What does a layout artist do?
Layout artists determine the position of the virtual camera and ‘block’ the characters for computer generated image (CG) shots of a VFX sequence. To ‘block’ the characters, means to choreograph where the characters are positioned and where they will move to over the course of a shot.
Layout artists consider a shot’s framing, composition, camera angle, camera path and movement, and the rough lighting of each key scene. They keep a consistent scale of the elements within the frame. The work that layout artists do enables other VFX artists to have a basis for shot construction later in the VFX production pipeline.
They communicate with the director to work out what virtual camera ‘language’ to use; how they want the animation to be framed and look on screen. On larger-scale projects, such as certain feature films, layout artists will produce several versions of virtual camera shots of a scene, as well as its composition. This is so that the director and editors have options when ‘cutting’ the film together in post-production.
Layout artists can work as full-time employees of major VFX companies or studios. They can also work as freelancers on a project-by-project basis.
What’s a layout artist good at?
- Art: have a good eye for movement and scene layout to best convey mood and plot
- Photography: have an eye for composition, know how to tell a story through a shot, understand camera and lighting techniques, know how to use them to affect emotions
- Knowledge of VFX programs: be adept at using relevant programs such as Adobe After Effects, Blender, Cinema 4D, Houdini, Maya, Nuke, RenderMan and 3ds Max
- Collaboration and communication: be able to work with other VFX artists, use each other’s resources effectively and efficiently
- Organisation: work within the production schedule, manage files and meet deadlines