Book Review: How to Get a Job in Computer Animation
When I heard Ed Harriss had a new book, I was very excited. He spent four years collaborating, editing, writing and researching to give 3D artists something we've never had before: a guide on how to actually get a job. You can find all kinds of information about working in this industry on the internet, and it's mostly free. From forums to industry pros spouting their wisdom, there is tons of information available to you. I was a bit skeptical about the book when I first heard about it. I thought, "Wow, this is great, think of all the time people will save!" But then I thought, "Wait, isn't there already enough free information out there?" One look at his book, though, quickly changed my mind.
Who is Ed Harriss? He is an industry veteran with over 10 years experience in the industry. Anyone who has been working in the industry that long deserves a certain amount of respect. Ed doesn't demand it, though. He simply says, "This is who I am," and "This is what I have done." He's very honest and down to earth, but with a sense of humor, and he brings what could be a pretty dull topic to life. Everyone wants to know how to get a job in computer animation. "Yeah, but I already have a job," you might be saying, "I don't need this!" How long do you expect it to last? Two, maybe three years tops? Maybe less? In this industry, there are no guarantees -- that's the only guarantee you can count on. Not much of a guarantee, right? What if you lose your job? Will you be prepared?
I spent a few days reading through the chapters and sorting through the information. The absolute best part of How To Get A Job In Computer Animation is the list of video game and film companies in the back of the book. This information is priceless to the job hunter. Not only are some companies hard to track down, but more often than not, there are many companies you might never have heard of before. They are all here. From ILM to the little guy working on the corner, this book ists every player in the industry. All neccessary contact information is provided, and the book arms you with the info you need to get your demo reel in the hands of the right people.
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That's what this book is all about -- the demo reel. Harriss shows you step-by-step how to make a reel worth watching. The book includes many stories and good advice from industry experts who tell you what you should and should not include on a reel. There's not a wasted word here. Really, it's that good. Even good artists get passed up for jobs they should've gotten, due to some mishap with their reel. Maybe they forgot their contact info, or maybe they didn't label the tape, or maybe they just didn't organize it properly. It could be any number of things. But Ed Harriss shows you what you need to assemble a good reel that will get you a job.
One of the things that really stood out for me was the book's organization. If you read through the introduction, you'll realize that Harris has already considered that you're probably going to refer back to the book frequently when making your reel and looking for a job. Each chapter can be a little redundant, but it's really helpful. Harriss drills in the important information, and makes sure that you'll get all the information you need if you're looking through just one or two sections. There's also a nice table of contents similar to a software manual, with each chapter broken down into an outline so you can look up information easily.
Harriss doesn't just stop with demo reels, either. He goes over what you should and should not put on your resume. There's a whole chapter on making a good resume, and useful tips and tricks to get your resume seen. Recounting common mistakes, the author shows you what not to do. You save time by not making the mistakes that he points out, but he also talks about what other people have done to make themselves stand out. With a good demo reel and resume, in hand, Harris prepares you for the ultimate interview.
How To Get A Job In Computer Animation will show you interview strategies you need to get the job. Once someone has seen your reel, looked at your resume, called you on the phone to get you to come out for an interview, you don't want to chance messing up a huge opportunity. Sometimes people get nervous, or they just come off the wrong way. What if they didn't like your personality? All these factors play a huge role in your ability to get a job in this industry. With proven tips and tricks, the book shows you how to handle the whole process without losing your head and gives you practical advice for success.
Another great thing about this book is that it doesn't take itself too seriously. Though not as pretty as other CG-related books filled with glamorous renders and screenshots, there are funny cartoons lining the pages of How To Get A Job In Computer Animation for comic relief. It's easy to get stressed out over getting a job, and making a demo reel. Harriss also includes some humorous real life stories from industry pros, giving you the chance to sit back and laugh along with them, but learn valuable information at the same time. All in all, it's a good mix of seriousness and fun.
My only complaint with the book is the section that describes the different jobs in the industry. Some of them are really good, but then some of them are lacking. I think the book could have benefitted from a chapter including not only a job description, but also an interview with a person who has that job in the industry, and maybe some advice that particular person might have for demo reels and getting work. Still, the book does a good job of making the reader aware of all the possibilities. I like that it includes other sectors of the industry, such as forensic or medical animation. These sectors of the market play an important role in 3D. While not as high profile as film or games, they are important, and provide us with even more job opportunities that should not be overlooked.
In case you don't find all the information you want, Harriss provides references to other books and websites that can offer the reader another venue for research. He also encourages you to get feedback from professionals and friends regarding your portfolio. This is something many artists lack: good feedback. Harris tells you why you need it, and why it's vital to your success. You want to get a job, right? You have to learn to take criticism then!
Harriss covers many other useful topics in the book worth mentioning: Computer hardware, deciding on your education, a list of schools and universities that have computer animation programs available, different video formats, getting an online website and portfolio together, making contacts in the industry, negotiating salary, what to wear to an interview, and information on recruiters. Though I only mention them briefly, the book goes into depth on each topic. This is truly an exhaustive manual for anyone who wants to learn about working in the industry. It is so complete, it's hard for me to pick out the flaws. I tried to be critical, but I guess I am just overwhelmed by the sheer content in this book.
How To Get A Job In Computer Animation should be on the shelf of anyone interested in a career as a CG artist. We don't always have the best business sense, but Ed Harriss proves that he does. I would recommend this to students and industry professionals alike. There is much to be learned by reading this, and I guarantee it will, if nothing else, increase the chances that your demo reel is watched. If you are a student, hobbyist, or recent graduate looking for work, then this should be Number One on your list of books to own. If you are already working, then you should really consider how this book could help you in the future, when you might want to change jobs. Your negotiaton skills are key, and Harriss shows you what you need to get what you want from your career. As an industry veteran with a proven track record, Ed Harriss put together this awesome book with the reader in mind. I can really only say so much. Go buy a copy for yourself and I think you'll understand.
How to get a Job in Computer Animation
By Ed Harriss
Edition: Perfect Bound Paperback
Sample pages can be seen here: http://www.edharriss.com/getajob/all_pages.htm
More information on the book can be found here: http://www.GetA3DJob.com. To find out more information about the author, Ed Harriss, go here: http://www.edharriss.com.
Joe Harkins is currently a "puppeteer," aka Creature TD, at Tippett Studio, in Berkeley, CA, working on The Matrix Revolutions and other film projects full time. His background is in character setup and animation for commercials and film.
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