Archive for the ‘Career’ Category

Interview with Creature Sculptor for Pacific Rim

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Concept art for Leatherback for the Pacific Rim movie.

David Meng, sculptor behind the awesome Leatherback-Kaiju in the film Pacific Rim, was recently interviewed by Sculpt Club about his work on the movie. In this wide-ranging interview, Meng covered his childhood fascination with developing creatures – one of his early influences was Jim Henson of the Muppets – how he got started in the business and the creative process on the film.

If you are interested in concept design or sculpting, you will enjoy learning about David Meng’s experiences.

Reflections From a Level Designer on SimCity’s Edgewater Bay

Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

Cogswell alumnus, Kyle Brown, is a Level Designer on SimCity and was responsible for building the recently released map for Edgewater Bay. Kyle wrote a blog post for the company blog describing the process he used to create the world and some of the issues he encountered along the way.

Congratulations Kyle on a job well done!

Let us know if you have built something in Edgewater Bay.

Common Mistakes Made in Concept Art Portfolios

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Concept Artwork by Cassandra Matteis, titled Pixies.

Chris Oatley, a Character Designer with Disney, shares his tips for creating a great concept art portfolio by suggesting what not to do. In this short article – with accompanying illustrations – Oatley boils it down to 5 common mistakes that artists make when putting together their portfolio.

His advice includes thinking about the message your portfolio gives, does it fit the company you are showing it to and is it professional looking?

At Cogswell, students take several portfolio classes so they can revise their material over time. What are your favorite portfolio tips?

Number One Key to Productivity

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Do you have a ‘bias toward action’ attitude or do you let life get in the way of your productivity? In this fascinating article, Brent Summers, talks about why action-based behavior can help you achieve what’s important but also shares brief profiles of action-based creatives.

Their examples offer useful insights into how you can benefit from their perspective on getting things done. The piece also practical tips for you to achieve an action-oriented bias.

What  tips do you have for becoming your most productive self?

What is 3D Modeling and What Does a 3D Modeler Do?

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Student artwork by Joe Giambrone

We think of these individuals as the work-horses of the industry. Every building, environment and character has first been touched by a 3D Modeler. Basically they create three-dimensional computer models and provide the ability to view the object or character from all angles.

While the general public tends to think of these jobs being mostly in the entertainment or creative industries – these skill sets are in demand in many fields including military, architecture, medical research and even chemical research scientist.

To learn more about the tools a 3D Modeler uses, check out the article in Wise Geek or to learn how to become a 3D Modeler, read through the learning opportunities on the Cogswell College website.

The Gig Economy In A Flat World

Monday, June 24th, 2013

It’s been nearly 10 years since Thomas Friedman discovered that the world is flat.  His book describes a “plug and play” world built on an open, global, web-enabled platform that supports multiple forms of shared knowledge and work irrespective of time, distance, geography or language.  While globalization once was the province of governments or corporations, he proposed that the big change was going to come when individuals and small groups plugged in and learned how to “work horizontally.”  Keep in mind, this was before the smartphone.

A few years later, Tina Brown wrote in The Daily Beast that juggling part-time “gigs” was the career path of a rising “hustler class.”  What she called “gigonomics” boils down to professionals increasingly working part-time or short-term jobs rather than in salaried positions.  Her polls revealed that one third of the US workforce was working freelance or holding down two or more jobs.  By this time, the iPhone had been introduced but the “bring your own device” to work phenomenon was still years away.

How quickly everything changes.  What these writers could not see was how people would organize businesses around the shifts they described. Combine the global “plug and play” platform with “BYOD” and you get a view into what is becoming the gig economy.  While more people are able to work than ever before in history, to succeed, we must think in a new way.

Here are some illustrations of how employment is moving towards just-in-time gigs:


With over a billion unique individuals from around the globe using its services each month, Google employs them all.  Those billions of short search terms tell their systems what people are looking for, and what a user chooses from their search results list tells Google that user’s preference at that point in time.  This is the content they sell to advertisers while they reward all user/employees with quick results, accurate maps and other free services.

In this way, we all work for Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and any other service that uses our information for their gain.  It’s important to make the most of these gigs because they also put us in position to work with anyone, anywhere.  They afford us the best research services ever devised, the best news and access to the best people to work with.  Use these free tools to form your own small networks to stay on top of what is happening in your field or to help you turn a hobby into a career.

Magazines and news organizations:

It comes as a surprise to realize that most news now comes from unpaid sources.  As networked smartphones and their cameras turn millions into reporters, news organizations have welcomed submissions from the scene of events like the Hudson River landing of US Airways flight 1549.

Pioneered by the Huffington Post, the use of unpaid stringers and contributors has gone mainstream.  Even magazines like Forbes have hundreds of contributors to their web site. Such magazines provide a great platform for writers to be exposed to clients in the best possible light.  If you contribute articles to an industry-related news organization, you stand out and at the same time you are free to frame the issues you address in your own terms.  Be on the lookout for “Send us a pitch” links to become a guest columnist at the publications you admire and would like to support.

Universities and colleges:

No longer are university positions “soft,” if they ever were.  The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Adjunct Project reports that fully two-thirds of the faculty standing in front of college classrooms each day aren’t full-time or permanent professors.  In some fields, such as technical fields of practice, this is good thing.

Technology and methods change so rapidly that colleges are always on the lookout for practitioners who can teach.  The adjunct model is also a wonderful way to take advantage of high-level personnel who would otherwise not be looking for a full-time teaching career.  Likewise, professionals should look at teaching as a gig that helps expose them to standout students and new ideas.


Much has been made of the “lean startup” and its value.  One thing that the model creates is more serial entrepreneurs.  Their job is to identify a need and focus a team on filling it, at scale.  Tools like Kickstarter extend financing to artists, authors and other creative professionals by helping them pitch directly to their customers.  To date, over 4 million people have pledged over $600 million in support for over 40,000 Kickstarter projects.  To get started, go to their school page.  Your creativity and effort can result in gigs of your own choosing.


The Maker Faire and many large athletic and musical events, often once a year gatherings in a certain location, embrace large paying audiences.  While volunteers staff the booths and take tickets, out-sourced services create a state of the art infrastructure for these events regardless of location.  Gigs for electrical, sound, video, art and lighting infrastructure can turn even a desert into a happening.

Burning Man

These examples show how the gig economy is taking shape around us.  Once you start to see it in action, you might note how much of our lives rely on the efficiencies it provides.  So what can we do to make the most of these changes?

We can prepare for this new economic landscape by becoming networked problem-solvers. When you have an idea, research it, take pictures and notes.  Find or form an online group to investigate your idea and explore others.  Go horizontal and embrace the best minds you can bring to bear on the problems you want to solve.  Build a team of people you can go to with issues that lie beyond your own expertise.  Then, bring all the wisdom of your “small network” with you as you pursue your career in the gig economy.  It’s as close as your next gig.

Click to learn about Cogswell’s Entrepreneurship Masters Program.

About the Author:

John Duhring has been a founding team member at nine startups, including Supermac Software, WAiS Inc and Bitmenu. During his career he has also applied technology to learning at large companies such as Prentice-Hall, Apple and AOL. Follow him on Twitter: @duhring.

How the Animation Industry is Becoming More Nimble

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Form 1 3D Printer

Most of you have probably heard about the challenges animation studios and VFX houses have faced in recent years. Costs have spiraled yet the demand for ever-increasing levels of realism have escalated.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention and this article in Digital Arts online explores a few of the options that studios have implemented to increase profitability.

Solutions discussed include using more sophisticated software that allows companies to work with smaller budgets, taking a DIY approach to in-house green screen production to augment VFX shots, crossover between 2D and 3D workflow pipelines, 3D printing to create models and using 3D scanning technology.

What other changes do you see happening in the animation industry?

An Interview with Nathan Brenholdt on Being a Sound Engineer for SCEA

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Nathan Brenholdt (Cogswell College class of 1996) holds a BS in Music Engineering Technology and is a Sr. Sound Designer, Sony Computer Entertainment America

1.    Company name, your job title, a brief description of your job responsibilities and how long you have worked there.

I am a Senior Sound Designer at Sony Computer Entertainment America.  I have been here for 16 years.

2.    Can you give an example of what you might do on a ‘typical’ day?

A typical day is spent planning, recording, creating, editing, implementing, and reviewing sounds for our games.

3.    Can you give an example of something that surprised you about your job when you first started?

It was many years ago, but I was most surprised that my initial title was “Multimedia Specialist”, and that I received at home a generic form letter from HR saying they received my resume, and would get back to me if any positions became available – almost 2 years after I had started working at Sony!

4.    Describe your piece of the production cycle. How does what you do move the project forward?

I generally start early in the production cycle, talking with the creative director and producers about roughly what they are looking for from sound.  Often times, they really don’t know, and can only answer some basic questions about the overall game design.  Usually the type of game and overall look of the game suggest the direction of sound.  From there, I will meet with the audio programmer to design the audio engine and naming conventions.  Our design tools often don’t cover every aspect of sound, so we need additional support for things like debug displays, additional interactive audio parameter tweakers, implementation tools, and formulas for how sound travels through the environment.  Then it’s time to put together some of the main sounds, and get feedback on the overall audio design.  And the rest of the game is usually an iteration process: creating, implementing, reviewing, and tweaking the sounds, dialog, and music.  A fast iteration time is important because of the large number of changes that are made during the development cycle.

5.    How big is the team you are part of for a typical project? What kind of interaction do you have with other team members?

The basic in-game sound effects team is often still fairly small, sometimes as few as 2 or 3 people.  But those numbers can grow quickly if the game is large, or a lot of original content is required.  And once you add dialog, music, and post-production, a lot more people become involved.  A lot of additional work will get contracted out if the people aren’t required for the full project:  Foley, dialog, post-production, music sessions, editing, testing…  The numbers might jump into the hundreds, once you credit everyone involved with the audio in some way.

6.    What projects have you worked on in the past?

I have been most involved with the franchises: Twisted Metal, Syphon Filter, SOCOM: US Navy SEALs, God of War, and Uncharted.  I did a lot of work for the SOCOM games, and really enjoyed going out with the Navy many times over the years, recording their vehicles and weapons.  But with each new game and each new hardware platform come a new set of challenges, which is fun.  Also, games aren’t like movies.  The games are extremely dynamic and you have to plan for so many possibilities with a limited set of sounds and memory.

7.    What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Being able to do something that I enjoy that stays fun, challenging, and new.

8.    What advice would you give students preparing for a career like yours?

I would learn as much as you can, especially on the math, science, and engineering side.  Combine different fields.  You’ll open a lot of doors if your artistic side comes together with computer programming, scripting, engineering, business, or production.  Create your own projects.  Get involved with groups.  Apply for internships.  Measure your work against professionals or direct competition.

9.    QUOTE about how Cogswell helped prepare you for this career?

Cogswell was a great place to combine my passions for sound, music, computers and electronics.

10.  What qualities does someone need to have to be successful in this field?

The engineering, math, scripting, and project management side can be just as important as the creative side.  It’s important to be able to communicate well and adapt to changes.  And of course be able to create high-quality sounds for games!

Game Entrepreneurs Have Trouble Letting Go

Monday, June 3rd, 2013

Trip Hawkins

Taking your company from start-up to success and then selling it can feel like selling your first-born child. Most entrepreneurs have put a lot of passion, effort and sleepless nights into raising their infant venture.

Trip Hawkins, Alex Seropian and Tony Goodman share their experiences in the fascinating article in Game Industry International about what it’s like to create something amazing and then whether or not to sell it.

Hawkins is the founder of Electronic Arts, 3DO, Digital Chocolate and the still-in stealth mode, If You Can.

Tony Goodman (left)

Seropian founded Bungie, Wideload Games and now Industrial Toys.

Goodman launched Ensemble Studios, Robot Entertainment and PeopleFun.

Their advice boils down to – if you are in it for the money, rather than something you are passionate

about, that entrepreneurial spirit gets lost and that thing that makes your venture different from the competition is minimized.

What kind of company do you hope to create?

Alex Seropian

Cities Where Software Engineers Are in Highest Demand

Friday, May 31st, 2013

Source: WANTED Analytics

We’re sure you have heard the great news about the job prospects for software engineers but have you wondered where the best place to look for employment is?

Some of the places on the list may not be the first place you would look – Idaho Falls, ID or Lafayette, LA for instance but the fourth city on the list is pretty familiar to Cogswell College grads – San Francisco. This article in “Wanted Analytics” lists the top ten cities in the US having the most difficulty finding enough qualified candidates to fill their open positions.

Check out the list. Maybe it will spark some new ideas.