Career Advice - Working as a VFX Modeller and 3D Sculptor

Career Advice - Working as a VFX Modeller and 3D Sculptor

Want a successful career working as a VFX Modeller and Sculptor? Victor Manuel Vera, a VFX Modeller at Framestore and Instructor at Rainbow Academy, sits down with us to share his journey and advice to aspiring artists looking for an exciting and challenging career like his own.

Want a successful career working as a VFX Modeller and Sculptor? Victor Manuel Vera is a VFX Modeller at Framestore and Instructor at Rainbow Academy, living between Rome and the UK.  He sits down with us to share his journey and advice to aspiring artists looking for an exciting and challenging career like his own.

The Journey

What's your current role and what does it involve?

I am a VFX Modeller and Sculptor.  I pretty much model and create 3d concepts of Organic and Hard Surface Assets.

Where do you work, and what type of projects are they involved with?

I am working at Framestore as a VFX Modeller, I am taking part in a fantastic Super Hero movie, making creatures and some digi-doubles.

I have also been working as a teacher for Rainbow Academy, and previously as Freelancer at Ghost VFX within a collaboration for a Sony Movie.

When did you first realise you wanted to work in this industry?

It was back in 2014, I was living in Rome with an employer I didn’t really enjoy.
My passion for creating a brand and creating 3D assets like the ones in Pixar movies drove me to where I am now. I always loved to create sculptures and the possibility of making them in 3d was massive for me.

My career as a VFX Artist started thanks to a company that believed in my skills. I was not even sure I wanted to work for movies but then passion, dedication, and a bit of luck, helped me to finally give my contribution in production by making 3D Characters.

How did you get your first big break?

My one and only big break would have been given to me by my family when I was young. I always had a chance to study, work and meet different people with different backgrounds.

We are surrounded by opportunities but we need to be capable of choosing the right ones even if they don't feel comfortable at first. Sometimes it’s hard, because we have to step outside our comfort zone, but it’s important to maintain the target and be absolutely respectful of what we have and who we are.

Describe the journey you took into your current role?

In my life so far, I have had 10 different jobs - all of them have contributed in the role I am now whether it was logistics, cleaning, plumbing, being an electrician, a waiter, a graphic designer and Chef. All of these roles finally helped me enough to bet all my savings on CG studies.

My studies started with Rainbow Academy and after completing the 3D Digital Production course, I decided to move to UK. Most of my time was shared between sending showreels and cooking in a restaurant in order to pay my rent.

At the same time, I continued to improve my skills. I took classes with Daniele Angelozzi for ZBrush, and the “Digital Figure Sculpture” course taught by Scott Eaton.

Finally. I received a 2 weeks contract as Character Modeller at Ghost VFX, and as expected I quit the kitchen job.

The freelance work last a month and after that, I applied as Runner at Framestore. After only a month an half, I was offered a 1 month contract as Modeller, thanks to a “Toaster render” I had done in my spare time.

I never knew who helped me or trusted me at that time, but I am still here. I persevered and did a great job as a runner, completing my training tasks, and I think that helped me get to where I am today.

That 1 month contract turned into a permanent position and the rest is history!

Day in the life

Describe a typical day for you and your team?

I usually start my morning with a good breakfast on the 5th floor of Framestore; generally with a cappuccino and some bread.

While we are working, we are super concentrated - modelling has no render time, so we keep moving mesh and vertices during the whole day. I also like to have some fun as a team, especially with the artists sitting next to me.

I also take breaks during the day to see people at their desks in order to exchange ideas and see what’s going on on the assets we are working.

What third-party and proprietary tools do you use on a daily basis?

I use Maya, ZBrush, Substance 3D, Photoshop, Mudbox, Mush and Marvelous Designer; a lot really!

Which departments and key people do you work closely with?

Since last year I can definitely say that modelling collaborates closely with all the departments.

We do exchange a lot of information with rigging and lookdev for sure, but also compositing with face replacement, CFX for shot sculpting, animation for blendshapes, uv’s and materials for TXT and lookdev, procedural/random meshes for FX.  If it happens that another department need us, we are there.

Realtime and previs are literally helping and improving our times, our Sups are able to see in no-time the results of a model and have clear ideas thanks to the rapid result.

One thing you’d never change about your job?

Mold like a child everyday, with the responsibilities of an adult.

But one thing you wouldn’t mind seeing changed is?

I enjoy every moment of my job, of course we do have some bad days but honestly there is nothing I’d change… ah no maybe one, the last minute feedback!

Career Advice

Is formal education essential for someone aspiring to do your job?

Depending on the circumstance. I did spend a few months with Scott Eaton to refine my art, and eight  months of 3d academy to understand the 3d pipeline in entirety. I wasn’t excellent at school, but definitely all kinds of education improved me as a human being.

What tasks would you typically ask a junior artist to handle?

By being a mentor I have met all kinds of junior artists. Although skill is important, you also have to be quite organised as a Modeller. You also have to work well with other departments, and you have to be able to be flexible - sometimes you have to revisit tasks you think were completed.

What skills do you look for when hiring an artist?
Empathy, willingness, good attitude and an artistic eye.

What skills seem to be missing all too often?

Patience and drive.

Describe a project brief that you’d recommend artists create for their portfolio?

Something that you love and like to share, a differentiation from the masses. Include a piece of art that can be defined as the “cherry on the cake” of your collection, but still look for something the company needs at that moment.

Don't forget to include a piece of “you” in your the showreel.

What mistakes do you see artists making when applying for jobs?

Super quick renders with no technical details, such as the wireframe in modelling. Or, including pieces of shots for which we cannot make out the descriptions.

If you could give one piece of advice to artists starting out, what would it be?

Cultivate your passion and don't let yourself be influenced by what others tell you. Sometimes you will be labeled for something that doesn't even represent you, it is up to you to assert yourself as what you want to be and do.

Do not give up at the first obstacles, be courageous and like the stone on the sling, know how to take a step back when necessary, remember that that elastic pull back will earn you the boost to go faster and safer in the direction you have chosen.

If you could go back in time to when you first started out, what advice would you give yourself?

Take some time off!!!

Victor is a VFX artist from Peru currently working and living between Italy and the UK. His passions include creating art, cooking, running and of course teaching CG! You can find more of Victor's work on Instagram and ArtStation.