3D asset class in the LightRoom as part of the Visual Effects degree programme.

Shape the Future of Digital Arts With These VFX Careers

Posted by Dee Cunning on 2/1/2021 in Catalyst

See yourself as a visionary of the future? The visual effects industry is one of the best places to make it happen. Here’s our rundown of the VFX jobs you can enter from one year of study at Catalyst.

Want to help shape the future? You’re in the right place at the right time. Ask someone in the 1980s what we’d be doing in 2020 and they’d probably reply, ‘flying cars,’ ‘living with robots,’ or ‘holidaying in space.’ They weren’t wrong. Because, though we’ll still have to wait for a personal robot to pour our cornflakes, we can do all of those things and a million more in the virtual world. In fact, since the pandemic stunted real-world activities, the demand has never been greater for all things computer generated. Enter visual effects. 

Cutting-edge visual effects tools are rapidly maturing. You could even say it’s the start of a new VFX era. Think abstract computer-generated worlds, real-time motion capture, hyper-realistic digital humans and AI, and 360-degree virtual reality. The development of technological arts now applies to fields as diverse as culture, entertainment and science. 

But it’s not all about technology. Today’s hyper-aware consumer base is demanding an equal innovation in artistry. Whether they’re watching movies or playing video games, they want to inhabit worlds that are not only believable, but breathtaking. Since the early days of matte painting, visual effects artists have been the architects of our dreams.

But what exactly does it mean to be a VFX artist? And if you want to work in the visual effects industry, where in the universe do you begin? Read on for our overview of the employment opportunities you can expect from one year of studying Visual Effects at Catalyst.

Credits where credit is due

‘Visual effects artist’ is an umbrella term. There is, in fact, a whole credit list of specialisations within the vast discipline – which also depend on the area of the industry you’re working in. 

Matte painters create incredible photo-realistic landscapes or environments that you can’t get on a real set. Digital Compositors deal with a complex combination of images in order to ensure all the visual elements of a film are seamlessly rendered. Animators can create everything from spaceships to believable motion-capture characters. The list goes on. If it takes a village to raise a child, to create a special-effects film, it takes a village-sized studio. Of course, the career possibilities aren’t limited to the likes of film or video games. You might also decide to go in a more graphic direction as a motion designer, for example. As we continue to move our lives into the virtual space, digital artistry can never be underestimated. 

Here are some of the entry-level VFX positions you can access after studying the one-year Visual Effects HE Certificate course at Catalyst.

Positions in large scale visual effects studios:

  • Junior matchmover
  • Junior compositing artist
  • Digital preparation artist
  • Assistant animator
  • Junior matte painting artist
  • Junior 3D artist

Positions in production companies:

  • On-set VFX supervisor
  • On-set DIT (digital imaging technician)
  • 3D junior animator
  • Junior color grading artist
  • Junior post-production supervisor
  • Motion designer

General jobs in small and mid level productions (music video, short films, artistic installations, etc)

  • Visual effects artist
  • Visual effects supervisor
  • VFX producer

Programme lead Matthieu Schmit advises that this list of positions is far from exhaustive. “There is an endless catalogue of entry-level or trainee positions in the various industries concerned with visual effects and animation,” he says, “and more new positions are created every day. From there, the only limit is that of your determination and grit.”

A broad foundation is key

That’s a lot of career prospects from just one year of studying VFX. Indeed, the aim of the first year at Catalyst is gaining a broad enough foundation of skills to prepare for the sheer diversity of the industry. Visual Effects HE Certificate students explore 3D animation, matte painting, digital compositing, practical FX, visual storytelling, filmmaking, production, directing, cinematography, editing, special effects, motion design, digital compositing, video media and visual design. They collaborate with filmmakers and direct actors for VFX shots, produce weekly personal works following creative and industry briefs, and discover the key to learning a variety of VFX and image creation software.

It’s no wonder we liken the one-year course to a boot camp. The programme is all about getting your hands dirty with heaps of hands-on projects – a ‘brain gym’ of collective problem solving and critical thinking and a celebration of creative independence and entrepreneurship. All of this is supported by a deeply individualised learning process that develops your interests and unique talents. Ultimately, Certificate students come away with a wealth of skills that will be valued everywhere, including: 

  • A perfect eye for composition, colour and lighting
  • A strong eye for detail
  • The ability to multitask, prioritise and problem solve
  • Organization, communication and interpersonal skills
  • A proactive and collaborative work ethic
  • Eagerness to learn and motivation to pursue professional development
  • Proven ability in working with clients in order to create their vision
  • A working knowledge of the overall VFX pipeline
  • Ability to work in a team of creatives towards a common goal
  • Organisational skills and proven ability to prioritise conflicting tasks
  • Ability to work autonomously and work with deadlines
  • A drive to improve and constantly learn new skills
  • Flexibility in approach and ability to remain calm and confident in a fast-paced environment

Take it to the next level

Want to hone your visual effects specialism before entering the industry? Stay on at Catalyst for a further two years to complete our Visual Effects Bachelor degree, and we’ll get you there. 

In the second year of study, you’ll go deeper into the art of visual effects and visual creation with workshops in VFX supervision and advanced compositing, mechanics and dynamics, creative coding and technological arts. You’ll learn new tools and interfaces, but also take time to explore other formats, spaces and realities – as well as the crucial development of your creative voice. In the third year, you’ll craft the final project that’ll train you up in your chosen specialism and make you a visual effects artist in your own right. What’s more, you’ll be equipped with the industry knowledge to start making valuable connections. Whether you get a job at a studio or forge your own path, the possibilities from here are as limitless as your imagination.

Get a Taster

During our second live online VFX workshop, tutor Anton Egorov demonstrated Substance Painter, a 3D painting software that students get familiar with in their first year of study. Watch the demo below to get a taster.

Find out more

The next Virtual Open Day is on the 23rd of April 2021, from 2pm. Enjoy a live tour of our spaces and facilities combined with prorgamme-specific group sessions with our tutors and students. It's great opportunity to meet us and to ask us anything you're wondering about joining our learning community in Berlin.