There was a mix of early experiences that inspired Victor to study compositing: his fascination with the original Star Wars trilogy first led him to focus his attention on film and VFX; then, with a photographer for an older brother, he grew up surrounded by cameras and Photoshop, and felt himself progress definitively down the road of photography-related digital imagery. He had always loved 3D-generated images, but when he was a child, CG was never really photorealistic. Victor explained that it was only when he watched Jurassic Park—“4 times in the cinema!”— that everything had changed: “I finally started to believe in things I saw on the screen that I knew couldn't exist in the real world … Although it took me a few years to understand how every computer-generated image needs someone to composite it; someone who makes it photographically believable.” The knowledge he had already acquired retouching photographs and mixing digital images was a useful background to compositing, and Victor started studying film, whilst working for small studios to pay for his schooling.
Prior to studying the compositing course at Escape Studios, Victor worked as a 2D generalist across Italy and Spain: “my job list included digital grading, motion graphics, film editing, DIT and, of course, compositing. But it was all for 'small' projects”—although he admits “everything looks 'small' now after a few years working on blockbusters.” After setting up his own studio in Italy, a friend of Victor’s encouraged him to make the move to London, which was a growing hub of excitement for VFX artists at the time.
What Victor enjoyed most about his time at Escape was “being treated like a professional, and not just a student: in every assignment, each conversation and class, our teacher, Mark Pinheiro, and all of the staff at Escape Studios would always refer to us as ‘Artists’, not only ‘aspiring artists’. This instilled a sense of responsibility within us—like planting a seed of professionalism, so that after all of the hard work, you could both reap the benefits of your own success and learn to stand by and progress from your own mistakes.” Victor felt the experience put him in good stead for a professional environment.
Victor believes that Escape Studios is one of the most important VFX schools in the world; “the skills I learnt at Escape were essential. I cannot thank Mark enough—one of the most important teachers at all levels in my life, and a good friend too. However, the biggest step-up in my professional life came thanks to Garreth Gaydon and the recruitment team at Escape.” Even though he had several years’ experience tucked under his belt, Victor had no contacts when he arrived in London, so he had to build up his reputation starting at the bottom, giving his all at each job: “Garreth gave me my first chance in the industry here, then I had to earn my reputation up from the very beginning of the scale.”
Since leaving Escape Studios, Victor has been working non-stop on feature films such as The Dark Knight Rises, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows, Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, John Carter, The Bourne Legacy, 127 Hours, and many others. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with top studios such as Double Negative, Cinesite, Union VFX... Oh boy, I'm having fun—meeting so many talented people and learning a lot. It’s what I have always dreamed of doing!” Victor’s experience has led him to be one of the first officially-certified NUKE Masters at The Foundry, and he now gets to share his love of comping with like-minded people attending NUKE workshops, online courses and conferences. Victor has contributed to Nukepedia.com since its beginning, where he was recently voted their second most important contributor, and he has also been accepted as a member of the Visual Effects Society.
So what advice would Victor give to all of those budding compositors out there? “Shoot yourself,” he laughs. “I mean, grab a camera and start filming something—anything! Just get a feel for the camera, and you’ll start to understand how lenses work, and the difference between seeing and filming something. For a compositor, a solid knowledge of photography and cinematography is far more important than just being able to use Photoshop. Try mixing your images in a photorealistic way; you will encounter limitations and problems, but don’t give up: you will start to find your own solutions.”
Looking to the future, Victor sees himself moving into a VFX Supervisor’s role, but is staying open-minded to what may lay ahead.