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 Preparing oneself to be a VFX artist 
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Post Preparing oneself to be a VFX artist
The following guide is meant for local job market and for beginners.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PART ONE: SELF TRAINING GUIDE

To be a VFX artist, it will be good for you to have some background knowledge on the followings:

Physics Fundamentals: Velocity, Acceleration, Phase, Frequence, Reflective Index, Refraction kind of stuff.
Programming Fundamentals: Understanding on how to write programs.

The following is what I share with our guys during internal trainings.

This is the basic knowledge. You need to master this before you can go on to actual training. The guideline is 3d software independent.

Part One:
Fundamental knowledge of all 3d production technique.
Animation, modeling, texturing, lighting etc

Part Two:
Understanding of various particles system.
How to control it?
How to influence it? Dynamics, constrains, wind etc

Part Three:
Learning how to create all kinds of materials. Copper, Gold, Sliver etc. (Texture effects)
Opacity, Bump and Displacement Maps

Part Four:
How to create materials for VFX?
Different types of Smoke, fog etc

Part Five:
Video Post in MAX, Any post effects tools, Combustion, After Effects etc

Part Six:
Atmospheric and volumetric Effects

Part Seven:
Both above water and underwater caustic effects
(How to animate realistic water, how to create textures for different types of fluid etc)

Part Eight:
Colour Correction, Contrast, Brightness, Saturation control Matching CG lightings with live action lightings. Compositing / Casting Shadows and Reflection on Video Plate (Matte Shadow and Reflective Materials) Alpha channels, Masking etc


Part Nine:
2d and 3d motion tracking


Part Ten:
Basic Matte Painting (So that you can paint your own background to match your effects)







PART TWO: APPLICATION


With these fundamentals, then you can now move into practical applications.
By now, you should be able to create

Category One:
smoke, steam, fog, dust, fire, explosion etc

Category Two:
Water, Sea, Underwater, Running volumetric Lights, Caustic Rays

Basic Application:
You should try to create effects that you have seen in movies. e.g Shockwave, Stormy sea, Matrix Bullet Time, Tornando etc

Work on a project where you will match the lightings on the cg element with the live action environment.
The CG element must cast shadows and reflection on the live action plate


Advance Application:
Work with someone who is good in concept to design effects that has never been seen before. Preferably someone who has never learnt 3d before. So that he will not know the constrains and limitations when he design his stuff. This is the actual scenario in a working environment. Hence this will challenge and stretch you to apply all the knowledge that you have gained so far. Remember, there is no such thing as sorry the software can't do it. You have to find a way. That is to simulate the real working world.

You should start by creating effects for static camera video plate. Then move on to moving camera.








PART THREE: SHOWREEL

In your reel, you should break down your shots into different layers and process. Specular, Shadow, Masking etc

This will demonstrate your understanding of the whole process. Avoid doing a MTV kind of reel. Its more of a Wow thing to an employer. That is all. Your employer will not understand what you know or you don't know.

You need to impress him on the knowledge you have. Quality matters more than quantity.








PART FOUR: ADVANCE INDUSTRY GUIDE (INTERNATIONAL COMPANIES)

The knowledge and roles of a VFX artist and a TD has a lot in common. Generally, it really depends on the size of the company. Some company has only TDs. And the TDs basically are the expert in all CG technical stuff. And they are required to do VFX work as well. For bigger companies, the TD role might be further broken down into even more specialise role. Character Setup, Writing shaders, Problem solver, Design Production Pipeline etc. In this case, the VFX part will most probably will be another dpt. Sometmes, within a VFX team, they might even sub divided into different people doing different type of effects - Water Effects, Explosions etc. So it all depends on the size of the company and the nature of the business (Feature Animation or VFX company)

From here you can see the level of specialisation. So whatever you learn from any overseas VFX school is what I call general. Where our people here might call it specialisation. So if you are looking at our local program towards training a VFX artist, it is really super general.

The following is a guide from ILM. It talks about the kind of stuff they would expect from a TD reel during interview. And for a VFX reel, it will be similar.

TECHNICAL DIRECTION
• Show the “before and after” to show the shot progression.
• Install a CG character into a plate, light it, put in the shadows, etc.
• Try to light the shot in a creative way while making it look natural to the environment.
• The style of the different parts should be carefully thought out.
• Show some Live Action/CG Integration. It is rare to see this on a student reel but as it is what we do at ILM. It gives us some understanding of the individual’s understanding of matching realistic lighting in computer graphics as well as compositing. By sticking to an all computer graphics environment
(which is much easier to do than the integration we do) it is difficult to determine how your “eye” will
create a photo realistic “look”.
• A surprise: It is the defining factor that shows someone is an exception to the rule. by definition it is an unknown element. It might be just some “special visual effect" or some amazing lighting or particle effect. It is something unique that shows some extra care or special ability.
• Additional traditional art work (such as photography, painting, etc.,)





PART FIVE: REFERENCE

The following are some of the best overseas program you can refer to. (Quite a number of Singaporeans study there) If you are taking up the local program eventually, you can use these overseas syllabus as a guide and do your own self study to cover those areas where your school do not cover. So that you can better prepare yourself.

VFS showreel is a very good reference. See how their students do their VFX reel.
http://www.vfs.com/showcase.php?id=7&category_id=9

Their Curriculum is for both VFX and Animation. You can identify those areas which will help you to be a VFX artist from here.

http://www.vfs.com/curriculum.php?id=7


This is the sheridan program.

http://www1.sheridanc.on.ca/programs/04 ... ogmap.html


This is the Bournemouth University program

http://courses.bournemouth.ac.uk/3Detai ... eCode=made


http://www.405themovie.com/

Excellent learning materials. See the making of.


Recommended reading materials:
Cinefex






PART SIX: ADDITIONAL ADVANCE KNOWLEDGE

One more thing. Make sure you understand about film processes, production specification etc.
(BACKGROUND READING)

E.g
The process of shooting the footage onto film.
How to convert it to Digital for compositing?
How to reconvert it back to Film?
What are the dos and don'ts?
What are the specs?
Knowledge of shooting and lighting of Blue and Green Screen on film.
What are the constrains and limitation?
How to plan your shot properly so that you can composite without much problem later? (Else you will have to re-shoot again and it will cost a lot of money and time. Big movie stars have no time for you to reshoot at times and you will be in deep shit)

Working on film and working on digital is whole different world. Pls note.


Additional to this, for advance training, one should eventually pick up basic programming skill
e.g C++, scripting language (e.g Mel OR MAX Script), expression, write shaders


David Kwok
Chairman
Singapore Animators Connection


Last edited by moderator on Sun Dec 30, 2007 1:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

Sun Dec 30, 2007 1:47 am
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Site Admin

Joined: Fri Dec 28, 2007 11:51 am
Posts: 305
Post Re: Preparing oneself to be a VFX artist
RECOMMENDED TEXT:

VFX

i) Deconstructing the Elements with 3ds max 6 : Create natural fire, earth, air and water without plug-ins by Pete Draper



ii) It is a very old book. But it is very easy for beginner. Most probably you can get from library

3D Studio Max 2 : Effects Magic
by Greg Carbonaro




VFX / Special Effects

i) Overall view of Special Effects and Visual Effects integration
It has everything.... from history of effects, optical comps, mirrors, miniatures, robotics, shooting clouds in water, etc. etc. There is material on CG too.

"Special Effects: The History and Technique"
by Richard Rickitt.


Search the book from AMAZON


David Kwok
Chairman
Singapore Animators Connection


Sun Dec 30, 2007 1:50 am
Profile
Site Admin

Joined: Fri Dec 28, 2007 11:51 am
Posts: 305
Post Re: Preparing oneself to be a VFX artist
Some very good references and tutorial for your foundation.

http://xenomorphic.co.uk/index.htm

It comes from the book
Deconstructing the Elements with 3ds max 6 : Create natural fire, earth, air and water without plug-ins by Pete Draper

--------------
David Kwok
Chairman
Singapore Animators Connection


Sun Dec 30, 2007 1:52 am
Profile
Site Admin

Joined: Fri Dec 28, 2007 11:51 am
Posts: 305
Post Re: Preparing oneself to be a VFX artist
VFX Showreel

Make sure you understand and differentiate between an entry level showreel, intermediate showreel and company's showreel.

I am sure many of you have seen many VFX company's showreel. Most of it is in MTV style. Don't try to do it like them if you are at the entry level.

Its done by a team. There is no way you can do it on your own at that scale.


Intermediate is basically a showreel done by one with several years of experience. Its a compilation of works done by the artist over the years. Again, it will take you forever to match that if you are a beginner.

Entry level. Look at VFS showreel. Basically all you need is to create a few kick ass shot. Don't do things that others have seen before. Something brand new.

http://www.vfs.com/showcase.php?id=7&category_id=9


Where you apply all the knowledge in VFX. Particles, colour correction, masking, motion tracking, keying, effects lightings etc. Break down the shots so that your employer is clear that you understood your work.

--------------
David Kwok
Chairman
Singapore Animators Connection


Last edited by moderator on Sun Dec 30, 2007 2:42 am, edited 3 times in total.

Sun Dec 30, 2007 1:56 am
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Site Admin

Joined: Fri Dec 28, 2007 11:51 am
Posts: 305
Post Re: Preparing oneself to be a VFX artist
For compositing software, there are many to choose from; After Effects, Shake, Digital Fusion, Nuke, Combustion etc.etc. So choose one and just rock with it. Here's my suggestion for learning after effects:

a) Pick up the solid basics, with this book:
Creating Motion Graphics with After Effects, Vol. 1: The Essentials


b) 2nd book, I did not go through the whole thing; only picked up a few essentials, particularly the keying chapter.

Creating Motion Graphics with After Effects, Vol. 2: Advanced Techniques


c) For compositing all the layers from your 3d app (one chapter only)
After Effects in Production


d) Then time for the big smack down with this guy:

Adobe After Effects 6.5 Studio Techniques (Authored by one of the guys at The Orphanage I believe)


For camera matching and stuff to live footage, only one book.
Matchmoving: The Invisible Art of Camera Tracking (Again, written by the Matchmoving Supervisor @ The Orphanage)

Look for it at Amazon.

Hope this helps!

Alvin
--------------
http://www.alvinvfx.com


Last edited by moderator on Sun Dec 30, 2007 2:58 am, edited 1 time in total.

Sun Dec 30, 2007 1:58 am
Profile
Site Admin

Joined: Fri Dec 28, 2007 11:51 am
Posts: 305
Post Re: Preparing oneself to be a VFX artist
This is written to my best knowledge and it applies mainly to our local industry.

VFX Artist / Animator / TD

WHAT THEY DO AND WHAT THEY MUST KNOW
A VFX artist / animator or a VFX TD role are generally quite close here. Very often, you are required to know almost a bit of everything in the pipeline. However, for some bigger companies.. as a TD, your focus is more towards technical stuff. Where for a VFX artist / animator, you focus more on using the tools developed by VFX TD to create the VFX.

So it really depends on the company's structure and pipeline. Size of company. And also depends on whether you are talking about a VFX company or Feature Animation Company or a Games Company.

A VFX TD / Artist / Animator from a VFX company normally requires you to do effects that is more realistic and very often interact with the live action footage.

e.g VFX Animator Role in overseas
http://www.rhythm.com/inside_randh/oppo ... s_fx.shtml


INDUSTRY HERE

VFX industry
This industry grow together with the film industry. And since our project here is very much of low budget, hence most films do not have the budget for high end VFX. The main VFX jobs available are from Post House. They normally hire only about 1 to 3 artists. That is all. And they are not many here. For this case, a VFX artist is also the VFX animator and also the VFX TD.

One good news is (according to the last seminar I attended) that the talents here will be given the opportunity to work with ILM team in US.

And currently, EDB are also exploring potential opportunities to work with foreign companies. One such initiative is by sending our talents to the foreign companies for job attachment for 1 to 2 years. E.g Double Negative in UK. http://www.dneg.com/



Games Industry
The games industry are rather small here and many local companies here are mainly new startups. So artist are required to specialise a bit more than just FX TD work.

The good news is (according to the last seminar I attended) lucasfilm is expanding Lucas Games production here. So they are looking for people.

http://www.lucasfilm.com/employment/jobs
http://www.lucasfilm.com/employment/job ... b=LAS01223
http://www.lucasfilm.com/employment/job ... b=LAS01311




Feature Film and TV series
Its a good news to see many companies here trying to venture into CG feature and TV series. For TV series here, the demand of the VFX skill is slightly lower. Feature film is a lot higher. Its hard to tell at this stage what will happen in years ahead. As no one knows where the projects are heading. (According to the last seminar I attended) Lucasfilm should be working on their feature film maybe next year. If this is up and other local projects are up, then there should be a fair bit of opportunities.



Conclusion:
Personally, I feel that the biggest bet will be the feature film industry for generating more VFX jobs. Games sector might require less. And VFX sector is hard for us cos we do not have a strong film industry. (Again these are based on our observation)

No one can be certain about the future. But as for this moment, there are limited opportunities as you can see from above. Our industry is still at the infant stage. Don't talk about FX TD. Even for postion like general TD, there are not that many positions available.

It will take a while for companies to look into things like pipeline. One need to engage a huge project first. And once pipeline is established, then TD will be in demand. As for now, many projects and budgets are still rather small. Hence they cannot afford to hire dedicated people that look into just TD work. But the good news is that companies already started to realise the importance of TD and some already started implementing their roles in their operation.

However, you will also get companies who haven't got a clue what a TD is.

Hope it helps.

--------------
David Kwok
Chairman
Singapore Animators Connection


Sun Dec 30, 2007 2:02 am
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Joined: Fri Dec 28, 2007 11:51 am
Posts: 305
Post Re: Preparing oneself to be a VFX artist
REFERENCE

These are some references from ILM. It is meant for TD for VFX. The roles slightly varies from company to company. Some companies has lighting artists as well as compositors. So TD are not required to do that. It really depends on the pipeline as well. Some companies have different type of TDs to specialise on different areas. E.g VFX TD, Fur TD, Cloth TD, Lighting TD, Character Effects TD etc.

One very important requirements for TD is problems solving. That is why working experience is important. You can't just learn this from school.


Division: Industrial Light & Magic, Computer Graphics Department

Duties: Technical Directors (TD) work with direction from the Visual Effects Supervisors and CG Supervisors to create the look of computer generated objects and scenes. They are responsible for lighting, shading, rendering, some compositing and for creating the motion dynamics and look of simulated effects such as water, smoke, fire and hair. TDs work with other artists such as Character Animator, Rotoscope Artists and Compositors to bring the shot together. They must be familiar with the ILM render pipeline and be technically adept to identify and debug any problems.

How to prepare yourself/what we look for:
Technical Directors typically combine strong computer programming abilities with visual arts skills. Qualified candidates have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science or Computer Graphics with at least 2-3 years production experience. A strong working knowledge of UNIX, C programming and sh*ll scripting is necessary as well as knowledge of Maya, Renderman or proprietary high-end software packages. To gain the necessary production experience people typically begin as Computer Graphics Technical Assistants, eventually moving into an Assistant Technical Director before becoming a TD. Other ways to prepare yourself for this role include working on live action/CG integration project, spending time learning how to install CG characters into a plate, light it and applying shadows.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


What computer graphics supervisors at ILM would like to see on a reel

TECHNICAL DIRECTION
• Show the “before and after” to show the shot progression.
• Install a CG character into a plate, light it, put in the shadows, etc.
• Try to light the shot in a creative way while making it look natural to the environment.
• The style of the different parts should be carefully thought out.
• Show some Live Action/CG Integration. It is rare to see this on a student reel but as it is what we do at ILM. It gives us some understanding of the individual’s understanding of matching realistic lighting in computer graphics as well as compositing. By sticking to an all computer graphics environment (which is much easier to do than the integration we do) it is difficult to determine how your “eye” will create a photo realistic “look”.
• A surprise: It is the defining factor that shows someone is an exception to the rule. by definition it is an unknown element. It might be just some “special” effect or some amazing lighting or particle effect. It is something unique that shows some extra care or special ability.
• Additional traditional art work (such as photography, painting, etc.,)


Sun Dec 30, 2007 6:47 am
Profile

Joined: Sat May 15, 2010 5:04 pm
Posts: 7
Post Re: Preparing oneself to be a VFX artist
moderator wrote:
For camera matching and stuff to live footage, only one book.
Matchmoving: The Invisible Art of Camera Tracking (Again, written by the Matchmoving Supervisor @ The Orphanage)


Hey alvin,
Now we have 2 ;) and a MUST buy really.
The Art and Technique of Matchmoving: Solutions for the VFX Artist (Paperback)

http://www.amazon.com/Art-Technique-Mat ... 0240812301

b


Mon May 17, 2010 5:40 pm
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