How To Get VFX Generalist
Professional Skills In 1 Month

Hello, I’m Lenar Mingazov. And I make visual effects for commercials, movies, TV projects, music videos for almost 20 years. Here is my demo reel:

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95% of shown in this reel visual effects were made by me alone from start to finish and in the remaining 5% I was the supervisor (in my reel I prefer to show works that were done entirely by me and not explain that this or that pixel on the final image is my contribution).

And as you can guess I am a VFX generalist.

If you have a basic knowledge of Photoshop, Maya and After Effects I developed for you a special course, which will allow you to get professional vfx skills in 1 month. These skills will let you to produce from the start to the end full cg vfx shots like this:

 

Unfortunately Main Course is available only for people who already have basic knowledge of software used in main course. Absolute beginner or a person who is not familiar whith this software will not be able to take this course. To prepare you for this course, i have Basics course which includes essential concepts of full cg vfx production.

How And Why I Became VFX Generalist

Actually I had no choice.I started to work in a small studio at the dawn of VFX industry. No one knew how to produce them, no one knew a thing about them and I had no one to ask. Therefore, to get the final product done I initially had to gain knowledge in all related fields.

As I grew up professionally the projects become more complex, budgets grew and I had the opportunity to work with talented and professional people, but unfortunately there were very few of them. And significant number of people with whom I had to work coped with their tasks not too well. Very often I had to finish or redo their work just to be able to complete the project. It was much faster than the return this work for debugging.

Of course, anyone will say that this approach is not correct. Every manager will tell — you should be able to delegate authority, to set tasks properly etc. Well may be this is right. But unfortunately, if I would follow these rules, I doubt that these projects would be completed.

So it’s evident that if you have sufficient professional skills you can handle small projects much faster then group of specialists.

Besides, if you can accomplish work of 2 or 3 specialists then you can take all the money.

The fact is that a significant amount in industry (and I’m talking mainly about video ads) does not require epic effects such as Sauron’s Army. Spaceships, monsters and naked ladies are not much in demand too.

Most of my works are TV ads. Mostly we make products demo, products replacement, label replacement, product integration, lot of cleaning work, vanity fixes, removing unwanted objects from the footages etcetera. Sometimes we have big-budget projects, but not so often because marketers are very conservative in fact.

So Here Is An Simple Example Of Work Called Adaptation

So here is an simple example of work called adaptation. Adaptation in our case is the fitting of video commercial made in one country to another country’s local needs. Of course complexity of adaptation may vary significantly. But in this case, this is what I want to show you.

Before

After

Here is the works list:

  • product replacement, close-up
  • product replacement, full shot
  • product replacement on packshot

and everything should be done in Full HD!

Let’s say the approximate budget of the project is $4000 (in different countries it can cost differently, of course), wich will be distributed among following specialists required for this project:

  • one modeler is required for modeling two smartphones for packshot
  • lighting and shading artist
  • compositing artist with the strong tracking skills to replace smartphone in the hand in two shots
  • supervisor coordinating all these specialists (it can be compositing artist though)

How Much Time Is Required For This Project

Modeler makes two smartphones in one day. At same time compositing artist starts its tracking, cleaning and replacement job.

On the next day lighting artist lights, shades and renders products. Compositing artist finishes its product replacement work.

On the third day compositing artist works with rendered images and reproduces packshot. Ok, it can take half of a day.

In total it’s 2 days and a half. But it is in the ideal case. Because the considerable time will be spent on these specialists coordination. There may be some rework, rerender etc. In the best case this is plus one day. 3 and a half days in total.

Now I Will Tell You How This Work Was Done By Me

In one day I modeled products. I’m not very good at modeling. But in this case the back sides of smartphones did not require any details since they were not visible in the spot. So one day for modeling and texturing the frontal sides of a two smartphones was enough.

  1. On the next day, half of a day was spent for lighting and shading. Before I had to deal many times with similar products, so I could use lighting sets and materials from a previous projects. All I had to do is replace products in the existing lighting set with new ones, reassign materials, slightly change lighting, catch needed reflections and then render this scene.
  2. While products were rendered I did tracking and product replacement work in the close-up shot. And I almost finished this shot at the end of the second day.
  3. On the third day I spent about hour and a half for the product replacement in the full shot. And then I assembled packshot using sequences rendered at night.
And all this without rush, without overtime work.
3 days in total.

Advantages Of Being Generalist

I am one to control the entire process. And this gives me advantage over time. And I take all the money. Now I can rest. Or take the next job and get another fee.

Ironically by working alone on smaller projects, you can get a significant gain in time. First, there is no time wasting on the specialists coordination. Besides by controlling all the stages of the process you know what elements you need to get the final image.You render what you need, nothing more. You can add items that you need on the later stages very quickly.

You have understanding that it is possible to skip something at current stage because you will be able to compensate it on the later stages.

For example, you don’t need ideal image on shading stage, if you know that you can refine it on compositing stage by color correcting separate elements of this image using a mask, which can be rendered in few minutes.

Disadvantages Of Being Generalist

Of course, there are also disadvantages of being generalist. Because sometimes strong specialists are needed. Fluid simulation, dynamic simulation or fur experts for example. These guys are real scientists.They have such extensive knowledge in their professional domains, which can not fit my little brain. That is to say by being generalist it is very difficult to go deep in a particular theme due to lack of time or restricted mental capacity.

However considering the type and amount of the current work I can say that I’m quite demanded. Besides, by having a wide range of knowledge you can be demanded on a complex projects too. Moreover in many qualities. And particularly as a supervisor.

Supervising

Supervising is another area where generalists can be in demand. By having a wide range of knowledge in almost all the stages of VFX production (even if this knowledge is not very deep) supervisor as no one can understand what resources are needed for production, can make a realistic timing and sometimes can involve necessary professionals.

This is very responsible job and it concerns mainly project’s organization and management, communication skills and work with employees. You will build more competent process if you have a good technical knowledge. And your employees knowing your high professional level, will treat you with respect. After all, the supervisor must not only distribute and control assignments, but he has to be able to solve technical problems and difficulties wich inevitably occure in all the projects. Or at least he should know people who can solve these problems. All this is necessary to accomplish work on time.

Deadlines Is a Religion of VFX Industry

Nobody cares about the process. The client does not want to know that your scene has 200 Gb size and render can not handle it. All he wants to now is “where is the promised result?”

So very often even when we have sufficient knowledge of the process it is not very technological. We just fill the holes with patches. And it’s ok if we have results on time. Even if you drawn final image by pixels. The most important is that we have result. And while client will consider it we will have time to make pipeline more efficient to make probable modifications fast.

Of course the ability to solve problems often depends on personal natural qualities. I often meet people who are so gifted mentally that it caused me a strong feeling of envy. The problems wich I solved with some messy structures, they solved so simply and elegantly and it plunged me into despair.

I’m still pretty stupid by nature. But you can see my reel — 95% VFX shown in it I have done alone from start to finish and in the remaining 5% I was a supervisor.

In my reel I prefer to show works that were done entirely by me and not explain that this or that pixel on the final image is my contribution.

So what makes people to charge for considerable projects me instead other certainly more talented persons? The answer is the confidence that the assigned project will be completed in time.

So How Can We Compensate For the Lacks Of Mind?

There are several ways actually. You should collect information and study cases. Often you are asked to reproduce something similar to what the customer has already seen. And if you have studied this case earlier, you know the solution generally. And you will only work on the details.

You constantly need to set new challenges for youself and monitor trends. Read forums topics where people ask questions. Try to find solution. If you will not find, wait until someone tells it. Fix this solution somewhere to retrieve it at the right time. There are many questions that require answers right now and still do not have it. And being aware that some problem exists in industry and has not been solved so far is also useful. Because it will let you evaluate the possibility of project realization if this project has relevant issue. In short: eagerly absorb the information. One day it will be useful.

I prepared a huge amount of information necessary for beginners to start working properly

 

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