The Role of VFX Supervisor in the VFX Industry

The Role of VFX Supervisor in the VFX Industry

Delve into the career journey of VFX Supervisor Denis Krez, a graduate of Animationsinstitut of Filmakademie, as he shares pivotal moments from his film school experience to where he is today.

In this insightful article, Denis Krez, a VFX Supervisor and graduate of Animationsinstitut of Filmakademie, Baden-Württemberg, generously shares the pivotal moments that have shaped his career. From his inspiring film school journey to a transformative gap year in London and Amsterdam, Denis covers the valuable lessons learned during the early stages of his career. If you're an aspiring VFX artist, this article is a must-read! Explore Denis's approach to VFX production, where simplicity seamlessly meets efficiency. Uncover valuable advice for budding VFX supervisors, highlighting the significance of soft skills, effective communication, financial acumen, and the richness of diverse experiences. Dive into this enriching read and elevate your understanding of the dynamic world of VFX.

Can you share more about your journey from school to VFX Supervisor, especially the pivotal moments in your career?

Studying at a film school - Animationsinstitut of Filmakademie, Baden-Württemberg - was undoubtedly the best decision ever because it allowed me to connect with a multitude of people, including producers, directors, cinematographers, scriptwriters, and VFX colleagues. Although studying at a film school is not mandatory, participating in various student projects enables you to build valuable connections.

A pivotal moment during my studies was a gap year in my third year, where I spent time in London and Amsterdam working as a Compositor at MPC. Having a major international studio on my resume early on proved to be immensely helpful in the long run.

In the early stages of my career, I found working in the advertising industry to be exceptionally beneficial. The projects were relatively short but highly demanding. Working on numerous projects within a short timeframe exposed me to diverse challenges, providing a solid foundation for my career. Additionally, the fast-paced nature of advertising allowed me to build a vast network of contacts, as people often move between companies. Furthermore, attending festivals like FMX provided me with valuable industry contacts.

I started freelancing besides my studies and thereby gained practical experience by managing small VFX projects and teams from start to finish. After completing my studies, I shortly joined Mackevision in Stuttgart working on Lost in Space and afterwards moved to Framestore in London. Gaining experience at many of the really big studios was very important and extremely helpful, as it taught me a wide range of workflows and approaches. VFX is always a balancing act between small and fast, big, complex and slow - while always keeping the quality as high as possible.

After a few months, Covid-19 came into the world and I decided to return to Germany and being closer to my future wife. I also missed the flexibility of freelancing and took on various small advertising jobs as an “one-man VFX studio”. Through my previous contacts I also got some commercial project based supervisor jobs in a few VFX studios in Berlin and managed small teams there.

One significant project involved working on Terra X, a prominent German science program's 40th-anniversary episodes. The combination of art and science inspired me from the very beginning  and my involvement encompassed art direction, storyboarding and VFX supervision.

Working on student project Love & 50 Megatons

End of 2022 a colleague reached out to me about co-supervising a major German film, which of course I didn't want to miss out on. While hard work, continuous learning, and networking play a crucial role, there's always an element of luck that one must actively pursue but long-term relationships and collaborations have proven to be rewarding.

Gaining experience at many of the really big studios was very important and extremely helpful, as it taught me a wide range of workflows and approaches. VFX is always a balancing act between small and fast, big, complex and slow - while always keeping the quality as high as possible.

But as life goes, my wife became pregnant at the start of filming which led me to make the decision to hand over the project at the end of last year and take parental leave. Raising a child has been the most challenging yet rewarding project I have ever undertaken and it has been a truly wonderful experience.

How did your early years as a VFX artist shape your understanding of the industry?

From the very beginning, I was fascinated by film and the whole process of visual effects, from start to finish. The seemingly endless possibilities of execution have always fascinated me. Early on, I specialised in compositing, but I've always stressed the importance of remaining a generalist who is able to take a shot from concept to final grade. This includes finding ideas, storyboarding, concepts, matchmoving, modeling, lighting, rendering, matte painting and final compositing.

I think of my skill set as an inverted letter T - a broad foundation of expertises and and a specific area where you can excel. You can not perfect all disciplines; instead, it's a more achievable goal to focus on one or two closely related disciplines, such as my expertise in composting and matte paintings, or a combination of lighting and rendering.

In this industry, it's crucial to be flexible and have a wide range of skills, as the screenwriters' strikes last year showed. That's why it's important for me to have experience and connections in almost all areas of media, including feature films, series, documentaries, science programs, commercials and even print media.

The versatility of my skills ensures a steady stream of clients and assignments. As a freelancer, I have never tied myself to a specific company or studio. The most valuable lesson that freelancing has taught me is the importance of financial management and the need to have a buffer for at least six months of expenses. The unpredictable nature of the industry requires constant preparation and I have made it a habit to set aside 50% of my income - where possible - directly into fixed deposit accounts for unforeseen circumstances. This of course has to be reflected in the pricing of my work.

Studying at a film school was undoubtedly the best decision ever because it allowed me to connect with a multitude of people, including producers, directors, cinematographers, scriptwriters, and VFX colleagues.
Denis' student reel which won him many accolades via The Rookies platform. 

What does a typical day or week look like for a VFX supervisor?

I would describe my daily work routine as follows:

In general

  • Breakfast, check and respond to emails, work, lunch, emails, work, plan tasks for the next day

Between Jobs

  • 1-2 days/month: Acquire new clients and maintain contact with existing ones. There’s typically a 2-4 month gap until a new commercial job starts. Longer periods for features.
  • 1-2 days/month: Financial tasks, including accounting, cash flow, and taxes.
  • Stay updated on industry news and trends. Experiment with new tools.
  • Keep creative muscles active through reading, exploring art blogs, attending exhibitions, museums, and watching movies.

During a Job

  • Short daily morning meetings with the team and longer weekly meetings with the client.


  • Read the script, estimate effects, create a VFX breakdown, and discuss costs with the client.
  • Generate ideas, create mood boards and concepts, and present them to the client.
  • Create storyboards for the VFX shots (for larger projects, professional Storyboard Artists may be hired).
  • Develop previs and techvis.


  • For commercial jobs, typically 1-5 days on set; for series and feature films, several weeks or months.
  • Managing various tasks on set, with a focus on staying within budget and adapting to changing circumstances in collaboration with the Producer, Director, DoP and Set Designer.
  • Simultaneously, develop and create concepts and assets if possible


  • Update the VFX breakdown and costs after editing, often with recommendations on cost-saving measures.
  • After picture lock: Conform the edit with raw material, export and distribute plates to respective artists and work on the shots.
  • Project management and quality control: Ensure the project and individual tasks align with the plan. If not, make necessary adjustments and communicate problems early on.
  • Deliver final shots for grading and make last-minute adjustments.
  • Submit the final invoice, take a break, and prepare for the next project.

How do you balance creativity and efficiency, especially in complex shots?

The key principle to balancing creativity and efficiency, especially in the realm of complex shots, is to embrace the concept of "minimum viable product". Quickly creating layouts for editing is paramount and allows timing and pacing to be defined within the sequence. Usually, a rudimentary version of a shot is enough to clarify most issues, allowing you to focus on the broad strokes before delving into intricate details. This approach of working from the rough to the fine prevents time being wasted on trivia before the fundamental aspects are nailed down and boosts efficiency.

I think of my skill set as an inverted letter T - a broad foundation of expertises and and a specific area where you can excel.

Once a task or shot has reached an appropriate level, I adhere to the philosophy of "good for the moment" rather than endlessly striving for perfection, ensuring I get through the entire workflow quickly. Realizing that a shot is never truly finished or perfect encourages the mindset that continuous improvement is an ongoing aspect of the creative process.

Student project Love & 50 Megatons

Once an initial version of all elements is available, further decisions are made in the context of the edit to identify the most critical aspects and determine the main focus. Prioritising is paramount, with all actions aligned to the overall goal of completing the project on time and within budget to ensure client satisfaction.

With the industry evolving, how do you stay updated on the latest trends and technologies in VFX?

I have to admit, this aspect is taking up less and less time as the years pass. During my studies, I spent countless hours watching tutorials and eagerly reading every available article, watching breakdown and interview to become familiar with the industry. As I gained experience I focused on workflows that suited my preferences.

I have found that the simplest solution usually proves to be the most effective. I tend to prefer classic workflows as they are usually faster and allow for straightforward adjustments to inevitable changes in client requirements. As a compositor, I look for simple 2D solutions to challenges, whereas a 3D generalist may quickly find solutions that match their expertise.

At the same time, I try to make an effort to keep up to date with the latest developments. This includes reading articles and interviews, analyzing breakdowns, experimenting with new tools and, above all, exchanging ideas with colleagues to benefit from their experiences. For example, I've recently had good experiences with AI-generated images, which I can use to quickly develop and share visual ideas - a promising way to simplify my day-to-day work.

Can you share insights into the software packages and tools commonly used in VFX production?

In the VFX production landscape, there is a multitude of software and tools that are tailored to a wide variety of project requirements. From my experience with live action VFX projects, here is a list of useful tools:

Project Management

  • Spreadsheets for VFX Breakdowns and Budget calculation (Google Sheets, Excel)
  • Shot Management and reviews (Shotgrid, fTrack, Kitsu, Airtable, NIM, Syncsketch,
  • Notes and Wikis (Notion, Zenkit)
  • Sticky Notes


  • PDF Editor for reading and annotating scripts (PDF Gear, Acrobat)
  • Concepts and Moodboards (Affinity/Adobe Suite, AI Tools - Midjourney/Stable Diffusion)
  • Camera for quick tests (your phone camera is sufficient)
  • Comp tests shots (Nuke)
  • Previs & Techvis (Any 3D package will do. I’m using Houdini and Blender. Maya is the most common. Cinema 4D is mostly used for Motion Design)
  • Davinci Resolve for edits


  • On Set real time backgrounds (Unreal Engine, Unity)
  • Quick tests on set (DSLR/Phone camera, Nuke, Affinity Photo, Blender)
  • Apps: Data capture on Ipad (Shotbot), Sun Surveyor, Sun Seeker, Artemis Pro
Student project Love & 50 Megatons

Equipment for a small shoot:

Data Capturing

  • DSLR Canon EOS 6D Mark 2, Batterygrip, Batteries 3x, SD cards 2x
  • Canon 24-105mm Zoom Lens, Sigma 8mm Fish Eye Lens
  • Compact camera (Canon Powershoot X7)
  • Xrite ColorChecker passport
  • GoPro as witness cam
  • Tripod small (Manfrotto MKBFRTA4BK-BH)
  • 360 camera Ricoh Theta V ( for quick set impressions)
  • iPad Pro with Lidar


  • Laser measurer including Inclinometer (Bosch GLM 40)
  • Measuring tape 5m


  • Multitool (Victorinox)


  • Trackingmarker Patterned in bags
  • Small, medium, big
  • Green, blue, red
  • Trackingmarker adhesive dots, various colours & sizes
  • Edding 3300 various colours


  • Neon tape, various colours
  • Pro-Gaff, various colours


  • DIN A4 thick paper green/blue


  • USB charger
  • SSD, fast
  • Laptop, Dell XPS15
  • IPad
  • Pencil
  • Case with strap
  • Powerbanks 2x
Very important: Appropriate clothing (always plan for the worst and keep colours dark to avoid been seen in reflections)


  • Manfrotto PRO Light Multiloader M
  • Cinebags CB03


  • Notepad A6
  • Sun creme
  • Anti-Mosquito spray
  • Foot blisters plaster


  • Backpack (Manfrotto PRO Light Multiloader M)
  • Peli case 1510


  • Concept (Affinity Photo, Photoshop)
  • Previs (e.g. Houdini, Blender, Maya)
  • Matchmove (3D Equalizer, PFtrack, Nuke X)
  • 3D Layout (e.g. Maya, Houdini, Blender)
  • Modeling (e.g. Zbrush, Maya, Houdini, Blender)
  • Rigging (Maya, Houdini)
  • Animation (Maya)
  • Texturing (ZBrush, Mari)
  • Shading, Lighting (e.g. Maya, Houdini, Blender)
  • Matte Painting (Affinity Photo, Photoshop, Nuke)
  • Motion Design (After Effects, Nuke, Cinema 4D, Houdini)
  • Comp (Nuke)
  • Reviews (Kitsu, Shotgun, Ftrack, Syncsketch,

How do you approach shots that require more complex processes, and what lessons have you learned from such experiences?

When approaching challenges you have to be open to different solutions. In my experience, the simplest and least complicated solution often turns out to be the most effective. I have made a habit of experimenting briefly with different approaches at the beginning to rule out alternative solutions. Each shot requires a slightly different approach, and it's important to be familiar with as many methods as possible.

Early in my career, I often set out in search of the perfect, all-encompassing solution, trying to develop the ideal tool or gizmo but sometimes after investing hours, I realised that a manual approach would have been more efficient. That's not to diminish the value of automation, but striving for a perfect solution to a simple problem can sometimes be a time-consuming endeavour.

The principle of "branch out and get to a 'no' as quickly as possible" is very crucial- particularly in the design phase. It is a good practice to collect a wide range of ideas and only develop them as far as necessary. When I am satisfied with an idea, I immediately present it to the customer to see if it matches their ideas or sparks an interest. The advantage of a broad spectrum is that even discarded concepts can contain interesting aspects and might be useful later on.

Student project Love & 50 Megatons

You also always need to be aware of the limits of the project. It is crucial to understand what is feasible within the budget and time constraints. It is important to communicate these limits to the client and weigh up the options carefully. It would be counterproductive to make efforts in directions that are simply unachievable under the given circumstances and effective communication with the client is the key to making informed decisions and optimizing the creative process. it's not about an us-versus-them scenario, but a collaborative effort to achieve the best results.

What advice do you have for graduates aspiring to become VFX supervisors?

My journey has taught me a few lessons that I'd love to share.

Firstly, surround yourself with people who inspire and challenge you. If you feel imposter syndrome creeping in - you start to doubt your abilities and fear being exposed as a fraud despite all the evidence - see it as a sign of growth. Embracing discomfort takes strength, but the reward is an increased sense of achievement and confidence.

It's not just about technical skills, but above all about soft skills. Clients are looking for people who can communicate clearly and take responsibility. Avoid drowning conversations in technical jargon and instead demonstrate your ability to explain complex concepts in an easy-to-understand way. Engage actively with your customers and listen carefully. Film production is planned chaos that requires transparent communication and trust. Be honest and admit when you are unsure or don't know the answer. However, immediately set about testing approaches and finding solutions. A positive and approachable attitude is more than just professional etiquette. It's a strategic move. You never know when you'll run into someone again, and opportunities for cooperation often come from personal recommendations.

Be versatile when solving problems. Trust yourself to use traditional workflows when simplicity is key. Think beyond the technical aspects and consider clever and creative cinematic solutions, which are usually a better solution, e.g. a printed wall instead of a green screen or moving the scene completely to another location.

Most importantly, understanding the financial aspects of a project is crucial. Learning how to handle budgets and manage costs effectively will set you apart from others and secure you the next project.

Gain a vast range of different experiences, especially in the early stages. My first steps in advertising proved to be the ideal way to get through many projects and make a lot of contacts in the industry. Deadlines are tight and the diverse challenges will enrich your skills in no time.

My advice is to keep challenging yourself, prioritize effective communication and project management. To be successful as a VFX supervisor, you need not only technical skills, but also interpersonal skills, creativity and strategic thinking. It's an exciting journey - one that becomes all the more rewarding as you navigate the ongoing evolution of the VFX landscape.

Are there specific skills or experiences you recommend they focus on early in their careers?

As a VFX supervisor, you will be dealing with all departments, which requires a sensitive approach and diplomatic skills. Effective communication is a fundamental part of the job and I recommend developing a comprehensive understanding of all film disciplines. Working on set requires constant balance and active teamwork. It is important to develop a deep understanding of the work processes in the various departments and to understand the roles and dynamics of a film crew.

The same of course applies to VFX teams. Hands-on experience in as many VFX departments as possible allows for a realistic estimate of the effort needed for each shot. And besides, it's always helpful to have been in the other team members' position to better understand their problems and challenges. Even if you don't excel in every aspect - nobody does - understanding the challenges in each area will allow you to make an educated guess of the complexity and make better decisions.

While learning VFX software and tools is fun, most of the workflows are similar and have not changed for a very long time. Therefore, familiarizing yourself with the history of film, VFX and special effects is a big plus. There are valuable lessons to be learned from the past, and most traditional techniques can be combined with modern approaches. And as always, the simplest solution is always the best.

As previously mentioned, organisational skills and effective project management are essential. Prioritise tasks, create an efficient work routine and maintain a well-organised workflow. These skills are fundamental to all professions.

Reach out to Denis via his personal website and LinkedIn.