Interview with Mike Seymour, Dean&Professor, fxphd.com

null“The idea of an online course in VFX was to allow people who are busy and talented to increase their skills.”

What is fxphd?

It is a way for professionals to learn and take their careers to the next level. Each week students get downloaded classes, plus help via the forums. Plus you get copyright free high quality footage to work with and build your reel + live tutorials on the net and a host of extra benefits such as VPN versions of major software packages.

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Director of Photography Steve Newman (L) and mike Seymour (r) explains on set the key aspects of shooting green screen

Is the course available only online or do you also have other ways to teach?
At the moment the courses are only online and we feel this allows students to direct and immediate exposure to the top artists in the field – without hugely expensive course fees. We do seminars and we arrange live action shoots – where students can attend and build on what they learn from Online. We are starting to plan now to do some shoots and seminars in India next year. Last term for example we recreated the digital on-set pipeline from Superman Returns with much of the same crew. The shots – while not from the movie – showed the pipeline of what you really get in productions. The motion control was shot with milo – using two Genesis cameras, 4:4:4. Next term we are doing stunts.

Do you have professionals who apply for these courses or amateurs are also accepted?
You can be an amateur – but we really are focused on professionals – and we assume a basic level of knowledge.

Please tell us a little about yourself and the production work you have been doing internationally.
Our team has done heaps of work from Features to US Network series, commercials and music videos. We have worked around the world and been nominated for a heap of awards. This is the key aspect of fxphd, we are not trainers who have little real world experience, Jeff is currently busy on films like XMen 3, and Fantastic 4, John last year did ESPN’s New Year’s Eye Broadcast design – live from New York, and I was nominated for an Emmy last year for Farscape and an AFI this year for the Australian feature Hunt Angels.

null“I would also like to point out that India has a sprit of co-operation both internally and externally that will serve the community well.”

What made you come up with the idea of an online course in VFX?
The idea was to allow people who are busy and talented to increase their skills. We had done about 3 years worth of live shows in Vegas to sell out audiences- but still we were only reaching 200 people at a time, now we can work global. We take the global market very seriously.

Please explain the importance of knowledge of cinematography for VFX students.
When compositing live action the more you understand the camera, lens, stock, shutter angels, film speeds etc – the better you are as a compositor. For a 3D artist it is vital to understand virtual cinematography – composition, editing and screen balance. We find our “post-grads” (our students) – all love to learn more about on set and especially cinematography.

Is it true that to be working on top Hollywood projects one has to be based in L.A. or are things changing now?
It is true some work is out sourced, but the “virtual” post company is still a way off. Some aspects such as matte painting are done this way and very successfully. Some areas of vfx work well for outsourcing – such as roto, match moving and rig removal. But for major VFX the majority of the work is still done traditionally. Is it changing? Absolutely – but you need to be able to work in a pipeline and that means everything from reporting to naming conventions – to file formats etc.. The skill of a major effects film – the real magic of a major effects film is now the pipeline and the production workflow.
On the set of a fxphd shoot

Have you been to India before? If yes, then please give your comments on your experience.
I have been to India before – with my father – he was born in Ceylon.

I have the same experience that many people have…

– That Indian post artists are brilliant guys – our type of people, fun and generous with their time.

– That the country is exploding with movement and ambition

– And that taxiâ€?s could use their horns less – and help foreigners with jet lag sleep easier late at night.

I would also like to point out that India has a sprit of co-operation both internally and externally that will serve the community well.

Are you planning to tie up with Indian institutes?
Yes are planning to work with major local companies – both ways – we are looking for material from India and we are looking to provide material to the community. We like to joint venture and work with the local senior artists – they know what is needed and what will be respected

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