Computer Graphics World

March/April 2013

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n n n n Animation•Career the movie business and VFX industry tend to be clustered in the western US, particularly in California, which is contrary to the games industry, which offers more opportunity across the US and in Europe. I started my career at a small game development studio in Manchester, England, and have since worked in Canada and the US. I was lucky to have landed a good job right out of university. I had received a degree in graphic design, which I was terrible at, but I had managed to somehow create a short animated film that won a national competition as part of my course. That helped me a great deal with getting started in the business. Going straight into games was perfect, as I could develop my basic understanding of animation and also had plenty of opportunity to expand my technical knowledge of Maya's programming language. Afterward, I worked in Canada for a number of years and then was driven by a desire to work on visual effects or animated features in the US. It took a good few years to get the experience to animate to a level of fidelity required for the big screen, a lot of which I had to do in my own time, but it was established by a strong footing in the principles of animation and a solid technical knowledge I had acquired from the gaming industry over the years. What appears to be common in both industries is a tendency to specialize in either film or video game development, despite the bridging of the two by many commonalities regard40 Game animation has come a long way in recent years, closely paralleling film animation, as is the case in Splinter Cell Blacklist, created using Autodesk tools. ing the practice of animation. This could be attributed on an obvious level to the notion that people merely choose the career path they prefer, or possibly by the kind of skills learned in one industry not necessarily translating efficiently to the other. Generally speaking, animators working in the video game industry start off their careers in that industry and have decided to stay; and likewise, with feature animation, many animators either come from a 2D background or are part of the new wave of talent hired right out of the online animation schools. Obtaining considerable working experience in both these professions is uncommon. There are many reasons for this, both from a professional standpoint and a personal one. My dream, since I was young, was to animate movies, and starting in the games business was a great way to realize that. I feel that feature studios can have a hard time reviewing and appreciating the kind of animation that is created for games, so it can be tough to break into the movie industry without thinking strategically about what you choose to work on or complete as a personal project at home. Because of this, there are probably many good and perfectly able animators who want to work in film but simply don't have the suitable content needed for their demos. However, as mentioned before, there are many factors (like types of employment offered to animators) that can dramatically affect longterm decisions – the games business is fairly notorious for paying respectable salaries for full-time, permanent positions. Conversely, the feature animation and VFX industry often offers work on a contract basis that can place a huge question mark on the availability of future work. Schedules and the amount of time required for a project also vary between the two, despite the fact that both industries will inevitably have their "crunch" times. Even so, it is commonly accepted that the movie industry is more demanding in this area due to the sheer quantity of work expected in considerably short time frames. Technical hurdles perceived by feature or VFX animators considering a switch to video game development are also big deterrents. Viva la Difference The quality of animation across these two industries is also converging at a notable rate. As modern console and PC gamers start to ask for more and more depth from their gaming experiences, it is becoming less successful for developers to commit to simple game characters, like Mario or Sonic the Hedgehog, to deliver their audience's experience. Modern games more frequently require the illustration of rich back-stories and detailed character in- March/April 2013 CGW0313-GameVfilmpfin.indd 40 3/14/13 12:51 PM

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