VFX Jobs Explained – A Guide For Filmmakers (Part 1)

October 13th, 2023 Jump to Comment Section 2
VFX Jobs Explained – A Guide For Filmmakers (Part 1)

Movies and shows capture the imagination of audiences all around the world, and visual effects have become an instrumental part of the filmmaking process. Whether you’re watching a fantasy like “The Wizard of Oz” or a drama like “Fight Club”- there’s a fair amount of VFX in just about every piece of film and television. These are (some of) the jobs that turn the impossible into reality.

This article is the first in a multi-part series designed to educate and inspire filmmakers interested in VFX jobs or learning more about visual effects in general.

‘To Be A Generalist’ video on YouTube. Source: @ILMVFX on YouTube

CG Generalist

One of the most common postings you may see on a job board is for a CG (or 3D) Generalist. This person usually needs experience with mainstream 3D software such as Maya, Cinema 4D, 3DS Max, Blender (this one is free), etc. Typically, all that is required is proficiency in these types of programs because your employer will need you to perform any number of different tasks such as lighting, rendering, simple keyframe animation, physics simulations, and even some modeling/texturing of 3D assets.

Over the past couple of years, the introduction of ILM’s StageCraft technology, also known as the “LED volume,” has expanded the role to encompass proficiency in navigating Unreal Engine for virtual production. Truly an exciting time to work in the industry! This is one of the most general, entry-level VFX jobs, which is why I listed it first. It’s a great place to start if you want to break into the industry, but it still takes some knowledge and experience – so, start practicing!

mocap, rokoko app, vfx
Motion Capture app from Rokoko. Source: CineD.

Motion capture

More and more productions are using motion capture in one way or another. While you might believe this technology primarily serves the film and television industry, it’s worth noting that the video game industry is also a significant user of this technology, further expanding the playing field if this piques your interest. Within the umbrella of ‘Mocap’, you have many different departments: Realtime Operators (who record the motion capture data), Facial Performance Intake (which records the facial performances), Motion Edit Artists (who clean and solve the captured animation data), as well as the animators who put the combined data together to refine the performance and make the whole narrative believable. Motion capture is prominent whenever a physical performance is needed on a digital character, even on stunt performances so that the actors aren’t put in any real danger.

matte painting, digital, art, vfx
Matte painting. Source: Adobe.

Art department

If you’re more artistically inclined, there are many jobs in the art department of any company. Thinking outside the box, one could even work in Public Relations or Graphic Design for a movie company/studio with these skills. But within the realm of VFX, the art department is constantly needed for 3D asset modeling, material texturing, makeup, warpaint, and costuming of digital characters, as well as matte paintings that are often used, both digitally and traditionally painted, for set extensions. Production Designers and Art Directors rely fully on the creative and artistic people that populate these positions, so if you have a background in aesthetically pleasing imagery, this may be a path for you.

Python Scripting, vfx
Python scripting within Mocha Pro 2021. Source: Boris FX

Technical development (TD)

It’s worth mentioning that pretty much any job in the VFX industry also needs support. These jobs are supported by developers and software engineers who write the programs and tools that are used every day by every production in every city around the world. Developers need knowledge of scripting languages such as Python, API, Visual Basic, etc. If a technical problem is encountered during the post-production pipeline, these individuals are the ones who fix it. So if you like problem-solving and coding, and don’t mind staring at a computer screen all day, then this might be your calling. And it’s something that pretty much every company needs, so the demand for this job is high if you are skilled in programming.

ai, generative art, vfx, zoom out
A zoomed-out image from Midjourney. Source: CineD.

The future of VFX

No one can predict what the future of the industry will look like. Within just the past couple of years, we have seen a boom in accessibility for filmmakers of all budgets. With the advent of machine learning (commonly called “AI”, although not actually “artificial intelligence”) being adapted into tools for filmmakers, we are on the precipice of a VFX renaissance. Coupled with the fact that more and more VFX workers are voting to unionize, that may soon become the norm, and the gap could close on VFX as one of the last non-union filmmaking jobs. There has never been a better time to get involved, so if it’s something you’re interested in then make a move before it’s too late. You can find jobs for every movie studio on their official website (usually under “careers” or something similar), as well as by searching online for the specific positions listed above.

What VFX jobs are you interested in hearing more about? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!


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