Getting Into The Industry: Escape Studios

Here is the first of a new feature being added to the blog called, ‘Getting Into The Industry’, involving interview question to get information from industry experts on the best ways to get in. For this interview we talk to Garreth Gaydon, recruitment manager at Escape Studios and Davi Stein (who answered the last question) composting tutor also from Escape.

1) What software do most Visual Effects studios prefer to use for 3D modelling and why?

The most commonly used package is Autodesks Maya. It’s also what we teach our students to use at Escape. It’s a very versatile package that is relatively easy to use and is also competitively priced.

2) What are the important do’s and don’ts for a showreel in general?

Keep it relevant, research the skills that are required in an entry level position and make sure you show these skills in your reel. Play to your strength, always lead with your best piece of work. Breakdown and annotate your work. Do this in the 2nd half of your reel. Keep it original, i.e. don’t copy other peoples work. Keep it simple; don’t attempt overly complex or ambitious work. Don’t show work in progress or include sub-standard work. This is your “show” reel make sure it is doing you justice! Don’t make it too long, no longer than 2 minutes including breakdowns.

3) Is it best to become an expert in one area of visual effects (such as tracking). Or is it better to study a bit of everything?

We teach all our students a range of skills that are aimed at getting them work in the industry but we make sure that they are especially proficient in the entry level skills that employers are looking for. For example a lot of our VFX students enter the industry as trackers and a lot of our Compositing students start their careers as Roto Artists. So while it is important to show a range of skills you must remember to research the specific skills that are going to get you that first foot on the ladder.

Artists tend to specialise in areas later on in their careers so while you should always have one eye on where you eventually want to be it is a good idea to be open minded about the roles you apply for at the start of your career.

4) What job positions usually have the most vacancies and is that the best route to take to get started?

On the 3D side of things a lot of Artists start out as trackers. In Compositing it is Rotoscoping. These are both good entry level roles and a lot of artists careers start here.

5) Once starting at a company as a runner, how long does it take on average to move up and begin specialised work on projects?

This entirely depends on the company you are working for. We have heard some horror stories of people working for years as a runner and still not getting any hands on experience. However most studios don’t tend to abuse this system and see it as a great opportunity to integrate Juniors into the company. On average I would say 6 months is roughly what you should expect.

6) Can you recommend any books or learning material for those who have recently made a decision to get a career in visual effects?

* = Highly Suggested.

* Compositing Visual Effects: Essentials for the Aspiring Artist [Paperback] by Steve Wright
Great for those new to compositing who want the basic explained simply.

Digital Compositing for Film and Video [Paperback] 3rd EDITION by Steve Wright
Best option if familiar with basic composting theory already.

* Rotoscoping: Techniques and Tools for the Aspiring Artist by Benjamin Bratt
Suggested by students.

Nuke 101: Professional Compositing and Visual Effects [Paperback] by Ron Ganbar
Brand new book. Good for a refresher on nuke main operations, and intro to interface, not a lot about theories of compositing.

The Art and Science of Digital Compositing: Techniques for Visual Effects, Animation and Motion Graphics (The Morgan Kaufmann Series in Computer Graphics) [Paperback] by Ron Brinkmann (Author) 2nd EDITION<
More technical/science. Different techniques than Steve Wright’s book.

The VES Handbook of Visual Effects: Industry Standard VFX Practices and Procedures [Paperback] by Jeffrey A. Okun (Editor), Susan Zwerman (Editor)
Talks about all aspects of vfx, productions, pre, and post, good reference to have for later on.

Hope you enjoyed this interview. Thanks you’s go to Gareth and Davi for taking time out of their busy schedules to answer this questions and also to Toby Young for organising this, couldn’t have done it without him. Don’t forget to check out the Escape Studios ( website for more information about VFX and courses.