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Mon, Jul 18 2011 16:59:38 UTC

Getting started in the CG industry

By: Patrick Lambert

Making computer graphics has become easier and easier in the past few years. Whether it's editing short videos, making special effects, creating 3D models, or animation, there's inexpensive software that are available, and online tutorial videos overflowing YouTube and other sites. But how does one transition from a hobby to a professional career?

No one way

We've asked that question to several professionals and it quickly becomes clear that there are many different paths people can take to get in the industry. One person says that he ''started out as an assistant for an Autodesk reseller in Canada while he finished school. He worked there for a couple of years and got to know just about everyone working in the industry in his city, did a bunch of free lancing, and finally landed a permanent job by cold calling some acquaintances that he used to work with.''

Others have more unusual ways: ''I basically got hired out of the #hash3d IRC channel when I was 18 and went to work for a (very) small studio called Eggington. I had been attending community college for a couple years to sharpen up my traditional portfolio while doing CG at home.'' Then of course, stepping on toes can help, as says this UK artist: ''Well, call me old fashioned but I did it the traditional way. I spun a large web, waited in the shadows for an artist to walk into it and become hopelessly ensnared in its sticky weave, and then consumed him. After that, I took his place at his employer.''


There's no question that education is important. Whether you should do an actual Bachelor's degree or take one of the more specialized course at an art institute is a personal choice. While you may already have the skills, or are able to learn them on your own, you shouldn't underestimate the networking potential of going to a college or school of some sort. It's also good for getting an internship, as shown by another interesting tale: ''I was already in the business in the early nineties creating graphic design and illustration for shirts. I went back to college for computer animation in 1995 and within two semesters I got my first break as an intern. That internship turned into a full time gig.''

In fact, a lot of studios never post a job opening. They rely completely on connections, whether that's within other studios or through newly graduated students. Online connections can be of some use as well, if you can demonstrate your skills to professionals on a forum.

A good reel

The final piece of the puzzle is showing off what you can do. While there's lots of people who can use Adobe Photoshop, After Effects or 3DS MAX, the skills of those individuals vary greatly, even after finishing a full 3-year course. That's where your demo reel comes in.

But when it comes to actually making it, you should spend a lot of time making sure it looks interesting. Look at other professional reels and try to see what makes them interesting. The whole thing should be a small video, no more than 2 minutes, with your best work at the beginning. It should also have nice music, nothing too provocative, and you should show how your best pieces were done with wireframe shots and breakdowns.


There's no question that there's more hopeful CG artists now than ever before, and competition in the industry is high, especially for high profile jobs at places like ILM. So the last advice is to never give up, never surrender. While you may only be able to get an unpaid internship at some small studio, remember that everything you do helps improve your skills and gives you material for your reel. So do your best, and in the end you will succeed.

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© 2007-2019 Patrick Lambert - All resources on this site are provided under the MIT License - You can contact me at: contact@dendory.net