Should I Be A CG Generalist Or A CG Specialist?

Should I Be A CG Generalist Or A CG Specialist?

May 30, 2019
Ben Thompson

Two popular jobs in the VFX field are CG Generalist and CG Specialist. Which one is right for you?

When putting together your résumé and LinkedIn profile as you prepare for a job search in the VFX industry, it’s important to know exactly what type of position you’d be a good fit for. Two popular titles in the industry are “CG Generalist” and “CG Specialist.” 

Today, we’ll break down the differences between the two titles, so you can figure out which one is right for you.

What is a CG Generalist vs. a CG Specialist?

For the uninitiated, a CG Generalist possesses a multitude of diverse VFX skills, while a CG Specialist emphasizes a particular focus in one area.  

CG Generalists tend to wear a lot of hats and handle various steps of the post-production VFX process, and they can be especially valuable at smaller studios where there aren’t a lot of CG Specialists on hand.

You may start out as a CG Generalist and then grow to become a CG Specialist in a larger studio. Inversely, you may find yourself at a larger studio, but want to extend your horizons a bit into a CG Generalist role.

It’s been said that CG Generalists are like a single contractor building an entire house. It will be cheaper, and he can adequately accomplish the task, but it may take some time for him to complete the project.

CG Specialists are like a team of builders with different disciplines that go in and do their individual job to the best of their ability. The house will be built faster, and it should also be built with great attention to detail in each area.
Either approach isn’t necessarily right or wrong, they just depend on the needs and philosophies of the studios. Most larger studios tend to rely heavily on CG Specialists, while smaller studios opt for CG Generalists (although they aren’t always mutually exclusive)

Which Role is Right for Me?

Take into consideration your work experience, as well as any additional technical or artistic skill sets you may possess. While you may only have a small amount of experience in a specific role, consider leveraging other areas of expertise you may be proficient in and factor that into making the decision of becoming a CG Generalist or a CG Specialist.

For a CG Generalist, a job description looks something like this:
  • Conduct Project Research
  • Develop Plans for VFX Execution
  • 2D/3D Modeling
  • Compositing
  • Animation
  • Rigging
  • Manage VFX Asset Database
  • Texturing and Lighting
  • Rotoscoping
  • Keying
  • VFX Quality Control
  • Collaborate with VFX Supervisor and CG Artists 
Candidate Must Possess Several Years of Prior Experience at a VFX Studio

Candidate Must Be Skilled in After Effects, Photoshop, Houdini, Maya, Arnold, 3DS Max, Nuke, and Other 3D Modeling and VFX Compositing Software

For a CG Specialist, a job description depends on the actual area of focus. A CG Specialist will be a subject matter expert in their field, and be able to provide the VFX Supervisor with the assurance that they will be more than capable to fulfill their role in the VFX pipeline.

Polycount user “ysalex” provides an insightful visual guide to contrast the differences between CG Generalists and CG Specialists below.
CG Generalist
CG Specialist
Even if you’re a CG Generalist, chances are you’ll eventually become more proficient in aspects of your role that will allow you to develop a valuable degree of specialization in certain areas, as in the chart below.
Hybridization of Generalist and Specialist Roles
Developing a specialized focus as a CG Generalist can prepare you for a CG Specialist role down the road, and branching out as a CG Specialist can allow you to look for a CG Generalist role in the future.

Know Your Goals

Everyone wants to be successful in their career, but think specifically about where you’d like to end up in your VFX career. If you’re looking to land a VFX Supervisor job, a CG Generalist could be a good foundational starting point. 

If you’d like to work for a triple-a VFX studio as part of a pipeline that churns out a high volume of visual effects for Hollywood, a CG Specialist would suit you well.

Whichever role you choose to pursue, make sure your demo reel demonstrates either a broad range of VFX knowledge if you’re wanting to be a CG Generalist, or laser-focused expertise in a specific area if you’re wanting to become a CG Specialist.

The important thing is to take steps to make yourself as marketable as possible in the future. Being willing to both specialize and generalize your skills may seem like a balancing act, but always make an effort to never stop learning, and you’ll always be able to contribute more on every project!

Allan McKay, our good friend and one of VFX's top industry professionals, gives his insight on learning and setting goals.
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