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November 2011

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From Student to PRO tips BEN FOX Animator Framestore, New York PROJECTS: Films: Salt, Smurfs. Spots: Coors Light, Living Social, Snickers, Jameson's, Captain Morgan's, Verizon. SCHOOL: NYU-SCPS: CADA, Master of Science in Digital Imaging and Design • To familiarize myself with the tools I hoped to mas- ter at CUDA I spent a great deal of time with the free versions on Autodesk's Maya and 3DS Max. • The big thing is to make sure you finish school with some work that is polished and shows the true extent of your abili- ties. You don't get to caveat your reel, so if you think something isn't quite right...fix it! • Though you will be living, eating and breathing computer stuff in your time at school don't lose touch with your non- computer interests. When you start working, you will gain bonus points if you can carry on a conversa- tion about things other than the latest release of your favorite software package. Music, food, cars and cycling are some never-fail topics in our office. 42 industry, so they shared with us their experi- ences, giving us in-depth knowledge." A great balance, she says. One of the valuable experiences from her graduate courses was the ability to work on a movie while still a student. She points to a class at the Academy of Art, called Produc- tion for Compositing, that allowed her to provide visual effects work on student mov- ies and for independent filmmakers who had no budget for that part of the process. "That gave us insight into working on a movie proj- ect without working for a studio. That helped give me a foundation." But that foundation was still different than the one she stepped onto when joining Pixo- mondo, working first on the George Lucas- penned Red Tails, which premieres in January 2012. At press time she was finishing up work on Martin Scorsese's Hugo, coming out the week of Thanksgiving. Hugo is in stereo while Red Tails is not. What are some of those differences going from student to pro? "As a student, you decide how much hard work you put into your project, you can relax, take time off, and in the end what matters is the quality. Here, obviously, quality matters but you are also bound by deadlines. You should be able to work hard, put in those long hours and deliver quality output. You want to be the best in what you are doing and your work speaks for you. If you are not putting that much work into it, that shows." Another thing she has learned from her time at Pixomondo is the importance of knowing more than one aspect of the job. "You should be open to everything. Being a junior compositor doesn't mean I can't do roto or paint; I am able grab that opportunity. You have to be open to all ideas, and take whatever opportunity comes along." Her main tool is Nuke from The Foundry. The ability to network is also key. "Every- body should do more and more collabora- tive projects because it helps you interact with others. When you work on your own project you are handling it all yourself, but when you are working on someone else's there are different issues that come up and you learn a lot that way." Gupta leaves us with this bit of wisdom for students or those just joining the work- force. "There is no easy way out," she says. "You have to work hard and quickly, and you have to enjoy the work you're doing because people will notice this work ethic and appre- ciate it. If you enjoy your work whatever amount of time you have to put in doesn't matter that much." Post • November 2011 AINE GRAHAM — BSG VISUAL EFFECTS GROUP Aine Graham got her feet wet in 3D ani- mation learning NewTek's LightWave at her Utah-based high school. Interestingly enough, she's using the same software while working her first professional job as a modeler at Battlestar Galactica Group (BSG) Visual Effects Department at Universal Studios. Her high school teacher was a friend of Scheetz, the Jeff founder of The DAVE School, and she kept that fact in the back of her mind while taking animation courses at a local community college for a year. "I always knew I wanted to be a modeler; it was really important to me. Eventually I went to DAVE school and the first block was modeling. It was very intensive and really good for build- ing up my experience. We did some really intricate stuff that I hadn't done before." Graham graduated from DAVE School in June of 2011, but was working as a TA and not in any hurry to join the pro ranks, when she got a call from the school's job career counselor Michael Keith. The BSG Group was in crunch time on the television show Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome. Keith recommended Graham and a few others. She had interviewed on a Wednesday in August, got the job on Friday and was here by the following Wednesday. She admits to butterflies. "It was actu- ally very nerve wracking coming here because I didn't know what to expect, but it's very similar to what we did on our course project." Graham is referring to a course block at The DAVE School where they tackle a stu- dent film working with a typical production pipeline. "It's very similar to working in the industry," she explains. "We were divided up into teams, had certain responsibilities and had to meet deadlines." She says the way people work in the pipeline is the main difference in her work now. "If I mess something up, it could mean a whole lot of trouble for more people down the line. In school, while it was similar, I was mainly in charge of my shots, and my shots alone. They also expect things to get done faster, and with more accuracy. Television, as I have experienced these short months, is very fast paced. There is a lot of work, not much time to get it done in, and not too many people to work on it." Having a really great demo reel is a huge step to getting work in the industry, but other factors due play a role. "At school we were required to make demo reels at the end of every block, so by the fourth block Aine Graham (a Doctor Who student project is inset) is currently working on Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome. coming up in two weeks, so we'll have a bit of a break if the show goes to series." And if they aren't picked up, she'll have an updated resume and a ton of experience to bring to her next job. In terms of tools, Graham was lucky that her DAVE training was "spot on." In addition to more extensive LightWave training at school, she uses it at BSG. "Most of the film companies use Maya, which I have some experience on as well. For compositing, they use Fusion and After Effects here, and now the industry standard for television is Nuke — all of which was taught at DAVE. Most people here are 3D generalists, so when a problem comes we have to figure out how to fix it." Being well rounded can only add to the pro experience. you are expected to have a really good reel." She went through four or five versions, get- ting it right between graduation and landing the job at BSG Group. "In general, a lot of the people don't care if you are the most tal- ented person in the world, they want you to be able to communicate and work well in the environment, so they look more at per- sonalities." Graham also suggests keeping in touch with fellow grads and using your school forums. She admits that students will have to pre- pare for the amount of time expected of you in the real world. "Hours are a bit insane, especially during crunch time and especially in TV," says Graham. "Right now I am working at least six days a week, 10 hours a day. It's really intense but really fun. We have hiatus

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