May 30, 2024

Small vs. large VFX studios — which one should I work for?

In the VFX industry, you'll find a variety of studios, ranging from large to small. Each presents unique opportunities for emerging artists. How do you choose between aiming for the renowned big studios or the smaller ones that might offer more creative freedom?

As a visual effects artist, animator, digital painter, or 3D modeler, choosing where to work in the competitive film and television industry requires careful consideration.

Here, we explore the distinguishing characteristics of both smaller and larger VFX studios to aid you in making a well-informed choice.

Culture at smaller VFX studios

Foster Close Relationships with Team Members

For those who thrive in environments with strong social bonds and a closely-knit community, smaller VFX studios are renowned for their intimate team atmospheres. In these settings, the physical proximity often facilitates more interaction between departments, providing valuable insights into the VFX pipeline and the methodologies of fellow artists.

While smaller teams may offer fewer networking opportunities internally, collaborations with other companies can present avenues for expanding your professional network beyond the studio walls.

Gain Personalized Mentorship Opportunities

At smaller studios, the reduced staff size provides the opportunity for more direct interaction with supervisors and admired artists.

With fewer ongoing projects, individuals often have the bandwidth to engage in detailed discussions, offering valuable insights and guidance. This direct mentorship allows you to learn firsthand from experts in your desired field, acquiring tips and tricks to advance in your career.

Improved Work-Life Balance

Smaller studios offer a conducive environment for achieving a better work-life balance, thanks to less demanding clients and fewer ongoing projects.

While you may not tackle the most VFX-intensive sequences from blockbuster films, you're more likely to have time for after-work activities with friends or family dinners. However, it's essential to note that smaller studios still adhere to deadlines and may require occasional overtime.

Work culture at larger VFX studios

Expanded Networking and Learning Opportunities

While you might have less individualized attention from supervisors at larger studios, you'll have access to a broader array of talented artists. This diverse pool of professionals offers abundant opportunities for learning and networking, potentially paving the way for future job prospects and collaborative ventures.

Enhanced Daily and Weekly Task Organization

Larger studios, with their increased staff and expansive facilities, necessitate more structured processes and procedures. This structured environment is ideal for individuals who thrive on routine and clear task organization.

Bigger Budgets

In larger VFX studios, substantial budgets often translate to a range of office perks, including catered meals, on-site gym facilities, and engaging events such as extravagant film wrap parties and exclusive screenings. Additionally, you may benefit from additional training sessions and insightful talks from industry experts. These rewards serve to acknowledge and appreciate your dedication and hard work.

Increased Workload and Overtime

Larger VFX studios, often collaborating with prestigious clients, typically experience busier workdays and tighter deadlines, driven by elevated expectations. Consequently, this may entail more overtime and potentially heighten stress levels, with instances of all-nighters not uncommon.

For individuals with few other life commitments and a desire to challenge themselves, overtime may be viewed as an opportunity for accelerated learning. However, it's crucial to prioritize self-care and avoid burnout amidst demanding workloads.

Roles & responsibilities at smaller VFX studios

Engage in Diverse Responsibilities

Joining a smaller VFX studio often entails taking on multiple roles, offering valuable benefits for newcomers. Embracing various tasks fosters versatility, enhancing your teamwork skills and providing a comprehensive grasp of the VFX pipeline and its departments.

Dabbling in a spectrum of responsibilities early in your career aids in identifying your strengths and passions. Moreover, involvement across multiple project facets proves advantageous for those aspiring to pursue a generalized approach in their profession.

Limited Advancement Opportunities but Increased Visibility

Smaller VFX studios may offer fewer avenues for job title advancements and promotions. Nonetheless, they provide a fertile ground for individual artists to shine and carve out a distinct reputation within the organization. Additionally, such settings often afford ample opportunities for creative contributions and collaboration among team members.

Streamlined Workflow

Compared to larger studios, smaller VFX studios typically operate with fewer layers of management and less rigid production processes. This streamlined approach enables a quicker workflow and fosters an environment conducive to creative problem-solving.

For emerging artists seeking rapid skill development and the freedom to explore new ideas without stringent constraints, smaller VFX studios offer an advantageous platform.

Roles & responsibilities at larger VFX studios

Increased Specialization

Large studios, owing to their considerable artist pool, tend to foster more specialized roles, which can align well with certain career aspirations.

However, it's essential to exercise caution, as specialization may lead to being pigeonholed, resulting in repetitive tasks across projects. While this can be enjoyable initially, it may eventually become monotonous.

Ample Growth Opportunities with Increased Competition

Larger VFX studios offer the advantage of bigger budgets, facilitating access to cutting-edge technology, top-tier talent, and involvement in high-profile film projects. The gratification of seeing your name in the credits of a major motion picture can be profoundly rewarding.

With multiple departments and projects running concurrently, there are abundant avenues for professional development and learning. However, it's crucial to acknowledge the heightened competition inherent in larger studios when aiming to progress in your career.

Sophisticated Pipeline with Rigorous Protocols

In larger film studios, the VFX pipeline tends to be more intricate but is often efficiently managed with the support of numerous pipeline TDs and developers.

For newcomers to the industry, navigating this complexity may initially seem daunting. However, once you grasp the intricacies of the pipeline, processes, and protocols, you'll be well-prepared to seamlessly transition to any future studio environment. It's worth noting that each studio's pipeline, and occasionally even each project, may vary slightly, necessitating the acquisition of new skills with each new opportunity.

Still undecided between a small or large VFX studio?

While each option presents its own benefits, the right choice boils down to your personal preferences and career aspirations. Here are some key points to ponder:

  • Remember, every VFX and animation studio is unique, so use this information as a general guide.
  • Seek insights from industry peers or mentors about their workplace experiences.
  • Check reputable platforms like Glassdoor for anonymous workplace reviews.
  • Make a list of your job priorities and evaluate which studio aligns best with your needs.
  • Consider the types of projects typically undertaken by each studio.
  • Ultimately, success often depends on making the most of your current situation, regardless of studio size.

Considering these factors should aid you in making a well-informed decision regarding the next steps in your VFX career journey.

Prepare to work at any size VFX studio with Bletchley Institute, powered by CG Spectrum

No matter what WFX career pathway you pursue, it's important to have a solid foundation of skills to be a competitive candidate for industry roles. Our expert-led game design and game programming programs not only teach you those essential skills, but also support your career search to ensure you'r eready to land at a VFX studio of any size.

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