FX Technical Director

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

Student work by Kristian Kebbe

What does an FX technical director (FX TD) do?

Visual effects technical directors (FX TDs) 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. 

FX technical director job description

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. 

Role & responsibilities of an FX technical director in the film industry:

  • 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, maintaining technical documentation
  • Writing code for custom software to deal with complex effects


Skills required to become an FX TD

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 effects and communicate that effectively to the filmmakers for the sequences to work. 

Film studios 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
  • Understanding of software design, and how to code and integrate custom tools
  • Advanced understanding of physics and how particles move within the natural world
  • Proficiency with volume modeling, fluid and gas algorithms, and geometry generation

What software and tools do FX technical directors use?

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 be required to use some or a combination of the following software:

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

How much does an FX TD make? 

The role of FX technical director is considered a senior role. The pathway to this position is at least three years working as an FX Artist. The average wage for an FX technical director is around USD $100,159.


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