How to become a VFX Artist

With the fast-paced, growing tech-invested society, artists have a plethora of fields to chose from which; VFX might be the most promising and exciting one. Towards the end of this blog, you will find yourself well-versed with all the requisites of this field, from the basics of what it actually means to all the prospects available in India and how you can acquire them. So sit back and glide through this crash course to VFX.

How to become a VFX Artist

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What does being a VFX Artist even mean?

We all have heard of the term VFX being used in the context of movies and video games, umpteen times, but some of us may not even know what exactly it stands for, so starting with the basics, let us clear that VFX is short for Visual Effects and is the process by which on-screen imagery is conjured up or manipulated which do not exist in real-world, i.e. basically objects, people, effects, and anything or everything that you can imagine is added to live-action shot in movies and videos. VFX entails the integration of live-action footage with computer-generated imagery (CGI) to generate the most realistic visuals for the viewers.

And that’s where VFX artists come- they are the ones responsible for the flawless incorporation of these effects into live-action in films, television and online and console gaming. Basically, all the big superhero, action or fantasy movies and games you enjoy, be it Avengers, Harry Potter, Baahubali, Call of Duty or anything else; have these unsung heroes to thank for making the magic real, or at least, look real.

They use the latest technology to assemble together the big blasts and gigantic appearances to the smallest of the flashes; stunt doubles, rainstorms, dragons and bullet holes are all part of their wizardry. There is also the enlarging area of digital particle effects, which includes fluid and fire, as well as object and lighting manipulation.

What is the Scope for a VFX Artist?

By now you must have, found the answer to this question yourself- is there any future in this field? Because as we can see this is a growing field with a large scope and an ocean full of opportunities. And it is perfect for creative and imaginative youth who want to see their visions come to life on the big screen. This field has everything you could ask for, from a casual dressing code and a conducive working atmosphere to the endless possibilities in your professional and personal pursuits to create something beautiful. Many of the top animation studios such as Sony Pictures, Disney and Turner Entertainment are now outsourcing visual content to India.

And now that we’ve established this, let’s move to the next most pertinent question-

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How do I Become a VFX Artist?

Let us start with the good news: that there are no forced or minimum educational qualifications for this job. Just like its job profile, there are no fixed limitations on how and what to study, though, most VFX artists have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in visual design, animation, or art. They are associated with animation software and art fundamentals, like colour theory, visual design, and composition.

 VFX artists have an eye for imagery, art and colour; and their hand is skilled at sketching and using the advanced industry-grade software. As with most fields, employers here to prefer employees to secure a degree in graphic arts or a similar field, along with one to three years of related experience. So, a well-structured certification or vocational course in VFX will always be an added advantage, if not a proper degree.

Also, learn things that don’t precisely involve topics related to VFX techniques, you could read about the history of the creation of visual effects, its impacts and evolving reach and discover its applications in a lot of movies where you probably didn’t even realize it was used. Like- did you know that the movie ‘The Social Network’ has more VFX shots than Godzilla?

VFX Artist

Skills and qualifications considered essential for a VFX Artist:

  • Experience in animation – VFX artists need to create engaging visuals and high-quality images. They should understand motion, animation, scaling, and timing.
  • Video production – An understanding of the technical aspects of video production, such as staging, sound, and lighting is also required.
  • Proficiency in Computers – VFX artists should be at ease using computer tools and software to create visual effects.
  • Communication skills – Communication skills and teamwork are the pre-requisites at any place, similarly here too the artists should be proficient in putting across their ideas with their fellow team members and ensure there is a proper discussion to make sure that the goals are met and the product at the end is to the customers’ specifications.
  • Time management – VFX artists need to juggle deadlines and projects so time management skills are vital.

Some other needed skills are-

  • Composition and light
  • Visual Aesthetics
  • Drawing
  • Sculpture & Anatomy
  • Mechanics and Movement
  • Passion for Film
  • Real-world observation
  • Communication skills
  • Photography

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What are the Main Types of VFX Artists?

There is a wide variety of different job titles, which can seem complicated. However, the main titles that you might come across include:

  • Compositing artist
  • Effects(FX) technical director (TD)
  • FX animatorMultimedia artist
  • VFX artist
  • VFX supervisor

What type of Duties to expect as VFX Artist?

Since there is a wide range in types of work, nothing specific can be stated about the type of duties, however, the general tasks include:

  • Create Motion Graphics and Animations- Using special software, the artists have to create appealing motion graphics and animations. This could be done with 2-D and 3-D models. Their graphic style has to be consistent and add to the beauty of their creation.
  • Create Visual Effects- VFX artists have to generate life-like effects visually using animations, particles, etc.
  • Operate Camera, Lights, and Microphone- VFX artists have to function with cameras, lighting and microphones to shoot videos and record audio.
  • Collaborate with Engineers and Designers- VFX artists work with engineers, designers, and their partners in VFX to make the final product perfect; as a team.
  • Work within Budget- Part and parcel of their task is to ensure that their work is finished within their company’s budget and have to look for alternatives in the otherwise cases.

Salary of a VFX Artist?

The VFX business is majorly made up of freelancers and fixed-term contracts. A common way to enter, especially within the film, is as a runner.

Abroad, in countries like UK (source: https://www.prospects.ac.uk)-

  • A runner earns between £15,000 and £17,000 per annum (approx 15,43,000-17,48,000 Indian Rupees).
  • The average salary for a VFX artist (one to three years of experience) in the industry is £27,000 (27,77,000 Indian Rupees).
  • A middle-level artist (three to seven years’ experience) can expect to earn in the region of £38,000 (39,09,000 Indian Rupees).
  • Senior VFX artists (over seven years’ experience) earn an average of £54,000 (55,55,000 Indian Rupees).

VFX Artist salary in India ranges between ₹130k – ₹1m and the median is ₹335,705/year, according to payscale.com.

The pay difference may stem from the general lack of knowledge of the field and its under-development in India right now. But, undeniably, the biggest factor is which company you score a job in, major companies like Disney, Pixar, Sony, etc offer much higher pay packages.

Fortune favours the bold, so when you step into the field with courage and aim for the stars so that even if you fall, you land on the moon.

Salary of VFX artist

Where to Start the journey of a VFX Artist?

The most important, and obvious step is to start. Be it simply sketching roughly, analyzing movies, doing free internships or watching documentaries. Just start. Because if you don’t dedicate yourself with passion, no degree or college can help you make it.

As said before, since there are no official requirements for degrees, you can school yourself using whatever sources you find. However, an official degree from a good college gives you a profound launching pad and is extremely beneficial in your credentials for foreign visas for work.

Here are the Top 20 Visual Effects (VFX) Schools in the World, 2020 :

These School of the Year rankings are based on the quality and performance of the student work that is submitted to the judging panel each year for the Rookie Awards. Many of these schools are online and affordable too, and as you know, it all comes down to your hard work and level of passion.

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To help you get started, here are some free software you can try to get familiarized with the field-

  • Blender- It supports —modelling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, video editing and game creation.
  • Foundry Nuke (Non-Commercial)- “With Nuke Non-commercial, you get access to free, non-watermarked versions of Nuke, NukeX and even top-of-the-line Nuke Studio for as long as you like, so you can learn, explore and have fun on your own schedule. If you want to learn to composite, edit and finish with industry-leading tools used on blockbuster movies, Nuke Non-commercial is what you’ve been waiting for. You can work on personal projects, update your skills, experiment, research or just play around.”
  • Sculptris- “Sculptris provides an excellent gateway into the exciting world of 3D. Its features are easy to learn, even for someone with no experience in digital art, yet robust enough for creating base models that can then be refined in other applications, such as ZBrush.”

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