Visual Effects Technician: Salary and Career Facts

Research what it takes to become a visual effects technician. Learn about training, job duties and potential salary to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Animation degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Visual Effects Technician?

Visual effects technicians work with different kinds of digital editing technology that allows them to manipulate analog film or digital video. These technicians use their skills to work with directors and effects supervisors and bring storyboards to life using special effects. They insert visual effects into movies or television shows using the latest in effects and/or animation programs. They might also work on sets rendering camera work on top of mixing bluescreen, sound, dialogue and music. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree recommended
Training Required Internship
Education Field of Study Visual effects; motion graphics
Key Responsibilities Inserting and editing digital images in film and video productions; working with bluescreen technology
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%* (multimedia artists and animators)
Median Salary (2015) $63,970* (multimedia artists and animators)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Job Duties of a Visual Effects Technician?

Special effects are simulated images used to bring stories to life in the film and television industry, and visual effects represent one segment of the field. When you work as a visual effects technician, you are typically responsible for digitally inserting and editing images in the post-production process. You will have different duties than a special effects or SFX technician in the production process, whose responsibilities may include creating on-set mechanics that can simulate an action or event without the use of digital rendering.

When you work as a visual effects technician, you need to have a command of computer-generated imagery (CGI) technology. You use computer software to combine elements of live-action footage with generated imagery. Some of your other duties might include rendering computer-animated characters, using bluescreen technology on actors, and creating matte paintings and skills.

What Educational and Training Programs Are Available?

You are not technically required to have a formal degree or vocational training in order to work as a visual effects technician. You may find yourself learning the trade on the job through an unpaid internship or apprenticeship program. However, earning a degree may provide you with an advantage when you are seeking a job in the competitive entertainment industry.

Many art institutes and private schools offer 4-year bachelor's degree programs in visual effects and motion graphics. Such programs will provide you with a basic understanding of animation, graphic design, video production and sound production. They generally also require you to complete a digital portfolio of work that might help you to gain employment in the field.

You might also consider completing a professional certificate program in special effects through a university or vocational school. Such programs will provide you with the technical skills necessary to conceive and develop a project that combines CGI with live footage.

How Will I Find Work in the Field?

As a professional visual effects technician, you may find employment with a single studio, post-production company or animation company. You may also work on various projects on a freelance basis. It is difficult to find paid work in the field if you have no previous experience. For this reason, many visual effects technicians start their careers by completing internships or apprenticeships. Once you have learned the trade and mastered the technology, you might more easily find an entry-level position as a visual effects technician.

What Salary Could I Expect to Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, multimedia artists and animators in general held 30,240 jobs and made a median annual salary of $63,970 in 2015 (www.bls.gov).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Graphic designers need a bachelor's degree. These experts work with computer programs to create digital artwork for television, movie, music videos, news programs or print media. Another related career field is art direction; art directors also need a bachelor's degree, and they utilize their creative skills to build art designs for various media outlets, ranging from museums to print or film. For those with less than a bachelor's degree, another alternative career might be as a web developer. These professionals will use their art and programming skills to design and maintain web pages for clients or businesses and only need post-high-school training or an associate's degree to start.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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