8 Specializations and Courses in VFX – VFX & 3D animation career guide


In this blog we will discuss about the multiple specializations, courses in vfx. We will also try to provide you a road map to build up a great career in vfx by selecting right courses/specializations. VFX being a new career option is very less explored and not many people can guide on to selecting a right vfx career path. We will also provide information about softwares relevant to each of the VFX specialization and the one that are demanded globally.   In our previous blogs we provided information about VFX as a career and misconceptions students have towards VFX career, here we are going to focus on VFX courses and specializations in detail. 

VFX, Animations are basically a CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) used for creating film shots in film industry. CGI shots complexity and quality differs depending upon the projects and the budgets of a certain show. When a series of frames runs at the pace of 24 FPS (frames Per Second) digitally, it gives us an illusion of a motion picture; so, if a VFX artist wants to edit a one second shot of a movie then he/she has to work on 24 frames one by one. Any CGI Animation shot in a movie is not a job of a single person but is a product of multiple departments and artists that work together in liaison with each other. To understand the specializations and courses in VFX let us now understand VFX pipeline.

VFX pipeline is basically a step by step process which is followed globally by each and every production house to create CGI effects. The VFX pipeline followed globally is as follows,

  1. Conceptualization – Concept Design.
  2. 3D Modelling – Creating a 3D model with reference to concept design.
  3. Texturing – Giving texture (color) to the 3D model with the reference to the concept design.
  4. Rigging – To rigg the character basis the anatomy / structure (animal anatomy, human anatomy etc).
  5. 3D Animation – To animate the character developed by the 3D modelling, texturing and rigging department.
  6. Digital Lighting – Providing light effects, shadows etc to the shot as per the requirement to match the real shot footage.
  7. FX – Simulating / creating smoke, fire, dust, destruction, water, cloth (flag, superman’s cape etc), liquid as per the requirement.
  8. VFX Compositing – Combining of visual elements from different sources / departments in to a one single shot.

The above-mentioned departments are the specializations in VFX a student may choose to opt while starting VFX training. It is very important for a student to understand that he can get professionally trained on either one of the mentioned specializations / departments. To understand why only one specialization please refer to our previous blogs.

Now to understand these departments in detail, imagine a scene wherein a furious bull is running on a dusty path for attacking a man (Man in this scene is a real person shot on a green screen and bull is a CGI which needs to be created digitally). This shot is an imagination / vision of a director and he wants to turn it in to realty with the help of VFX. Let us now understand the pipeline in detail as below.

1. Conceptualization – Concept department is the first stage in VFX pipeline for which there are concept artists who are professionally trained on softwares like Photoshop and Illustrator. Director/Client communicates his vision to the concept artist; artist in turn develops a bull in photoshop or illustrator software that the director wants to put in a movie. Creating a concept is not an easy job and takes lot of time and efforts; concept artist keeps on making multiple versions of a bull till the time the client is not satisfied. Once the concept is ready and approved, now the job is passed on to the 3D modelling department.

Software training required to be a concept artist – Photoshop, Illustrator.



2. 3D Modelling – Modelling is the second stage in VFX pipeline for which there are 3D modelers. Modeler takes the reference from the concept department and creates a 3D model (bull in our case) in a computer. This model of a bull is just a model without any color. In modelling again there are divisions viz organic modelling (creating model of any of any living being like for example human, animal, birds etc) and inorganic modelling (creating model of a nonliving item like for example table, chair, rock etc), in current scenario it would be an organic modelling for a bull. Once the modelling is approved, now the job is passed on to the Texturing department.

Software training required to be a 3d modelling artist – Maya, 3ds max, Z brush.



3. Texturing – Texturing is the third stage in VFX pipeline for which there are texturing artists. Texturing artist gives texture (color) to the model created by a 3d modeler with reference to the concept design. Texturing artists are trained on softwares like Maya, 3ds max, Zbrush etc. 3D modelling and texturing can go hand in hand i.e. One person can learn both of these skills together and can take responsibility as a modelling and texturing artist in the industry. Once the texturing is done to the bull the work is then passed on to the rigging department.

Software training required to be a Texturing Artist – Maya, 3ds max, Z brush.


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4. Rigging – This is a very niche skill; rigging is basically to give joints/bones to any model where the movement is required to be animated by an animator. Rigger will study the anatomy of the character and basis that will provide joints/ bones to the model in a computer; in our current scenario it’s a bull so the rigger will work as per the animal/ bull anatomy. Rigging is a must before animation step and animators know the basics of this skill; however, highly skilled riggers are required in animated or grade one, top quality movies like for example The Avengers, Kung fu panda wherein the movie quality and budgets are the best in the industry. In certain movies hair rigg is also required where you see hairs moving as the character moves. Rigging is followed by lighting department.

Software training required to be a Rigging Artist – Maya, 3ds max


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5. 3D Animation – Animation is to animate a character i.e. to give movements to the character that is created by the previous departments. Animators gives frame by frame movement to the CG (computer generated) character as per the requirement and this movement is so seamless that it gives an illusion of a motion picture. In our case the bull that is created will be animated by an animator, so what all movements one sees of that bull is a work done by an animation department. Animators also studies real life animal or people movements; they also try acting in front of a mirror for a certain shot so that they can use it as a reference to give movement to the character accordingly.

Software training required to be a Rigging Artist – Maya, 3Ds Max, Houdini

3D Animation

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6. Digital Lighthing – Lighting artist works on the type and a source of light in any sequence. Lighter has to match the light color and source that is used by the director at time of shooting a movie shot. Shadows of CG characters and light effects that you see in movies are the work done by the lighting artists. In our scenario lighter will match the light color used by the director during the shoot and will ensure that the shadow of the bull falls in the same direction as that of the man so that everything matches in one line failing to which there will be a mismatch in lighting and scene will not  look real. Lighting and FX departments generally works parallel to each other and from both of these departments the job is passed on to the VFX compositing department.

Software training required to be a Lighting Artist– Maya, Katana, Nuke.


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7. FX (Effects) – FX artists simulates / creates smoke, fire, dust, destruction, water, cloth (flag, superman’s cape etc.), liquid as per the requirement. The simulation created is so seamless that it looks like a real-world thing. In our example the dust that will arise while the bull is running is created by the FX department. FX is a much-demanded skill in the industry but we suggest this specialization to students with technical background since there is python coding knowledge required in this area. Post FX simulation the job is passed on to the VFX compositing department.

Software training required to be a FX Artist– Houdini, Maya, RealFlow


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8. VFX Compositing – Compositing is the final stage of the VFX pipeline and is responsible for the overall shot aesthetics and delivery to the client. Compositing artist composes the final shot in which he combines the visual elements from different departments in to a one single shot. In our example Compositor will compose the final shot by combining the animated bull, Man shooted by the director in green screen, dust and many other elements made by different departments together; comper will add multiple effects to the shot, will beautify the shot and deliver it to the client. Rotoscopy, Paint (cleanups), tracking, match move, chroma keying (green screen, blue screen), matte paint (digital paint) is a part of compositing and compositor needs to have knowledge about all of these things. VFX compositing is the most demanded skill and generally has maximum number of vacancies in the industry. VFX compositor after a relevant experience can also be the part of on shoot vfx supervision wherein he/she works with the director of the movie on shoot.

Software training required to be a VFX Compositor– Nuke, Silhouette, After Effects, Mocha 



The delivery made by the compositor is then checked by the client; if there is any feedback then that is communicated back to the studio which needs to be addressed and rectified. This is how the effects are given in any of the movie globally that you see on screen. The softwares mentioned above for the respective specializations are globally demanded and students must consider these softwares while selecting any course. Student may kickstart his career in any one of the above-mentioned departments 

If you still have any more queries then you may refer to our blogs “Things you should know while choosing VFX as a career” and “Common myths and misconceptions students have towards VFX” ; however if you still wish any further clarifications then you may feel free to connect to Open Slate VFX School; just drop a SMS or WhatsApp to +91-8530171212 and we will connect to you and insure that all your queries are satisfied, that will help you take right decision for your career. Open Slate VFX School, Pune offers India’s most advanced VFX & Animation training courses with job placement. OSVES offers honest and true VFX career guidance to students and help them build a great career in their life. If you find this blog helpful then please like and subscribe to our blogs so that you can keep on receiving our latest updated VFX technology blogs.

Thank you

Open Slate VFX School, Pune.


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