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FX Technical Director

The role, salary, software and skills of an FX technical director in the film industry

Student work by Kristian Kebbe

FX technical director job description

Visual Effects Technical Directors (FX TD) work on set to ensure that elements such as explosions and action sequences work within the parameters of the visual effects required from the footage. They assist the director in capturing a scene that will work most effectively for the VFX team and then lead the team through the post-production process. 

The FX TD will often write the code with which the VFX artists create the effects, problem-solving solutions particular to the production. They work closely with the VFX Supervisor, ensuring seamless rendering of effects for the screen. 

Role and responsibilities

The FX Technical Director works under the supervision of the FX Supervisor to create realistic particle and fluid effects for live-action film and television. They will often work on set to ensure the footage is filmed in the best way for special effects to be inserted during the post production process. These include fire, smoke, moving water, air debris, snow, clouds, steam, etc.

As well as overseeing the completion of the FX sequences, the FX Technical director will create code for customized tools required for the production. 

Responsibilities of an FX Technical Director may include:

  • Liaising with the FX Supervisor, director, cinematographer, gaffer on the best filming conditions for the FX sequences requiring particle and fluid effects
  • Researching the look of the effects based on the briefing from the filmmakers according to the script
  • Maintaining a visual consistency throughout all the effects
  • Advising on set regarding what needs to be captured in-camera for the effects to work
  • Supervising effects artist team, keeping them on schedule and within budget
  • Writing code for custom software to deal with complex effects
  • Maintaining technical documentation
  • Seamlessly integrating special effects into live action footage 
  • Problem solving during the production and post-production processes
  • Dealing with computer modeling and geometry issues
  • Working to deliver the vision of the director
  • Interpreting FX supervisor’s and director’s notes and communicating them to the team

Software and other tools used

FX Technical Directors work mainly with scripting language and filmmaking equipment. They must understand the special effects being used by the post production and special effects teams. They must also be familiar with the cameras and lighting equipment being used on set.

FX Technical Directors may require expert knowledge in the following: 

  • Houdini
  • Substance Painter
  • C++
  • Java
  • Python
  • Maya 
  • 3D Studio Max
  • Adobe After Effects
  • Mel
  • Vex

Skills required

A solid knowledge of filmmaking and post-production is required of the FX Technical Director to be able to integrate special effects into live-action footage. They must understand what needs to be filmed to produce the best special effects and communicate that effectively to the filmmakers for the sequences to work. 

Employers may look for the following skills in an FX Technical Director:

  • Career training in visual effects and a strong portfolio or demo reel
  • Sound familiarity with cinematography and lighting
  • Solid knowledge of the filmmaking process
  • Experience with post production for film and television
  • Understanding of software design, and how to code and integrate custom tools
  • Strong problem-solving skills
  • Ability to share the director’s vision for each production
  • Advanced understanding of physics and how particles move within the natural world
  • Proficiency with volume modeling, fluid and gas algorithms, and geometry generation
  • Good math and communication skills
  • Mentoring skills to guide the team through the effects process
  • Keen eye for artistic detail, excellent sense of timing and scale
  • Ability to meet deadlines and budgets
  • Ability to work under pressure

Average salary

The role of FX Technical Director is considered a senior role. The pathway to this position is at least three years working as a FX Artist. The average wage for an FX Technical Director is around USD $100,159. *Source: Glassdoor

 

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