How to Start Learning VFX

Looking to learn about VFX? Be it in the film industry or in gaming, being familiar with visual effects can be a significant advantage. 

VFX Courses 

Most VFX experts have their start in animation, fine arts, computer graphics, and more. Visual effect courses are available to any individual who possesses degrees in these. A typical module will cover essential elements and themes used in the industry, such as

  1. Composition
  2. Color Theory
  3. Lighting
  4. CGI
  5. 3D Modeling
  6. Texturing
  7. Visual Storytelling
  8. Compositing

VFX Software Training

These courses tend to last for about 2 years. After acquiring this degree, you can go out into the world as a certified VFX artist. Professional modules like these will also familiarise you with vital VFX software like

  • Autodesk Maya
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Nuke
  • Houdini.

If you are serious about learning VFX, you can ask your teachers to familiarize you with these programs’ tools, interfaces, and workflows. You can also go through online tutorials or official guides for extra help. These steps are integral as they are the core skills demanded by the industry.

VFX Projects for Beginners 

It would help if you mastered these tools by any means: personal study, a university curriculum, or a private tutor. Aside from mastering the essential skills, you must also have a hands-on approach to VFX.

For this, you will need to practice regularly. You can even take on minor projects during your course to better understand visual effects in films and video games. If you have built a solid enough portfolio, you may even be hired by a major production house right out of school.

What to Do After Learning VFX

However, even among VFX creators, there are subcategories. Just because you work with visual effects does not mean all artists work with CGI. Instead, the VFX industry employs a varied range of talents.

Based on this, Artist X may be working on creating a purely digital animation for a major production house. 

At the same time, Artist Y may be using their skills to simulate specific live-action footage with special effects.

This list may include smoke, rain, or even the addition of purely mythical creatures to the mix. VFX specializations allow special effect artists to co-exist in a highly competitive industry.

Moreover, their expertise may also influence their financial bottom line. This pay difference occurs because there is a higher demand for some specializations. Specific skill sets in the VFX industry tend to pay more than others. Based on these factors, the following are some of the most lucrative market specializations, positions and roles for artists.

VFX Supervisors

Be it for a significant production house or for a start-up, VFX supervisors are at the forefront of every visual effects project. As the team managers and leads, they fulfil the role of leader for the artists. VFX supervisors typically oversee graphic/visual effect products for the entire unit rather than for individuals.

It is their role to ensure that there are no glitches, bugs, or other faulty elements in the product. Simply put, VFX supervisors ensure that the professionals uphold the artistic integrity of the company. They do this by conducting quality checks, bug fixing, and text runs for the graphics produced.

Aside from these, VFX supervisors also provide creative direction for the special effects team. They often work in conjunction with the directors and producers to help them realize their vision. Since they are in charge of the creative process, they will freely collaborate with the management and the design team.

VFX supervisors also have to relay updates/progress about the projects to the higher-ups. Since this role tends to be somewhat demanding, the team leads also get paid more than the average VFX artists. Therefore, depending on the scale of their projects, these supervisors typically earn anywhere from $80,000 to $200,000+ per year.

For example, Pavani Rao Boddapati, the visual sequences supervisor for Avatar 2, reportedly has a net worth of over $2 million. High-profile projects have helped boost her status in the VFX industry.

Character Artists

Some of the VFX specialists overseen by supervisors are character artists. These experts are some of the most in-demand special effects specialists. Character artists are sought after as they specialize in creating graphics and animations from scratch.

 

They usually work to develop virtual characters for video games, films, and other media. VFX character artists specialize in CGI, helping animate the digital creations

 

  • Movements
  • Appearance
  • Behaviour

 

To do this, they may use techniques like 3D modelling, rigging, and more. The 2019 live-action remake of Dumbo is a great example of this. The VFX experts for the film actually stated that they had the actors use the life-size costumes of the characters to emulate their movements.

 

Dumbo, the titular elephant, was also created by the character artists using a 3D model. This figure had been created in the flesh and then scanned and transferred onto a digital model. This was done to ensure that the proportions for the character were right on the film screen.

 

Visual/Lighting Artists 

 

Aside from the character creators, visual effect teams also consist of visual artists. Unlike the aforementioned CGI experts, VFX artists mainly focus on integrating special virtual effects into existing footage. These specialists use live-action shots and integrate visual effects into the frames.

 

Filmmakers use these professionals to create stunning sequences for their films, ads, and games. VFX artists can help them simulate effects and phenomena such as fire, smoke, rain, and even sea storms. To do these, the experts must thoroughly know relevant VFX simulation software.

 

These specialists also need to have standout technical skills. Their projects typically require them to utilize their understanding of movement and physics. Lighting artists are a subcategory of VFX artists that deals primarily with atmosphere and lighting in scenes.

 

Be it games or films, the play of lights sets the theme and overall mood. These experts help game developers and filmmakers create the perfect balance of light and shadow for their projects. To do this, they typically require expert knowledge of contrast, saturation, and other lighting-based VFX elements.

 

Lighting experts are typically used to create an atmosphere in live-action footage. Their lighting techniques and software knowledge give these shots a new perspective in the post-production phase.

 

VFX in the Post-Production phase

 

Aside from the character creators, the VFX, and lighting experts, VFX compositing services play one of the most essential roles in VFX. 

 

Once the raw footage has been shot, it is gathered by the team and enters the post-production phase. For VFX artists, this is the most crucial time of the filmmaking process. The main visual effects are added to the frames during this period.

 

The compositors, for example, help bring the final product together. Once the lighting, special effects, and virtual characters are ready, they perform the essential role of bringing them together. To create a uniform, cohesive product, VFX compositors combine elements like CCI and VFX with the existing live-action footage.

 

The experts help integrate these elements seamlessly into film/game sequences, using tools like colour grading, green screen, and more. The compositors must ensure visual continuity in the film sequences/frames during this phase.

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