Should i work for free?

This is a question that comes up a lot, and recently came up on a FUTUR livestream with Gary Vee.

As always the answer is: “it depends”. Some people think the answer should be a hard no. Others think it’s not such a bad thing.

I think the answer to this is pretty simple. If you want to do free work to get your name out there, pick the client yourself. Offer your services to a charity or any nonprofit organization that you care about. Or even if it’s a for profit organization, do it for them as a gift, but pick the company yourself and make like an homage to them. If someone comes to you and asks for work in exchange for “Exposure” that should definitely be a hard NO! That job is going to be hell, and going to drag on forever, and you are not going to get any exposure for it. So if you do free work, make sure it’s on your terms and you’ve picked something that will give you exposure. Make sure they have a large following on social media, and a large following that’s relevant to your potential clients. If you do character rigging, 13-18 year old fans of knitting won’t really help you.

For example recently I saw a Bee farming non-profit was asking on instagram about getting a character done, so they can educate children on the importance of Bee’s to the environment. I like the cause, i want to make a bee character for my portfolio, win win.

The other option is if you are doing something you have never done before and it’s something you want to figure out. Then perhaps thats a good deal for the both of you. BUT you got to remember the wider picture. If you agree to do free work, that means that company is 100% not going to pay someone to do that work. So you’re potentially either taking money away from your fellow workers, and maybe helping a business that has no business doing what it does ( since it can’t secure funds to pay you for your services).

There is also the option if you are working in an intern capacity, where you are not being paid, but you are actually learning valuable skills that you want to get. In these cases, remember you can always leave, don’t let them exploit you. Make sure you are still benefiting from this experience. If you’re just photo copying stuff and getting people coffee, you aren’t really learning. You might be building relationships for future work, but thats pretty hard to assess, so go with your gut.

So to summarize: Make sure you are benefiting from this free work. If you believe in the cause thats also great. DO NOT work for “exposure”.

Hope this was interesting for you. What do you think? Do you ever do free work?

Cheers,
Aleksey

Starting out as a freelancer in the 3D/VFX industry

More and more people are going freelance. Why? Well the simple reason is that there are more and more people who want to do the work, but the amount of full time jobs isn’t growing as fast. Also with the amount of different skill sets available, most studio’s don’t need a lot of these people full time. For example I mostly do character rigging these days. Most studios don’t need a character rigger full time. They need one just a couple of times a year perhaps, or maybe even just once ever. So freelancing in general a better distribution of labor.

There is a dark side to this trend though which everyone should be aware. A lot of studios hire freelancers because they know that most people are terrible at figuring out what they are worth and can be exploited, pressured and manipulated into doing waay more work for waay less money. Many studios will hire freelancers to avoid paying benefits or giving paid leave.

This is my advice to every budding freelancer. Don’t do it unless you have no choice. Freelancing is hard. Finding clients is hard, standing out from every other freelancer is hard. There are 2 real reasons anyone should be a freelancer. The first category is people who can’t get stable employment and simply have no choice, and the second category is people who simply HAVE to be able to manage their own time, their money, their projects etc. Take me for example, I’m a freelancer because i simply have no choice in the matter. There is no way i can go into an office every day. It’s simply not in my DNA. And i also love all the aspects around being a freelancer. As a kid i really enjoyed playing economic sim games, where you get to run your own business. Being a freelancer is pretty much just like that. Except you can’t always just pour more money into something, sometimes you just have to do the work. You have to build your brand, handle advertising and marketing, promote yourself, negotiate prices, manage expenses, plan for catastrophes and a whole bunch of other stuff.

So if you are thinking about being a freelancer, think about if you enjoy all this. Or does it stress you the fuck out. Because to lots of people it does. And if you just want to make animations or design characters, perhaps you are better off looking for employment where other people who are good at things like marketing and negotiations will take care of those things for you. Because remember there are only so many hours in a day. And you will be competing with people who really love what they do. If you want to go freelance, i always recommend teaming up with someone who complements your skills. So you can pull each other up. Or reach out to someone who is already freelancing and let them know what your special skills are.

This leads me to the next topic  Special Skills you need to have something that sets you apart. Being a generalist is important and as a freelancer it really helps if you are aware of the entire pipeline around you. BUT when you email someone or talk to someone, you need a hook, you need to be remembered for something. Some little piece of info, so when they are thinking “Damn i need someone to do this” They will instantly think of you. This kind of niche specialization also helps with google searches when people are looking for someone who does what you do. How many people are you competing with in your primary category? Know your competition and pivot so at least somewhere you come up at the top of the list.

The last part of this post i want to bring up something very important and that is: “Love what you do” . Because if you are doing something you are not passionate about you will lose. Why? Because you are competing with people who LOVE what they do. Especially in the creative industry. So always think long and hard about how you are presenting yourself and what kind of jobs you are attracting.

If you enjoyed this article, make sure to follow me. I got a whole series lined up. Next i’m thinking of writing an article on how to set prices and charge for your work. What do you think?

Cheers,
Aleksey

5 things i wish i knew when i was starting out as a 3D artist

People often ask where to start and what to do to become a 3D artist like me.

 

Im not sure i’m the right person to ask, since i just kinda stumbled into this by accident. But there are some very important things i learnt, which i wish somebody told me earlier, so i will share them here.

 

1. This is not a stable, predictable or lucrative career. If you need money, if you have to support your family, this is really not the career for you. It’s super unpredictable, skills you need shift yearly. You might spend a year learning something, just to have a piece of software come out that renders all those things you learnt obsolete.

 

You really got to love what you do, coz it’s gonna be hard. It’s like you know the story of people who go to hollywood to become actors. It’s kinda like that, but you add global outsourcing to that.

 

Now if you’re still here i have some useful info for you.

 

2: EVERYTHING is a remix. Everything you see made is rehashes and reworks of the work made before by other artists, thinkers etc. Current copyright laws kinda throw a spanner in the works, but it just means you have to be more creative in your efforts. This is something that no one ever told me, and i always tried to come up with everything myself. That is a mistake. Copy, transform, combine is the secret to success.

 

The reason for this is simple: There is nothing truly original you can come up with. All the things you imagine and create are influenced by things you have seen/read/used before. Invention is an iterative process, hitting things with your fist, turned into rocks, turns into hammers, jackhammers etc.. So you might as well take a good analytical look at the things that are inspiring you and figure out what it is that you like about them and implement that into your work.

 

Watch this video it goes into more details with a stunning amount of examples: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJPERZDfyWc

 

Also this is fun to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjmaOj3_sKk

And you can see this pattern not only in Disney movies, you can see it throughout hollywood. And throughout human history in architecture, art, stories, books, myths etc.. It’s all an itterative “small steps” process.

 

3: Getting good takes time. Developing your own style takes lots of work. Just keep doing it. If you can tell your work sucks that is the most important thing. Because if you can see it sucks, it means you will be able to see when it stops sucking. The biggest problem is people who think their work is awesome. Because they can’t improve. They can’t take criticism. So if you think your work sucks, congratulations! You might become a worthy artist.

 

Ira glass the gap, is a great speach to listen to, nice and short too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfA9OH6dAQ8

 

The missing chapter is a great video which talks about all the work that great artists made that no one has ever heard about: https://vimeo.com/87448006

 

4: Find people who inspire you and copy them, and try to get your work to be like their work. It’s the fastest way to grow. Don’t pass it off as your work, be clear that you are just recreating work that you find inspirational. This is very important, the internet has made everything very small and searchable. You will be exposed and no one will work with you. But while you copy you will learn and start to understand what it is exactly that makes the work you admire great.

 

This is something more specific to mograph and tv commercials, but nevertheless this guy makes amazing videos explaining concept development and the thinking that goes into creating cool stuff: http://www.division05.com/#episodes

 

5: Color theory is a topic which can hugely affect your work. Once again, grab color combinations from other places, photos, works of art, nature etc, and use them. Then slightly adjust them as you need. This is the best way to start out while picking colors. But also try to figure out why certain color combinations work and others don’t pay attention to what you associate certain colors with and then try and figure out why. It’s all about observation. 

 

Great color theory video right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qj1FK8n7WgY

 

Bonus tips:

I’ve found a great way to judge your own work, or try to figure out what’s missing. Is put it up side by side with the gallery of an artist you admire and see if your work looks like it belongs there.

 

Use pinterest to collect work that inspired you, you can sort it into baords and turn to it when you need references. Also its a great place to put your own work and see how to feels on a board full of works that inspire you.
Some good pinners to follow:
https://www.pinterest.com/bixorama/
https://pinterest.com/em404p/boards/
https://www.pinterest.com/characterdesigh/boards/
https://www.pinterest.es/raoul1983/

 

So there you have it, a quick list of stuff i wish i knew when i was starting out. If you have any stuff you think would be helpful to beginners and professionals alike post it in the comments. Im sure there are lots of things i wish i knew that i do not know yet 🙂

Spline IK – What is Spline ik? – Cinema4D tutorial

Use spline IK to rig your character spines, and much more! SPINE SPLINES!
Lets learn about making character spines using the Splike IK tag in Cinema4D. help your character dance and wiggle its hips better than ever!

Check out this spline animation tutorial for more spline animation goodness: https://ace5studios.com/spline-animation-tutorial-c4d-dont-use-pla/

Cloth Simulation to make a basic top tutorial

Cinema 4D’s cloth sim system isn’t the most advanced in the world, but i did find a way to simulate a nice top with it. So here is a tutorial about it. I also cover how to modify cloth objects and then keep simulating them.

Actually simulating cloth on moving characters doesn’t go quite as smoothly as you can see here, but i guess it just needs more work. I’ll also try xparticles cloth sim tools some time soon.

 

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A good way to stick clothes to a character if you don’t want to simulate them after you made them can be found here : https://ace5studios.com/surface-deformer/

C4D icons and their colors

Ever wanted to change the icons or the colors? Well this is how you get into it.

Download the file below, navigate into your c4d install directory, and then navigate to “resource\modules\c4dplugin\icons” and paste it there. ( make a backup of your original).

 

If you found this interesting, also check out this tutorial about UI customization: https://ace5studios.com/ui-customization-in-maxon-cinema4d/

customize the UI of cinema4D tutorial image

Tag Buttons

Ever wanted buttons for stuff like Protection tag, cloth or other stuff, well now you can. If you need any other buttons, just let me know and Maria will whip em up for you. ( also show her some support on her instagram page)

Also these scripts will finally allow you to create keyboard shortcuts for these tags. Which can save a lot of time if you apply protection tags regularily.

 

Kevin made some redshift buttons for you all, just throw them into the same folder 🙂

 

If you found this interesting, also check out this tutorial about UI customization: https://ace5studios.com/ui-customization-in-maxon-cinema4d/

customize the UI of cinema4D tutorial image

FFD deformer tips

In this tutorial i go over how to more effectively use the FFD tutorial in Cinema 4D. Use a pose morph tag to store states, you can also use the same tag to transfer info between FFD objects

 

If you found this interesting, also check out this tutorial about UI customization: https://ace5studios.com/ui-customization-in-maxon-cinema4d/

customize the UI of cinema4D tutorial image

IK vs FK – Whats the difference why do you need them?

Ever Wonder what the difference between FK and IK is, when rigging this is a pretty common term. I go over the differences here and when you should use which one.

 

If you found this interesting, also check out this tutorial about UI customization: https://ace5studios.com/ui-customization-in-maxon-cinema4d/

customize the UI of cinema4D tutorial image

Tokens – file paths and naming made easy!

In this tutorial i go over how to use tokens and relative paths to making saving renders easier than ever.

Why do things by hand, if you can automate it? also great for keeping naming conventions consistent throughout projects and eliminating typo’s.
Some of the more common tokens are:
$prj: Project file name
$camera: Current camera name
$take: Current take name
$pass: Multi-Pass or object channel name (the defined multi-pass names). Primarily to be used as the directory name.
$userpass: Multi-Pass or object channel name (the multi-passes renamed via double-click in the Render Settings (opened Multi-Pass tree view). Primarily to be used as a directory name.
$frame: Current animation frame
$rs: Current Render Setting name
$res: Image resolution (e.g., 800*600: 800X600)
$range: Animation range (e.g., from frame 23 to 76; 23_76)
$fps: Frame rate
With CV-tokens you get some other very useful ones like:
$cvHeight: so you can name your renders based on vertical resolution, so you get “render_720” or “render_1080p” by using “$prj_$cvHeightp”
$cvUsername: Also super handy, you can add it to just folder name for example, so you know where the render is coming from, but doesn’t interfere with file naming
$mm $ss: For minutes and seconds, so you can save every render without over writing or saving incremental files, great for looking back over your project.

Do you have any questions? Be sure to ask in the comments and i’ll add the answers to this post for everyone to see.

If you found this interesting, also check out this tutorial about UI customization: https://ace5studios.com/ui-customization-in-maxon-cinema4d/

customize the UI of cinema4D tutorial image