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Author Topic: VFX Job Descriptions  (Read 25338 times)
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Mark Benard
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« on: March 20, 2009, 09:34:50 PM »

Visual Effects Job Descriptions

This list is to be considered a Work in Progress.  We'll be refining/adding/subtracting titles over time.  These titles are never completely definitive.  Rapidly advancing technology drives our methodologies and practices so most titles are in a constant state of change.  


  • VFX Producer: Overall responsible for the business and scheduling side of the VFX.
  • VFX Coordinator: Works with the VFX Producer - often responsible for the artists on a specific sequence. Take dailies, notes, distribute, update wall board and schedules. Coordinate FTP and shipping.


  • VFX Supervisor: Overall in charge of the look and implementation of the shots. Will be on set to make sure that things are shot correctly. Will be the one to talk to the clients about what is needed. On bigger films, there is often a client VFX Sup, who works on the entire film and oversees the whole thing, and a VFX studio VFX Sup (also known as Digital Effects Supervisor) who will actually work with the artists. (The client VFX Sup only really deals with the director and the VFX studio VFX Sups)
  • Digital Effects Supervisor: responsible for overseeing production pipelines and doing what is required to push shots through to final approval. Usually works in-house at a VFX company.
  • CG Supervisor: Responsible for the 3D side of things - all of the 3D artists, and making sure that the compositors get what they need to make the shots work.
  • 2D Supervisor: Looks after all of the compositors, and the 2D only shots, as well as the integration of the CG into the shots.

3D Artists

  • Matchmoving/Camera Tracking: Tracks the live action camera move in 3D, giving a 3D camera that the CG scene will be viewed from. Builds simple 3D geometry accurately.  The foundation for all our 3D work is a 3D camera which matches the live-action camera in lens and movement. On-set surveys and markers help tracking software, though often manual work is required. Whenever a 3D object or character must interact with parts of the live-action photography, additional object tracking is necessary. Tracking moving characters, environments, props or vehicles is a detailed process and must be spot on.  Also works with...
  • On Set Surveyor: often part of the matchmove job, gathers set data
  • Modeler/Assets: Creates 3D models of objects/characters.  The assets build department creates 3D models of mechanical or organic form based on concept artwork or live reference. Every asset is then textured, giving it colour and surface information later used in the lighting process.
  • Texture Painter ("ViewPainter" @ ILM): Creates the 2D images which will be laid over the 3D models to give them colour and texture. There are usually many textures for each part of an object, defining things like the basic colour, the displacement, areas where there’s more specular reflection, etc.  Goes along with...
  • Shader: Shading is concerned with the look and feel of a material or an effect and is achieved by accurately describing or emulating what happens in nature, by understanding the physics behind light and its interaction with the world. This allows us to achieve such effects as the reflective nature of gold, the soft feeling of skin or making an object feel like it's underwater.
  • Rigger: Creates the rig (skeleton) to go inside the model so that it is easier to move bits of it without having to edit it vertex by vertex.
  • Animation Director: supervises the animators and designs the animation
  • Animator: Takes the rigged model and gives it movement.
  • Technical Director (TD): A number of the more technical of the 3D jobs are classed as TDs. This is nothing to do with directing in the usual movie sense of the word.
  • Effects TD: Often particles - dust, snow, rain, etc. Also cloth and fluids. Bigger companies may have people who specialize, such as...
  • Creature/Character TD: experience with hair, fur, cloth
  • Water or Fluids TD: wrangles all kinds of water and fluids
  • Lighting TD: Lighting is concerned with the seamless integration of a computer-generated object into a filmed image to make it look as though it was always in shot. We need to ensure the integration is as realistic as possible, so the lighting team scrutinise the colours and directions of all light sources in the real-world scene and replicate them in the virtual world. To help them do this the team all have a keen artistic understanding of the way light behaves in the real world and what makes an image look real as well as beautiful.  This is the final artist in the 3D pipeline. Often will deal with rendering too. Or the rendering will be done by a…
  • Render TD (Render Wrangler): Makes sure that the scenes that the lighter finishes with will render properly. This may involve optimizing the scene to make sure that it will render as quickly as possible (for example, deleting all of the geometry that won’t be seen by the camera). Responsible for providing 24x7 support of the studio's rendering efforts. RW's monitor and load balance the render farm, assist with crashed and errored jobs, and participate in the day-to-day management of render farm hosts. RW's provide rendering support for all departments and divisions, including: Previz, Animation, Lighting and VFX.
  • MoCap Supervisor: Supervise the mocap session and/or artists
  • MoCap Animator: Work with mocap data and rigged characters.  In a session, movements of one or more actors are sampled many times per second. This animation data is then mapped to a 3D model making it match the actors’ movements. Camera movements can also be motion captured at the same time by a virtual camera panning, tilting, or dollying around the stage. This means computer generated characters, images and sets, have the same perspective as the video images from the camera. The data is then processed by computer to display the movements of the actor, while keeping the desired camera positions in the set.
  • Crowd Artist: using Massive or Houdini, create crowds including wardrobe. Some programming involved in Massive. Houdini for wrangling mocap data (CIS)  Characters must be indistinguishable from the live-action cast and behave with their own personalities and believable natural motion. The first step is research; looking into the character and understanding its movement. This can differ widely, and may be invented for fantasy characters, or for more realistic projects studied from life. The department blocks each scene, allowing editors to shape a final cut, and then deliver engaging and believable performances for each beat of action.

2D Artists
  • Roto/Paint/Prep Artist: Roto-scoping is the systematic and painstaking job of isolating a specific object from a photographic plate, often frame by frame (although interpolation is allowed). If a VFX shot has not been filmed on green screen and it requires an element to be put into the background of a plate, - ie behind the actors in the foreground – the roto team digitally cuts out the foreground actors by hand, frame by frame.   Plate preparation is essential to VFX. It is often necessary to have specialised rigs in place when we shoot - wires, safety equipment, crew, lights, camera – the prep team paint all of this way, so as you would never realise it was there.  The roto artist may also be called upon to do tracking marker removals, and other clean-up work.
  • Matte Painter (DigiMatte Artist or Digital Matte Artist @ ILM): Creates 2D background paintings that are usually used by the compositors, but may also be passed back to 3D to be rendered in multiple layers.  Also works with...
  • Environment Layout: Designs the layouts for CG environments, keeping in mind camera angles, movement, storyline and continuity.  Environment is concerned with everything that is not considered a character; this can be anything from 3d digital set extension to one single element required for a shot, or even an entire city. Using different techniques, often based on camera projections we achieve outstanding effects. It can be a matte painting projected on the model or full CG elements that are lit to match the live action plate.
  • Compositor: Compositing is the final step and the point at which brings all elements together. Using a number of software packages including; shake, nuke, inferno, after effects, fusion and custom tools, the original plate is combined with 3D creations, matte paintings, FX elements and other plates to give the impression the imagery dreamt by the Director was all captured on set without any need for post production.  Colours are matched, green-screens are keyed, light wrap is created, ground interactions are formed and any number of lens warps or film effects added until the finished (and hopefully seamless) shot is created.

R & D

  • Shader Writer: Writes shaders, which tell light how to interact with the different parts of the model, and how to use the textures that the texture painter has created.
  • Pipeline Programmer: Writes the pipeline software. This is software that doesn’t actually create images that will appear on the screen, but that helps the artists workflow, and overall improves efficiency.
  • General R&D: Writing anything else that the artists may need. Anything from plugins for Shake or Maya through to crowd generation tools.

Pre-Production and CG

  • Concept Artist: works in pre-production, designing creatures, doing look development or illustration, also known as Workbook
  • PreViz/Layout: This is a pre-production job rather than a post production job. Creates relatively rough animation so that the director can make decisions on camera angles before he gets onto set. Often used for situations where there’s going to be a lot of VFX, it also gives the actors an idea of what the shot is going to look like, even if they’re just working on a green screen set.  Pre-Vis is the first draft of an animated visual effects shot, similar to an animated CG storyboard. The pre-vis gives an overall view to the shot which serves as a guide to visual effects and a reference when shooting footage. By referring to the pre-vis, clients can give us feedback early on in the creative process, saving time and money and ensuring that their vision is fully realized. Once the client has approved the pre-vis, it is the job of the Layout department to organize the shots and prepare them for animation. The layout artist concentrates on the rough placement of elements within a shot and checks for proper composition and continuity of the visual elements. Where appropriate, the layout artist will also animate the CG camera.
« Last Edit: December 08, 2010, 03:43:42 PM by Gillian Benard » Logged

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