Skills in VFX
Jobs in VFX
There are a lot of roles within VFX, and those employed or hired on a freelance basis may be hired for a specific specialisation. In a smaller company, it’s common for people to be knowledgeable about several VFX disciplines to allow them to work on whatever is needed. Larger companies will look for specialists in rigging, animation, modelling and all of the VFX pipeline skills.
While the job role you’d most often associate with the industry is VFX artist, there are plenty of job roles if you’re not artistically minded but still interested in the industry. Producers play a big role in animation and utilise skills in management and organisation rather than art.
In larger studios, there will be whole departments devoted to Human Resources or Marketing, whereas the smaller studios will still offer roles in studio development or administration. Like most creative industries, most studios will also hire for runner positions.
Getting Into VFX
Getting into the VFX industry takes a lot of dedication and hard work. While getting yourself noticed and hired is mostly portfolio based, having a qualification in Computer Sciences, Motion Graphics or other relevant course helps to show that you are knowledgeable and capable. The major VFX studios in the UK are situated in London, so studying close to the capital makes sense when looking at places to obtain qualifications.
You will also want to look into becoming familiar with the software commonly used in VFX, such as After Effects, Maya, 3DS Max and Nuke.
A major decision for any creative is whether to take their work freelance or not. Freelancing typically pays more and allows more freedom with your time, but doesn’t offer the stability that traditional employment offers. There’s also other work place perks, such as pension plans, that freelancers will miss. However, many creatives find it a more desirable way to work.
Most of the VFX workforce is self-employed, so if you're thinking about a career in VFX, it's best to prepare yourself early for the freelance lifestyle.
A recruiter might read hundreds of applications, so when applying you’ll need to make sure your CV is as close to perfect as possible. We have a great guide for writing a CV, but for VFX you’ll want to make note of any artistic skills or achievements you have. Some VFX companies will be using their own proprietary software which means although it’s worth noting your current software skills, being able to champion an artistic vision is important.
When making an application, it’s often recommended that you “show passion”. But how does that translate into a job application? Quite simply, it’s anything that can prove how much you love VFX.
If you’ve spent three years studying it at University level, that shows you have passion. Or if you’ve got a portfolio of personal projects you’ve done to practice your craft, it shows you have passion. When a studio hires you, they’re trusting that you carry a love for the craft that will show up positively in your work.
Being able to prove that love is key. Sometimes, the best way is simply to show them via a trainee or internship scheme.
Lastly, you’ll want a portfolio of work. This will typically showcase what you’re best at, be it rigging, modelling, animating, compositing or a range of skills. You’ll want to include detailed break-downs to show how you created each effect and shot.
A showreel should ideally last no more than one or two minutes, with the last slide displaying your contact information in case it gets separated from your CV. When emailing a studio, it’s worth taking the time to find who your email will be going to. “Dear Sir/Madam” doesn’t show a studio you know them!
When emailing companies, do remember that it is a perfectly acceptable practice to email speculatively when there’s no job advertised – if you show you can be a valuable asset, they may keep you on file and contact you in the future.
Working in VFX
As the industry grows, new technology and trends will begin to emerge. Staying updated to all the latest news in the industry is vital to working within VFX, and can be easily achieved by attending industry workshops and seminars, and following VFX blogs and websites.
VFX work tends to not have a consistent work rate for the duration of a project. Towards the end of a project, a studio may enter what’s known as a “crunch” period. This means a lot of overtime, often in a highly stressful environment, to finish the project on time. Being able to handle the pressure of a crunch situation requires a lot of mental fortitude, and the ability to produce quality work under pressure.
VFX Artists will also need to know proper etiquette for inside a studio. If your role has a direct superior, then all queries and problems should be reported to them rather than a Creative Director or Producer. It’s also expected that everyone remains pleasant to their fellow VFX artists, even during the highly stressful crunch times.
It’s a very exciting time in VFX in the UK from a legal standpoint. There is a big push to get all studios supporting BECTU, a trade union. This means that there is further legal support for VFX artists if they require it.