Getting Into the VFX Industry

Getting Into the VFX Industry

Our friends over at Ceiga recently started a feature entitled 'Getting into the Industry', as Escape Studios have been training people in VFX for 10 years, they asked if our Recruitment Manager Garreth Gaydon would be kind enough to kick things off and answer a few questions.

So just in case you missed that post we decided to repeat the Q & A session here...

  1. What software do most Visual Effects studios prefer to use for 3D modelling and why? 
    The most commonly used package is Autodesks Maya. It’s also what we teach our students to use at Escape. It’s a very versatile package that is relatively easy to use and is also competitively priced.

  2. What are the important do’s and don’ts for a showreel in general? 
    Keep it relevant, research the skills that are required in an entry level position and make sure you show these skills in your reel. Play to your strength, always lead with your best piece of work. Breakdown and annotate your work. Do this in the 2nd half of your reel. Keep it original, i.e. don’t copy other people's work. Keep it simple; don’t attempt overly complex or ambitious work. Don’t show work in progress or include sub-standard work. This is your “show” reel make sure it is doing you justice! Don’t make it too long; no longer than 2 minutes including breakdowns.

  3. Is it best to become an expert in one area of visual effects (such as tracking), or is it better to study a bit of everything? 
    We teach all our students a range of skills that are aimed at getting them work in the industry, but we make sure that they're especially proficient in the entry level skills that employers are looking for. For example, a lot of our VFX students enter the industry as trackers and a lot of our Compositing students start their careers as Roto Artists. So while it is important to show a range of skills, you must remember to research the specific skills that are going to get you that first foot on the ladder. 

    Artists tend to specialise in areas later on in their careers, so while you should always have one eye on where you eventually want to be, it's a good idea to be open minded about the roles you apply for at the start of your career.

  4. What job positions usually have the most vacancies and is that the best route to take to get started? 
    On the 3D side of things a lot of artists start out as trackers. In compositing it is rotoscoping. These are both good entry level roles and a lot of artists careers start here.

  5. Once starting at a company as a runner, how long does it take on average to move up and begin specialised work on projects? 
    This entirely depends on the company you are working for. We have heard some horror stories of people working for years as a runner and still not getting any hands on experience. However most studios don’t tend to abuse this system and see it as a great opportunity to integrate juniors into the company. On average I would say 6 months is roughly what you should expect.

Special thanks to Garreth for taking time to answer and also to Richard Bray from Ceiga for running the feature. Remember if you have any more questions regarding getting into the VFX Industry please leave a comment below, or contact us and we will be happy to help.

4 Comments Toby Young

Posted by
Toby Young
Mon 23 Jan 2012: 8:26am

Tags: , , , , ,


  • Toby Young:

    Hi Matthew,
    There are various routes to enter the VFX industry and each is dependent on your individual needs. Some people enter as a runners and gain on the job experience. Others study at university or a training academy and these provide different skills. University offers a broad range of disciplines and because it's spread over 3 years it can really help to develop your artistic skills and creative disciplines. A training college like Escape will teach you specific skills over a shorter period of time specifically to get a junior position in industry. Your key to getting into the industry is your showreel, how you get that showreel up to scratch is your choice. Why not contact us and one of our training team can give you individual advice based on your requirements.

  • Matthew Kerslake:

    Great Article!

    I must ask yourselves, what would you recommend to a very artistic student at college who wants to work inside of the VFX industry. Would you say study at University, or study at an academy like this one? Also, to get positions in this industry do you need qualifications to back up your talent and skills?
    Thanks alot,

  • Matt Moses:

    On a more positive note, you need to train and have the skills to at least produce the quality you see in any current motion picture or commercial. For example, every shot has multiple components to create what you see in the theatre (modeling, rigging/animation,texturing, lighting, effects) , so your work must demonstrate at least one of those components at that level. They need to know in advance that you can take on the work and get it done to their liking on time. I have never seen artists in a studio environment that model, rig/animate, texture/write shaders, light, and do the effects on a single shot, so specializing in one of these to the point that you can produce high quality work is fine - just make sure you love doing that work!

  • Matt Moses:

    If you are already married, and are JUST starting to try and get into the visual effects industry..... you NEED to rethink your decision! The visual effects industry is a contract employment industry (3-8 months, mostly 6 month opportunities), and next to zero employeee loyalty UNLESS you are VERY skilled shader writer, pipeline coder, particle effects guru, or necessary "management" type. If you are trying to settle down and have a full time job at a studio, it is NOT going to happen.

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