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Beginner artist goals, Well-Rounded or Specialized?

This has probably been asked before, lord knows i couldn't find it.
I am a beginner 3d artist, with dreams of being a hotshot 3d animator someday. As a beginner I'm still trying to learn and grow my abilities to get to that Junior Artist level. My question is what is the best use of my time to eventually get to that first job. If I have 2 years to learn what I can and put together a demo reel showing the best that I can do, should i focus solely on animation? Or would it be better to learn how to model, rig, texture, animate, light, and render. I undertand that if I spend the same amount of time focused solely on animation I would be a much better animator than I would be if I split my focus across multiple fields. Am I more valuable  as a good animator that can only animate? Is it worth it to have an animation demo reel where all the content, model, rigs, etc, is made by me. Or does it not matter to the person watching it, if I'm using the same models and rigs that they've probably seen a thousand times?

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  • Brian "Panda" Choi
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    Brian "Panda" Choi high dynamic range
    Focus on animation.
  • Biomag
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    Biomag polycounter
    Focus on animation and related fields. In small to mid-size teams animators often end up rigging (and skinning). You don't need to be an advanced rigger, but a decent simple animation rig isn't hard to build. It will also help you out understanding what specialized riggers are doing and make working with them easier.
  • TuxedoPato
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    TuxedoPato triangle
    -Polycount thread on specialist vs generalist: https://polycount.com/discussion/171014

    -A lot of it depends on where you want to work. Historically, large AAA studios usually hire specialists, which smaller studios may hire people with broader skillsets. However, with the quality bar being raised higher every year, even small studios are hiring more specialists.

    I'm still relatively new to the industry, but I'll give you my experience: I'm currently an associate animator at Certain Affinity. I consider myself a "specialist" in animation, but I have production-level knowledge in rigging and game scripting as well. I was also considered for storyboarding and vizdev, so I guess my 2D art skills are also at a decent level.

    However, my animation skill had to be top-notch first to even get considered for an animation position. My reel and animation test were enough to convince the team that I was worth hiring based on my animation skill alone. 

    When you're being hired, you're being hired to do a specific task. This task is stated in the job requirements, whether (for an animator) it's purely animating or also includes storyboarding, rigging, engine implementation, etc. If you want to work for AAA, chances are that the tasks you do will be highly specialized. If you're shooting for indie, then they're probably going to ask for a broader range of skills. In my case, the position of associate animator here was for pretty much only animation, with technical stuff being a bonus.

    If you don't know where you want to work yet, that's ok too. I didn't know where I wanted to work when I got hired. I just knew I wanted to be an animator. Rigging, scripting, and drawing are just some of my hobbies that happen to be at a high-ish level.

    -My overall point is that you should do what you enjoy doing. If you don't like to rig, that's ok. One of the seniors here only focuses on animation, but he's really good at it. Another senior animator here basically doubles as a tech artist. Both are highly valuable to the team.

    -If you're going to focus on only one thing, you're going to have to be really good at it because if someone else is equal to you in that that one thing but also has other skills at a professional level, that person will get the job instead.

    TLDR: look at your target goals (AAA? Indie?), do what you enjoy, and be good at what you do.

    PS I'm involved in hiring and reviewing applicant reels. For the animation position, I don't care if the applicant made their own models, rigs, etc. In fact, if they made their own models but it looks crappy, it reflects poorly on them.
  • tptrego
    Thank you for the feedback, I think I've got a pretty good idea of what I should be doing now.
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