Tips from a Pro for Getting Started in VFX (JA Interview)

Posted by Mike Schumacher

Not every job in the entertainment industry is created equal, and when it comes to more technical jobs, success often depends more on skill.

Unlike actors, production crew members and post-production professionals can achieve the careers they want by simply doing their work and doing it really well.

Despite all that, if you’re a young, wannabe VFX artist, it can be super intimidating trying to figure out where you should even start.

Which software should you buy? Do you need to know how to use all the industry-standard software currently in use by major VFX studios?

Are internships worth all the time and effort? Should you try for an undergraduate program?

There will always be a lot to consider, even after you’ve gotten your career going, but to offer a bit of help to any aspiring VFX artists out there, we interviewed incredibly successful VFX artist and Flame Artist Gurvand Tanneau.

Working with acclaimed entertainment companies in Paris as a young adult, Tanneau soon made the move to the media capital of the world, Los Angeles, where he worked as a VFX artist on commercials, feature films, and television shows.

Even just the list of companies Tanneau has helped create branded work for is basically a who’s who of major international brands: Ford, Apple, Chevrolet, L’Oreal, Sony, Bushmills, Lexus, Smirnoff, Geico, and Target.

His TV work includes massively popular shows like Chicago Fire, FBI, and The Walking Dead. Tanneau is also currently represented by DAA, a high-caliber talent agency.

We asked Tanneau about many different key parts of starting a VFX career, and you can all of his answers down below!

Jam Addict (JA): Thanks so much for joining us today. If you’re up for it, we’d like to ask you for some tips that could help budding VFX artists get started in their field. To start things off, do you think that watching a lot of movies with quality VFX can help young artists understand what is required of VFX artists today?

Gurvand Tanneau (GT): Hello and thank you. Yes, definitely, VFX are everywhere today in movies, music videos, and commercials, whether you notice them or not.

It’s helpful to watch and understand how these effects have been realized, from the prep to the result. And of course, observing the results and the level of attention that has been put into the details is part of developing a critical eye.

Young artists, like more experienced artists, should always try to understand the effects and how they would approach them. Today, between blogs, magazines, and VFX company websites, there is an abundant source of documents explaining how visual effects have been achieved. and the magazine Cinefex are two of the most prominent sources of inspiration.

gurvand tanneau vfx

Gurvand Tanneau

JA: What are two or three software programs that you think young VFX artists should get to know as soon as possible?

GT: Well it all depends on the goal a young VFX artist wants to achieve or where he or she wants to start. Though mastering our tools is extremely important, the principles of doing effects are even more important.

As a VFX supervisor and compositing supervisor, myself, I use Autodesk Flame as a tool. In my opinion, it is the most versatile software one can use to create VFX, and the best one to manage an entire project until the finishing, on the supervising side.

It has a procedural setup to create effects that you can find in Nuke as well, which is more commonly used to work on single shots.

These are the two most popular compositing softwares. On the 3D side, the most used software programs are Cinema 4D, Maya, and 3ds Max. There are many more that will be used on some specific tasks. Starting with a more general software is a good idea.

JA: Do you think it’s beneficial for young artists to work on small, independent projects, maybe even student films, to get some early experience?

GT: It is very important, as junior artists will learn to deal with less resources and will have to find solutions on their own, and may have the opportunity to supervise, which likely won’t happen fast in a big studio.

This a priceless real-world key to building experience, without the pressure of a bigger, more expensive job. Young artists will also be able to build a showreel, which will be very useful to introduce themselves to studios and VFX recruiters.

If these jobs on independent movies or student films are not paid, at least working on them can be considered an investment. Any experience is good and will make a difference in the pursuit of a career.

JA: Do you have any tips for getting the attention of professional production companies and VFX companies?

GT: Exposing any work that has been achieved is a good start, like building a showreel and making it accessible on the web.

Participating in forums and being active, too. The VFX community is always very eager to help and share knowledge, so take advantage of that. The needs of VFX studios can be very different too in terms of staff and the volume of work. I

If there’s no room at any given time, don’t hesitate to come back later to remind the studios you’re here and still available for any opportunity, ready and motivated to jump on a project. It’s a very dynamic business.

gurvand tanneau vfx

JA: What was the breakout moment in your career, when you really started to work as an entertainment industry professional?

GT: One night I stayed late at the first VFX company I worked for, to redo a shot that had been made the day before for my own personal practice. My goal was to understand the shot, and to compare, test myself, and learn.

I ended up making a new version of my own. It took me the whole night, and in the morning, after two hours of sleep on a sofa, I found out this shot had been integrated in the edit in place of the previous version. The producer asked who made it and then offered to introduce me to a VFX supervisor. From then, I was able to start my career.

JA: Is it important for a VFX professional to be able to quickly adapt to new circumstances?

GT: Adapting to new circumstances is essential because every job is different. Timing, artistic intentions, and team– this is where experience is an asset.

Every project has its own particularities, and when they start it’s straight full-speed from day one, most likely with different teams and clients. It’s easy to understand how adaptability is a key part to jumping on a project.

It’s the same as working on set: you arrive for a job and a group of people who don’t know each other have to start working together instantly to create a coherent work. It’s easy to realize how a quick understanding of what’s going on is important.

JA: Thanks again for joining us. And to close out, is there any additional advice you have for aspiring VFX artists who might be reading this?

GT: Thank you for inviting me. As I said, there is no secret, it’s all about working to build experience and keeping your next goal in sight.

And like with anything else, doing your best and surrounding yourself with the people that will push you and challenge you is great, ideally ones who have already achieved what your next goal is. Learn from them.

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