Thoughts on VFX #1

I’ve been working in the visual effects field for 10 years now. When I got started, I was 19 years old. Ten years later, here’s what I’ve learned:

-Be agile
How do you be agile you ask, when I’m on set, squeezing through actors and production design in my 300 pound wheelchair? Well, that’s a whole other post. What I mean by agile here is a state of mind. It’s all in the preparation. More times than not, on set, things change on the fly. As a visual effects supervisor, I have to come to set with several approaches in mind, in case plan A changes.

-Adapt with the time
Looking back, many gadgets and trinkets I’ve had in my on set supervision bag have been replaced by my iPhone. Technology evolves daily. Since VFX is 50% technology, we have to evolve with it. Should I get an HDRI with my DSLR and mirrored ball when there was only 1 minute allocated for all departments before we roll on this shot? Or can I whip out my iPhone and take a pano using the 360 app for now, and get a proper HDRI if/when the time permits? This is one example of the many decisions I make daily for visual effects

-Up your communications skills
I forgot who said this, but basically, all problems are communication problems. For me, transitioning from a visual effects artist to supervisor meant that I had to beef up my communication toolbox. How can I communicate the difficulty of a shot before they roll the camera, to figure out another way to capture the scene in a way that’s also efficient for vfx. How do I reply to a client’s email to politely address scope creep. How can I communicate the visuals we want to explore early on so we’ll have time to implement different ideas? Practice makes perfect, and I practice all of these things daily.

-Just keep learning
I went to USC for animation, but that didn’t mean my education stopped there. After a long day’s work, I still attempt to watch and read anything and everything there is on vfx. So after making vfx, I like to wind down by learning more about vfx. It’s the kind of attitude you need to stay afloat in this industry, and any industry for that matter.

-Just keep creating
I see art everywhere. From the spring fabric patterns at the mall, to the packagings of iMacs, to the user interface of the plugins we purchased. And I use these inspirations any which way I can. When Instagram first launched multiple pictures per post, I was so excited. How do you tell a story using sequenced stills? What pictures can I use as transitions? Can I color correct this picture to set the mood? Seeing art, hearing art makes me want to make more art. The cycle continues.

-You have to have fun!
Let’s be honest, if working 12+ hours daily, learning new software and hardware, figuring out the new user interface every time there’s a software update doesn’t seem fun to you, then you are in the wrong field. There are lots of uncertainty in the visual effects world, but one thing that’s for certain is you have to love it. This has to be fun for you to keep evolving.