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What Color Is Your Hypertext?

As the definition of multimedia expands, so does the range of skills that the industry needs.

Back when a home page on the World Wide Web was considered the cutting edge of technology, people who could program in hypertext markup language--the computer language of the graphics-rich portion of the Internet--were in great demand. Now the most sought-after people are the ones who can program in three dimensions and use advanced software packages.

On the creative side, multimedia employers are looking for artistic people with solid training in graphic design--especially if they have experience using computers to do their work. And as multimedia products find their way into more business applications, jobs for writers are cropping up too.

Of course, the more of these skills a person has, the better.

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“In an ideal world, we would like to have someone who can do it all,” said Howard Schiller, art director of insite, a 15-person Studio City firm that specializes in multimedia productions.

But in reality, he said, technology is changing so fast that specialization is often necessary.

“Now, you need to know [advanced programs like] Shockwave and Java just to make a Web page interesting and competitive,” he said. “I’m a designer and I don’t have time to learn all of that.” So Schiller relies on programmers to keep artists up-to-date on the latest technology and how they can take full creative advantage of it.

At BoxTop Interactive, a West Hollywood firm that designs Web pages, candidates with hard-core software engineering skills are in demand, said Chief Executive Kevin Wall. BoxTop needs people who understand relational databases and can do object-oriented programming in computer languages like C++ and PERL. Experience is a big plus.

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“We would like to see people with 10 years’ experience from the defense and aerospace industries,” Wall said.

Gaming companies are looking for sophisticated programmers who can use three-dimensional animation programs, said Michael Bright of Independent Resource Systems, an executive search firm in Canoga Park.

When it comes to artistic skill, computer experience is desirable but it takes a back seat to creative talent, employers say.

“We want an artist who can use a computer, not a computer geek who happens to know how to draw,” said Mark Axton, digital department manager at Boss Film Studios in Marina del Rey.

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As the business world embraces multimedia, the industry needs people with strong writing and marketing skills.

“It has to be done with professional style and professional attitude,” Schiller said. “But it’s a different style. You need short sentences that are to the point.”

Then there are the intangible qualities. At Irvine-based game maker Interplay Productions, Executive Producer Alan Pavlish looks for “people that are passionate about gaming and understand the qualities that make a game fun--people that play because it’s fun, not because it’s a job.”

Karen Kaplan covers technology and careers for The Times. She can be reached via e-mail at karen .kaplan@latimes.com

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