Visual effects (VFX)
Also known as: Lead visual effects (VFX) artist, Senior VFX artist
What does a VFX supervisor do?
VFX supervisors are in charge of the whole VFX project. They manage the VFX pipeline, including all of the VFX artists that work in this process. They have ultimate responsibility for all of the VFX elements produced for a project by their company or studio.
VFX supervisors work on a project from the early stages of preproduction. They are the main point of liaison between a VFX studio and the director or producer of the film or TV programme. Together, they decide on what VFX is needed for every shot of the film. VFX supervisors then work with the VFX artists to create prototype materials to present. These can include concept art and 3D computer-generated images (CG). The prototype materials help to inform the style of the VFX in the production.
VFX supervisors are present for filming during production so that they can see if the shots are satisfactory and ready for the VFX elements. VFX studios prefer if shots (pictures) are ‘locked’ (edited and okayed, ready to have VFX elements added to it) during filming. That means they can start working on the VFX while the rest of the film is being shot.
VFX supervisors continue to lead their team when the film is being put together during post-production. They oversee the quality of all work produced and make sure that it is in line with the vision of the director or producer.
Depending on the size of the production, VFX supervisors, may be employed on a single film for up to two years.
Watch and read
- Senior VFX supervisor Keith Devlin
- 7 questions with VFX supervisor Daniel Kramer
- This is why every film project needs a VFX supervisor - Supporting Players
- Aquaman: Kelvin McIlwain – overall VFX supervisor
- Behind the VFX: the trixters of Age of Ultron
- Visual effects: I worked on the VFX for Fantastic Beasts
What's a VFX supervisor good at?
- Art: have excellent design, layout, colour and composition skills
- Knowledge of photography: understand cameras, cinematography and how films are made, be able to influence the shoot so it works for the VFX
- Knowledge of VFX programs: be adept at using relevant programs such as Maya, Nuke and Photoshop
- Collaboration: work in preproduction with the director or producer to decide on which shots will need VFX work, respond to their creative and artistic direction
- Leadership: share the director or producers’ vision of the film with the VFX artists of all departments, inspire them to do their best work, manage their output in terms of quality and deadlines
Who does a VFX supervisor work with?
VFX supervisors work with the VFX production management department. They work with VFX producers to bid for work from prospective clients, as well as to set schedules and budgets. They provide notes for the VFX production coordinators so they can do the admin needed to keep the project on track.
VFX supervisors work with film directors and producers. Together, they decide on what VFX is needed for every shot of a film. They also lead all of the different kinds of VFX artists within a VFX company or studio.
How do I become a VFX supervisor?
The VFX supervisor job is the highest leadership role within an entire VFX company or studio; therefore, you will work in other, more junior, VFX roles first before reaching this position. VFX supervisors need the same technical skills and relevant software proficiency as junior VFX artists do, so you could start VFX work as a roto artist or prep artist and progress from there. In this case, an important thing that you can do to is to create a showreel to illustrate your abilities (even established VFX supervisors can have their own showreels). Alternatively, you can start work in the production department as a production coordinator or runner and go from there.
At school or college:
You can take A-levels or Highers in art, art and design, photography, graphic design or graphic communication. Or you might want to take any of the following Level 3 vocational qualifications:
- NCFE Applied General Certificate in Art and Design
- BTEC National Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
- UAL Applied General Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
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
- Aim Awards Diploma in Creative and Digital Media
- BTEC National Diploma in Graphics
- BTEC National Diploma in Photography
- UAL Diploma/Extended Diploma in Art and Design
- BTEC National Diploma in Film and Television Visual Effects
- OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (3D Design)
- OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (Graphic Design)
- OCR Cambridge Technical Diploma in Art and Design (Photography)
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 some experience to help you find your way into VFX at a later point.
These are some apprenticeships that might be available throughout the UK:
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 the software, experiment with VFX programs and create a showreel that you can show to admissions tutors or employers. This is essential. 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. Also have a look at Cinesite’s VFX breakdown reels on Vimeo and CG Spectrum – College of Digital Art and Animation’s student showcase YouTube video for help and inspiration.
Get a degree:
For the VFX supervisor role, it is useful to have a relevant degree; however, in the case where you want to progress through a VFX artist job route, provided you have strong showreel and know VFX software, it’s not essential. 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 art or production.
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 you’d like to work for. Go to their websites and check if they are advertising for junior roles. Even if they aren’t, send in your CV and showreel and ask them to bear you in mind for future positions. Keep looking on job websites too. 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.) ScreenSkills offers some advice from professionals on how to approach animation and VFX employers.
You might also be interested in...
- Weta Digital
- Wired – Design FX
- Which software is used for VFX?
- Blender Guru
- Khan Academy Labs – Pixar in a Box
- 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