PORTFOLIO/DEMO 101 – W.I.P. Paper / You hire ? Contribute !
Hey gang. As the workshop is fast approaching and everyone is updating or making their portfolios/demos, I thought I'd quickly put a reminder on what to keep in mind. Too many times I received shitty ones that totally eclipsed the talent of the artist. In some occurences, tests needed to be sent out to see what the participants were really made of.
So if you have (had) any say to the hirring process of artists of any kind, please, let me know what you think, what is missing, etc.
Remember this is a work in progress... in engrish ;)
These days, the line between a demo and a portfolio is blurred. Usually everything ends up on a single CD and is being shipped out. This paper's underlying concept is applicable for both a paper / digital portfolio as well as a demo reel.
Hints on DEMO / REELS (more 3D oriented)
. ALWAYS remember that you're not evaluated on what you CAN do but judged on your WEAKNESSES. It's just like the portfolio review ; don’t cram it with stuff you think might interest people. Keep it short, to the point and kickass. If you hesitate, or even have to wonder whether to put something in there or not, don't put it.
. Choose your subjects well
Sometimes kung-fu and fantasy can send your reel directly into the dead box. Unless you did a bang up job, avoid recurrent themes like the lens flares.
. Focus on what you want to do !
Sometimes a really well animated character that has a horrid UV/texturing and tacky lighting will get canned.
If you strive to become a character animator, don't waste your time on spiffy backgrounds or volumetric effects. Just show some actions, walk cycles, idle cycles, or a small SIMPLE humorous story if you're that ambitious.
If you want to be a modeler, you might want to show characters with a 730 degrees turn around. First pass finished, second wireframe, third solid polygons and again finished if you had time for textures. Always display true polycount.
If you want to get into the gaming industry, put some good low-resolution models (lo-res). Keep the super hi-res models to a minimum unless they're perfect.
N.B.: low res char-models should be ranging from 300 to 2500 polygons (if you want to impress, make a good 500 polys). A FEW > 3000 polys are okay. Remember to show the polycounts !
You might think about modeling environments as well as objects. The industry also needs prop makers !
If you want to be a texture artist, know or research your anatomy, don't improvise muscles. Even monsters have recognisable muscle construction. Comparative anatomy is important.
Good use of your UVing is paramount. EX : If you character has a symmetrical face ( :( ), optimize your UV, consequently texture space !
Same as for modelers ; Think about texturing environments too.
A complete small / medium sized furnished room is great for that. Be sure to make it interesting. Stay away from the generic and be artistic or realistic depending of where you want to go.
When showing your final work, show the texture on it's own afterwards. It's always a nice extra (again, only if you did a great job).
If you want to apply to a small gaming studio or a third party developer, try to know a bit of everything. Bigger studios tend to prefer specialists, but again, there always are exceptions.
. Avoid the "Hollywood syndrome" such as flying logos or lights, text effects on top of your reel as if it was a movie trailer.
If doing a story, be mindful of your pacing and timing. Follow cinematography shots rules ; Don't confuse the audience.
. If you're a really junior junior, putting together a group project can be beneficial. It's hard but you learn how to get organised and work in a team. You can also have the chance to experiment a production pipeline. It can also help you focus and decide what you like doing the most.
You can also join a MOD team to get experience and work on a bigger scale project. If your MOD ends up being any good, you could get significant recognition in the industry, who knows ?
If you show a group work, ALWAYS mention what you contributed to each shot.
Remember that you want the recruiters to think of you as a PROFESSIONAL. So keep your work and it's content professional !
Push yourself to stand out of that crowd. You can do it by being funny (really funny), staying away from overly popular subjects (demons, fantasy, generic superheroes), having a unique, pleasant graphic style, etc. You don't need to do all of that but keep the crowd in mind. And always keep things simple. It sounds like a balancing act between two opposed concepts, but using your instinct and good taste always helps.
Custom tailor your reels depending on which industry you're hitting, what position you want to apply to and sometimes even which company you're sending it to. Make it clear to show your strengths. No need for frills or intro glitter.
Keep an eye on the industry you want to get in. You want to be at the forefront of it, stay on the first line ! Subscribing to Game Developer Magazine is a good start, as well as your local IGDA chapter, follow news on GamaSutra, IGN, subscribe to online forums, etc. If you're more into the movies industry, there are a ton of mags out there such as Cinefex, and communities of all kinds.
Hints on DEMO / REELS (more 2D oriented)
. Mostly the same as 3D
. Plan your demo really well. Making a 2D reel usually takes longer than a 3D reel.
. Line tests are good to include, as well as a few stills of keyframes still in blues.
. Model sheets and anything that has to do with the making of a project can be showed. It shows that you know the process of an animated production and that you can do it. Layouts, background design, stuff from the bible is good.
. Adding a few storyboard pages of your story at the end might be a nice bonus. (always remember that your pages need to be top notch.)
GENERAL TIPS :
. Keep It Short Stupid
Try to keep your demo under 2 minutes long. 30 seconds of greatness is good ! 3 minutes of , say, the same character dancing to a tune in a not-particularly crafty way is bad.
Same goes for portfolios ; Try to keep it under 25 pieces and remember the first points. Only best work in, you'll be evaluated on a weakness.
. Sort your art pieces in your portfolio
Wether it's digital or on paper, put your art in strategic order. Your BEST piece should be in first place. Try to put another strong piece in the middle and another one at the end.
To order your files on a CD, simply put a number at the beggining of your file. Ex :
. If you put music on your demo, choose it well !
. Avoid videoclip scene strobing (many scenes in a short amount of time, like a second)
. Presentation is a fine balance ; don't overdo it with popcorn glued to your tape box but don't underdo it with a plain box or cd case.
Some art directors like a personal packaging ; something that'll show them what you're about. Where you are design wise. What kind of stuff you find cool, interesting and pro.
Some other art directors also love seeing good paper quality. They usually come from the printing industry but you can find some of them in adjacent industries too.
Thanks to buddies for the addendum !