Visual effects (VFX)
Also known as: Research and development (R&D) programmer
Software developers produce the technology required for a visual effects (VFX) project. They create the systems which technical directors (TDs) can use and modify to suit the specific needs of their VFX artists. They also design new digital tools and make sure they fit into existing software systems. This enables the efficient passing of assets from one VFX process to the next.
This is a research and development role, which means that it involves working out ways to improve how well digital processes works. Software developers must stay informed about software and technology relevant to their field and beyond. They find innovate ways to enable the artists within the pipeline to complete their work as fast and as well as possible.
Software developers work most closely with technical directors throughout the VFX pipeline.
To become a software developer, you will need very strong coding skills as well as a detailed understanding of the VFX pipeline. A degree in computer science or a related field is often needed, although the most important thing is a high level of technical skill using coding languages Python and C++. A good route in through an assistant technical director role.
At school or college:
You can take A-levels or Highers in computer science, maths and physics. 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 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:
In Scotland, you might be able to find degree-level apprenticeships through the following frameworks:
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.
Get a degree:
A degree in computer graphics or computer science, or a related discipline such as maths, physics or information technology is relevant to this job. Have a look at ScreenSkills’ list of recommended courses and select one in VFX. We endorse courses when they offer training in the relevant software, dedicate time to building a portfolio and have strong links with the games industry.
Watch a lot of films and TV with VFX sequences:
As well as technical skill, it’s really important to develop an appreciation for VFX and animation. Make sure you’re familiar with what’s already been produced.
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 technical roles. You could also contact companies to see if you can do a work experience placement with them. 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