“动画师要有多方面的素质。你可以成为了不起的动画师，但如果你赶不上截止日期，如果你不懂团队合作，如果你不懂听从指示，你最终会遇上麻烦的。” ——Gabriel Portnorf（DreamWorks Animation的CG总监）
“专业，交流。”—-Sketch MacQuinor（Radical Axis的Flash动画总监）
“并非所有游戏工作室都是一样的。你应该知道这家工作室做什么：FPS还是RPG，动作还是冒险，等等。看看这家工作室以前的作品。它做过主机游戏吗？掌机？手机？根据这些信息准备你的简历和面试。”——Adam Olshan（Vicarious Visions的高级动画师）
“进入游戏行业的最好办法是挑一款你最喜欢的游戏，然后给这款游戏设计原创内容，最后把这些内容发给那家制作公司。这个办法对具有可修改内容的游戏更容易。如果行不通，那最靠谱的办法就是先做游戏测试员。当你进入游戏行业，最重要的事就是比任何人都更努力工作。这样一般就能成功了。”——Fairfax McCandlish（Respawn Entertainment的游戏设计师）
How To Get (And Keep) A Job In Video Game Animation
by Rich Ponte
The trick to succeeding in game development is not only getting in the door, but learning how to stay there once you’ve gotten in. Talent and experience can usually open doors for an aspiring game creator, but some very small missteps can ultimately close those doors again with you standing outside in the cold, unforgiving rain wondering what just happened.
Here are a few tips for those of you looking to find and keep a job in video game animation.
Step 1: Get the door open!
In both animation and video games, it is your portfolio that gets you the interview. Yes, your well formatted and grammatically correct resume helps,and so does having friends in the business. But the quality of your works is paramount in opening the doors to a successful career.
The portfolio is an organized display of your very best work. In most fields, it is organized as a demo reel or website. In the past a flat book may have been included and is sometimes still called for. But in any set of requirements the ultimate need is always the same: High quality work. It helps if you’re a well-rounded artist as well. It isn’t a necessity but I would rather hire a good modeler that also paints then a good modeler that has no other creative skills.
If your work is all quality, keep it simple. Display your work in a creative yet straightforward manner; don’t make the viewer work to see what you’ve done. If you want a larger library of past work, make that secondary to the presentation of the “demo reel”on your website. In the end, the first and most important thing a potential employer should see is your reel. It’s also beneficial to include an in-depth explanation if your work, but that secondary to the reel because employers will only read it if they would like to know more about your creative skills.
Ponte’s animated short Granny’s Walker
An important skill to have with putting together a reel and portfolio website is self-editing: The ability to see if your work is good or bad. Hopefully when you’re applying for a job all of your work is good. But with any portfolio, some work will be better than others. It is important to be able to view your work critically and outside of yourself so you only include your very best pieces. Leave pride out of the equation and look at the work as if it is not your own. Only by doing this will you be able to step outside of your personal feelings, whether they’re good or bad.
Even though they’ll never say so, the look and feel of your website is just as important to potential employers as your work is. Think of it this way: If your work is amazing and so is someone else’s, you’re considered equal in skill. But if your portfolio comes packed up in a greasy paper bag and your competition’s is in a shiny slick plastic clamshell, that job will not be yours. Your presentation of the work you do speaks to your aesthetics and professional pride. Can you see what does and does not look good outside of your skill set? Are you a truly creative person that can add to the company’s talent pool? Those types of questions will arise while looking a good work in a bad package.
Another short animation from Ponte’s demo reel
So to sum it up, here’s what you need to get an interview:
- A Portfolio of quality work.
- A well-rounded creative background, with more than just one skill.
- A demo reel that contains the best work you have done.
- A well designedwebsite — not a blog — to display your reel.
- A resume that’s formatted properly and grammatically correct.
- A good sense of aesthetics and a discerning critical eye.
Step Two: Avoid the back swing!
Now that you got the call for an interview, ask what to wear to the interview. It can never hurt to ask. It can, however, hurt to arrive to your interview over or under dressed. Most human resources staff would be more than happy to give you some advice on how they expect you to dress. You would think that wearing the appropriate clothes to an interview would not be a very important thing in these creative fields, but it is. It goes back to the idea that everyone who is getting interviewed is at the same skill level for the most part. It is the packaging that makes the difference. Do you wear a tie and suit, or maybe jeans and sneakers? The only way to know is to ask, and if you don’t, you will seem like you didn’t know about the company you are trying to work for. It really isn’t a huge thing, but that small difference can be the deciding factor. Make sure to talk to the person setting up the interview, ask questions and come prepared.
Of course the interview is probably the most stressful and nightmare-inducing part of the job hunt. This is the make-it or break moment, the point at which you will either leave happy or leave wondering. You will most likely not leave with the job; in some instances that does happen, but for most you leave with the feeling you did a great job in that interview. You feel you said all the right things, answered all the questions correctly, had a great looking portfolio, everyone seemed happy and interested. Or you will be wondering if you said the right things if you did the right things, if you were to awkward or too fidgety, if you came across knowledgeable or maybe too pompous. What the real thoughts of the people that just interviewed you?
If you watch carefully, there are some telltale signs you might notice is things are going poorly:
The sign you’re not really needed:
First, if the interviewers were eager to get the interview over with and seemed like they had something else to do, either they were not interested or you hiring is not high on the priority list.
The sign they’ve decided on someone else:
If the interviewers seemed to be defensive or unenthused, you may have had the unfortunate circumstance of getting an interview that no one felt was wanted or needed.
The sign you might not want the job:
The interviewers might have seemed aggressive and overly critical towards your work and the reason why you would want to work there. This happens in circumstances where the employees are not happy with their jobs. It could just be a bad day or it could be that this is a job you should avoid.
But if you hold their attention and feel they were genuinely interested, then you can probably take a deep breath and know that at the very least you have a chance. That small chance is equal to anyone else as long as your work is as good and your presence was strong. From this point on, until you either get the job or not, it is all about what the other candidates did right or wrong and whether you were the best one who was interviewed.
Step Three: You got the ball, don’t drop it.
A few days, weeks or months after the interview you get the call, and the job is yours if you want it. The first hurdle is hopefully an easy one, one that you had the foresight to think about and maybe ask about during the interview: Pay and benefits, relocation and start date. All of those should either be worked out already or you had prior knowledge of them before you even applied for the job. So lets say that everything is good and you accept the job, time for the next big step.
The second hurdle? Keeping the job. You can almost bank on the fact that unless you lied about your skills and somehow tricked your way into the job, your first day will not be your last. Be confident in what got you to this point, because self-doubt can be a real job killer. Don’t start second guessing yourself now. If you do, you could be heading down the road to losing that job.
Your own demo reel might include anything from concept art to finished pieces
As with most creative positions, the people around your and your interaction with them is a very important key skill that factors into every day you spend in the workplace. So the second hurdle is personality traits — keep your bad ones in check. If you think you don’t have any, you are wrong. It can the something that you have never thought of, but at three in the morning after two weeks of crunch anyone can get a little crabby, and if you are the one to step on the landmine then it is your leg that is gone. Here is an example that not many people think about: no one wants to smell your lunch. It seems silly but in all reality in a workplace being considerate of others is very important. Especially in a workplace that has long hours in close proximity. Personal hygiene is a huge area to be observant of because of two important reasons, if you smell either overly good (too much perfume) or bad (not showering enough) it will be hard for coworkers to be around you.
Now those two examples are easily in your control. But what happens when you have to deal with something a bit more abstract?
Deadlines are the hardest part of either animation or game design. If you are given tasks that are due at a specific time or day, that is a deadline. Sometimes they are flexible, but in all likelihood few ever are. By missing a goal and not meeting it you at that moment will probably receive some feedback from your lead or supervisor that they are not happy. Will you lose your job right then? Probably not, unless it was a very big deal, but it is not the single instance that kills your opportunity, it is the sum of all of those missteps that lead to doubt. Doubt is the cause of most lost opportunities, because if your lead doubts your ability or skills then there is no reason he will keep you on the project. Unfortunately in the field of video games or feature animation you need to constantly be proving your value through the quality and consistency of your work. If you begin to misstep and drop that ball by deadlines that door can ultimately click closed with you outside.
So that is it right? Nothing else to worry about?Unfortunately, no.You need to be a team player. Yes, that is an overused word that most people say you should never use on a resume (which is right!), but the ability to be one is valuable. Being able to work well with others is sometimes more valuable than your ability to do the work. You can be the most amazing artist in the studio, but if no one wants to work with you because of a bad habit or personality quirk, you can almost sign your own walking papers. This also goes into taking critiques well. No lead or supervisor wants to have to walk on eggshells because any form of criticism constructive or otherwise will lead to a breakdown or anger on your part. Being able to listen to instruction and return the instruction with the correctly done product is also part of this. And again it all really comes down to doubt; if that feeling of doubt arises from any part of your work, it can ultimately make it harder for you to hold on to your current position.
Now does this mean you should worry about these things every day? No, of course not. But be consciously aware of them so if you happen to misstep you can adjust and fix those bad habits or quirks. It’s about making it through that project still carrying the ball, not dropping it. One last little tip though — if you’ve made those missteps and no one has said anything and you think no one has noticed, they have. You will most likely not know it until the next project when you may be given less to do or you’re moved to a different department or in some instances not picked up for the next project.
Step Four: I’m on a boat.
At this point you have worked hard got a good portfolio that led to an interview that gained you employment. Your work ethic and professionalism gets you complements on a daily basis and people can count on you. Everything is good and there is nothing to worry about.
Well of course there is, but don’t worry, per se. Again, you need to be aware of the expectations of the field you are in. So you are on the boat and nothing can stop you now. But other people want on that boat and they will be younger and hungrier, there will always be someone there with new more current skills and techniques. So it is your job to always be updating your portfolio and your skills. The one that got you to where you are won’t last forever, and you do not want to lose what you have because of an unwillingness to learn and try new things.
Last and most importantly, enjoy every minute of the job, have a passion for the work, love what you do, because if you don’t, the work will never be a positive part of your life and your career will never get to this point.
Extra Step: Listen to the trees in the forest.
Below are some quotes from people in animation and video games on getting and keeping that dream job you are striving to obtain.
“It’s a combination of a bunch of things. You can be an incredible animator, but if you don’t hit deadlines, if you don’t work well with a team, and if you don’t work well with supervision you will eventually have trouble.”
- Gabriel Portnorf – CG Supervisor at DreamWorks Animation
“Stay professional and keep your contacts.”
- Sketch MacQuinor – Lead Flash Animator at Radical Axis
“Not all video game studios are the same. You should know what the studio creates: First person shooters, role playing games, action/adventure games, etc. Take a look at what the studio has created in the past. Has the studio shipped titles for console? Handheld? Mobile? Tailor your initial contact with this in mind. ”
- Adam Olshan – Senior Animator at Vicarious Visions
“The best way to get into the game industry as a designer is to pick your favorite game and then find a way to design your own content for it and submit it to the company that made it. This is easier with games that have modifiable content. If that doesn’t work, the usual fallback is to get a job as a game tester. Once you have a game job, the most important thing is to work harder than anybody else. That usually works”
- Fairfax McCandlish – Game Designer At Respawn Entertainment
“Once in the video game field it is important to keep up to date with current technologies and be able to adapt quickly. Often as soon as you are familiar with one aspect of a pipeline or technology, it changes and you are learning or developing again. Focus on improving your core art skills while continually developing to new workflows.”
- Chris Myers – Character Animator at Neversoft
“Character is everything… no matter how smart or talented you are, if you’re a lying duplicitous prick eventually no one will want to work with you…. including supervisors.”
- Jason Davies – Pixar (source:gamecareerguide)