The Current State of the 3D CGI Industry


Guys I need some feedback. I’m working like crazy on my reel and I’m turning into a nervous Nancy. Reason being, for me to move to where the work is located (CA) is going to be a HUGE and expensive step for me. Quite an investment. What I truly need is some reassurances from people who are out there working in the field, see the hiring process, know the caliber of work that is sought after, know how fast one needs to be at producing, ect. Because I really and truly have no idea. Being across the country from the field I want to enter makes the specifics of this particular machine pretty nebulous in my mind and its driving me nuts. So here are some direct questions.

   **Please only respond if you have direct industry experience.  No n00b guesses, please.  No offense, but if I wanted guesses I could make them up myself.  And no jokes please, this is very serious to me.  Thank you.**
 - Let's say I make a reel.  And its good.  Not blow-your-mind-rad, or the best reel an individual has ever made, and also not the worst.  Above average, but not jaw droppingly, ridiculously stellar.  What are the chances of that getting me a job?  I'm talking an entry level position.  Something to pay my bills every month and save a little; nothing fancy.  I mean, is the industry kind of black and white in that your either really freaking awesome and you get work, or your not and your goals are a pipe dream because no one will hire you until you are freaking awesome?  Is there a place for "entry level" folks?
 - I hate to ask this, because I know it sounds shitty .... but what is the minimum that it takes to get a job these days?  Not that I'm trying to scrape by on the bare minimum, that couldn't be farther from the truth, but in any competition there needs to be standards set in the minds of those competing so they know how they are doing during the course of "the race."  I guess what I mean is, I see people post reels here all the time, but I have no idea if they get jobs with those reels or not.  We never get to hear that part (success stories, failures) and I think its very unfortunate for those, such as myself, who follow that same path behind them.  I really wish I could have a stack of 20-50 recently made reels that got people who are just starting out their first jobs, as well as what job that reel landed them.  I think that would go a long way to help me understand what I'm up against and what I need to aim to surpass.
 - Specifically, I'm going for a modeling job, so I'm making a modeling tape.  Seems straight forward enough, perhaps, but I do get quite a few mixed signals on the do's and don't's of making a modeling tape as well as what to expect when giving it to companies.  Most people agree that they are sick of seeing spinning models on reels, and yet I have yet to come up with a better way to show of a model from all angles that isn't equally if not more cheesy.  Also, how many models are enough for a person's first demo reel?  Is it important to texture your models on a modeling reel?  How about rigging?
 - Ive been told that usually only large companies will consider a reel where someone has chosen to specialize, such a a modeling reel.  Well its seems likely that there are a ton more small companies that there are big companies, and that I may be seriously crippling my chances at getting a job by making a modeling reel.  What are your thoughts on this?
 ... That's all I really have right now.  Like I said, I ask these questions because I honestly have no clue what the truth is.  Aside from the net, I'm completely isolated from my field, and it's maddening.  If some of you professionals who peruse these forums would be willing to address some of my concerns I would be forever grateful to you, as it will serve to help guide me on a more true path to success.

A deep and humble thanks to anyone who responds with thoroughness and candor.

  • Dustin Brown


Come to London with me after I graduate :smiley: Big need for compositers and the pay is good. And london is kewl.


It seems like you have very few projects on your website, so there are no reassurances. Probably working on cool projects that excite you is the best way to go, and if that involves doing several different tasks then that’s great (most Max users who are into game development end up doing a whole range of things anyway), if it involves an insane amount of specialization then go with the flow… just follow your own impulses to make something cool and fun that you’re proud of.

If you were making a reel for a modeling job, of course turntables are the way to go. Turntables (usually superimposed over a relevent background plate for context) are how models and texturing are approved during dailies at most effects companies anyway. If you wanted to be an animator or something then of course you’re better off showing animation, and even a level designer might benefit from showing things in context, but for pure modeling just showing the models is fine.



The two camps you describe is pretty accurate. The Specialist field in bigger houses and the Generalist in the smaller studious. Though, I would personally recommend you to try the smaller studios first so that you can get a chance to dabble in areas which are not your top strength as its always appreciated when people can wear several hats in a production environment. If you’re into modelling, solely, I think that you have probably picked the area where there is the most competition. There is a lot of people who are just excellent at modelling and in the smaller studios I know its almost to the extent that modelling is a non-skill – i.e. everybody is expected to know it in some shape or another even though some are more hardbody than organic modelers.

How good is good? Very hard to describe how good your reel have to be to get a job. In the geographical locations I’ve been Id say that the skills demonstrated have to be above average, although there might always be an opening for an intern or entry level position a certain skill has to be shown by the individual to such an extent so this person, in that level, wouldn’t be a burden to anybody.

In terms of reel. A modelling reel can be very focused, but at the same time you’re saying that you do not know anything but. The reels I find more intriguing myself are the ones that focus on just a few pieces that show a better understand of ‘art’ than the ‘technology’. Anyway, since you’re asking about modelling reel – no, I wouldn’t say its required to texture the models, nor rigging. Though this would be beneficial to show in terms of UV coord mapping and modelling for animation. I guess one of the best is simple turntables with environment relevant lighting and a moving specular.


SJames - Thanks for the offer, man :slight_smile:

Jeremy - Yeah I should have put these in my first post, but the things I’m currently working on are better than what your going to see on my site. Here are some thumbnails, I already have threads in the WIP sections. Still work to be done on them.

… I’m just trying to think of things I’m interested in making, that I see on TV and in movies pretty regularly, and would be useful. “Hey he can model a car. We do CG car chase scenes all the time, that would come in handy.” Then I just try to make it as good as I can. I’m not going to lie, it takes me a while and Im still developing my “eye” … the eye that tells you when something small is wrong. Im not bad at it, but there are some things that folks on forums spot that I had no clue about, just from staring at it for so long. Its good to know that turntables will work though. That at least puts one concern at rest.

Johan - Correct me if I’m wrong, but it sounds like your saying that less is more, I should concentrate on makeing 3-5 really top shelf models. Assuming I understand you correctly, that is a relief because it’s what I was intending on doing. As for avoiding shooting myself in the foot, I will just make sure I texture and rig my models, if for no other reason than to pose them and possibly do some light deformations to show that my topology will hold up under animation.

This is fantastic guys, thank you so much. Anything else you can tell me would be great.

  • Dustin Brown


I think your models look pretty good. Things you should demonstrate are the ability to build clean models that cane be rigged easily. So show some wireframes to prove you can do this. Modelling is a tricky field because you’re almost always involved in pre-production, but then what do you do whilst the shots are being run? I suggest you develop a second string to your bow. Most of the modellers here are also very skilled lighting T.D.s as well, so whatever stage the production is at they have an applicable skill.

All major companies get a large number of reels every week so you have to be very good to stand out from the crowd. I’d say your models (with the rigging proviso stated above) are good enough but you should develop a “production skill” as well. That makes you much more employable.

All the best, and good luck,



The pay has to be good! (but actually in many cases isn’t)

Living here is so damn expensive.


If you believe you are good enough, and really want to be in this business make the move. I haven’t worked on the west coast for a few years but I still have many friends working out there. My read is the situation is as it’s been for years. Talented people find good work. It is as simple as that. There are no guarantees in this job field.


I’m with the guy who said move to London. I grew up in southern california, L.A. Is a dog. London is sweet and probably much safer.


Yes the outside world is more dangerous than your bedroom, but fear of crime is not reason to not to move somewhere. Sorry to stray from the topic, but I notice a whole lot of posts on the forums about safety in different cities. Your chance of being a victim of a serious crime is extremely small. Get out and live life. You will be happier for it.


Andrew - Thank you. I’ll almost certainly rig my models so they can be seen doing simple movements (since I’m no animator as of yet) in order to show that they rig well. I’ll show them moving a bit in wire frame as well as shaded and textured modes to give the full scope. Also, thank you for confirming one of my suspicions (the need for a second string to my bow). I believe that between modeling (the basic trade as it were), lighting, texturing, and rigging I ought to be OK.

kid tripod - Well moving to CA (San Diego in particular is where I’m headed since I have a friend there whom I can stay with until I get on my feet) isn’t going to exactly be cheap, so that part of London doesn’t intimidate me at all in comparison to what I’m already up against. Personally though, Id rather be where it’s sunny 99% of the time. I hear it rains all the time in London; ick!

akdigital3d - I wish I had your “dive in head first” attitude, but I just don’t. I’m cautious by nature. I like to have all my ducks in a row before making a move, especially one as undeniably daunting and expensive as this one is bound to be.

lestdog and akdigital3d - I’m not bulletproof, but I can take care of myself just fine. Right now just starting my career outweighs all, even personal safety … as admittedly disconcerting as that sounds.

  • Dustin Brown


In the long run your best bet if your moving to LA is to get an internship getting paid very little and in 6 months or so try to impress them into giving you a fulltime job. If you want to work in games, get a job as a Game Tester. Other entry level jobs to try for are: PA(production assistant), Render Wrangler, Runner/Driver, Tape Operator, Technical Assistant(many companies have different names for this position, SPIW calls it Production Services Tech, Dreamworks calls it a “RAD”).

You can try sending your reel but many times that is hit or miss as a student, especially if you want to work in film. You almost have to be lucky that they actually look at your tape. They already have many tapes for qualified people who have experience so they only go through the unexperienced tapes once in a blue moon.


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