I started using After Effects in 2007 so I suppose you’d say that’s where it all began. I didn’t get into FX work until many years later. I took a 3 week job with a Sydney studio in late 2015, this would be my first in house experience and my first real Houdini job. I’d created a couple of Houdini tutorials prior to the job and was beginning to get project enquiries as a result. The next job project came very soon after and happened to be a Nike job with a studio called Aixsponza. This is where things really kicked off because after we completed this job, I had a lot more confidence using Houdini and work started to roll in fast.
I love working as a Freelancer. The variety of work is amazing. One minute you’re blowing things up and the next you’re building some intricate procedural system that flows over a surface in an organic way. I’ve always been very focused on my work so the distractions of a home office environment never bothered me. I love being around my kids as they grow up. I can’t imagine working away in a studio and doing things any other way.
They’ve been some really fun projects over the last few years. The Nike jobs with Aixsponza will always feel special because I was rapidly developing my skills and learning so much at that time. It was just a great vibe working with those guys.
There’s definitely other jobs that were fun for different reasons. The ‘American Horror Story’ Season 8 teaser with Tendril was really cool because I’ve always been a huge fan of the show and again, a really great team of people to work with. Honestly most projects I’ve been involved with, bring back very positive memories.
The whole tutorial thing was not something I’d ever intended on doing, it kind of just happened and I can’t recall why I felt the urge to do it. Looking back though, I’m really glad I created some content and put it out there because I feel this really contributed to the beginning of my FX career and it put my name in the ring as a potential artist for hire.
Houdini 17 is fantastic. Vellum has really created a lot of buzz and shows the power of a unified solver. It would be amazing if we eventually see all the solvers operate together. I’d really love to see SideFX focus on a solver for small scale fluids so we can achieve results that look/feel closer to that of typical SPH solvers.
Before Houdini I used a few different programs at once. I think I’ve probably had a play with most of the software out there but currently Houdini/After Effects allow me to get everything done. It really depends on the type work you’re doing. For example if you’re into small scale fluid sims.. right now it probably makes sense to know some Realflow.
I’m fairly sure many artists use multiple packages simultaneously, there’s something I like about the simplicity of keeping everything in Houdini and there’s so much to learn in such a massive program, I could probably keep busy forever trying to improve my Houdini skills.
It’s an exciting time to be in FX, there’s a lot of work available with all the new TV Series/Films constantly being produced. In addition to that you’ve got VR/AR content and Games being created a rapid rate. I think all of the skills I’ve gained over the years are still relevant but the most recent addition would definitely be diving into coding with Houdini.
The only languages I’ve used are VEX in Houdini and a little Java Script whilst learning coding fundamentals. In Houdini, there’s two main ways of getting things done – you can drop down nodes and wire them together or drop down a wrangle and implement your ideas by writing VEX code.
You can definitely go a long way inside the program without knowing code BUT there’s times when it’s just painfully apparent that even knowing the VEX basics would go a long way. Right now I use snippets of code in every setup I create but overall my node/code split is probably 80/20 in favor of using Nodes to get the majority of my work done.
I try to keep a healthy work/family balance. Keeping it to a max of 8 work hours a day is my goal but we all know with deadlines and other factors this just isn’t possible sometimes. I do have the
advantage of being close to my family most of the time so I see them a lot more than if I were working in house so that definitely helps when the hours get long.
It was much easier to find the time for personal projects in the past. In the last couple of years it’s almost been impossible to find a spare moment to do anything for myself. I really do miss being less hectic sometimes. Personal projects are a fantastic way of taking things to a level you’re not usually able to. Generally due to budgetary or brief restrictions. Unfortunately the only outlet I’ve really had in recent years is posting a random RnD shot here and there on social media.
If I could go back and study computer science and pay more attention in Math class that would definitely go a long way right now.. Maybe even get into a course that’s design related. Any of that
would’ve been helpful. There’s nothing wrong with being self-taught but having solid fundamentals is extremely valuable in my opinion.
As mentioned I tried several 3d packages but nothing really had me excited and curious like Houdini. My advice is to watch and try everything until you find something that inspires you. Something
you’re very passionate about. I remember continually seeing great work created using Houdini until I decided I’d had enough watching and it was time to dig in and start learning.
If I didn’t have an extreme passion for FX and Design, I’d go and do something else. The hours can be long and the work load can feel brutal at times.. so if you don’t love what you do – it’s going be that much harder. Make sure you love what you do!