Do VFX artists need a mathematical background?

After finding an interest in visual effects and animation, I began looking through artist’s posts and applications to various game or movie studios. I found Digital Domain’s and Industrial Lights and Magic’s applications for visual effect artist listing a Computer Science, Engineering, or Computer Graphics degree preferred. While these degrees share commonalities, I can’t help but wonder why engineering. I figured VFX and technical artists did require some math, but not sure how much is required and why.

You may need to know some basic math, but nothing I’d call a mathematical background. If you have a good sense of timing and an eye for what looks right, who needs numbers!? :slight_smile:


Was ILM’s strictly computer driven vfx? It might have included practical fx, in which case I could see an engineering degree useful.

There’s a huge range of stuff lumped under VFX. Some people do sprite sheets, others do full simulations in Houdini and a few people might do everything in code. Every job has different requirements.

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Problem solving (shaders/blueprints/implementing vfx), creating new systems/or modifying and extending existing ones (engineering).

Tech artists would ideally dig in deep to understand how something works (what these degree’s would train them in) to be able to either fix an issue or add new functionality/workflows.

Post an example application job perhaps, but keep it Real-time.

Well I’m doing a bachelor now in technical art and game development. I can say from my side and also from talking with guys on the field. It really depends on the role you aim to fit in. Also “Mathematical Background” is a huge saying. Do you mean if only basic operations are need (yes of course) , do you mean matrixes multiplications? (if you want to work with shaders then yes of course).
You don’t need to prove formulas but you do need to understand stuff e.g. curves, operations, vectors, matrixes ect…
At least understanding them (you don’t have to recreate or calculate it every time you see it) but I believe the more knowledge you gain the better you become.
However, if you are interested in the Art side and nothing with technical art or development, then just keep focusing on drawing abilities and 2d/3d animating. Then next step is to make a flipbook, throw it in the engine and ‘tadam!’ :slight_smile: , but then with animating again you need good timing and keen eye for details. which also comes down to math if you work with software that has curves and what not…

so… I wouldn’t say its yes or no question in my opinion, but don’t be scared, even without hardcore math knowledge people succeed in the field.

All the best.

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The VFX job role is still getting defined and not entirely clear. In some company even they just call them Tech Artists…

It is slowly getting defined more and more but to do a bit of then and now… like 10 years ago… (gosh…) we used to be only 1 VFX artist per project (or even company) so we had to do like everything, and I really mean everything… I worked on a game back then where the particle editor could not render particles… Yes you read that right. You had to punch in the numbers, and then build a console executable to view the result…

Nowadays, the role itself has really evolved and you also most likely to be in a VFX team than by yourself. Every single VFX artist I know have varying backgrounds, and that bring more strings to the bow of the whole VFX team.

Now there is a bigger divide between a VFX Artist and a VFX Tech Artist. Mostly cause there is more VFX artist, but also because the role has complexified itself with new tech like shaders… (we didnt have any besides a Lambert or an Unlit shader before so it was basically all photoshop skills…) So having people that can drive the tech, solve complex issues and provide juicy shaders to VFX artist is just as great as having someone gifted at using those things to make amazing looking effects.

That being said, you can pursue a very artistically driven path or a very tech oriented path to VFX… Both are good to have and valuable. They compliment each other and having one of each on a VFX team is where magic happens… Literally :smiley:

The next step for us is convincing our respective higher ups to give us a dedicated VFX / 3D Programmer >.>;

We have someone like that at Gunfire. Cort Soest is pretty much a wizard and does magical things. Idk where we’d be without him

Recent freelance VFX artist for Interceptor (and to a lesser extend, one could potentially say 3drealms) here, I suck at math, borderline dyscalculia even.
Doing just fine, but I gotta say I def. look up to my brethren that are able to go all out on math and use it to improve workflow and amazing effects.

I just fiddle with values until it looks good.
Granted, I’m not doing much stuff that involves realism and would be a bad candidate for realistic effects.