Let's begin with a simple fact: getting a job in Visual Effects is best
accomplished by gaining an understanding of the particular company you are
applying to. Know that if they produce games, the ability to produce a
completely realistic full CGI environment is highly sought. If they composite
CGI and live-action, the ability to build and texture a photo-real model and
match lighting, color, and contrast are more important skills. Requirements
for Artists vary, and it's YOUR job to possess the skills they seek.
Here are the primary tasks of CGI artists:
MODELING, TEXTURING, LIGHTING, ANIMATING, and COMPOSITING.
Companies want to hire someone who does ONE of the above tasks extremely well
or ALL of the above tasks extremely well. YOUR opinion regarding your skills
in these areas does not count. Everything is relative, and you might be in for
a rude awakening. Being top dog in your class or neighborhood user group still
doesn't mean your skills are good enough to start working on the next STAR
There are no easy answers to your questions, but before you can ask them, you
have to answer some for yourself. What aspect of visual effects are you
interested in? Don't say "all of it," because as a newbie, you won't get to
DO "all of it." The best way to get in is to figure out what you're good at
and develop your talent in those areas. A lot of people waste their time
trying to master every skill, and wind up excelling at none.
Visual effects are much more than giant robots, spaceships and dragons.
Applicants who think that's all they're going to do for a living don't last long
in this business. If all they know how to do is build badly textured spaceships
that lurch around starfields, they'll quickly discover there aren't always a
lot of calls for that particular skill. Not all effects are cool flashy bits of
business. You must be able to simulate reality. That's the skill that gets you
hired. That's the skill that helps you to make realistic dinosaurs when
requested. It's that simple, but most CGI students never pay attention to non
Sci-fi material, which why their reels always suck. They don't know how to
approach shots like cameramen because it's more fun to make a spaceship or
giant robot rather than practice realistic lighting in a non Sci-fi setting.
Too bad. The whole point of Visual Effects is making an event look REAL, which
means matching real world live action. Anything less is just not good enough,
although you do get points for how high you aim and how close you come.
OK. You're not a nerd who worships Star Wars. You just really like effects. How
do you get started? You have to ask yourself "Do I like to design? Draw? Build
plastic or CGI models? Light models artistically? Photograph models
artistically? Animate cars driving down a street, or a sign blowing in the
wind? Composite models and actors? Create weather phenomenon, twinkling stars?
Paint nonexistent landscapes, add a second story onto a house, or add the
Eiffel tower to a shot done in Vancouver?" These are all different jobs. You
can be hired to do just one of them, or all of them if your skills are good.
Remember: It's YOUR job to develop the talent to justify getting hired.
Learning how to push buttons in a 6 week course won't get you a job at most
companies. Classes are a good start, but try to get your hands on a 2D or 3D
program you can run at home; one you can practice and experiment with as often
as you can. Make all your mistakes and learn how to correct them on YOUR time.
We're not going to hire you until you do, no matter how badly you really
really really want to work right now! It's EXACTLY like learning a musical
instrument. The more you practice, the better you get. Just because you like
Matchbox 20 and bought a guitar last week doesn't mean you're ready to open
for them at the Palladium. We want to hire someone who knows how to think,
improvise, and self correct. That comes from experience, and no, we won't
train you on the job. There's too many good guys out there already. How does a
new guy get in? He takes the time on his own to learn a program beyond the
tutorials. He takes the time to develop his artistic abilities, which is what
makes him valuable. He doesn't waste time watching bad sci-fi shows, thinking
they're the height of effects excellence. He studies well lit and photographed
shows like "Law and Order", to understand how to realistically light a scene.
He studies books on photography, because he understands that's what visual
effects are simulating: Photographed Reality.
He understands that watching Spawn 20 times does not entitle him to a job
just because he really likes effects and is pretty sure he'd be good at it. He
makes a demo reel that shows off his hard earned skills, and THAT is what gets
him a job in this business. Your demo reel is the most important key to
getting a job. Your resume says you attended classes. It's doesn't prove you
learned how to apply what you were taught. Your demo reel does.
Very few people really want to hear the truth about getting into this business, but I've laid it out as honestly as possible.