Career Advice: Changing back to film VFX from games?

Hi all,

I have been working on effects for games for about a year and a half after leaving film effects after 5 years. I never expected to go into games but fate ultimately gave me the chance to do games and I have been really enjoying the difference from film effects, mostly because of the overall workflow and stability of hours and development time.

Recently I was offered a pretty big wage increase from my old vfx film company to come back but I feel very conflicted to going back to film after working in the games industry. I was wondering if anyone could give me insight from their perspective?

When I was in film I felt like my imposter syndrome was a constant part of myself I had to deal with and the stress was high. In games (so far) I never really felt that and maybe thats down to my company size (im the only vfx artist) or due to the workflow being more immediate over films, which in film always felt like endless hours of frustration tweaking looks etc trying to get it right and everything that comes off that.

I’m still relatively new to the games industry and working on my first large title (been on it the whole time I have been in games) and will complete in a years time, so with your perspective in terms of the “long term” and knowing the whole cycle of a game in terms of its development, I would love to hear your input in terms of going back to film for a bit now; with more stress and much more money or sticking with games and earn less money but have more dealable stress levels.

Ultimately the goal is I want the stability of work hours and controllable/predictable levels of stress. For me films was great, fun but very time consuming and stressful (many crunch times over a development of a film), but its a lot of money being offered so is it worth changing when I like the workflow and hours of games currently? I can deal with crunches so maybe the end crunch of games is better than multiple ones of film?

I know this is a loaded question :stuck_out_tongue: , but I really respect the people on here with a lot more experience and it would be great to hear your opinions!

Cheers all!

I don’t have any experience in film but maybe in your case you should answer yourself the question: Do you need the extra money?

If not, a healthy work-life balance is way more important in my eyes. Firstly because no one can give you lifetime back and secondly all this nice money will bring you not much joy when you lay in bed for 6 months after a heavy burn out.

If you need the money, maybe because you want a house and you’re already in debt and it’s really necessary, maybe you can tell them that you come back only under certain restrictions - e.g. only working 4 days a week and/or paid overtime.

Besides that, you need to ask yourself the question which area interests you more. I for example love the interactivity of games. On the other side it’s annoying that the effects often have to work from all angles. Being able to focus on only one perspective in film might be a very nice thing … it’s a matter of taste I guess.

Oh, and a last idea: Maybe you can tell your current company that you got a VERY good offer and maybe this is a motivation for them to give you a raise? Then you would have best of both worlds :slight_smile:

No one can decide that for you so all can be said here are different perspectives that can help you decide.
Simon here covered most of what I had in mind … but here’s one more thought
I was once told " Peace of mind is not without a price " … so how much is the price for your peace of mind ??
that cost can be variable depending on your variable needs … some times more money can get you peace of mind on some aspects of life.

For me, I’ve been working in a company with a lot of crunches & unpaid overtime … by the end of the last year, I quit with no other offer insight & a wife & a daughter to support … till now I don’t have a job & other than a couple of freelance jobs I’ve been burning through my savings … I’m dealing daily with the pressure of just keep studying on my own to be able to get a job in game VFX one day & make the switch from advertisement work … After all that, I never regretted the decision of leaving that company … again “Peace of mind is not without a price”.

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haha thanks for the reply @simonschreibt and @AMaz, all valid points and very similar to other people I have talked to.

@simonschreibt already ahead of you on your points. I asked my company for a wage increase and sadly due to budgets and size of company they can only raise by a fairly small amount (I feel im being paid as good as they can give me), and that is fair enough as they cant compete with a larger film company. They need to get the game under their belts before I can really push.

Something else I would really appreciate knowing is the fabled “crunch times of games”. Obviously I have heard alot of stories but in your experience in games @simonschreibt and @AMaz (if you have worked in games) how are the crunches? I’m concerned for example if I stayed where I was and then I spent 8 months in crunch, my mind might just think “well I may as well been in film as its just as bad if not worse and much longer”. Again I get crunches depend on the company, but in your lifespan in the industry how common are they? Again for me Im fine with a crunch at the end vs the multiple crunches of film but then maybe the film ones are ok as they are much shorter (maybe a couple of weeks or so compared to months and months)

Cheers again for your inputs already

I had crunches but they where never as long as you describe and I never had a boss yelling at me. Yes, there is social pressure if many others are working - in this situation it’s hard to say “bye and nice weekend!” but I was never forced to it. But this is pure luck - there are horror stories of big companies who basically tell you: If you not crunch, you’ll not be in the game credits, neither will you receive your bonus at the end. Also I think most people want to finish the projects they started. My gut feeling is, that most new companies try to avoid such situations and be fair to their employees.
Maybe you’re in such a nice company? By the way: A raise must not always come with more money. Another nice way is to let you work less (4 day week) but for the same salary you get right now.

I didn’t work in games yet (hopefully soon :sweat_smile:).
But generally, I’m not that much against overtime … but the abuse of it is bad ( too much overtime & unpaid ) … It’s totally a company mindset.
In the end, it’s doing what you love to do even if you have to crunch … but you asking the question means you don’t have a preference yet.
It’s a career & there are well-paying companies in games with crunch & underpaying companies in film with no crunch

Thanks again.

Yeah fair enough, I have no issues with crunches (they are just part of the process for either). Its more figuring out if having one at the end in games is better for me versus numerous over the whole life cycle in film.

Originally I wanted to finish the game so I could get an idea about the whole development cycle before moving onto whatever else was available but vfx in film needs artists so an offer has come earlier than I was expecting, like you said @simonschreibt its all really dependent on the company etc so thats why im conflicted about what my next step should be at this point.

From what I’ve experienced in games, it feels better in terms of development in terms of dealing with imposter syndrome etc and work/life balance but the money being offered in film worth the price with additional stress on myself. Again maybe being the only vfx artist on my game is a factor? As my imposter syndrome is less because theres no other vfx artists to compare myself to?

hahah the chat rolls on :stuck_out_tongue:

Every studio, every person, and every project is different… so there’s no one shoe fits all.

For me, I started at Side Effects Software Inc. when I wrapped up with animation school. And I loved it. It was a small, independent company where my voice was heard and everything I did felt like it mattered. But I’d gone to school for animation, and felt like I needed to be working in film, not at a software company. So I left.

I then worked at a few different film studios on a few different projects in a few different cities. And a large part of me loved it! Big studios that own the entirety of a project really have a way of making everyone feel like a big family. Especially when you’re young and working with a bunch of other young globetrotting vagabonds. We hung out a lot, and had a lot of fun. It seemed like everyone (I was exposed to) was an extrovert and so we’d play hacky-sac while waiting for sims, eat out at lunch, go out after work, and it was a blast. Absolutely hated the tedium of waiting for simulations and renders, tweaking a few parameters, and waiting again to see if it was the result I wanted. Also really hated the pixel #*$&ing and conflicting direction from supervisors making 4 second shots take forever to get done.

Eventually, during the Digital Domain bankruptcy, I decided to get out.

I switched to games, and it was pretty different right out of the gate. The studio I was at was so much more collaborative. The time available to get anything done was diminished, there was more work to do with fewer artists, and so it became a case of “do what you can and move on” rather than “do this one thing perfectly for as long as it takes”. And of course there was no more waiting for sims/renders as everything is realtime and it’s just constant doing math and solving puzzles. Personally I enjoyed the environment, and the work better - but everyone I worked with seemed much more introverted, and not a globe trotter… people prefered to watch netflix at their desk at lunch and rarely hung out after hours.

I moved to a different big studio, and it was all so corporate… you weren’t even expected to play the game, just deliver the endless checklist of tasks. They had corporate events, but it all felt very bland.

So I moved to an indie studio, where I was the only artist, and it was back to that same feeling I had at Side Effects. Being at a small place where it feels like I matter, and I influence things. Helping to drive an IP, and design things, and having complete creative control over the vfx, while never needing to wait for sims … it’s great.

I’ve got a kid now, and I’ve become one of those introverted, eat at your desk types that doesn’t manage to get out after hours… but, I’m loving the work I do.

At times I consider going back to film… I could probably earn more… but I’d also work more hours. And I wouldn’t feel in control over what I’m doing at a boutique studio for the next Marvel film compared to how I am on an original IP at a small game studio. But it also feels special when you have your name in the credits up on that big screen.

If you prefer the experience of film, and that studio in particular, maybe going back is what would be best for you? For me, it’s the two independent studios that I’ve enjoyed the work the most.

If it’s the crunch that you don’t like. You could always not work it. It’s pretty easy to say “sorry, I can’t” after you’ve done it once or twice. I generally found I was more productive in a 40 hour week than in the 96 hour ones anyways.

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