The VFX industry is thriving despite the pandemic. Dive into new opportunities and grow alongside the turning tides of this media revolution.
By Rachel Kim
COVID-19 has massively altered the landscape of society and the VFX industry not only survived, it’s thriving in this brave new world. The animation and gaming sectors are experiencing a massive boom. Reaching for alternative methods of operation and production, different industries are pivoting towards digital avenues and spaces—and right into the VFX industry’s open arms.
Studios are eager to hire artists to tackle the endless work rolling in. The VFX industry is evolving to meet the shifting needs of the world. There’s no better time than now for a VFX artist to dive into new opportunities and grow alongside the turning tides of this media revolution.
01. THE VFX INDUSTRY
SHIFTS FOCUS IN TIMES OF COVID
Despite the pandemic, the VFX industry never really stopped. In June and July, most VFX studios were wrapping up projects. Since then, a lot of studios are switching to working on commercials, which are in high demand. Studios also now take on less live-action projects, instead working more on cinematic effects and animation. In fact, animation studios like Bardel, Rainmaker, DHX and Titmouse are hiring like crazy to keep up with the work.
According to Method Games producer Karina Parrington, “It wasn’t that it was less work. It was just that the type of work kind of changed.”
This is a good opportunity for artists who are willing to explore different areas of the VFX industry.. Fortunately, compositing, lighting, etc., are all transferable skills. It’s always beneficial to be able to be adaptable and move between animation, video games and other divisions of the industry, to meet different demands.
COVID-19 isn’t the first crisis VFX industry veterans like Parrington have survived. They know that flexibility in skill and attitude is crucial in this industry.
02. ADAPT TO HOME OFFICES
Social distancing requirements have pushed studios to work remotely and the results may be more beneficial in the long-run. While some artists, like modelers, prefer to work in the studio due to specific equipment or personal needs, other artists have been absolutely thriving while working at home.
“I think [COVID-19] showed us it is possible to do it,” says Parrington.
Right now, the industry’s buzzword is ‘virtual production’. Though virtual production has been on the rise for years, it’s currently a major key to maintaining an efficient pipeline over remote networks. With programs like Unreal Engine that render graphics in real time, artists can quickly go back to make changes without having to redo their work.
03. FINDING OPPORTUNITY IN NEW INDUSTRIES
The efficiency of virtual production is also crucial in the VFX industry’s latest position in entertainment. COVID-19 has forced big events like award shows and performances to find new digital forms, the VFX industry has evolved alongside the new arising needs. Many of the big budget livestream performances heavily incorporate VFX compositing for their sets. The Black Eyed Peas, for example, performed on a full VFX set for the 2020 VMAs.
The world of sports has also had to find new ways to survive under COVID restrictions. To recreate the excitement of a live event, leagues are now trying to implement digital crowds through VFX.
It’s no wonder that animation and gaming studios are hungry for hires. The opportunities for VFX artists and animators are only growing as the VFX industry evolves to fulfill its new roles in the shifting paradigms of the entertainment industry. On the artists’ end, the best way to take advantage of this situation is to grab onto the barreling train of real-time software.
“Real-time software is definitely the direction that the VFX industry is moving into,” says Parrington.
04. A NEW COMMUNITY NETWORK
Meanwhile, a new collaborative culture is developing in the city. So many independent studios have opened up during this time as senior artists and staff from large companies like ILM have left to start their own studios. These smaller studios often specialize in certain areas like environments. They will team up with other specialized studios to work on a project together.
“It’s turning into a bit more of a community in Vancouver,” says Parrington.
Be open and keep an eye out for positions at smaller studios, especially if you’re in or around the city. Small studios often provide opportunities bigger studios don’t and are a great way to build a broad network in this growing dynamic community.
The VFX industry is one of the few that are thriving during the pandemic. VFX and animation artists needn’t be so afraid! Studios big and small are busy hiring artists of all kinds as they shift towards more animation, games, and commercials and live-action work is starting to pick up as people are rapidly returning to set in Vancouver—one of the few places safely filming again with new protocols in place. Even Method Games is eager to hire to deal with the weight of a booming workload: “Anybody that goes on to LinkedIn will notice Method Games is on there a lot right now,” according to Parrington.
And maybe the VFX industry’s resilience isn’t so surprising—don’t we all turn to art in our most difficult hours?
05. A “TIME IS NOW” MENTALITY
Though the future feels uncertain, the next step is always more concrete than you think. All you need to do is reach out. Keep learning. Try something new. While the world is still dealing with COVID-19 and settling into a new post-pandemic structure, the VFX industry is alive with new work and new opportunities.
If you want to learn how to really work magic—to develop a mature, professional eye and build wisdom—it’s always worth enrolling in a certified program where you have direct access to industry professionals who will fast-track you to becoming a confident, high-quality artist and make sure you have a solid foothold on this fast moving trend.