How to break into the visual effects industry - Gnomon Live













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.


- 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”. 



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: