Monday, 18 August 2014

What Skills do 3D Modelers Need to find work in the VFX Industry?

3D render for Bombay Sapphire gin
What Skills do 3D Modelers Need to find work in the VFX Industry? We talked to Royston Wilcox, who heads up the modelling department at Cinesite in Soho, one of London's leading VFX houses. Royston and I worked together on many projects at Cinesite, including Underdog, Beverly Hills Chihuahua and Marmaduke. He explained what skills are needed by aspiring 3D modelers who hope to find work in visual effects and build a successful career. 

How hard is it to find work as a CG modeler?
Finding well-paid jobs in visual effects is more competitive than ever. Cost pressures on VFX work is driving modelling work out to China, farming it out to super-cheap studios who can do the same job, or a similar job, for less money. This places pressure on entry-level positions in London, making the job market even more competitive than it used to be. So, you need to be very good at what you do.

Marmaduke - made at Cinesite
Are entry level jobs available?
Yes. The good news from Cinesite is that they do offer entry-level jobs, and also internships. This takes the form of a competition, known as the Inspire programme - the submissions get judged and the best work gets an internship at Cinesite.

What does Royston look for in a modeller?
Ideally, he looks for someone who has worked on a film, who understands the process. This kind of real-world experience is important, because it lets an employer know that the candidate really understands how the process works on a commercial job.

Not that kind of running

What about Runners? Does Cinesite hire runners, and is it worth taking a running job? Absolutely. Prospective runners get interviewed by HR and they spend up to a year working as runners, doing a fair bit of drudge work but at the same time learning all the parts of the business and getting to know the company inside out. This can be a great opportunity to start a career in visual effects.

What should a good modelling demo reel include?
Here is Royston's checklist of what he looks for in a prospective modeller:
  1. Good surface topology, properly displayed. A good reel should show the topology of the mesh in wireframe, so that the studio can see not just that the model is accurate but that the mesh is well-designed.
  2. Show the reference used to build it. Does the model match the reference? Is the model accurate? This is super-important, as most studio jobs involve matching reference exactly.
  3. A good working knowledge of Autodesk Maya. Maya is now the dominant software in the VFX industry in Soho - 3DS Max is less in demand, at least in London.
  4. Watch out for objects built with ZBrush and Mudbox. These tools are very good for creating sculptures but the mesh ends up very heavy. They are not necessarily suitable for production workflow.

To sign up for our September classroom at Animation Apprentice, follow this link. For more information on finding work and surviving in the animation and visual effects business, read our post on how to find a job in the animation industry, and check out our post about what not to do at a job interview. Also see our post on starting your own small animation business, learn how to create an invoice, and see how we are helping our students find work through our film co-operative Nano Films.  Download the free Escape Studios Careers in VFX Handbook. Take a look at how can help you find a job, and read our piece about how to survive as a freelance animator. Also, find out what Cinesite look for in a student's demo reel, and read our post on setting up your own animation business. Also see our post about freelancers and taxes

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