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This is a guest blog by current student Siân Venables

Hello there! My name is Siân and I am a placement student currently studying Computer Visualisation and Animation at Bournemouth University. I have spent the past eight months working in industry as a visual effects artist and, come September, I will be returning to BU to complete the final year of my degree. Here is a little about my experience working for Encore VFX in Vancouver, BC: 

What tool/resource did you find the most helpful in your placement search? 

My LinkedIn profile – I set up my LinkedIn profile before I applied to university, but only started making use of it when I began properly networking there. University organised talks I attended in my first and second years as well as events such as the BFX festival provided me with many contacts that would become vital to my placement search. When researching companies in the industry I used LinkedIn to check whether I already had connections with producers and recruiters at said companies, based on who I had already met from the industry. Some of these mutual connections opened up conversations with industry artists and supervisors that then aided in my search.  

LinkedIn also allowed me to contact a handful of my colleagues before I began work at the studio, which definitely made my first day a little less daunting! 

Hardest aspect of your placement: 

One word dailies! 

All the way through school, especially during more student-led projects, we are encouraged to keep our lecturers up to date with our progress and to ask for help when we come across issues that we can’t resolve ourselves. Likewise, in a visual effects studio constant communication is vital. 

While I had some prior awareness of ‘dailies’ and ‘rounds’ culture before beginning work, I didn’t appreciate quite how frequent this stage of feedback was. Initially, the process of having to constantly present versions of my work to producers, supervisors and fellow artists was daunting (especially if, like me, you’ve grown up telling people “-don’t look! It’s not done yet!”) 

I quickly learnt that this contact was not only for my own benefit, but for those running the show (pun intended), and that the more versions I shared and the more conversations I started, the easier it got. Despite my initial anxieties and nerves, I soon learned to be less precious with unfinished work and actively tried to communicate with my coordinators and leads more. 

Most enjoyable aspect of your placement: 

Working as part of such a wonderful team! I hope I get to work with many of my colleagues again sometime in the near future. 

The women of Encore VFX and Method Studios gathered for International Women’s Day 2019. 

One example of how your course prepared you for the placement: 

Throughout my second year, as I became more interested in FX simulation, I found myself choosing to do FX whenever I had the chance; be that in research-based projects or when choosing my role in group assignments. As an FX artist at Encore I was actually joining a ‘3D team’, many of whom worked as 3D generalists. While I did mostly focus on FX during my time here, my course’s ‘generalist’ approach to teaching gave me the skills necessary to communicate with other artists and make pipeline hand-offs smoother. This is why in my final year while I still have a particular love for simulation I want to ensure I keep up my generalist learning and not specialise too finely, too soon. 

Two tips for future placement students: 

Persevere! This is especially relevant for those looking for animation placements as at some point in your search it may start to feel like there is nothing out there! I secured my placement by sending my reel to studios I was interested in and expressing what I wanted to do – there was no actual advertisement for a placement student or intern! Hence, don’t be afraid to go outside of the formal applications and just ask. 

While you’re on placement, take every opportunity you can to learn. Ask to sit in on meetings, ask coworkers what they are working on and how they achieved certain things, etc. You’ll be amazed at how generous people are with their time! 

What have you learned that you never thought you would have this year? 

BU graduates are everywhere! Meeting alumni from my course successfully working in the roles I am aiming towards has been a huge motivator as it has taught me to think, If they can do it, why can’t I? 

Three words to describe your placement: 

Teamwork; learning; laughter! 

 Any other comments: 

The opportunity to complete a placement year was one of the reasons I applied to study at BU in the first place and I can’t even begin to describe how happy I am that I was able to secure and complete this placement AND have such an amazing time while doing so. That being said, even if the placement year wasn’t at the forefront of your mind when applying, or if you’re on the fence as to whether to pursue it or not, I for one would highly recommend doing so.  

I have grown so much this year; I have learnt many new technical skills and have gained insight into current industry practice, but I have also learnt more about myself as a worker and an artist. I’m returning to BU with an even greater drive to do well in my final year. 

 

Supervisor Q/A 

Name:Adele Jones Venables 

Job Title: Executive Producer (Deluxe Entertainment Services Group) 

What was it about your placement student that secured them the position with you? 

We were impressed with Sian’s demo reel- she showed real creativity and natural talent given her limited experience.  She also took initiative to get in touch with whomever she could, luckily she found the right person! 

What has it been like having your placement student on the team? 

Sian has been lovely to have on the team- she’s made some really good contributions to the current project we’re working on.  She’s become part of the team, working on the pipeline and outputting sims and renders that will be used in the show. 

What 3 essential things do you expect to see on a student CV applying for a placement? 

 In our VFX industry what stands out to me is a clean, clear CV design.  I am looking for a list of software proficiencies and talents/interests.  Also important- what have they done in their spare time?  Whether it’s learning on their own, volunteering, interning, etc. 

As an employer would you rather see a short or long placement on a graduate CV, and why? 

There are benefits to both but I’d rather see a longer placement of 3 months or longer.  I feel that this provides ample time to get into the flow of the workplace/project and after that amount of time they would have a good handle on their own tasks. 

What has been the best thing about having your student on placement? 

A great attitude!  Seriously though, after many years or on more difficult projects many artists get jaded or fatigued.  It’s really refreshing having someone here who is eager to learn- it’s uplifting for the other artists around them.  It also helps keep more senior artists on their toes- the new students have usually trained on more modern software and bring their own bag of tricks to the studio. 

Any advice for students wanting to apply for a placement at your company: 

Spend the time on a demo reel- in many ways it’s almost more important than your CV.  Employers in the VFX industry want to see new artists who are able to do all of the basic tasks and then some- spend the time learning how to properly roto, paint, track- and then get something creative on the reel.  I strongly encourage people to do a personal project or sequence that is outside of a school project so that they have something different on their reel from the rest of the class.  There are local schools here in Vancouver that tend to output many artists each year who all work collectively on a sequence- and what happens is that 20+ people end up with the same shots on their reel. It gets very difficult for a prospective employer to know what each person has done. 

Also important- having a banner/title on the shots to tell us what you did is very helpful.  Make sure it’s consistent across the reel. 

What do you think students should focus on when applying for a placement? 

Find ways to stand out- a clean sleek resume/cv and a demo reel that showcases your best talents. 

Don’t include work on your demo reel if you aren’t proud of it- I’d rather see a short reel with wow factor than a long reel with less-strong work. 

If this has been your first experience with a sandwich placement student, would you do it again? 

It would greatly depend on the student, timing, and space on our end- but yes it’s been a great experience for all involved. 

Any other comments: 

Sian has been lovely to have on board! We’ll be sad to see her go! 

 

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