“You are only as good as your latest reel”
Using grades as a powerful tool in recruitment
This is what you tell our students when you meet them. I get the impression that it is the only thing that really matters, having a great showreel. I truly believe that there are more things that are important to you, if you get a couple of minutes to think about it. What do you appreciate the most with your colleagues?
While you think, I would like to give you a short back story.
I manage a 3D and compositing programme at university level in Sweden, I have been doing it for six years now. It is a lot of fun and I learn new things every day. I have a background in VFX as a compositor and in 2009 I was asked to help out in the program for a year. I am, as you can see, still here and there are a million positive reasons for that.
My main goal with the programme is for the students to become employable in the VFX industry. I believe that means inviting people from the industry to teach the courses and having the VFX industry involved in multiple ways. We need to keep it a tight collaboration with the industry so that the students actually learn what is important in order to be employed when they graduate.
Let me give you an example of how it works today. We run
courses within the field of 3D and compositing that focuses on
different skills, knowledge and judgement. A specific skill could
be rotoscoping, just to give an example. We run a course where you
would learn the basics in roto and it is called "Rotoscoping and
plate preparation" and is a 6 credit course that runs for 4
This specific course has 8 different learning objectives that the industry has agreed on, which basically should answers the question; what would you like to see in a good rotoscoping artist? One of the 8 learning objectives for this course is to "Demonstrate skills to follow an objects shape in situations where the silhouette is not clearly definable due to motion blur and / or out of focus".
What we teach them should result in them creating new knowledge and the students need to show us that they can do what is expected. This is called examination, you examine if the student fulfills the learning objectives and at what level he/she can do it. The level, in this case, was determined of how good the roto was. We graded them as Fail, 3, 4 or 5 where 5 would be the best. To get the highest grade, the assignment had to pass through the following:
The files are delivered in time and as specified in the format and naming convention. The roto is perfect with no boiling/sliding, no holes in the alpha channel, no major edge problems, perfect motion blur/blur/defocus (soft matte) on all shapes. The project is organized and named in a structured way.
I think a majority of you are following me so far. We (us and you, working in the industry) translate employability into learning objectives and these are tested according to industry standard. Sounds like a great system, right?
For me, employability is key. I believe employability is definitely "A over B" and a great showreel, but it is not only that. Employability is communication, estimating time for a task, being able to follow instructions, being solution orientated, being humble to others knowledge, understanding a pipeline, working in a structured way, being able to work with different people and at different levels. Employability is being a good colleague and a good friend when giving comments at dailies.
A showreel can show you a lot of things but it is taken out of context. It is only one side of the coin.
Imagine sitting in front of a person that perhaps will be given the great opportunity to work with you and your amazing staff. You look through the reel and you see great roto. You ask for an excerpt of courses and grades and find a "Fail" in "Rotoscoping and plate preparation course". When you ask why, maybe you would get the answer that "I never managed to deliver on time because I thought it did not matter" or you get the answer "I had to struggle with roto and I have worked hard to get better, let me show you how". Do you not think this question is worth asking? Grades can and should tell you a lot about a person's employability.
Grades are your quality control tool in the recruitment process and also a tool making sure that the programmes you recruit from is teaching relevant things at a relevant level. In my world, a student with the highest grades would by default have the best showreel. That is when we know we have done a good job.
This is a request to all of you working in the VFX industry, specifically recruiters. Use this tool that we offer you. Let us know what employability means for you and let us help you translate that into our programmes and create the best artists you have ever seen, both artistically and personally.
Program Manager - Digital visualization
Campus i12 - campusi12.com