How to prepare a 3D portfolio for an interview.
October 5, 2009, 7:52 pm
Filed under: Art in business, methodology and leadership | Tags:

Interviewing creative’s and artists especially is great fun. I have interviewed hundreds of artists and can say that even after careful resume scrutiny it’s like a lucky dip, you never really know what you are going to get, you have a good idea but sometimes you get a bad candidate and sometimes you find a genius. People come to interviews with all kinds of thoughts, ideas, goals, aspirations, hopes and dreams. A good candidate will present their work with enthusiasm, knowledge and confidence. A good candidate will also have a killer folio. But what is a killer folio these days?

First of all, it’s not what it used to be.  Times have changed from the days of luxury binders with a series of 11×17’s full of grey renderings. Todays artists need to show both artistic ability, technical knowledge and show its application to a variety of sectors and applications with the design spectrum. But the challenge is, this spectrum is so far and wide and the choice of what to show is almost limitless, a lot of artists are left not knowing what to show and how much to show. In these modern times its easy to put together endless images and an epic show reel, but what does the  interviewer really want to see?

First of all you have to realize that an interview, like any other business engagement must be considered from the other person’s point of view. This meeting is all about them, what their challenge is, what they need and how can you make their job a lot easier. If you go in with this approach you are already on the way to close the deal. For instance, if you are interviewing at an interiors firm, they are going to want to see interior shots predominantly, if its a broadcast production house then you need to show something beyond architecture. Remember that the interviewer is (hopefully) a busy person, you could be one of ten people they are interviewing and they have been asked to do this on top of their day to day schedule. They are essentially fitting you in and making time for you. With this in mind your folio should be to the point, specifically focused to the company you are interviewing for, and show every skill they are looking to see. So with all this in mind, here is a breakdown of some of the basics.

Finished work, high end.
A basic one, but you need to show some complete photo-realistic projects, you should have completed the work yourself or have made a significant contribution to the work and be able to talk about your involvement. The range of work here should be very high end beautiful imagery. It sets the tone and straight away says that you have been involved in this kind of work and appreciate how to do it. The amount of this work will be dictated by the folio of the firm you are looking to join. If they only do very high end work, the work should be focused in this area.

Finished work, concept.
The reality is that we don’t get 200 hours an image too often, sometimes its just a couple of days to create something. You must show that you can create stylized work with alternative approaches to convey imagery in a short space of time. This might be mostly photoshop work, that’s ok. Just show that you can think outside of the box and are not locked into 3D thinking. This is especially important if you are looking to join a design firm, they will want to quickly explore designs with your skills for internal and external presentations. Show them you can do this.

Because your work is probably a team effort its wise to break down what you can do individually. The key skills are modeling, lighting, rendering and finishing. We will talk about animation in the next chapter.

Skills, Lighting.
Create a scene, and light it! The furniture doesn’t have to be yours, this is all about lighting and lighting only. Show that you can use HDRI, light interiors with no windows, feature lighting, sunsets etc. It’s very acceptable to talk about the image as a lighting study only. Focus the interviewer on what skills you are showing them.

Skills, Furniture.
Model your favorite chair or piece of furniture, do it very carefully, show stitching, ripples, everything, but limit yourself in time also. It needs to be something organic with soft surfaces, the more detail the better. Do a series of vignettes that show you detail modeled the piece. All images should be on one screen/page. Also show a hidden line wireframe version of the model with its poly-count, this will show an educated interviewer that the model is efficient and carefully modeled and not 200,000 polys and fudged in photoshop.

Sketching, composition layout and story-boarding.
The better firms out there will do composition layout on every image before anyone gets to 3D. Like planning an expensive shoot, someone will put pen to paper and sketch out ideas of what the image will look like. If you have done this, show an example, if you haven’t don’t worry, as I mentioned its only a few firms do this, but it shows forethought and attention to planning. Story-boarding and sketching are also important, if you can’t sketch well, that’s OK, show animation planning in whatever way you can, but show planning.

2D finishing work.
Not enough people show finishing skills. Take a raw rendered image, and finish the shot in photoshop or your favorite program. The point here is to show you can take a raw rendered image and add the artists touch to the image. This will include highlights, low-lights, shadow, spec, reflection, entourage, props, color correction, DOF and many others. Show that you understand how to craft an image rather than just rely on the computer to make it real. If you have any matte painting work, here is where you show it.

Personal work.
This is where you can show your ‘cool’ stuff, maybe your projects you are doing at home, highly stylized work and work that may not be typical day to day style. This is showing that you have a personal style, you are not a 9-5’er and this is your passion and not your job. You can also show photography, painting, sketching and any other skill you haven’t already shown. Keep this work till the end.

So how much should this all be? Well I have interviewed enough artists and can tell you after 20 images, an initial lean downward has happened. Keep it between 10 and 20. The complete finished images should be at least 4-5 images. You might want to keep other images on a thumb drive or another folder on your laptop, so if they want to see more of one thing, you can pull out another set of images.

How should you present it? Take your laptop with your folio, a thumb drive with your folio, and email it to yourself from an address you could pick up at their location. If you don’t turn up with your folio you are wasting everybody’s time. The last thing you can do, and one I highly recommend is put your folio on a website, make it secure of you have to, but this is the easiest way and the safest way to make sure that when you get there, if all else fails, they have an internet connection. You can do this on your own website or just go to coroflot.com, deviantart.com or any other folio website. Its free and easy.

Wear something smart casual and above all else, LOSE THE ATTITUDE!! I say this after so many artists have walked through the door and told me how great they are, why I should be humbled and how they have 5 offers already. Would you go on a first date and say that? No! Be respectful, friendly, and remember, the interviewer is not only looking at your skills but how you will fit with the team and how you will work under pressure.

One last thing Ill mention is copyright. Check with your past employers if they are ok with you showing the work you did under their employment in an interview, or on a website. They may be under a confidentiality agreement, and if they are, so are you. Get permission first. Sometimes this is just a formality, sometimes it’s a serious difficulty and furthermore a fundamental problem that you are going to have to consider.

Next: What should your reel show?


12 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Fantastic article. You have touched on a lot of good points here. I look forward to further articles by you. Thanks.

Comment by Joseph Skowron

Great article! this will help a lot of people.

Comment by sdb

very good article, especially these days, there is a lot of time to prepare an awesome portfolio!

Comment by Arthur

Wonderful…its gonna help me in preparing my portfolio. Looking forward for more articles..

Comment by Sonal

Done great man.. keep Continue .. I got a idea for my portfolio, thanks

Comment by rexluvs

Hola..i´m new in the 3d´s world and i´m doing my own portfolium, for achitectural visualization. Your article was very helpfull..thanks for the tips

Comment by André João Cordeiro

Nice reminders and tips. Always looking for fresh creative portfolios. Feel free to drop me a line if you are in motion graphics/broadcast design and have new work to share.


Comment by Denny

very informative, thanks a lot Andy 🙂

Comment by pradipta

Good advice all round. I especially agree that finishing skills are valuable to showcase, and it’s wise to point out what skills you are showing. I have shown a raw render out of Max along with the finished piece from Photoshop. ALso, target your portfolio to a specific company, or at least to a specific field.
Here’s the big question: How to get from the slush pile to that interview?


Comment by Tom Cipolla

Very well written article. Thanks, check out also our 3D Rendering

Comment by Joanna

[…] How to prepare a 3D portfolio for an interview. « Eyecandy. […]

Pingback by How to prepare a 3D portfolio for an interview « Imran Desai

wow, inspires me more.. ill work harder to achieved like what you are now..thank you..

Comment by lostinsight

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