Digital Preparation (Paint/Prep) Artist

Industries:
VFX
Personality type:
Technologist
Departments:

The lowdown

  • Digitally preparing the plate for the Compositing Department to layer in CG, digital matte painting, graphics or other photographed elements, sometimes using green screen, or effects photography. 

Is this role right for me?

To do this role, you will need to:

  • have a precise attention to detail
  • generate clean patches through collaging or clone painting on still frames 
  • understand the matte process
  • use software to track cameras and objects in 3D space
  • warp, morph, distort and stabilise footage
  • remove tracking markers in green and blue screen footage
  • correct colour, grade images and restore and repair damaged footage
  • communicate with colleagues and work as part of a team 
  • understand the different elements of the VFX pipeline, including compositing, lighting and matchmoving
  • take direction and critical feedback in your work
  • develop your skills to keep up with new technlogies
  • apply your skills across a range of different software packages, which could include Maya, Nuke, After Effects and many more

What does a Paint/Prep Artist do?

Paint/Prep Artists are responsible for rig removal tasks, painting out markers, wires and rigging before the shot can move along the pipeline. High-level quality control and a keen eye for repair work is necessary, as the work must be invisible. The work of a Paint/Prep Artist is likely to be reviewed by a VFX Supervisor, often one frame at a time, and compared back to the original plate on a cinema screen.

In addition, there are sometimes mistakes on the shoot, such as boom mics or crew members accidentally appearing in the frame. Sometimes images need to be restored too, removing damage in the shape of scratches and dust. The Paint/Prep team will fix these problems before the footage moves to the next department.

Will I need a qualification?

Most VFX Artists are likely to have done either a VFX undergraduate or postgraduate course, or undergone training with a private training provider. Some study Art at University but are likely then to enter the industry as a Runner, and use that as an opportunity to be trained ‘on the job’ in all the junior 2D roles including rotoscoping and paint/prep. Some companies provide formal training as a Runner, either through formal mentoring or by being asked to work on training shots independently. Qualifications in Computer Science, Physics Art and Maths are all looked upon favourably in junior VFX roles.

What’s the best route in?

In most companies the job of a Paint/Prep Artist is relatively junior – the next step up in 2D VFX to entry level Roto Artists, however some more experienced Paint/Prep Artists become senior in the field, progressing to the position of Lead Paint/Prep after two to three years. For most artists, the paint/prep role is a stepping stone to compositing.

Learning Nuke, the predominant VFX software package will set you on the right path, but After Effects is also a good option, and a little easier to find resources for. Larger VFX houses may use Smoke or Flame for clean-up, compositing and finishing work.

You could apply to be a Art Department trainee through Trainee Finder, which gives you hands-on experience in the industry and helps you build those all important contacts that are essential when competing for a job:

More information about Trainee Finder

Where might the role take me?

The usual career route is to progress from Roto/Paint/Prep Artist to Junior Compositor, Mid Level Compositor, then Senior Compositor. The skills and experience of a Paint/Prep Artist are recognised as the best foundation for a career in 2D VFX. Working as a VFX Supervisor is also a late-stage career option, with more and more productions requiring support from the VFX department on-set

Interested? Find out more...

Websites

  • Animation Magazine - a US magazine about the business, technology and art of animation and VFX
  • Animation World Network - production news, interviews, jobs and a big archive 
  • Shooting People – community-driven site, founded by filmmakers, and providing opportunities, news and animation jobs 
  • Skwigly Animation Magazine - the longest running UK based animation magazine and community. Offers news, interviews, reviews, podcasts, videos and tutorials 
  • Toonhound – website about cartoons, animation, comic strips and puppets in the UK
  • Own-it - offers intellectual property (IP) advice, information and learning resources for the creative sector 
  • Animation Nation - Animation industry news and useful links
  • 3D World Magazine - international magazine for CG artists, covering the fields of animation, VFX, games, illustration and architecture
  • Computer Graphics World - magazine covering innovation in computer graphics technology across various industries
  • Cinefex - quarterly magazine devoted to motion picture visual effects

Books

  • The Art and Science of Digital Compositing by Ron Brinkmann (pub. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers)
  • Digital Compositing by Steve Wright (pub. Butterworth-Heinemann)
  • Visual Effects in A Digital World: A Comprehensive Glossary of over 7,000 Visual Effects Terms by Karen Goulekas (pub. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers)
  • How to Get a Job in Computer Animation by Ed Harriss

Software

  • Houdini Apprentice - Specialist effects software, used in many high-end VFX productions to create smoke, water and particle effects.
  • Maxon Cinema4D - Available free for students and teachers, offers a much easier learning curve than most 3D software, and full integration with After Effects.
  • Blender - Free and open source 3D modelling and animation software, used to create open source films like Sintel and Tears of Steel.
  • The Foundry's Nuke Non-Commercial - Powerful node-based compositing software, free for training and personal projects.
  • Autodesk 3DS Max/Maya Academic - Industry standard and very popular 3D modelling and animation tools.

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