What Should Go in an Undergraduate Portfolio?

Thinking of applying for our BA/MArt in The Art of VFX? One of the most common questions we get asked by prospective students is: What should go into my portfolio? The short answer is – a bit of everything: drawings, painting, life drawing, sketches, scribbles, 3D digital artwork – whatever you have to hand – ideally uploaded to your own website or blog.  Of course, if you’ve already tried out some VFX software, such as Maya, Nuke or AfterEffects – this is very welcome.



Tom Box from Blue Zoo at Annecy film festival 2019

Art Skills, Computer Skills
We are looking for candidates with art skills, such as drawing, painting and design and, ideally, even some basic VFX work.

We’re also after candidates with some tech skills; such as a good level of familiarity with computers and computer software.  3D VFX is today a blend of art and technology.

At last summer’s Annecy film festival, Blue Zoo’s Tom Box put it best of all when he explained how Blue Zoo look for artists with “a blend of techy skills and visual skills”.

Blender. Free 3D software

Blender – free 3D software
At Escape Studios, we believe it’s a good idea to try out some 3D software before you begin to study with us. We advise students download a copy of Maya or Blender and try it out to see how you get on. 

There are plenty of free Blender animation tutorials at YouTube, and the open source animation software is completely free to download.

Drawing is a plus – but not essential

If you’d like to do a free Blender test, follow this link to the Blender coffee cup tutorials at YouTube, and see how you like it. If you enjoy doing it, a career in the digital arts might be for you.

Autodesk Maya
Students can also download a free copy of Autodesk Maya. It’s the main software we use to teach 3D VFX, and it’s free for students.
Maya is big and complex (and confusing at first), but it’s a good idea to take a look, as you’ll be spending a lot of time with Maya at Escape Studios.

Drawing skills
Good drawing skills are a plus (though they are not essential). But many very skilled digital artists don’t draw at all well.

We like to see sketchbooks. If you can, bring along a sketchbook (or an online blog or website) with your ideas and creative scribbles.

Online portfolio

Wix: free websites

The best kind of portfolio is a website or blog showcasing your work.  Check out our post here on how to create a free blog and/or website, and start uploading your work today.

It’s never too early to have your own online showcase, and it’s completely free to build a blog at Blogger (you only need a Gmail account to get started) or build a website at wix.com. You can also upload your work to Tumbler, which is very simple to use.

Hard Drive
If you’re not ready to put your work online, you can bring your artwork on a hard drive or memory stick. The best file types are JPEGs or PDFs; anything that is easily opened with standard software. Movie files in simple formats like .avi or .mov are also welcome.

 fast gesture drawing

Avoid Program Files
What we don’t want to receive are specialist program files like Maya files or 3D Studio Max files, or Flash, or AfterEffects files. These specialist files can take a long time to load up and the person doing the interview may not have the right software available.

Do a tech check
Just like if you were applying for a job, make sure you present your work in a format which is easily opened. Do a quick tech check – do the files actually work? And can they be opened in standard software like QuickTime or Adobe Acrobat?

Portfolio deadline
You don’t need to have a polished portfolio ready in time your UCAS application.  You only need your portfolio to be ready when you come in for one of our Creative Workshops. So, go ahead and apply early, even if your portfolio isn’t ready.

Finally, note that the list above is just a list of suggestions. We don’t suggest that you need all or even most of these things; these are just ideas to get you started.

The Escape Studios VFX Blog offers a personal view on the art of visual effects. 

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