VFX Career Profile: The 3D Generalist at Work

Posted August 15th, 2014 by Gnomon School — Category: Career — 0 Comments

Student work by Jonathan Kuo

Student work by Jonathan Kuo

We've talked before here on the blog about the value of specializing and finding a career niche that interests and excites you. But one career we haven't looked at is that of the 3D generalist, a jack of all trades who can work in any number of capacities on projects in the film, games, and animation industries. 3D generalists are quite common in the field and most students with little specific project career experience will be prepared to start as a generalist while they sharpen their skills.

Working as a generalist is challenging and rewarding. If you're the type of person who loves bouncing from task to task and constantly adapting to new demands, 3D generalist could be exactly the VFX career you're hoping to find.

Let's take a closer look:

The Responsibilities
Every studio is going to have its own idea of what a 3D generalist should do. That being said, there are a few commonalities across most generalist positions. Generalists are responsible for modeling, rigging, animation, motion capture, painting, sculpting, and anything else the studio needs done at any given time. Naturally it's not expected that a generalist be an expert in every possible 3D field, but basic knowledge of common 3D tasks in a variety of niches is needed to be a successful generalist.

A 3D generalist is someone that a studio director can turn to with any project and know that it's going to be completed efficiently and competently. As such, generalists must be adept at prioritizing workflows and identifying the right order in which to complete tasks; when you work as a generalist you'll often have several simultaneous items that need your attention and it will be up to you to get everything done on time.

The Requirements
Working as a 3D generalist demands that you are able to quickly and efficiently shift from one type of task to another. Studios will expect that you either have a professional VFX education from a respected school or college or will demand considerable career experience as evidence that you're ready to take on the role and responsibilities of a generalist. Industrial Light and Magic, for example, expects new generalists to have either a degree in 3D artwork or 5-8 years of real-life experience.

You'll also need to know your way around the industry standard creation tools. Experience in 3DS Max and Maya is a must, and knowledge of a rendering engine such as V-Ray or Mental Ray will certainly boost your resume. Additionally, Photoshop proficiency is a requirement for most jobs in the VFX field as it is a cornerstone of many production pipelines. The more skills you have and the more broad your knowledge, the better your chances of landing a generalist position.

There are many rewarding VFX careers available to talented artists willing to put in the time and effort it takes to become proficient with industry-standard software. Whether you choose to focus on a niche or head in a more general direction is entirely up to you. As with most things, the main priority should be finding studios where your work can bring you pride. It's all about job satisfaction.


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Founded in 1997, Gnomon has trained thousands of students and professionals for careers in the entertainment industry. Find out more