I started in the games industry back in summer 2008 at Cheyenne Mountain Entertainment, but due to company situation and economy crash, our company fell even after some major, desperate effort to save ourselves back in '10. Since then, I've only managed one off-site freelance position for a few months, and I was told I performed very well for them, however haven't had any luck since. Even though I was flown out for a couple interviews at other places since then, I didn't get past that stage. It's past a year and a half since I've had animation work, and I'm at my wit's end. I miss it quite a bit. I sincerely want to get any thoughts I can on my work, its presentation, everything and just see what I can do to stand out and prove more effectively that I can do everything a company needs from me.
Link to my website and reel (Quicktime movies)
I'm very open to any considerations people have. I would also love to get some insights from animation leads and directors if they happen to see these boards to get a better understanding of what I can do to give more confidence in my work from the perspective of team leads and people who need to trust the ability of their animators.
Any help would be appreciated! Even the smallest detail that can help improve overall impression is worth consideration in my opinion.
What have you been doing for the past year and a half? Any personal work?
Over the past year and a half while looking for animation work I started training more on the 2D side of things to try and fulfill another itch of mine. I've always wanted to do a comic and learn composition and color better, and I spent some time doing oil painting training, life drawing, etc. as I've been working other jobs to pay bills. I also knew it would improve my animations as well, but I admit not having animated as much in that time. One of the interviews became a strange situation where I was in communication for a while afterward before it fell through, like three or four months. I worked with CAT in 3ds max to learn it for that job, and it was pretty easy to pick up, but then it fell through. I'm confident in my ability to animate any character in 3d, and do it well, yet I lack more technical experience beyond character animation (I have some general rigging knowledge, but not at a technical animation level), and I've been trying to find out what I might be missing that would be more appealing. It's difficult for me to understand what would work to my advantage considering I've focused my training on the actual game animation side of things.
That's why I'm looking for some input.
I went and ran your site by a friend of mine who works in videogames. Some excerpts:
I'll add my two cents from a non-game animation angle: I agree with my friend 100% about dialogue and acting. You have one acting piece in your demo reel (the last one), and it's noticeably lower quality in terms of timing and polish compared to the rest of your work. Honestly, it hurts your reel. Having an acting/dialogue piece drastically improves your value as a worker, but only if it's good.His works seems pretty decent, esp for game animation. The only thing I was looking for was a little more credit information on each set of animations, ie. is it mocap or hand-keyed? All you need is a little bit of text under each animation, where, by the way, the game's title should also be (skip the fancy title at the start of the reel).
Having a few acting pieces in there couldn't hurt. It'll open him up to in-game cinematics if he get one good scene in there. As it stands, facial acting is almost non existent on his reel. A cinematic piece would also break up the reel.
I'm a little curious why he has game rigs under his personal stuff? Is that really something kosher in the industry? I'd suspect not. Something like that could actually kill an applicant. I don't want to say that this alone is ruining all his chances, but I wouldn't be surprised if it did with a lot of companies.
Off the top of my head that's what I'm seeing. All in all he seems capable, but I got to wonder if (besides using company rigs without permission) he's doing something wrong on the interview/application side. There's also the networking side. I think after the first job, the rest are heavily influenced by who you know. So has he been using his contacts?
The fact that you've gone so long without any significant animation work (personal or otherwise) also hurts. This is a big red flag to recruiters. Figure out if you're a generalist and display the other skills you've worked on in the last 18 months, or buckle down and produce a few animation pieces to have recent quality work on your reel. Consider taking an online course in animation. I recommend iAnimate because they'll allow you to take courses that are appropriate for your skill level, compared to Animation Mentor where they force you to start from ground zero with bouncing balls, but I don't know if they have any teachers there that tailor their courses for game animators. They can definitely help you to train for game cinematics, though. Taking a course is is two-fold: First, having regular feedback will do wonders for your quality. Second, it puts you on a timeline where you are required to produce work.
I was rummaging through your stuff on the Happy Feet game. You have a couple things in there that are good enough to be in your regular reel (the fall that the adele penguin does in particular stood out as being good).
I can pick specific things out in your reel that I think you should change or move around, but the overall deficit (dialogue + acting + no recent animation) may be enough to tank your chances at getting rehired. I'm assuming that your rigs are used with permission / yours / used in the course of professional projects, otherwise that's naturally the #1 issue. If you'd like to push ahead and overhaul your reel now, let me know and I'll go through it with you.
Lastly, kudos for having the brass balls to post a thread like this. It can be incredibly vulnerable to break in and then suddenly be unable to get another gig, and it happens to all of us at some time or another. If you can figure out how to get rehired, hopefully this will be a useful resource for other people facing what you're up against.
Last edited by Melete; October 29th, 2012 at 02:04 AM.
I'm quite amazed you can't find job with this fine reel and experience. Maybe you were just pretty unlucky this past year?
If I were you I would search still and at the time generalize myself more. For example try making a whole video game from scratch? Or a short movie with environments, lights and stuff?
Still, I'm a total animation noob so I may be wrong.
I really appreciate your taking the time to look through my work, Melete, and for running it by your buddy as well. I don't really have any excuse to keep the logo except that I liked how it used the intro to the song, so I've no qualms with getting rid of it. The credit information I was told at one point would distract from the animations which is why I introduce it by section and fade it out, but if he honestly thinks it's better to keep it on for clarity, that's not difficult to adjust. I guess I should be happy he wants clarity that these are all hand-keyed, since none of them are motion capture, so when I assembled it I figured it would be kind of arrogant-looking if I had 'hand-keyed' everywhere. Perhaps there might be a subtle way to make it more obvious? And what other information would be worthwhile to provide?
I never considered that the vulcan neck pinch animation would cause issues for people. As Resistance was dying, I did that for some of the long-time fans who stuck with us on the boards through all the financial troubles and had permission from all the directors to do a little gift for them. I have to say that frustrates me that it'd automatically be assumed I'm doing something underhanded, but at the same time it does make sense that it could be under the SGR section, it just wasn't really officially part of the game. I'm a bit surprised you don't like it as much. I wouldn't mind your direct input on that one as well on how to bump it up.
As for contacts, that's kind of a sore subject for me. I'll try not to bore you with details, but I got the job June 2008, and a month later found out I had cancer. I was in the hospital for a week and was so terrified I'd get fired from my foot-in-door job it took 5 years to get that when I came back I was on eggshells and I guess I ended up giving the wrong impression about how I was with people. That and the fact that I had cancer and had chemo treatments every week seemed to affect them too. Then the economy crashed and we stopped getting paid. All the other animators quit but I was an intern and needed job experience, and I wasn't getting any bites anyway. It was me, the lead, and the technical animator. When the Stargate Resistance project started to try and save the company, the lead got other work, and it was only me to do the animations, and the technical artist to implement. I stayed a year and a half through haphazard pay to try and save it with the remaining team, and SGR was a great, great game but we had no marketing, and I was left with no animation contacts I was close with because of the earlier fiasco, so I was laid off and in a way back at square one. Suffice it to say, nothing a company can throw at me now will be that much of a challenge by comparison, but I have no way to really prove that in my demo. I have to rely on my ability now and kind of restart.
I figured acting and dialogue had become an issue. I would love to get some general advice from people on that, because my modeling isn't the greatest, and while I can rig, I don't know what a common mouth rig for gaming is. It's a pretty sad reason to be stopped, but I keep getting the impression that if I'm not very careful what I choose to make, it'll do more harm than good to my reel. I didn't want to just do acting with CAT or Biped, because everything else on my reel is rigged models, and that does make a difference in presentation. I do have that one bit of acting/voice in the animation section, but it was older.
If you're willing, and anyone else for that matter, to help suggest a few changes to the reel, some options for the best approach to an acting/dialogue piece, like maybe requesting using a third-party model from someone or something like that, I'm completely open to anything and everything to get back into this. The truth is I love animating on a team knowing my stuff will be part of something grand, because on my own, effects, lighting, scenes, texturing, modeling are things that I'm not as capable at to make on a level with which I'd be proud to showcase my animation. So it's a bit depressing, honestly.
And thanks for the compliment Melete. I don't really have an ego about my work as long as I can get better and make better stuff, but it is a little sad to have to admit I haven't managed to get the contacts and keep myself in the industry even after the roller coaster of the Stargate games. I went through a lot and it is incredibly depressing not to have much to show for it but credit card debt.
And thank you as well, piskorz. If I knew how to make my own game, I'd definitely be in better standing
Don't be that careful with what you make. Have fun, be free! It's easy to forget that you're an artist when you're caught up in the anxiety of job hunting, but if you have an eye for beauty and laughter, that infectious love of the art form will show in the work. Just be selective with what you put on your reel - best foot forward and all. Sometimes when I'm trying to make a new demo reel piece I'll set loose guidelines to guide what kind of shot I need to round out my existing work (dialogue, full body, two-person, etc) but after that I'll let go and just enjoy the process. Perhaps most importantly, set high standards for yourself. Every time I do a shot personally or professionally, I try to make it the best shot I have ever done. Production schedules don't always make that possible, so it's all the more important to bring your A-game when you have all the time in the world at home. That's the kind of work ethic you need if you want a career of lifelong improvement.
I think this is a great time for you to do a dialogue shot. Not only would it get some recent work on your reel, it would help you bridge the gap to game cinematics. If you post an in-progress, I'll keep an eye out for it and give you feedback.