Before arriving at AUB, being an avid fan of all things film, I studied a computer animation course at a college in London. The course itself was very broad and I was able to learn the basics for all kinds of animation. Here, I discovered that working on live action footage was what really appealed to me, and this made me want to pursue a career in visual effects (VFX). While preparing for university, I learned from attending UCAS fairs and speaking to students who’d followed a similar path to me that the AUB course in VFX was one of the very best in the country. This proved to be the deciding factor for my studying there.
What appealed to me most about the course itself was having the chance to learn about the different aspects of VFX and how they complement each other to create a final product, collectively known as the VFX pipeline. Aspects including the more artistic side of VFX, such as 3D modelling, sculpting, tracking, 2D rotoscoping, matte painting and compositing, but also the more technical and behind-the-scenes roles such as production and planning. While other VFX courses may have focused on one or a few of these areas, the AUB course enabled me to learn about them all, as well as their importance to each other within the VFX pipeline. Having this knowledge assisted me when choosing an industry path to focus on.
Additionally, I learned from attending an AUB Open Day that the university was linked with the Bournemouth-based VFX company Outpost. Artists employed there would regularly be present in lectures. Here they’d teach us industry methods and techniques and review the work we produced. This really appealed to me as this made the course itself much more professional; I was able to learn and produce things to an industry standard and could network and build connections after graduating.
While studying at AUB, I was able to partake in many wonderful projects; some in a solo capacity, others as part of a team with other aspiring artists from my year, much like how things are within the industry. One such project entailed the digital recreation of a desk of objects that our year group had put together. Working on this project included all aspects of the VFX pipeline and enabled us to see how they worked together in practice. This project is a favourite of mine as it challenged me to try out many VFX techniques. Seeing them used in practice gave me a better grasp of the pipeline outside of just theory work, supporting my decision as to what facets of VFX to focus on going forward.
Another assignment that stood out for me while at AUB was my final year project. This was an opportunity for my year group and I to essentially create the effects for our own student film, filling the roles that'd be present in an actual VFX company. A major challenge that we faced was that this took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, and for parts of the year we were unable to attend classes in person. Fortunately, AUB and the heads of the course were able to adapt to this, ensuring that we’d be able to produce, film and edit a successful final product despite the setbacks. Being able to work on this was a great experience, as it enabled me to work on a project that emulated how work is produced within the industry, creating a successful product as part of a team as well as adjusting to working remotely.
While the artistic skills taught to me at AUB have been useful and have proved to be the foundation to help me in VFX, it was what I learned about the behind-the-scenes side and the VFX pipeline that have helped me to navigate the industry. Learning about the pipeline and how my role fits within the system helped to me gain a better understanding of the entire industry, not just with the work that I produce. This would prove vital for me going forward, as teamwork in VFX is crucial to creating a successful product.
Additionally, part of the course in my final year was producing a portfolio of work focused on applying for roles within the industry after graduating. Aspects of this included an industry-ready CV, a showreel containing my best work, and questions and responses that'd assist during interviews. In addition, the university set up meetings with top industry supervisors and recruiters who give advice to students planning on making the jump to industry. These would prove to be invaluable following my graduation as while my artistic skills may be up to par, it was my knowledge of the industry and portfolio that sealed the deal for getting the role I desired.
Since graduating, I’ve been able to break into the VFX industry and had the chance to work on many amazing projects. These have ranged from lower-budget TV shows – usually entailing basic clean-up – to high-profile films. While I’m not at liberty to speak about all of these, projects I’ve worked on most recently include Amazon’s sci-fi show The Peripheral and Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1.
Working on such professional projects meant creating effects for many difficult shots, providing me with a much greater challenge and ensuring I continued to improve my skill set. Being able to build upon the skills I’d learned from studying at AUB and then showcasing them in such a way felt like a dream come true, as watching films of this level is what inspired me to pursue a career in VFX.
Attending AUB was an essential part of my career in VFX and a great experience for me. It was here that I learned the basics of my craft and made great connections with likeminded people. I can’t recommend the university enough, as it really helped to kick-start my journey.
For those thinking about making the leap and studying at AUB, I’d recommend attending every meeting from visiting VFX artists and companies. The information you can learn will be invaluable, but also meeting and making connections can prove to be the deciding factor in acquiring a role in the industry. Another suggestion would be to put every effort into your artwork. While that may seem an obvious one, you never know what pieces may be needed when creating your first showreel.