Visual effects (VFX)
Computer graphics (CG) supervisor
Also known as: Senior CG supervisor, VFX artist
What does a computer graphics supervisor do?
Computer graphics (CG) supervisors are ultimately responsible for the delivery and quality of the 3D computer-generated (CG) elements of a VFX project.
Before a film goes into production, CG supervisors identify areas of the VFX work that need to be researched by software developers. They design the VFX pipeline – which means they decide the order in which the work needs to be done. They manage the team of technical directors (TDs), helping decide which digital tools need to be created to streamline the pipeline.
Once production is under way, they supervise the creation of all CG imagery and manage the artists creating it. Some walk around the desks of the VFX artists to check their work and provide feedback. They ensure the art is true to the vision of the film or TV director. Once complete, the art, or assets, are give to the compositors who put the whole scene together.
CG supervisors tend to be employed by VFX companies or studios. Supervisor positions are some of the most senior in these companies; as such, CG supervisors are often involved in the hiring process for new VFX artists.
Watch and read
- Stuart Penn, CG supervisor, Framestore
- VFX behind the scenes interviews: Kevin T. Hahn, CG supervisor at The Moving Picture Company
- CG supervisor Mike Perry on Pete's Dragon
- The Sisters Brothers: Stephane Thibert – CG supervisor – Mikros Image
- Interview with Cristian Spagnuolo CG supervisor
What's a CG supervisor good at?
- Art: have a good eye, understand the principles of composition, know what looks good and why
- Understand the VFX pipeline: know the process of how VFX get created, be able to plan and implement an effective pipeline
- Working with Linux or Unix operating systems: know how to work with these operating systems, which are different form Microsoft Windows or macOS (Apple)
- Knowledge of VFX programs: be adept at using relevant programs such as Adobe After Effects, Blender, Cinema 4D, Houdini, Maya, Nuke, RenderMan and 3DS Max
- Programming and coding skills: have knowledge of programming in C++ and Python with a high level of technical ability
- Leadership: manage the VFX artists and the TDs within the VFX pipeline, inspire them to do their best work, manage their output in terms of quality and deadlines, review and inform all creative work
Who does a CG supervisor work with?
CG supervisors work with the VFX producer and VFX supervisor to review budgets and schedules. They might also have discussions with the producer and director of the production company making the film.
In pre-production, they may identify areas of the VFX work that need to be researched and developed by software developers. They manage the TDs, such as effects (FX) TDs and rigging TDs and lighting TDs. They are also responsible overall for the output of VFX artists such as modelling artists.
How do I become a CG supervisor?
The CG supervisor position is one of the most senior in VFX. Companies may ask for you to have at least five years’ worth of experience working in a senior film or TV production management or a senior VFX artist role. Therefore, you can initially look for work in more junior-level positions in VFX, such as being a matchmove artist, prep artist, roto artist and then progress from there. Alternatively to the VFX artist route, you can start work as a runner in the production management department.
Along with the desired length of work experience, employers also expect you to be skilled in using one or some VFX program(s). These likely include Houdini, Maya, Nuke and RenderMan. It is also useful to have a knowledge of scripting languages such as Python and C++.
There are degree courses available in computer animation, computer programming, computer science, mathematics, information technology which would provide you with useful experience and knowledge towards becoming a CG supervisor.
An important thing that you can do to is to create a showreel to illustrate your abilities (even established CG supervisors can have their own showreels).
At school or college:
You can take A-levels or Highers in art and design, graphic communication, computer science, maths or physics. Or you might want to take any of the following Level 3 vocational qualifications:
- BTEC National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
- UAL Applied General Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
- NCFE Applied General Certificate in Art and Design
- 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:
- Aim Awards Diploma/Extended Diploma in Games Animation and VFX
- BTEC National Diploma in Digital Games Design and Development
- BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television Visual Effects
- BTEC National Diploma in Computing for Creative Industries
- AQA Technical Level Entertainment Technology: Video Games Art and Design
- AQA Technical Level Entertainment Technology: Video Games Art and Design Production
- OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Digital Content for Interactive Media)
- OCR Technical Diploma in Digital Media (Moving Image and Audio Production)
- 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. NextGen Skills Academy offers VFX apprenticeships for school leavers. These involve a lot of learning on the job working in a VFX company.
If you can’t find an apprenticeship with a VFX company, it might be worth getting an apprenticeship in a related industry, which could give you the experience you need to find your way into VFX at a later point.
These are the relevant apprenticeships that might be available throughout the UK:
- Assistant technical director (visual effects) (Level 4, England)
- Software developer (Level 4, England)
- Software development technician (Level 3, England)
- Computing (Level 4, Northern Ireland)
- Software Development (Level 4, Northern Ireland)
- Digital Degree Apprenticeship (Level 6, Wales)
- IT, Software, Web and Telecoms Professionals (Level 2, 3, 4, Wales)
Build a portfolio:
If you intend to get into this role through being a VFX artist, you will need to create a portfolio. Learn how to use, and then experiment with, VFX programs and create a showreel that you can show to admissions tutors or employers. Go to build your VFX portfolio to learn how. Watch ScreenSkills’ advice on VFX showreels. It’s really important to develop your appreciation for VFX. Make sure you’re familiar with what’s out there.
Get a degree:
A degree in animation, computer graphics or computer science, or a related discipline such as mathematics, physics or information technology is relevant to this job. Or you might want to have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select one in VFX. 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 VFX industry.
Take a short course:
Hone your skills in VFX by taking a specialist course. Go to the list of training courses recommended by ScreenSkills and see if there is one in VFX or programming.
Get to know people in VFX by attending events. Meet professionals and ask them questions about their work, while demonstrating interest and knowledge in the sector. 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 VFX companies that you’d like to work for. Go to their websites and check if they are advertising for junior roles in the art or TD departments. You can also search job websites and apply for positions. ArtStation is a good example of a site that includes job listings in animation, games and VFX (remember to filter its job listings by country).
You might also be interested in...
Being a compositing supervisor or a VFX supervisor. You might think about being an assistant games producer or games producer in a production department in the games industry. Alternatively, think about being a VFX artist or learning to code and being a graphics programmer, with a view to becoming a lead games designer.
- Weta Digital – YouTube
- Wired – Design FX – YouTube
- Which software is used for VFX?
- Blender Guru
- Creative Bloq
- CG Spectrum – College of Digital Art and Animation
- Art of VFX
- BECTU (the media and entertainment union)
- Computer Graphics World (CGW)
- VFX Voice
- Visual Effects Society (VES)
Film and TV drama
Covers genres ranging from period dramas to epic fantasies screened at the cinema, on TV or on streaming sites
Combines art with programming as well as production, design and testing - the UK’s fastest growing entertainment industry
Creates the illusion of movement, includes computer-generated, stop-motion and hand-drawn animation