Things I needed to know about getting a job in the CG industry (1-10)

Top Things I Needed to Know… (1-10)
(About getting a job in the CG industry)
Written & compiled by Zero Dean 1997
These “Top 10” pages are the result of feedback I’ve received and research I’ve done concerning getting a job in the industry. The initial bulk of information was received in response to a now infamous message I posted to the 3D newsgroups back in 1996 called: To industry members: Am I good, or do I suck?, and therefore some of the advice directly relates to that.


1. It is _very_ common to get turned down in the computer graphics/animation industry. Sending out 10 demo reels is nothing. I’m told 50 is common and up to 100 demos isn’t outrageous. This industry requires that you not only be confident, but that you can accept criticism where it applies. Someone responded to my post simply telling me to “Stop whining and try harder”. Harsh, but excellent advice. The moral is persistence and determination pay off. If you are thinking of giving up, then this industry isn’t for you and you’re not right for this industry. If criticism and rejection make you want to try harder, then you _might_ just have what it takes (you just have to be very good at what you do on top of that). Other advice on this subject included sending reels to only those places that have openings or are asking for samples of your work. Doing this will save money. Reels are generally not returned.

2. There are more people applying for jobs in this business than there are jobs. The ones getting the jobs usually already work in the business. A rare few get in, but they are the exception, not the rule. It’s a strange situation.

3. Aiming at top companies first is not the answer. Aim high, but don’t slight yourself if you don’t get them. There are no shortages of companies out there ready to give an animator a chance if they can exhibit desire, knowledge, and the ambition to do their best.

4. It has been said that the top companies may not be the sort of places you want to actually work for. It is not all fun and games and sometimes you have no say or input on the final product of whatever it is you are working on. You could very easily get stuck in a corner doing the same unglorious thing over and over for days on end (and not even be recognized or appreciated for it). A lot of smaller companies have been spoken highly of for the opportunities they give their workers in being actively involved in shaping the “final product”. You may not be working on the next “Jurassic Park”, but you could end up much more satisfied overall.

5. Be very careful how you come across. Reactions to my post, “To Industry members: Am I good or do I suck?”, ranged from people calling me “ignorant” and “childish”, to someone observing a link between a statement on my home page that said something like “I have several personal projects in progress that I have yet to finish” and something in my newsgroup post that said “I have come close to finishing college, but haven’t because I don’t agree with ‘required degree courses’ (foreign language requirement)”. They noted that it appeared as if I have a problem finishing things and, if that was the case, how could I be counted on to finish work for them? I assure you that my motivation for ‘temporarily’ dropping out of school was not due to the fact I can’t finish things, but due to financial problems and an observation that I might be able to get to where I want to go faster if I simply spent my time and money pursuing my dream in a more direct fashion.

6. I stated that a degree was simply a piece of paper and isn’t an indicator of talent. It appears as if the field is divided by what I will call the “old school” and the “new school”. The old school believes a degree is required and favorable to have because it says something about the individual. But the new school observes that unless that individual graduated from a TOP multimedia school (of which there are very few), talent is more important than a degree. Computer graphics and animation are extremely expensive to learn at schools and it is altogether possible to get this sort of education by investing less money and purchasing the equipment you need to teach yourself. There are many self-taught and successful people in the industry.

7. One important thing about 3D animation software and being a successful animator is understanding the basic principles behind what you’re doing. It is highly recommended that you look into taking some classic art classes and getting back to basics (drawing, sculpting, etc.) before jumping into the 3D boat without a paddle. Acting classes are also extremely helpful, as they give you a better understanding of character.

8. Your resume isn’t worth much unless you have real-world experience. A resume must also be extremely concise. Adding “extras” to make up for real world experience is a waste of time. If it isn’t relevant, don’t put it.

9. There was some confusion at first (before I made note of this on my home page) as to whether or not I created the models for these images. Most of them are, in fact, stock models picked up from http://www.3dcafe.com. Having said that, I am completely aware now that in order to separate myself from the crowd, the best thing I could do is model and render my own objects, not someone else’s. And since I _am_ capable of this, I don’t have much of an excuse other than I created those images to convey a good sense of composition and lighting, not my animation and modeling skills. Some argue, however, that using stock models is fine. It’s what you do with them that counts.

10. Out of the box manipulation isn’t “special”. Innovating is. If it can be done from a pull-down menu feature, you’re not innovating. Professionals can spot that a mile away. Be careful using plug-ins that rob you of your creative control. Master the plug-ins, don’t let them master you. If the plug-in did all the work, then you really haven’t shown any skill, have you? Be creative.

One thought on “Things I needed to know about getting a job in the CG industry (1-10)

  1. Pingback: 5 “I Wish I Knew This 3 Years Ago!” Tips for the 3D Industry - Gnomon School of Visual Effects

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