Design Presentation & Report

for Greg’s modules Design Presentation & Reporting, he’s asked us to talk and interview industry professionals in order for us to make connections and help us develop a clearer and more informed pathway for ourselves into the work place after we graduate

because I want to work as an asset artist the first person I decided to contact was James Brady, a successful artist who gave a talk at the Ulster University last year, he worked for creative assembly for a few years and has recently went on to work in Scotland for the triple A game developers Rockstar north, who are responsible for the development of famous game titles such as the “Grand Theft Auto” series, the “Red dead redemption” series, the “max payne” series, “bully”, and “L.A.noire”.

James Brady’s assets are of a very high quality, I’m quite envious of his skill

all of these images can be founds on his Facebook page = James Brady

I contacted James through Facebook asking him for a few minutes of his time for a quick interview, which he very kindly agreed to take time out of his busy do so.

interview with james Brady.png


Interview with James Brady

ME: Hello James, Sorry to bother you, I’m a final year student from Ulster University, you talked to us for a bit last year, would it be possible if I could talk to you for about 5 minutes?

James Brady: Hey man! yeah sure thing shoot I’m in the studio so it might be this evening when I reply, but sure feel free to ask, anything you need I’ll help with!

ME: awesome! thank you very much, I really appreciate it 😊

ME: part of one of our module this year is to try to prepare a plan for after university, trying figure out what our next steps should be. I remember that you are an asset modeller and that is what I’m aiming for. could you tell me what path you took to get to where you are now

ME: so, what did you do after uni? did you go to uni? what was your first job? etc

James Brady: Ok I promise IL give you a lengthy response later 🙂

James Brady: Hey dude, sorry for the late reply, got swamped last night with stuff!. Ok so I never went to university, I am pretty much self-taught,  My first job well in the industry was the QA role at Creative Assembly but now an artist at Rockstar Games, regarding outside of that, my first job was at Concentrix in Belfast as a call agent lol not fun!. So if I am totally honest the best advice I can offer you is, you won’t know or be able to figure out what it is you really want to do during your years at university due to a number of modules etc you need to do. I’d focus on getting your degree out of the way (If you feel you need it) and then start to hone in on a specific area if you have any kind of idea of what that may be then its best to even start having a shot at it now.  Don’t get caught up in the ‘I’ve a degree now so why don’t I have the job’, companies don’t really care about formal education and they most certainly dont care about your assignment work, you have to really push yourself outside of university hours and show initiative and self-drive because the work you do in your own time and the skills you can show off go a hell of a longer way than any education ever will. If your wanting to get into the games industry, id recommend starting now even if your doing an animation degree, you guys use mudbox/maya but I would whole heartedly recommend you start checking out Zbrush instead or 3ds max if you can, industry uses both max and maya but more companies like Rockstar etc only use max’. I would start learning PBR theory and how to texture and setup PBR shaders ‘no point showing a portfolio texturing the old way, it’s zero points in your folio!’ and most importantly i would either start a group project if you can trust several peers or look online at MODDB for example and join a mod group. That for sure counts as experience!.  If the games industry is the way for you I would also hon your craft and really get stuck into a specific area, let it be characters, environment, props, weapons. No studio wants to see a portfolio of all because 9/10 its always, always pretty shitty.. I would learn how to make a nice highpoly, how to do nice topology, effectively unwrap that topology and then after you bake your normal and AO maps, learning to texture clean with PBR. Get to grips with either Quixel suite or Substance painter. Dont be worrying too much on industry workflow as every studio is different and use different tools. Showing your good enough as an artist and you have a good enough understanding of what your role entails is enough. Is there is a specific studio that you want to break into, joining as a games tester is never a bad idea, it gets you experience and you get to learn about their tools/workflow and most importantly make contact’s with their artists. When applying for your first job, make as much contacts as you can, a good portfolio is all well and good but if your not in touch with the right people then you don’t have a shot, joined LinkedIn, add all of the talent specialists or recruiters within the studios you want to join and email them 1 by 1 about the role you want to break into. I’ve managed to land myself an interview with Ubisoft in doing this. Most importantly have fun 🙂 just try not to get caught up in the whole uni side of things, if anything, in reality, it will only help with visa’s for overseas but even enough experience can be more efficient for that. This is all I got dude 🙂 Best of luck!


James Brady: Oh and be willing to sacrifice everything if you want this and make it your number 1 priority over everything if it’s something you want to do for the rest of your life, at least until you get your foot in the door 😉


ME: Heya James thanks for this reply, this really helpful, a lot of useful information, honestly I’ve been really thinking a lot about whether I really want to be doing this, honestly I am really trying and it this is really stressful, hence why I’ve been thinking about it so much. I really can’t see myself as anything else, drawing and modeling have become my favorite pass time, and most nights I stay in university until 12:00pm, other nights I stay until 10:00pm, so I guess I really do want this

James Brady: well time will tell 🙂 best of luck with it all!

ME: You too, hope everything is going well for you in Rockstar over in Scotland


ME: Oh, one more question, there are a lot of conflicting information on how much artists get paid, I know artists aren’t rich people but always figured that they get an okay amount of money (the ones that have there foot in the door anyway), so roughly how much do people get pet paid in this industry? 10,000 per year? 15’000 per year?

ME: It’s okay if you don’t want to answer that

James Brady: Ok so I won’t go into my personal earnings lol but il give you a pretty good breakdown, lets say you decided to be a game tester to start out, you would be expecting 15,000 a year but company won’t offer relocation as they don’t see you as a necessary need and QA are replaceable in their eyes.. Depending on the studio, if you land a job as an environment artist you would be expecting anything between 18 – 20K a year + most likely a relocation package of 500-600 pounds. When a studio hires an artist, they don’t have a set wage/relocation costs etc. its usually down to the discretion of the company and the person they are hiring to come to an agreement on wage etc. Companies often review salary either every 6 months or a year so your wage will go up depending on how hard you work/how much overtime you put in *be aware you will never ever get paid for overtime hours* and this also effects your bonus if the game does well when released!. Thats pretty much the reality of it lol

ME: Okay thanks for answering that, honestly, I’m not looking for a lot of money, I was just looking for a solid answer and you gave me just that, Yeah, I wasn’t looking to know your earnings ^^;

Alright, I’m probably keeping you back, I wish you all the best, it was great talking to you You’ve been a really big help, good luck with everything thing

James Brady: Good luck man



Because James specialises in the same area of work that I want to specialise in, for me, his advice hold a lot of weight to it, I have been wanting to learn Zbrush for a while so I’m definitely going to do that, I managed to get a hold of Zbrush and used it during my major project (link to evidence)

I’ve also looked in to Physical based rendering and although I didn’t get a chance to use it during the major project like I did with Zbrush, I think I still know enough about it to be able to use it, though putting what one learns into practice can be tricky, just because I know how PBR works and what the work flow behind it is doesn’t necessarily mean it will work exactly as planned, I need to do some testing, to ensure that I can use it

The fact that James is self- taught gives me a bit of hope, but also a bit of a wakeup call, he’s really explaining that as an artist you really must be self-driven and focus on what you want to do every day, this is something I’ve really come to learn from my time at university, having been introduced to so many talented artist, artist that are maybe 5 year younger than I am and yet have much more talent I can’t help but feel as though I’ve wasted much of my life, I feel like I should have been working towards my goals everyday but I foolishly believed that an education in art would give me tools and experience that I would need to progress and prosper within my art career, that why we go to school isn’t it?

I’m going to look into creative assembly, do a bit of research, perhaps they may have some job opening and I can see what a QA role requires

I think James has a point about not being able to figure out what it is I really want to do during university due to the number of modules, because there is a lot of work that I need to be doing for my university modules, I’m spending all of my time in university trying to focus on work and get everything done, yet despite this I find it hard to keep focused and usually feel as though I’m not doing enough.

because of how many hours I’m having to spend university it’s very hard for me to push outside of those hours, I could spend less time focusing on university but then I won’t pass and I even though it seems as though I do not need a degree, I’d rather have one than not have one, especially considering all the dept I’m in now considering it.

James suggested starting a group project or looking online at MODDB and joining a mod group. because I’m repeating this year, I don’t really know anyone well enough to start a group project with, however, looking online at MODDB and joining a mod group is something I could try to do, I’ve looked at the Skyrim mod community and I’ve wondered about making some of my own mod for the game.

I’m aware of this that I need to focus on a specific area thanks to past research, I think I really want to focus on asset creation, specifically weapon’s and armour, but I would really need to work on focusing in and making a portfolio tailored to that specific area

I’m trying to learn how to make a nice highpoly, good topology is important to me and is something that I’ve been working on over the years in university, I know how to unwrap an object but I feel like I need to be more effective at it, not quite sure what he means by texture clean but I’ve researched into PBR

I’ve downloaded Substance painter but I haven’t got a chance to use it

there isn’t much I can with this information besides continue trying to improve become a better artist

making connection…this! this is the most worrying thing about this line of work for me, as person with asperger’s syndrome, connecting and socializing with people is something that is difficult for me

I already have a linkedin account but, I’ve gone back and fixed it up, improving on it by adding more information about me and also adding, connecting, and fallowing more people, companies, groups, and organizations via linkedin

I think I’ve lost either lost sight of or haven’t ever really understood what other artist mean by “have fun”, fun for me mean video games, watching a movie or something animated, however, over the years, during time off, during the time of waiting for my repeat, while there hasn’t been any stress of deadlines I’ve found myself practicing my art and enjoying myself while doing so. I think really what other artist mean by “have fun” is fine out what you specifically enjoy doing when you are making art and focus on that, if you having to do something that isn’t something you enjoy, then try to make it more enjoyable for yourself.

Interview with Mario Furmanczyk.Interview with Mario Furmanczyk.png

A fellow class mate Tyrone kindly set up a Skype call to Disney animator Mario Furmanczyk. He spoke about how he went through a lot of different jobs and rolls, originally starting off as a web designer, eventually deciding he wanted to be a character animator. Once he landed on that idea he applied to CalArts in order to get the training and qualifications for his desired job. He strongly recommended looking for a mentor who was right for you and could help you find experience with professional production, for Mario, his mentor was Burt clyne. One of the best ways Mario spoke of for finding a like-minded mentor was to show your passion and learn about things in an obvious way in order to share your passion with others. he also recommended we should also be trying things outside of their passion and comfort zones in order to build your skill base.

Mario discussed how discovering one’s own animation flow is an ongoing process. Always trying to improve quality and efficiency is something all artists should keep in minds especially animators who must work to strict scheduling and deadlines. Meeting and working closely with directors and supervisors will help you as an animator to better communicate their vision into the final work. In the end, good animation is all about capturing the audience.

As an animator going through a creative process Mario spoke to us about how he uses thumbnails to figure out his key poses and acting choices for characters. His main advice on this was get to know you posing and acting process so well that it becomes second nature. He explained that the poses and silhouettes should be as clean as possible in the thumbnails and that you should rough out every aspect of the animation first, you should never go in to the specifics. Every acting choice has to mean something when it comes to good character animations. Constantly revising your work and having it reviewed by others is also important to the process and will help an animation improve. However, it is best not to spend too much time on the skeletal structure of the shot and move onto the bulk poses and animation as soon as you can.

good idea is to know how to sort of how to do everything else in the pipeline

He explained that there’s lots riding on the animator, they have to be the idea person, that mean always being able to think through a shot and see what makes it work, they’re given the sound/recorded lines and they have to think of loads of different ways to animate those recordings continuously thinking up new ideas to improve the animation with interesting ideas. The timing and posing of your animations can be altered and played with infinitely and will give the animation a feeling of believability.

Everything in your animation should be clearly referenced and the acting should be so clear that even with dialogue taken out the scene will still make sense. You should check-in often, it will save you time and prevent you from spending too much time on something people didn’t want. as an animator, you should find a way to make a shot interesting in its nuances. Complicated shots with a lot of action will always take longer, one of the longest shots that Mario animated took 2 months, the shot was very difficult, it involved 2 main character holding hands while singing and dancing with multiple other characters, however Mario explains that shots like this can still be finished within a reasonable amount of time with a good process that work for you.

When I talked to Mario I asked him about managing stress working towards deadlines.

he explained that something that really helps him keep on top of things is work flow, looking at a shot, looking at how it much time is available and how your work flow plugs into that really helps

there are some really difficult scenes to animate, where then it’s more about managing stress because stress cuts you off from creativity, best way to deal with that is to sit down clear everything from your schedule and just hammer it, try to really focus on it, even limiting your bathroom breaks.


Interview with Sandra Ní Chonaola

Interview with Sandra Ní Chonaola.png

Hiya Matthew, 
Sorry it’s taken me a couple of days to get back to you, I had to find a minute here and there to answer these for you –
ME: what was your first job and what was your first animation job?
Sandra: – My first job was actually working in a cloths shop in Dublin city centre, when I was about 16 (that’s if you don’t include paper rounds etc). It was an alternative close store that I used to shop in myself, so it was a natural enough progression.
– My first paid job in animation was with Banjax (now Strandlooper) on a show called Lifeboat Luke. I was doing an internship with One Productions before that, and if I remember correctly I was only getting my expenses paid (50 bucks a week). After the internship they kept me on – on the same wage! But for me, at the time, it was just important to get experience. While I was there, I applied to Banjax, and got a reply from Mike asking if I knew Flash… I did, and so we set up an interview. He later emailed me, to give me a heads up that they where changing software and that now the production would be done in After Effects, also to say that he was off the interviewing/hiring team, but liked me and wanted to help me however he could. He said that I should learn After Effects, if I didn’t know it already as they might ask me to do a test. This was a couple of days before the interview, I’d never used AE before, but I ran out to a book store after work one evening, got a book on AE and started to study it. I went up for my interview, and while I was there… as Mike has said, they asked me to do a test. It turned out that I had studied all the wrong things in AE and had no clue how to actually animate in the program. The book didn’t tell me what I needed to know. But somehow, I managed to pass it and got the job. I think they were just desperate. They needed someone and I was willing to move to Belfast. 
ME: going by your WIA profile, your first job was an accountant? I’m guessing that your good with numbers? do you feel like that helps you with animation?
Sandra: – No,I don’t think it helped much at all. Maybe if I worked in freelance, but I never have. I think the only thing it helped me with was to realised that accountancy was not what I wanted to do with my life. That it was actually animation. And no matter how long it took, even if it took forever, that I would rather do that than any thing else.
ME: going by your WIA profile, your first job was an accountant? I’m guessing that your good with numbers? do you feel like that helps you with animation?
Sandra: – No,I don’t think it helped much at all. Maybe if I worked in freelance, but I never have. I think the only thing it helped me with was to realised that accountancy was not what I wanted to do with my life. That it was actually animation. And no matter how long it took, even if it took forever, that I would rather do that than any thing else. 
ME: also, you mentioned that you did a project for One Productions and then secured a place in Banjax/Strandlooper with the help of mike, you talked abit about working for JAMmidea, but you didn’t go into much detail on the work you did for One Production or Banjax/Strandlooper, could you tell me a bit about those job?
Sandra: – I didn’t go into much detail as I wasn’t on either production long. With One Productions, I was working on some pitches. Doing some Backgrounds, character designs etc. Due to NDAs I can’t really talk about it. And with Banjax, as I mentioned in my first answer, I worked on Lifeboat Luke which was done in After Effects. I was only on that production for three months. 
ME: do you think the work environment or requirements for getting those jobs has changed, if so how? and was there a piece’s of work you think helped you secure those jobs
Sandra: – Yes, definitely. The standard of work is getting higher and higher every year. And animation is relying more and more on computers. There’s also a lot more avenues for students to learn animation these days, so there is a lot more competition too. That said, here at home in Ireland, there currently seems to be more jobs than applicants. So those coming into this climate in the industry are very fortunate. There is no one piece of animation (that I know of) that managed to secure me any of my jobs, though I have heard more than once that the person reviewing my application was impressed with the fact that I kept up with my personal work and kept studying. It showed real determination and those personal shots are where your personality comes through. So I found it’s good to have a mix when you can of both professional and personal work. So keep up with animating on your own time when you’ve finished college, it’s really important. 
 ME: do you think those jobs have helped you to get to where you are now and if so, how?
Sandra: – Every experience is a benefit and helps you along the way. Some more than others. When I was working at One Productions, for no wages, only my expenses. I asked if they would send me on an evening course that was being done by Boulder Media on Flash animation, It was being held by Screen Training Ireland and only available if you applied through a company. Later when I was working at Banjax and my short contact was coming to an end, I went for an interview with Boulder Media. Rob Cullen, the Creative Director asked me if I knew Flash, when I told him I had taken his course – I had the job, he said. Perhaps I wouldn’t have gotten my position at Boulder so quickly had I not taken the less paid job at One Prod’. Lots of things like that happen when you keep working and making the most of any opportunity you can. 
ME: I’m very interested in the idea of a mentor, could you tell me a bit about what your experience with a mentor was like, and maybe some suggestions on how I could go about getting a mentor of my own. is it possible to get a mentor for assets modeling?
Sandra: – I can’t recommend Mentorship enough. For me it’s what finally got me into features. That’s not to say getting a Mentor will catapult you into the movies. It doesn’t work like that. No matter who you get as a Mentor, the only way to progress is by constant hard work. There are different types of Mentors. There are Mentorships that you take under a school, such as Animation Mentor. And ones you find personally as you make your way in your career (paid or unpaid Mentorships). I found that the personal ones happen naturally and gradually. It’s not something that can be forced. Again, just by constant doing and taking of opportunities you come to know people and when you naturally build a rapour with someone over time, a Mentorship can form. The majority of times, it is best that these Mentorships have a purpose and an end date. Otherwise things can become stressful on the Mentor and he/she can feel under pressure to keep up the same performance over many years at little to no reward for them. 
– – If taking on a Mentor either through a school, or otherwise, it is of the utmost importance that you respect their time and efforts. You need to be punctual, and if you cannot be at class or submit your project on time, you need to let them know ahead of time. You should respect that someone is giving you their time and so put in your best efforts to produce work to the best of your ability. It will show that you are working hard, even if you are struggling. But lack of respect for the work (or in the case where someone is helping you for free, lack of respect for their time), in my experience is not tolerated. 
ME: what advice would you give to a struggling but hard working final year student
Sandra: – Keep working hard, and remember that you love it. When times get hard, remember that it really is only a cartoon… the world is not going to end. Above all, be nice to people. It’s really REALLY important. Be someone people want to work with. It gets you further than you think. People know when you’re passionate and driven, and if you’re a likeable person, people will help you along your way. 
 I hope it helps


Business Cards =



Cover letter

cover page image - Flickerpix - Matthew




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