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Getting Started In VFX

There are many different pathways to a career in visual effects. Within Australia, vocational education and university both provide excellent training solutions. By doing some research, you will easily be able to find courses which cover screen, media, animation and VFX. In South Australia, Rising Sun Pictures, in Partnership with the University of South Australia, deliver higher education programs in VFX.

We often are asked how do you start a career in VFX? Generally, enquiries come from secondary and tertiary students, but we also get asked by people who are changing careers, have an interest in learning new software or those that just want to have some fun learning something different!

As a result, we have created a table to show you the pathways to a career in VFX.

There are a number of training providers offering vocational training courses in Australia, so we have included in the table the vocational training national codes.



VFX graduates at RSP Follow different path to success

The training programs at Rising Sun Pictures, operated in partnership with the University of South Australia, provide prospective visual effects artists with the essential skills they need to work in industry. The Bachelor of Film and Television and Graduate Certificate programs in Compositing & Tracking and Dynamic Effects & Lighting both have an admirable record for success with its graduates regularly finding employment at visual effects studios throughout Australia and beyond—including at RSP itself.


Getting Started



As a potential student, it’s important to do your research. Ask the training provider / university questions to ascertain if the training matches your career aspiration in visual effects. Also enquire about the cost of training and how the government funds this. In Australia, deferral of fees, upfront costs and student loans are something to gain clarity on. Some vocational course fees are “capped” whereby the student may need to pay the difference between the course cost and the amount the government is willing to pay.


It is also important to know what area you are interested in within visual effects as this will help define you education pathway into the industry.

Increasing your education does not guarantee you a job in the industry. It will however, significantly increase your chances.  A degree will also be of assistance if applying for jobs overseas.  Just like Australia, other countries prefer tertiary educated applicants for their work visas.

There are film schools and global and local screen based bodies, which offer relevant resources and/or advice on training:

Online educational providers:

Online animation training:


First and foremost you need to be an artist. Submerge yourself in what you love – drawing, painting, photography, sculpting etc.

You also need to learn how to use the software. It is important to familiarise yourself to industry standard software packages used by VFX facilities around the world.

To be considered for an entry-level position, it will give you an edge if you have used RSP’s core tools such as Nuke, Maya, Houdini and 3d Equalizer.

Software companies often make available free personal learning editions (PLE’s). We recommend taking advantage of such PLE’s in order to familiarise yourself with key aspects of the software. You will need to register your details with the Software developer. Be sure to check the system requirements to ensure your system is compatible.

Nuke – by The Foundry
Node based compositing system used extensively to integrate 2d and 3d elements.
Nuke is typically used by compositors, digital painters, rotoscopers & matte painters.

Nuke Personal Learning Edition is available here.

Maya – by Autodesk
Maya is an extensive software package used worldwide by RSP & other leading VFX houses. It is predominantly used for modeling, animation, simulation, visual effects, lighting & rendering and matchmoving.

Maya Personal Learning Edition is available here.

3d Equalizer (3de) – by Science D Visions
3d Equalizer is a professional 3d tracking and matchmoving software. RSP use the software to seamlessly integrate cg into live action sequences. Typical positions which use this software include camera tracker, matchmover and compositors.

3de Personal Learning Edition is available here.

Houdini – by SideFX
Used increasingly in RSP’s production pipeline, Houdini is a powerful node based 3d software package responsible for creating some of today’s award winning digital effects. Houdini is renowned for creating real world phenomena such as smoke, fire, particle, dynamics and other simulated effects.

Houdini Free Learning Edition is available here.

Entry Level Roles

No one starts out as a VFX Supervisor. They work their way up.

A typical entry role into 2D is as a Paint & Roto artist.

Paint & Roto artists work closely with compositors to create mattes for them to use.
They also do plate prep ie plate preparation, or ‘clean-up’. This can vary from simple tracking marker removals, through to complex work such as recreating part of the original plate.

Paint & Roto artists use Nuke and Silhouette and they quickly gain an understanding of the compositing skillset.

The next step would be to transition to junior compositor. But that’s not to say Paint & Roto is not an excellent career choice. We are always grateful for experienced Paint & Roto artists who just get on with the work and deliver.

A typical entry role into 3D is as a Matchmove / Tracking artist.

They are responsible for camera, object and body tracking. A very good understanding of Maya is helpful as well as knowing tracking software such as 3D Equaliser.

Another 3D entry-level role is a 3D modeller. They build 3D characters and environments that are based on the concept art. To create the models' surfaces or skins, they paint and wrap 2D textures on a digital frame. Modellers also create character skeletons, which animators then control. Modellers use Maya.

Other entry roles include Render Wrangler. We’ve had a very successful 3D artists enter the industry through this role. They watch the render farm, see what crashes and fails and fix it. It tends to make them faster and more economical with their renders when they move into modelling or lighting.

It’s rare we take on Runner’s here at RSP, although we have in the past. But we’re only interested in people who are keen to remain in production and progress along to Coordinator, Production Manager and eventually Producer.

Most people spend a year or two in these entry-level roles before they have the opportunity to move into another area. They start by getting an opportunity to do one shot – one comp, model one prop. If successful, the production team might give you an opportunity on the next project. It all depends. But its more attractive if you do good work first, then ask for the opportunity. Just because you’ve been doing an entry-level role for two years doesn’t mean you automatically get to step up.

Should I specialise or generalise?
There is no right answer for this. Larger facilities tend to need specialists. Smaller facilities tend to need generalists.

Even if you’re a specialist it’s handy to have a secondary skill. In lean times it can be handy if you can duck into a different role and help out – it can help make you more employable.

If you’re a generalist, it helps to be better at a couple of things. You want to avoid being someone who can do a bit of everything but nothing well.

Other Links

The following resources were developed by industry to educate both young people and adults about the various roles in visual effects and what the key skills are for each role:
The Core Skills of VFX
The Core Skills of VFX Student Primer