vivo-movie-mob

Alumnus Jasmeet Sidhu skyrockets straight into 3D animation career

Image: Vivo (Netflix)

15 minute read

03/06/2021

Are you interested in a 3D animation career and would like to hear from someone who has made the leap? We focus on CG Spectrum graduate Jasmeet Sidhu’s journey straight from our animation course into a job at Sony Pictures Imageworks, followed by a placement at Soho VFX as a 3D animator.

Jasmeet talks about how his growth and evolution as an artist after the animation course helped him to solidify his aspirations and motivate him to pursue the career of his dreams. He also shares what it was like to work on the Netflix animated feature Vivo starring Lin-Manuel Miranda.

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Jasmeet, tell us about your journey towards achieving your 3D animation career. When did you decide on this as your career path?

I kind of fell into animation. Out of high school I went to university to study traditional drawing and painting but I was never confident enough to make a career out of it. That’s why during my time there I was always looking for courses that could provide a more linear career path. I found out that my school offered animation courses and I decided to enroll in them knowing that there will be a job market out there for it. I instantly fell in love with the craft and knew that I wanted to pursue this for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, at university the animation program at the time was targeted towards individual art making rather than industry practices. So to get a better understanding of the industry, I decided to take a course at CG Spectrum. There I was able to create a demo reel and build connections with professionals that ultimately led me to my first opportunity as an animator at Sony Imageworks.

How would you describe your style? Where do you get inspiration? How do you overcome a creative block?

I’ve often thought about my art style and ultimately I concluded that I don’t really have one. Or at least not something concrete that I’m aware of. I’m sure there are patterns and consistencies within my work but I haven’t given it enough thought to carve a style out of it.

The sources for my inspirations have always been arbitrary and just really depend on what I’m currently into. This can range anything from movies, games, anime, life events. But recently I’ve been trying to get more involved in animation communities online to see all the work that my peers and fellow animators are doing.

I find that creative blocks are inevitable and I haven’t really figured out the best way to handle them. Sometimes it’s about powering through them and forcing yourself to get the work done. Sometimes you have to just accept the situation, take the loss and go ‘Next!’.

At that time I try my best to keep my mind off work and maybe go shoot some hoops or play some Overwatch. Occasionally I can come back to the work with fresh eyes, but usually I have to just work on something completely different. When it’s a large project it means working on a different part of the project.

You completed a Fine Arts degree before doing the CG Spectrum animation course. How does your background in fine arts influence your aesthetic and how did it influence your entry into a 3D animation career?

I don’t think my time at university really influences my aesthetic but rather influences the way I handle critiques and criticisms. Just like any creative industry, you have to be able to talk about your work, reassess it and change it according to the project's demands.

The more positive you are and more willing to receive criticism for your work, the further you can go in this industry.

Critiques and reviews are also the best and fastest way to learn about your work and to improve.

How did you hear about CG Spectrum? How did the course help develop the skills for a 3D animation career, and what was the best advice your mentor gave you?

CG Spectrum was recommended to me by a professional in the industry. I knew that I needed a demo reel to get a job and I needed a place where I could take my underdeveloped animation knowledge, grow it and apply it to create a portfolio.

I saw that the course wasn’t too long and because of the smaller class size, and I knew I could make the most of it. So I knew exactly what I wanted out of the course and Mark Pullyblank, my mentor, couldn’t be more accommodating.
I learned many more things about animation principles and Mark really let me explore animation outside of the assignments. I didn’t really follow the assignments too much but rather worked on my own shots and I’m really glad Mark not only accommodated for that, but encouraged it.
The biggest thing I learned from my mentor was not anything animation-related but rather to enjoy animating.

I left every class with Mark feeling more confident and excited to make the changes he recommended and to move onto more shots.

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Looking back at my old stuff it feels like an entirely different person created that work, but that’s not me thinking bad about my work. Rather it brings me pride knowing how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned from then. And I’m sure I’ll feel the same way 5 years down the road looking at my work now. That’s my goal at least.

You got a job at Sony Pictures Imageworks as an Animation Apprentice straight after completing your CG Spectrum course, securing your 3D animation career. What strategy did you use to tackle the application process? What advice would you give to upcoming animators when applying to big companies?

I was very fortunate to get this opportunity and to this day I still don’t really know how it happened. I think the first thing you have to do is create the best demo reel that you can create at that time.

I made use of my connections at CG Spectrum, asking them for advice to improve my reel. I asked my mentor, students, other mentors, and all were more than happy to help. Then I fixed up my resume, wrote a cover letter, had it edited, and looked at before sending it off.

I have to give a HUGE shout out to CG Spectrum’s Career Development Manager, Maxine Schnepf. She was the person who guided me through the entire application process. I honestly believe I would not have gotten this opportunity without her help.

She helped edit and develop my paperwork, helped prep for the interview by doing mock interviews, and ultimately with all her tips and tricks about the process, I was able to get this position.

My advice to upcoming animators, whether it’s for a big company or small, is to use the resources around you.

Get people who can help you edit your resume or cover letters and try to show your reel to as many people as possible. We can get so caught up in our work that it can become hard to see it objectively. Animator or not, getting another set of eyes on your work can really help you pick up things that you wouldn’t initially see.

What was it like working on Vivo? As your first job as a fully fledged animator how did you find the process? How did the 3D animation course prepare you for the experience?

Working on Vivo was a blessing and a huge sign of encouragement for me. Coming out of my internship at Sony and being hired as an animator was really the first time I felt that a career in this was possible.

You spend so many years studying and training for this position without truly knowing what it's like to work in that role. So I was very relieved to find that I had just as much enjoyment working as I did studying and I'm sure a lot of that had to do with the team and project I was working on.

My leads and supervisors really fostered a learning environment and I really cherish the limited time they spent teaching me and assessing my work. That being said, it wasn't all rainbows and butterflies.

Being an animator is really hard! And I made many mistakes while I was there. I was so eager to impress and finish my work quickly that it took away from the quality of work that I was capable of. I learned a lot about animation principles and how to apply them to my work during my course at CG Spectrum, so I was prepared when I was given tasks and knew what needed to be done. However, I found that I was too eager and didn't ask enough questions to really apply my knowledge sometimes. I'm just really thankful that I had amazing leads that helped me work through that and I'm better today because of them.

You’ve entered animation challenges before. How important are these to getting your work out there and noticed? Do you recommend them to upcoming animators?

Oh 1000%!

An animation challenge is never about winning, it’s about practicing and learning.

In any craft you can only get better the more times you do it and animation is no exception. What’s more is that we can only work on our own ideas for so long until we get stuck, but these challenges usually have themes and restrictions that can help narrow down your ideas. Which is a great way to continue to work without exhausting your creative mind.

At first it was a little daunting sharing my work in these competitions because I was new and still figuring things out. But I learned quickly that without sharing, I’m going to continue to do the same things over and over and that means making the same mistakes over and over. If you share your work in these communities enough, you’ll start to get feedback and slowly start improving your work.

Your short films deal with the intersection of technology and human interaction. Is this a theme that you will continue to explore in your work?

A lot of my works in the past have been a bit more philosophical and theory based. I realized that where I currently am in my life, I don’t want to be working on such heavy topics. For now, I just want to work on projects that are silly and bring me joy while learning and improving as a character animator.

Jasmeet’s short film A Creature in Existence
What personal projects are you working on at the moment? How do you stay motivated to continue learning and creating?

Currently I’m working on a short animation film with my partner. It’s a film about our collective experiences as immigrants and children of immigrants finding a way to assimilate to the new world that we were brought to. I’m a 3D animator and my partner has experience as a 2D animator so we’re using Blender’s new grease pencil feature to create a film merging these two art styles. Neither of us have used Blender before so this film is a way to explore the technology and see what we can create from it.

This industry that we work for is rapidly evolving and new tools are constantly coming out to make our jobs easier. And in my opinion, it’s important to keep learning new things to keep your mind refreshed and open to change. Things that were not possible 10 years ago can now easily be created by the click of a button. So the more we know what is possible, the larger and more impressive things we can create.

Now that you have graduated, what are your plans and what kind of work are you keen to get into?

My current plans are to continue to be educated and to improve my animation skills. I’ve stopped looking at jobs as an end goal but rather a by-product of my skills and education. I also understand that I say this from a privileged position because I’m in a place where I don’t need a job and I’ve been extremely lucky with the opportunities that I’ve had up to now. But having said that, I believe that most of us are in this field to scratch that creative itch we’ve always had and see how far our skills can take us. I have that same itch and I’m curious to see how far I can take it.

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for current students who are pursuing a 3D animation career?

My biggest advice to current students, and something I have to tell myself often, is to go easy on yourself. We can often be our own harshest critics but need to understand that growth takes time, and growth is what we should aim for. I know a lot of us are doing this for that dream job or to be able to work on that dream project, but none of that can happen unless you develop those skills for it.

As long as you can look at your previous work and see how you’ve improved, you’re on the right track and everything else will follow.

Learn more about Jasmeet via his website or connect with him on LinkedIn. Be sure to also watch Vivo when it hits Netflix this month!

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