About the VFX industry

5,299 Employed in this sector

Freelancers

What are the skills and skills gaps in the VFX industry?

There is continuing demand for specialist technical roles like Compositor and Technical Director and new apprenticeships are being developed for these roles.

While specialist skills are held in high regard, many employers (especially those outside London) are looking for creative employees with more traditional business skills, like pitching and management, as well as traditional production skills, like client service, on-set supervision and sales.

According to our Creative Skillset 2012 Census, the 5,000 employees in the VFX industry were split down the middle: approximately half were employed as artists and technical directors, and the other half made up all other roles, including co-ordinators, producers and other support staff.

VFX employers tell us that those entering the industry lack core skills in maths, physics and computational thinking, and lack experience working within a production pipeline. This means that a lot of entry and junior-level work is being outsourced to non-EU talent. You should bear this in mind so that you can develop the skills employers are looking for.

What is the pay like in the VFX industry?

Companies employ artists on a contractual basis. It’s usually project-based and can last anywhere from a few days up to a year. Contracts often roll back to back and it’s possible to be employed on this basis at the same company for several years. Sometimes it is necessary to move from company to company to ensure consistent employment.

Someone starting their career as a Matchmover or Roto Artist (both junior technical roles) can expect to be paid an annual salary of between £18,000 to £20,000. Junior-level artists earn between £20,000 to £30,000 per year. Mid-level roles earn between £30,000 to £50,000 per year. Senior-level artists can command an annual salary of £50,000 upwards, and far beyond in specialist departments like management or research and development.

How qualified is the VFX workforce?

Historically most of those entering the industry come in as university or private institute graduates but, as it's a young industry compared to the others in the creative industries, new entry routes are emerging every day.

It's worth looking out for the Creative Skillset Tick that shows that degree courses are industry accredited and teach you real-life production skills. Runners don't tend to need any specific qualifications, but basic maths and English skills are recommended, along with a showreel or portfolio of work.

In small companies, you're more likely to get a grounding in a variety of tasks, eventually leading to specialisms. Larger companies will be looking for evidence of a potential specialism in a graduate's portfolio and graduates are likely to work across a more limited range of tasks when starting out.

Employers in the VFX industry tell us that they're on the lookout for graduates with core skills in maths, design, computer science and physics, and not just self-taught artists with specific software skills. A degree in one of these broader subjects supported by either self-teaching or a traineeship is just as promising as completing a specialist degree or private qualification in visual effects.

Training can be difficult to come by, as academics lack production experience while expert workers in VFX lack training skills. Smaller companies can also be reluctant to train short-term contractual employees as there's a risk that their expensive newly-qualified employee will defect to a competitor.

However, online resources and software pricing is getting more and more competitive, and those just starting out as employees or freelancers in the VFX industry have a much easier time of staying competitive, thanks to tools like Reddit, CGSociety and YouTube, as well as commercial services, like Lynda and fxphd.