27 January 2023 The Irish Film & Television Network
Making the Cut....Career Advice from VFX-artist Keith Brett
26 Jun 2014 : Dylan Newe
Keith has worked on the BAFTA-nominated BBC drama 'Ripper Street'.
Working on visual effects in the Irish film and TV industry is a competitive world, which requires self-discipline, passion, education and much creativity. However as the digital compositor at one of Dublinís leading post- production houses Screen Scene Keith Brett outlines below, there is no one way to break into this sector. The company has worked on some of the biggest film and TV titles of the last few years including Ripper Street, Game of Thrones and upcoming sci-fi release Last Days on Mars, starring Liev Schreiber. In another IFTN exclusive, Keith reveals how he came to effects from a science background and the key software needed in becoming a vfx master!
I came from a science background but always wanted to work in some way with television and film "

Basically, what I do as a digital compositor is...take separate visual elements from different sources, such as CG or matte paintings and put them into shots for television shows or films to make them look real.

Generally, working at Screen Scene my day usually begins with... if Iím continuing on a shot from the previous day, Iíll play out what Iíve worked up to so far, in case there are any glaring issues from the previous day. If itís a new shot, our VFX supervisor, Ed Bruce, will usually come around and have a chat about ways to approach the shot, heíll also have any specific notes from the director or the VFX supervisor of the TV show or film.

The most common misconception people have about working in visual effects is...presuming you need to have gone to an art college or need to be incredibly artistically gifted to work in the industry. I came from a science background but always wanted to work in some way with television and film, so whilst working in Screen Scene, the opportunity arose to learn compositing and I very gladly took it!

The practical tips I would give to any young people who wish to get into compositing are...start learning the software. At the moment a program called Nuke is the industry standard for compositing, there are plenty of YouTube tutorials and good online courses such as fxphd.com which can give you an excellent starting point with rotoscoping and other essential skills for compositing. Most importantly the courses also offer very affordable college editions of the software. Also, donít be afraid to contact vfx companies, youíd be surprised how helpful people can be when you express an interest in something.

The greatest helps /people/ influences in my career who/which helped me get where I am today are...without doubt, two people who helped me massively, and continue to do so, Screen Scene VFX Supervisor Ed Bruce and our former VFX Producer Sarah Mooney. Iíd expressed a curiosity about VFX in general, while Screen Scene were handling a large amount of shots for Season 1 of HBOís Game of Thrones, they said that if I was willing to put in some work during my lunch-break and after work, that I could have a career in compositing. The next week, Ed gave me a tripod and a camera to film a billboard so I could replace it digitally with a new one, using Nuke. It took me weeks to figure it out, but was a good way to get into compositing. Sarah and Ed have been very encouraging and supportive ever since, and are a great team to work for!

The best thing about working in digital compositing / visual effects is...the variety of the work means itís never boring, Iíve worked on a BBC drama like Ripper Street to work on a science-fiction film from Irish director Ruairi Robinson called Last Days on Mars.

People in the industry that I observe and look up to for inspiration are...the many fine artists Iíve had the pleasure of working with so far, who have all been generous with their time and considerable knowledge. Itís great that for a bit of inspiration, all I have to do is head to the cinema, or switch on the TV, such is the quality of VFX work being done right now, and the industry is always moving forward.

Books/websites/other work you should look up for inspiration are....some vfx breakdowns on the internet here, here and here

Or go on the fxphd websites http://www.fxphd.com/ and http://www.fxguide.com/

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