Unsure of career path

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Old 12 December 2009   #1
Unsure of career path

Hey,
Basically, Im in a bit of a dilemma as to what to do with my next few years, and I was wondering if any of you could offer me some advice (Basically regarding Uni and such).

Anyway, I'm 20 years old, currently halfway through my second year of a Mechanical Engineering degree. But, I hate it I dont want to do it as a job in the future, and find none of the course interesting. The only reason Im doing it, is because I couldnt decide what to do with myself before I started uni.

Since I was about 15, I was playing about with video-editing, learning things like vegas and AE, but more recently I started picking up 3D, albeit I have only learnt the very basics so far.
I was thinking about dropping out of my current course, and looking to get onto an animation (or similar course involving 3D vfx), but coming from doing Engineering at college, I think it will be quite hard.

I've done a few simple videos (won a small editing comp for making a gaming video), aswell as some small paid-word, one of which should be going on the official Codemasters DiRT 2 website I dont have any sort of portfolio as of yet, but hopefully over the coming months I can start adding things to one.


Anyway, my questions to you are this:
Do you think it would be worth dropping out of my course now, and then taking a year out to build up a decent portfolio, and save up some money?
Or, should I just try to apply for a course starting september, and build up a portfolio quickly (albeit it wouldnt be the best).

Or, do you have other suggestions of a path I could take? Maybe try to finish my degree, whilst doing some online courses or something, to get me recognised qualifications in the field?



Any help really would be greatly appreciated, especially from people who recruit graduates, people on (or just finished a uni course), or anyone who teaches them

Thanks for your time!


EDIT: From looking at courses, most places want people with an art background, which, I dont have. Do you think that with a decent portfolio I could still get onto a course, or would it be worth taking a short-art related course. Or looking towards foundation years with the aim of going onto a full course afterwards?

Last edited by agour : 01 January 2010 at 05:02 PM.
 
Old 12 December 2009   #2
I'm a lot like you. I'm half way through college and I hate it. And not sure if I should continue. It is costing me time and money when I could be using it for myself. So I'm sorry I couldn't answer your question but I'm hoping someone could.
 
Old 01 January 2010   #3
Hi Paul

I can understand your situation, I studied Fine Art painting and only in my third year of college did I discover animation and realised that 'this is what I should've been doing for the past three years', by which point it was too late and I then spent the next two years after my degree teaching myself how to use a computer and how to model in 3D (this was a long time ago, before the internet). One of my friends, who is now a well known animator and has worked on many Hollywood Blockbusters originally studied Structural Engineering with no art background at all, and discovered 3D via the CAD programs he used at college. He completed his degree even though he knew it wasn't what he wanted to do, and then spent a year building up a portfolio of 3D art to gain entrance to a Games Company which is where I met him. He later attempted to study a Post Graduate animation course, but they turned him down because they felt he was too talented! Another friend I have studied Maths but decided he really wanted to be an animator and finished his degree, but then spent a year preparing a portfolio to get into a games company. So, what you are proposing is not impossible, but it does require astonishing levels of skill, intelligence and sheer bloody minded determination in the face of extreme odds to succeed

Now you need to decide which path to travel along. Should you complete your current degree? If you definitely know that you are never going to be a Mechanical Engineer, then yes, I would say do something different, but before you jump towards animation i would say you really need to think about whether this is the right career path for you? I don't know anything about Mechanical Engineering, but I have to warn you that animation is a really hard path to choose - there are enormous amounts of graduates with animation degrees, but only enough jobs for about 5% of them in the UK - these are very rough figures, the UK supports approximately 10,000 people in animation / games art, but UK universities produce around 11,000 graduates in an animation related degree every year... you can do the maths quite easily to realise that the amount of junior positions is not huge compared to the amount of people chasing them. So if this is what you really really want to do and you know that you can't wake up in the morning and look yourself in the face without saying 'I'm an animator!' (or modeller etc) then you've got to look at what to do next.

I would recommend a degree in animation (well I would. I'm a lecturer ). I would also recommend studying at a decent university, and there are very few for animation in this country - well, there are a lot of animation courses, but most are embarrassingly poor. If you want to get a job it will help if you are studying somewhere where they will actually teach you professional level skills. That's not to say you need a degree to get a job in animation - all you really need is a portfolio that is awesome, but for most people to be able to produce such an item they will need tuition, criticism and just plain help.

If we follow this line of thought, that means you need a portfolio (for any decent course - a course that offers you a place without a portfolio is one to avoid). Every animation course has different requirements, but I would suggest from my experience (I've taught at five different HE establishments now) and from what I currently look for in candidates, that you have a small portfolio with around 12 - 18 amazing images. No filler material at all. Around 4- 6 life drawings (from life, not photos), a few 3D models - a building, a vehicle, a character even if not textured or lit well will show your interest in 3D and also that you are willing to spend a lot of time learning. Aside from that, every course likes different things - I'd be interested in seeing your videos for example because they would tell me how well you edit and can tell a story through editing, because that's important to my courses. I would like to see a couple of good photos with strong lighting and composition. I'd like to see some environment drawings that show a clear understanding of perspective (at least two point anyway). Some concept paintings that show clear use of colour would be good. If you were particularly interested in VFX I'd want to see some attempts at compositing - even if it's just 3D models into a photographic backplate in Photoshop. A couple of character designs would be good, your own designs that is, not copies of other people's work, and NO MANGA. If you'd ever made any animations in any media, digital or traditional, I'd want to see that too. We have a heavy emphasis on requiring good drawing skills to get on our degree, that may not be so relevant to other courses - this is because the feedback we get from the animation industry is that traditional drawing skills are one of the key skills a junior artist should have.

Without seeing any work from you I can't recommend as to whether you should apply straight away for an animation course - if you aren't that good you'll still be able to get into a bad animation course, but you'll be wasting your time and money if you want to get a job. I suspect you will need to undertake some sort of art training to provide the portfolio - that might be a Foundation Art course (again these can be very dodgy alas,) if chosing one make sure they teach life drawing once a week as a minimum and that there are lecturers / lessons in how to draw using perspective, this is not the norm unfortunately. Another option might be (depending on where you live) to sign up for adult education life drawing / perspective drawing classes and tell the lecturer that you want harsh criticism and you'll do everything they can teach you to make your work better. If you get an older lecturer, they are much more likely to be able to draw well. While studying the art courses, practice the 3D from tutorial DVDs - Gnomon are very good, so are Digital Tutors (especially for more beginner level skills). It doesn't matter to me where a candidate has come from (qualifications or background) just that they have a good portfolio and come across well in the interview - they should seem like someone I'd enjoy teaching for three years.

I hope that's some help to you, good luck with your choices!
__________________
http://uhanimation.co.uk/ - Digital Animation Programme at the University of Hertfordshire - 3D, 2D, Games Art and VFX
 
Old 01 January 2010   #4
Wow, thanks for such an informative response, thats brilliant!

I think the major thing I currently lack, is the ability to draw well. I'm going to look into some courses as you suggested, hopefully I can find something relevant. In the mean-time, I'll grab a book or two, to teach me the fundamentals of drawing, then expand my knowledge from there.

What you said about doing the right courses has definately gone in, if im going to seriously commit to doing 3D, I wouldnt want to be doing a semi-decent course.

As you said, my videos should also help greatly. Im just about to start another, which will involve many different area's, inc compositing, and 3D charactor animation.


Ive decided to stick out the rest of my year at uni, at least to see if I pass or not, I can still spend my free time wisely. I'l also spend alot of time improving my drawing skills to a decent standard, then hopefully apply for some courses, come october or so!

So, thank you loads for your help, you've given me some really good advice and information! Maybe you'l be looking over my application come next year
 
Old 01 January 2010   #5
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