Per­fect port­fo­lios

Killer tips Lead­ing an­i­ma­tors tell Ju­lia Sa­gar how to cat­a­pult your ca­reer to the next level with a care­fully crafted show­case of your art­work

ImagineFX - - Imagine nation -

It doesn’t mat­ter how tal­ented an an­i­ma­tor you are. If you don’t have a killer port­fo­lio to show­case your skills, that job you’ve dreamed of is un­likely to ma­te­ri­alise. But craft­ing the per­fect port­fo­lio or reel is an art it­self. So what’s the se­cret to suc­cess? And with thou­sands of other pas­sion­ate an­i­ma­tors out there, how can you en­sure you stand out for the right rea­sons?

We asked lead­ing an­i­ma­tors to share their pro tips on port­fo­lio strat­egy. Whether you want your dig­i­tal port­fo­lio to work harder or to make your showreel sing, there are some best-prac­tice tips that can be ap­plied, what­ever field you’re tar­get­ing.

Golden rule one: know your au­di­ence. Who is your port­fo­lio or showreel aimed at, and what do prospec­tive em­ploy­ers, view­ers or vis­i­tors want to see?

“Whether you’re ap­ply­ing to a games stu­dio, ef­fects stu­dio or a char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tion stu­dio, you have to tai­lor your port­fo­lio to the stu­dio you’re ap­ply­ing to and the type of work you as­pire to do,” says An­drew Gor­don, a di­rect­ing an­i­ma­tor at Pixar, who’s worked on ev­ery­thing from A Bug’s Life, Mon­sters, Inc. and Toy Story 3 to Pixar’s Academy Award­nom­i­nated short film Presto.

Os­car-nom­i­nated an­i­ma­tor Aaron Blaise agrees: “Know who you’re in­ter­view­ing with,” he ad­vises. “If I were look­ing to get hired at Dis­ney, I wouldn’t show them a reel of Simp­sons an­i­ma­tion, and vice versa. And if you don’t have the type of work you think a stu­dio is look­ing for, then it would be in your best in­ter­est to do a shot or two in that stu­dio’s par­tic­u­lar style.”

Hook your viewer

“Keep in mind that we have sec­onds to eval­u­ate your work,” ex­plains Dis­ney in its ex­cep­tion­ally help­ful port­fo­lio and showreel ap­pli­ca­tion guide­lines (www. dis­ney an­i­ma­tion. com/faqs ). That means put­ting your best work first and clos­ing strong, as Pixar’s An­drew ex­plains: “Re­alise that peo­ple will fast-for­ward through your work. If they don’t see some­thing re­ally quickly, they’ll turn off.”

It also means be­ing orig­i­nal. How? By in­ject­ing per­son­al­ity into your port­fo­lio. “Good char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tion is the art of bring­ing char­ac­ters to life – not mov­ing them around,” points out Aaron.

He’s cur­rently work­ing on an orig­i­nal 2D an­i­mated short film, Snow Bear, with busi­ness part­ner Nick Burch, and urges an­i­ma­tors not to sacrifice per­son­al­ity by fo­cus­ing solely on move­ment and me­chan­ics. “Of­ten a shot re­quires lit­tle to no move­ment to get an emo­tion across," he says. “It can be just a look, an eye move­ment, a blink. I also ad­vise an­i­ma­tors to in­clude per­for­mances where there’s a change of emo­tion or idea: an­gry to happy or fear­ful to brave. That’s when it be­comes real and the viewer is pulled in.”

Peo­ple will fast-for­ward through your work. If they don’t see some­thing re­ally quickly, they’ll turn off

When it comes to spe­cific skill sets, dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines re­quire dif­fer­ent port­fo­lios. For An­drew, who spe­cialises in char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tion, this means show­ing an un­der­stand­ing of the prin­ci­ples of an­i­ma­tion – squash, stretch and so on (see his ad­vice on the pre­vi­ous page).

jump­ing in

For Naughty Dog video games an­i­ma­tor Jonathan Cooper, how­ever, this means show­ing ac­tions and a rel­e­vant style. Jonathan is the brains be­hind video an­i­ma­tion web­site www.gameanim.com. He’s cur­rently work­ing on Un­charted: The Lost Legacy, and says that for the games he makes, he wants to see nav­i­ga­tion around a com­plex en­vi­ron­ment, in­clud­ing jump­ing, climb­ing and vault­ing, one-on-one-com­bat, walk and run cy­cles, and so on. “Di­a­logue and act­ing scenes are a huge bonus as we’re al­ways blur­ring the lines be­tween game­play and cin­e­matic sto­ry­telling, and game an­i­ma­tors are typ­i­cally ex­pected to at least have a hand in both as­pects on the job,” he says, adding that cam­era work also helps you stand out.

As Jonathan ex­plains, it’s es­sen­tial to have an up-to-date demo reel to keep up with the fast-paced games in­dus­try. “A per­sonal web­site is the eas­i­est to share with the stu­dio in­volved in hir­ing, but a link to your lat­est reel in your re­sume is enough,” he says. “I pre­fer Vimeo to YouTube, be­cause of the fi­nal ren­der qual­ity and over­all clean­li­ness of the site,” he con­tin­ues. “And Art­Sta­tion is fast be­com­ing the stan­dard for pre-made port­fo­lios. But I rec­om­mend adding your reel ev­ery­where – even LinkedIn. As for a phys­i­cal port­fo­lio, I don’t think I’ve seen one in years.”

Lisa Allen, an an­i­ma­tor at Blue Sky Stu­dios and re­cent port­fo­lio re­viewer at Novem­ber’s CTN an­i­ma­tion expo, echoes the sen­ti­ment: “Your showreel is re­ally the only part of your port­fo­lio that mat­ters for get­ting a job as an an­i­ma­tor. Ide­ally, the pieces in your showreel demon­strate your eye for act­ing, pos­ing, de­sign and com­po­si­tion. If you’ve done work in any other cat­e­gories like life draw­ing, or

il­lus­tra­tion, that’s great – but keep them in a sep­a­rate part of your port­fo­lio web­site in­stead. Also, less is more. For me, the per­fect reel is be­tween three and five clips and around a minute long.”

golden rules

An­other golden rule for a suc­cess­ful port­fo­lio is to cre­ate a clear fo­cus. If you’re show­cas­ing a num­ber of core abil­i­ties, make sure the di­rec­tion in which you want to take your ca­reer is clearly pre­sented. “Suc­cess­ful port­fo­lios are spe­cific, or­gan­ised and con­tain orig­i­nal ideas,” says Blue Sky Stu­dios vis­ual de­vel­op­ment artist Ty Carter. His film cred­its in­clude Ice Age 4: Con­ti­nen­tal

Drift, Epic, and The Peanuts Movie, and he shares all kinds of use­ful tu­to­ri­als and teach­ings on his Pa­treon page ( www.pa­treon.com/ty­carter).

“It’s good to see one ma­jor fo­cus like char­ac­ter de­sign, set de­sign or colour. If you do each of these at a high level it doesn’t hurt to show them all, but be care­ful not to in­clude too much. What’s most im­por­tant is show­ing you’re a cre­ative prob­lem solver. Ask your­self, what do you bring to the ta­ble that no one else can do? Is your own life ex­pe­ri­ence re­flected in your art? If not, how can you do that?”

Most im­por­tantly, it’s about sto­ry­telling. “Don’t fall into the trap of be­ing a shot an­i­ma­tor," warns An­drew. “Peo­ple don’t just want to see great an­i­ma­tion: they want to see if you can tell a story. You have to put to­gether the pieces so that you’re show­ing you un­der­stand cut­ting, con­ti­nu­ity and stag­ing. You don’t need com­plex rigs to get no­ticed. Just great ideas.”

“At Dis­ney we would talk about port­fo­lios that stuck out,” agrees Aaron, “and they stuck out be­cause the work was con­sis­tently en­ter­tain­ing through­out. We are in the busi­ness of en­ter­tain­ment,” he smiles. “I want your port­fo­lio to en­ter­tain me.”

We are in the busi­ness of en­ter­tain­ment. I want your port­fo­lio to en­ter­tain me

“For a char­ac­ter de­sign po­si­tion, I look at their draw­ing, paint­ing, and de­sign skills, and for a va­ri­ety of styles,” says Aaron.

An image from Aaron Blaise’s new 2D an­i­mated short film, Snow Bear, which is due in the au­tumn.

Park City (Wasatch) is one of a num­ber of im­ages in Ty Carter’s port­fo­lio that shows his un­der­stand­ing of de­sign and colour.

“Game an­i­ma­tion is com­pet­i­tive,” says Jonathan Cooper, who worked on Un­charted 4. “Even vet­er­ans need to keep push­ing the qual­ity bar to get that ideal job.”

Grandpa’s Farm. “Keep your showreel short and sweet,” ad­vises Ty. Thumb­nails from Snow Bear. “Only in­clude the best, most im­pres­sive work in your port­fo­lio,” rec­om­mends Aaron. Night Hunt. “Lay out your port­fo­lio to look as pro­fes­sional as an ‘art of’ book,” ad­vises Ty. Ty’s best tip for stand­ing out is to be your­self. “Find a way to re­flect your­self in your work.”

Mis­sion Selva is a per­sonal piece by Ty Carter. He breaks down the process in a tu­to­rial on his Pa­treon page. Ty’s image Canyon Meet is on show on his web­site. “Master the skills spe­cific to your dis­ci­pline,” he says.

“At Blue Sky we look for an­i­ma­tion with en­ter­tain­ment through char­ac­ter and per­son­al­ity,” says Lisa Allen, who worked on The Peanuts Movie.

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