5 Tips To Become A Great Visual Effects Artist

Movies cannot be complete without visual effects. Just think about The Jungle Book or The Guardians of the Galaxy. Most of the movies these days are visual effects heavy and require a team of great seasoned VFX artists to collaborate together and work hard to create those stunning visuals.

In order to become a great VFX artist and be a part of a team like that, you really need to be committed and passionate about your work as it takes years of practice to be able to achieve the quality you see on these movies.

In case you already have some experience or even if you’re just starting out as a VFX artist, here are 5 great tips that will help you succeed in this field:

#1: Observe The World Around You:

The first step you need to take in order to become a great visual effects artist is actually to observe. Just look around you and pay attention to the closest details. The more attention you pay, the more real the effects will be. For example, just take a fire. Is the smoke always the same color? What makes it change? Is it always that dense? and how does it reacts when in front of a bright sky?

Understanding how the lighting works is very significant in visual effects. You’ll be able to create more correct shadows / highlights and reflections and learn how to create a more realistic contrast between different objects in the scene,

Movement can also be tricky sometimes. You need to look at the leafs of the trees, for example. How do they act? And the branches? And the colors change in case if it’s a sunny day? What about the shadows? All these minute details add up and can sell the realism to the audience.

#2: Recreate Photographs:

One of the things that will help you be a great VFX artist is to recreate photographs. Just pick some that have different shadows and lights and try to reproduce them. This will help you to see the difference between real things and fake ones. Despite the fact that the first ones won’t be that good, it’s a matter of practicing and experimenting.

It’s working on making CG look realistic and looking at real world references will teach you that what are those differences in the render you have in front of you compared to a photograph that captured the same object.

#3: Establish Clear Goals:

“Practice makes Perfect.”

So you think you are committed to becoming a great VFX artist, right? You already know you need to look at what’s around you as well as practice a lot. However, you also need to have the commitment to keep doing these things. On your job, for example, you usually have deadlines. And this is what makes you deliver the work done. So, it’s time to create some deadlines for yourself as well in what comes to visual effects.

If you’re like most people, you should only be practicing at night and during weekends. After all, you either work or study and just don’t have more time. So, just establish a goal to meet every single week like, for example, producing one finished render every week. Despite you might feel it’s going to be a lot of work, you are making yourself learn by practicing more. And by the end of 2 or 3 months after doing this, you should already see some differences between your first renders and the last ones.

#4: Watching Tutorials:

Tutorials are a great way to learn and develop new techniques and skills. Watching video tutorials is much easier to understand as since you’re watching someone create something from scratch step by step, it’s usually a lot more intuitive than simply reading a book.

However, there’s a catch. If you’re just like most people, you’ll watch it and eventually forget what you learned from it. You can only learn by watching and practicing at the same time so you should apply what you have learned to the same project / your own project as you are watching, which will make everything that you learned more concrete and once you have practiced it once, you will have a reference for future projects.

#5: Look At Your Work:

You can keep practicing everything, establishing deadlines for your work, but if you fail on looking closely at your work, this will all be lost. The fact is that is very easy to lose yourself with so many details. VFX artists tend to be perfectionists and they just look at everything in detail.

However, at the end, they tend to forget to see the whole picture, the forest instead of the tree. So, what you need to do is to step back a little and just look closely at the photo. Do the shadows match in angle, density, and color? Did you check the alignment of the key elements? Analyze your work in detail. You’re not looking for flaws; you’re looking to become a great VFX artist.

So, you need to understand what you’re doing well, and what you’re doing not so well so that you can improve and focus in the right areas as you can keep working on an image forever but it’s the balance between focusing on all the elements to get it to a level where everything combined can sell the final image.

If you have any feedback or any tip or advice that you would like to share, please do comment and do share this article with your friends and colleagues if you found any of this information valuable.

School of Pixels