Best Cities to Start a Career in 3D

Vancouver, LA, London, San Francisco, and Montreal

Being the center of the film industry, California has always been a hotbed for computer graphics, and it's no secret that there have traditionally been a lot of 3D jobs in L.A and San Francisco. But competition in those areas is fierce, and the high cost of living can make a "leap of faith" relocation seem rather perilous.

Here are the cities where we feel an English speaking job-seeker will have the best chance at finding work as a 3Dd artist within a reasonable time-frame. All of these areas are either on the rise or already well established when it comes to jobs in 3D computer graphics.

Note: Although job growth in the CG industry is above average compared to many American markets, it would be naive to say that 3D jobs are "abundant." The cities on this list are a good place to start looking, but even with a solid reel, moving to one of these locations will not guarantee that you'll immediately find work as a CG artist. Use these regions as a starting point, but always keep in mind that there are hundreds of smaller studios scattered around the globe that are equally worthy of your investigation. Check out this interactive map of most of the world's game studios—an awesome resource and definitely worth a look.

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Vancouver, BC

Vancouver, BC
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We put Vancouver first. Partially because it's a great town, but more because Vancouver is where it's at when it comes to 3D.

 

Pixar, Digital Domain, ILM, Sony Imageworks, Moving Picture Company, Rhythm & Hues, Method Studios, Image Engine—all have studios in Vancouver, and that's just the big names.

For those looking to break into the game industry, Rockstar, Ubisoft, Relic, Next Level, Disney Online, Capcom, and Nintendo Canada are some of the major players among dozens of smaller developers.

Vancouver's studios are in the same neighborhood as a few of the best schools in the industry, so there's a healthy amount of competition here. The good news? If your reel isn't good enough when you arrive, at least you know there are resources a few blocks down the road that can help you make it better.

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Los Angeles County, CA

Los Angeles
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L.A. is a little bit like Vancouver, but with more studios and more pollution. Hollywood isn't for everyone, but you're selling yourself short if you're interested in 3D and don't at least consider Southern Cal. The number of studios in greater L.A. is pretty staggering.

 

For film and animation, you've got Dreamworks, Digital Domain, Walt Disney Animation, Blur, Rhythm & Hues, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Vanguard, Zoic, and a substantial array of smaller houses with various specialties in FX or motion graphics.

On the game development side: 2k Games, Activision, Infinity Ward, Blizzard, EA, Insomniac, Square Enix, Buena Vista/Disney Interactive, Konami, Treyarch, THQ, etc.

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Greater London & Southeast England, UK

London
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Fueled in part by graduates from a strong animation program at nearby Bournemouth University, London has become the center of operations for 3D production outside the US/Canada.

 

For film and commercial work, Framestore, Double Negative, Moving Picture Company, and The Mill are firing on all cylinders these days.

There's no scarcity for game developers in the UK's capital either—it's almost as if every publisher that wanted to have a presence in Europe decided to set up shop in London. Activision, Atari, Buena Vista UK, Criterion, EA, Eidos Interactive, Konami, Lionhead, Rockstar, Sega, and Square Enix all have locations here. Start working on that fake accent...we mean...demo reel.

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San Francisco / Bay Area, CA

San Francisco
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Aside from the two enormous elephants in the room (Pixar & ILM), the Bay Area is a little bit lighter than previous entries when it comes to opportunities in the film industry. But Pixar and LucasArts play second fiddle to no one, so San Francisco deserves a place on the top half of the list. Sadly, San Francisco lost hundreds of effects jobs when The Orphanage closed in 2009.

 

On the game development side, the outlook is somewhat better. You've got the 2K main campus, Eidos, Capcom, NAMCO, LucasArts, Maxis, Ubisoft, Linden Lab (Second Life) and Zynga among many lesser studios. The Bay is a pretty good place to be a game developer.

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Montreal, QC

Montreal
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Montreal appears to be a city on the rise.

In addition to an absolutely enormous Ubisoft studio, Square Enix announced in Nov 2011 that they'll be bringing hundreds of more jobs to Montreal by opening up a new studio and adding staff at Eidos Interactive. Other notable representatives from the game industry include BioWare, EA, and THQ.

For visual effects work, there's Modus FX (who completed shots for six feature films in 2011), and Hybride, an Ubisoft subsidiary with a long list of feature credits to their name.

Also notable—if you're a software engineer, the headquarters for Autodesk's Media Entertainment Division (think, Maya, Max, Mudbox, Softimage, etc.) are located in Montreal.