Vine FX (vinefx.com) is an award-winning visual effects company in Cambridge, UK. Previously, Vine FX has operated out of various cutting rooms in London, as well as set up facilities on-set at Leavesden Studios. Most recently the company expanded into a new central Cambridge studio that has a capacity for as many as 50 artists.
The company has successfully managed a team of in-house and remote artists, and has delivered work for shows that include The Witcher (Netflix),
The Lazarus Project (Sky & Now TV),
The Tourist (BBC),
The Serpent (BBC/Netflix) and
War of the Worlds Season 1-3 (Canal+/Disney+), among others.
Here Vine FX’s Pedrom Dadgostar shares insight into his role as head of 3D, and offers advice for those looking to grow their visual effects career.
War of the Worlds
What inspired you to pursue a career in VFX?
“It was a bit of a happy accident! I didn’t really know VFX existed before it was presented to me. Like most 16-year-olds, I had no idea what I wanted to do or be. I’ve always considered myself to be creative and technically minded, but didn’t know how to extract my potential. I had a look into engineering, but it wasn’t quite for me. I then had a go at fine art with the same outcome. It wasn’t until I began a course in computer games development that I started to dive into the world of CGI. I grew fond of creation in 3D software and wanted to become an animator, still unaware of the world of visual effects.
“I applied to a handful of universities for an animation degree but got turned down every time for lack of drawing ability. It wasn’t until one lecturer recognized my abilities and suggested their visual effects course instead. I didn’t know what it was, but I had nothing to lose in trying. Safe to say that my eyes were opened when I saw the work students were producing on the course. It was exactly the kind of thing I was suited to.”
How did you get started in the industry?
“After graduating, I got my first job at a small studio in Winchester, UK, called Bandito. I knew starting in a small studio would be perfect, as I’d be learning much faster and would be able to skip the runner phase, going straight into TV shows. My first job was as a compositor. It wasn’t until after the first few months there that I got stuck in with some 3D work as well. As I found my feet more, it was clear that my strengths lay in 3D…and I began to take on more responsibilities in this department as the years went by at Bandito.”
The Lazarus Project
Can you walk us through your process for creating 3D & CG from concept to final output?
“As soon as we know what the client wants us to build, either described verbally or visually, we begin with gathering plenty of reference images. It’s a critical step that often gets overlooked. Without good references, you might miss vital details, which help with realism, even on a sci-fi asset. After this, we can begin with modeling — making all the core shapes of a model, then progressing with smaller and smaller details until complete. After we get sign-off on this, we can move to texturing and look development, plus rigging if needed.
“Once the asset is complete, we start to place it into the shots, being sure we stay as true to life as possible. Modern render engines are extremely capable of recreating photorealistic lighting environments, and we spend a lot of time getting the balance just right by putting our virtual objects and lights in the correct places, using the most suitable colors and intensities to help integrate our CG creations into the real-world environments. This is then passed on to a compositor, who spends more time adding the finer details of integration, balancing colors and adding depth of field to create a seamless image between CG and reality.”
How do you stay up to date with the latest VFX technology and techniques?
One of my favorite sources for keeping up with advancements is LinkedIn. People in the industry post the most amazing demos, showing off new techniques and sharing resources. Second to this — cinema! Seeing what the biggest production companies have to offer and trying to work out how they managed to take the next big leap in visual effects is always a great way of keeping up with the latest tech.”
Can you share any particularly challenging or rewarding projects you have worked on at Vine FX?
“The first show that comes to mind is The Tourist. It was the first show at Vine that I worked on that required multiple creatures. Animals are notorious for being one of the most challenging tasks in VFX, typically requiring big creature FX teams to get the job done. We managed to create a wild boar, two tortoises and a kangaroo with just a handful of artists, and they all looked absolutely fantastic. It was definitely the most fun and rewarding job I’ve worked on at Vine, made even more gratifying knowing it was then the most-watched program in the UK that year, and really well received by all who watched it.”
What qualities do you think are essential for success as a VFX artist, both technically and creatively?
“It’s essential to not be too precious over your work. Clients change their minds, shots get dropped, and the storyline changes. If you get too protective over your work, then you’ll likely have a rotten time working in VFX. The best thing to do is embrace the changes and keep moving forward. It’s also really important to be a good problem solver, or at least learn how to be one. It’s a huge skill in VFX, both creatively and technically speaking. Problems arise in all shapes and sizes, and the best problem-solving minds go the furthest.”
How do you balance artistic vision with the practical considerations of budget and timeline?
“It’s important not to get carried away with an idea and instead focus on the clear targets set for you. All projects come with constraints in time and budget. The key is maximizing the quality of work within these boundaries. There are many tips and tricks to succeed here. My top tips are knowing when to stop, knowing which corners to cut, and how to cut them.
“Knowing when to stop is crucial. We’d all love to keep going and going with an asset or a shot, but really, for the few seconds something will be seen on-screen, it’s often enough to take something to 90 percent and move on. The last 10 percent is the hardest, takes the longest, and often leads to a massive drain on time and budget. Cutting corners is, of course, going to help save time as well, but it’s important to know which corners you can cut. Getting this right leads to efficiency, rather than sloppiness. Being efficient at your craft leads to happy clients and happy artists.”
What advice would you give to aspiring VFX artists who are just starting out in the industry?
“All too often, I see aspiring artists wanting to do absolutely everything at the highest possible level. And while I’d never shoot this ambition down, it’s important to understand the stages and gradually work up the ladder. There’s always something to learn and improve upon. Try finding a particular skill that’s the most enjoyable or that you’re best at, and stick with it!”