A quick break between the CTN posts. Something last minute and took me completely by surprised last week, right before CTN, was that I was asked if I would like to be on a super limited list to have my portfolio reviewed by Blizzard. I of course said yes and spent my last few hours before running off to CTN to put together a demo reel instead of attempting to finish my homework. The review happened today and it went well and I will be looking forward to improving my reel and applying to Blizzard's cinematics department. While my primary goal is still to enter feature film animation I will definitely not say no to games, especially not to Blizzard and their cinematics which are gorgeous. Following my review, AAU's Games Department hosted the first Blizzard Panel where they showed some of their work and talked about portfolio and internships. The panelists of the night were Tyson Murphy (3D character artist), Tad Leckman (senior training manager), Andy Lang (art manager of WoW), Scott Campbell (art recruiter), and Janine Tedford (university relations).
The night was opened with the cinematic trailer of Heroes of the Storm. It looked cool and fancy but I had no idea what the game was about. Looking it up now I see it is a MOBA which brings me back to fond memories in highschool where I would have LAN parties with friends and play DOTA. The character that I always played was the Pandaren Brewmaster because I loved his design, his ultimate is a hilarious split into 3 panda rangers, and his backstory from the the campaign mode of Warcraft III where he is a secret character unlocked through a special quest. He no longer exists as the same panda that I knew and love in DOTA2 but now I see multiple icons of pandas in the lineup of Heroes of the Storm so I'm hoping the brewmaster is in there.
There are two main sides to Blizzard. There is the Game Art and Cinematics. The interesting part of Game Art is that the artists are not just concept artists, modelers, or texture artists. With WoW as an example, there are only 2 people who are dedicated concept artists. Instead, Blizzard has each artist actually be the concept artist, modeler, and texture artist. Other roles in the Game Art department are the FX artists, animation, dungeon (which involve key story moments), tech art (riggers and scripters), and UI. Cinematics is run more like a small studio. There's the concept art, storyboard, layout/previs, modeling, tech art/rigging, animation, effects, surfacing/look dev, and lighting/compositing. Since I am focusing on being a lighter this is the area that I will elaborate on. The lighters are compositors and compositors are lighters which isn't terrible and I am used to compositing my own shots among all the projects that I am on. Blizzard does use Renderman as their rendering engine. Blizzard seeks to light their scenes to match concept art so that it can be very art directed. They have their own proprietary lighting tool that is not public so working at Blizzard will be an adventure in learning a completely unknown tool.
About portfolios/reels, a lot of it is about things that I have heard before. The reel is as strong as the worst piece and deciding what goes in and not is as important as the reel itself as it reflects on your judgement. Demonstrate abilities and interests. Design with viewer in mind. Always have it be growing as you are artists and should always be creating and improving. First impressions are important, whether it be the first image on a site, the first frame in a reel, or the first pose of of character. Be attentive to detail. While some companies dislike seeing fanart in reels, Blizzard is the opposite way and loves seeing it. Fanart shows that the artist is knowledgeable and has explored the worlds of the games. What's even better though is to show how you as an artist can take the game further. Blizzard loves cover letters so be sure to write a really strong and good one. Show your sincerity and passion of why you want to work at Blizzard. If you do get that interview, don't show up in formal clothes and a tie! They say to dress comfortably and it is perfectly acceptable to show up in casual clothes and even in flipflops.
The internships have recently been opened up. Among the many positions Blizzard is looking for 10-15 cinematics interns. The deadline is January 31st and it is a 12 week paid internship over the summer.
Blizzard also has an annual art contest that also has begun. It has the same deadline of January 31st and would be a great way to get your foot in the door. There are categories for environment, character, weapons, and game animation. What I would love to do is a very short, 10-20 second long, cinematic clip. Unfortunately I will be leaving the country briefly for winter break and have no way to work so that may prove somewhat difficult.