Effects technical director (FX TD) (Animation)

Also known as: FX TD, Technical producer

Effects technical director (FX TD) (Animation)

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.

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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?

FX TDs work with lighting artists and compositors and the director. They also work with any other kinds of TDs who are working on a project, such as animation TDs.

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:

An apprenticeship is a job with training, so it’s a great opportunity to earn as you learn. See if you can find an apprenticeship an assistant technical director as a first step to becoming an effects TD. Check out What’s an apprenticeship?  to learn more about apprenticeships and find an apprenticeship to learn how to find one 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.

Further resources