Josh Parks, a 22-year old Roto prep artist at MPC, offers an insight into his education at the University of Hertfordshire and shares how he landed a job in London's VFX hub!
Image credit: Rewind FX
3dtotal: Hi Josh, thanks for taking the time to talk to us! Can you start us off with a little info about your current role in the VFX industry?
At the moment I'm currently working at MPC as part of their Comp academy program which they run. It consists of an 18 month program in which you spend 6 months working in their roto department, 6 months in prep and the last 6 months in compositing; with the program's purpose to fast-track you into a compositing role. I'm currently 3 and a bit months into the roto section and loving every minute of it.
A shot from a short film that I worked on while at Rewind FX - Image credit: Rewind FX
3dt: And how did you land that role – can you explain how it all started and how your VFX degree helped you secure the position?
At the end of my second year at university I had an interview for the 3 month summer compositing internship that MPC run.
Unfortunately I didn't get the place, but Doug Larmour (the Global Head of Compositing) said to keep in touch as they ran a scheme called comp academy in which there would be two places soon after I graduated.
With this in mind, a few weeks later I was offered an internship at an awesome boutique company called Rewind FX. The company was smaller, which meant I was given opportunities that I wouldn't be given at the larger VFX houses, such as helping supervise on sets and interacting with clients, as well as being given some hero shots on projects, which I am incredibly grateful for.
Image credit: Rewind FX
Despite it being a small company, I was working with a compositor who'd worked at Cinesite and another who had previously worked at Method. The time at the studio really helped me to mature as an artist and learn the ins and outs of the industry. Looking back at it, it all worked out for the best.
After my summer internship ended, throughout my third year, with what Doug had told me in mind, I emailed him my work every few months and asked for feedback, as well as also emailing various other compositors within the industry. I made it my main goal to secure one of the two places that there were on the comp academy scheme, as it was such an amazing opportunity.
3dt: How did you originally get into VFX? What was the starting motivation for you in this area? We heard something about a short film at school?
Looking back at it now, I don't know how I didn't discover a love for VFX sooner than I did. I have always had an interest in art and technology, with a love for mucking around in Photoshop since I was 12, which I was introduced to by my cousin who one evening created a mash-up of mine and my sister's faces. Although, as you mentioned, what made me start looking into studying VFX was a stopframe short film that some friends and I had the opportunity to help in making when I was in my second-to-last year at school.
One of the Fable tutorials I worked on - Image credit: Rewind FX
The project was part of the local animation festival that is ran by a really cool local company called Animate and Create. We were all studying photography but none of us had any experience in animation. We were set the challenge of creating a short film in the style of street artist Blu, who does weird and wonderful stopframe animation on brick walls along the theme of transformation. I loved every minute of the experience, plus the realization of just how much you could cheat in camera excited me. The film then went on to win a few awards in the local animation festival, as well as going on to win an award at both Leeds film festival as well as the Brighton festival, which is way more than any of us thought we would win as we were just happy to be able to take part.
Unfortunately I could only attend the local festival. However, seeing the other films, I became increasingly interested in the area, wanting to know how artists had created their work. It was after this that I started to look into studying VFX as we had been helped by an artist who was already making a living out of the art, and another who had just finished studying within the area.
A still from the London dungeons advertisement that I worked on
"I decided to specialize in photography (so) I started acquiring the eye of a compositor before I even knew what it was"
3dt: So how did you prepare for your VFX degree at University of Hertfordshire? What groundwork did you need to lay so you could start it running?
I applied to Hertfordshire University and secured my place at the end of my school life, however it was a deferred place, which meant I started a year later, as I'd already secured a place at an art college on their 1 year Art Foundation course. It's designed to give you the chance to try out lots of different mediums and surround yourself with like-minded creative people. I decided to specialize in photography, which meant I started acquiring the eye of a compositor before I even knew what it was.
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