In Part 1 of this 3 part series about applying for Jobs in the VFX Industry, RedShark's reporter HaZ, uses his experience as a VFX Supervisor and Producer to explain what he looks for in the in an application: what really works to get his attention - and what turns him off
The Visual Effects industry workforce is mainly freelancers and contractors, which means there is always an influx of freelancers sending their updated CVs and Reels, studios looking to hire for the next big show, or a crisis of too many last minute shots in a major show.
The essentials for any job application in the VFX Industry (or the creative industry in general actually!) are the Show-reel and CV, so it’s obviously important to get those things right before approaching studios.
Keep it less than 3 minutes long: anything longer will just get boring. Most Supervisors, Leads or Producers who look at show-reels don’t have much time in their busy production schedules (the only time I get to view reels is on my lunch break or evenings!), so keep it short and concise and relevant: show of the skills that are required for the job.
Show your best work! It’s not about quantity but it is about quality. You will get a chance to show off other stuff (maybe your experimental work) during the interview should you wish. I remember being slightly put off with an artist reel because the last shot stuck in my mind after viewing the reel. It was a really bad shot with shoddy keying, yet there were a lot of other shots which were good; but that one bad apple killed it.
Don’t bother trying to edit it to music because the reel is showing off your visual effects. You can add a track for presentation purposes should you wish but it won’t be that factor that lands you an interview. I always turn the sound off anyway.
Everyone knows it’s hard to get your latest shot from a feature film or TV series that is not yet released. If you did get your shot the associated layers then you obviously managed to copy it on your drive from your workstation before leaving the studio. Keep it until the film is released then show it. Do not put material from projects not released yet in your show reel, because I for one would think you would do the same to my studio. I think this shows a lack of professional integrity. I have heard about studios black-listing certain artists who did exactly this so make sure you don’t fall in that trap. Do the right thing: use your common sense and don’t show that off in your reel yet. You're probably thinking: "how do you prove your latest work to secure your next gig?" If you say you worked on a major film project at a studio, then chances are the person interviewing you will call up the studio for a reference and that’s usually good enough to prove you worked on that project and what you did on it.
What I look for when reviewing show reels from artists
If you're a compositor then I would expect to see some breakdowns of your shot. If that’s not possible then clearly mark on the frame what you did on the shot.
I would also expect to see how well you integrate CG into live action, tracking, creating clean plates and good articulated mattes and rotoscopes.
If you are a CG Artist then I would expect to see wireframes of your models and different passes such as textures, shaders and lighting passes. (Ambient Occlusion passes always look good in reels). You may be a specialist such as a modeller, texturing artist, lighting and rendering etc. So make sure there are as many turntables and passes to show off as possible: the clearer you demonstrate what you created, the more chances of you landing that gig.
If you are an animator then I would love to see any rigs you created and of course animation passes of your work. But a clip of your animation in the film is good enough provided you clearly state what you animated. If you did animation clean-up then make sure you state that and perhaps show the original version before you did the clean-up and the version you cleaned up.
Do not show motion capture animation and say you animated that, because you will look silly when you are caught out or asked to animate something as good as that.