Best Cities to Start a Career in 3D - Part 2

Toronto, Seattle, Austin, Houston, and Other Options

Ok, there's is an undeniable drop-off on this list after San Francisco. Even Montreal, which made it onto the first half doesn't have the same level of opportunity as the top four cities. But that doesn't mean you should move just move to LA or Vancouver and be done with it.

No, none of the entries on this portion of the list have ten major film studios to choose from, but that doesn't mean they aren't worth looking at. More than anything else, these five suggestions should serve as a reminder that, just because you don't live in California doesn't necessarily mean you're out in the cold.

6. Toronto, ON


Arc Productions (formerly Starz) is Toronto's only real presence for feature level animation, but there are tons of smaller boutique shops doing motion graphics and commercial work.

A lot of the smaller houses specialize—for instance one shop might primarily do commercial VFX, while another focuses mainly on architectural visualization. Rather than list them all here, check out this list, which thoroughly summarizes the film & VFX industry in Canada.

You won't find as many game studios here as you would in Vancouver, but there are some big names, including Ubisoft, Rockstar, Disney Interactive, and Zynga (who seems to have made it into virtually every major city in North America at this point).

7. Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, WA


Seattle might be the major city, but the Puget Sound region is really the sum of its parts.

Although there aren't many options for people looking to work in film or visual effects, thanks in part to a certain enormous software company in Redmond, the game industry has a very solid presence here.

Bungie is in Kirkland, Microsoft Game Studios and (ironically) Nintendo are both in Redmond, Valve and Sucker Punch duke it out in Bellevue, and finally you've got Linden Labs, Zynga, and NCsoft West in Seattle proper. So yeah, there are options in the Pacific Northwest.

Another reason I included Seattle: There's no denying that this entire region is a technology hotbed. Being in Seattle definitely makes it easier to apply for industry jobs in Vancouver (or Portland, or even San Francisco) than if you were living in, say, Texas...

8. Austin (and to a lesser extent, Houston), TX


Contrary to what I may have implied just a minute ago, Texas is hardly devoid of jobs in the computer graphics industry—far from it, in fact.

I do realize that Austin and Houston are over 150 miles apart, but for the purpose of this list we'll keep them together. Austin is definitely the more fruitful pasture, but if you're looking for work there, it can't hurt to keep Houston in mind.

BioWare Austin recently wrapped up production on the wildly anticipated Star Wars MMO The Old Republic, and if you know anything about the MMO genre, you're aware that a developer's work is never really finished. Assuming the game is a success, there should be plenty of work at BioWare for years to come.

Speaking of MMOs, Blizzard and Zynga both have studios in Austin, alongside NCsoft and Mac publisher Aspyr Media. The market for game developers in Houston is pretty dry, but Archimage does a wide range of CG work, from animation to architectural visualization.

Finally, thanks to the presence of the oil industry in Texas, you may be able to find opportunities to use your 3D skills at an oil company. Although, keep in mind you'll probably have to learn new software, and it's rather doubtful they'll let you design video game characters while you're on the clock.

9. Outliers & International

None of the previous suggestions tickle your fancy? Maybe it's time for a move overseas? Or to Connecticut? Here are some outliers and international options:

 

  • Wellington, New Zealand - WETA Digital
  • Greenwich, Connecticut - Blue Sky
  • Rockville, Marylnd - Bethesda Softworks
  • Sydney, Australia - Animal Logic, Konami, Sega, Take 2 Interactive
  • Glasgow, Scotland - Axis Entertainment
  • Edinburgh, Scotland - Rockstar North
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil - Disney Interactive, EA Brazil, Ubisoft
  • Madrid, Spain - EA Spain, Take 2 Espana

One thing I want to add: I didn't include any Asian cities—partially because I wasn't sure which ones to add, but mostly because I assume people reading this site are more likely to be looking for work in an English speaking country.

Undoubtedly, there are a lot of 3D jobs in Asia (especially Japan and Korea), but they're pretty darn good at cultivating their own talent. 

10. Your Hometown


I know I have a habit of getting a bit abstract with the the last entry on my lists, but bear with me—there are legitimate reasons for including this:

  1. No, there might not be a high profile film or game studio in your hometown, but look very carefully and I bet you'll find at least one local business doing some sort of work related to computer graphics. Even if it's just a two-man operation in rented office space, a place like this can be a perfect way to gain entry level experience.

    When it comes down to it, who's more likely to hire you? Pixar, or the guys down the street that probably need your help as much as you need the work experience. Can't hurt to send an email and a reel, right?
  2. Second, freelance is a huge part of the 3d industry. Even at major VFX studios, a significant percent of the workforce are freelancers. The nice thing about freelance work? A lot of the time you can do it from your own bedroom, wherever that bedroom may be.

    Even if a move isn't practical just yet, there's no reason you can't jump-start your career in computer graphics by looking for a few freelance contracts.

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