Beginning VFX Artist - Advice for beginners, from a beginner

@Minal_Kalkute here you go, a bit late but as promised :slight_smile:

yup as promised :wink: Thanks a bunch for taking time! Much Appreciated :blush:

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This is gold @Travis! Thank you so much for putting this together! :slight_smile:
I will put this to good use!


You’re very welcome. Hopefully some other vfx artist can post their starting experiences in this thread as well. I’ll also keep adding things as I think of them

Really nice write up here @Travis.

[quote=“Travis, post:1, topic:3081”]
I’d say first and foremost, you will work with everyone
[/quote] this!

and the ability to understand how the engineers will use your work is as critical as understanding how an in-between artist can alter your rough animation; you could throw out a hundred hours of work because things just are not setup technically. i don’t know how schools teach this but it was one of the biggest skills I learned on the job — to have a ‘learned’ passion for the technical side to your art, technical direction discipline, is in vast demand.

[quote=“Travis, post:1, topic:3081”]
Learn how to break up your effects into Start, Loop and End
[/quote] yep!
and importantly is to learn to make art that is easily altered (iterated) compartmentalized and documented. Many time artists feel they are empowered by learning after-effects+Houdini+unreal+maya+max and then could adopt a circuitous approach of creation; The AD might not care how you made it but your colleagues, (or other hires after you) can get completely puzzled if you have not carefully documented your strategy and loop in and out of packages.

I found working in as few packages as possible, in incremental bits, know things will change (you need to be agile, organized), this setup before you start, thinking through the process is very important; Ever open someone else’s PSD and spent 2-3 hours checking each layer? yah, ouch! or had to work through 3 packages of processing just to make a minor adjustment on color; this can be very inefficient


I’m not sure how to teach this either, I guess other than learning socializing in school. I guess it was more of a heads up to people interested in the job or about to start it, that it’s not like you go off to your desk and do your own thing every day. People may not realize that on a daily basis you may be requesting a timing change from an animator, or need additional functionality setup from a designer, or a tool or fix from a programmer. The job is very big on interaction, and good communication skills to help convey what you need and why it’s important I think is key.

I don’t think people realize that even concept artists interact with more groups than one would assume.


Testing, checking, updating.

A lot of what you create is going to rely on games systems. If there’s an update or a hiccup in the system and your effects are not triggered as intended, you’ll probably be the only one able to spot it. It gets too niche for QA to notice, you need to know the system inside out to spot, debug and fix.

So many things can go wrong: animators change their timings and you’re not notified (happens a lot), features timings and values can change too (say, the delay before damage is inflicted or the strengths of a weapon that changes and will need to be reflected in your vfx). Some gameplay code bugs can kill things / not update the positions as expected. Once the functionality is all working in game, you might realize there had been some oversights and actually you need some updates from gameplay code. The functionality of of a feature might evolve overtime and require a complete rework of the way your vfx are organized and triggered.

These are just a few example on the top of my head, there will be plenty in your own day to day experience. (once again, you need to talk to a lot of people in all those cases).
It’s part of the job, be prepared to it and don’t get frustrated by it.

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Wow this is awesome, I just recently found this site and realized how much I enjoy cresting vfx. So thank you for all the beginner tips!

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Great thread @Travis

Perhaps something that isn’t necessarily art or tech related and overlooked for people new to the job, things I wish I was told when I started.

Be organised - Take notes and lots of them. If it’s not appropriate or you forget your notepad, make sure you understand and then write it down after. Look at notes before asking, ‘how to do something for the tenth time’.

Try and establish a weekly with your lead or keep emails (emails have time stamps) of your work and progress. You’ll be surprised at your accomplishments. Filling out self appraisals, discussing career development, explaining what you did at a new job, etc will become easy.

Follow the naming convention your lead set for files. If you’re the only artist, pick a naming convention and stick with it. People will love your work more if they can find it easily as it’s consistent.

Keep your sources files and make notes in them or label things as you work. It’ll make sharing easier and if you open something up later and want a spring board to start with it’ll be easier.

I clearly have memory issues :stuck_out_tongue: . Hopefully someone else might be in the same boat and find this useful.


I have a small stack of sticky notes on my desk with little tips and tricks, and a notepad that is almost entirely used up now. I left stuff out like taking notes, naming conventions, and reviews because I figured that would be taught in schools, but there could be people getting into vfx without any college experience.


Thank you so much Travis, it is so very useful for any beginner! I feel like this kind of stuff isn’t communicated properly, even in School.

I left stuff out like taking notes, naming conventions, and reviews because I figured that would be taught in schools, but there could be people getting into vfx without any college experience.

I figured the only way to get a job in R-VFX was to have a 5+ years college degree nowadays and be under 28 years old… you think people can still get a job - or just decent training in the field - without college?

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I’m glad this helped, even if it was just a small bit! And nope, no college degree needed! I was in a college that didn’t specialize in art or game design (my college had a digital art program though), and I switched to vfx my senior year and started learning it on my own. I was learning and doing personal vfx stuff for about a year and a half before I got super lucky and found an entry level vfx position and got a job.

You can 100% get into this at any age for a career, and you can do it without spending a day on a college campus. All you need the drive to get better, and a focused improvement on your work. There has literally never been a better time to start learning vfx. There are so many free resources out there to learn from, and if you hit a wall or want focused instruction, there are more and more artists starting mentorship programs. They are a bit pricey, but not compared to a semester at FullSail :grimacing:

Marcus Bruzzese (Blizzard) has a mentorship -

Nick Peterson -

(edit: removed Jason because he just sent out an update on his Patreon that he’s re-working things)

I’m sure there are others too, and of course there’s us! The RTVFX forum is here to help any way we can, and we have a facebook group as well.


Didn’t Marcus start doing vfx last year? Or rather, 2017.
That’s, pretty quick to become a mentor. Be careful.
Edit: I’m not questioning his skills. I’m questioning his experience. I mean how many projects can you take through all stages, from conception to ship in that rime?
Block out effects have very different limitations compared to final. The optimization profile does not look the same for an internal console demo as a sustain patch and so on.

I’m not sure tbh, I just saw it pop up on my feed and thought I’d share. I know Nick Peterson is doing traditional fx mentorships through the same site.

In many disciplines, this would be a fair assessment. Alot of the “art” based stuff tends to be a far more “results” type business. If you can make it, who cares what the paper says? You’re already doing it, and if you can do it well, we can see it.

Hey Andreas! I have only been at Blizzard for a short time. But I have been working on games (smaller studios/contract work) as an FX artist since 2014.

My mentorships are geared towards the more beginner and intermediate levels while Nick’s dives deeper.


Thank you so much for your long reply and the ressources. It’s true that we live in a wonderful time, you can learn so many things on the internet. And RTVFX is so helpful and supportive, I couldn’t ask for a better community to start my journey!
I did see @Hyrun 's and Nick’s mentorship and I’m very much interested. I figured I would get a hand in Unreal first since I only know Unity for R-VFX.
Thank you @Travis, you gave me the final nudge to start working on my passion. Just need to start somewhere, right :grinning:?


This is really useful and very inspiring to read, makes me feel like i’m on the right path and learning the right things looking at your list of skills.

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I’m sure there are others out there too, I just wanted to show there are other options than expensive schools. You can certainly get far on your own without spending outside of your means. College has benefits, but just to start out and improve on your art, it’s not necessary, and very few will actually give you the skills and guidance to be ready to enter the work market right after graduation.

We’ll all be here whenever you post some wips and want feedback :+1: