By: Travis Bourbeau
Hi Wayne, can you tell us a little about yourself and what it is you do?
WH: I received my Masters degree from Digital Media Arts College specializing in Visual effects and computer animation. Trained as a generalist, I always had a passion for Visual Effects and the dynamic aspects of 3D. So I decided to specialize in Fluid and Dynamic simulations. I was fortunate enough to sign my first contract with The Moving Picture Company (MPC), and I have been working in LA as an FX artist ever since.
GW: What are FX artists responsible for? Does the role change much from commercial to film to game work?
WH: FX artists for the most part are responsible for aspects in film or commercials that pertain to the Dynamic elements in 3D. These can vary from water, fluid, cloth, particle, and hair simulations.
GW: Which do you prefer: commercial work or film work and why?
HW: Having the great opportunity to have worked in both industries, I can’t really say I prefer one over the other because they both have wonderful attributes.
GW: What were production times on projects like Thor? Who do FX artists generally work with?
MV: Production times on Thor depended on what tasks the artists were given. It also depended on one’s contract as well. But to give an estimate, Thor is a really big project, so I would say 6-12 months.
In film, the FX artists from my personal experience worked with the supervisors and compositors very closely. In commercials, while I was at MPC, in addition to working with supervisors and the compositing crew, I actually worked closely with the clients as well. This I enjoyed very much.
GW: How long do you spend on a production? Do you tend to move from studio to studio much?
WH: As a freelance artist, I enjoy challenging myself taking on new tasks and various studios. FX artists as myself would usually work in a studio for a 2-4 month period. Sometimes even longer if the artist decided to roll over on another film or commercial.
GW: What are some of the tools you are using in production?
WH: This is a great question. Maya is the main program of choice. But I have been places where I have used 3DSMax and RealFlow to achieve a particular effect. I have also used proprietary tools to execute advanced dynamic effects that Maya or 3DSMax could not execute.
GW: How much of a shot is left up to an individual? Do you work with other artists? What are some of the challenges?
WH: This varies depending on the show, studio, and complexity of the shot. For really complicated and challenging shots, assignments are divided accordingly amongst the FX team. I have experienced shots where I worked with several artists. But I have also had moments where I had to execute a shot by myself.
GW: Real world effects vs Sci fi special effects? What do you use as reference?
WH: Regarding reference, this is probably one of my favorite aspects of being an FX artist. I definitely recommend young aspiring artists to always look at reference before they try an effect. I always look at real world effects from stock footage or even youtube. From time to time I will pull out one of my favorite movies like Iron Man or StarTrek and just look at some of the explosions, and other volumetric effects. This gives me a good start and understanding when trying to achieve a specific effect.
GW: Do you have any shots from a film that you find inspiring or wonder how they pulled it off?
WH: LOL….I could give you a list of films consisting of shots that I am amazed with. But most recently, I was really impressed with Avatar. All of the shots in the jungle, consisting of the plant life, waterfalls, cloud banks. Most of this was dynamic. The quality was not surprising, but the quantity blew me away.
GW: You are releasing a DVD on FX with us at The Gnomon Workshop. What should artists take away from your lessons?
WH: This DVD will help artists set up effects in a way where it can be used in numerous ways. Discovering each lesson, the artist will understand Maya Fluids and its parameters. One could stylize and advance a particular effect, eventually propagating it into a specific shot. So these effects have shot asset capabilities.
GW: Are there any good forums or user groups for artists to highlight their work?
WH: Absolutely……CGChannel, 3DTotal, and CGSociety are a few that I enjoy reading and contributing to. These are great platforms to showcase your work and receive exposure.
GW: What should an FX artist have on their demo reel or how should they present their work?
WH: Think as an FX artist. Start off with your best work. Do not show weak work. Display that you know the fundamentals of FX, and play close attention to detail. Present solid and clear breakdowns showing how you created the effect. 2-3 shots are perfect. If you have 3 shots consisting of 1 great 2 bad……just show the 1 great. Showing a below average effect can cost you a job. In a nutshell, keep it simple and short if you are looking for work. Employers will prefer an incredible 45 sec reel, over a 2 minute good reel.