A life doing CG....Is it worth it?


This happens in the life of any CG artists…
After all those late nights, bad pizza and long period of crunch time you start to wonder…
Is it worth it?

Tell us.
And how do you find meaning in CG work in a world that seems to take it for granted.
I am looking forwards for your comments.


Since you said “CG” instead of “VFX” I feel like I can respond. Is it worth it, doing this as a career? For me personally, yes. I’ve been working with CG professionally for 10 years and I still find it fun, challenging, and rewarding. I’ve learned to value the mix between the artistic side, the technical side, and in the past few years the business side. This doesn’t necessarily mean I would advise folks into this field as it’s extremely challenging and competitive, but at this point in my life I’m glad I did.

And how do you find meaning in CG work in a world that seems to take it for granted? I disagree with this. CG (as it relates to visualization) is extremely important for the world. We can create clear, easy-to-understand depictions of complicated concepts and designs, and save millions of dollars while doing so. This is incredibly valuable and companies around the world have realized this. Maybe you need to visualize your product to improve marketing or the design phase? Maybe you need to walk through a building that doesn’t exist yet? Maybe you need to train someone how to operate or repair a million dollar piece of equipment from a classroom on the other side of the world? We can enable all this, and it definitely gives a sense of purpose. Most people think what we do is literally magic… how many folks can say that?


It helps to be in a booming town-but if you actually look for gigs that are hiring for more long term you might get better hours/life balance.
Crunch-time is crunch-time and can’t always be avoided.

But if you keep going from 3-month-gig to 3-month-gig you might be getting crunch-time gigs for every gig too. aka they hire you because they are in the juice.
So try and look around and get a feel - interviews should inform you as to how busy they expect you’ll be.
Seniors may have and easier time doing this than juniors…


Eventually you can get a little long in the tooth for the B.S

I wouldn’t mind having enough income from various sources that I could do CG part time instead of full time. However, I am grateful I can support my family and maintain a decent income with CG full time.

I’ve also recently learned from a very hard lesson in this CG field and my new outlook is to diversify my streams of revenue in my CG streams as well as establishing other streams of revenue, especially areas that can generate revenue while I sleep and are not dependent on trading time for money.

After 26 years in this field, I would be much happier if I could make way more than I am worth and to only have to churn out about 15-20 hours a week in CG. There are ways to do that and I’ve had it happen a few times, but I have yet to make it a sustainable trend.

Is it worth it? Only if its your passion and you can find life balance and support your lifestyle.


its not a sustainable life you eventually need to use your skills in other markets were it would lend it self to have a steady income, unless you can get a sales team an large contract with big margins its a nice ice breaker but i dont suggest making a 100% life out of it.


I dont work in movies or games so my answer is yes: it is great and I couldn’t imagine ever doing anything else with my life.

people who look down on anything that is not movies or games and then within a few years have nothing but complaints about it make me laugh. it’s a great industry, you just got a shitty job.


I supposed it is like any job. Some folks become slaves to a job that they hate. Some folks allow the job to control them. If you love the job and are balanced it will be worth it. If you hate it and are killing yourself, leaving your family and see little more than a paycheck and you dream of bigger things then yes it is a waste. It all depends on you.

McDonalds is a waste to most folks but there are those folks who love it, want to become an manager, do become an manager and are happy with that. To everyone else, what a waste! But to them it may be the funnest thing they do and love it and thus not a waste.


Over the past few years I’ve come to two major realisations about my career, which have helped me immensely.

  1. You have to be brave and be able to walk away - Even if you have an amazing job you love, the very act of being able to say fuck you and walk off - of just knowing you could do that and you’ll be fine - frees you from a lot of the fear and bitterness that traps others. It’s the only way to have objectivity and the only way to be able to make smart and clear headed business decisions. I’m not advocating walking away from your job, or breaking your word, or quitting and bouncing between places. I just think you need to realise you are more than your job, to know you are free.

  2. Know that the things you love can hurt you - Having passion for my job is both it’s strength and it’s weakness. When I get down about things I remind myself that the good times go hand in hand with the bad times. It’s a choice we make to do this and it brings both great pleasure and, sometimes, pain. If ever it feels like it’s just one and not the other then it’s time to move on.



Sorry for the long rant.



I think axiomatic did some great deductions.
I think that I did hurt myself only because of my stupidness. You should never, never endanger your health for the sake of money. I know it sounds easy, but in the end, it’s your choice to obey to the system or not. People also have different health, and some are more prone to stress.
We, as men, like challenges, and I suspect we might hurt ourselves because of this nature. We feel alive when we don’t sleep for 2 days, as, hey, we are warriors!
There are stressfull jobs i’d say you might avoid, if it’s your goal. Choosing anything at the end of the pipeline (compositing), or heavily related to game engines (environment modeling is more related to engine work than solo character modeling), or working in ad business(which should have tighter deadlines) instead of vfx, will glue to the chair for much longer workhours and overtimes. So, think about in beforehand, if you feel crunchtime is not for you.
There are ways to work in this industry with little stress actually, if you choose clients wisely, but it requires some experience. Also, as I already said, if your work is not heavily tied to the pipeline and its changes it might also help.
Was it worth for me? I always loved videogames, so for me it was a natural passion of entering into the realm of cool experience sharing. That’s how I see this industry.
Sharing concepts, sharing feelings via this evolving medium, which embraces both photography, moving picture and interactive experience.
it pays better than many other artistic jobs in my country, even if you do some repetitive tasks. In the end, you are paid to create the product. But I must say, it was for the most part, an amazing journey, and the projects were different, and I for the most part felt very rewarded as an artist. You either finesse your program skills at the start, or some artistic aspects, and then you move on to something new to explore and to earn money.
I found some balance working freelance. I can take a day off almost anytime I want, but tometimes I work on weekends. I usually take projects with not strict deadlines. I also have some time to learn some new 3d or artistic stuff. So far I managed to balance my private life, friends meetings, sports and hobbies. Sometimes I have to concentrate only on work, but I keep in mind that other things are important, and it helps. I had time when my work and study took over, which was very hard period. Maybe it’s ok, I don’t know. It’s hard to get balance when you’re learning a lot of cg-stuff.


what axiomatic said.

also, changing fields can give you a new perspective on life or techniques.


As a compositor working 12 hours a day, even on the weekends with the occasional day off, for at least the last 6 months, i’ve got to tell you to stay away from the end of the pipeline if you want to have some free time, im working whenever i can to move closer to the start ( modeling, concept, sculpting, painting) in the hope i can have a more normal life.


The grass is always greener on the other side, rafamathard. CG is a time consuming and labor intensive profession regardless of what end of the pipeline you’re on. If it were easy then everybody would be doing it.

I think about this entire question and all I can summon as an answer is an exchange from the first "Men in Black"movie.

J: Is it worth it?
K: Oh yeah, it’s worth it…
[starts walking away, but turns around]
K: … if you’re strong enough!

That about sums it up. What you NEED to figure out is how to maintain that strength and not burn out. All I can say is:

  1. Stay healthy, including eating right and getting exercise. No job is worth it if you’re on your death bed.
  2. Even if it’s just a doodle or speed sculpt, find time for some personal work. Work is about somebody else, their vision and needs. This is all about you.
  3. Amid all of the tedium and annoyances, don’t let those brief moments of joy pass you by.

I liken it to sports, if you can imagine it.

When you’re a kid, playing football or basketball is fun. It is literally an escape from stress. It allows you to blow off some steam. If you’re good enough to go pro, however, things change. What was once fun now becomes work. You’re responsible to others and have to play whether you like it or not. It becomes very easy to lose sight of that “love of the game” quality that initially attracted you to playing football or basketball.

CG is no different.

When you’re just screwing around as a hobbyist, it’s fun. You’re blowing off steam. You’re expressing yourself. You’re legitimately doing it for the love of the art. Every pro here can cite you a specific reason why they fell in love with the art. However, we all recognize that, once we actually get paid, it’s also a job. As with any job, you have responsibilities, frustrations, pains, and reasons for wanting to walk away. It’s very easy, as with pro sports, to forget why you fell in love with it in the first place.

Staying in CG is about strength. It’s about finding those moments of joy, wherever they exist, and using them as fuel to keep you going. Quitting isn’t always an option since you’ve still got to eat. However, reminding yourself why you fell in love with CG can make you stronger and keep you motivated than any payday.

Find those moments of joy. Manufacture them if you must. If ever the moment arises that you can no longer remember why you fell in love with art… quit. Physical stress is bad. Soul crushing emotional stress can be way worse, especially if you’re still in good physical health.


after more than 25 years in the field, I felt the need to move on.

I switched to teaching (which is still CG, but in a different manner), and I am grateful I had the opportunity to get a full time position. Also in my personal projects, I am drifting toward different technologies, different worlds - Still CG tough.

Looking back, I am happy that
1/ I never stopped personal projects (some had some success, some not, but the idea was to keep creating)
2/ I always kept side teaching jobs (like, 1/2 day a week). I did it just because I enjoyed it, never thought about making a living of it. But it gave me the insight and experience needed to
change career.

I am still far for retirement, but so far, CG was worth it - just needed to find the good option inside the various CG professional worlds.

Somehow, I sometime miss being in a team, working full weekends, focusing on a common project, having crazy schedule… then I realize what I am really missing is being young :slight_smile:


I always remember this short movie, when talking about leaving CGI



some people think that video is exaggerated

…if they only new.

…it’s true. all of it.




Yes and no.
It is late. I am bored. Waiting for a render. So I will summarize how things went for me from my very very subjective perspective for the young guys who are starting.
Let them decide if it is worth it.

A life doing CG is a life, making art. And it has a few phases. And each phase can be stretched to infinity.

1. Learning phase. Although the CG art demands continuous learning like medicine, there is a time the frequency of learning new stuff is high and then it slows down but never stops.
This phase starts from your learning grounds (the school or your cave where you first started to watch tutorials). It goes up to the point where someone briefs you for a job , leaves you alone without technical supervision to complete it in a given time and you get money. If you reached this point and you dig different workflow approaches rather than tutorials or learning only “the necessary new software”, I would consider you a master at your own level, at peace and balance with the learning phase. There will always be people or teams way better than you, moving mountains but that doesn’t mean you are not adequate. If you are delivering and able to satisfy clients without help, you are a master at your own level however low or high. Just be mature to acknowledge there are other levels with their respective masters operating on them.

2. Self-Discovery / Accumulation of Ideas Phase. You are now one of the people doing visually interesting stuff and you are making money working for someone, you have a purpose and feel good about yourself. Then, you slowly start to get tired of limitations. It is only natural as you grow. So a body of ideas starts to build inside of you. Like, “oh if we did this instead of what the client wanted, it would have been so much cooler.” Or you break through some technical difficulty and wish you can even go further if you had your own way. When you are also working under inhumane conditions, these things really pile up. And your mindset starts to evolve from a worker bee to a project manager in disguise. You begin to notice major mistakes in your supervisor’s decisions and strategy. It is slow but in time, you get very confident that you want to do your own thing, Your own content. So you start to collect, plan ahead. Finally, you have enough juice for your first attempt at it. Whatever your idea is.
Now if you reach this point, a few things can happen,
a- You get scared of the challenge and bail out on your ideas.Keep it as a worker bee. Try to be content with it. Eventually, you will be. People will find you easier to communicate and love you at the company. You are a good worker. Working on cool projects. This is not bad. And can be very rewarding as you become a senior.
b- You get scared of the challenge and bail out on your ideas. Yet you are not at peace with what you are doing and become a conflicted negative person. You hide behind a mask of professionalism, live in denial that all of this is your own choice, blame the industry, waste away your precious years in your not so comfortable comfort zone on a somewhat steady job and try to live with that. I have never seen this ending well.
c- You have a revelation about what you really want to do with your skill, you get out there and start to do your own thing/produce your own content.
If you choose a and b. That’s it for you. No more phases. So stretch it to infinity, as long as you can take it. Hopefully, a good retirement awaits you.
Option c takes you to the next step.

3. Creating Your Own Content Phase. Now, this can be education, where you sell/share your knowledge or it can be storytelling where you start selling stories or you can create assets or branch into design industry or apps, games,vfx, other parts of life using your amazing visual powers like a multiplier for better communication. When you do this, since you are calling the shots now, you are immediately introduced to the business side of things and see the work from a higher, different perspective. Now you have to think about a sustainable business plan and dance with some laws and regulations alongside the creative quality. At the beginning, you switch hats frequently between being a businessman and a supervisor creating art. This is quite hard and more stressful than anything you have encountered. Note that you are not very young at this point. But if you make it, eventually, you evolve into a full-time boss with a good judgment and eye, without doing the work yourself. You will have people working for your business. If you fail, with all the experience you have, you will probably not go back to phase 2. But try the 3rd phase again till you become successful.
And once you are successful, it is the best thing. You have made it in this life. A good income and a level of social acceptance everyone wants in the community…


In case anyone’s interested in listening to my 2c - a guy who didn’t TAKE UP CG in life because:

  1. He wasn’t good enough, and it (the process of modelling) didn’t turn out to be Fun,
    and 2) It turned out that you don’t get to be creative in this biz!! - ie. when you work at a place, they tell you what to make, and you just have to do it - that kinda stops the blood flowing through my body, right there! If I can’t even make my OWN movies, my dream, then what the fuck GOOD is it??


Anytime somebody gives you money they usually get to give you an opinion as well.
Hardly anyone gets money thrown at them for doing whatever they want. Or if they do - it is after they have been dead for a century or more.


Now that I’m doing supervisory work in a non entertainment related industry (I used to do VFX for film) or commercials related, It is so worth it. I’ve never had more creative freedom, autonomy, and a relaxed life.

I’m not a millionaire, but my pay is decent and live a happy life now. Sometimes I miss VFX, but then remember that paid vacation coming up and forget about it. I love movies, I love games, but fuck working on them.