Welcome to the Real-Time VFX site! If you’re a student getting into vfx, an indie dev, new enthusiast/hobbiest, or maybe a current dev looking to switch into FX, then this is the thread for you! With more and more people joining the site, there have definitely been an increase in questions and threads asking how to get started. While you are more than welcome to post your questions and look for feedback on here, this thread is aimed at helping the brand new people who have little-to-no experience with game engines and the real time vfx that we create in them.
Are you past learning vfx and finishing up your senior year, or polishing up your new VFX demo reel? I made a thread for new vfx artists on what to expect starting in the industry and the kind of work you can be expected to make starting out here: Beginning VFX Artist - Advice for beginners, from a beginner
First things first, Tools of the Trade. I’ll quickly go over some hardware and software that is used every day in making real time vfx, as well as some more advanced or edge case software.
- Software: Image editing and painting software (Photoshop), 3D package (Blender, Maya, Max, Houdini), Game Engine (Unreal Engine 4 and Unity are most common and have the most content creation tutorials)
- Hardware: Desktop workstation with decent hardware, Drawing tablet is great but not necessary unless you are going to be doing stylized, hand painted effects.
- Edge Case Software: These are programs that are helpful and allow you to make some cool things, but are not necessary to getting into vfx. After effects, any plugins for your 3d package like FumeFX and RealFlow, FDFX’s Slate Editor (very useful for flipbooks) https://www.facedownfx.com/#BuildDownloads, and JangaFX’s Vector Field Generator https://jangafx.com/.
But Travis, what’s the best engine to learn? Is one better than another? Short answer, whatever you’d like, although I’d break up Unreal Engine (UE4) and Unity into two slightly different categories. In my experience UE4 is a bit more artist friendly with more out of the box features that are easier to use for people with no technical or scripting experience, but the amount of features and the size and capabilities of the engine can be a bit intimidating. Unity is a bit more technical leaning, but gives you much more control scripting your own shaders and design prefabs. However, these differences are minor, and you can reasonably pick up Shader Forge for Unity, which will give you very similar material creation tools to UE4’s.
Getting started in making particle effects is easier now than ever before, with a wealth of content and sharing among the internet.
You can find a playlist of Getting Started content for UE4 HERE This playlist goes over everything from common terminology, to navigating the engine and starting your first particle systems. They go over every module in Cascade (Unreal’s Particle Editor)
You can find a small playlist of Beginner particle systems for Unity HERE
Adam Ostridge just released a tutorial on Pluralsight for particle systems in Unreal https://www.pluralsight.com/courses/unreal-particle-system-fundamentals
Jason Keyser just released a series of videos covering Artistic Principles of VFX, and I highly recommend you watch all of them. If you are just starting out in vfx, everything he covers is great to keep in mind and include in your workflow from the very beginning. Start using and keeping these principles in your workflow from the very beginning so you can form good habits early! You can find the thread on the videos HERE and you can find the whole series on YouTube HERE. A big thanks to @Keyserito for putting all that together!
Over the years, there have been a lot of different terms for different things that make up real time vfx, and early on in this site’s inception there was a thread made full of FX terms and the different names they’ve collected during this time. You can find that thread HERE and this can be very helpful if you are having trouble with a topic or effect, but you don’t know what to search for or ask about.
Speaking of topics and searching, Real-Time VFX has a very nice Search feature that can be found up at the top
After getting some experience with your engine of choice and their associated particle systems, I recommend visiting ImbueFX on YouTube. These are great tutorials that expand on intermediate and advanced effects and these will teach you probably 80% of everything you will need to know to be a great FX artist. The last 20% is learning the new techniques currently being used and developed, and these are commonly top threads here in RTVFX. ImbueFX’s tutorials are done almost entirely in the old UDK engine, but all of it is transferable to Unity and UE4. I don’t believe the channel is making any more content, as the creator Bill Kladis has moved on to bigger and better things, but all of the projects and topics are still relevant. You can find the channel HERE
If you’ve devoured all that content and are looking for more advanced techniques, I highly recommend checking out Jeremy Baldwin’s Visual FX Masterclass Part 1 and Part 2. They are currently about $55 USD each for the downloads, but they are 100% worth the price. If you are a starving college student, I know that may be a bit steep, but try and get them whenever you can.
Once you get an idea on how to put together particle, mesh and material fx in general, then you can branch out into a style. Want to make cool stylized effects like you see in League of Legends or Heroes of the Storm? Then here I’ll add some links that will get you started down that path:
- Sirhaian makes lots of LoL fan effects, and has released all his projects for people to study. You can find that thread HERE and you can find videos and tutorials on those on the Sirhaian’Arts YouTube channel
- Shannon Berke posted a thread on her Demo Reel and included some effects and texture painting tutorials too. She’s usually pretty good about answering any questions you post, when she gets the time to respond.
- Jason Keyser has breakdowns of some of the League effects he’s recently worked on, as well as 2d stylized animation tutorials. Check out his channel HERE
- Riot recently released a very pretty, and even more informative Style Guide for their vfx
Looking for more realistic effects? Here’s a quick list of resources to help you on your path to making awesome looking effects with realism:
- Andreas Glad (Partikel on here) put together an awesome tutorial you can find on Pluralsight on using Houdini to make the assets for a realistic in-game explosion. He also has a thread on here where he posts some R&D stuff he works on.
- LuosArts has some good stuff on it, and be sure to check out his Resources section
- I’d also recommend checking out the GDC '17 VFX Bootcamp it has a whole panel of awesome fx artists sharing tips and workflows.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to post your work in the WIP & Critique category! Best of luck to you, and we’re all here to help on your quest to be a real time vfx artist!