Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Intro to PPP3, Skills and Entry-Level Job Roles

This year's PPP is all about understanding our practice in a professional context. This includes:

  • Understanding how those who are working within our practice become well-known and successful and the features of their work that set them apart from the 'crowd'
  • Understanding what opportunities are available to us after graduation and how to create opportunities for ourselves
  • Developing a presence online and a range of promotional materials such as business cards, social media profiles, showreels and portfolios
  • Communicating with relevant audiences in a professional manner.

The main aspect of this that has been hindering me has been wondering what route to take in the industry upon graduation. My strong suit is my drawing/design, but I hope to develop a range of other skills (see my last blog post about skills I want to develop). Nevertheless I've been thinking about the different job roles available within the animation/games industries that have drawing as a prioritised skill. I've become more interested in storyboarding for animation, as I feel that this would be a relatively easier way to get into the industry rather than hoping to go straight into conceptual design.

As I'm still very interested in 3D modelling/texturing and animation and would like to have a range of skills to offer, I know that when I graduate, I will have to invest in high-quality online tutorials to learn more about the technical aspects of drawing for design, modelling, rigging, etc. I will be writing about this in more detail in future blogs.

On a personal level, I have had a look at the SWOT chart I created and have unfortunately realised I still have many of the same problems, especially with organisation. I'm not sure what it is - I just seem to naturally be a very haphazard person no matter how much I try to change it. This is something I really need to change before I work in the industry as I'm aware that organisation, time management and professional presentation is really important. I would like to look into learning on a more detailed/formal level about these skills.

Entry Level Jobs

Storyboard Assistant

I have spent some time browsing the web to find out more about the wider range of roles available in the animation industry. The Skillset website has a good rundown of different roles and requirements for each role. The 'storyboard assistant' role is described as being entry-level, and they are sort of the 'clean-up' artists for storyboards. They don't require a particularly advanced skillset - having the ability to demonstrate drawing skills in a range of styles and a good understanding of visual storytelling and film theory seem to be what they look for the most in candidates. This seems like a realistically achievable role for me considering my research in COP3 into the use of film technique in animation. writes of how competitive the animation industry is, especially for those wishing to be actual animators. The role of a storyboard assistant can extend to the gaming, live-action and advertising industries as well, which somewhat broadens the range of potential opportunities. A key fact to consider is that there will be more demand for storyboard artists/assistants with advanced computer skills and advanced knowledge of the latest software programs used in the industry. This is something I'm keeping in mind, and I have already downloaded a trial of Toon Boom Storyboard Pro which I will use to get an insight into how storyboarding is done digitally. I will write more about software in a future post.

I am aware that despite my research done for COP3, there is still a lot about storyboarding - specifically, how to draw the camera movements - that I need to learn.

Concept Artist

Skillset also says that concept artists can be entry-level with the appropriate portfolio and skills. The only thing that concerns me about heading down this route is the requirement for traditional colouring/drawing skills which I haven't quite achieved yet, such as perspective and painting to a realistic level. These are skills I wish to learn via tutorials upon graduation. I'm also aware that it is an extremely competitive role as many people aspire to work as a concept artist. 

Chris Oatley, who I have mentioned on here before, is a character designer who has a website full of advice and information for aspiring artists in this sort of role. He has defined the '2 Secrets of Success In Animation' as being great work, and being great to work with. So energy spent fretting over things like layout, captions, logo, etc. is, although certainly valuable in showcasing your work well, ultimately NOT as important as energy spent honing your craft. I can't help but find this reassuring as I've just mentioned that presentation is one of my weaker points, and I do spend a lot of time worrying about how I will showcase my work, how I will network, how I will advertise myself... when really, at least for now, I should just be worrying about developing the work itself. 

Elsewhere in the comments other professionals describe how canditates who appear to be the 'right fit' and easy to work with often win over their potential employers better than those who have good work but doesn't connect well. One commenter says: "Being a nice person, having talent and also possessing a healthy amount of persistence seem to be key. These were all factors that helped me get into Aardman and beat the other hoards of other applicants."  

However it goes beyond just being friendly. Chris says: "Just don’t think that “being great to work with” is ONLY about attitude. It’s about making regular, generous, contributions in the small things that are so small nobody else wants to do them and in the huge things that are so huge that nobody else wants to do them. It’s about anticipating the needs and problems of your colleagues and supervisors and doing everything in your power to provide for those needs and solve their problems. It’s about going the extra mile and then the extra ten miles and then the extra hundred. It’s about becoming completely indispensable to the studio.
Having a good attitude is step one." 

It is here that my personal obstacles become apparent, I will often not do 'extra' due to my lack of confidence, though in my mind I feel myself to be the sort of person who would be happy to go the extra mile without being asked. 

He has a page named 'The Concept Artist's Career Guide'  which holds a range of very valuable advice with links to other pages giving more detailed insights into the industry. I will look at these pages in more detail and write about them in another post, relating them to my personal situation. 

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