I’ve been interested in visual effects since I was 17. After taking a degree in computer animation at the University of Teesside I went to Vancouver to study for a further 18 months. I’ve been working at Framestore since for the past 9 years.
What is your current job role? Can you describe it in a few sentences?
I am a Compositor. My job is at the end of the VFX pipeline and I combine all the layers created by the other departments into one seamless believable image.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love the fact that it requires a lot of problem solving. It’s a great mix of technical and artistic work. It never gets boring as no two shots are the same.
What are the most important skills and attributes for a person in your job?
I think you have to have an eye for detail and work well in a team. At big companies like Framestore many people will contribute working on different aspects of a shot, you have to be able to communicate well with each other. I’d also say that being patient and being good at problem solving are key attributes. A shot can develop over time and may go through many revisions and brief changes before it’s finished, you have to be able to adapt to those changes.
What are the top three things that you suggest anyone wanting to do your job learns?
I’d recommend learning about photography, how to combine images and some simple maths.
What inspired you to get into the VFX industry?
I was always interested in films and especially ones with images that you’d never seen before in real life. Ray Harryhausen’s films in particular really captivated me. I wanted to know how they were made and bought a load of magazines and books on visual effects.
Did you pursue this career through any educational routes?
After my A levels, I went to Teesside University to do a BA in Computer Animation and then to VanArts in Vancouver to do an 18 month course in Animation and VFX
What kind of private study did you undertake in addition to any educational programs?
When I was younger I bought a lots of books on computer animation and graphics and saved up to get a piece of 3D software. I then played around before deciding to take a degree in animation at university.
How did you start in the industry – what was your first job and how did you get it?
My first real job was at Framestore where I still work. I started as a Paint and Roto Artist, which involves a lot of removing wires attached to actors and drawing around objects to allow animated characters and effects to pass behind them in the final image. When I finished university I applied with a reel of my student work and was lucky to be called in for an interview.
What was the biggest thing you immediately had to learn in your first role?
The biggest thing was having to produce work quickly and meet deadlines. At university I could set my own schedules quite a bit. When I started professionally I had to learn to work a lot more efficiently.
Do you have any skills that make you stand out amongst your peers?
I think that because I pursued the animation and 3D side of visual effects before working as a 2D compositor I know a bit more about the other jobs in the visual effects industry than others who focused solely on Compositing.
How did you progress in your career – where there any skills that you had to learn to support your progress?
I’ve been fortunate in that I’ve been given harder shots to work on and more responsibility as I’ve gained experience and that enabled me to become better and more experienced at my job. The software and techniques have changed a bit though and I’ve had to keep up to date with the technology.
In retrospect, was there anything you would have done differently to get into the industry?
I don’t think I would have done much differently, I could have tried to get a job sooner but I really enjoyed university and believe that the extra education has really helped me progress quicker.
What are the top three things that you suggest anyone wanting to get into the industry learns?
I’d recommend learning something about photography, most of the work we do is photorealistic and that means trying to produce an image that the audience believe could have been photographed.
I’d also recommend learning how visual effects works technically, for example how a renderer converts a list of polygon coordinates into an image. Finally I’d recommend taking art classes. Ultimately you have to produce images and knowing how colours mix and how light creates highlights and shadows will allow you to visualise what it is you want to make and then you can use your technical skills to achieve it using the software