How to land your first job as a live motion graphics artist

Notch Subculture Festival 2018. Image credit: Richard De Souza.

Fancy making real-time graphics for Beyoncé and Stormzy? Here's all you need to know on how to crack the live content industry.

Matt Swoboda, founder of Notch, has worked with computer graphics for over 20 years, being a multi-award winning, leading member of the PC demoscene, and having enjoyed a successful career in game development with Sony PlayStation R&D. Latterly he joined the world of live events, creating visuals for major touring productions.

Spotting an opportunity to make the power of real-time graphics creation accessible to artists and designers he founded Notch in 2015. Notch is a real-time visual creation tool that's been used in live TV, film, VR experiences, music videos, motion graphics and massive concerts by the likes of KISS.

Find below Matt's tips on cracking the live content industry.

Be versatile

"You’ll be asked to produce a very large range of work. You could easily find yourself building a 2D piece made entirely out of text on day one, editing video on day two and making a 3D city fly-through on day three. The successful designers in this industry are flexible generalists. 

"To create a versatile portfolio, it really helps to have knowledge of a wide range of tools, plugins, working in 2D and 3D, using stock resources. With those tools, you’ll be able to produce a set of projects that quickly demonstrate your all-encompassing skills."

Bring a good attitude

"In the live world, video content is often a small element of a much bigger show. Your work may share the space with lights, moving screens, performers, maybe even drones.

"Multiple departments all have to work together under a director in a time-compressed environment where many big creative decisions are taken late in the day. Be prepared to hit hard deadlines, meet tight turnarounds and respond to what may seem like sweeping last-minute changes. Making everything come together is all about teamwork – so make sure you play for the team."

Learn the right software 

"After Effects, Premiere and Cinema4D are the tools of choice for many in the industry and most freelance positions will request some combination of them. However, there’s also been a shift towards real-time workflows in recent years and it’s an advantage to learn Unreal, Notch or Unity. Notch, in particular, is used by many big shows and live events, from Shawn Mendes and Beyonce to Stormzy, allowing users to create, change and render content in real-time during shows.

"Video in live events and shows is played back on special hardware and software called 'media servers', some of which have compositing and editing tools of their own. Ensure you have a bit of experience around their capabilities, too."

Love what you do

"Working in live events often means long days away from family and friends on location, so it really helps to have a passion for what you do. If you enjoy live music or theatre, it makes it a lot easier to cope with, and this could be the right industry for you.  

"The majority of visual projects in live events are focused on bringing music or narrative to life. Often, they involve designing to fit an audio track or a script with precise timings. A love and understanding of music and storytelling can go a long way in making standout projects."

Attention to detail

Matt Swoboda

"Creation and delivery of content for live events often require you to follow tight specifications. This includes resolutions, content templates, synchronisation to audio, frame rates, time codes, codecs, even file size of the video.

"With pressured deadlines, there’s little margin for error. My advice is to pay attention to the specifications and develop a quick-step quality control process to run through to ensure your deliveries are accurate. You may not have time to redo it, so like any good carpenter: measure twice, cut once."

Don’t work with your heroes…

"…but if you do end up in a room with famous people – perhaps even one of your idols – just relax (but do not ask for selfies, it’s not professional!) because artists are normal people (except for the ones who aren’t!)

:While it can make for an interesting working environment, a huge celebrity arena show is really just a job like any other. Hopefully, it’s one you can thrive in and enjoy."

Read next: KISS at the 02 – How cutting-edge software is keeping the rock band's on-stage visuals fresh and fiery

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