Tips for getting that 3D job.

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There are many opportunities for working in the 3D industry, but due to the great chance it gives you to to exercise your creative skills, competition can be fierce. So how can you improve your chances of getting that job?

A traditional route in many animation or postproduction studios in film and television is that of beginning as a runner. This involves assisting the artists and personnel at vfx studios and doing a variety of jobs, but it does give you a first hand view of how the post production pipeline works and how shots are carried through from raw footage to finishing.
“It’s always good to do some work experience where possible if you don’t have professional experience,” says Hannah Acock, recruitment manager at Double Negative (www.dneg.com).  “Coming into a facility as a runner is a very good way to get a foot in the door and make an impression.”

Competition is likely to be fierce and it’s not for everyone, so you could also take advantage of the ever-growing number of art school courses or commercial training available from companies like Escape Studios (www.escapestudios.com), who run professional courses taught by industry professionals. Skillset (www.skillset.org) will offer advice on funding and training opportunities in the UK, while Autodesk has a network of certified training centres worldwide (www.autodesk.com/atc).

However once your learning or training is over, you still have to find that dream job.
David Cox, MD of Concrete Post Production (www.concretepost.co.uk), advises that you view a prospective employer as a target and research their work and their people. “CVs and reels addressed to a job title such as ‘the MD’ or ‘human resources’ go straight in the bin,” warns Cox. “Instead, find the name of a person and write to them personally. Understand who recommends the hiring of people, as this isn’t always the same as the one who actually does the hiring.”

Researching the company thoroughly is always a good move in the opinion of Ivor Goldberg, head of 3D at PostPanic (www.postpanic.nl) – especially at the basic level of spelling the name right, or even getting the correct name. “It is not uncommon to get a cover letter addressed to somebody else,” Goldberg warns.

David Raitt, creative director at Plastic Milk (www.plasticmilk.co.uk) recommends that you should generally keep a cover letter short, and to the point. ”People in our industry are very busy, so you won’t get a lot of their time,” he adds. “CVs should not be more than two pages, ideally they should only be one page.  No one is going to read more than that anyway, so if your CV is five pages long, it will get skimmed and your potential employer may well miss the information you most want them to read.”

When directing potential employers to your online portfolio it’s vital to be able to see the work quickly and easily. “I hate complicated sites with all the bells and whistles, which uses up all the available time just to find an image or animation, let alone view it,” says Ivor Goldberg, advising instead that things should be simple and streamlined. “The last person we interviewed just had the most simple site in which the first two things you came across were one animation and a still, nothing else, but they were his best work and more than enough to invite him round for a talk.”

As Ivor Goldberg’s example shows, 3D professionals are typically very busy – only a few major studios have separate personnel for conducting interviews.  “Fortunately computer animation is a meritocracy, so the best way to get a job is to produce a great showreel,” says Jonathan Privett, head of 3D/VFX supervisor at Rushes (www.rushes.co.uk). Showreels are a very common way of cutting through the number of applicants for 3D jobs. Studios often take the showreel as an indicator of not just artistic talent but also original thinking and suitability for the company.

It’s really important to research the company that you’re applying to and edit your showreel accordingly. ”At Double Negative, we produce photo-realistic CGI integrated into live action film so we need to see live action work on an applicant’s showreel in order to review it properly,” says Hannah Acock. ”We would be looking for a different type of showreel to other facilities such as Pixar, for example, where I’m sure they are looking to see full CG animated work. 

Whether someone is applying for an entry-level role or a senior position, we look for high quality, catchy, interesting shots on their showreel that fully demonstrate ability.  We receive around 60 applications per day and all of these get reviewed – the people that get invited for interview are the people whose reels stand out.”

It’s essential not to make your reel too long. “One minute thirty seconds to two minutes should be plenty and put only your best and most relevant work on,” advises Jonathan Privett. “Be clear about your skills and what you would like to do on your application.” Privett echoes the advice of David Cox when he says never send a generic cover letter.  “Always personalise it to show you have taken some time to look at the company you are applying to.”
Ivor Goldberg stresses that in showreels, where more than one person worked on a shot or still, there should always be some kind of breakdown info identifying what aspects you were responsible for.

Neil Coleman, 3D artist, Prime Focus London (www.primefocuslondon.com) says that some people might get a bit precious about dicing up short films they’ve made but it’s important not to lose sight that the main purpose of the reel is show off your skill set to the potential employer. “Though you might have worked hard to craft a narrative storyline or witty script, you’re unlikely to be called on to do that as a 3D artist,” he says. “If you do want to be able to show it though, have it as a separate option on the DVD so whoever is receiving your reel can look at it if they have time.”

As a final step before sending out a showreel, make sure you test it thoroughly. “Good quality control is a valuable skill,” says Coleman. “If you’re sending a DVD, it’s worth trying it in a couple of DVD players and different computers before hand. If your showreel will be downloadable, make sure you’re using a widely available codec and bear in mind that your average HR department probably won’t have ‘high-spec’ computers to play it on.”

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