Put your name on everything.
6 years ago I was Digital Layout (Pre-Vis) team lead at Stardust Entertainment GmbH in Germany. As part of that I was tasked with doing the 'first pass' reviews of applications & show reels. Stardust was not a games company, rather a TV animation company, doing their own Intellectual Property 3D cartoon animation series, plus occasional music videos.
So, my top tips, having sat through several hundred reels and printed submissions:
1. Put your name on *everything*.
Items might get separated and passed to others for comment and depending how big the company is, that might take a few weeks and be in a different building or even half way around the world, and if it turns out that one particular picture is what gets you the job offer, we'd better be able to contact you based purely on the info on that printout. So name and contact info on everything please. We had one decent submission that had no contact info at all. Not even the sender's name... No possible way to contact them. Which was sad because they'd gone to all the effort of finding us, assembling a pretty decent package, and posting to to us...
2. In a reel, put your best stuff first.
I know, the advice is always to put only your very best on a reel or portfolio and that's true, but even among your best, you have to choose the order to put the various sequences. Impress me with what I see first and I'll be inclined to give you the benefit of the doubt if there's any shaky material later on.
3. You don't have to have done everything in a shot - but you do have to tell us what you did.
Especially if you have professional experience behind you, you'll likely have been part of a team. An admittedly extreme example now, but if you worked on Lord of the Rings then probably over 100 people contributed to a shot for which you provided say, a chain mail texture on that middle distance Orc. Have a separate sheet that we can read while watching your reel that says what element of a given shot or sequence you did. Modelling, Animation, Textures, Lighting, Rigging, whatever your contribution was. If you did it all then that's cool too, but be clear about it. It does not diminish you to say that on a spectacularly animated, beautifully lit shot, you just built the geometry of the gun, animated a motion blur in post-production or whatever your contribution was. On the contrary, that experience of working within a team, either in a professional, educational or private project context is good to have. Moreover, most places aren't looking for arrogant primadonnas. That you have the class to acknowledge the contributions of the others on your team will speak well of you. It's more than just about the work you show, it's also about what kind of person you're going to be to have working with us.
4. Copyright acknowledgement notices.
Suppose you were working on a published game and have permission to use images for your portfolio. Put the company logo and copyright symbol on the picture. It speaks to your professionalism to acknowledge such things, it may even be a condition of useage, and it makes your work even more impressive.
4a. Aside to my point 4 above - you may not get it, but when you get a job contract - ask to have a clause in there granting you permission to use images for your portfolio. Nothing is forever, teams and companies dissolve and the chances are that 10 years from now you'll probably be working in another company. So make sure up front that you can use images with permission, for your portfolio. If nothing else it's nice to show your family & friends what you've working on. A proviso might of course be that you can only use images after a title is published, or is cancelled.
5. This is going to be a little counter to what HagNasty said about tailoring your portfolio. Yes, tailor it, but if you're applying for a racing game, and have some racing car stuff to show, you don't have to chop out all the other cool stuff. Show that you've got wider talents and yes, that can include pencil sketches - but only if they're good of course. You never know, the place you're applying to may be publicly hiring for a car racing game this month, but internally they're planning another title to follow on and hey, your underwater seascapes and submarines may be just what they're looking for...
6. Process matters.
Finished rendered imagery is nice, but seeing a progression from pencil sketches, through prototypes, through wireframes, lit, render passes and the final composite, it's all interesting stuff and it demonstrates your wider knowledge.
7. Put your name on everything.
Maybe I said that already. Put your name on everything !
>> Dave Sattar <<
Last edited by David Sattar : 02-25-2008 at 10:30 AM.