Digital Animation portfolio advice

If you are invited to interview, you will need to prepare a portfolio of work.

Viewing your portfolio and any digital work is the most important part of your interview. The ideal portfolio contains around 12–18 pages of your very best work. Don’t bring examples of older work to show your progression; only show the work you are most proud of.

It is possible to get on the course if you are missing one or two of the below elements, but missing the essential elements for the degree you applied for will likely prevent you from being offered a place. When showing digital work we recommend having a copy of all the files on a USB drive (there will be Windows computers in the interview room to display your work on), laptop or tablet (phone screens are often too small to see work clearly enough). You shouldn’t assume you will have internet access on the day and it is risky to rely on online services; if a service goes down or website fails to load, we may not be able to view your work and this may affect the outcome of your interview.

When preparing digital work, please follow the below advice:

  • Still digital images are best shown as jpegs
  • Videos are best shown as MP4 (h264 codec) files.
  • Show any 3D digital models as rendered images, not the actual 3D scene files. We might not be able to open them and there might not be the time to load software to do so.

What to include

Each applicant is considered on their own individual merits, motivation and art work, but our ideal portfolio contains:

Life Drawing

This is the single most important part of the portfolio. Life drawings are studies of the nude from life, preferably not from photos you downloaded from the web, and yes, we can tell the difference. If you’ve ever made any realistic clay/plaster sculptures of human or animal anatomy we’d like to see photos of them as well (don’t bring the physical models though). We prefer to see these in traditional media (pencil, charcoal, conté, pastel, paint etc.). Please draw whole body images if possible; although hand and feet studies are interesting, you should demonstrate that you can draw the entire form as well.

Perspective Drawings

We would like to see images of buildings using correct 2-point perspective as a minimum requirement (three-point perspective is even better). These can be made in traditional or digital media.

Paintings

Demonstrate competent use of colour, composition and lighting within paintings of locations or characters in scenarios. Show off your imagination and technical skills. These can be made in traditional or digital media.

Character and Environment Designs

We want to see full-body front, side, back and three-quarter drawings of characters, to scale and in full colour. These need to be your own designs, not copies or fan art. Avoid clichés like space marines, ninjas and zombies. You can really impress us if you draw additional images of your characters in poses and add design sheets for props for them as well as facial expression images and phoneme shapes. For environment designs, show the location from more than one angle if you can to demonstrate what the environment would look like from different camera views. Make sure you use correct perspective. These images should all be in colour and can be made in traditional or digital media.

3D Digital Models

These are essential for application to the 3D Animation, Games Art and Visual Effects degrees. We rarely accept students onto these degrees without evidence of this work in their portfolios. 2D Animation applicants do not have to show this work, although we are happy to see it if you do have any. You can use any 3D programme to create the models, although we recommend Autodesk Maya which you can download for free.

Make models of buildings, props, vehicles and even characters if you are able to. If you are new to 3D modelling try to make simple props like furniture or other items you can find around your home for ease of reference. Make sure that if you are modelling realistic objects you base them on reality and they are accurate in style and scale. If making stylised models we would like to see the designs you based them on so that we can see how accurately you translated the 2D image into 3D. These models do not have to be textured or lit if you don’t know how to do this. If you prefer digital sculpting to modelling then show work made in programs like ZBrush or Sculptris.

2D Character Animation

Applicants for the 2D Animation degree need to show that they have done some frame by frame 2D character animation. We like to see walk cycles, run cycles, interaction with props or backgrounds. We don’t need to see epic story-based animations; 30 seconds of exercises tells us if you have the eye and skill to be an animator. You are welcome to bring full films if you have them, but if parts of them are weak, perhaps make an edit of the best shots to show us. This work needs to be presented in video format (preferably on a USB drive in MP4 (h264 codec) format. 2D Animation can be had drawn on paper or made digitally.

3D Character Animation

We like to see applicants for the 3D Animation degree have some experience of character animation, but it is not essential if you have strong modelling skills. If you are a stronger animator than modeller, then we are happy to see more animation and less modelling in your portfolio. We like to see walk cycles, run cycles and interaction with props or backgrounds. We don’t need to see epic story-based animations; 30 seconds of exercises tells us if you have the eye and skill to be an animator. You are welcome to bring full films if you have them, but if parts of them are weak, perhaps make an edit of the best shots to show us. This work needs to be presented in video format (preferably on a USB drive in MP4 (h264 codec) format.

If you need a free rig to animate with there are hundreds available on the Highend3D website.

Realtime Games Art

We prefer applicants to the Games Art degree to demonstrate some understanding and enjoyment of realtime game engines such as Unreal 4 or Unity. We would like to see examples of your models in a realtime environment. If the environment can have interactive elements (pickups and switches that trigger functions like opening doors, for example) then so much the better. Please try to capture any interactive elements as video, preferably on a USB in MP4 (h264 codec) format. If you use any other models not made by you in these submissions we will need to know where you got them from or who made them.

We are also interested in seeing video of any game mods that you have collaborated on. Make sure you can clearly explain your role and the elements you modified and what you did to them. This is not an essential requirement.

Visual Effects and Photography

This is essential for the Visual Effects degree (not essential for the others, although if you have the work do show it to us).For visual effects films we look for a combination of strong editing skills, on-set lighting, careful camera work (movement, use of lenses, composition)and the integration of visual effects (CG 3D models, effects work, simulations, matte paintings and set extensions, etc.). Please show evidence of compositing your CG into live action. We recommend software such as Nuke, Fusion or AfterEffects. We also look for photos that show evidence of lighting and composition as well as subject matter.

Sketchbooks

We love to see sketchbooks full of drawings and ideas. Don’t show us sketchbooks that are full of postcards and print outs of other artists’ works; show us how creative you are.

Evidence of coding for computer graphics

This is not essential for any degree but if you can show video evidence of tools/scripts/plugins/rigs you have created for 2D and 3D software, or examples of coding for interactive games, then we would like to see this as well.

Comics, Graphic Novels and Storyboards

These are not essential to any degree, but we like to see them if you have them. Make sure that storyboards are drawn to a frame shape that is the same as the final intended animation render, e.g. almost certainly these should be 16:9 rectangles.

Further Advice

You can view more course-specific portfolio advice at the following links:

If you would like your portfolio critiqued before the interview, start a thread on www.3Dhit.co.uk, our graduate-run forum. Current students and graduates will give advice so that you turn up on the day with the right artwork. If you have issues setting up an account contact on 3DHit contact Lewis Guarniere (l.guarniere@herts.ac.uk)and suggest a username for your account, your real name and the email address you want linked to the account.

If you have queries about the application process or portfolio, please contact Martin Bowman Joint Programme Leader of Digital Animation m.p.bowman@herts.ac.uk.