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Visual Effects Companies in NY and Elsewhere 123

Meghan Eckman asks: "I am wondering what Visual Effects companies there are which strive to bring filmmaking up to the cutting edge of technology. Particularly, I am interested in the visual effects similar to those used in 'The Matrix' (such as the virtual camera set-up). I am a fourth year University student with Linux, programming, and digital media experience, but with a strong desire to go into the filmmaking industry, particularly in New York. I'd like to combine my technical and media skills to create stunning visual effects for the next generation of filmmaking. Where should I look?"
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Visual Effects Companies in NY and Elsewhere

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  • What's so special about NY? Join Pixar!

    The word "woman" is no longer politically correct.
  • It would be nice for Linux to have the capabilities that Apple claims to have, I think it will be quite some time before we will ever see that.

  • there are quite a few firms in NYC that produce music videos and such, try shoping around some of your work there.
  • Industrial Light and Magic
  • Here's a thought - try "elsewhere" bit. Animal Logic [] were the folks behind The Matrix (or at least a part of it's creation anyway) - they are based in Sydney, Australia. I understand they are a fairly forward-thinking company, with an eye to new technologies and ideas. Look at what they did with The Matrix...
    Australia's a nice place too - I don't know about NY, never been there. ;)

  • about attack of the buzzwords. Its bad enough I have to put up with this stuff from the moronic tech employment agencies, but now I have to read it on Slashdot?

  • by Anonymous Coward All have listings of major post houses, fx and animation companies. Cheers!

  • The Visual Effects companies has had an impact on the video industry for decades. One of the earlier DIGITAL visual-effects was shown to the world, at least in US, when EXXON advertises its gasoline as "Tiger in a car" by MORPHING a speeding car into a leaping tiger.

    If I am not mistaken, that ad was run on US teevee back in the 80's.

    As for Linux, the movie "Titanic" comes to mind.

  • Okay.. could whoever moderated the parent post please explain to me just how the very first post on an article can be "Redudant"?!
  • Of course, you're implying that everyone how reads /. is in the United States, which is certainly not true. It's already bright and early in the morning in Europe, for instance.
  • Wasn't Titanic a bunch of FreeBSD machines running Linux Emulation? Not that it matters to me in the slightest (both operating systems are excellent).

    And it was the oil in the car, which was done in the 90s. But it may have been done in the 80s.
  • Look either AT the production studios, or behind them. Watch the credits for the name of who did the visual effects.

    Some I know of...

    Image G [] - They did most of Star Trek.
    ILM [] - I'll give you 2 guesses as to what they did. And they're pretty big.

    Most places like this will be out in california, probably because the movie studios are out there. But don't think just in New York. Or much less just the US. Like a poster above said, the FX for The Matrix were done in .AU (along with the filming)
  • Pixar is the equivalent of DreamWorks, rather than ILM. They'll produce movies, rather than just do visual work (The benefit of this is that they develop techniques for digital manipulation that they license to other "Digital Media" companies).
  • by unit-6 ( 99463 ) on Saturday November 13, 1999 @10:37PM (#1535279) Homepage

    Ahhh... I too want to be an effects animator. The primary Special Effects house that was called into service for The Matrix was Manex, formerly MVFX. The special effects team was headed by the mighty master John Gaeta.

    In New York, which is where I believe you said you wanted to work you will find Click 3x, among a host of others. They are the fellows who worked on Breakfast of Champions.

    The best resource on the internet to find out about Special Effects is

    There are job postings, articles on techniques and tools, locations of major houses, and interviews with famous artists.

    Good Luck! It's a harsh and challenging world out there!

  • Well, probably the 2 most famous are Blue Sky Studios [] and R/GA Digital []. Blue Sky has worked on "Joe's Apartement", "Alien 4", "Star Trek: Insurrection", "Armageddon", and many others. R/GA mainly does commercials now, but they were responsible for the FX of the Predator movies. Another one on the East coast is Kleiser-Walczak Construction Company [] who worked on things like "Clear and Present Danger", "Stargate", and the Spiderman ride at Universal Studios.

    Also check out [] for a list of companies. Other good places are VFXPro [], Visual FX [], and VFXHQ [].

    Keep in mind that most companies in the US are in California, after all they have to be close where the business is. And if you are thinking about jobs, better start saving and planning for SIGGRAPH 2000 [].

  • by Capt Dan ( 70955 ) on Saturday November 13, 1999 @10:40PM (#1535281) Homepage
    No really. I'm being honest here. Ad's are ever increasingly using computer graphics for one purpose or another, and begining to do really complex scenes with it. And ad agencies are all over New York.

    From all I understand, getting into the big time movie houses requires a lot. Joining a smaller group, and doing well with something like tv ads, should allow you to advance into other genres a few years down the road. People watch tv everyday. Imagine walking into an interview and having your future boss say, "you did that? wow."

    Maybe ad agency's don't do the work themselves, but sub contract. So find out who they subcontract too, and apply.

    "You want to kiss the sky? Better learn how to kneel." - U2
    "It was like trying to herd cats..." - Robert A. Heinlein
  • But to the best of my knowledge, the effects used in the Matrix were all done on a BSD (freeBSD?)... So why so hard to envision a linux version?
  • by ptr ( 53300 ) on Saturday November 13, 1999 @10:42PM (#1535283)
    Side Effects Software has ported Houdini to Linux. Houdini has been used to produce the special effects in The Matrix, Armageddon, X-Files etc.

    Of course Houdini costs about $17,000. But this does mark the beginning of a graphics industry that's migrating towards a top quality and affordable OS.

    There's an article about this in the October issue of Linux Journal.
  • The assumption would be that since it was the first post, it was a 'first post,' and thus immediately should be moderated down. Of course, that theory only works if the first post is an obviously first-postish post, which this wasn't, as it had actual content. Thus, the new assumption would be that some moderator is on crack.
    "'Is not a quine' is not a quine" is a quine.
  • It was mostly Linux on Alpha workstations, which were doing the rendering. But the interactive work was probably allmost all SGI gear. Anyway here is the link to the article referencing their renderfarm setup Titanic and Linux [].

  • You don't need a Linux emulator for FreeBSD to run Linux programs--Linux programs are binary compatible with FreeBSD. :)

  • Magazines like Cinefex, Computer Graphics World, Film & Video, or Millimeter are good sources of general information. Trade magazines such as Variety and Hollywood Reporter might help too.

    Better yet, there's the ACM SIGGRAPH organization, with local professional chapters, and annual convention held each August. Check out [], and contact someone in the NY chapter for more information about work in the area.

    Or come to Los Angeles! Plenty of visual effects companies out here...

  • by Da_G ( 27692 )
    I just got outta a few parties myself, was drunk enough to practically pass out earlier, and now that i've sobered up and driven home, slashdot is my only stop before bed.. Slashdot rocks =D

    In other news, I'm interested in this myself.. Matrix had some rockin fx in it. Hope more people are too =D
  • L.A. is actually where the majority of special-effects producers for the motion picture industry exist. Think about it for a second--where are the studio headquarters located? Where would you expect post-production facilities to be located? Even after location shooting in some cheaper place like Canada or Florida (no slam intende to either place--it's expensive to shoot in LA), the studios like to bring things back to L.A. for post-production. It's a fact of life, however sad that might be for you. There are areas of Culver City, Burbank, and (yes) Hollywood with block after block of such companies, including literally dozens of digital effects houses.

    Pixar and ILM are the exceptions (though still on the Left Coast), along with the Video producers in NYC. But if you want to do motion pictures, I'm afraid that L.A. is still the place, much as the above AC may try to deny it.

  • I'm gunna post anonymous and go flame a troll, and... Darn, I didn't tick the anonymous box AND there are evil flying robotic squids tearing up my house? Thank goodness there isn'r a row of high-speed cam... uhhh, got any blue or green paint handy?

    Yeah, I misspelled the subject on pirpose. I'm trying to make a point here...

  • That's not really true. The head effects team for The Matrix was Manex ( I know this because the head visual effects supervisor, the head CG supervisor, etc. spoke on campus (UC Berkeley) two weeks ago. They handled all of the diificult work, such as the "bullet time" shots and the animation of things like the human farms. They are based in Alameda, CA, which is in the East Bay across from San Francisco, near Berkeley and Oakland. The Australian effects houses we're used for less difficult shots like the "bug" and the zooming through the phone effects. They did this work as subcontractors under the supervision of Manex.
  • I used to work on one of the best digital post production programs in the world, Cineon from Kodak. Unfortunately Kodak's bean counters couldn't see that film is going to be obsolete in 5 years and decided that film is profitable *now* and digital isn't, so they pulled the plug.

    Cineon was a very cool piece of software.
  • New York and Los Angeles are the cities of the past in filmmaking. Most of the forward-thinking indie filmmakers are coming from Austin, TX these days. Check out the South By Southwest Film and Media conferences for great coverage on both computer and filmmaking info. It's going to be in March of 2000 and is an annual event. Check out for more info. The best thing to do if you're really interested is to just get the equiptment and play around. That's the best way to get your own style and will give your films a different feel than all the others out there. Good luck!
  • As an over-educated draughtsman, I've been schlepping(?) fo'the man for about 11 years. Wanted to 'be in pixels' -- love that expression -- since, oh, about 1977 (Star Wars/New Hope, anyone?). Is there a discussion group for this???

    Anyone putzed around with Radiance or is that 'so last week?'


    john k.
  • I wouldn't necessarily limit yourself to film. I do think filmmakers play with the neatest newest technology, but perhaps you might want to get your feet wet first. Most companies worth their salt won't look at a newly graduated student without some production (as in making a finished product, not producing film) experience.

    The company that I work for has a wonderful graphics department full of lots of toys. They've done some stuff with basic animation tools that just blows my mind. Who ever thought animating engineering designs was so sexy.

    Using 3D Studio Max, they downloaded a 3D map of an area they want to build a bridge on. Then they imported the bridge design from AutoCAD, slapped some cars on there and flew the camera around the bridge for snicks. They do this stuff all the time to show clients what a finished product will look like.

    The beautiful thing for graphic designers, especially the ones with some animation in their background, is that dozens of companies are doing this. I'd suggest trying to find a company that makes 3D anims for business development and soak some experience.
  • I can't say much for NYC, but Rochester has some nice resources for visual effects. This is mainly due to Kodak's huge presence in Rochester. The Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and the University of Rochester both have very good visual design, computer graphics, photography and film departments, thanks to Kodak. I'm sure Xerox contributes in part as well (since they also have a large base in Rochester), but Kodak is the major player. In particular, the film school at RIT is exceptional.

  • Sounds like good advice. I know a civil engineer who began doing that sort of fly-through animation using scripts back in the days of ACAD r11 +/-... At the time he was working on fly-through's of the Hong Kong Airport (circa '91?). Big business and getting bigger all the time. But what are some options -- meaning CHEAP -- to 3D Studio Max???

  • by BigTed ( 78942 ) on Sunday November 14, 1999 @12:33AM (#1535302)
    It seems odd to me that the locations of a lot of the new up and coming Special Effects firms are in areas not traditionally noted for their technology. Look at the Matrix FX, done in Sydney (Australia) and Hercules & Xena's FX are done in New Zealand.

    IMHO I think this is because the governments of these smaller coutries are realising how to get ahead in the ever changing world and are promtoing technology and so there are a lot of talented people coming through with new ideas - and these are being noticed by film companies.
  • Exactly. And even if it WERE a "First Post", which it wasn't, it should've gotten an "Offtopic" or "Flaimbait", not "Redundant". I mean, first posts, by definition, cannot be redundant.
  • I urge you to take a look at [], which has everything you'll ever want to know about the fx industry, from interviews to technology reviews to job listings.

    The questioner would probably like to take a look at those job listings.

    As for the rest of you, many would probably be interested in this spotlight on The Matrix [], as it contains several hi-res quicktime clips of various cool scenes in the movie.

    Here are the direct links to those clips, for those of you too lazy to look around:

    Neo Dodging Bullets []
    Agent Dodging Bullets []
    Helicopter Crash []
    The Tunnel []
    The Sentinels []
    Melting Mirror []
  • Comparatively...compared to film quality anim software...3DSMax is cheap. I haven't seen anything for Linux, but I've only been keeping an eye out, not really looking. I have to think that any good animation product out there is commerical AND expensive. It's kinda like asking an inexpensive product to be able to do what AutoCAD 14 can do. I seem to remember something called "Lightwave"? and it was $1500. Anybody out there got any ideas?
  • Toronto is a nice place (IMHO), and it does have Alias Wavefront [].
    Montreal has Softimage [].

    Both of these "near" New York...

  • Also consider London. Check out Sohonet's members page [] for some websites. Sohonet, by the way, is an ATM network which allows digital media companies to swap huge files without having to resort to putting them onto a DLT and couriering them to their destination. I understand that most (if not all) of the effects for Lost in Space were done by British companies, and Sohonet was used a lot when they they were collaborating...

    D. for Digital.

  • Never heard of any special effects companies from NY. Most are from London. Even Sydney has a few big names too.

    but, i have never heard of any big names from NY doing special effects. maybe i just dont listen hard enough... but most come from London.

  • This is more or less the trade-rag of the special effects industry. Its a very well put together magazine that comes out quarterly. It has the how to and who did it of all the latest films. It also has a LOT of advertising for all the various effects houses with contact info for most. Most of these though are in CA not NY but I would highly recommend it anyway. Also if you have a favorite film you can get order back copies of whatever film peeked your interest. Another hint: Start putting together an "art" portforlio of sorts. Most of these type of places want some sort of proof that you are creative in addition to being able to code. Although the art doesn't necessarily have to be computer related. Good luck on your search. P.S. You didn't say but if you are still in college, ILM, Disney and a couple of the others offer internships. The competition is tough but it would be worth applying or getting the application form to see what they are looking for even.
  • Ad agencies seldom do TV production themselves. It's farmed out to outside people, typically the same ones that do effects for movies. There's a lot of crossover between the ad, movie, and television production world.

    Disclaimer: I work at an ad agency.
  • yeah and all the rit graphics students are easy frags. There to busy looking at the textures. :)
  • The hardware used fot the really cool "camera sweeps round the actors whilst they stay still" bit was mad by a british company called Snell ad Wilcox.

    I'm sure there is a technical name for the above, but I don't know it.

    Also there are a lot of FX companies in London, and this is set to grow as the British film industry seems to be making a comeback

  • "Everybody" wants to do this kind of stuff. If you approach an established group wanting in, you're likely to be their gofer, rather than getting to do Cool Stuff. If you want to do Cool Stuff, get a 500Mhz PIII, find some like-minded folk (there are plenty in NYC) and just do it. Film the Rare Glitch Project or something. Once you've proven you can do something and gotten something screened at an indie film festival, then it will be much easier to get in the door of an established house if that's still what you want.

    I say this not as an expert on the film industry, BTW, but as an accidental expert on publishing, in which talented newbies face a similar set of problems.

  • Hercules and Xena are done in New Zealand because it's cheap to film there. The effects are crap.
  • Getting into that field is really hard. There are immensely talented people in the field, and many more entering it. The problem you're likely to find in getting work at any of the cutting edge shops is they are essentially meatmarkets. At the cream of the crop companies, you'll work extremely long hours for pay that will make you jealous of people with McJobs. There are pleanty of people willing to work for the big name places for free, so they are rarely willing to pay well for their positions.

    I looked for a long time for an interesting position at companies like that, but in the places you tend to find them (SF, LA, NYC) cost of living is so high, the $25k they're likely to pay won't get you a place to live.

    I saw someone else suggest ad agencies, that's a good place to think about, or find smaller unknown companies, you're a lot more likely to make a livable wage.
  • first posts, by definition, cannot be redundant

    If the first post merely restated the content of the news item, that would be redundant.

  • There is that but I guess it is also because you don't need to be near the great centers to do special effects and animations.

    One of the things you might want to do is try to find a relatively new company with good ideas but that haven't had the time to realise all of them. I don't know about NY, but here in Montréal, softimage [] (their software did Jurassic Park and Titanic among others). It was founded in 1986 and is now one of the industry leader, but they're still young enough to try new cool stuff, instead of only perfecting the old.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Judging by what I can glean from your post, you are still many years away from getting the kind of job that you want. The only thing that a prospective employer is going to want to see is a killer portfolio, and it sounds like you haven't got one. Otherwise, you are looking at completely entry-level jobs, which you won't even get unless you already have a lot of experience with Avid editing, dubbing tapes or something! Entry level jobs will pay very low. If you want to live in NY, you'll have to live very far away from Manhattan. I earn low $60s and I live in a 300 sq ft studio, but at least I live in Manhattan. More importantly, you will not have enough money to buy your own equipment that you'll need to start making your portfolio.

    Your next step after graduating is to enroll in a two year professional program. That will help you get your portfolio together, and also start to make you realize that you don't know anything yet. Research this well, and put all of your effort into getting into the best program you can find (which again, will be difficult without some kind of portfolio). For example, for computer animation, the best program in the world is Sheradon College in Canada. You graduate from that program with a job wherever you want it.

    Once you are in, it's a very lucrative industry, which is why you'll be competing against a million other kids with a similar background. But you have to realize the nature of the business. When I hand out a piece of work, I know it has get turned around in two days, even though it really is about 4 days worth of work, and it needs to be perfect and stunning! There might be my next $200 K project riding on it. So you work with who you know, and long-standing relationships are very common. As for NY or LA, there are a million post houses in either city so take your pick. NY is the media capital of the world, people who don't live here don't comprehend the amount of work that gets done here. On the other hand, if you're really into the idea of film, you'll have to live in LA at some point. Good luck!

  • Don't forget the several thousand a year service fee. Also sfx has a student pricing policy, at about a grand a year and you give sfx some animation. Not a bad deal --Houdini is well worth it, glad to see it ported. Now all we need is harware accelerated OGL in the Xservers (C'mon XFree86 4!!)
  • this is a huge and growing industry that someone with skill and desire has every likelyhood of getting into...that being said i think that it is important to note that like everything else you will have to pay your dues...doing all-night roto or render wrangling (or both)...

    check-out the pages i have compiled on the subject at:

    and a good list of vfx houses andpost houses:

    btw manex still refers to itself as mvfx (manex visual effects) what they formerly were is mass illusions....much more impressive than the matrix was their work on what dreams may come...


  • The Matrix has at least one glaring error in the special effects. Watch the rooftop scene where Neo dodges the bullets of the man in black. Neo drops his guns to his side, then when they show him dodging the bullets and do the panoramic shot, the guns are gone. When he falls down, the guns are back.

    How could they miss this?
  • But you don't have to be a moron and start bragging about it. Everybody knows that software is free when you steal it.


    "One World, one Web, one Program" - Microsoft promotional ad

  • not the rig, the frame interpolation hardware.
  • No, the effects were *rendered* with FreeBSD machines. This guy's looking for visual effects design. In fact, the software used to do the rendering was (IIRC) actually in linux binary form, but run on FreeBSD for stability reasons.


    "You can't shake the Devil's hand and say you're only kidding."

  • Try's [] job listing page [].
  • by Thagg ( 9904 ) <> on Sunday November 14, 1999 @07:28AM (#1535338) Journal
    The greatest disappointment for visual effects in the New York area is the demise of The New York Institute ot Technology's Computer Graphics Lab; now dead 10 years or so.

    In the late 70's and through much of the 80's, it was one of the premiere facilities in the world for computer graphics research, development, and production. At one time or another, we had Ed Catmull, Tom Duff, Alvy Ray Smith, (who went to Lucasfilm to found the computer division, and later became Pixar) Pat Hanrahan, Paul Heckbert, and Rebecca Allen (now leading professors) Lance WIlliams, me, and a whole bunch of other people now working in Visual FX, and Jim Clark (who needs no introduction).

    We were located in the most serene environment you can imagine, an old mansion on acres of gardens, in the hills of Old Westbury, Long Island. We were all working our hearts out, but having a great time, exploring a field that didn't yet exist.

    The Big Project that we had was something called The Works, a story written by Lance Williams. It was to be the first fully CG film. Sadly, while we knew quite a bit of computer graphics theory, we knew very little about the process and structure of moviemaking. When the story of the not-making of the works is written, it will be a tragedy of unrealized hope and expectations.

    Anyway, the Lab finally foundered for a number of reasons, but the biggest one is that once the research had proved itself, people left to found companies to actually make money in the field. A former employee went by the facility many years ago; and saw the entire library of 2 inch videotapes we had made in the trash bin...

    No help now, but it's interesting to know that NY was once the center of the field.


  • You're better off moving to LA, working for a few years, then trying to start something in NY. Visual effects artists don't have permanent jobs that you fill out an application to and everything is cut and dried. You have to pretty much go out and find a client who needs something done like a commercial and show them that you can get it done better than anyone else. There are a lot more clients in LA than NY. Another thing you should do is start working on stuff right now and put it on the internet. Don't put up a jpg but put up the entire movie. You'll also want to get a reset button that you can just click on instead of leaning over and feeling around the case. This kind of work requires a lot of rebooting if you get my drift.
  • While it's true, as the previous AC posted, that much physical production has moved out of California, still by far the majority of visual effects (and post production in general) is done here.

    There are a lot of good reasons that visual effects will remain here. The most important one is that the studios are here, and they want to keep control of the post production. We are located in Studio City, a few miles from the studios, and during post (when fx are done) we are always going over to Warner Bros. or Universal or Fox, and showing what we're working on -- or having the director come to our facility to work with us. This kind of one-on-one interaction is hard to acheive remotely.

    The most successful company in FX by far, of course, is ILM, and they are located now in Northern California; quite a ways from the studios. They have advantages that most remote facilities will never have, though. Most important, they have such extraordinary artists that the studios are confident to let them work on their own; and trust that the work will be first-rate.

    So -- I think that at least for the next five or ten years, California, and more specifically Los Angeles, is the place to be for FX. And hey, it's 75 degrees and sunny here today!


  • I've got these in 320x480 24fps. 20 megs a pop.
  • I am betting my company that Linux is the operating system of the future for visual effects. We have been using SGI equipment since our founding 5 years ago; but now I believe that SGI will not be a viable company for our field in the not-too-distant future.

    Fortunately, the new PCs are blisteringly fast, and Linux is a wonderful development environment. My company has a slight advantage, when moving to Linux, in that we write all of our own tools; and it's been quite easy to port them to Linux for the most part. SGI has some wonderful hardware and software integration (particularly for multimedia) that I can't match yet; but I'm sure it's coming. In house tools are a slight advantage because Side Effects is porting Houdini to Linux; and I'm sure that Alias and Softimage will follow soon.

    I'm desparately trying to promote the use of Linux in the visual effects community -- to the point of giving away free year-long licenses of our in-house tools to anybody who wants them. So far, though, the penetration of Linux in the FX field is so small that I've had relatively few takers.

    The next big thing, of course, is the release of the DRI/XFree86 4.0. This will give us hardware-accelerated OpenGL for everybody; and at that point I expect Linux to take off (or crash and burn with conviction :)) in the FX arena.


  • But if you're looking for neat jobs in 3D art, consider looking a few of the major Canadian cities. Pixar in Vancouver made Toy Story (and spinoffs thereof... and Vancouver is quite a nice place to live if you can deal with the rain :) Vancouver has the added advantage that it's a filmmaking hotspot because of it's natural beauty which is good for shooting scenes and tax reimbursements from the provincial govt. There's certainly things in Toronto since it's our largest city, plus Alias Wavefront was built there if I'm not mistaken so you might get spinoffs from that. Montreal is also a filmmaking hotspot because of the varying scenery (old and new buildings) and big american movies film here relatively often. (More recently Snake Eyes with Nicolas Cage was filmed here) Plus SoftImage originated from here too, which incidentally is why the "image" is pronounced "imawge"... the french way :)

    Montreal is also a stone's throw from the NY state border so you wouldn't be living far from home. Don't worry, you don't *need* to know French to get by in Montreal... but it's useful.

    Of course, if this is *really* what you want to do, you'll probably want to go to California. NYC gets a lot of film work, but most of these companies get the 3D art done in California (since it's next to home) or outside of the US (Canada or Europe... maybe a few other places too) because it's cheaper.

  • There has been a misinformation campaign by the Australian press to make out that the visual effects for The Matrix were Australian. The main company behind the vfx was Manex Visual Effects Animal Logic and D-Film in Australia were also involved and between them did more shots (and damn good work too) but technical innovation (eg. the bullet time rig) were from Manex (although the rig was physically built on the East Coast at Innovation Arts). The effects supervisor was based at Manex and Manex was the central coordinating location where standards were set. One Australian magazine, in a desperate attempt to make Australians seem the heroes, actually claimed Manex was Australian! Everything was shot in Australia though. Of course working at Manex doesn't make me biased or anything... BTW At NAB last year an Aussie came up to me and asked me about the Matrix crew gear I was wearing. When I said I did vfx in California for the Matrix he accused me of being a liar because all the effects were Australian and he walked off disgustedly. It was certainly a successful press campaign! Dan Piponi, Head of R&D, Manex Visual Effects
  • If you're looking for the big 3d companies, ILM (George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic), as well as Pixar and a few others are really big. The question is, do you really want to be buried in a team of 100 animators?

    I've found that startups are always a much more fun and dynamic way to work in technology, as well as allowing you to take a big place even if you're young.
  • Snell & Wilcox provided motion interpolation software - not the bullet time rig. Not interpolation *hardware* BTW (though that is their speciality). Dan Piponi, Head of R&D, Manex Visual Effects
  • "Ahhh... I too want to be an effects animator" That's what *you* think!
  • "Cineon was a very cool piece of software." I think not. I believe it set back the industry several years. No scripting. Nothing procedural. Poor effects support. Poor support for integration of CG with live action (in fact no support - the mathematics of comping CG is *completely* wrong in Cineon). Check out Shake. Cineon was merely less bad than the competition. Even Cinesite (also owned by Kodak) has Shake licenses. BTW I wrote a piece of Cineon and own no shares in Shake.
  • ... open up there software? What I'm thinking of, is along the lines of going to each effects house, and seeing if they'd be willing to (L)GPL their software. Try to do it by reciprocal agreement - ie if such and such FX shops will open their software will you? This would provide the possiblitiy for improving the quality of tools in all of the movie houses, it would allow potential prospects to use the graphics software that they would be using on the job, hence significantly reducing training costs, it will reduce maintenance costs of the various tools, it might allow a merge among the various tools resulting in overall more powerful tools... (For instance the place the makes Blender has suggested already that they may GPL it...)

    Comments, suggestions ...

  • by Lynnaea ( 54200 )
    WETA is Peter Jackson's special/vfx that he's using in the ubercool upcoming "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. The shooting location for those movies is in New Zealand, so that's where they're working right now, but I'm unsure of where their permanent base of operations are.

    For the trilogy, at least, I've read that the special fx are not really Matrixish, but still damn cool. They have a software program called MASSIVE which will be largely responsible for creating and animating in a true-to-life manner armies of 400,000+ orcs in complex battle scenes. WETA is also creating a character for the movie -- Gollum -- and all reports say that Gollum is the most lifelike, unfake pure fx character yet. Furthermore, they're using CGI to shrink the actors playing hobbits to half their normal size or so. Finally, they're altering the filmed landscape in subtle ways to make it more magical.

    For more info, see: []
    The Official Movie Site with preview stills []
  • 10 years ago I was working as a sound designer/sound editor at a commercial postproduction-editing house. We used to get these yellow books (The size was like a zagat restaurant guide maybe a bit longer. I would like to give you the name but unfortunately my copy was taken) that listed the addresses of every editing, special effects, lighting, audio, and equipment rental house in the city. When we needed effects work done we went over to R. Greenberg which was on west 39th street (they did the original effects for Predator and many other movies and commercials) I'm not sure if they are still in business, but its worth a try. It's important to understand that during that time only very large and successful companies could afford cutting edge digital equipment, now there are many more mom & pop effects houses out there. Also be prepared to start out as a messenger, most companies start people out that way than promote them internally to assistant editor or FX guy.

    Good Luck
  • I recently saw a school out on the east coast that does a 14 month (?) intensive digital graphics program. It is a very new school but they do nothing but digital graphics and sound. Check it out- Expression Center for new Media []


    i think they might have derived it from cinema...

    normally i wouldnt pick on a spelling error but when you are citing a source...i mean come on...

    matthew []

  • radiance kicks ass...however raytracing is still treated as a last resort in the vfx industry due to rendering time...

    you should check out some of the stuff that has been done in my research group...
    http://www.CS.Berkeley.EDU/~debevec/ []

    matthew []

  • Write your own and open it. If you don't like that then you can play around with mine [] (currently some innovative terrain generation tricks combined with techniques for POV-Ray rendering), but frankly it would be best if you wrote your own. Do the work, and free it. Trying to talk a bunch of IP holders into opening their stuff just because it's a good idea is a very hard sell. It's the whole 'stone soup' concept- you have to start with _something_. What I have may not be much, I think it has potential- anyone who thinks it is crap is invited to GPL something better, please >;)
    I would like to see a movie studio dedicated to open content, so people could focus on the stories they are telling. Desktop movie production is coming so soon, and it will be as much a revolution as the cassette multitrack home studio- and there are so many people working on things (such as computer game design and graphic effects) that could easily be applied to home moviemaking. There are GIF animation tools and computer image compositing tools available that do the same thing as the multimillion dollar Disney Multiplane camera used for Disney's greatest animated features.
    Rather than going begging to effects houses, why don't we just arrange it so they end up coming to us? If I'm not mistaken, my terrain generation trick is markedly less demanding on CPU than the techniques used, say, for the pod racer scenes in Star Wars TPM. Cutting down modelling and render times is incredibly important in professional work, there's never enough time so it's always a balance being struck between vision and reality. I've GPLed my terrain generator program, meaning that anyone who either uses a Mac, or can port a Python-like syntax to another platform, can use it in movies for nothing. Anyone who really wants that industry's technology to open up would be well advised to do their level best to accomplish _something_ cool, GPL it, and then simply let it be known as such- other stuff that wants to incorporate this can do so by going GPL itself, and we don't need to beg or pressure anybody. Really, IP on these sorts of tools is a bit like IP on brushes or pencils- you don't copyright the brush, you copyright the painting you do with it. The brush is not important compared with what's being done with it...
  • Yes, ad agencies farm out contracts to visual effects houses. Blue Sky in White Plains did the epic "Metal City" and "Metal Desert" that were completly computer generated. Everyone's favorite Special Effects company Industrial Light and Magic also does numerous groundbreaking commercials.
  • one (count em) one shot was rendered on freeBSD not that it isnt an interesting shot...

    matthew []

  • Well, just reading the local (ie New Zealand) Business news there are many complaints how our government isn't helping industry and there is such a massive brain drain.

    New Zealand has such a wide variety of scenery - deep fjords, snowy peaks, deserts, scrub, forests, water - that a filmmakers travelling costs will be very low.

    The IMDB Locations [] can tell you which countries get films done in.

    And as an aside, Lord of the Rings is being filmed in NZ, and Xena shops at the same supermarket as me.

  • Uhm, I don't think so.

    The only thing that matters, is what you can do
    and what you have done. I have been working
    in the CGI and special effects industry for
    about 7 years now and I have no college degree,
    I'm actually a physics drop out. Most of my friends who are working don't have degrees.

    I do know some PhDs who are doing very well in the
    industry and I know some people who barely made it through high school doing amazing visuals and programming.

    What matters is your demo reel, what you know and
    what potential the people looking at your code and your reel think you are capable of. Also helps to know someone who is already working in the industry, but not necessarily. Also not being an arrogant butt-head helps.. though the industry is filled with those guys.

    Also some of the best work is not necessarily done by ILM, or the other big boys. Alot of cool development and visuals is done by alot of small companies.

    but right now the industry is somewhat slow, and
    there are alot of artists, looking for work now. Programmers and system engineers are still in demand though...
  • I'm heading in the same direction, but more on the art/animation side.. From my research and word of mouth I hear that the demand for technical animators is very high, much higher then artists, if you've written some plug-ins for some high end packages and know them in and out, you've pretty much got an in on a high paying job. BTW exstensive UNIX exp.(Irix and such) is a must. dunno about schools... cogswell or maybe sheridan?
  • Ahhh... I too want to be an effects animator. The primary Special Effects house that was called into service for The Matrix was Manex, formerly MVFX. The special effects team was headed by the mighty master John Gaeta.

    "...Enter the Gaeta Zone..."

    I likes how is talked about on the DVD about Bullet time as "being as revolutary as when cameras left cranes and went on steady cams."

    Has BT it been used in any other films yet?

    I loved video toaster/Lightwave 3d on the Amiga...(Oops, I said the "A" word!)
  • Mr. Piponi, This is Meghan Eckman who posted the response. I sent you an e-mail but in case you don't get it, I just wanted to let you know I was really excited to see that you work for Manex. Since I posted that question to Slashdot, I've decided that I will be moving out to California in order to find work in June. I'm also looking to go there this December or January to work at a firm as an 'extern' for a week sponsored by University of Virginia. If you are interested in getting some extra [free] help at Manex this winter, please let me know. I certainly wouldn't mind doing any extra work around the office and would appreciate any chance to learn more about visual effects. It would be such a great oppurtunity for me. So please tell me what you think of the idea. ( Thanks!
  • Kleizer Walczak [] in North Adams, MA, did special effects for "The Rage: Carrie 2" and "Judge Dredd". It's four hours from New York City.

  • One word, Digial Domain. the best effects company to date.
  • The book you refer to is the NYPG (pronounced NY PIG): New York Production Guide.

    Not cheap. Last year's often is, if you know folks at a place with an old one.

  • however raytracing is still treated as a last resort in the vfx idustry due to rendering time

    What? Check out Blue Sky Studios []. They only use raytracing.

  • "Even Cinesite (also owned by Kodak) has Shake licenses"

    That means absolutely nothing. Cinesite had Flame and Flint licenses as well. They had licenses for every other major post production and compositing software on the market as well. They were a post production house first, and a Cineon promotion and demonstration house way, way, way second.
  • The film industry is pretty specific with regard to this. No reel, no job.

    Fortunately, the equipment necessary to cut CG shots to video is pretty cheap these days, so all you really need to put in is the talent and hard work. (easier said than done, of course)

    My advice to you (and this will likely raise howls of protest from many) is to warez (or, if youre extraordinarily rich, buy) whatever package will do the job for you and get as much quality work onto tape as you can. As one poster pointed out previously, its unlikely any individual is going to be able to shell out the $17,000 for a legal seat of Houdini, but one more skilled operator means at least one more sale in the future for Side Effects, those that the software is useless to would never buy it anyway... so i don't see the 'revenue loss' there. Please no flames, i don't want to start any piracy wars.

    If youre not already in the industry, its probably harder to put together a lengthy demo tape, since you can't put a 3 minute sequence on there and note that you painted out the wires attached to the actor or whatever.

    Still, the idea is to show off your abilities as much as possible, so it might be an idea to put down 'process-related' stuff, i.e. how you worked an idea from concept through to completion. i.e when you do an animation sequence, put your final rendered sequence at the beginning of the tape, then put on your animatics, your concept sketches, your set models etc. This gives a prospective emplyer a better view of not just what you can produce (lets face it, its bloody hard to do film-quality f/x on a desktop PC), but how much work you did to achieve your result, how you solved production problems etc. These things are just as important as your ability to produce a good looking result.

    Although, in most large film f/x houses, the workflow is pretty compartmentalised - that is, if you want to do 'everything' - script, model, animate, production, post-production, direction, scoring and anything else you have time for, then you might find life difficult.

    That is, in most cases you'll get a job doing one thing, one thing only, and that one thing is what will dominate your life for the duration of production.

    The games industry might be more interesting, i know it is for me. Personally, i don't really 'get' movies.. Games are so much more interesting and immersive to me. YMMV.

    I do a lot of stuff with Lightwave (, and a little bit of Hash's Animation Master, which is the one package in the 3D animation arena that is actually affordable (Blender ( is of course completely free, and deserves special mention). mainly as a hobby but i have been approached by a film f/x house, who said they were impressed but were worried that i might not enjoy doing just one task... (my background spans many areas, from 3D AutoCAD operation, to CGI programming)

    i agreed with them, and frankly, my skills aren't quite honed enough for me to command a lead animator's position, or high-level TD, which might afford me the ability to work in a number of areas within the film production pipeline.

    So, I just keep plugging away, modelling, animating and rendering stuff, which is a lot of fun. I pay the bills by doing CGI programming, teaching at a design school and working on te production crew for multimedia exhibitions.

    I am 100% confident that i will be easily good enough to get a job 'in pixels', or to start my own games/fx company one day, but be aware that the only way to get there is to put in 150% effort, since making quality CG artwork is not as easy as it looks.

    my 2c

  • "Cinesite had Flame and Flint licenses as well" Well Flame and Flint aren't really competing products - at least for quality film work. The Flames (at least at Cinesite Europe) were almost purely for commercials and film work used to be almost solely Cineon. The fact of the matter is that quite a while back the guys at Cinesite figured out that Cineon was basically working in a completely incorrect colour space (and presented this information at SIGGRAPH resulting in effects houses developing workarounds) and people at Cinesite are now pretty excited now about having a new product that works in the correct colour space while preserving the full dynamic range needed for film.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.