With the UK's creative industries worth a staggering £84bn to the UK economy, there has not been a better time to enter the world of Digital VFX or animation.
Visual effects and games in particular are a great British success story, but the pathways into the industry are not always clear.
When students look to make their first steps towards becoming a VFX or animation professional they face a number of challenges. Identifying the right course to provide the desired training is one of the biggest.
Many students simply do not know what it is they would like to do in VFX, a rapidly-evolving industry with many specialisms to choose from. For the layperson with little experience in the field, making an informed decision can be difficult.
An intensive short course covering the main areas of the industry can be a good initial solution. These generalist courses will give the student a solid foundation in VFX and animation from no base at all. The fast-paced nature of the course means students will get to learn something new every day, offering great variety.
Often these courses have very few entry requirements. However, just a little basic preparation can help students really make the most of their training. Becoming familiar with different file formats, being able to tell a tiff from a jpeg, as well as learning some file management techniques and simple photoshop skills, can really help students to get ahead.
A longer generalist foundation course has additional benefits for those seriously looking to get into the industry. Graduates with a broad understanding of the VFX and animation sector will likely be employable more reliably than highly specialised professionals seeking work in a fluctuating market, where demand comes and goes. The extended length of the course will nonetheless offer the possibility of developing good skills in a particular area to those seeking to become specialist down the line.
When making decisions on workflow and techniques, graduates with a broader understanding of the industry bring a well-informed and rounded perspective, with knowledge of how the different pieces of the VFX and animation puzzle fit together. A general course will also have plenty of variety, meaning that students need not commit to a particular specialism upfront, but can nurture their specialist interests over time.
This said, a specialist course can really boost the careers of those who already have a basic foundation in VFX and animation. Given the investment involved in undertaking a specialist course, it is important for students to know that they are a ready for the commitment.
A good way of judging readiness is to build a showreel, illustrating VFX projects and achievements made to date. Sharing the showreel with a professional can help identify strengths and weaknesses. The showreels of other juniors and graduates also offer a useful point of comparison.
Asking and acting on feedback on work is an essential skill for any VFX professional. It is important not to get emotionally attached to the work, so that it can be viewed objectively. Given that the VFX industry is evolving so rapidly, every professional needs to learn something new each year to keep up. If you do not like learning, this might not be the right job for you!
It is also essential to be somebody that people enjoy working with. Animation can be a tough job, and no one will want to do it with you if you create additional issues, so being a problem solver and a good communicator goes far. Proactivity, in identifying new techniques, potential collaborators and interesting projects, is also a good quality to have.
If you can display these attributes from the beginning of your course, your career in VFX is going to get off to the best possible start. But the learning, as any successful VFX artist will tell you, must continue beyond graduation.
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