Production Studio Saddington Baynes offer advice to artists looking to get their first job in the CG industry...
When applying for a job, people often say it's not what you know, it's who you know. Well, we call BS on that. In our industry, talent and creativity are obviously paramount. But that's a little vague, isn't it? What are employers in the VFX business really looking for? Production studio Saddington Baynes give us the breakdown on just what it takes to make it in CG - from preferred career paths, to building a standout portfolio and fitting in with office culture.
So! Here's the inside track - how to work your way into a top digital artist post - brought to you by the people in the know at Saddington Baynes: ECD James Digby-Jones, Creative Director Andrew White and HR Manager Poppy Boden.
Where do I start?
The majority of Saddington Baynes' artists are, generally speaking, 'classically trained'. They've often got a degree or equivalent in fields ranging from:
Animation and VFX
Computer Games Modelling and Animation
They're diverse from top to bottom. The key things they look for when choosing a candidate are passion in their work, strong technical knowledge, a keen eye for detail, and above all a creative mind.
As James says: "Diverse experience brings richness. I switched from an initial study in architecture to fine art, then photography, until ultimately I embraced multimedia design and then became a Retoucher. We're as creative and effective as we are multi-faceted."
What experience do I need?
An impressive CV and portfolio is great - essential, even - but in addition to relevant experience, they look for passion and commitment. You need to be aware of new and emerging technologies driving creative trends and innovations.
Ultimately, they work with a massive range of brands and agencies; from healthcare to FMCG, apparel to automotive. If a specific role within their portfolio needs filling, then they'll hunt for the candidates with the most compatible and relevant skills. Top compositors and brilliant lighting specialists don't just appear when they wish for them (unfortunately!).
It also goes a long way if you have an interest in design culture, comics, films, animation, videogames, and new and emerging technology. It might sound like a cliché, but there's a constant buzz in the studio about this stuff - it's part of their culture and when they're recruiting they consider how they feel candidates will fit with their culture as well as their values.
How do I build the perfect portfolio?
Saddington Baynes like to see good ideas executed well. Everything should come together as an aesthetically appealing whole, but it's the subtle details, the deliberate imperfections and the nuances that create authenticity and engage the audience emotionally. A good artist follows the brief. A great artist brews up a perfect storm with their intent, concept, design and creative flair linking together perfectly. You know it when you see it.
Do I need to know my way around any particular software?
Saddington Baynes use a wide (and growing) range of software in the studio and as part of their pipeline, but specific box tickers are experience in Maya, Houdini, Nuke and the Adobe suite. Newcomers tend to arrive with experience of some, if not all, of these software packages.
But there's ALWAYS scope to improve and develop new technical skills! None of their creatives ever stop learning. Newcomers tend to arrive with experience of some or all of the softwares described above, but there's scope over and above that to develop further skills. Their artists never stop learning, both live on the job as well as in R&D projects and via the various online tutorials and training courses available. Self initiated learning is encouraged and expected; their artists are very much in control of how fast and how far they grow and develop.
How much time will I need to commit to the job?
They start a little later to accommodate for London's heaving transport systems – their standard hours are 9:30am to 6:00pm, Monday to Friday. But you never know what's around the corner. They get a wide variety of work, thanks in part to the diversity of their clients, which keeps them on their toes. There's never a dull moment.
Technology is ever changing and they are well on the way to developing a remote working platform, but right now they prefer artists to work in-house. It's not just a productivity thing; it also goes a long way towards creating a buzzing atmosphere, and makes collaboration between and within teams seamless. Artists should love being in the studio.
Where will I fit in the studio hierarchy?
An open door management structure is important in any creative business. At many studios, everyone is encouraged to have a view and take on responsibility for their own projects. It's important that team members from all levels of the business can get their heads together to successfully solve challenges. There's no time to stand on ceremony – everyone has a voice and is encouraged to use it to get results. Sometimes this means the best ideas come from the bottom up, which is as it should be.
Is it fun?
No one has to leave their personalities at the door. People say it's like joining a family…but with free croissants, fruit, and beer every week. At Saddington Baynes, you get to play with Fidget, their handsome office dog, and enjoy their two annual staff jollies thrown in on top of other benefits – including discounts at high street brands & restaurants. Neat.
Be courageous. Take pride. Collaborate. This is the mantra that sits behind everything they do. It represents them at their best – they strive to deliver to an incredibly high standard every day and to challenge traditional means of image creation, so they can bring visual stories to life.
Of course, they all work hard. You don't create great art unless you're prepared to sweat the small stuff and take pride in what you do. So – they work hard – but they make sure everyone's rewarded for their efforts, and they play hard too.