VFX Summit 2021: Global stalwarts give important perspectives to students and upcoming artists

Young minds of the tech-savvy era have shown immense interest and potential to shine in the AVGC industry. The doyens of the VFX industry reiterated the importance of basic creativity, originality and basic understanding of the subjects, during the VFX Summit 2021 (18-19 November), a gathering of creative minds of the global VFX industry. It is a part of Asia’s biggest digital entertainment festival IndiaJoy held virtually from 16-19 November.

The digital entertainment festival, in its fourth edition, is bringing together businesses, business leaders, content creators, professionals across gaming, animation, digital media, and entertainment sectors. The first day of the much-awaited VFX Summit with 5000 plus participants from more than 30 countries concluded with some eye-opening discussions, tips and tricks from the experts that would come handy for the youth. 

The beginners are so overwhelmed with all technological innovations that they often wonder if basic sketching and old school ways of creativity are still relevant. In the art and creativity segment of the summit, Cinesite senior CG supervisor and VFX consultant and instructor at  Lost Boys Sean Lewkiw shared some learning strategies for new VFX students. Instead of uttering complex technical terms he shared useful student-friendly insights for the newcomers.

Sharing learning tips about being good at VFX Lewkiw highlighted the importance of three ingredients ‘natural ability, practice and effort’. “Practice isn’t anything that you do once you are good. Practice is something you do to become good,” he pointed out.

According to Lewkiw, while working on a demonstration reel or anything else, it is important to do more than one versions. There can be ten different random versions, where one of them can look better than the others just by pure chance. In CG, iterations are very important.  

“This is one thing that separates good artists from the great artists,” the senior CG supervisor said.

It is very important for the students not to get too ambitious. He mentioned that the process of ‘building photo-real visual effects is much harder than it looks’. The instructor has often witnessed his students try to ‘duplicate the effects they saw in a Marvel film’ while making their own film for the first time.

“Make something simple that looks great rather than something that is super complex and doesn’t look great. Make something small, and contained,” Lewkiw said.

Further, he highlighted the importance of being efficient rather than working for long hours. For instance, it is not advisable to send 4K renders (high resolution) directly. Instead one should test small portions first in order to be sure of the quality. 

Talking about working under a visual effects supervisor where they have a client to please he mentioned, “You are not here to realise your artistic vision. You are here to realise someone else’s vision. There is a lot of room for you to be creative but there is not a lot of room for you to build something completely with your artistic vision.” 

It is important to understand that when someone has a great idea, you have to make a great product. 

Highlighting the importance of the result and a work with great finesse, Lewkiw said,”Remember the most important thing is not your node network or your file that you are working with, your Maya, or your blender file. People are only going to see the result.”

The other golden points that he touched upon was making notes of important tips and tricks, taking real life references while working on effects, reviewing one’s work, accepting the fact that it is not important to know everything and how students must passionately work on their demo reels. A good reel is more important than a fancy resume.

Even the crux of the panel discussion on encouraging creativity in VFX education stressed on the importance of ‘quality over quantity’. The discussion was moderated by VIA University College, The Animation Workshop program designer and lead instructor for the Houdini and Simulation program Andrew Lowell. Mavericks VFX visual effects supervisor Christopher Lee Zammit, Blam Pictures creative director/VFX supervisor Junaid Syed and Fabricated Madness CEO/creative director and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Clone Wars lead concept artist Matt Gaser were the speakers at the panel.

Talking about if creativity can be measured and what the superiors look while hiring people, Syed said, “What I do is more of realistic visual effects. You have to understand how refraction works. These small little things and those principles should be clear. For if it’s refraction, then what refraction does and there is math behind. It’s an eye for detail.”

He stresses on a person’s ‘basic understanding’ of the field that they are choosing. 

“Measuring creativity, it is one person’s vision where other people execute,” Zammit said. He further pointed out the importance ‘to detach oneself’ from ones work because creativity is subjective.

Gaser said that while hiring he looks for a certain amount of professionalism in the candidate.

Hence, the main aim of the students should be upgrading skills, getting their concept clear and being the best version of themselves. Also, their demonstration reel or sample work should be very professional and they should not stop learning cum practicing even after securing a job. The VFX Summit under IndiaJoy banner gives a hands on the inspiration, enlightening, informational and iconic celebrations all at one place.

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