VFX courses?

Hey guys,
I need some help :slight_smile:
I’ve been working as a junior VFX artist in an indie game dev studio for some time now. I have maybe most of the software stuff down, I’m okay with particle systems, creating custom shaders, 3D modeling and animating, generating and drawing custom textures. BUT I have one major problem that is kind of hard to explain actually.
Since I’m the only VFX artist in the studio (and I haven’t studied anything vfx related previously) I lack the way of thinking of a fx artist, if I can put it that way.
Everything I know, I’ve learned from youtube tutorials and reverse engineering other’s fx. But that doesn’t really help with the overall mental stuff that is going on while you create the fx. Like the actual realtime vfx process from start to finish. How do you approach a task, defining an idea, shapes, colors, timing and how to push the fx the extra mile and make it look reeeal good and polished.
I’ve noticed that most of the online courses are more about the technical stuff but that’s not really what I need.
I would really appreciate it if you could recommend courses, books, anything that would be useful or share your own approach and experience :slight_smile:

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Hello @kai33,

I have to say, reading you almost sounded like myself haha

I’m in the exact same situation as you right now, like EXACTLY the same. I too would appreciate if anyone have opinions on that or courses to share.

In the past few months I did find some good courses. One that I’m taking right now and it’s helping with more “styllized” effects (League of Legends Style) is from the VFX Apprentice

I find some parts a little too slow to get to the point, the editing of the videos are a little poor in my opinion, but there’s plenty of expert knowledge there. It does help a lot!

Also check Rebel Way courses they have some courses focused on Real time vfx for games. It’s a little too expensive for me right now and I’m a little out of time, so I can’t say it’s good or bad as I didn’t try any of their courses yet. However, from the description and video trailers, it seems to offer a pretty good content.

Please share other courses if you find later :slight_smile:

Have a great day!

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VFX Apprentice has a playlist of theorical stuff.
It’s not a bold course, but still good knowledge.

The green ones are the theorical videos, meaning he won’t go into anything engine related, nothing technical.

The one I in the pink square is a breakdown on the thinking and technical approach too, but it’s not deep into the technical side.
He also did breakdown for other skills like Varus’ Q and Tristana AA (both projectiles) and Lux R (Ultimate, the beam).

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Hi @ricardoffcruz, thank you so much for the reply. I was also thinking about the VFX Apprentice courses as I’m aiming towards more stylized fx like the one in LoL, Hearthstone and Legends of Runeterra. If I find anything good I’ll make sure to share it with you. :slight_smile:

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Hey @Sig, thank you for the recommendation. :slight_smile: the videos are really helpful !

Hello kai33,
There is a list of good tutorials on the Realtime VFX Wiki as well, if you haven’t seen it:

And do not underestimate how helpful some math skills can be! So I do recommend also looking into these kind of tutorials (some are also listed in the link)

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Hey @raytheonly, thank you so so much for the list. I havent seen it before, its really helpful :slight_smile:

My general workflow kind of follows

  • Think of what you’re effect’s “element” is going to be. Is it sci-fi/energy, smoky, blood/goo, fire, etc.
  • Find reference or inspiration art to brows through to help refine what you want it to look like (I bounce between ArtStation and Pinterest)
  • Think of what kind of effect you’re going to make. Is it an impact effect, burst or explosion, character debuff, ambient environment effect, etc.
  • Look through reference of that kind of effect to get an idea on what kind silhouette, shape language, and composition your effect will need
  • Once you know your effect’s type and “element” try to start thinking about what kinds of assets it may need. Will you need to make a new material? Would it need flipbooks? Does it need to use geometry?
  • Look through assets you already have. Do you have an impact effect that already has good timing you can duplicate and then just replace the textures/materials? Could you reuse this flipbook?
    – As you start working on projects for a longer period of time, you start reusing a lot of stuff not just because it’s fast, but because it (most likely) already fits with the art style and feels like it belongs with all the other vfx
  • Start with the largest or most visually important aspect of the effect and then work backwards to the smaller and smaller stuff.

Hope that helps? That’s just kind of my thought process most of the time

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Glad It helped! I like Varus Q and Tristana AA breakdowns specially!

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Hi again!

There are Gabriel Aguiar courses on Udemy and his Channel on YouTube.

In Udemy he has 3 Unity Courses and 1 Unreal.

He does go into the thinking/theorical stuff at the beginning and also highlights a lots of the design choices as he makes the effects, but it’s mainly a technical course.

I thought of this as soon as I checked your post in the first time, but It came to me that you might be past this “phase” now, as you said you are really comfortable with most of the technical stuff.

Though, you can always check the preview or even buy it and refund it later If you realize It does not serve you. Plus, the courses are not long!

I’m almost finishing his second Udemy course and I really enjoy It!

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I don’t think its courses you need. I’d recommend finding a mentor. Someone who can look at your work, talk to you about why you might do something differently, or about your approach. What I find with self taught artists is they are very good, but have surprising gaps in their knowledge. You can never know what you don’t know. Sometimes is small things like, didn’t you know you can (insert short cut here) or something big as if you break it up like this you get that. Ok, maybe that wasn’t a good example bc you never know what it is. Ideally what would be even better is to get a job under a good lead FX artist.

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Hi @DavidSchoneveld, thank you for the reply and advice. I completely agree with you. I do think finding a mentor is probably the most important thing for me, but since i dont have a senior or anyone really in the studio working as a vfx artist, im not sure how that would be possible unfortunately. :confused:

I mean online. Asking here on the forums if someone would mentor you or knows someone who might help you in that way. If you’re worried about showing your professional work b/c of NDA, you can do challenges here where you show as much of your process and work and people can guide you that way too.

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With that info, I agree with David. Having someone that looks over your shoulder from time to time and gives advice specific to your current issues is a very fast way to gain knowledge and get better.
I neglected this bc you stated that you are junior level, and I just assumed you had someone there helping you, too.

A good example of being active here is what happens with @Sig atm. They get feedback and ask politely to reiterate if they don’t fully understand what was said. Resulting in quite some improvement and knowledge share that everyone can gain from.

Addition:
For me a great learning resource was, just dissecting VFX Assets from the Marketplace/Asset Store. Of course some of them aren’t ideal and have some performance issues… but there you can see how they layered some system to create a specific effect and even learn some nifty tricks.

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The closest thing right now I’d say is the discord. People throw things in the critique or how would you do this channels and get feedback from whoever is around at the time. Not for NDA work, but even if you abstract the question enough to make it safe, you can usually get near realtime feedback that way.

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I didn’t know there was a discord, I will definitely check it out :slight_smile: and yes, because of NDAs I cant really show what Im doing unfortunately, but will try the abstract description approach for sure :smiley: and maybe try to do some challenges as David suggested.

And I gotta say it’s being great <3. Loving how things are flowing. I used to stay on my rabbit hole and rely a lot on Google + Youtube + Udemy courses, but nothing beats being with you ladies and gentlemen :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

Maybe you can put up somekind of mockup or disguised/reskinned version of the effect you’re work on? Have only the base structure shown or only the tiny part where you want some guidance, not it all?
Just thinking out loud. I don’t know if it’s actually ok to do this - I didn’t even know what NDA was until a minute ago hahaha.

PS: I didn’t know about Discord server too :sweat_smile:

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I got some help from the awesome Jan Kaluza (@Kashaar) yesterday on some issues I was having on work stuff. Like Partikel explained, as long as you’re vague enough and don’t share anything with names or studio setups, everyone is usually pretty patient and willing to help. So long as you don’t make work/NDA stuff daily questions. I’ve gotten lots of help and advice over the years on problems I was having on work tasks. Just ask first, and usually someone experienced will chime in if it’s something you could/should post in a thread or channel for help.

If you need help and have to post about work stuff, try to:

  • Leave out studio and project details, as well as any that are non-essential task or problem.
    – Block out any names or proprietary stuff if you have to share screenshots
  • Include what engine and version number you’re working in. If it’s proprietary, just say proprietary.
  • Give a concise list of the steps you are taking or thing you need to take for the task, with as general a description as you can give of the assets involved. Try to explain as if you were working in a stock version of an engine.
    – Ex: In Unity I have a mesh with a panning texture I’m spawning using the Shuriken particle system, and I’m trying to warp the vertices when it collides with a surface.
  • List all the limitations you know of, like shader instruction count, it can be triggered by the player, needs to loop, cascade vs niagara, etc.
  • Try to explain as best you can the desired end result you’re trying to achieve. There’s been a handful of times where I explained what I was doing, and then what I was trying to achieve, and someone suggested an easier or more robust solution that I hadn’t considered or known about.
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Jan hopped in a video chat with me and tried to build out my problem and show me a solution, while working in a default version of Unreal and screen sharing in real time. Nothing work related was shown, and we were able to work out my question :+1:

I think most of us have been there where you’re like “Well I have this thing, and it needs to do this, but I can’t use this, and it needs to happen every time this other thing is triggered in-game” :sweat_smile:

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Woah guys, thank you so so much. You’ve all been so helpful, i really appreciate it. For the next couple of weeks im doing research and some art style explorations but i cant wait to begin working on some vfx and sharing it with you, honestly it’d be amazing to finally have some feedback from fellow artists. It really seems like the right way to grow and actually fix any mistakes and gaps of knowledge. :slight_smile:

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