Vincent Serritella of Sony Imageworks – Siggraph Chapter Meeting

Vincent Serritella

Vincent Serritella, senior technical director of Sony Imageworks visited South Florida April 23, 2010, where he gave an amazing lecture on the creation of the Chesire Cat in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.  Vincent also gave us some valuable advice about the visual effects industry, a brief history on how he came to work with Sony Imageworks and free tutorial DVDs of Houdini 3D software courtesy of Side FX.

Here are a few tips given by Vincent at this meeting:

Hiring a concept artist is important.
Having a concept artist will save weeks of production time and money.  A concept artist can show to the director different looks that an effect can carry out in stills instead of using computer animations, the artist can create 3-4 different art stills in one day.  Each drawing was created using Adobe’s Photoshop and open source software Gimp.  Conceptual art can be as simple as a line drawing to illustrate the effect.

Keep your 3D sketching loose and open.
Upon choosing of the concept art you move on to create rough 3D animation sketches, Vincent explained that keeping your 3D sketch animations “loose and open” is very important.  The samples he showed were brief and not finalized to keep collaboration open between other artists, if you show a completed 3D sketch you will close out any future ideas and further development of the sequence, he also stressed on how important collaboration is for a project and that visual effects in movies are a full team effort.

Think before you work.

Have a game plan.

Learn your tools.
He explained that a painter needs to practice with various paints before they sit behind the canvas, so when it comes time to paint,  the art comes out with instinct, this is something that can be applied to any medium.

How to land a career as a visual effects artist for motion films.
Vincent’s advice was to start off by doing commercial work as this will allow you to learn a lot, add more content to your demo reel, get you paid, keep you doing new things, and work with off the shelf products instead of proprietary software used by some motion film studios.  Vincent stated that many times artists will go straight into film studios and work on only few projects a year, being that motion films have deadlines as long as months, compared to commercial work  which can be less than two weeks. Working on only a few projects might also get you typecast to only one certain effect job.

More about Vincent:

Vincent started out in the fine arts, he later taught himself 3D animation, afterwards he was able to get work at Rhino FX when they were starting out, he worked on commercials for companies such as UPS and M&Ms while working at Rhino. SideFX got interested in the work he was creating using their Houdini software so they asked him to fly to California to demonstrate their software.  While he was there Sony Imageworks approached him about working on Spiderman 2, since then he had the opportunity working on feature films such as Disney’s The Haunted Mansion, Ghost Rider, Hancock, Beowulf – where he received a 2008 VES Award nomination, The Polar Express, Cursed, The Watchmen, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Alice and Wonderland.  Vincent is also a very talented painter, you may see some of his work here:

I would like to thank SideFx for providing Vincent with free video training DVDs to give to the attendees, you can get your free copy of Houdini here:

A big thanks goes to Fort Lauderdale Chapter’s Siggraph for organizing this meeting, as always, I learned new things and met great people.  For future announcements on upcoming events, please visit their website:

Last but not least, I would like to send a special thank you to Vincent Serritella for taking the time to create such a powerful and informative presentation, I wish you much continued success.

You may see images of this event here: Link