What to use as reference?

Hello, This is a general question,

I know for animators most of the time they won’t use other animators work as their key and major references. Example you would shoot footage of yourself walking and not look at the walk cycle of a game character or animated short so on and so on.

When working in VFX in general is it better to try and find or make your own "real world’ reference or do you find a game/film and recreate and tweak from that base? Is that a good practice to have in general or not

I typically try to follow these general steps for reference (in order):

  1. Find real-world reference, or if stylized/fantasy, something as close to it from the real world as possible. There’s detail in nature that we can only hope to one day achieve, and these details drive most of my thoughts before I hit the “I wonder what else I can do to make this cool” phase.

  2. Find Hollywood reference - the average person’s expectations are shaped by what they see in the media, not by reality. The real world is often disappointing (cars don’t explode!?). Finding references from Hollywood usually give me great ideas about how I can push and pull on reality to make a better effect.

  3. Figure out who else has made this effect the best - we’re still all smoke and mirrors, so my final step is always to dissect the competitions’ effect and ask “What did they do really well?” “Given my game and tech, what can I do better?” The truth is that I’m not going to be able to hit the reference I find in #1, and probably not even in #2 (although some of you are getting scarily close), so as long as I do better than #3, I consider it a success :wink:


Thank you so much of the feedback,

If you don’t mind I would like to ask some odd questions:
How much do you think about the sound effects and their timing?

I am a modeler and when I work characters I like to know what the range of motion the character will have and be sure that I have the right topology and which Tpose I need to model so when it gets to the Rigger and animators it will do what they expect or want it to do.

Do you ever prototype or apply some sound effects you think would work with the effects, or do you just let the sound guys do their thing?

Another question is when you work on an effect like shooting a projectile for instance, you create the whole thing or just one part.
I think that a projectile is 3 parts
1:The “tigger”(the burst from the gun or character)
2: the projectile in flight
3: the impact

Is it common for the work to be split between the team or one person does the whole effect? Is it common to have someone do just the impact effect for all of the abilities?

Example for modeling I will just sculpt and model the character and then someone else does the texturing. I know the team size and budget impact this but whats the norm for effects.