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Book Review: Getting a Job in CG: Real Advice from Reel People

Book Review: Getting a Job in CG: Real Advice from Reel People

By Nathan Segal. April 2, 2004.

This month, we make a departure from our current series to have a look at Getting a Job in CG, a joint effort between Sybex and Maya Press. If you’ve been looking for a job in 3D, this book offers valuable information that can help land you that dream job.

Topics covered in the book are:

    Chapter 1: What 3D Job is Right For You?
    Chapter 2: Technical 3D Jobs and Other Industries
    Chapter 3: What To Learn
    Chapter 4: How and Where to Learn
    Chapter 5: The Demo Reel, Portfolio, and Resume
    Chapter 6: Finding Jobs
    Chapter 7: The Real Goods: Who You Know
    Chapter 8: Working with Recruiters
    Chapter 9: Interviewing for the Job
    Chapter 10: Frequently Asked Questions—Insights from Reel People
    Appendix: Real Reels

In the course of reviewing this book, I had several questions. Some of these were answered in the book itself, others were answered by Danielle Lamothe, Product Manager for Books and Training at Alias software. I asked: What was the impetus for writing this book. Why now?

Danielle said: “3D, and Maya in particular, now dominate the Film and Games markets. There are a lot of jobs available to the skilled user, but as the industry matures, the competition becomes tougher. We felt it was the right time to provide a resource that could help people find out which jobs are out there, and then find the job that was right for them.”

Nathan: Who will benefit the most from this book?

Danielle: “Anyone interested in pursuing a career in the CG industry. This book is not only helpful to the recent graduate looking for his or her first job in the industry, but also to the more seasoned veteran who might be looking for a change of pace or a better fit.”

Nathan: Is it better to go to school or to learn at your own pace?

Danielle: “In most cases, your demo reel will determine whether or not a company will hire you and the biggest factor in getting a job or not will be talent. How you got that talent doesn't always matter. However, school does provide an excellent opportunity to get to know your peers through team work and networking. In the working world, you'll likely always work as a part of a team so learning to do that is critical. This book will also talk about how former classmates can often prove quite valuable in your job hunt so don't rule school out.”

Nathan: “What suggestions do you have for the aspiring artist who is talent-rich but

Be visible, keep working at it and don't quit your day job! Sometimes, finding the right job takes time, but the reward is huge. Don't give up if that dream job with the big paycheck doesn't fall into your lap right away. Get out there, make sure people see your work and, if you can't get paid, volunteer. You'll get valuable experience, make industry connections and improve your demo reel.

Brian Freisinger, one of many artists interviewed for this book, repeatedly emphasizes that: "The most important part of preparing for a job in 3D is to master the fundamentals of art. A basic education in fine art includes courses in art history, film history, drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, and photography. More specialized areas of instruction include graphic design, storyboarding, character design, character animation, and cinematography. Although all of these studies are valuable and teach skills that will stay with you throughout an art career, many artists get only a fraction of this scope in their education. What they all get, if they’re going to have a prayer of success, is an understanding of the fundamental aspects of art: line, color, composition, form, and proportion."

Several of my questions concerned whether an aspiring artist work at being a generalist or only pursue their area of interest, such as modeling? And secondly, what would be the advantages/disadvantages of doing so?

I found the answer to this question in Chapter 3, where the authors state: "While there’s no clear path to educating yourself for a job in 3D, there are some basic rules you can follow. Be a generalist when acquiring art and visual storytelling skills; the more you know, the better you’ll do in any 3D career. Specialize in at least one core talent and devote yourself to perfecting that talent; all studios, whether game or television or film, are looking for people who do at least one thing exceedingly well, but have a core understanding, if not applicable skill in other areas of CG. Embrace the technology you’ll need to make your art but do not become a slave to it. 3D is a technical field, but remember that the tools change constantly and without warning; expertise in one tool cannot match a core competency in creative arts."


In truth, an article can only give you a taste of what is necessary for a career in 3D. If you want to give yourself the best chance of success, it's important to have an organized, effective plan of action and this book can help you make the right decisions. In two weeks time, we’ll be featuring an excerpt from Getting a Job in CG. This is Chapter 3: What to learn. This excerpt will cover information about Fundamental Skills, 3D Graphics and Other Skills, followed by a Summary.

On the CD

On the CD are demo reel samples from artists who obtained the jobs they were after in the CG industry. These reels can help you in tailoring your own for your job search.


This book's companion website,, serves as a research hub packed with supplementary information and links to vital sources.

Other Reference Material

For more articles, visit the 3D section on

The Art of Maya, by Alias Software.
Maya: Secrets of the Pros, by Sybex.
Maya Character Animation, by Sybex.
Modeling for Animation, by Alias Software. DVD. Price: $34.99.
Modeling, by Alias Software. DVD. Price: $34.99

Drawing and Anatomy Books

Drawing the Human Head, by Watson-Guptill Publications. 157 pages. List Price: $19.95
Drawing the Head and Figure, by Perigree Books. 120 pages. List Price: $10.95
Atlas of Human Anatomy for the Artist, by Oxford Press. 288 pages. List Price: $29.95.

About the Authors

Currently a technical director at The Orphanage in San Francisco, Sean Wagstaff has been a lead 3D artist in games, a freelance modeler, effects artist, and an illustrator since 1993. He wrote the first books on Macintosh 3D graphics and animation on the Web and has written for several publications including: MacWorld, MacWeek, MacAddict, MacHome, Wired, DV, DCC, Computer Graphics World, and CNET. He is a contributing editor to

Dariush Derakhshani is currently involved with national TV commercials and music videos. He also teaches animation and Maya classes in Los Angeles. Author of Introducing Maya 5: 3D for Beginners and contributing author to Maya 5 Savvy, Dariush received a Masters degree in Animation from USC Film School.

Created: June 5, 2003
Revised: April 2, 2004