Getting that first job

Leinad
polycounter lvl 7
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Leinad polycounter lvl 7
This may be a bit long, I apologize in advance.

I have been doing the job search thing off and on for some time. The most challenging part has been finding entry level positions for 3D artists. I basically apply to any job that I am qualified for that isn’t asking for professional experience in games which sadly is less than 30 so far.

I am fairly up to date with 3D and video game development through many years of browsing polycount and the internet. The time I have spent on this site has taught me how to be a 3D artist, where to look for growth, and how to go on about looking for that first job.

I have spent many hours searching through various sites during the job hunt. I’ve looked through gamedevmap/craigslist/cgmeetup/polycount/unity/udk etc... and continue to do so on a weekly basis in order to apply to what I am qualified for.

The mentality is a bit odd. I have spent so many years pursuing what I love to do and improving my skills. I feel like I have a lot to offer to a studio and yet the difficulty in getting that first job for whatever pay doesn’t seem to reflect the level of dedication it took to acquire the skills necessary for the task when compared to other forms of work. It’s not about the money, I just want to be around professional artists, I’ve been doing this solo for a very long time. I can’t recall a time where I have met a 3D modeller/sculptor who had industry experience. My goal has been to work inhouse at a studio as a 3D artist, I feel that it would promote a dramatic artistic growth and help me enjoy the process more consistently.

So I figured it was that time again where I turn to polycount for wisdom. What am I missing? I feel that my work is good enough, and generally would reflect what I would consider a competent entry level artist.

portfolio: http://leinadirabka.blogspot.com/

Replies

  • Isaiah Sherman
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    Isaiah Sherman polycounter lvl 11
    Leinad wrote: »
    I feel that my work is good enough, and generally would reflect what I would consider a competent entry level artist.

    It's always dangerous to say "I'm good enough" if you're looking for entry level work.

    Your folio is full of characters, but getting a job as a character artist is pretty fucking hard.

    Your work needs to look professional for most to take you seriously. It currently looks like college work.

    I am not trying to be negative in any way, just keep working at it! All of us always have more we can learn.
  • Joao Sapiro
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    Joao Sapiro polycounter
    ill just be honest because everyone has been in your shoes.

    Lately i see lots of artists clinging to that "first job" hope and apply like mad while not polishing their skills DAILY .

    The problem i see is that they are more focused on getting the job , instead of letting the job getting to them, what i mean is , the artists that are sucessfully employed are the ones that make work that stand out , that brings that extra "oomph" like Gordon Ramsay would say . That is what will employers "notice" you , because right now the pool is flooded with talent, there are INSANELY talented characters artists all around, and getting work on characters is extremely hard , either you bite the bullet and work 24/7 to produce the most amazing characters you can muster , or you can stagnate and become bitter about the job market.

    TL DR : If you dont get work , focus on bettering your folio , do shit out of your confort zone, do something to stand out , you have to understand there are alot of stablished artists out there and that to compete with them you need to bring something cool .

    Good luck and get to work !
  • Leinad
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    Leinad polycounter lvl 7
    Thanks Isaiah, I don't think you're being negative at all, so no worries. Don't get me wrong, I know it's a dangerous mindset. But it is a natural state of reflection that I feel like my situation generally gets most people in. I've been trying to figure out and reason through what needs to be done. Part of that requires me to look at my work and try to be objective as possible.

    I am in the process of doing some more environment work. I don't necessarily know exactly what is college quality work. College work can differ significantly depending on the school and student body. I can assume it means that my work doesn't look professional which isn't surprising given that I have never worked in a professional setting.
  • Dudestein
    So there is the old way of doing things. Typically you're young, you're fresh out of school or you have some modest skill level at your chosen craft, and a company or professional takes you under their wing and you are able to blossom in that working environment.

    That's happening less and less.

    The more common contemporary track is where it's completely on you to get to a point where your skills rival what you see in the professional projects you would love to work on, and the teams working on those projects would be stupid not to have you on board. You've made the sacrifices and investments, plugged away at it like a mad man, networked, and gotten to a point with your craft that it's pro and attention grabbing in a way that helps you market yourself.

    I don't say this to discourage you. I say it to hopefully re-calibrate your expectations and how you approach it. Don't focus on getting a job. Focus on becoming the best version of yourself you can imagine. And understand that you're not alone. It takes most people a while before they truly realize the level of dedication and sacrifice required to make a dent in a career like this. That's especially true if you're isolated from other artists and you don't get to see how much of their time and energy they invest into it. It's often a situation where you feel like you're doing fine and working hard until you see someone who puts your effort and level of dedication to shame. Then you have one of those "ah-ha!" moments where you realize what it's going to take to level up. I'm not going to do your Googling for you, but there is a lot of sage advice online from people who have been through this process and come out the other side, and they share their stories. Reflect on what those people share and learn from the mistakes and successes of others.
  • Leinad
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    Leinad polycounter lvl 7
    Thanks Joao, I've had that mindset for a while now in improving my work. Getting older has a way of putting more emphases on making a living (at least in my case).

    What has gotten me focused on getting that job lately has been the understanding of how much more enjoyable the learning process would be when surrounded by artists. But yea, I guess the emphasis here is, character art is probably not something I should be focusing on and keep at it.

    One questions I've been internally asking myself lately is whether professional artists (artists who have previous professional experience) apply to entry level positions.
  • slosh
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    slosh ngon master
    I would agree that your work appears mediocre. Let me preface by saying that being entry level means nothing to an employer. Even if you are applying for an entry level position, most studios will expect you to produce mid to senior quality work but maybe be slower and a bit sloppier at doing it since you aren't industry trained. So, with that in mind, your work is still far below the curve...esp if you want to do characters. I am a senior character artist and have been doing this for a while and my folio is what I would consider "average." It's not bad but it's not great. This is basically the bar you have to hit. Of course, you won't be able to create a ton of characters very fast so just start with one. Try to make something awesome...and don't cut corners. You're characters looks unfinished texture wise, presentation wise, and interest wise. Make them more memorable, spend way more time on the details and the presentation, etc. Good luck!
  • Leinad
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    Leinad polycounter lvl 7
    Dustin, that is one thing that I didn't realize till very late in my learning. I never realized how much work it took to get professional quality work (I am still working on it). I had a vague understanding of it, but never a good grasp. I've been doing traditional art for over 7 years. And the skill level that I see in many artists here and on various other sites is astounding. It takes a lot of work and time.

    "The old way of doing things" is more in line with what I expected upon graduation. I know it's a possibility still, that's why I bother with job applications. It seems a bit overwhelming to have such a target, a target of quality that was essentially created by someone working professionally for years and then applying that expectation to someone who does not and is simply looking for the opportunity for growth. But I understand why that's an option now, there is simply a very talented pool of applicants looking for that job.
  • Leinad
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    Leinad polycounter lvl 7
    Thanks Slosh, I'll definitely keep that in mind as I move forward. I really appreciate all of the information you guys have provided. Thanks again.
  • Clos3d
    I really like what Slosh said.... I'm not a character artist but when I see what is being made by my co-workers you are far from your goal of landing that first job.

    I really don't mean to be rude or wtv, but you should work on textures/materials of your characters, like that goblin in your portfolio, the Zbrush is actually not bad, but the shaders come and ruin it all.

    Your resume can be more original and the fact that Zbrush is spelled wrong I can imagine how fast and clumsy you can be.

    I know is hard, confusing and frustrating, most professionals been there.

    Quality>Quantity.

    If you can make ONE character with a higher standard in mind such as:

    http://www.zbrushcentral.com/showthread.php?162670-Gears-of-War-3-Character-Art-Dump-(new-images-posted-on-Pg-17)


    You will have that job. With your skill level, it should take you 4 to 6months.And I garantee you will learn A LOT. Find a concept. Challenge your self.Don't give your self any excuses or ''is good enough''. It need to be badass.
  • Leinad
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    Leinad polycounter lvl 7
    Nice catch on the Zbrush misspelling. The reality is I am human and make plenty of errors, I think it would be quite unfortunate to make predictions of someones personality and work ethic based on a misspelled word in a document carrying many characters. My work quality is not a reflection of my work ethic but rather of inexperience.

    While it may not look like much, I am at a constant state of progression, I've changed my portfolio resume 3 times within the last month which leaves much room for errors like the typo you found.

    I also completely understand the sentiment of Quality>Quantity. The realities of it is that such quality takes time, I know this.

    As to make it clear, I don't take any of this feedback personally, I am grateful you guys have taken the time out of your day to show me the direction that I should take and focus on.
  • Equanim
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    Equanim polycounter lvl 6
    This thread got really depressing. I'm no character artist, but I think revisiting your first three characters, plus the gun, would go a long way. The foundations look really good to me, but it's like you stopped a couple of weeks early, just after blocking in the textures. (The centaur's low poly could use some optimization as well.) Giving each of those pieces another couple of weeks for texturing, posing, and re-lighting would give you insane returns for your time. I've done this before and it really is amazing how a piece can improve with a few crits and a day's worth of polish. (I'm not kidding, just a day.)

    In regard to the job market, yeah, it's saturated. Most game releases are not AAA however, so consider widening your search to include indie, mobile, 2D, and maybe even medical illustration. Also, don't over sweat your resume, it's fine. You could probably even take a few of the less relevant parts out but I can't imagine anyone's going to say "Wrestling?! Screw that guy." (Grats on that btw.) As crowded as the market is, new jobs pop up literally every day, so that's how often you should search for them. Apply to one place a day if you can, and spend the rest working on your portfolio. When something pops up, just take it because then you'll have some income and an experience line on your resume, even if it's just contract work, and that will make you look even better to the next employer. (Obviously you want to be wise about how you handle contracts.)

    Good luck man. Again, revisit those pieces before you start something new, and resurrect their threads in P&P.
  • PyrZern
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    PyrZern polycounter lvl 7
    I think your pieces will look lots better with more complex variety.

    The Centaur looks kind of nice, but not so interesting. Give him ragged shirt, torn chain mail and broken plate armors and maybe bad-ass looking axe or something ? And pose the guy. He would look awesome.

    The woman is nothing special but uses way more texture than a next-gen character.


    All in all, I think you're very close to making nice stuff. You just have to make them. If you don't already, grab kick-ass concept art and make them. If you design stuff yourself, it's very likely you will go easy on yourself.
  • Luke_Starkie
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    Luke_Starkie polycounter lvl 8
    slosh wrote: »
    Even if you are applying for an entry level position, most studios will expect you to produce mid to senior quality work

    This
  • Leinad
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    Leinad polycounter lvl 7
    Thanks Equanim. The current plan is just that. The goblin character was my first Zbrush character, I spent probably 1 year and a half redoing him constantly as I learned as I went. I would get to a point where I would say it’s done, and then a few months later I’d realize it wasn’t and go back and completely change things. I have more than 1000 files of revisions on just that character. I’ll be revisiting him again now, to improve the game mesh and then spend more time on learning how to texture. By the time where I figured out how to sculpt decently, I realized I didn’t spend much time learning how to texture because I never had a model that I felt was finished in the sculpting phase. So that’s why the texturing is a bit wacky. I never had anything that I thought looked good, so I focused on getting something that I thought looked fine and perhaps spent too much time in the last 7 months on getting a portfolio up and running so that I could start looking for a job.

    The current plan is to revisit the textures and material of all of the models and really start from there. I assume my strong point right now is sculpting, and the weak points are textures and materials.

    Pyrzern, yea I agree. I'll add some new pieces to the Centaur as well after getting some work done on the goblin texture.
  • Eric Chadwick
    Some excellent advice in here, and kudos to you Daniel for setting your ego aside to listen, not an easy thing to do. I added your thread here on our wiki. Some other threads there that might help you.
    http://wiki.polycount.com/CategoryGameIndustry#Industry_Insight
  • skylebones
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    skylebones polycounter lvl 10
    Some excellent advice in here, and kudos to you Daniel for setting your ego aside to listen, not an easy thing to do.

    More props need to be given for this. Lots of people start similar threads and get super defensive and pissed off when told what they should do and how things really work. It's refreshing and awesome to see someone actually read the advice and listen. Huge props sir!
  • slipsius
    Leinad wrote: »
    Thanks Equanim. The current plan is just that. The goblin character was my first Zbrush character, I spent probably 1 year and a half redoing him constantly as I learned as I went. I would get to a point where I would say it’s done, and then a few months later I’d realize it wasn’t and go back and completely change things. I have more than 1000 files of revisions on just that character. I’ll be revisiting him again now, to improve the game mesh and then spend more time on learning how to texture. By the time where I figured out how to sculpt decently, I realized I didn’t spend much time learning how to texture because I never had a model that I felt was finished in the sculpting phase. So that’s why the texturing is a bit wacky. I never had anything that I thought looked good, so I focused on getting something that I thought looked fine and perhaps spent too much time in the last 7 months on getting a portfolio up and running so that I could start looking for a job.

    The current plan is to revisit the textures and material of all of the models and really start from there. I assume my strong point right now is sculpting, and the weak points are textures and materials.

    Pyrzern, yea I agree. I'll add some new pieces to the Centaur as well after getting some work done on the goblin texture.


    Honestly, this is a mistake. If you constantly go back to old work to try and make it better, you are wasting your time. You are trying to put a bandaid on a broken bone.

    When it comes to gaining skill at the early stages of your career, its almost always better to get to a point where everything you do is a minor upgrade, then start something new and fresh. You need to start that new character / model from new because what you learned on the last project will make your new one way way waaay better, and you`ll do it faster. You need that strong foundation right from the get go, and you cant get that by revisiting old work with a shittier foundation than what you are now capable of.

    Basically, you`ll have a better end result if you do 5 characters in a year, than if you spend that year doing 1 character.
  • Equanim
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    Equanim polycounter lvl 6
    Just to clarify, don't go back and redo anything, I'm saying continue from where you left off. Slipsius is right, the geometry is what it is, but the textures and presentation are definitely unfinished. Spend a short amount of time (a week or two) fixing JUST those parts, and then start something new.
  • heboltz3
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    heboltz3 polycounter lvl 7
    I think your folio is scatter brained at the moment. You seem to be a character guy that has some props and some animations and some sketches. Axe everything that you don't want representing you/ shouldn't be representing you. Make a choice with what you want to do, and go for it all or nothing.

    I think it's kinda been discussed, but don't compete with entry level artists. Compete with the best in the world. See what they do, and then you do it. If you can't do it, make it happen.

    Lastly, don't get hung up on the job thing. Just keep working, constantly. At the end of the day if all you have is your ability to make new art, that should be enough to keep you going.

    It's kind of weird, like if you realize "why" you want the job (to constantly make radical/cutting edge art in a community of driven professionals) and then realize what you should be doing to get the job (constantly making cutting edge/radical art that gets noticed by driven professionals), the realization that the job is just a byproduct of the art (which should be the passion). That was a fundamental "a-ha" moment for me along my "first job journey".. but thats just my 2 cents.
  • MooseCommander
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    MooseCommander Polycount Sponsor
    As someone who got their first studio job before I had even graduated school, I'd like to chime in.

    My work is not that good. I would consider myself to be a very average artist, if not below average. I was able to get a job at a AAA studio for what I consider to be a few reasons.

    1) Work ethic. I take my work seriously. When given an art test, I finish my model, I do a write up on my approach with screenshots of my progress, and in-engine renders. Many people fail to do this. Going out of my way upfront to show them I will work hard under deadlines and give them a finished product goes a long way. The most important part of an art test is finishing at a quality bar. I see many people turn in unfinished art tests saying they "didn't have time to finish." You'd be surprised how many people fail this step.

    2) Be personable. This is a hard skill to master. I don't go out of my way to network, but I always try to be approachable and fun to talk to. This will go a long way in interviews, and is even more important in phone interviews. They can't see you, so you need to really get who you are across. Be humble. Realize they are taking a huge chance on you, tell them you appreciate their time, and that you will do good work for them. Tell them why you deserve the job over someone else - are you passionate about their games, or how you will make the game better vs. your competition. Even if they aren't interested now, making a good impression means they may contact you the next time they are looking.

    3) Luck. Honestly, luck is a huge component. Crystal Dynamics happened to be hiring for a junior position right when I was finishing school. Had I applied 4 months later, there would have been no jobs available. Timing can be super important, as are connections. Knowing someone at the studio can go a long way towards getting your foot in the door. Polycount is a great place to make those friends.

    Now this is the part that kills me to say, but...

    As an environment artist, I have many more opportunities available. I hate to rain on your parade, but none of my friends who are aspiring character artists are working as character artists. They are all environment artists or vehicle and weapon artists. Inherently, games need more environment art than character art. So what happens with character art?

    Well, a AAA studio most likely has at least 3 senior character artists. They will handle the most important characters. A few mid level character artists will work on NPCs, but more and more likely, they will be outsourced to China or a vendor. The sad state is AAA studios don't really have positions for junior character artists, at least from my own personal experience. You'll have better chances with small studios, indies and mobile. Otherwise, start considering building a portfolio geared towards environments while doing characters in your free time. You will be able to get in easier as an environment artist, make the right connections and work towards being a senior character artist from there.

    As someone who has recently gone through this process, I hope this helps.
  • ysalex
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    ysalex interpolator
    I know Ben (above) a little bit, and he's being just a bit modest, but he's definitely talking a lot of truth.

    Along with his point about luck, id add a sub category - black magic. Sometimes it just is or is not in the cards. I've been applying for jobs more lately, and have taken a good number of art tests, looking for that "right for me position". I once recently was in a position where a guy wrote to me to say how much he appreciated a tutorial I wrote. He used it to help him in an art test and got the job, he included a shot of the test. It was okay. Id taken the same art test a couple weeks before and hadn't even gotten a response back after a month + a follow up email. So clearly having some black magic on your side can't hurt. (I realize re-reading this that it sounds a bit whiny, I'll leave it in with the disclaimer that I am just trying to emphasize bens luck category. A lot of luck is definitely involved.)

    Beyond that, freelance is a very good option for character artist looking either for work, or to improve skill. Ben is right that character artist studio jobs are few and far between, but they do hire out a lot of that work. I know that sometimes I and other character artist have to turn down a lot of work. Actually right now I would say that every decent character artist I know is overbooked.
  • MooseCommander
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    MooseCommander Polycount Sponsor
    ysalex wrote: »
    Beyond that, freelance is a very good option for character artist looking either for work, or to improve skill. Ben is right that character artist studio jobs are few and far between, but they do hire out a lot of that work. I know that sometimes I and other character artist have to turn down a lot of work. Actually right now I would say that every decent character artist I know is overbooked.

    That's a great point from a position I have very limited perspective of. Many studios don't need a ton of in house character artists, but they do need characters. I think more character artists I know are freelance than not.

    I noted "vendors." Companies like Art Bully and such are always looking for talented freelance artists to fulfill requests. Try hooking up with them, getting some feedback and see what they think.
  • pior
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    pior insane polycounter
    Hi there -

    There has been a lot of great advice given already about how to approach things as a whole, so I will try to focus on something very specific.

    The first piece of your folio is a Demon Centaur. In itself that's a great subject, full of potential. Looking at it, I suppose that you most likely spent quite some time searching for references, and then incorporated them into the piece. The problem is that as a portfolio piece it feels unfinished : there is no pose, no striking presentation, and no lighting. Now I understand that figuring out all these extra elements and making them work would take even more time, and that's a bit discouraging.

    However ...

    Things would have progressed very differently had you picked a well-rounded, definitive piece of concept art to begin with. Something like this, by Frazetta :

    FrankFrazetta-The-Moon-Maid-and-the-Centaur-DateUnknown.jpg

    Starting from such an image would have given you everything you need to create a stunning portfolio piece. Instead of improvising and adjusting a design, all you had to do was to closely follow the formula of that picture and bring it to the next level by translating it to 3d. There would be no guesswork involved, meaning that you could have fully focused on demonstrating your mastery of the skills required from a 3D artist on the job, which is to translate approved pieces of 2D art to 3D. Also, having such an ambitious (yet precise) goal in mind would have allowed you to know exactly when you are done, ready to move on to the next piece.

    Someone actually used that image as a base for a 3D study, and the result is great :
    centaur_face_belt.jpg

    Another artist even made a physical sculpture out of it :
    screen-shot-2013-01-13-at-6-28-46-pm.png

    The way the cloth flows is remarkably true to the original painting, very dynamic and sensual. So cool !!

    Another example of this "no guess" approach would be this awesome recreation of the LoL Vi loading screen :
    http://www.polycount.com/forum/showthread.php?t=134162

    The artist took this :
    [ame=" of Legends VI Login Theme - YouTube[/ame]

    And made this from it :
    vi_1600x900.jpg
    Again : a very focused piece of work, thank to an extremely clear target.

    Now of course not every piece of 3D art needs to follow an existing concept. But if your goal is to land a job as a 3D modeler, I think this is a great stepping stone.

    I sincerely hope this helps !
  • Leinad
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    Leinad polycounter lvl 7
    Wow all of the responses took me by surprise, so much valuable information.

    Eric Chadwick/ skylebones: Thank you, setting my ego aside was something I had to do fairly early on. My goal right now is very specific, and I am very fortunate to get the advice of so many amazing artists here on polycount who have already been through what I am struggling with. So thank you.

    Slipsius: Thanks and I agree. I’ll refrain from focusing too much on older pieces. However, I do find that the goblin perhaps deserves a much needed texture update and presentation like it has been stated. I do feel like going with what’s been said so far and really focusing on texturing would be valuable regardless of whether or not I revisit old pieces.

    Equanim: Noted, I’ll just focus on the textures and presentation. Thanks again, really appreciate it.

    heboltz3: Yea it is a bit scattered all over the place. Part of it has to do with my late observation of the difficulties of finding a character art position due to the reasons that has been already stated. I tried to branch out a bit and the scattered result is due to the transitioning phase. I try not to get to hung up on finding a job, I just would love to have an environment that is more artistically socially active than my current one.

    Moosecommander/ysalex: Thanks for all of the advice. I will definitely keep it in mind. I am slowly diversifying my work due to the difficulties you and the others have stated.

    I am warming up to the idea of doing freelance, it’s just that it goes back to my previous statement. It’s not so much about the money, rather it’s about the people that I would be surrounded by. That’s what gets me excited, the money is just a very awesome bonus. Either way, I’d rather earn something than nothing so I’ll be figuring that stuff out as soon as I can.

    Pior: thank you. I'll definitely be moving away from trying to do my own designs, I am not very good at it and it brings my work down and increases the amount time I spend trying to make it work. I do feel this is probably an area where I should have considered a bit earlier as it is most likely one of the main reasons why I struggle with character art more than I probably should.

    Thanks everyone in this thread, I really have a much better understanding of what I need to do. Honestly, it’s not so much the process, I fairly enjoy it. It’s the fact that now being out of school the isolation of this type of work has intensified and I feel that having a studio job would remedy that.

    It’s been awesome reading all of this valuable information and really getting a better understanding of what needs to be done.
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