How to break into the visual effects industry - Gnomon Live

BY : MATTHEW PACKWOOD

PHOTOGRAPHY BY : CASSANDRA DOWNS

IMAGE : MARVEL STUDIO

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A big challenge for any creative professional starting out in the industry is landing your first job and in the competitive world of 3-D modelling, animation and compositing this can be a daunting task.

Australia's leading visual effects and animation professionals spoke at Gnomon Live and gave essential advice for any student trying to break into the industry.

Alexandre, from Luma Pictures LA and Melbourne, is passionate about helping talented people find their way into the industry. Alexandre’s main advice was to design your work to match the style of the work of the company you are applying for. For example if it’s a photo realistic shot, you should create your own photo realistic shot to match the style. If the shots are stylised, you should create your own stylised shot. Another tip was to find a piece of work that you like and recreate it, to show that you can match the continuity of another shot. He also gave advice on not just creating the work but tailoring it to the visual effects recruitment staff who are watching it. Alexandre explains “It's not just about creating good work, it's about creating the right kind of work, for the right kind of person”. His key points are quoted as follows: 

Creating a showreel for visual effects

- First ask yourself what do you want to be ? A Modeller, Animator, Lighter, Compositor, or Paint Artist ?

- Create the work and tailor it to the visual effects recruitment staff who are watching it. 

- It's not just about creating good work, it's about creating the right kind of work or style, for the right kind of person. It's good to do multiple shots in that style. 

- If you present work in a different style to our style, we can't evaluate that work, so we are not confident that you can match our style. This makes it very hard to employ you.

- Think about what you want to do, where you want to do it, analyse the studio that you want to work with, then create the work in that certain style. You need to focus and work hard.

Visual effects - Photo real

- What we are looking for in visual effects is photo real. Visual effects needs to look interesting and photo real. Not stylised like Disney.

- If you create shots that looks stylised and not photo real, it will make it a lot harder for people looking for photo real to be confident that you can deliver.

- It is very time-consuming to create a full 3-D photorealistic shot. So when trying to make photo real you should try to use real plates whenever possible. 

- Try adding a little bit of camera motion to add realism.

Created in 3-D ?

- With 3-D stills, it is very hard to know that you are not cheating, in the bad way of using Photoshop instead of a 3D program.

- It is important to explain how you made the 3-D images, for example, 60% nuke and 40% Photoshop.

- It is also important to put in a camera move to show that the image has been created in 3-D.  

- If you are not an animator, don't try animating as people will look at your work based on the worst thing you have in your showreel.

Reference

- For photo real, find a reference or shoot a plate and get some HDMI and some supporting data.

- Find a reference of exactly what you want to build. In visual effects this is not cheating. It's actually a good thing. 

- You can put the reference in your demo reel as a shot that inspired you. Then the next shot is the one you created. It’s important that you specify this. 

- People will find a lot of value in this. Because they can see you are matching exactly what they want to match. This will tell people what you are looking for, what was your end goal, and how close you got to it.

- If you cannot create all the parts of the finished shot, find good  people who can do the part that you're missing. 

- Don't think that if you put the shot in your reel and that you didn't do everything that can make you look bad. No, that will make you look stronger, that will make you look better, because you are filling up a gap just like you would be in a studio. 

- You should be very careful about what you are building and who you are showing it to. Because this will define your career path.

Kirsty Parkin from Rising Sun Pictures Adelaide concurs with Alexandre that the important part of developing your visual effects show real is to achieve photo real shots, and work with live-action plates. Kirsty also believes “that we have good courses in Australia and that is not necessary to go overseas to study”. Rising Sun have set up a industry based course to try and further equip graduates and help them into the industry, and has “employed 25 graduates from 12 institutions across Australia in the last 12 months”.

Simon Rosenthal form Iloura explains how it is common for people to work at home experimenting and developing their skills to a high level, and then move into the industry. “A tertiary degree has little or no influence over our recruitment, we employ a lot of people who have been tinkering in their bedrooms for years and then we develop their skills. We put an enormous emphasis on personality. We believe that if you're passionate about the work and if you have the right personality and mindset, that is as important as having the skill set. It is also important to have a willingness to listen and to learn to ask the right questions at the right time”. Simon also recommends that students should be contacting their recruitment team at Iloura on a regular basis, asking what they should do, how to go about it and what they need to say to actually become part of the business. 

In contrast to the big visual effects companies which are often looking for more specialised artists, Emily Harridge from Visual Playground, a pioneer in broadcast design and a leading woman in the industry, states “the key traits that Visual Playground looks for when employing staff is high technical ability, excellent design skills, good attitude, and the ability to take feedback and criticism”. Emily believes “when working in a medium-size studio it is important to have the ability to work all parts of the project from modelling, texturing, lighting and animating, to mastering the project”. She also thinks if you are interested in being a Motion graphic artists you should also have the ability to work in Cinema 4D. “The most important thing is to be adaptable”. When preparing your work for a broadcast design studio or advertising animation studio it is important that you show the ability to work in multiple programs and styles.

Simon from Iloura believes “if you are passionate and committed and have some semblance of skill and understanding you will find a role for yourself in the industry. Frankly given the explosion of visual effects, the world's your oyster”. 

VISUAL EFFECTS COMPANY LINKS:

www.lumapictures.com

www.rsp.com.au

www.iloura.com.au

www.visualplayground.com.au

IDEAS ON DESIGNS

Ideas on Designs Kristin McCourtie, Elise Bufton and their a team delivered, a awesome event Gnomon Live, that inspired students and industry professionals and made this article possible.

For more info on the speakers or the conference check out: 

www.ideasondesign.net

The World’s Best 3-D Artists Come to Melbourne to Inspire

BY : MATTHEW PACKWOOD

Photography By : Cassandra Downs

FROM : ideas on design

ABOUT :  Gnomon Live

As the sun went down over the Abbotsford convent the blue sky turned to red and orange. A small army of visual effects and gaming industry professionals started to take their seats in front of a large outdoor cinema screen. The red wine flowed as Kristin McCourtie of the Ideas on Design walked casually onto the stage and introduced some of the world's best  3-D, gaming and visual effects artists. 

The amazing panel included: Alex Alvarez, the charismatic founder of the acclaimed Gnomon Visual Effects School in Hollywood, who mesmerised the crowd with his passion for his craft; Dylan Ekren, the light-hearted and fun modelling supervisor at Walt Disney who brings characters to life; Alexandre Lopes Cancado, the 2D Supervisor at Luma Pictures LA with his cool Brazilian style and buckets of energy; Brandon Fayette, the extremely approachable and friendly CG Supervisor on The Force awakens; Jonathan Berube, Art Director at Blizzard Entertainment, who added a sense of style to the eventwith his French-Canadian accent and stylish clothes; Devon Fay, the amazingly talented Senior Environment Artist from Infinity Ward; and the intriguing Joy Lea, 3D Artist from DICE LA. 

Kristin McCourtie asked the panel to talk about what Star Wars meant to them. Brandon from Bad Robot, the production company behind The Force Awakens, described his feelings of apprehension mixed with excitement and fear of taking on such an epic, cultural and important visual effects project. 

He went on to explain how the Star Wars movie influenced him as a kid and had led him to a career in visual effects and animation. The audience knew they were in the right place and were lapping it up.

The light-hearted discussion continued, centred around how Star Wars culture had affected the panel in meaningful ways and there was a sense in the audience of mutual understanding and love for the sci-fi tale.

As the sun was almost set, a large flock of fruit bats flew over the convent halting the conversation, jokes were a plenty as panellists described how they were a little freaked out, and how Australia must be a wild country. The bantering and teasing continued on stage and gave the audience the sense that the panel had known each other well for years and they probably have as all were graduates of the GNoman school.

The Force Awakens commencedto cheers on the big screen and it was a surreal atmosphere watching such state-of-the-art visual effects, in an eclectic Victorian style convent.

The visitors today knew this was going to be an interesting weekend.

Over the two days 13 speakers showed beautiful animations and amazing 3-D images and discussed the techniques involved in creating technically and visually high-quality work. They also discussed the challenges around building production pipelines. There was also much discussion on the best render out to use from the V-Ray to RenderMan.

The keynote speaker Brandon from Bad Robot delivered a talk about his journey from being a student to becoming a CG visual supervisor. Brandon then explained how they delivered so many high quality visual effects shots with just a small team. His technique focused on working the hardest on the areas that the audience focuses on within the shot, and not wasting any time perfecting areas that were not focused on by the viewer. He also discussed how Bad Robot had a diverse cultural team and had the largest female workforce of any production company in LA. He was confident that this had positive effects on the success of both the creative work and company. His take-home message was: he was just an ordinary guy who worked hard and got to the top of his field, and that any student who worked hard and had a bit of luck along the way could succeed too. 

Alexandre from Luma Pictures LA and Melbourne, gave tips for students on how to create and present your work to visual effects companies. The main tip was to design your work to match the style of the work of the company you are applying for. For example if it’s a photo realistic shot, you should create your own photo realistic shot to match the style. If the shots are stylised, you should create your own stylised shot. Another tip was to find a piece of work that you like and recreate it to show that you can match the continuity of another shot.

Running side-by-side with the talks were amazingly detailed and clearly communicated demos. The demos ran for three hours and included topics such as lighting and concept art techniques, bringing characters to life from 2D to 3D, techniques to rapidly create hair and grass. The artists had superior knowledge of the software and use program such as Z Brush to sculpt characters, Photoscan to turn pictures into 3D objects, as well as Maya, xNormal, Photoshop and RenderMan. The demos were interesting insights for the professionals and inspiring demonstrations of skill for the students. 

The Australian contingent were equally as inspiring with Emily Harridge from Visual Playground, a pioneer in broadcast design and a leading woman in the industry. Emily outlined the changing face of motion graphics and her boutique animation studio, an interesting contrast from the big budget gaming and visual effects companies.

The founders of Zero Latency VR, Scott Vandonkelaar and James De Colling, have created a much talked about cutting edge technology product offering with their virtual reality gaming facility. The guys discussed what they are presently working on in Melbourne and have big plans to roll their product out nationally.

Aaron Grove, Co-Founder and Creative Director of Blowfish Studios, discussed how they have been growing their start-up to a full-service game developer in Sydney. He also talked about the importance of culture and getting the creative team balance right. He highlighted the challenges of competing on a global scale and a lack of government industry support in New South Wales. He had praise for the work done to create the arcade, a co-working space for game developers in Melbourne. 

Simon Rosenthal from Iloura discussed the challenges of making Mad Max, over two studios in Melbourne / Sydney and how to manage different team cultures within one company. Simon then kicked off a discussion about higher education training and the best way to deliver industry-ready students to work in the visual effects industry. There was much positive discussions on this topic in between sessions with ideas from both industry and educators.

Rising Sun pictures also attended with both their creative director and manager of training and education. Rising Sun were promoting their short courses to try and further equip graduates and help them into the industry. Swinburne University had their key 3-D / 2D animation and gaming lecturers in attendance. 

Art station also had a presence, explaining their product offering which allows students to post their portfolios and show reels online. 

This was a mind blowing event both for its content and its access to the speakers. With 300 people attending there was ample opportunity to chat and network. 

Ideas on Designs Kristin McCourtie, Elise Bufton and their a team delivered, a well-organised, awesome event, that inspired students and industry professionals.

For more info on the speakers or the conference check out : www.ideasondesign.net