10 top tips to find happiness in the VFX industry

Feeling under appreciated in your work? Frustrated with last minute client changes? Tethered to your desk?

Working in visual effects and animation can be tiring work – long hours of fine-tuning and precision. But it’s a profession that celebrates creative freedom and generates great reward.

Founder of The Sequence Group, Ian Kirby has released ten tips to make your life better if you identify with the visual effects industry. 

The Sequence Group is a creative studio based in Vancouver and Melbourne specialising in design, animation and visual effects.

The above video is an example of their work, for the OMG-how-did-we-ever-live-without-this company messaging system Slack. The CG stop-motion clay sequence was led by Giant Ant and The Sequence Group took care of the 3D and compositing, with audio design from Antfood.

The creative company also dabbles in traditional advertisements, game trailers and cinematics, titles, animated series, event work and artwork.

The team have produced feature-length animations marking events such as the release of Halo 5, CG sequences such as the latest Star Wars trailer and advertising campaigns similar to the video above for Slack.

Find out what Ian has to say about having the right tools in place, beating the 2am grind and making your studio a fun place to work in.

1.     Focus on the Pipeline
A solid pipeline lets artists focus on being creative and helps facility owners, producers and supervisors save time and keep tabs on the bottom line. We’ve all been in the position of mistakenly working on an old render, but with the right pipeline tools in place, you shouldn’t have to worry about time-consuming missteps like these anymore.

2.     Work from Anywhere
Take advantage of mobile apps to empower artists, clients and supervisors to review, provide notes and keep the feedback loop moving whether you’re in the same office or on opposite sides of the globe. The Shotgun Review app lets me give feedback to artists without being tethered to my desk.

3.     Make Review Count
Find review tools that give you immediate access to the latest shots without manually sifting through folders. Take advantage of native review tools like RV that let you compare multiple versions of the latest shots side-by-side or overlaid, and help keep your team and your clients aligned on notes and change requests!

4.     Update Sequences Automatically
Last minute client changes during compositing reviews can create major schedule delays when they affect multiple shots. With a good pipeline in place, you should be able to make updates to sequences automatically and avoid the 2am grind!

5.     Simplify Communication
Animation reviews can be fast! Draw directly on top of frames and then automate how tasks are assigned and move along in the chain as shots progress or are approved. With notes and review connected to the same database, feedback is never lost

6.     Reduce Human Error
Humans are essential – we’re the talent that makes the art. However, algorithms are better than humans at naming conventions and file structures…so leave that bit to automation. You’ll never work with the wrong version again!

7.     Avoid Silos
You don’t work in a silo, and your tools shouldn’t either! Make sure that your production management, 3D animation, compositing and review tools are talking to one another. For us the Shotgun-Maya-RV-Nuke feedback loop is essential.

8.     Punch Above Your Weight
Not every VFX facility is a Hollywood heavyweight. Sometimes it’s easier to be small and nimble, except for when you wish you had internal R&D resources to tackle really complex bottlenecks. Finding off-the-shelf tools that work just as well out of the box as they do with heavy customisation, helping smaller facilities compete with the big guys.

9.     Cloud-Stretching Budgets
So many creative and pipeline tools are available now on an as-needed basis with licensing fees through the cloud. We’re also looking to the future of cloud-based production as a way to further reduce overhead investments in hardware and software.

10.  Have Fun
Make your studio a fun place to work. Solid pipeline infrastructure helps studios better balance time, budgets and allocate resources to avoid crazy hours. Let artists take ownership of their work and take pride in the studio’s successes, and everyone wins in the end.

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