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Four Books Every VFX Artist Should Check Out

Four Books Every VFX Artist Should Check Out

The knowledge found in books are truly timeless! Pick up these four books and grow as a VFX artist.

I know what you might be thinking: who reads anymore? I can get all this info on the internet for free! And so on.

While it’s true you have more free knowledge at your disposal than ever before in history (our blog is one example), there’s something special about a good book that’s focused, informative, and easy to come back to. 

The knowledge accessible between two covers is oftentimes equivalent to many hundreds of blogs on a given topic, and the best part is it’s all curated for you upfront. The following titles are a perfect fit for your shelves. You can read them front to back and get your fill in one go, or use them as a reference for overcoming challenges or finding inspiration.
Computers with VFX coming out of the screens

1. The Art and Science of Digital Compositing by Ron Brinkmann

For me in college, this book was part of a very important epiphany: being a good VFX artist isn’t about mastery of programs. In self-guided learning on the internet, I found myself going from tutorial to tutorial picking up new ways of solving problems. This was great because I learned as I went and eventually built up a great repertoire of tools. 

What wasn’t so great, however, was that it prevented me from seeing beneath the surface and considering the fundamental Art and Science (as the book says) of what I was doing. Now in its 2nd edition, this book truly covers the full gamut.

From keying, to rotoscope, to onset techniques, it is an incredible place to start if you want to build a foundation as an artist and get away from the program first mindset. I can not recommend it enough!

2. Filming the Fantastic, Second Edition: A Guide to Visual Effects Cinematography by Mark Sawicki

Also in its second edition is this fantastic guide for the production side of our coin. Filming the Fantastic is a great place for reference but also inspiration as it demystifies a lot of incredible techniques from miniatures to stop motion and much more. 

While a lot of these concepts are simple on the surface, there’s a level of depth and critical thinking evoked by Sawicki that is sure to get your gears turning in the right direction.

It’s cliche at this point but still just as true: visual effects go all the way from pre to post and you can never be too informed if you end up on set or behind the camera yourself. Save the time, and consider some new ways of doing things before the footage hits your drive!
The real Millennium Falcon model used in Star Wars.

3. Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Innovation by Pamela Glintenkamp

Now, let's switch gears to inspirational content. Pamela Glintenkamp's recount of ILM’s birth and rise is just as much history as it is an art book with a beautiful look into the work of the world’s most influential visual effects company. 

ILM receives mountains of praise and there’s a reason for it. Not only are they constantly paving the road ahead, but in many ways, they started it to begin with. One of my favorite parts of this book is it includes quotes from many of ILM’s contemporaries, such as animation director Hal Hickel (give his Twitter a follow if you’re loving The Mandalorian Season 2)!

Speaking of the Mandalorian, check out the boundary-pushing VFX from ILM on set of season one!

4. Design Essentials for the Motion Media Artist: A Practical Guide to Principles & Techniques by Angie Taylor

Sometimes I wish we could change the wording to: artist of visual effects. To me, this is more indicative of the priorities! We’re artists first and therefore the fundamentals always apply. From color to composition to shape, and more—these are core components of art that transcend both discipline and medium. 

This book is on this list for exactly that reason. There are fundamental teachings within these pages that will enhance every and all projects you work on in the visual medium. At the end of the day, it’s a great place for basics, and that’s something we all need!

These four books cover a wide range of topics while all being applicable to personal growth as an artist. Consider browsing similar titles as you explore the many tools that improve your craft!

In the meantime, check out the plethora of other articles on our blog!

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