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Advisory Board Member: Russell Dodgson

Russell Dodgson is the Global Head of NUKE for Commercials at Framestore. He began his career eight years ago after graduating with an MA in Digital Effects. Following several years freelancing as a Compositor in Architectural Visualisation as well as directing and shooting VFX sequences, Russell joined Framestore in 2009 when hired to setup and lead the new Nuke Compositing Department. He brought a wealth of knowledge with him, specialising in handling both fully CGI projects and CGI integration with live action plates.

As well as heading up the rapidly growing Nuke department at Framestore, Russell works closely with the Nuke developers; he's a Professor for FXPHD and teaches international masterclasses for The Foundry in Nuke. Russell's main goal is to develop and streamline new workflows and approaches, keeping Framestore as a forerunner in utilising cutting-edge technology to ultimately generate great images.

Russell's most recent work includes Lead Compositing/Supervision on ‘Kia Soul This or That’, ‘DJ Hero’, ‘Coca-Cola Siege’, the ‘Skyfall’ title sequence, ‘Qualcom SnapDragon: Coming Soon’, ‘Pepsi Crowd Surfing’ and ‘The Tale of the Three Brothers’ from ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1’.

Tell us about your most exciting projects, and why they stood out?

My favourite project has to be the animation sequence in 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1' - The Tale of Three Brothers sequence. A favourite because there wasn't
really anything else like it out there at the time. It was something new and original. Working together with compositor Adam Rowland, an extremely passionate team and Ben Hibon the Animation Director was a great experience. Ben is an incredible artist and a great guy and we've remained good friends since. It’s quite rare for a job to final with as interesting a feel as the original concept art, and that one did.

The 'Pepsi Crowd Surfing' commercial was also a lot of fun, again because I was working with a great team. It was one of those projects that kept us on our toes. On every project, we come across challenges, so it's important that we can work together as a close team. One of the most important lessons I've learnt throughout my career in VFX is that asking for help or advice when you’re not sure is a strength, not a weakness; something that all artists should keep in mind when they're starting out.

How important is it for the industry to continue to dispatch knowledge and experience on to other budding VFX artists?

It's hugely important. This is a practical based industry and it's an industry that's evolving all the time. So it's important that the people joining the industry are kept up to date with the technologies and techniques being used. This is where some Universities can let their students down. Throughout a three-year degree course a lot can change, making it difficult for the course to keep up with the latest technical trends in the industry. It's really important that artists are learning the right skills so they can execute them well on the job and to a professional standard. Of course people will have strengths in different areas and at Framestore it's my job to work out what certain people on the team are good at so they can be given the right task.

What inspired you to want to get into the world of VFX?

I was always naturally drawn to visual effects and there are obvious milestones that stand out; ‘Back To The Future’, ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘The Abyss’ but I always remember watching ILM's 'stained glass' sequence in Barry Levinson's 'Young Sherlock Holmes'… I was probably ten years old at the time. Five or so years later I remember picking up a book (remember them?) about the history of ILM and it explained how that shot, and tons of others I had seen, had been done. From then on I watched a lot of behind the scenes extras on DVD's. The extras for 'Black Hawk Down' showed off some really great effects work. That was around the time I decided to start working in the industry.

Where did you study VFX?

I didn't study at Escape, but in hindsight I wish I had, it seems to offer a very practical hands-on learning experience. I think it's extremely hard for educators to stay relevant and up to date with an ever-changing industry, so having lots of hooks into the current professional environment and access to practicing teachers and advisors is extremely beneficial.