Effects technical director (FX TD)
Also known as: FX TD, Technical producer
What does an FX TD do?
Effects technical directors (FX TDs) create physics-based digital effects, such as explosions, smoke and water, that the animation artists can use in their shots and sequences. They make sure the effects look believable and also consistent with the style of the animation so that they blend seamlessly with the other art assets.
The role is both artistic and technical and so is ideal for problem-solvers with a good eye. FX TDs aim to meet the director’s vision, in terms of digital FX, with the resources available to them.
FX TDs work for animation companies or studios.
Watch and read
- District 9 interview #6 of 6: effects technical director - Vancouver Film School (VFS)
- What is a technical director in VFX, animation and games?!
- What does a technical director in animation do? Blue Sky’s Prashanth Pandurangaiah tells us!
What's an FX TD good at?
- Problem-solving: think analytically to identify problems and come up with creative and efficient solutions, find ways to overcome obstacles and deliver the project
- Support: offer guidance to more junior artists, give face-to-face technical help to all animation and lighting artists, communicate well, have a positive attitude
- Knowledge of all parts of animation pipelines: have a strong understanding of all jobs within a pipeline, what these involve, the needs and challenges of the roles
- Knowledge of 3D animation programs: be adept at using relevant programs such as Maya, Houdini, Blender, Adobe After Effects, Cinema 4D, MotionBuilder, Nuke, RenderMan and 3ds Max
- Programming and coding skills: have advanced knowledge of programming in Python, VEX and C++ with a very high level of technical ability
Who does an FX TD work with?
How do I become an FX TD?
Technical directors are senior positions. Typically, you need to have at least a couple years of experience working in animation or VFX before you can become an FX TD. It’s useful to start in more junior positions in the animation or VFX sectors and work your way up. In order to become an FX TD you need to learn programming. There are degree courses available in computer programming, computer science or animation, which would all provide you with useful experience and background knowledge.
At school or college:
An ideal background to this role is the combination of drawing skills with science. If you can take A-levels or Highers in maths, computer science, biology or physics and add art or art and design to the mix, it’s ideal.
Or you might want to take any of the following Level 3 vocational qualifications:
- Aim Awards Diploma in Creative and Digital Media
- BTEC National Extended Diploma in Creative Digital Media Production
- BTEC National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Computing
If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:
- OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Moving Image and Audio Production)
- BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television Visual Effects
- BTEC National Diploma in Computing for Creative Industries
- UAL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Creative Media Production and Technology
- AQA Technical Level IT: Programming
- OCR Technical Diploma in IT (Digital Software Practitioner)
Get an apprenticeship:
Apprenticeships are jobs with training. They’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn. You might find an apprenticeship in an animation company that could set you on the path for being a technical director. Or you might find an apprenticeship in another industry. This could help you gain experience that you can use to find your way into animation at a later point.
These are the relevant apprenticeships that might be available throughout the UK:
- Assistant technical director (visual effects) (Level 4, England)
- IT solutions technician (Level 3, England)
- Software developer (Level 4, England)
- Software development technician (Level 3, England)
- Software tester (Level 4, England)
- Cloud and Application Development (Level 4, Northern Ireland)
- Computing (Level 4, Northern Ireland)
- IT and Telecoms Professional (Level 3, Northern Ireland)
- Software Development (Level 4, Northern Ireland)
- Digital Degree Apprenticeship (Level 6, Wales)
- Information Technology Solutions Development and Support (Level 5, Wales)
- IT Solutions Development and Support (Level 3, 4 Wales)
- IT, Software, Web and Telecoms Professionals (Level 2, 3, 4 Wales)
In Scotland, you might be able to find degree-level apprenticeships through the following frameworks:
- Digital Applications (SCQF Level 6, Scotland)
- IT and Software Development (SCQF Level 10, Scotland)
- IT and Telecommunications (SCQF Level 5, Level 6/7, Level 8/9, Scotland)
Before taking any apprenticeship, check what you’ll be learning with your prospective employer and college, so you can be sure it will be giving you the skills you want. Go to how to become an apprentice to learn how to find apprenticeships in your region or approach companies directly.
Build a portfolio:
Learn animation and video editing software and start creating work that you can show to admissions tutors or employers. Create your own short film or films. This is essential. Go to build your animation portfolio to learn how. Watch ScreenSkills’ advice on animation and VFX showreels for help and inspiration.
Get a degree:
Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select one in animation. We recognise courses with our ScreenSkills Select award where they offer training in the relevant software, dedicated time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the animation industry.
Look outside the industry:
See if you can get a job as a runner with a VFX company. This will help you build contacts, skills and knowledge related to 3D animation. Look for jobs as a generalist programmer in the games industry. Alternatively, look for computer programmer jobs in any industry or sector, as there’s a widespread demand for these roles.
Take a short course:
Hone your skills in programming by taking a specialist course. Go to the list of training courses recommended by ScreenSkills and see if there is one in programming.
Get to know people in the animation industry by attending events. Meet industry professionals and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest and knowledge in the industry. Offer to provide them with your professional contact details and try to stay in touch with them. Go to how to network well to learn how to do this.
Search for jobs:
Research animation companies that you’d like to work for. Animation UK has a directory of animation companies. Go to their websites and check if they are advertising for FX TD roles. You can also send in a speculative CV and ask employers to keep it on file so they can consider you if any suitable jobs come up. Go to How to approach animation and VFX employers for details of how to do this. Search job websites for FX TD roles and apply for positions.
You might also be interested in...
Being a graphics programmer or another kind of programmer in the games industry. You might also want to work for a VFX company as a pipeline TD or an FX TD. Or you could be an animation TD in the animation industry.
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