Be a Solver
What does it take to be successful in this industry? Skill? Talent? Punctuality? The ability to handle every 3D and 2D application out there?
If you ask me, the most important asset you can bring to the table is to be a solver. In my experience with a variety of projects and companies being a solver is more important then all the above. Yes, even more important then being the best artist you can be. Whatever that means…
Who do you think gets rehired?
- The guy sitting there saying that he can't do the job because X doesn't work or Y isn't installed.
- The guy who delivers anyway.
I've met both types. But the only ones I meet recurrently are the second kind, the solvers. And it didn’t matter that they came in a bit late or that other people made nice looking images or knew more technical details behind a render engine. The solvers are the ones that time and time again prevail in my experience.
Becoming a Solver
If you are a solver already you most likely know it. If you are wondering what might be missing in your quiver to become a solver here are a few ideas.
Know Your Skills
Of course, you have to know what you are doing to become a solver. And that means if you are a 3D guy, learn your 3D related topics as well as the 2D ones. Be someone who knows how stuff works beyond pressing the button in your preferred software. For example, if you know how compositing works, you have a much easier time talking to the “comp guy” you have to most likely deliver your 3D footage to. Even if there is no “comp guy” and you are working on your own, having a basic knowledge of compositing will make your 3D life much easier. It will allow you to figure out 2D solutions to 3D problems. Like rendering in layers, fixing a texture, relighting and so much more.
The reverse is also true. If you are the “comp guy”, you better have a good grasp of what your colleagues in 3D-land do and how you might make your life easier by simply switching to a 3D app for a quick modeling session. Think 3D projection setups, 3D retouching, etc.
Get Some Technical Knowledge
Try to pick up a bit of maths and scripting on the way. It will help you more then you can imagine. From working around broken application features to helping you speed up repeating workflows to creating happy accidents with math. Peek behind the curtain once in a while and you will be amazed how simple most building blocks are.
For example, compositing is simple arithmetic 90% of the time. If you have access to a way to affect your image with expressions you can basically circumvent all of Fusion, Nuke or After Effects with a single effect/node. Newest version broke something you use often? Figure out how it works and script your own version. Deliver on time. Be a solver.
Do Not Be Afraid to Ask for Help
There is no shame in solving a problem together. In fact, it will bring the team closer together on a project. I tend to involve team members even if I know how to solve an issue every once in a while. Maybe they know a better way to do things. After all, it is not how great a guy you are. It is about getting a successful project finished.
Be a Team Player
And above all. Be a team player. That means it is your responsibility to know what other people’s skills and area of expertise are. And where you fit in in the project hierarchy. No man is an island and you do not want to step on your colleagues or superiors toes. Be supportive but know your boundaries.
Be a solver. Work and life becomes more enjoyable when solving things together instead of fixing other people's messes.