GDC 2021 VFX Roundtables

I’m so excited to see y’all at this year’s virtual GDC Visual Effects Roundtables from July 21 - 23. For anyone not familiar with the setup, here are the links to the sessions:

Visual Effects Roundtable Day 1
Visual Effects Roundtable Day 2: Artistic Lens
Visual Effects Roundtable Day 3: Technical Lens

The illustrious @Drew has retired from his years of service, moving on to much googlier pastures. Thanks, Drew, for your incredible work in years past. You leave a high standard to reach, sir. To help me out on Day 3, the fantastic @Dave_Shovlin has agreed to facilitate. Super excited to have him on board!

And hopefully with the online format, even more of you can make it. I’m seriously looking forward to this!


So that’s all great, but how can YOU help? Glad you asked! I’d love your thoughts on a few things we’re currently figuring out:

1. Takeaways you hope to get from each of the 3 sessions.
2. Questions you want answered by our global community.
3. Topics that would make for interesting discussion.
4. Conversations that will illustrate our diverse work styles.


Exciting! This is only available to people with core/all access passes right? So if you want to attend this AND the VFX summit, you need the ubermega all access ticket?

Thanks Jason for taking the reins! I’ve been taking notes from watching you moderate Day 2 for the last several years, so this passing of the torch feels very fitting.

Looking forward to throwing out random non sequiturs! Yes, I promise to wait to be called on :slight_smile:


Yes, I believe you’re correct, based on what I’m reading on the page. Also seems the All Access is also the only ticket that grants GDC Vault access.

I’m imagining all the ways you could possibly NOT wait to be called on, given I control the mute buttons… hacks? text messages? singing telegrams?

Reminder to update my security, turn off my phone, and check if I actually will have control of the mute buttons…

So excited to kick this off in < 2 hours!

It was a great discussion! Here’s some quick notes on a few of the highlights (sorry if i missed anything–feel free to chime in with additional insights you’d like to add).

Experience with maintaining a remote creative culture

  • successes or strategies?
  • Shared zoom calls work for some
  • Remote working increases productivity for many
  • One drawback can be a drop in creativity from feeling inspired by other coworkers

Visual ways of debugging FX
How are people handling streaming their desktops?

  • Are people using a new machine
  • how does compression affect this?
  • Do people take their machines home?
  • Parsec
  • Many studios never allowed to use machines at home

Recruiting woes

  • Every studio is desperate for senior help “right now”
  • Properly planning for the future by recruiting junior VFX artists now
  • Junior artists need special care and support to thrive, especially in a remote-work world
  • Junior artists are less likely to ask for help, especially when working remote (hard to see their struggle)
  • Onboarding a new VFX artist is inherently more complex than other disciplines
    Journey of artistic artists into an increasingly technical toolset
  • Rigging with triangles - GDC talk about linear algebra
  • Easing them in over time is necessary

Looking forward to the next 2 roundtables!


Awesome discussion today! I’m upping my note-taking game as I’m getting the hang of facilitating XD

Here’s what we covered today. Probably missed things, I’m sure:

art directing vfx

  • all feedback is valuable. not all of it is valuable!
  • it can be hard to art direct fx if you don’t have a background in it
  • try to figure out what they actually mean when they’re giving feedback
    • what does “needs more punch” actually mean?
  • Learn the art director’s language when they don’t know yours
  • For new artists, do you shield them from the AD or coach them through working with the AD?
    • Both can work depending on team dynamic
    • spare them from the extra brainshare of working with AD, or free up your own time and avoid micromanaging
    • a balanced approach: let them hear the AD lingo but also check in on how the feedback went

Art Skills training resources for VFX artists who didn’t start as artists?

Mentoring Juniors: How do you give them space to fail, vs meeting deadlines?

  • Identify those that are prone to take initiative in communicating vs prone to stay quiet
  • Let communicators dive in faster, vs giving more guidance to silent types
  • Training new senior people from other companies can be more challenging than junior artists at times!
    Working in outsourcing vs in-house
  • outsourcing can be great to hop from project to project to keep things fresh
  • long-term projects can be draining, or can build skills deeper

How to make fx faster at the beginning of a production?

  • Making FX at the beginning of production: 2 days. At the end, minutes.
  • Get your hands on a library that is compatible with your project early on

Multi-language training?

  • to translate your own videos
  • Silent step-by-step tutorials are often helpful for non-English training

Two categories of tutorials: artsy/creative, vs tool/technical.

  • Best to teach/learn each separately, one at a time?
  • Some learn technical concepts through multiple exposure of how it’s applied
  • Some learn art skills by actually doing them
  • Everyone learns differently, so different formats of mentoring or tutorials are needed
  • The lost art of still images and text to make a tutorial - quite effective

Advice for a new mentor?

  • Get to know the person and what they’re interested in
  • Sharing things that match up with their enthusiasm is a sure way to get them engaged
  • It works as a mutually beneficial relationship!
  • Establish very clearly very early what the goal and outcomes are
  • Teach them the stuff that you wish you knew, that took too long before you learned
  • Treat teaching like making art - block in the general conepts first before diving too deep on the details - helps students avoid getting lost