Some questions for 3D modellers working in the industry

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Old 03 March 2014   #1
Question Some questions for 3D modellers working in the industry

Hello, I’d like to ask some questions to a 3D modeller, preferably someone working in the industry.
I am doing research for my university assignment and I would really appreciate your help. Thank you for your time.


1) How did you start working in the industry?

2) Was it difficult to get in, is there a lot of competition when trying to find a job?

3) How important is it for a 3D modeller to be a great texture artist as well?

4) How important is it for a 3D modeller to be a great animator as well?

5) Which would you say is better, working as a freelance or as an employee for a company?

6) Is it hard working in the industry, are there a lot of deadlines, pressure, etc?

7) Do companies give any software training to new employees?

8) What advice would you give to a graduate student wishing to work as a 3D modeller?

9) Would you recommend having a career in 3D modelling?

Last edited by Aelther : 03 March 2014 at 11:39 PM.
 
Old 03 March 2014   #2
"3) How important is it for a 3D modeller to be a great texture artist as well?"

Depending on how exactly you define as texture artist, in this day you're going to need to know how to sculpt and how to get what you sculpt to a presentable degree into a program like Maya.

One of the big complaints I hear are people who are proficient in ZBrush but don't know the first thing about how to migrate their work out of ZBrush in a usable manner. So, you're gonna need to have basic proficiency in how to create UV's and basic maps. If you can get sculptured details onto usable displacement/normal/bump/etc maps then a basic ability to color shouldn't be too much of an extra hurdle. A "great" texture artist? I mean, it depends on the nature of the job but at bigger studios the really fine texture work will be the job of people more dedicated to texture creation.

I hope this helps answer the question somewhat.

Oh, and beware of UV Seams.
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Old 03 March 2014   #3
First of all, i dont work as a modeler, just starting out as a generalist, but maybe this will help you a little.

1) I saw a post on facebook that a guy needs a short animation. I wrote a message and he called me an hour later. Thatt was my first job. Later (actually two months ago) I found another post in a facebook group, wrote another message and boom. I was a game enviroment modeler (and I would be a character artist as well, but im not good enough when it comes to modeling people).

2) Where I live (Budapest) there is no competition. One good studio, too expensive for Hungarians, another is doing only archviz, and a few good freelancers. That's all. (Others only doing low-quality).
In other parts of the world, you have to be better than you can imagine now to get into a really good studio (no experience, this is just based on what people say).

3) badsearcher already answered this. Smaller studios want you to do the texturing as well. Bigger studios have people for that, but i think you have to be good at texturing. It's a big plus.

4) Well, animation is totally different. If you want to be good at animation as well, you have to know rigging as well, but for modeling, you dont need it.

5) I would say working as an employee is better at the beggining. You have to know some people to start working as a freelancer. As a freelancer there is a chance that you make enough money in the first month, then you make no money at all in the next two months. If you work as an employee, you get the money every month, you can save some of it and start working as a freelancer when you saved up enough for 3-6 months, so if you dont make enough money in a month, there's that saved money on your bank account.

6) Well, i dont know the answer for that, but sure there is pressure. People want the work to be done fast.

7) I heard/read that there is some "training" (talking about the pipeline and if they want you to do something in a specific way), but if they say they use maya, you have to how to use maya.

8) A really badass portfolio is a must. Good textureing and drawing skills are a plus (you can show that in the portfolio)

9) 3D modelers are always needed, but there are too many of them and not enough job for everybody, so you have to be good. Organic modeling, sculpting is a must if you want to work as a modeler.

I hope these answers help you .
 
Old 03 March 2014   #4
Hey man,

I just do this stuff as a hobby, but hopefully I can answer a few of your questions.

2) Was it difficult to get in, is there a lot of competition when trying to find a job?

There are lots of people that want to be modelers. I saw a job opening in the jobs forum for a hard surface modeler at MPC a few weeks back. It had at least 4X the views as the other postings. Every year, the applicant pool seems to grow, while the studios seem to contract.

7) Do companies give any software training to new employees?

I've never heard of a big studio that has proprietary software for modeling. If your just focusing on modeling, you really should know how to use all the main 3D packages. Except Softimage.

8) What advice would you give to a graduate student wishing to work as a 3D modeller?

You don't need a graduate degree to work as a modeler. I would save the time and money if you just want to model.

9) Would you recommend having a career in 3D modelling?

I would enjoy it as a hobby at first. If you find work doing it later, than cool. It's difficult to earn a living with just modeling skills.
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Last edited by AJ1 : 03 March 2014 at 07:25 AM.
 
Old 03 March 2014   #5
Thanks a lot for replies, guys
 
Old 03 March 2014   #6
1) It was kind of random, and I don't exactly consider myself a 3d modeler, it's just what I do at work. I was always drawing. Went to college for film, slowly became interested in interactive media. Ended up majoring in animation/3dmodeling, and the first place I applied for ended up hiring me as a 3d modeler.

2) Not really.. I sent an email to a video game studio and got a response within a week.

3) It depends on the type of studio, but majority of the time it's very important.

4) Not that important, but it helps a lot. basically, the more you know about what goes on in the pipeline, the better.

5) It's hard to say. The majority of senior 3d modelers I know do freelance work on the side. But because of its unpredictability, it's always scary to have that as your only source of income.

6) Depends on the studio and your work ethics. A lot of people work overtime because they enjoy what they do. It also tends to happen if either the artist or the studio doesn't know how to manage time.

7) Yes. The software is irrelevant if your portfolio shows that you know how to model.

8) Obvious stuff. Portfolio is all that matters. Make sure your portfolio shows that you know how to do basic modeling(anatomy,proportions, etc) and also tackle more creative topics.

9) I would recommend it to people who love and are capable of 3d modeling.

Last edited by sonn : 03 March 2014 at 10:10 PM.
 
Old 03 March 2014   #7
1) How did you start working in the industry?


I got to a point where I made up my mind that I wanted to work on movies/TV. I spent a couple of years doing all sorts of little modeling experiments and I eventually reached a point where I felt I could model anything thrown at me. So to prove that I found a couple of unusual things, sat down, and modeled them. After I was successful with that I decided to work on an actual reel. Unfortunately I found that I wasn't very good as a self-starter because a.) I'd only choose easy projects and b.) I'd get bored and never finish the. So what I did was I turned it into work. I found somebody on-line requesting artwork and agreed to do it for free under the conditions that there are no deadlines and that I can show my work in progress publically. They agreed. So as I took on each assignment I started a thread on CGTalk and a few other forums and posted the artwork. The attention kept me motivated, the critiques made my work stronger.

When I had enough done I started to create a demo reel and sent a few out. Eventually I got a nibble from somebody who recognized my work from the forums and the rest is history.

2) Was it difficult to get in, is there a lot of competition when trying to find a job?


Yes, but not necessarily due to competition. I know that sounds like a funny thing to say, but the truth is I've been part of several rounds of hiring, and it's a lot harder to find the right person for a job than you'd expect considering how many people are out there seeking work. The difficulty truely lies in your hands. The better your skill and the better you work with a team, the easier time you will have. That said, finding that first job is MUCH harder than finding the second. If you're trying to do it from out of town that is even harder, still. But once you get that first one, the second one gets a lot easier, and so on.


3) How important is it for a 3D modeller to be a great texture artist as well?


The answer to this can vary wildly. In my particular line of work the textures are many times more important than the geometry. The people I would be more likely to hire are the people who really know their way around Photoshop. It would not be a bad thing for you to look up videos on both texture painting AND matte painting. Why matte painting? Because one of the things you can learn going down that path is how to take somethign from one photo and turn it into something completely different for another photo. The secret lies in learning how to make color changes. In short, you're never going to find the perfect texture image. You're going to end up straightening stuff out, or ... and this is more often the case... finding something completely unrelated to what you're trying to make that is manipulatable into the final result. For the movie Avatar I created an aerial view of a river winding through the jungle of Pandora by using a photo of a strange spill pattern from a car leaking oil. I had to, I couldn't find a real photo that matched the requirements.

You'd do yourself a big service by making Photoshop your best friend.

4) How important is it for a 3D modeller to be a great animator as well?


I don't think it's necessary. I have plenty of modeler friends who are not animators. It does help to understand rigging, through. It can affect how you deliver a model

5) Which would you say is better, working as a freelance or as an employee for a company?


That depends on if you live in a hotspot like LA or Vancouver. If you're in LA you're basically going to be freelance but working for a company. It's hard to get a staff position. If you're not in a place like that then you probably can get a staff job as some sort of artist, but not necessarily what you're imagining. That's what I did for several years but I had to do a lot on my own to get to working on movies etc. Freelance can work outside of those hotspots but it's prohibitively hard to do if you don't have a good reputation to begin with.

Basically if you want to work on movies, expect to work at a company for a few weeks at a time, then expect downtime for a while until you find the next gig. The better your reputation is, the shorter those downtimes are.

6) Is it hard working in the industry, are there a lot of deadlines, pressure, etc?


I think what you're really asking me is if I live in a constant state of fear. Nah. I've sweated bullets a few times but the reality of it is that if a supervisor keeps missing his/her deadlines because they didn't adequately staff up, they'll lose their jobs. Shit happens, but typically they want to get just the right amount of people to get the job done and on time or they ultimately risk not getting paid.

7) Do companies give any software training to new employees?


If you apply for a job with a company they'll say something like: "Maya Experience required" If you meet that criteria then they'll likely train you on whatever else needs to be done, like if they have proprietary tools, for example. HOWEVER... and seriously pay attention to this: They will hire you for a few weeks at a time to finish a task. If they dont' think you'll finish, they will not hire you. So, yes, you want to learn the software, and you want to master it enough that you can confidently do what they will ask you to do.

Don't let what I said scare you, though. There are lots of different jobs out there with differing levels of quality. Newer artists get lighter jobs and, in turn, are paid less for them. As they get better, they're throwing more challening tasks. It all works out.



8) What advice would you give to a graduate student wishing to work as a 3D modeller?


It's a good idea to pick something to be really good at and master it. I picked hard-surface modeling. I can build buildings, mechanical things, vehicles, etc. My special talent is that I do it to a real world scale (including getting the size of the screws correct, for example...) and I do scripting as well. With the scripting I can automate repetitive tasks. Between the two it wasn't that difficult to get work. Find something you especially love and take it to a really good level. Ever see that guy who did a photo-real model of R2D2? That's what I mean. It's easy for a potential employer to see what your strengths are if you show something really awesome. Just don't advertise your weakenesses. My demo reel, for example, doesn't have any animation in it. The potential employers were aware that animation is just not something I am good at, so I didn't make it akward by showing really bad animation in it. That make sense?

9) Would you recommend having a career in 3D modelling?


I cannot answer that because I honestly don't know you very well. I can tell you that it's a good career for *me* because I'm both a logical and a creative person. Modeling crosses both territories and it is rewarding when I create geometry that is recognizable. I enjoy what I do so I effortlessly seek to improve my capabilities. If you don't actually enjoy doing it... (again, that may seem weird, but I really thought I wanted to be an animator until I actually sat down to do it...) .. then you've got a much harder road and you'll be served with a never ending desire to give up. It's not like you get the job once and keep it forever, you constantly have to market yourself to keep moving forward. If you enjoy it, hey great. If you don't... then no, I really cannot recommend it. And do remember, you have to be good at it.


Hope this helps.
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Old 03 March 2014   #8
Wow, thanks for taking time to write that up Brian. Lots of great advice.

Would you be willing to share some of your early work?
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Old 03 March 2014   #9
Originally Posted by AJ1: Wow, thanks for taking time to write that up Brian. Lots of great advice.

Would you be willing to share some of your early work?


This is gonna sound silly but I don't actually have any of my work on-line right now... actually I probably should do that at some point, but I've been on staff for so long it hasn't been needed.

Glad that was useful.
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Old 03 March 2014   #10
Brian, thank you for your perspectives.

I have to ask, can you share the scene in which your "oil leak river" that you used in Avatar appeared?

I'm really curious, what is it about the specifications that made you have to go to such lengths?
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Mo UV Seams, Mo Problems

No, not that simple How to use hard edges with normal maps
 
Old 03 March 2014   #11
Thanks a lot for replies, guys, it's really helpful

Originally Posted by NanoGator: Basically if you want to work on movies, expect to work at a company for a few weeks at a time, then expect downtime for a while until you find the next gig.


Originally Posted by NanoGator: You'd do yourself a big service by making Photoshop your best friend.

I'm more interested in working in the games industry, but your answers are still helpful. I'm pretty sure being good at photoshop would be very important there as well.

Last edited by Aelther : 03 March 2014 at 09:28 AM.
 
Old 03 March 2014   #12
Originally Posted by badsearcher: Brian, thank you for your perspectives.

I have to ask, can you share the scene in which your "oil leak river" that you used in Avatar appeared?

I'm really curious, what is it about the specifications that made you have to go to such lengths?


It didn't make it to the final cut. I don't remember if it was for the scene where they're looking for Jake or if it was later in the movie when the battle had begun. Basically it was a shot where you're looking down from a helicopter and there's a river down below. I went with the oil-leak because it branched a lot... it was both alien and believable.

We were directed to not just make things look weird just because they're alien, but to look at what nature does because it's a lot more creative at being weird than we are.
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