Before and after Covid-19, at Escape Studios

Escape Studios VFX compositing lecturer Klaudija Cermak’s tips for jumping into the industry right now.

Klaudija Cermak: When I was growing up, time was defined as ‘before and after the war’. Every generation encounters a life-changing event that redefines everything followed by a change in direction, just like a railroad switch changes the direction of the train. Current generation will define time as ‘before and after Covid-19’.

Our Escape Studios students, whose work is being displayed in a special ‘Lockdown Showreel’, talked about the stages of their group projects as ‘before and after lockdown’. It meant switching from organized classroom learning to their own rooms, sometimes shared ones, from state of the art computers to laptops (or scrambling for one), from super-fast broadband to sometimes no broadband and, of course, dealing with a new life of rushing to their families, stocking up and taking on whole new responsibilities.

Some continued working as, or became, key workers and some became carers. Of course, it was the same for tutors. Nevertheless all the different departments from Animation to 3D VFX and 2D VFX collaborated remotely to produce team projects from concept to delivery.

At Escape Studios we have always prided ourselves on emulating the industry and being in tune with what the industry needs are, in Short Courses, UG and MA. After all we are from the industry and we want our students to join it.
However, there are skills that can’t be taught as effectively in the classroom as when they are experienced in real life, however hard we try. And we do try hard, by bringing in extra expertise in all sort of skills, both professional and soft ones.

We also encourage teamwork and set up group projects, organise Dailies and shoots but the lockdown has given our students an incredible array of skills that will be invaluable for their future.

This Showreel, above, doesn’t just demonstrate the software skills but also the resilience, flexibility and resourcefulness of our students who had to suddenly re-adjust to a completely new world and find ways to complete their projects as a team working together while being physically apart.

They had to learn new communication tools like Discord, Google Meet, Zoom and Synchsketch, set up VPN, use Shotgun manually and divide work according to technical ability and resources. They are now totally ready for the liquid World we live in, in which nothing is fixed and nothing is permanent.

Tips for a new VFX future

We can guess what the near future may be, probably being in the cloud and creating VFX like we play games. Eight years ago I wrote a small book about the skills required to enter and survive this liquid world of post-production. Nothing much, skill wise, has changed since and if I had to pinpoint key advice to those wishing to enter the VFX today it would be as follows:

  1. Embrace idleness – Take a regular daily break from everyone and everything. Lie on the grass and enjoy the moment.
  2. Get to know yourself – Read ‘Skills for Success’, book by Stella Cottrell. It will help you get to know yourself, your strengths, your aspirations and your weaknesses. Once you understand these you will be able to understand the skills you need to develop to achieve your goal.
  3. Develop a good eye – Look around you and you will develop a good eye through observation of your surroundings and through engagement with arts.
  4. Grab a camera – An understanding of photographic principles and lighting will give you a good base for whatever aspect of VFX you wish to pursue.
  5. Take a good course – The advantage of taking a course is that you will be working with others and be trained in all the relevant skills to seamlessly fit into the industry. At Escape Studios we offer Short Courses as well as UG and MA ones in VFX, Animation and Games.
  6. Keep up with the industry – There are many interesting Blogs and Youtube channels you can follow and in case of VFX this one gathers latest VFX news in one place:
  7. Keep up with the skills – The learning never ends. Even senior artists sit around watching tutorials trying out new techniques. You will need to make sure you are following the trends and looking out for things to come. This means embracing new software and widening your skills.
  8. Get some experience – Working as a Runner on the set or in a Post-production facility gives you invaluable experience.
  9. Be nice – Getting on with people and being nice to everyone is the most valuable asset you can have. That’s called being a team player.


About Klaudija Cermak

Klaudija Cermak is VFX Compositing Lecturer at Escape Studios teaching Year 2 undergraduates, as well as short courses and postgraduate ones. She has 35 years experience in working on high-end commercials, broadcast programmes and feature films and has worked at all the major post-production houses in Soho including MPC, Mill, Millfilm, Framestore, Double Negative and Glassworks.

Her feature film credits include ‘Gladiator’ that won an Oscar for the Best VFX, ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ and ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’. Her most recent credits are ‘Black Mirror’, ‘Britannia’, ‘Captain America’, and ‘Jason Bourne’. Her broadcast credits include ‘Killer Dinosaur’ and ‘Virtual History’ that won the VFX Society Award for Outstanding Visual Effects and numerous commercials for major brands including Walkers, Sony, Sainsbury’s and Panasonic. She has also Art Directed television promotions, title sequences and content graphics for the BBC, Sky, Channel4 and ITV, for which she won a number of awards, two of which were Golden Promaxes. She was a Subject Leader for MA VFX at Ravensbourne and has given talks and lectures on all aspects of post-production.

When you get your own wand…

A little trivia: Klaudija Cermak’s name is on one of the Magic Wand drawers at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London. 
Klaudija is a member of VES and the author of the Kindle bestseller ‘How to Get Into and Survive Film, Advertising and TV Post-production – The Alternative Guide.’

Want to learn more about Escape Studios? Check out their new software handbook, which runs down the different tools you are likely to encounter in VFX and animation.

Brought to you by Escape Studios:
This article is part of the befores & afters VFX Insight series. If you’d like to promote your VFX/animation/CG tech or service, you can find out more about the VFX Insight series right here.

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