Visual effects (VFX)
Also known as: Previs animator, Previs lead, Previs modeller
Previsualisation (previs) artists help to plan out what a film is going to look like. Previs is the process of visualising a scene before creating it.
Previs generally takes the form of a 3D animatics, namely a rough version of a scene or scenes. Previs artists usually start with a 2D storyboard from a concept artist. They create draft versions of the different moving image sequences and they put it all together using their compositing and editing skills.
The previs process is used to plan shots, work out the scale and timing and to show roughly where the characters are going to move. It’s used to map out how the visual effects (VFX) will fit into an otherwise live-action scene. Creating previs can save films and television series and shows valuable time and money on set or in post-production.
Once a film is in production, previs artists help the other VFX artists maintain a consistent style in their work.
Previs artists are either employed by VFX studios or they work as freelancers.
Previs artists work closely with layout technical directors (TDs) as well as with the director. They also communicate regularly with the production management team to ensure the project meets its deadlines. They usually report to the VFX supervisor.
To become a previs artist you need to understand the VFX production pipeline and have a high level of skill in using 3D software. You might progress to this role by first becoming an assistant technical director. Or you might go the route of becoming an environment artist and later transferring your skills to previs. Previs artists often obtain a degree in animation, computer science, film production, or a related discipline. The most important thing to do is to develop a strong portfolio which demonstrates a talent for cinematography and visual storytelling.
At school or college:
If you want to go to university, A-levels or Highers in computer or computing science, maths, art and design, film studies, media studies, art, photography, graphic design or communication, would all equip you well for this role. Or you might want to take the following Level 3 vocational qualification:
If you want to go to college or university, you can take A-levels or Highers in art, art and design, film studies, media studies, photography, computer science or maths will equip you. Mixing art with computer science is good. Or you might want to take any of the following Level 3 vocational qualifications:
If you want to go straight into a job or apprenticeship, the following Level 3 vocational qualifications will equip you:
Get an apprenticeship:
Apprenticeships are jobs with training. They’re a great opportunity to earn while you learn. NextGen Skills Academy offer 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 how to use, and then 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. Make sure you’re familiar with what’s out there.
Get a degree:
Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses in VFX and select one in computer science, computer animation, maths, IT, art and design or another VFX-related subject. 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.
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 the art or pre-production departments. 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). ScreenSkills offers some advice from professionals on how to approach animation and VFX employers.
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
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