid careers. They require technical skills and cinematography skills in order to be sucessful. The process of previs and layout are however, different. Previs is usually implimented in a conceptual basis to help figure out specific storytelling beats. It can be technical as well to help VFX supervisors and directors know exactly the limitations of their sets on stage and what lens to pick, where to place green screens and lighting for the best effective coverage and so on. Layout on the other hand is the centralized hub of distribution within an animation technical pipeline. Layout is normally divided in rough and final layout, which is nearly equivalent to conceptual and technical previs. Layout however has specific pipeline limitations that usually can not be ignored, where as previs is more about doing what's necessary to either communicate the story concept or answer a very specific technical question.

All the other departments in an animation studio funnel their work through the layout department. It is grand central station. Rough layout artists work directly with the animation supervisors and directors to set up entire scenes using models published by the modeling department, block character positions, animate camera positions, select lenses, and so on. Layout artists must use models, and various tools that have been approved throughout the entire show and once a sequence is complete, it is published for distribution to the animation department, which inturn replaces the layout artists' blocking for final animation. Once animation is complete, its sent back to layout where the final layout artist tweaks and modifies last minute adjustments and camera fixes. Once that is completed, it is published again and this time it heads off to lighting and rendering. The process of previs doesn't have these kinds of requirements.

The reason why I listed previs and layout as methods of breaking into the business isn't because they are necessarily "easier", but rather, they expose you to every aspect of the cg process in some form or another. As disciplines, they are rather difficult. Constructing a shot and following the rules of cinematography isn't for everyone.

I also mentioned they are hybrid careers because these people interface with the director and supervisors so closely that its a logical progression to use their cinematography based skills to start making their own movies. In previs and layout, its all about story. However, since previs and layout artists need to be uber generalists as well, they can easily side step into a modeling or animation career if they exhibit those skills.

As for Mr. Lucas asking if it was previs or a final shot from ILM, well....it happened once or twice, though ulimately, he knew it was previs because it was coming from us. He made comments like that because we as an independant department were recreating a mini ILM pipeline ourselves. On Episode II we actually rendered our previs which gave us more control over lighting, environmental effects, shadows and so forth, giving it a more polished look. Typically overkill for the average previs, but it is George Lucas, and he gets what he wants.

I do believe there will come a time when previs and finals will merge to a certain degree. The show I'm currently working on is being set up specifically to transfer our previs files over to the VFX house for further advanced manipulation. This doesn't necessarily mean that disciplines are disappearing, it just means technology is catching up with the creative mind. We will eventually have a time where hardware rendering will match software rendering and when that happens, there will be another shift in the movie making process. With today's technology, there's no reason why a small 20 man team can't produce a high quality animated film. I've done it several times already.

Large studios of course will balk at this idea stating you need their expertise. And generally this is true if you're still making movies the traditional way. The summer blockbusters with the super effects will always require the ILMs, DDs, and Sonys out there to do it. But we all know that even though viewer sophistication demands fancy visuals, mega blockbusters are being snubbed by films with more heart. Independant films are the way of the future.

Now onto models and animation requirements of previs. Generally yes, models are getting more advanced in relationship to workstation power. This allows previs artists to start introducing facial animation and character articulation on even higher levels. Sounds like overkill and in many ways, and it can be. However, its almost always called for by directors. They want to see their movie constructed before its shot. It gives them a method to predict the movie's general reception by an audience way in advance. I saw Episode II in previs form 3 times before I saw the movie itself. As an employer, I'd want to see a previs artist be capable of a fairly high level of modeling and animation proficiency, but I'd want my artist to work quickly. Low rez models are still the norm.

As for interpreting a director's vision... that's more difficult to judge. Junior previs artists normally can't do this..no matter how good they are in modeling and animation. Finding the director's vision is a talent that only happens with experience. Every senior previs artist must start thinking like a director themselves. We wear lots of different hats. We must think like DPs and understand cinematography. We must be directors and understand story telling. We must be technical directors to solve potential technical issues. We must be modelers and animators as well. Any junior I hire, I look for strong generalist skills and a love for film. I will mold them from there.

harryb
02-10-2006, 11:47 PM
Hi Brian,

Thanks! This is just what I was looking for -- and more! I got what you said about previz and layout artists as hybrid careers -- CG artists sort of acting as unit directors. I've been looking for demo reels in the Animation Gallery that are geared toward previz, showing as you mentioned, a blending of TD, animation and modeling ability but haven't found one yet. I have seen plenty of good generalist reels but they don't focus on low poly models, strong yet basic shading with integrated staging and blocking.

Seeing that previz animation is growing like wildfire in Hollywood I was hoping to find some inspiring reels (asside from POV's great demo reel, of course). Any idea where I might find some?

Thanks Again!

Vizfizz
02-10-2006, 11:56 PM
Check out my company's website.

http://www.persistenceofvision.com

Go to the demo reels section.

Ooops.. I now see that you've seen that. ;)

harryb
02-13-2006, 07:47 PM
Hi Brian,

I know large VFX firms have recruiting agents and head hunters but are there reputable agents who find homes for cg artists in growing start-up studios? (Kind of like a Rita Sue Segal for modelers and animators.)

Also, and forgive me if this is taboo, but it would be helpful to gauge what the going rate is for entry-level modelers and animators. I found some information on the "Animation Guild Local 839". It covers LA pretty well but are you aware of a more general directory?

Can you recommend any nationwide or global guilds or unions for CG artists? The only one I could find is the Graphic Artists' Guild but this is really for graphic designers. (A lot of studios don't seem to offer health plans and benefits but guilds do.)

Will joining these organizations help independent artists break into the industry?


Thanks.

Vizfizz
02-13-2006, 09:30 PM
Harry,

Sure, there are agencies out there to place freelancers in small shops. We search for artists that way. A google search came up with this place.

http://www.digitalartistmanagement.com/

As for unions, well let's see. I'm not apart of one, but I used to be up at ILM. That was IATSE LOCAL 16 if I remember correctly. Mainly Lucasfilm employees. I'd have to do some research on any others. I know there are a couple of traditional guilds for cel animators...

Will it help you get a job? Depends on who you ask. There's pluses and minuses to being in a union. I'd rather not get into political banter there. As for salaries, I'm not too familiar for modelers, specifically. I could only help you with previs rates.. and I'd rather not post those here.

percy06
02-14-2006, 12:43 AM
viz ok i maybe stupid (IQ of 150 apparently though my major dislexic mind blur's the boundaries) but movies are as good as the team that worked on them. think that their making a dark cyristel 2 but this time cgi is being introduced as background work, yet there keeping the pupet look. this with their skills could beomce the a fx film even though their mixing techonolgeis. (cgi is i think now over used in film)
i like threads about how can an user do this with out a plug-in, i don't think that it is taking profit away form 3rd parties but more making the TV generation think for them selfs. ok my rant is over btw i'm a messed up tv gen kid/man

Vizfizz
02-14-2006, 01:09 AM
viz ok i maybe stupid (IQ of 150 apparently though my major dislexic mind blur's the boundaries) but movies are as good as the team that worked on them. think that their making a dark cyristel 2 but this time cgi is being introduced as background work, yet there keeping the pupet look. this with their skills could beomce the a fx film even though their mixing techonolgeis. (cgi is i think now over used in film)
i like threads about how can an user do this with out a plug-in, i don't think that it is taking profit away form 3rd parties but more making the TV generation think for them selfs. ok my rant is over btw i'm a messed up tv gen kid/man

I agree that CGI tends to take too much precidence in movies nowadays. I think we're seeing an increase in films that are embracing other looks and styles and this is a good thing. Its also why I think 2D is not dead... it will just take a little time before someone "rediscovers" it again and it becomes popular in a retro kind of way.

What I would like to explore is methods to make CGI look like other mediums. Wallace and Grommit is a good example of this. In the Curse of the Were Rabbit, the BVS6000 vacuum system with all the floating bunnies was CGI but it was pretty convincing as a replacement for plasticine.

harryb
02-14-2006, 07:16 PM
In the Curse of the Were Rabbit, the BVS6000 vacuum system with all the floating bunnies was CGI but it was pretty convincing as a replacement for plasticine.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

It's like Dale Chihuly making a chandelier out of Lexan! Part of the beauty of Wallace and Grommit, IMO, is Nick Park's painstaking but beautiful attention to the art of claymation.

It's just one more step removed from the purity of a vision -- "We'll make our vision with claymation. . . No wait! We'll make a CG version of claymation based on our original idea!"

It's just the "let something be what it is" factor. Having CG fake another type of traditional animation is right up there with fake convertible rag tops on Cadillacs, or linoleum that tries to look like Italian marble.

Now, don't get me wrong, using CG VFX to get complicated shots or create stunts that would otherwise be impossible or extremely dangerous is one thing -- I'm all for that -- but when you start disguising one medium with another you lose the honesty in your creation. Imagine if, after receiving the Academy Award for best animated short, Chris Landreth confessed that he used mocap and rotoscoped live footage for 80% of "Ryan" along with slightly modified real footage of St. Laurent in Montreal. Would you still think it was worthy of that award?

My point is that when we start separating the medium from the message, we start pulling away from the intensity and purity of the original idea. It would be a simulation of itself -- a watered-down, distilled fraction of the intended experience. I'm sure Marshall McLuhan would agree.

As I'm sure all of you do too. :)

manuel
02-14-2006, 09:29 PM
Frankly, when I started to work in an animation studio, I was struck by the "if it works, it works"-attitude. In art-school, there was always this drive to keep things "pure". The reality is that Nick Park was making a film, not a bunch of individual animations. If it suits the film, then it's good. Purity of every single element on its own doesn't mean anything, it's the whole that counts.

harryb
02-15-2006, 04:57 PM
Hi Manuel,

I can see your point of view. For VFX, I'm right with you. For 95% of live action films that need CG VFX I say lie, cheat, steal, do whatever you have to to get the shot done on time, on budget and with the best possible quality. But that's what people expect in a live action feature.

But I'm talking about animation as an art form and with art, the ends do not justify the means. When you, as a movie-goer, see a Nick Park film, you have a certain expectation that you're going to witness some great claymation. The story, I'm sure, will be good but people also see his films in order to appreciate his mastery over the medium -- the "how the #*!@ did he do THAT with clay" factor. Once you start disguising the traditional, painstaking art of claymation with CG animation, you betray the public's trust in that art form.

It's the same reason we're not alowed to post photographs, claiming them to be CG art, in the gallery. Sure, a lot of times it would be easier to just go outside and take a photograph, but what blows people away is the tremendous effort it takes to make a CG model look real. We can appreciate the artist's mastery of the medium.

That's the problem I have with this -- it's dishonest. Imagine watching a Jackie Chan film and then later finding out that all his stunts were performed by digital stunt doubles. Wouldn't you feel betrayed? People don't go to see Jackie Chan films for the story. They go to witness his expert choreography and comedic timing, mastery of martial arts and his tremendous courage in performing his own death-defying stunts.

That's what I mean when I say, "The ends don't justify the means."

Vizfizz
02-15-2006, 09:08 PM
The purist vs the progressive. Happens in every art form. Everyone has their opinions..


And now back to the show...


So you wanna be an animator huh?

harryb
02-17-2006, 06:30 PM
Hi Brian,

As you know, I'm looking to find work as a modeler and texture artist in an animation studio. And I've been looking through the job boards and looking at some fantastic demo reels here in the Animation Gallery, trying to get a feel for how to go about structuring my new modeling reel.

I noticed that the end card of most of the reels include a list of the programs the artist used (usually Maya, 3DSMax and Zbrush). It seems that the most of the openings on the job boards require proficiency in particular programs (again, usually Maya, 3DSMax or Zbrush).

Should I be concerned about this? I'm learning Maya with the PLE and I'm coming up to speed quickly. I can't imagine it would take long to come up to speed on a different package. All 3D packages these days have dope sheets, curve editors, shading palettes, morph editors, etc. Is this a big deal or am I too concerned with this?

Vizfizz
02-17-2006, 06:53 PM
Hi Brian,

As you know, I'm looking to find work as a modeler and texture artist in an animation studio. And I've been looking through the job boards and looking at some fantastic demo reels here in the Animation Gallery, trying to get a feel for how to go about structuring my new modeling reel.

I noticed that the end card of most of the reels include a list of the programs the artist used (usually Maya, 3DSMax and Zbrush). It seems that the most of the openings on the job boards require proficiency in particular programs (again, usually Maya, 3DSMax or Zbrush).

Should I be concerned about this? I'm learning Maya with the PLE and I'm coming up to speed quickly. I can't imagine it would take long to come up to speed on a different package. All 3D packages these days have dope sheets, curve editors, shading palettes, morph editors, etc. Is this a big deal or am I too concerned with this?

Hey Harry,

Good question. The answer, I believe, goes a little like this:

The larger and more corporate an animation studio is, the more specialized their toolset becomes. However, the general rule of thumb is most studios have a core package that they centralize around. At ILM, it's Softimage for animation and Maya for modeling and particle work. At Digital Domain, its Maya and Houdini for film work and Lightwave for broadcast. At Sony its mostly Maya. Modelers, fortunately, have a little more leeway in this area because they are providing a product. Data transfer tools makes providing the product even easier. At my company, we don't care what you model in, as long as it can get into our animation packages easily. However, larger studios are going to be a bit more difficult in this area mainly due to pipeline and support issues. If you're modeling in an obsecure pacakge, IT won't come to your rescue when you can't get something accomplished. Therefore, larger studios tend to put the kabosh on using software other than what's authorized.

As a freelancer, I'd say you should feel free to model in whatever package suites your fancy. Again, its mainly because you're prodiving a product....a model. Animators and effects artists aren't so lucky. FBX can help the situation, but its not a complete solution.

If you're learning Maya, you'll be in good shape. Its modeling tools are robust and sophisticated. Transferring those skills over to another package shouldn't be difficult, however, once you get into the groove of working in a certain package, you can expect a couple of weeks of downtime during your relearning phase to the other package. This may be something the hiring company does not want to hear.

Davey
02-21-2006, 02:41 AM
Hey Brain,

First off, thank you for creating this thread!

I recently graduated from school and have secured a job at a small video game studio as both an animator and concept artist. Im currently performing both duties, but mainly as a concept artist.

I kind of hit a crossroads and would like an outside opinion on my portfolio.

www.dmjstudios.com (http://www.dmjstudios.com/)

My main question is, am I stronger as a concept artist or animator?

Vizfizz
02-21-2006, 03:13 AM
Hey Brain,

First off, thank you for creating this thread!

I recently graduated from school and have secured a job at a small video game studio as both an animator and concept artist. Im currently performing both duties, but mainly as a concept artist.

I kind of hit a crossroads and would like an outside opinion on my portfolio.

www.dmjstudios.com (http://www.dmjstudios.com/)

My main question is, am I stronger as a concept artist or animator?


Davey,

Ok.. I rarely say this, but I'd say you have potential in both fields. Your concept work looks a little more refined than your animation capabilities, however, you're green. Its too soon to judge which path/road you should take. In your particular case, I'd say you're gonna have to do a little soul searching to determine which makes you more happy. Perhaps I can shed a little light from a different direction.

Conceptual Artists:
- More difficult to break into.
- Greater pay, but generally less work (at least in the film industry).
- Works in the preproduction phase which means more fluidity.
- Has a greater influence on the design elements of the film.
- Works for shorter periods of time on a project. Mutiple projects per year.
- Is less technical.
- Personality of artist is less dependant on others.
- Can become limited due to your style. (Meaning your style can dictate your jobs).
- Generally a broader field.
- Must be willing to surrender ideas easily. Can not cling too tightly to a single idea.

Animator:
- More jobs. If you're good, you'll have work for life.
- Only has regional control over one thing. Animation.
- Generally more technical.
- Personality of artist is typically more forward, people oriented but somewhat obsessive.
- Is more technical.
- Generally a more narrow field.
- Requires considerable patience and the ability to be constantly jockied. (Supervisor over your shoulder and your work is heavily critiqued.)
- Has the advantage of seeing work directly on screen.
- Works for longer periods of time on a single project. Fewer projects per year.

Help any?

Davey
02-21-2006, 11:52 PM
Brain,

Thanks for the kind words! I really appreciate you taking the time to look over my portfolio. I think your right about doing a little soul searching and finding out which position would better suit me in the long run.

Again, Thanks for your help!

SteveW928
02-23-2006, 06:40 AM
Maybe this needs a new thread.... but could the discussion be expanded to, 'So you wanna be a cg artist?' Or, more specifically, branch into areas of how broad this industry might be? Or, getting work in freelance?

I think often people think of landing the big job at ILM or Dreamworks, but I've always been curious how much work outside of this realm there is. I would figure it would be quite a lot.

There are the obvious things, like work for print, such as magazines, books, etc. There is architectural work, or visualization for court cases. Pre-viz for product development and title work for TV and commercials. The list probably goes on and on.

I've enjoyed working as part of an industrial design team in the past, doing pre-viz of product for architecture and mechanical equipment. I also worked briefly for an ad firm, doing primarily product pre-viz for retail settings, and a bit of architectural as well.

I'm curious what tips folks have for starting a small firm in this way, or getting into the smaller shops that cater to this market. Personally, I'm headed other directions in my career... but still might like to do a bit of 3D on the side... at least enough to support the costs of my cg habit.

-Steve

Vizfizz
02-23-2006, 07:32 AM
I'm fine with the idea of expanding the questions to something beyond animation. My expertise is in the entertainment industry and film, but I'm still pretty familiar with print and broadcast design fields. Did that for years too. For those things I can't answer, I'm fine with others chiming in to help.

SteveW928
02-23-2006, 08:14 AM
Cool... thanks Brian.

I don't have a particular question right at the moment, but more wanted to bring up the idea. I kind of look at working at ILM a bit like being a rock star. There are all sorts of musicians in the world, some trying to be a star, some not.... but only a certain number of folks will really end up doing that. But, that doesn't mean there isn't a LOT of work for musicians, even if most of the press is focused on the stars.

I'd guess that a majority of the EI licenses are in use by folks doing all this other type of work. It would be cool if folks who do that kind of work would be willing to share some tips as well about that aspect of the 3D industry.

I have always worked more internally where I was an employee or partner in a bigger project, so I don't even have a clue what I'd charge if I were freelance. How would I price projects... by the project, or by the hour? I'd probably contact smaller architectural firms, law firms, product design and ad firms, and see if they would want to partner with projects if the do not already have internal folks who do these things.

Right now, I'm just too busy to even think much more about it. Maybe in about a year after I'm done with school, I'll try to start some side work in this way. But, I think such a discussion would benefit a lot of the EI users, or users looking into EI.

Anyone want to share tips?

One question to relate it back to the current discussion... Would being a freelancer for a while (considering a freelancer needs to be more well rounded than specialized) make it harder to break into places like ILM? I suppose one would really have to pick a particular strength out and develop a reel based on it. (I'm not at all headed this way... just more of a 'what if' question.)

-Steve

harryb
02-23-2006, 07:20 PM
Hi Steve,

I started out as an industrial designer too. In "The Before Time", in "The Long, Long Ago", in an age we called "The Late Twentieth Century" I worked at a consulatancy for about five years doing product design but then the direction of the company changed to doing more industrial illustration and animation using Alias Studio and Power Animator (remember those programs?) running on two SGI Indigo 2 Extremes. And I fell I love with 3D modeling.

Then something fantastic happened -- Macs and PCs got more powerful and a lot more affordable. And the 3D software that ran on them did too. I decided to go back to design school and freelance. I bought a G3, EIAS and Rhino running under Virtual PC and was able to crank out more quality work with that, in a much shorter time, than using the SGIs and Alias in the office. My freelancing ramped up and I got to work on lots of cool projects. For six years this was my main bread and butter. Because I took on clients in different fields (design firms, ad agencies, manufacturers and multimedia groups) I branched out doing Flash and interactive QuickTime. As I did, I forgot how much I enjoyed 3D modeling. Now, I'm trying to focus just on that. As Brian mentioned earlier in this thread, I've hit a plateau. There's only so far you can go on your own as a freelancer (at least for me).

Freelancing has its joys, no doubt. But it can also hold you back in some very important ways. Working on my own, I spent more time trying to get work, writing proposals and negotiating contracts than I did doing what I loved -- 3D modeling. Life is short. If you can spend your time doing what you love around other talented people, helping each other reach that next level, well. . . .that's what I'm searching for now.

That said, you can make some serious money as a freelancer. 3D for print is one of the most unrecognized yet potentially the most profitable avenue for any CG freelancer. Also, 3D animations for tradeshows are getting to be more and more common place. There's lots of room for talent to thrive. For pricing you might want to check the Graphic Artists' Guild Pricing and Ethical Guidelines book. It's mainly geared toward graphic designers but does a pretty good job pricing artwork in a variety of industries. It also has ready-made contracts in the back. Whatever you decide to charge as a base, make sure to multipy your fee by about 1.5 to cover your equipment costs, software upgrades and travel expenses (all this can be written off your taxes too!). And in my experience, if you negotiate "net 30 plus 7" terms, ALWAYS charge interest on late payments. I had one clent who took nearly a year (yes, a year) to make the final payment on our contract. I could have made three times as much money on that one job if I had charged interest! Well, you live and learn, right? :)

I hope this helps.

SteveW928
02-23-2006, 10:09 PM
Thanks for the tips! I did freelance IS/IT work for a number of years, both with a partner who did much of the business side, on my own, and with a firm that did my billing / accounting for me. Yes... know all about contracts. I've had the Jerry Maguire experience with 'my word is solid oak' or whatever that phrase was. :eek:

I'll have to pick up a copy of that book when I get to that point. Right now, I work full time, and am technically a full time student as well... so no time for projects on the side really. But, after school, I might very well try to actually make some money on my hobby. :)

-Steve

harryb
02-24-2006, 07:12 PM
Steve -- My Pleasure. Just sharing my design field take on the 3D stuff.

Brian -- I hope I didn't do too much "chiming in". This is your thread and you're clearly the person to talk to about career advice in the animation industry. :bowdown:

The advice you've already given me has been invaluable. Thanks!

Vizfizz
02-24-2006, 07:17 PM
No worries.. really. It should be an open discussion. I've wanted to make some more comments, but I've been really swamped at work.. I promise a response soon.

Vizfizz
02-27-2006, 05:55 AM
Cool... thanks Brian.

One question to relate it back to the current discussion... Would being a freelancer for a while (considering a freelancer needs to be more well rounded than specialized) make it harder to break into places like ILM? I suppose one would really have to pick a particular strength out and develop a reel based on it. (I'm not at all headed this way... just more of a 'what if' question.)

-Steve

Getting a job at ILM is no mystery by any means. They need just about every type of artist. Generalists, modelers, animators, texture painters, etc... In my department in particular, we desired generalists over specialists because previs is so much about being able to do a little bit of everything. We focused on speed and efficiency rather than noodling things to death. However, on occassion, its nice to have a specialist available.

Dedicated departments on the other hand required specialists. I knew several ILM animators that wouldn't be able to model a cube if their lives depended on it, but they could sure animate. Ok...maybe they could model a cube...but I'm almost not kidding. lol.

The whole generalist vs specialist debate has been going on for a while now. Both are valuable and both serve a different purpose. As a freelancer, being a generalist is a good thing. You have to be. However, everyone tends to align themselves with a particular discipline anyway...even as a generalist I know that I can fly a camera and create great cinematography that is better than most people. However, if you ask me to rig, I'm gonna take a while. My point is...getting into a place like ILM isn't entirely about what you know. Its also how you sell yourself. Of course you'll be fired in an instant if you can't deliver what you sell.. but I can't tell you how many talented artists I've seen get passed by because they have zero people skills. Marketing is crucial. Presentation is crucial.

mike33
02-27-2006, 01:10 PM
I'm curious how people feel about independent short animated films and whether or not itunes/video ipod/portable playstation/ cell phones have created a viable market for animated shorts. I'm also curious if people thinks it's possible a "Nano" Series could be successful (kind of like a TV mini series, but in mini, mini , mini form.)

In my humble opinion, I think it may be possible. Just not sure what kind of business model you would need in order to be profitable.

Thanks,

Mike

mike33
02-27-2006, 01:32 PM
The whole generalist vs specialist debate has been going on for a while now. Both are valuable and both serve a different purpose. As a freelancer, being a generalist is a good thing. You have to be. However, everyone tends to align themselves with a particular discipline anyway...even as a generalist I know that I can fly a camera and create great cinematography that is better than most people. However, if you ask me to rig, I'm gonna take a while. My point is...getting into a place like ILM isn't entirely about what you know. Its also how you sell yourself. Of course you'll be fired in an instant if you can't deliver what you sell.. but I can't tell you how many talented artists I've seen get passed by because they have zero people skills. Marketing is crucial. Presentation is crucial.


Yeah! Good to hear the generalists still have a role out there. In my drafting career, for quite a few years, I was a "fire fighter". I Basically was put on jobs where they needed a competent, efficient, good worker. It kept me moving from group to group, building to building for quite awhile. At one time I had my desk in building 3, phone in Building 2, and I was working for a group in building 1. I became proficient at learning the top surface of the task at hand without getting into things to deep. A lot of times I'd pop in on a job for a month or two and then move on to another "fire".

The hard part of all that is it has become difficult to stay focused on one thing at times, which in turn has made it difficult to finish much art when I'm at home... though another issue is my interests are very broad so life is like a large candy shop sometimes, if you know what I mean.

...well coffee breaks over... back to the day job.

~Mike

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