Action points for every VFX artist
Visual effects artists are often so focussed on the technical aspects of their role, they forget about the other aspects of being a successful VFX artist. Due to this, it can be very easy to get ahead by focussing on what others are missing, allowing you to stand out with the same amount of work.
Throughout my compositing career i’ve made notes on what i believe to be the contributing factors for successful people within the industry.
This has lead to me spotting patterns across the most successful artists within the VFX industry. What makes a successful VFX artist will be different for everyone so i would encourage you to do this same exercise.
in this article i will go over what some of these factors are and how you can use them to start getting ahead.
in the world of VFX we think of modelling as making an object. However it has a different meaning, we can model someone’s life by copying their actions, to go about getting the same result.
Allowing you to learn from someone else’s mistakes and ensuring you don’t make the same ones.
Firstly i’ve found that artists are constantly asking for feedback and looking at how to improve. At the end of each show they’ll sit down with their 2D supervisor and ask what they could have done better on the project, this then gives them actionable points to go forward with.
They make sure other people know what they wanted. By making sure people know what you want, you give others the chance to either help you get there or give you that opportunity.
They spoke to artists already in the role they wanted. By doing this, they could learn what areas they should focus on improving most to give them the best chance of getting the role – making sure that they don’t waste time and count on luck to get them to where they want to be.
The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war. When i used to coach tennis we’d focus on a particular area and do drills in order to improve quickly, rather than just playing games and hoping we improve.
This seems like common sense, but most VFX artists learn by doing a project.
This seems crazy to me and slows down your learning speed. The worst time to learn anything is when you’re under pressure on a project. it’s like driving in a race and not studying the track or doing practice laps before you turn up for race day. So steal the best training techniques in the world from other industries.
A task i set my students is for them to do 20-minute greenscreen keying practice, you can swap this out for wherever you need to improve. it’s a lot easier to learn when you know that if it all goes wrong everything is fine, learn from it and try again in an hour’s time.
Don’t passively watch a tutorial expecting it to soak in such that you can use it confidently in your next project. if you wanted to be a professional cyclist/swimmer you wouldn’t just passively watch videos of people teaching this then get in the pool and expect to be amazing. So actively engage with any tutorial you’re watching, try it out on a piece of footage different to the one provided, push it and pull it around to test what it can do. The final thing i’ve noticed is that the people who do the best get what they need before they need it so when the opportunity does arise they are ready.
For instance i see countless university students start emailing out to make industry contacts a week before their course ends. This means that they are now competing against a vast majority of VFX students doing the same. Get ahead of the competition by emailing industry VFX artists a year before you finish your course, drop them an email every two or three months with work updates.
This means by the time you finish your course you have already built good relationships with people who can help you.
This is the same for those who are already in the industry, get to know artists at other companies, keep an eye out for who is hiring before your contract runs out, allowing you to make your planning easier.
Having all of these in your mind while you’re at university or working will compound over time and improve your chances of success.
By making sure people know what you want, you give others the chance to help you get there
Build up new contacts while you’re working