Charging wildebeest, dancing ponies and a T-Rex smashing through a wall – in the two years since he graduated, compositor Oliver Caiden has worked on his fair share of unusual creatures. Towards the end of Staffordshire University’s Film Production Technology degree, Oliver started learning visual effects techniques, and, realising that he was really into it, began doing more in his spare time. 

“The main thing I did for my dissertation was to learn Nuke off my own back. I found all the tutorials and spent time getting the workflow down. They’d originally taught After Effects as the main art compositing tool, so to go from layer-based to node-based workflow was quite tricky for me to get my head around.”

Opting for a placement year, Oliver moved to London to try to get a job in VFX, but it took six months (and many night shifts at John Lewis) to get his foot in the door as a runner. Returning to MPC after his final year, he got to know the compositors and showed interest in their jobs, and soon started picking up small bit of rotoscoping work after hours. “Soon you become more valuable as a compositor than a runner, and then you’re in there,” Oliver explains.

So far he’s notched up some impressive client briefs, including ones for Comic Relief, Hollyoaks, E-Harmony and, not least, Three’s 6.5m-hit-generating Dance Pony Dance slot, masterminded by Wieden + Kennedy. Perhaps the biggest of all has been a six-month project for Samsung to promote its new Smart TV. The King of TV City slot (directed by Adam Berg) sees a man walk through an abandoned city before having live-action beasts and machines burst through the streets. 

Oliver worked on a key scene of a T-Rex smashing through a wall, but one shot of a huge wildebeest stampede for the ad. From nine hours of footage filmed in South Africa, only about 30 seconds captured the wildebeest at the right angle or in the right light. From that, Oliver and his colleagues made a CG herd, and matched them up between shots. “The main thing is the confidence it gave me,” explains Oliver. “Someone just giving me one of the main sequences and saying, ‘Off you go, do it’, it’s amazing.”

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