"The job of a visual effects supervisor is to understand what 'real' means
and how to mimic it," says Mark Breakspear. He is a visual effects supervisor
at a post-production company.
Visual effects supervisors create special effects for movies, commercials,
TV shows, music videos or other visual mediums. Special effects are the images
and techniques that make the ordinary look extraordinary. These special effects
often have to be as realistic as possible.
This is a dynamic and extremely fast-paced industry. Those working in visual
effects will usually specialize in certain areas. Apart from working with
computers, visual effects supervisors may also be required to work out in
the field, such as on the set of a movie.
"There are all kinds of different positions in visual effects and animation,"
says Tom Bertino. Bertino heads an animation and visual effects program at
an arts university in San Francisco.
"They work with both 3D elements, with live action, with video or film,
and then also with motion graphics," says Susan Varnum. Varnum heads a visual
effects and motion graphics program at an art institute in San Diego, California.
For all in this field, hours are long and a regular workday is almost non-existent.
This is especially true when nearing the end of a project. "On the last project
for example, I did seven-day weeks, 12-hour days for seven months," says Breakspear.
Depending on a project a company is working on, travel may also be a requirement.
"The job is tough, it's hard work, but it's intensely rewarding," says
Bertino. "My experience was that you have to think on your feet a great deal,
you have to be a creative thinker. You can't just sit down and be a work horse,"
Varnum says that many graduate students actually find themselves working
at news channels because of the vast amount of graphics needed to produce
a news broadcast. They may also end up working for television stations.
"They're a little easier to get into right off the bat -- like Nickelodeon,
MTV," she says.
For the most part, visual effects technicians are hired by post-production
companies. These can either be large corporations such as Walt Disney Animation
or Industrial Light and Magic, or they can be smaller companies. "Lots of
smaller houses are opening up all around the world to do all kinds of different
projects big and small," says Bertino.
Depending on what a special effects person does, they may need good physical
fitness. Those who work primarily with computers might not need the same abilities.