FORUM PRIMER: The Unofficial Truth about The Industry



thanks cheers


@andy :

Hey Anand, yes, im interested in FX animation… wanna go into the visual effects line. right now, i usually play around a lot on Effects, Non character animation, adn particle fx, Im not much into modelling but not bad at it… art is not a problem to me…
About schooling, my cousin sis did her BFA in Animation In NYSVA (New york school of Visual Arts) and she’s finding it rather difficult to find a good job, so i really dunno if i should be shelling out quite a lot… But i really would like a good exposure… wanna master at Maya, so i dunno what to do? Any suggestions?
Also, can you tell me how you went about it? And what is it that you specialise in?
Thanks a lot!


hey adi,
just a few ideas…

-practice while you can
-dont wander on anything else other than your subject of interest
-use the internet and the forums to the ‘maximum’ . its one of the best mediums to improve your work upon
-then get a job and learn on the job or take up a course or buy training materials
-and if you have programming knowledge, you can even use that to create your own tools and that would be a plus in landing a good job…its a high on demand job…a vfx dude who can script…

i specialise in animation. my current job does not fulfill my animation desires much…hence i am studying animation at



Hey Andy, thanks for the response… I got it…
by the way, I deeply regret what happened to our Mumbai, and i pray it never happens anywhere…Hope everyone is fine in your family…
thanks again


Thanks Alot for making the time to post a thread like this. It is a great help to hear sincere answers for experienced professionals of the field. There are simply too many young people (including me) who feel uneasy about a future in CG and want a clear picture as to what it REALLY is and what it REALLY requires. Your article has helped. Thanx


This is a great post.

I’d just like to add one item regarding college degrees. I have found that in the technical area, as stated above, the degree is not as important as the talent.

One thing to look out for is that many corporations desire for degreed personnel in the management or senior technical positions. They feel that the degree shows a capability of learning material outside of your ‘comfort zone’ such as accounting, management skills, interpersonal skills, writing, presenting, etc. A person with skills in these areas are deemed to posess the skills necessary for management. THIS IS NOT ALWAYS TRUE. But many companies have this culture and you (we) have to deal with it.

One last item ( based on personal bruises and resulting discontentment ) The lure of promotion and management positions many times leads a person to make a change that, in the long run, he/she will regret. “The green grass on the other side of the fence is caused by all the manure”


I know a lot of people have already thank for this post. But I have to do it too, this post is very useful and give me more motivation than ever. I really feel grateful (seriously), and just want to thank you all. I know I am complete beginner but patience and work will make it!


There has been a thirsting in the cg community for a thread like this, thanks!


Hiphopcr>Yours is really interesting too, thanx! Cool to see that pro don’t forget how it’s difficult to make her(his) place in the industry :thumbsup:


You know, It is really refreshing to know that there are still some in this world who care enough to offer great advice, even sacrificing thier own time. I admit, I worry about my future but we must have drive with dreams. Thanks especially for the section on choosing a school… I have had my doubts, but you are right. At the end of the day, it all comes down to what you can do, not a piece of paper that says where you have been trained. :thumbsup:


Thanks alot for this great post it clears alot of questions that i had in my mind.Recently i had an interview & i am very happy to c i have done your advices.:thumbsup:
Best Regards


You make a lot of good points. This is the kind of work that takes passion. Doing what you love to do is always harder than doing what you know you can do.


First off, this is a great post. There is a lot of good advice about the industry. But I think it leaves out a few people. What about the people that worked their way up from the gutter? The people that forged a key to a lock that everyone saw but didn’t know how to open? The people that got beaten down on their way to the lock by those who would steal this key, and when they got there the key was so bent out of shape it wouldn’t open the door. Well that’s when you throw the key and take out you spare, then when everyone else is scrambling for the broken irony use the backup and exit the chaos. Basically what I’m saying is, for those of you whose life is a mess, who can’t afford a computer, who don’t have parents to pay for your schooling, you need a plan.

We all have dreams and the industry doesn’t care. It is a cold machine that functions on how much cash its gears can suck into its shell. Although we all want to work in this mess we don’t all want to make a fortune, we just want to pay the bills. I am somebody who worked my way out of less then nothing and made it somewhere else. So if you’re young, lost, abused, and do too many stupid things but want to make something out of your life listen.

First you need a plan. You want in on the CG world well then you need to hone your skills. This means you need access to a high end computer with whatever software platform your desired profession uses. Well how do you do this with no money? Sadly the answer is credit cards. Build your credit, meaning DON’T DESTROY IT. You need to work and pay bills, small bills are fine just so you develop a record. Once you have this you can take out private loans for college. With private loans you can go to college and pay for everything that you need. Books, housing, food, or supplies can all be paid for with these loans. If your parents won’t send you to college you can work for 3 years or even 2 and put yourself there. You just have to pay your bills on the record and then use your degree once you graduate to pay the debt. It’s still not easy but at least you can grab your dreams by the throat and force them into reality. Enough with the lecture here is what I did to get into a BA program and have enough money to do it without help form anybody except a bunch of nice bankers and the feds.

[li]Build credit while you’re young. Get a credit card and use it but pay it off RIGHT AWAY or your screwed.
[/li][li]Get a job and keep it for 2 years no matter how much it sucks and WORK YOUR WAY UP. I don’t care if you go from cook to head waiter make it somewhere.
[/li][li]SAVE MONEY!
[/li][li]Then find a good college and build a portfolio if you can. Drawings/CG/Any art that you think sucks can get you a scholarship in an art school so long as you make it the least suckiest work of you life.
[/li][li]Get there and get enough loans to make it to the end. Worry about paying them back later. If you are poor because of college at least you have the job you want instead of just being poor.
[/li][li]Put excess loan money in a 5 month CD to counterbalance the high interest. But watch it and don’t let it turn into a 1 year CD or it will be locked away.
[/li][li]Avoid the dorms. You can get an apartment with a private loan but you must work, work, work, WORK, WORK. It’s fun work though, it’s artwork.
[/li][li]OK HERE IS WHAT BURNED ME BAD. Beware of BS colleges. I went to a school that has been around for 100 years and bla bla bla. I paid 40k that I didn’t have and still didn’t start paying for just find out their degree program is BS. Go for the BA at a good college or get credit at state college and MAKE SURE IT TRANSFERS. I may have wasted somebody else’s money (bankers) but at least I learned all of the above while I was there.
[/li][li]Ok and DON’T GO FOR THE DEGREE GO FOR THE PORTFOLIO. Check the graduate student’s portfolios, if they suck, don’t go there. The degree is job security that is all. The backup key as mentioned above is your portfolio.
[/li][li]Oh and by the way, no matter what college you go to, they are all after your money. But some are also after the publicity they get from making you look good, and that is good for you too because that means they want you to learn. Basically all the top colleges use the students to advertise, not the teachers.
[/li][li]Last but not least, you can achieve only what you work for and that is that. Go to college for the knowledge and job security, NOT THE PARTIES.

Again this is for those of you who don’t have any connections or computers but still go to the library and check the forums hoping for that way out. Good luck, and honestly, when you realize how much money you have to borrow, you’ll think you have to be crazy to take my advice. But I think the world needs a little bit more crazy in it. Oh, and by the way, FASFA is your friend.

P.S. If there ever was a dream that was a fools dream, then reality is for the robots.




Is it ok to take an unpaid internship? Yes, and in fact many colleges will give you credit for doing so. You should try to do this while you’re still living off of student loans or are still living at home. Unpaid should be no longer than 3-6 months. If they ask you to work longer than that for free, then it’s not really an internship. Most larger companies offer internships and have a standard application process. This is a good way to get your foot in the door, make contacts in the industry, find out how much you really know, and helps you build your experience and demo reel. Look at it this way - unpaid now equals paid later.
Ok. One question, is it possible and, or, feasable for some one who’s not in college (and just turned 30:D ) to get an internship just as a means of getting a foot in the door?[/b]

Thank you


Ok, I have to go on a rant here…

People have many different experiences in the VFX industry, and I don’t think the FAQ at the beginning of this thread touches all of them.

So, I’ll give you a totally different point of view from inside the industry.

First of all, I think the degree to which VFX is different than other industries is greatly exaggerated. As in many industries, at the end of the day you’ve spent your time sitting in front of a computer pushing buttons and manipulating data just like in lots of jobs. So, it’s really not unique in that sense. There are skills specific to this field – just as in any field – but the overall operation of the industry is not particularly unique, in my experience. It’s a fairly standard “white-collar” job.

Are the hours longer than in other industries? On a whole, I’d say no. There are certainly periods where you work 60 or 70 hours weeks for a few months at a time, but there are also easy 40 hour work weeks during slow periods. Lots of industries are like that.

Is it more difficult to get work in this industry than in others? In the end, it all comes down to demand for your skills. If there’s work to be done, it’s not hard to get a job. If not, you might not have a job for a while.

That said, I think one of the things which IS a little different is that VFX is somehow perceived to be a “sexier” profession than, say, accounting or something. (Ok, I’m biased on this – I like working in VFX and would be bored to death by accounting :wink: ). Because of this, there are a lot of people who want to get “in” to the industry. Since there are so many people trying to get in, it’s difficult to get in; that’s to say, there are many more people who desire the work than there are positions to fill.

But once you’re in – you’re in. It’s no problem to get jobs once you have experience. All you have to do is find out which studios are hiring and contact them at the right time.

Another consequence of this perception of the “sexiness” of VFX is that artists often take a lot more abuse than they should. I’ve worked at small studios where the management intentionally overworks and underpays their artists. I think a lot of artists tolerate this because they think it’ll be hard to get another job. Well, it isn’t. Don’t put up with incompetent management – it’s just not worth it. I think we, as artists in the industry, need to start being a little more diligent about this and collectively refuse to work for management who are incompetent. (And there are lots of incompetent VFX producers, studio heads, supervisors, etc. out there…)

As far as education: No college degree? Forget it. That’s absurd. Yes, you NEED a college degree. If you can’t make it through a real college, you’re probably not going to be able to do the work. I don’t care how well you can draw, animate, or whatever; in the end, this profession requires the same things as any white-collar job: communication skills, ability to solve problems and make decisions, the ability to listen to your boss and do the job which needs to be done, the ability to manage your time, etc. These are all things you learn in college (or at least, college prepares you to deal with them… sort of).

Go to college. Major in art, filmmaking, computer science, physics, architecture… I know people in VFX who have degrees in one or more of all these majors.

I think these certificate schools are scams. You’re not going to get hired to do VFX work if all you can do is regurgitate the simple methods you’ve learned at Gnomon or something. Ok, well… maybe you’ll get hired, but you’ll be doing crap work, and you won’t last very long. You have to have enough of a background to be able to adapt to a changing work environment just like everyone in all industries.

So, my point is this: For as appealing as VFX might seem, it really is a regular job. As such, you need to prepare for it like you would any job. College is necessary. Networking is imperative. There’s no easy way in, and you need to prepare yourself as best you can. The better your education, the better your application will be. And once you’re in, you need to manage your career and make the right moves, just like in any job.

Ok, that’s the end of my rant. Any questions? :slight_smile:



I see the point you’re making, and I do agree to some extent. If you can’t manage your class loads or have trouble meeting assignment due dates, then certainly there’s no way you could ever make it in a production environment. But I disagree over the value you’re putting on the degree itself. In my experience the education bit is more or less a small bonus on your resume. As long as you have good work and experience behind you, it usually doesn’t matter. Making the asumption that you have the personal skills to get through a college if you so chose to go, of course!

I learned this of the industry midway through my own college career. My choice to finish and get a degree was largely based on my own personal goals.


OMG what a great POST!

I love it, thank you for taking the time, I can assure you that even the more advanced professionals like to hear this every once in a while also.

Its a tough industry kids. Take what this man says to COMPLETE heart.
What will get you through it is your passion for the work.

In regards to the bit about project based and that "even the most talented artists gat laid off from time to time"... consider it a blessing, nothing is worse to an artist than sitting in the same chair, working the same type of project for 5 years. The natural dynamics of the industry actually help keep us fresh as artists.

As far as the whole college degree thing, look at it this way. With two equally talented and desired portfolios, the one with the degree will DEFINATELY have the job.

However… a nice IV leage degree with an embreassing portfolio will not hold ANY light to no degree and a MIND BLOWING portfolio. Agreed completeing college show a level of commitment, but it is not the only bar to hold yourself to in life and I have meet PLENTY of people who had no degree, who were more talented and dependable than people with multiple degrees who were no talend ass-clowns thinking they were hot shit becuase they spent 10 yeas in college getting 3 degrees. Well great, guess what, now you are in the real world, play time is OVER and what do you have to show for it?

There is NO SUBSITUTE for experience and talent… ditto… ditto…ditto.

Good luck eveyone.

 I think this is totally misleading and incorrect.  In my experience, VFX is NOT a profession where you can get by on your "artistic" skills alone;  far from it.  It's as if people are encouraging and/or assuring newcomers that artistic talent is both a shortcut AND the only way "in."
 It's as if working in VFX is being likened to being a musician or something.   Yeah, there are plenty of musicians out there who are self-taught and have made it big based solely on their musical talent.  But only one-in-a-million musicians ever make it big. And -- fortunately -- that's just not how the VFX industry works.
 The VFX industry is a big, corporate money-making machine just like ANY white-collar industry.  And as with any white-collar job, you generally need a college degree.
 Why shouldn't someone go to college?  Any college.  Seriously, if you don't have what it takes to make it through college, there's no way you're going to do anything besides maybe roto in the VFX industry.
 My points are these:
 1)  That having a well-rounded education is just as important in VFX as is it in any other career.  Your career isn't going to last if you can't adapt, and having a broad background in many subjects -- which is what you get from college -- is very helpful.
 2) Emphasing the notion that VFX is hyper-competitive is HURTING everyone in the long run.  Sure, it's hard to get in, but once you're in, moving around is easy.  And, in fact, there are often times when VFX studios can't even find enough qualified people to hire!  The result of this is that artists take more abuse than they should.  I know people who are amazing artists -- better than some I've met at ILM -- who are stuck in crap jobs because they're just scared to look for something else.  
 This second point is what drives down wages and morale in the industry.  Ok, I imagine there are lots of kids out there reading this who are simply enamoured with the whole idea of VFX and aren't thinking about the long-run.  But people like myself have made a career out of this and need to pay the bills.  Scaring people to the degree where they won't risk moving from job to job is hurting all of us. 
 By the way, I think I know ONE "self-made" VFX artist who doesn't have a college degree.  Everyone else I've ever met has at least a bachellor's degree, and many have master's degrees.
 And -- contrary to your statement -- I went to an ivy league school and got into the VFX industry with *NO* reel.  One of my friends in R&D here at ILM has the same story. 
 So, there are lots of paths.  IHMO, going to a certificate-based school or just polishing your own portfolio without going to college isn't going to get you anywhere.


You will always have different experiences in the differnt studios. If you want to get further indepth information about our industry, visit the scratchpost, an artist resource site… it has a lot of articles that can be VERY helpful to people trying to get into the field, getting info about what to they need to do, inside scoops, and overall listing of lots of studios for those who are job hunting.

lots of great articles in the archives too.


Quoted from BoBoZoBo’s post
“As far as the whole college degree thing, look at it this way. With two equally talented and desired portfolios, the one with the degree will DEFINATELY have the job.”

I disagree. Those equally talented persons are both going to get an interview, and then its gonna come down to personality, attitude, rapport with the interviewer or the ‘x’ factor. Could even be that the interviewer and interviewee have a common interest and get on very well during the interview. Whereas the other person has a degree and and an excellent demo reel but has an attitude that would clash with the other workers.

Degree or no degree? Put yourself in the companys shoes -You need someone to produce quality work for your company, who do you hire? Whoever is right for the job. Simple really.