The Effects (FX) Artist Certificate is an accelerated 5 month program, specialised in the craft of simulated phenomenon and effects for the Film, Animation, and Gaming Industries. It also complements this skill-set by training students in highly advanced Houdini workflows.
If you would like your future career to involve digital destruction, creating environmental phenomenon, particles, pyro and fluid simulation, and/or many creative and bizarre combinations of art and science than this program is your opportunity.
In collaboration with top tier VFX & Animation production studios and taught by FX veteran Sean Lewkiw this program will provide a entry into some of the most sought after studios in the industry.
What's the key difference between an FX TD and an FX Artist?
An Effects Technical Director (FX TD) and an Effects Artist are closely related, with many job responsibility overlaps. The key differentiation is that an Effects TD’s job would include tool/system building where as the production Effects Artist would be focused on implementing those tools to complete shots. A good production Effects Artist needs to focus on developing their instincts/skills to efficiently and accurately deliver a wide range of effects elements.
Scheduled classes provide technical knowledge required to master portfolio projects. Each week students are provided with lectures and demonstrations to learn key concepts and further assist with technical and artistic development. Weekly industry studies bring students together to view current media, breakdowns and up to date Effects techniques from real-world industry examples.
Every Monday classes gather for weekly screenings, supervised by a seasoned Senior FX Artist/CG Supervisor, where finished and work-in-progress projects are presented and discussed. Students complete assigned projects.
Learn more about FX Program Lead -
*Please note, we are currently working closely with Industry to refine the final curriculum design - Content Subject to Change
- What is an Effects Artist?
- What is a typical Studio Hierarchy?
- History of Houdini
- How is Houdini different from other packages? Why is it the industry FX standard?
- Houdini basic interface and general usage
- Understanding Context in Houdini
- Creating Nodes and parenting
- Creating a simple digital asset (HDA)
- Basic animation
- Basic rendering
- Basic shading
- Basic compositing
- SOP solver VS CHOPs for attribute persistency
- Non-linear blending
- Using geo attributes to drive shader attributes
- Hacking the existing Houdini shaders
- Houdini Digital Assets, (HDAs).
- SOPs (surface operators) proficiency
In the past, particle effects were a mainstay of an FX artist’s repertoire of skills. Although traditional particle effects are used less there are many times you will still need to use particles, especially in the world of gaming. Particles are still a very important tool for the efficient creation of environmental effects such as sparks, ash, rain, or snow. In this project, we will learn basic particle creation and rendering. In addition, we will learn how to integrate this into a BG plate, which is something that FX artists have to do all the time in real productions.
- Examine reference material, examine plate
- Create particle system for rain effect
- Create shader and stage lights
- Set up renderer and render
- Comp onto plate
By the end of this project, you will have:
- Created and rendered a production-ready particle system
- Output AOVs for comp
- Turned the tool into a Houdini Digital Asset
- Done a basic A over B Composite
Destruction of man-made structures and objects is one of the cornerstone tasks for FX artists involved in feature film and gaming work. This project will demonstrate the artist’s understanding of different building materials, weights and properties, and ability to mimic structural integrity and degradation.
So why are we spending only three weeks on this? Because a junior artist will likely not be tasked with creating complex RBD effects from scratch as these are frequently very involved and built by a team of senior artists. However, it is important to have an understanding of these effects and how they work, as quite frequently junior artists will have to take an existing set-up and use it to “RUN” shots.
We will focus on man-made structures, as this is the most common type required in feature-film and game work. The destruction will be initiated by a catalyst and inspired by reference footage. This mimics shot-deployment in a feature film pipeline in which things happen for a purpose.
The instructor will present a reference movie, and the students will recreate the effect.
Duration: Three weeks lab time with intermittent supplementary lectures and weekly screenings.
- Week 1
- Overview of RBDs in Houdini
- Visual drafting, reference gathering and research (study of objects breaking)
- Structure modelling and pre-fracturing
- Scene setup, planning and drafting
- Week 2
- Rigid body simulation, supervised lab time with some individual lectures
- Week 3
- Secondary particle simulations, lab time with some individual lectures
- Lighting and rendering
By the end of this project, you will have:
- A final render of the realistic destruction of a man-made object (gray shaded), caused by an identifiable catalyst.
- Mastery of appropriate rigid and soft body simulation techniques
- A gray-shaded render with Inclusion of:
- Interior set-dressing
- Secondary particles depicting tertiary detail
- Appropriate and realistic fracture patterns depending both on material type and impact location
- Proper motion blur and fracture detail
- Reference footage as insert
Although this section is titled Natural Elements (Fluid Effects), this does not imply that these kinds of effects are “fluids” as the general public would regard them. Fluid effects can certainly be liquids such as oceans, containers of water, and even “goo.” However, in the CG world, fluids actually refer to “computational fluid dynamics, (CFD)” meaning any phenomena that uses CFD computations to solve the movement and interaction of liquids and gases. This includes smoke, fire and liquids. These equations describe how the velocity, pressure, temperature, and density of a moving fluid are related, whereas a traditional particle system is just tweaked until it “looks right,” with no strong basis in real-world physics.
In recent years, fluid effects have become a bigger and more practical part of an FX artist’s job. Until recently, fluid effects had been prohibitively expensive, (slow and inaccurate). With today’s algorithms and fast processors, fluid effects (as opposed to traditional particle effects), are increasingly the go-to starting point for any “natural phenomena” effect.
Fluids are the most advanced project due to the fact that the artist has the least amount of sculptability and control, coupled with long simulation and render times. The element types depend on shot needs but could encompass water or other fluids, fire, dust, smoke, environmental effects such as fog, and mild rigid body dynamics work.
As with other projects, students will be presented with a reference which they will then mimic with guidance from the instructor.
Duration: Six weeks Lab time with intermittent supplementary lectures.
- Week 1
- Study of reference footage, lectures on fluid effects
- Exploring Houdini shelf tools to gain familiarity with tools
- Lighting and rendering of above effects
- Week 2
- Modelling of supporting geometry
- Begin simulations
- Weeks 3-6
- Continued tweaking and simulating with final renders and composite
- A hero fluid element in a production-caliber shot and multiple secondary fluid elements
- Multiple pass renders for shadow projection, RGB lighting and other passes
- AOVs for depth or shader properties
- Light spill passes
- Realistic motion blur applied to fluids elements
- A breakdown showing the integration of elements and layers demonstrating multi-pass compositing techniques
Now that you have mastered the skills of an FX artist, it’s time to find a job! Here you create your demo reel, resume, cover letter, website and Linkedin account. Studio etiquette and interview skills and salary negotiation are also covered.
- You will be industry-ready!
- You will select your best work to best represent your skills and build a demo-reel.
- You will learn how to edit your reel and post it so it is viewable by the widest range of potential employers.
- You will know how to contact the widest range of potential employers and present your skills in the best light
Instructional Delivery Methods
- On-site delivery – supervised and unsupervised classroom and studio access
- One-on-one mentoring with industry professionals
- Project-Based Learning, a technique which enables the students to explore and grasp concepts and methods within a simulated production pipeline
- Individual and group projects
- Extensive training library and online resources
- Visiting artists & guest speakers
- Industry studio tours (Montreal)
Career Preparation & Placement
During the program students are assisted in the creation of an industry relevant demo reel, website/LinkedIn profile, and resume. Each student will also receive career counselling which includes recruiting information, interview and networking tips and job placement assistance. We maintain a growing directory of studios, industry forums, and placement resources in Canada, the USA and internationally.
Our Alumni join us from a diverse range of experiences. They all began with a desire to follow their dreams. They all took the leap of faith that led to a creatively fulfilling career. We’d like to share a little more about them in hopes of inspiring you to do the same.
They believed they could do it and so should you!
Recent Lost Boys Alumni Credits
Effects Artist Program Advisory Committee
Every year Lost Boys | School of Visual Effects seeks out the top advisers to ensure we are meeting industry needs and stay current with our program development.
The purpose of the committee is to ensure programs are current and relevant to the industry. We meet with the Program Advisory Committee during the programs year and invite them to review our program and facility. Program advisers identify current and future industry trends and shifts in the skills and knowledge graduates need to meet employer requirements. They advise on the need for new programs and participate in their development and quality assurance. Committee members also assist in identifying industry resources, such as guest speakers, studios connections and practicum placement or employment opportunities. Program Advisory Committee members are another important liaison between Lost Boys, the local industry and visual effects community at large. Our advisers are one of our greatest assets and we highly value their opinions.
We are privileged to have them share their knowledge and insight with us!