How do I learn VFX

How do I become a visual effects artist?

THE VISUAL EFFECTS PIT - Tips for entering the VFX world

I'm a visual effects (VFX) artist from Cologne, but that wasn't always the case. I also got to a point where I asked myself “How the hell do I become a VFX Artist?” ... and that without going straight through a degree ... I was not accepted.

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Since I refer to and link various software programs and pages in this blog entry, I would like to briefly point out that this is advertising for them, but I was neither paid nor asked for them. It's just my personal recommendations. Ok, let's go!

THE INITIAL SITUATION
Besides having a little basic knowledge of After Effects, I was still a long way from being a visual effects artist. I didn't have any major contacts in the industry and certainly not any particularly good references to show.

A bad starting point….

My booth at the time was that I was already working in the film and video industry, but only as an editor. Within 2 years, however, I had already managed to take part in a movie, began to train whole groups in After Effects and more work followed, including in the automotive industry. With this blog entry I want to give you my tips with which I got into the VFX world.


Tip 1 - the right software

Learn the right VFX software for the area in which you want to work. Think about which area suits you more. Is it the 3D area or do you prefer to work in the 2D area? Or maybe you want to combine both worlds and learn both. Here is a list with various software apps from the VFX area.

3D SOFTWARE
Blender
Blender is free, but as far as I know it is not really used in the cinema sector, nevertheless it is extremely good software.

MAXON Cinema 4D
Cinema 4D is often used in the TV sector and in advertising agencies. There is a free school and student version, as well as a slimmed down version which is automatically included in the subscription of After Effects CC (named as Cinema 4D Light)

AUTODESK Maya and 3DS Max
Maya and 3DS Max are widely used in the cinema. There is a free 30 day trial version for Maya and for 3DS Max.

2D software
ADOBE After Effects
After Effects is used in most cases in the TV sector or agencies. However, there is also often the case that it is used for cinema productions. It is particularly well represented for work in the field of motion design. However, the free trial version can only be used free of charge for a few days.

FOUNDRY Nuke
Nuke is the most widespread software in cinema for 2D VFX. There is a free version that you can use to familiarize yourself with the software.

For example, I only know Nuke and After Effects.


Tip 2 - practice, practice, practice ... just how?

In the area of ​​VFX you have to have a lot on your chest, but don't worry, everyone starts small and I didn't know where to start at the time either. However, it is important to start at all first and then to practice regularly several times a week.
Regardless of previous knowledge, it is helpful to find tutorials that help you get to know software. There are many free online sites, but also paid sites such as Lynda, Video2Brain, PluralSight and fxphd.

The Foundry even offers a bunch of free Nuke tutorials themselves. You can also find more free tutorials on the Pixeltrain YouTube channel.

You are also welcome to visit my own YouTube channel to get further valuable tips and tutorials, e.g. here is my basics tutorial for After Effects.

PAID VS FREE

The quality fluctuates in both the free and paid videos, so I can't set a preference there. However, I have personally had the best experience with tutorial DVDs that are aimed at a specific program. There is usually a lot explained right from the start, so that afterwards you have already learned to some extent how to use the program correctly.

These DVDs do not have to convey the latest version of the software at all; it is sufficient to use older versions. The usual online sales portals often have DVds from around 5 € which are quite good. The price is only so low because you are looking at an outdated software version, but this usually does not matter if you only want to learn the basics first, as they usually do not change. It is therefore worth buying this inexpensive variant to get started with software.

FIND FILES TO WORK

In order to be able to practice with the software, of course, you also need video material. If you do not have this yourself, the payment options usually offer files for download or on the DVD that you can then work with. A good source of supply for free media are media that are labeled with the Creative Commons license. For example, google for "Videos Creative Commons".

On the RED website you can also find RED video clips that can be downloaded for free and used for training.


Tip 3 - Demoreel ... where do I get my first VFX orders from?

In order to present yourself and to create a good impression you should create a demoreel. This is a 30-60 second video showing your best work.

Here you can find my VFX demoreel:

WHERE CAN I GET HIGH QUALITY SCENES?

If you can't film something yourself because you don't have a camera or suitable people, for example, look for interested parties on the Internet. I started doing the VFX work for student projects or independent films. They are always looking for people who can do jobs for free. For example, I looked at Crew United (under Jobs. There you can also display no budget projects) or in topic-specific Facebook groups such inquiries are also gladly made.

The big advantage of this is that you can get good-looking recordings without much effort and you only have to fulfill one specific task and that of the visual artist.
The disadvantage is of course that the whole thing is unpaid and people usually cannot support you because they have no idea about VFX and the software themselves (why should they look for someone else?).

UNPAID VS QUALITY

Since the whole thing is unpaid, you don't really have to be ashamed if the end product doesn't quite meet expectations. At the beginning I didn't master every clip with flying colors and was even kicked out of the project once. If this happens, try to discuss with the people whether you want to use the scene you were working on in your demoreel if you are behind your work yourself. I was always able to achieve this with a few nice emails and thus use the scenes in my demoreel, even if they were not shown in the final film. More important than that these clips appear in the film is that you can use them in your demoreel and that you have learned something.

By the way: At the beginning it is best to ask if you can use the clips in the demoreel, because otherwise you can save yourself the work from my point of view.


Tip 4 - be a VFX artist

What is that supposed to mean? In the end, that you start to see yourself as a visual effects artist and especially to feel that way.

At the beginning I had no references and not enough experience and only mastered the basics of the software. So inside I didn't feel like a VFX artist because of that. In order to change that and to consolidate my mindset, I just started to tell over and over that I am a visual effects artist. And at every opportunity, whether in the private or professional area. When I was asked, for example, in the private sector or at networking events, what I do for a living, I answered that I am a video editor and visual effects artist.

As a rule, no one asked directly about demoreels or a website and if so, you can still tell the truth insofar as you “haven't had the time” to create a website or demoreel. The constant repetition helps to become stronger in the statement and also in one's own convictions and to appear as a VFX artist. With the first (also unpaid) jobs that you have successfully completed, your own opinion about yourself is further strengthened.

Made with ♥ in Cologne