James it’s VFX work, this is really encapsulated by

James
Cameron’s 2009 film Avatar is one of
the most famous examples of photorealistic VFX used in practice. Avatar has rightly earnt critical
acclaim for it’s VFX work, this is really encapsulated by Cameron’s creative
vision of the phone, which was so strong that “the film had been delayed since
the 1990s to allow the techniques to reach the necessary level of advancement
to sufficiently portray his vision of the film.”1
Some of the innovations included: a new system for lighting wide areas, a
motion capture stage six times the size of any ever previously used, and “an
improved method of capturing facial expressions.”2
Cameron even created a method involving skull caps with cameras which allowed
the filmmakers to transfer 100% of the actors’ physical performances to their
digital counterparts. Rendering Avatar was an issue in and of itself, requiring Cameron to use a 10,000 square foot
server farm, using 104 terabytes of RAM, making it the 193rd in the TOP 500
list for the world’s most powerful supercomputers at the time. However, despite
having such a powerful set of computers at Cameron’s disposal, it would normally
take the computer hours to render a single frame of the film, adding to the
difficulty of creating drafts copies of shots.

 

Although most VFX work is completed
during post-production, it must be planned and choreographed with the use
of multiple technologies such as graphic design, modelling, animation and
similar software. A visual effects supervisor is often involved, and
is tasked with helping the director’s vision become a reality. VFX breaks down
into a few separate categories; this being Matte paintings, digital effects
(FX) and motion capture. Matte paintings and
stills which serve as backgrounds. FX are the processes by which imagery is
created or manipulated with photographic assets. And finally, Motion Capture is the process of
recording the movements of objects and or people in a controlled environment to
be used in conjunction with FX. FX will be the focus of this analytical piece. According to Creative Skillset’s 2012 Census, “the 5,000 employees in the VFX
industry were split. Approximately half were employed as artists and technical
directors, and the other half made up all other roles, including co-ordinators,
producers and other support staff”. VFX employers mention that a lot of entry
and junior-level work is “outsourced to non-EU talent”3, which should be
considered when thinking of joining this industry.
Most commonly, companies tend to employ artists contractually and on specific
projects. They can last anywhere from a few days and up to a year. Contracts
often roll back to back and it’s possible to be employed on this basis at the
same company for several years. This system is much akin to being employed
independently as it allows for jumps between publishers and companies, keeping
VFX interesting and engaging, but also grants the ability to remain loyal to
specific companies as individuals can keep extending or signing new, longer
contracts. Creative Skillset claims
that someone starting their career as a Matchmover or Roto Artist can expect to be paid a salary of “between £18,000 to £20,000” a year.
Junior-level artists earn “between £20,000
to £30,000” per year. Mid-level roles can earn “between £30,000 to £50,000” per
year. Senior-level artists can command an annual salary of “£50,000 upwards.”

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Traditionally most of
those entering the industry come in as university graduates. The most common
starting position for beginners are Runners and Roto-artists. Runners don’t
tend to need any specific qualifications, but a good showreel or portfolio of work would definitely
help getting a placement. In small companies, it is likely that
you will get a grounding in a variety of tasks, leading to specialisations in
whatever you want. In larger companies, it is likely that people new to the
industry will be expected to have specialised in a specific area. Employers are
also likely to look for evidence of this specialisation in their portfolios and
showreels.