Chris Tarrant - Job Title: VFX Compositor - Works In: Games

What is your current job role? Can you describe it in a few sentences?

My current job role is 'Artist / Animator'- formally 'VFX Compositor'.I’m responsible for anything animation-related in the game; mainly characters, but also environmental objects, weapons, that sort of thing.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The communal spirit, the feeling of being part of a team that’s working together to build something that none of you could do by yourself. Seeing your work come to life alongside everything else that your colleagues are working on just doesn’t get old.

What are the most important skills and attributes for a person in your job?

In my opinion, the ability to communicate and work with other people is the most important attribute for anybody working in any role in a development environment; it doesn’t matter how good you are if you can’t work with other people. But for my job specifically, I think that one of the best skills to have and practise is life / figure drawing. Y ou also ha ve to be enthusiastic about animation and cartoons / games, you need to allow the work of others to inspire you and give you something to shoot for.

What are the top three things that you suggest anyone wanting to do your job learns?

Life drawing. Any 3D animation package (3DS Max / Maya), and then more life drawing.

26 years old bearded fellow who likes games, music, art, basically anything where I get to be creative.

I've been an animator at Four Door Lemon for three years.

What inspired you to get into the games industry?

I just didn’t grow up! I decided I wanted to make games after playing Sonic The Hedgehog for the first time (I was five). Teachers and careers advisors told me that it was an unrealistic career to aim for and I didn’t listen. I didn’t know that I wanted to be an animator specifically until I was part-way through my degree.

Did you pursue this career through any educational routes?

Yes. When I was eighteen and considering university choices, I looked at which were offering games-related courses and opted for Computer Games Design at the University of Huddersfield.

What kind of private study did you undertake in addition to any educational programs?

I attended life drawing classes as an extracurricular activity because our university didn’t do very much of it. I spent a lot of time reading books on animation, using online tutorials for 3DS Max, that sort of thing.

How did you start in the industry – what was your first job and how did you get it?

My first job was as a junior animator for Four Door Lemon, working on a handheld sports game for the Playstation Vita. I got in touch with Simon Barratt at Four Door through a friend who was already working there, and from there Simon took a look at my demo-reel, sent me an art test and the rest is history.

What was the biggest thing you immediately had to learn in your first role?

That perspective and context is everything. Animating for a game (especially on a small handheld screen) was the first time that I couldn’t move the camera to a more flattering angle. Basically, I learned that my work now had a real context, and depending on what that context is I would have to change my approach.

Do you have any skills that make you stand out amongst your peers?

I’ve been flexible at Four Door, as required I’ve been able to step into other disciplines on occasion. I’ve designed levels for games, gotten involved in art direction and concept development, build collision meshes and implemented very basic actions using scripting.

How did you progress in your career – where there any skills that you had to learn to support your progress?

When I was hired I was proficient with 3DS Max and animating characters, but the projects at Four Door Lemon required the use of MotionBuilder to retarget animation between several characters, something that I had not done before.

In retrospect, was there anything you would have done differently to get into the industry?

To be honest, not really. I attended a fantastic university, worked hard, sought out constructive feedback from my tutors and applied for jobs when I was ready. It all seemed to work out pretty well!

What are the top three things that you suggest anyone wanting to get into the industry learns?

1. A games studio is a place where people actually come to work. We don’t just sit around playing games all day!

2. Getting into the industry is tough, so find someone who you trust to critique your work and, if you listen to them, work with them and be patient, your skills will improve.

3. Don’t ever try to make a game just for you. What I mean is, everything in games development is some sort of compromise. Have a key audience in mind for what you are making, and it’s okay to be a part of that demographic, but if your game is being tailored specifically for yourself then the whole thing becomes extremely introverted and you set yourself up for failure. Know your audience and know what they like, know what games they like and start from there.

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