This semester, Creative Enterprise helped me in a number of ways in both preparing me to apply for a job and also helping me to start thinking more in depth about my career.
I realised this semester that I haven’t put a lot of time into self-evaluating before. Taking time away from projects to put into researching and making a CV and cover letter has been very enlightening but preparing for interview made me realise most that I find it very hard to sell myself, even more so verbally. I put a lot of time into preparing for my mock interview but still felt like I stumbled a lot so this is an area that I still need to practice more.
Preparing a showreel and portfolio website was a great way to reflect on my work and see the gaps. I tried to make a showreel focusing on lighting, texturing and concept art but I feel that I should demonstrate a wider application of these skills.
The guest speakers this semester were a great way of thinking more about my career. I feel that I should not be too hasty in trying to specialise but I also worry that I won’t be that ‘T-shaped’ person that everyone is talking about. I think that placement year will be a good opportunity to explore the different possibilities. I’m not afraid to jump into areas that I have not spent a lot of time in yet such as motion graphics, compositing and dynamics but I also want to develop the current skills that I have and make them a lot stronger. I like the idea of being self-sufficient in being able to create a complete product/experience and also being knowledgeable enough to help others in all areas of production. I want to learn more about film especially and be able to contribute something amazing to a team. Importantly, I want to make myself more employable and be prepared to make a living from my skills once I graduate.
Glenda Martin suggested that we use the interview simulator on the Employability Portal which was very helpful: http://journey.ulster.ac.uk/5
It had a range of timed questions to go through from 8 sections which you could type or speak and then at the end you could download your script with your answers and suggestions on how you should have answered.
Feedback and Reflection:
I need to be more aware of my body language and posture. I unconsciously had kept my hands clasped underneath the desk. Alec suggested keeping them above the table.
Like always, I need to work on projecting my voice and being less quiet. Alec did say that my passion came across at least.
Although I spent a lot of time preparing I stumbled over the simple question of ‘why do you want to work here’. This was partly because I hadn’t prepared a particular studio to apply to and was treating the interview as a general job application. My nerves also got the better of me. Either way I should have been more prepared. Now I know that I should practice more beforehand so that even my nerves can’t get in the way.
When writing my CV I found that the CV builder on the Ulster University Employability Journal website was the most helpful.
It has lots of example of good phrasing and use of power words and also talked about emphasising skills gained from experiences.
This feedback from Greg on our combined CV in class was also helpful:
- Grades e.g. from Leaving Certificate are a lot less important at this stage.
- Highlight skills like unusual languages that you know.
- Have your work experience at the top. Relevancy trumps chronology.
- Starting with the sentence “Diligent student…” in your profile is questionable. Find a better way.
- When you’re talking about your hobbies, don’t sound so passive. Demonstrate what you actively get out of your interests and how you actively do them.
- Even within the ‘interests’ section you should be paying attention to the order based on relevancy or what stands out the most.
- Be careful of making sections too wordy.
This is some research which was useful too but I forgot where I wrote it down from:
- Tailor your CV to who you’re applying for. If they ask for team skills be sure to demonstrate this.
- What is my unique selling point?
- Look at everything that you have done and be able to talk confidently about the transferable skills that you can take from that.
- For your profile, describe: who/what you are, your experience, your skills and relevant evidence and what you are looking for. Use short positive sentences.
- Work experience: As well as your job, show activities outside of this which demonstrate your initiative.
- Explain the way (adverb), the what (verb) and the benefit.
- Other skills: How do you contribute outside of the workplace/academic environment? Organiser, networker, team player?
- Do your interests correlate with the job that you’re seeking?
- Use anecdotes to show personality.
Alec suggested that I add a simple graphic to my CV to make it more memorable visually. I loved Rachel Dixon’s example of this with her bears.
Back when I was beginning to build my website, this was some of the research which I looked at.
Do’s and Don’ts How to Build a Website that Works:
David Mattock: http://www.davidmattock.co.uk/
Mattock’s site makes it easy to find his showreel and also clearly shows Mattock’s skills. His contact form has multiple options, giving the impression that he’s easy to keep in contact with. He also has links to his social media pages which makes him more accessible.
Dave Rapoza on carbonmade: https://daverapoza.carbonmade.com/
I like how Rapoza’s portfolio is split into client work and personal projects that he’s worked on. This could work well if I wanted to display myself with general skills e.g. a section for lighting, modeling etc. or if I wanted to show my involvement throughout a single project, from concepts to 3D visualisation. It also links back and forth well with his blog and social media sites. Rapoza’s contact page isn’t as impressive as Mattock’s.
- Have a neutral background e.g. grey so as to compliment/not distract from your work.
- Show your name, email and phone number very clearly.
Class Feedback and Feedback on Edward’s website
This was some feedback that Edward got during class which I also found very helpful for fixing up my own website.
- On your homepage, have a bit more information straight away.
- Make your email link clickable. I tried looking up how to do this. Apparently it’s just as simple as adding mailto:me@example .com in html but the link created doesn’t see to open up anything on my laptop
- Use area codes for your phone number.
- If any of your videos are private, have the password or an email for contacting below the video.
- Remove confusing menus from pages.
- Is there a more important link that you could include than your Facebook? Do you really want this link at all?
- Test how easy your website is to navigate. Ask other people who haven’t seen it before?
- Optimise images so that they load quickly. Try Photoshop’s ‘save for web’ button.
- About page: Put your email here also. Have your email everywhere so that it’s easy to find. Describe what you’re interested in. Your ‘about me’ page should contain anything that will make you stand out to an employer, something interesting about yourself and something that the employer can connect with.
- Think about tabs on your blog that can also say something interesting about you e.g. a ‘what you’re reading’ tab.
- Look at your website on all platforms. Is it legible?
I also sent my showreel and website to Iglu Media (who I’m on placement-lite with) for feedback and they were kind enough to get back to me. Mostly my biggest downfall seemed to be my website layout. My front portfolio page was a bit cumbersome to scroll side to side on and it was too easy to miss sections. I found a new theme to make this easier to navigate but I have yet to find a theme were the menus don’t have to be expanded separately at the top.
Jonny Shields, their art director also suggested that I display my concepts larger for scrolling as I had them displayed in a gallery as small clickable thumbnails. For my showreel, they commented that my subtitles to show what work I had done was nice and clear.
I saw that Alec had posted the MPC First Step internship application link on Facebook during the Easter break. Feeling utterly unprepared I thought why not try anyway! With only a day left to send in an application I tried to put together a showreel and cover letter aimed at the lighting department.
By applying here under such short notice and to a particular area I actually felt that it forced me to put together my showreel with better presentation and more focus.
This was my initial planning for a generalist showreel. I used powerpoint for planning as I didn’t have any editing software at the time.
This was what I put together for a lighting showreel:
Natasha Crowley Lighting Showreel 2016 from Natasha Crowley on Vimeo.
I feel like I may have ended up including some irrelevant material like UVs as I didn’t have a lot of material to make a completely lighting focused showreel. For the application, I was required to include a showreel breakdown that described what I learned for each piece but I should probably have included the software used information within the video also.
Natasha Crowley Lighting Showreel Breakdown
I created my first cover letter for this application also. In my defense I was very tired after working on my showreel all day and with the deadline at midnight I only had about 30 minutes left to write it. I think that I should have been a lot more specific as to why I wanted the internship at MPC in particular. I also should have discussed specific skills more and why I would suit the role.
Second Showreel Version
Mark pointed out that by using Times New Roman it looked too much like I didn’t care much for font and just left it at default. I had thought that it just looked simple and legible but I now see what Mark means. I looked through the Adobe typekit for a handwritten styled font and found “Felt Tip Roman” which I liked.
I looked for music to add also as I didn’t have time to for the first draft. I mostly looked through this site for copyright free music: http://freemusicarchive.org/. For this second version I also included some extra concept art and development work.
Natasha Crowley Concept, Lighting & Texturing Showreel 2016 from Natasha Crowley on Vimeo.
I plan to make a third, ‘CG Generalist’ version too that includes my modeling, animation and possibly nCloth simulation also.
This was some research that I found useful when writing my cover letter. After looking at other people’s cover letters in the class, I think that I should probably do even more research.
Sample 3D animator cover letter: http://www.greatsampleresume.com/Cover-Letters/3d-Animator-Cover-Letter.html
The bullet points make it feel more rigid and less personal but I like the clarity of how she communicates her skills and why she would be good for the job.
General tips on writing a cover letter: http://dazpix.co.uk/coverletter/
Again and again I come across the importance of not writing a generic cover letter and the need to tailor it to where you are applying to.
An example of a cover letter applying to Nickelodeon:
I like how she starts by describing the strength of the company and then how she can match that strength with her own skills.
For the modeling section of my website, the biggest challenge was learning how to render a wireframe (which turned out to be extremely easy). This post from digital tutors was helpful. The second method using Toon Render worked best for me.
I modeled this house back before I realised that it’s okay to model separate pieces of geometry instead of trying to create one mesh for each form. For this reason it’s probably not the best example to have of optimised polycount.
I also rendered my head model this way. I have yet to include my models and animation in a showreel as I’ve only focused on lighting, texturing and concept art so far.
For my website I tried using Sketchfab to present some of my other models. A premium membership is required to upload large file sizes which restricted me a little. I tried exporting my models as different file types but found that .obj seemed to be the smallest. I made sure that my model was as optimised as possible but found that splitting my model in two was the best option in the end. For more interesting models I might consider getting a premium membership on Sketchfab as I like the interactive presentation. This might also be a good option for animation if it supports animated rigs well.
I’m still debating whether or not my website’s theme is the best way to present my work.
My 3D modeling portfolio page: link
I’m not sure if the long vertical scroll with wide margins looks too blog-like. I tried to make it easy to navigate at least but maybe a larger screen gallery/slideshow would present the work better? For now this is the best wordpress theme that I can find.
This is a breakdown of just a single matte painting but I like how thoroughly it demonstrates Dimitrov’s process.
“Matte Painting Breakdown Reel” – by Stoimen Dimitrov
I’ve been wondering about matte painting recently. Is it just like photobashing except in 3D space and also involving compositing moving assets such as smoke and particles? Is that not just compositing? Usually I avoid using photos in my work because I don’t like the style restrictions (maybe my own skill restrictions too?) plus I enjoy the process of painting. I think that if I learn how to paint with a stronger understanding of reality I could create some fun pieces this way.
Glenda Martin suggested that we search on prospects.ac.uk for job profiles so that we could see the skills required for jobs in animation and try to tailor our CVs towards these skills.
I did the career quiz out of curiousity to see what jobs I would be matched to. My top 10 matches were:
- Transport planner
- Environmental consultant
- Company secretary
- Games developer
- Commissioning editor
- Civil Service fast streamer
- Solicitor, Scotland (haha why Scotland?)
- Hospital pharmacist
- Industrial/product designer
The skills section from the game developer profile is as follows:
You will need to show:
- technical ability, in particular familiarisation with a range of software packages and/or programming languages;
- the ability to work in a team and liaise with other professionals to complete the complex games;
- self-motivation and the ability to work independently on your own projects;
- creativity and problem-solving ability;
- communication skills;
- flexibility to meet deadlines and client requirements;
- enthusiasm for the games industry.
You may also need to demonstrate skills in cinematography or story writing as games become even closer to film in terms of technological advances. It’s also important to have a good level of cultural awareness to make sure games are appropriate to international markets.
Industrial/product design is kind of like concept art right? The skills section from the industrial/product design profile is:
You will need to have:
- a high degree of technical knowledge balanced with creative ability and a hands-on approach;
- visual and spatial awareness;
- commercial awareness;
- computer literacy (three-dimensional conceptual ability and CAD (computer-aided design));
- knowledge of industrial processes/techniques and standards;
- communication and customer-facing skills;
- the ability to cope with the pressure of deadlines;
- a willingness to build and maintain positive working relationships and to share information with others;
- determination to achieve an end result, and optimism and enthusiasm when things don’t go to plan.
International mobility may be required when working for multinational manufacturers and may influence promotion prospects, as will foreign language ability.
The skills section for the animator job profile is:
You will need to show:
- artistic talent and technical skills;
- a good eye for detail;
- communication and storytelling skills;
- ability to work with others and to take direction;
- networking skills and commitment to projects through previous work experience;
- an engagement with the industry from submitting work to festivals and competitions;
- the flexibility to switch between several projects at once.
In character animation, specialist talents, for example in comedy, dialogue, action or singing and music, may be required.
The skills section in the graphic designer job profile also has some useful points to consider for creating a concept art CV:
Apart from technical and drawing skills, you will need to show:
- passion and enthusiasm for design, with a creative flair;
- a flexible approach when working in a team;
- excellent communication skills in order to interpret and negotiate briefs with clients;
- good presentation skills and the confidence to explain and sell ideas to clients and colleagues;
- time management skills and the ability to cope with several projects at a time;
- accuracy and attention to detail when finalising designs;
- being open to feedback and willing to make changes to your designs;
- effective networking skills to build contacts.
Production designer, theater/television/film job profile skills section:
You will need:
- a flair for generating original creative ideas;
- the ability to communicate ideas through technical drawing and model making;
- a good working knowledge of the visual arts and production processes;
- a critical view of film, television or theatre and familiarity with the work of specific designers;
- persistence to follow up leads and gain work;
- the ability to work with others, at all levels, as part of a team;
- the capacity to manage a design project from start to finish, to tight deadlines;
- the ability to be resourceful and adaptable and be able to solve practical and conceptual problems;
- the capability to work independently;
- the confidence and ability to appoint and supervise a design team or art department.
The production design job profile seems to most match the idea of ‘concept artist’ which I have in my head except that production designers go the extra mile in physically constructing the sets and styles. I suppose that being able to construct a digital set would be a very relevant skill also. It’s noted that this isn’t usually an entry level job and that one would start out in somewhere like the art department first.
There were no particular profiles for other jobs within animation/vfx/3d/design but I think I have enough information from reading these today that I can try to improve my CV.
Behind the Pixels – Episode 1 – Showreels:
Plan something that is achievable with your resources.
Demonstrate that your ideas are making it onto the screen and that the software is not making the decisions for you.
Investigate the real world, analyse it and extract what you need.
Demonstrate that you have experimented and have a range of skills as a student. Work with the resources that you have and don’t worry about matching the level of a large company as an individual.
Keep it simple but also think about it’s visual impact.
Document your process and show off the skills that you used for a particular shot – did you film something for compositing and try interesting camera angles? Explain your software choice.
Behind the Pixels – Episode 1 – Showreels Part 2:
Show your original and lateral thinking. Show your ability to solve problems.
Show something which is simple, accurate and demonstrates your understanding of fundamentals over something which is complicated and made up of inaccurate parts.
What personal project have you worked on and what initiative have you taken upon yourself? Show your thought process: what did you choose to do, what did you choose not to do, and why?
Show a wider interest and involvement with the industry. Show an awareness of studios, what they are producing and film festivals.
Make a decision and stick with it. Show conviction.
An idea that you put your personal passion into will shine over something done just to wow people.