As he describes it, "There are three of us in the VFX department and I basically run the administrative side, while running back-up artist on some of the more basic VFX shots. I breakdown the scripts and go to production meetings with our VFX Supervisor, Brad Powell, where we talk with the producers, director, and assistant director about how we’ll shoot certain shots. Then I sit with our editors, discuss each episode’s effects shots, order them from our post-house, organize all the raw footage and then distribute them to the rest of the VFX crew. If we need some additional help from secondary effects shops, I’ll generate bid requests and get quotes to pass by our producers, then make sure these hired guns stay on task and on schedule. Finally, if Brad or Chris Hagerthy, our senior effects artist, is busy, I’ll go to set and supervise visual effects shots for first unit or insert unit."
When I was 18, my friend hooked me up with Rob Schrab, a cult comic book writer/artist, who was finishing his first short film, a gonzo, Japanese influenced, sci-fi live-action cartoon, “Robot Bastard.” I immediately called Chris and we set to work on crafting a stylized look to match Rob’s colorful, exciting movie.
And while I worked my way through film and television production, I was always letting people know that I loved visual effects and was capable of adding a little more visual flair to their projects. I worked for free whenever I could, always believing that the experience was more important than any monetary compensation, which I figured would show up eventually. These days I am lucky enough to work almost exclusively in visual and special effects, whether it’s make-up effects, practical puppets, or blue/green screen compositing, I get to do a little of everything.
Additionally, something that challenges me now and will continue to be a challenge is education. There is always something more to learn, something new coming out. As a visual effects artist, I have to keep up with new compositing techniques, the latest software, what others in my field are doing; I have to have a good basis in traditional art as well as an understanding of photography and lighting. And then you learn all of that and suddenly everything changes and now everyone wants to shoot stereoscopic 3-D. I was lucky enough to grow up learning on computers, and so I’ve got a nice foundation, but that doesn’t mean I will always be on the cutting edge. You’ve got to keep up, whether it’s by reading, staying involved within a community, or better yet, being the person that designs and leads the way into a new realm.
Furthermore, with IMDB, Cinefex (the predominant VFX publication), Google, Twitter, so many working professionals are immediately accessible and most of those people are willing to answer your questions and give you some advice. Talk to as many people as you can and start making relationships with as many professionals as you can. Ask if you can send them some of your work and get some notes.
Finally, you’ll hear this a lot- you have to just start doing it. Do you want to be a puppeteer? Build puppets and start being a puppeteer. Find out about every type of puppet there is, the famous puppeteers, puppet schools and classes. Do you want to be a computer modeler? There are open-source modeling programs, like Blender, with international online support that you can start modeling with tomorrow morning.
Live it. Breathe it. And before you know it, you’ll be doing it.