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How to land a career in VFX

By 3dtotal staff

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Date Added: 18th November 2013

3dt: We see you've done a little teaching yourself! What was the experience like of teaching animation to children between 11 and 17? Do you think the UK has got some great upcoming talent on its hands?

Josh: Yeah! Alongside doing my 1 year Art Foundation I taught after-school stopmotion animation classes. A teacher in my family, who I had shown the stopmotion film that I worked on, asked if I would be interested. I jumped at the chance of teaching, as learning about stopmotion animation had been the start of me pursuing a career within the area and I thought it may work out the same for someone else.

The school wanted to run a class that would give parents a chance to come in and learn with their children. Animation seemed like the perfect choice for the school as it's a subject that people are generally familiar with, however, they are not usually familiar with the techniques behind what they are seeing.

A still from the London dungeons advertisement that I worked on

It was amazing seeing both parents and children realize what you could do with some colored modeling plasticine foam balls, a webcam and some free stopmotion software.

The UK definitely has the talent, as the children I taught were incredibly enthusiastic about the animations they were creating, as well as seeing the work coming from the years below me at university.

Our art and all other arts, however, encourage constant questioning, which my University and Art College really pushed. In school, questioning is generally discouraged. I personally found this frustrating and feel that something should be done in helping those who don't necessarily learn in the way that the education system delivers its information.

A shot from the short film that I worked on at university

""Everyone I have met/emailed has been happy to help... However, it now means I owe a pint to a lot of people!"

3dt: What can you tell us of your experiences in the industry so far? Have there been any surprises or reality checks you can share with us?

Josh: My experience of the industry so far has been really fun as I've had the privilege of working for different-sized companies on some really exciting projects. Everyone I have met/emailed has been happy to help when you have a question or would like some feedback, as long as they have some free time, which I'm really grateful for. However, it now means I owe a pint to a lot of people.

Regarding MPC, the first week I felt overwhelmed with everything as I'd only ever worked at companies no bigger than 15 people, and I was at one of the top 5 VFX companies in the world, working on feature films. The attention to detail is crazy and I'd never used Linux before, which took a little getting used to! It also made me realize just how little I know; university was only the start, I've still got a hell of a lot to learn.

3dt: And when it comes to software, what did you learn at university that is applicable to your role now at MPC? And what are you currently learning to step up your game?

Josh: At university we were taught most of the disciplines within a VFX workflow, which gave me a well-rounded understanding of the industry. The teaching consisted primarily of NUKE and Maya, with an emphasis on adapting briefs and projects to suit you in terms of what you wanted to specialize in. All the tutors who teach the course have worked in the industry which meant the standard expected was really high, with techniques matching those being used with the industry.

I'm now using Silhouette which I wasn't taught at University. However, I had dabbled in it and as long as you have an understanding of rotoscoping, it's just a case of finding the buttons and hotkeys.

The most useful skills that I feel university taught me has been how to interact with artists and how to give and take feedback. These are skills that I feel a lot of people overlook. Software will come and go but these will always be invaluable.

Two of the tutors who taught me – who I owe a lot to, among a lot of other people – Sol Rogers and Mark Walman, both had different views on software and its purpose in the creative world. This really aided me, giving a well-rounded education of the VFX world, as it opened my eyes to just how many different ways you can apply the software you are learning.

I'm always trying to improve, so my next venture is learning Python. If I can cut out the time it takes to do frequent tasks, I can then use that time focusing on creating a better image.

3dt:Where do you tend to go for your training?

Josh: As I mentioned previously, I'm currently teaching myself Python, I've read a few books in order to understand the basics. The best one I've found is a scripting book aimed at kids. It's simple and explained thoroughly, even if it did teach me how to make a calculator that added giraffes and crocodiles together, it's all useful!

From here, I'm now finding Python scripts on Nukepedia and going through them, making notes on how they've achieved certain outcomes. Apart from this, The Foundry's Python tutorials are also a really useful way to start learning. In terms of NUKE techniques, a site I frequently go on is Nuke Station, which is a collection of video tutorials from various artists. My old university also has a forum called 3DHIT that people post up useful tutorials, which is an invaluable resource both when you're at university and when you've left.

3dt: So what are your plans for the future now you've landed in the VFX world? What are your hopes and dreams? Are there any cool films you'd love to work on?

Josh: I'd love to be a VFX supervisor one day, as I really love the chance it gives you to think outside of the box, as well as the more social aspect of the job. I also want to do a little more teaching eventually, both at universities and schools as I feel like I need to give back to the world of VFX.

Regarding cool films, I really wanted to work on a big superhero film, because big VFX are well-suited to their storylines. Therefore, it's so good to be working on Guardians of the Galaxy within 3 months of being at MPC.

3dt: Talking about films, what are you looking forward to seeing this year at the cinema to get you excited about the future of VFX?

Josh: I'm not sure when this will be out so it may be reality by the time it is, but my mates and I are really excited about Gravity hitting the IMAX! Some of them had internships at Framestore while it was being made and they wouldn't stop talking about how amazing it looks.

As well as Gravity, I'm looking forward to The Monuments Men, which is a complete contrast to Gravity as it seems like a mix of Ocean's Eleven and Saving Private Ryan, which in my opinion couldn't be cooler.

A shot from the stopframe short film that made me start looking into VFX


Related links

Josh Park's website
MPC's website
Animate and Create's website
Rewind FX wesbite

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Readers Comments (Newest on Top)
Benjamin Keye on Sun, 02 February 2014 9:32am
Love this interview! It would be awesome to catch up with this guy when he's started compositing.
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