Video Special Effects
#1
I'd really like to work in the video special effects industry (ILM, weta digital etc) but I'm not sure what career options there are in it. I've researched into it and contacted people but a lot of the words are jargon to me (pipeline? technical director?) My reason for this pursual is that I really enjoy art, but also more technical/problem solving subjects at school, and although it's been a childhood dream, I want to turn it to a reality. 

I'm going into university next year for an engineering conjoints with media, film and television (which I will then hopefully transition the conjoints part into screen production). Although I think I'm vaguely working towards a career in vfx, I'd like to know the specifics in the industry and know what I really want.

If anyone with any knowledge in this area could help, it would mean a lot.

Thanks :)

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#2
Hello ! :) I'm not a specialist on the topic, I got accepted at uni with VFX and 3d animation, but dropped out
before attending any lectures xD.

I remember writing to one of the vfx guys from Sucker Punch , he told me that I don't need school and that I learn everything on my own. My advice is to check out the Gnomon dvd's because it seems that the are aimed mostly towards VFX. I just saw that eat3d have a VFX master class as well :



  Also "The making of " documentaries about movies, may be a nice introduction. I know Blizzard has some documentaries on their cinematics.
 My advice is to check out those DVD's and write a thread on polycount or a forum which is for VFX , Daggers is mainly used by people who are interested in fantasy (rarely sci-fi ) illustration and I doubt  you would get the feedback you need.
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#3
I was a 3D lighting TD for a while ages ago, and I was also a coder for many years. I can probably answer most general questions on the pipeline though with a caveat that I have only worked in one 3D studio over a decade ago.

Good simple-ish breakdown of a complicated pipeline here: http://www.andrew-whitehurst.net/pipeline.html
This is geared for a 3D pipeline, and for movies, but is applicable to games in many ways as well. When you say "technical" problem solving what do you mean exactly? Coding, hardware etc? Design is mostly problem solving too.

It might be better to do as much research as you can into the various possible roles, and then fill in the gaps in your knowledge by asking people very specific questions, or it's hard to know how to help.

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#4
(10-15-2016, 06:47 PM)Mariyan-Hristov Wrote: Hello ! :) I'm not a specialist on the topic, I got accepted at uni with VFX and 3d animation, but dropped out
before attending any lectures xD.

I remember writing to one of the vfx guys from Sucker Punch , he told me that I don't need school and that I learn everything on my own. My advice is to check out the Gnomon dvd's because it seems that the are aimed mostly towards VFX. I just saw that eat3d have a VFX master class as well :



  Also "The making of " documentaries about movies, may be a nice introduction. I know Blizzard has some documentaries on their cinematics.
 My advice is to check out those DVD's and write a thread on polycount or a forum which is for VFX , Daggers is mainly used by people who are interested in fantasy (rarely sci-fi ) illustration and I doubt  you would get the feedback you need.

Hey :) Thanks for this, it's encouraging to know that not everyone gets into the industry with concrete-set paths. I'll definitely check out some of those documentaries and inspire myself some more.

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#5
(10-19-2016, 10:06 AM)Amit Dutta Wrote: I was a 3D lighting TD for a while ages ago, and I was also a coder for many years. I can probably answer most general questions on the pipeline though with a caveat that I have only worked in one 3D studio over a decade ago.

Good simple-ish breakdown of a complicated pipeline here: http://www.andrew-whitehurst.net/pipeline.html
This is geared for a 3D pipeline, and for movies, but is applicable to games in many ways as well.  When you say "technical" problem solving what do you mean exactly? Coding, hardware etc?  Design is mostly problem solving too.

It might be better to do as much research as you can into the various possible roles, and then fill in the gaps in your knowledge by asking people very specific questions, or it's hard to know how to help.

I'm interested more in problem solving regarding design - it provides more enjoyment to me, but I also like the simple problem solving required in physics, although I think all of this pales in comparison to the problem solving needed in that industry.

That was a really in depth, simple, and informative read. I picked out some areas in there that I was interested in:
-rigging
-camera and match moving
-effects animation
-lighting and rendering
How do people get intro into these departments? I think an engineering background would be paramount but then again, these are still very specialised areas. Experience after university would be good, but I'm not sure where I would look.

What was your role as a technical director? I still don't quite grasp that title; is it someone who directs the overall look and feel for the department?

Thanks so much for the response.

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#6
Funnily enough I studied Physics in my undergrad before I did the 3D stuff. In many ways it actually did help me when it came to the physical properties of materials and shaders, understanding light and with simulations and scripting. But yeah not a recommended career path for movies haha! :)

I would say you don't need an engineering degree for ANY of the areas you picked out, if you want to be a 3D/vfx artist. The stuff you picked out really should mostly be covered in a good study programme that deals with 3D/VFX, but how good they are depends on where you go to learn. It really matters. Having said that you can learn any of this stuff yourself, and in fact you can/should get started right away yourself, if you are really keen and learn as much as you can before you even go to a school. The more you try out and learn about these various things the more you will be able to figure out where your strengths lie.

There will be many different roles within those departments, but if you have a good in-depth broad understanding of 3D software, and a good folio of work, you can probably slot into any of the departments as a Junior 3D / vfx artist, depending on your skill at the time. Entry level VFX jobs can be pretty dreary, because they get all the "shitty" jobs, like modelling rocks or rotoscoping (basically drawing masks around things frame by frame!)
Depending on your preferences, it might be better to tailor your eventual demo reel / folio towards more specific roles, such as Compositing, or effects or whatever you enjoy the most. I know that it can be hard to do that in the time it takes to learn, so many student reels are pretty sad affairs of trying to do too much at once, quite averagely.
Don't ever rely or expect that simply going to any school and doing what is required and nothing additional, will automatically mean you come out with a good reel/folio.

You have to do the work, and the more you do, the better your work will be. Same with art. :)

Large studios tend to have more narrowly focused roles, so you might JUST be a lighting guy, or do rigging. or model rocks. In smaller studios you tend to become a bit more general and jump across roles and do whatever needs to get done.

Many studios will have custom setups for their pipeline and tools that require coding and maintenance and R&D, so computer engineering would be paramount for that side, but it doesn't sound like that's what you're actually that interested in. So it will be up to you if you want to split your time between two degrees or spend more time on the artistic side but that will also depend on the programmes available I guess.

My role was just a fancy way of saying, "I do lighting". It sounds grander than it was. Because I enjoyed lighting and mood, the most when it came to 3D, I became responsible for all exterior shot lighting, mood setup and renders. Because it was a small studio I also did some modelling, and R&D on process and tool development. Whatever they needed really.

In terms of design....well that's a pretty different thing really. Most pipelines will have pre-production concept art which is what the production team will use to create the required assets. You probably won't be directly involved in design in a large way if you are in the 3D production side of things, but I think that can depend on how the studio works.

Hope that's clear?!

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#7
(10-20-2016, 07:50 AM)Amit Dutta Wrote: Funnily enough I studied Physics in my undergrad before I did the 3D stuff. In many ways it actually did help me when it came to the physical properties of materials and shaders, understanding light and with simulations and scripting. But yeah not a recommended career path for movies haha! :)

I would say you don't need an engineering degree for ANY of the areas you picked out, if you want to be a 3D/vfx artist. The stuff you picked out really should mostly be covered in a good study programme that deals with 3D/VFX, but how good they are depends on where you go to learn. It really matters. Having said that you can learn any of this stuff yourself, and in fact you can/should get started right away yourself,  if you are really keen and learn as much as you can before you even go to a school. The more you try out and learn about these various things the more you will be able to figure out where your strengths lie.

There will be many different roles within those departments, but if you have a good in-depth broad understanding of 3D software, and a good folio of work, you can probably slot into any of the departments as a Junior 3D / vfx artist, depending on your skill at the time.  Entry level VFX jobs can be pretty dreary, because they get all the "shitty" jobs, like modelling rocks or rotoscoping (basically drawing masks around things frame by frame!)
Depending on your preferences, it might be better to tailor your eventual demo reel / folio towards more specific roles, such as Compositing, or effects or whatever you enjoy the most.  I know that it can be hard to do that in the time it takes to learn, so many student reels are pretty sad affairs of trying to do too much at once, quite averagely.
Don't ever rely or expect that simply going to any school and doing what is required and nothing additional, will automatically mean you come out with a good reel/folio.

You have to do the work, and the more you do, the better your work will be. Same with art. :)

Large studios tend to have more narrowly focused roles, so you might JUST be a lighting guy, or do rigging. or model rocks. In smaller studios you tend to become a bit more general and jump across roles and do whatever needs to get done.

Many studios will have custom setups for their pipeline and tools that require coding and maintenance and R&D, so computer engineering would be paramount for that side, but it doesn't sound like that's what you're actually that interested in.  So it will be up to you if you want to split your time between two degrees or spend more time on the artistic side but that will also depend on the programmes available I guess.

My role was just a fancy way of saying, "I do lighting".  It sounds grander than it was. Because I enjoyed lighting and mood, the most when it came to 3D, I became responsible for all exterior shot lighting, mood setup and renders.  Because it was a small studio I also did some modelling, and R&D on process and tool development. Whatever they needed really.

In terms of design....well that's a pretty different thing really. Most pipelines will have pre-production concept art which is what the production team will use to create the required assets. You probably won't be directly involved in design in a large way if you are in the 3D production side of things, but I think that can depend on how the studio works.

Hope that's clear?!

You concept art is amazing by the way :) (And your'e from nz to!?)

I've picked engineering in uni next year mainly because I know the industry is really competitive and I want a back up that I can use to support myself while I also work towards a potential career in vfx. 

Thanks for all your advice and information, it was really useful and I'll just keep trying until I get somewhere. I already have some experience in 2D digital art, but I think extending that to concept art and diving into some 3D art will be my next steps. I really hope I get into screen production in my 2nd year of uni as well, but I have a whole year of hard work before I find out.

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#8
Ah thanks dude! Yeah, I'm not originally from here, but I'm based in Welly atm as a freelancer :) whereabouts you at?

I understand the push to do something 'useful' like engineering, mostly suggested by parents who mean well, but aren't that well informed. My thinking on this is that if you already are interested and know what you want to go into, you should go in full tilt and make it happen! If you are passionate, disciplined, work hard and consistently you can make anything happen.
Anyway whatever you do, definitely get into a good discipline and work ethic with your stuff and keep learning and exploring and more importantly have fun!!

:)

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#9
(10-20-2016, 02:10 PM)Amit Dutta Wrote: Ah thanks dude!  Yeah, I'm not originally from here, but I'm based in Welly atm as a freelancer :) whereabouts you at?

I understand the push to do something 'useful' like engineering, mostly suggested by parents who mean well, but aren't that well informed.  My thinking on this is that if you already are interested and know what you want to go into, you should go in full tilt and make it happen! If you are passionate, disciplined,  work hard and consistently you can make anything happen.
Anyway whatever you do, definitely get into a good discipline and work ethic with your stuff and keep learning and exploring and more importantly have fun!!

:)
I'm in Auckland but I've been down to Wellington and went on the weta workshop tour, which was where I realised that this was the thing I wanted to do; fine arts and graphic arts (although largely focussed on in schools) aren't the only route for students.

I do enjoy physics and maths which is why I want to do engineering. It isn't something I can teach myself so that's why I'm choosing to do it, but the conjoint means I won't be strictly involved in engineering only. I'm excited :))) I've been bogged down by exams and school work recently so I haven't had much time to do digital art sadly, but I definitely will take your advice on board. I've got a couple things I want to study/work on in the holidays but I've been getting eye fatigue recently from staring at a computer screen for too long :| 

Maybe I'll see you in a couple years down in wellington if I get into weta hahah

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#10
Coolio, that's great! Well good luck with everything, and it's such a small place I'm sure we'll bump into each other at some point haha.

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