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A Day in the Life of a VFX Studio

I did some sciencing, I got creative, and I would do it all again.

A day in the life of a VFX studio is not that different from other industries. There are budgets, Zoom and Teams meetings, a cross-section of personalities — and a lot of quick problem solving. I recently went through a whole day making a list of all the tasks I completed as I went along.

  • Reading scripts and highlighting the areas that would benefit from VFX intervention. This includes scenes with screens (TVs, mobile devices), muzzle flashes, and the occasional scary monster.
  • Discussing the list of shots with the filmmakers to better understand their creative vision.
  • Brainstorming how to shoot each VFX scene with the Director of Photography.
  • Visiting the set to help the production run smoothly and nip expensive mistakes in the bud, like a poorly lit green screen or a camera that is wild.
  • Suggesting low-cost and clever alternatives to expensive approaches to VFX. For example, if a camera move needs to land in a very specific position and angle, sometimes it’s easier to shoot the shot backwards by starting in that position.
  • Working with filmmakers in a spotting session to discuss shots that can be enhanced with VFX. This includes everything from the removal of a boom mic to complicated split screens that combine two actors from two different takes with moving cameras.
  • Bidding all the VFX shots for projects and presenting cost and schedule proposals.
  • Working with our team of artisans to problem solve technical and creative challenges.
  • Leading a client through a design process from research to storyboards, styleframes, layout modeling, animation, rendering, effects — and the final render and color correct.

Just as the day was drawing to an end, we received some files from a new client. This was the production company for an indie film that we had agreed to give a discount. We often work to help independent filmmakers to arrive at a slightly discounted price — but, inevitably, there are always little fires.

Because every frame we work with is an individual file, very specific naming conventions have to be followed in order to keep track of everything. On this day, the files from the studio were in different formats, the wrong color space, incorrect codecs, and disorganized naming conventions. It was up to me to make time to spend with the client, with the ultimate goal of empowering them to re-deliver everything correctly so my team could focus their time creating VFX. These investments in filmmaker relationships always pay off the next time we work with them on bigger projects.  

It was an epic day, and we all know how those end: Rinse and repeat.  

Originally published: 09/08/2022

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