View Full Version : Lightwave and a career...

01-04-2004, 07:58 AM
Hi All,

Just some thoughts and questions re Pro use of lightwave.

I am a hobbyist lightwave user simply making my way through countless tutorials and books at the moment to improve my skills, however like many people I have aspirations to one day make some money from this stuff. To be honest, it's not really a lot of money I want to make, it's more that I would just like to do 3d for a living...(and no, I'm not a student or school leaver, more an 'rapidly approaching middle-aged optimist...)

Now one of the things that sold me on Lightwave over it's competitors is the amount of times LW seems to have been used in major films and TV shows. But then when I read articles with special fx people, or watch the specials on the various major film release's dvd extra's, I never recognise the screen shots! Also, I have never noticed anyone even mentioning LW on these sorts of documentaries.

So question number 1 really is, does anyone really use LW in major films and shows still, or have the production companies all gone over to more expensive programs?

If the answer to this is yes, how do people get to work for these companies? Again, when reading biogs of people doing the 3d stuff, it would seem most of them have been in the 'film' industry for years and have just 'developed' their role. Is it possible for middle aged people to jump on-board, or are these sorts of posts kept 'in-house' with new positions only going to the tea-boy as part of their apprenticeships?

Another question, is it possible to get these sorts of jobs by only being a specific software user, e.g LW. By that, I mean that as LW is so powerful and some of the stuff I have seen from people is just fantastic, would that be enough, or do you need to be a great user of many of the modelling and animation packages on the market? So, does anyone produce this stuff and make a living just by using LW?

I appreciate this forum isn't really supposed to be a career advisors type place, but hey, it doesn't hurt to ask so I can start to prepare my future....

Thanks people,

Kevin McPoland
[email protected]

01-04-2004, 08:53 AM
Originally posted by kevinmcpoland
Hi All,


So question number 1 really is, does anyone really use LW in major films and shows still, or have the production companies all gone over to more expensive programs?

If the answer to this is yes, how do people get to work for these companies?

Another question, is it possible to get these sorts of jobs by only being a specific software user, e.g LW.

Yes. of course! Read the list of production credits on the
NewTek site here. But these questions really lack the most
improtant consideration of all:

- Your ability as an artist and not just a tool operator.

If you want to get a job as a tool operator get into AutoCAD
or MicroStation where pretty much all you have to do is follow
the rules and be punctual and thurough. Or even page layout
work; Quark Express, FrameMaker, PageMaker, SGML, etc.

Demo reels and previous projects that show your abilities
as an artist. This is the convincing factor for most employers
unless they're looking for someone in a pinch and need a LWer
to fill a seat (which does happen sometimes).

Usually not. It's fairly easy to lean or teach a new UI but
it's incalculatable how long an individual will take to learn
good art skills.

The optimal path seems to me to be to pick an application that
does the most with the shortest learning curve and the lowest
cost. Learn the UI quickly and then focus on technique. Artistry
Technique. Then the demo tape. Then the job.

Also alot of potential employers read these sites so if you're
a fast learner it could be to your advantage to post your progress
on line as you grow proficient at 3D art and animation. If you were
able to go from beginner to producing good works in a relativly
short peroid of time someone will likly pick you up. Afterall if you
can do that on your own what will you be able to do for the Co.
in a nice environment. Stay out of the political hoo-haw too btw,
I don't know of anyone that likes overly vocal staffers upsetting
others around them in the workplace. Art school is always a plus.

Hope that helps.

01-04-2004, 10:27 AM
heehee, you described me pretty well there too Kevin.
Two things came to mind: 1. Remember Victor Navone and alien song (who now works for Pixar partly on the strength of it) was done in Hash Animation master and 2. I've often personally speculated that theres a bit of politics behind the fact that none of the screen shots show them using LW in action, i.e. the film-making companies will always ensure the documentary's cameras are trained on their most expensive workstation/application/employee. but that's prolly sour grapes on my part :)
good luck with the career, its something that's hard not to enjoy doing, even when ignoring your level of sucess.

Steve McRae
01-04-2004, 02:32 PM
. . . hey Kevin - this link should help answer some questions for you both in software and career advice - Jeremy Birn works for Pixar as a TD


. . . the biggest suprise to me in getting into this field was that 3D is a lifestyle, not a just a career - expect to put everything you have into it to get good . . .

. . . for more CG career advice definitely visit this forum:


. . . hope that helps =) . . .

01-04-2004, 02:50 PM
I'd like to point out that it helps to use a 3D package that isn't brain surgery to use, (Maya) but is still powerful enough for production work (LW) - and is a pure joy to use! (just my opinion) If LW wasn't so much fun to use, I wouldn't have learned nearly as fast. It's taken me 4 years to get my first job, totally worth it.

01-04-2004, 08:14 PM
To add my tuppence worth.

The results of your work are what people look at. If you had to get a job at a studio using Maya, and your LW work was exeptional, you are still in with a good chance. The main hurdle you face is learning the general stuff such as modelling, texturing, lighting etc. The rest is learning to use the tool. Most experienced 3d artists could probably get by on another app with a week or 2 experience, and all of the main ones have 'learning' versions for free these days.

My advice would be to apply for jobs even when they were specifically asking for other 3d app experience. The worst they can do is say no.

For example - I'm currently the only LW artist in our company (that I know of), I get the work done just as well as all those Max boys & that's all they care about.

01-05-2004, 05:36 AM
I feel like putting a word in here too. :)
To me there's two areas that really stand out as being important. The first is art and the second is 'technical'.

I think that if your art skills are lacking then the ability to write plugins or exceptional problem sovling is equally as important as the art side of things. Purely because there are _always_ problems that need to be sovled - and the quicker the better. Having an understanding of the art involved alongside the technical will boost your ability to understand and solve problems for others as well as yourself (great for team work!).

From the artistic side, i think you could break down into concept(and development), modeling, texturing, lighting, and animation(which can be split into rigging, keyframing, inbetweening...).

I've always been told to focus on an area, like texturing & lighting, and do it really well for the demo reel taylored for the job. Yes you want your reel to look amazing, but if your going for a modeling job when the focus of you reel is texturing & lighting... You get the idea.

I think if you really lean lightwave well, and the fundimential basis in which 3D cg works, then being able to use any program will come easy for you.
Dammit, gotta rush - lunch time! Hope this helps, im only a part time student and freelancer, but i think what is said applies. Evreyone else will know better! :)

01-05-2004, 08:16 AM
Just a thought but..

Why Hollywood??? Why Big films???

Dosen't say where you live but, you also have to take other factors into account.

The MAIN one is odds. Would your odds be better in going to major films OR a local cable company or local broadcast station doing station IDs, Logos, and yes, the invariable titling, (yes sounds boring, but your foot is in the door AND your working).

I started with the Amiga and the Toaster/Flyer
Did the usual weddings, titling (you know the boring stuff).

But I was able to start my own company, do local work and was busy all the time doing 3D work.

But my dreams took over and for the last (almost 3 years) haven't taken in any work due to choice, because I am writing, producing, a complete 4 hour documentary totally done in the VideoToaster suite, and it is taking ALL my time.. With money saved from earlier buisnesses,(weddings and such).

And none was done with other so-called High-End programs.

So maby you shouldn't ONLY look at Hollywood.

Look at the VT3, you might get some good ideas,too.

my .02 worth.

01-05-2004, 08:28 AM
Tought I might leave you with a couple of hints.

Got high schools around your area? They have yearbooks?

How bout if someone came in and did 'Video' type year books?
where 'someone' (ie you) filmed the year in video?? All the football games, proms, plays..usual school stuff
And with the VT3 and Aura the kids can sign the video in real time.

Enough kids there to warrent a 29.00 'year video' instead of the usual 49.00 for a book??

Got a place and enough kids around to do a MTv type Karaoke setup...you know Live singing in front of greenscreen, and you put in backgrounds to kinda match songs? Worth 19.00 to do 5 min tapes? And a bonus to keep them coming back is 'do 9 and get 10th free and a DVD with all them on it' deal??

All easily done on the VT3.

Weddings start (when I was doing them) at 2500, and went up from there depending on content.

Seeds of thought.

01-06-2004, 04:05 AM
hey steve hows that documentry going?

01-06-2004, 05:19 AM
as for the question at hand as far as i can work out there is nothing that cant be done with lightwave with some effort and imagination so the problem of getting a job is only down to how well u know your program of choice and your imagination and lateral thinking, but you'd be a fool to limit yourself to one program, if another 3d program does something better then use it for that process,

i LOVE lightwave but i'm not gonna waste time if another program can do something quicker and easier or vice versa, i have many freinds the work with maya all day but still go to modeler when something needs to be built, the fact of the matter is that now days most 3d programs can do pretty much the same things, the buttons are just in a different place and if one more suits your style of work then go for it

most vfx houses that i know of want people who are flexible and are willing to learn and use whatever to get the job done, by all means learn all u can about lightwave but i wouldnt have it as your only tool

most full time vfx guys that i know, know at least 1 3d program inside out and have anouther 2 on the back burner, also have great photoshop skills (which i am assured just comes from alot of practice) and know at least one compositing program

if u really what a job at vfx place go to the web sites and download the company demo reels

then go tho the scenes and try to replicate them or something similar and get things as good as u can, and be very critical of yourself, just cos u do something thats better than you've done before dont pat yourself to soon cos it still may not be high enough standard, companies want you to be able to come to work find out there methods and then jump stright into the production pipeline

if u get stuck on how to do something, post the image or animation on these forums or somewhere like cgtalk and actually ask for abuse, then take what u need from the replies and remeber to ignore half of them too cos alot of people are more than happy to try and pull you down (check out their websites before u take there comments to heart, will be an eye opener) :)

then all u need to do is put together an imaginative demo reel that shows off all your skills and keep updating it so its always current

also try and get your name known in the community, it'll go a long way to making contacts that could get you an inside track when u need it and if u can go to as many shows as u can and start networking

and of course look for jobs on sites and bullentin boards and start sending out your reel

so what it comes down to is that if you are good you will get picked up, tho it might take some time just keep trying

sorry about the rambling text :)
good luck with this man, we all need it:)