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Salary and Career Info for a Visual Effects Technician

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a visual effects technician. Get a quick view of the job description along with salary statistics and career information to find out if this is the job for you.

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Essential Information

Visual effects technicians, sometimes referred to in the industry as special effects technicians, use computer software programs to create virtual worlds and characters for movies and television shows. These technicians need a fine eye for detail and the ability to follow a director's artistic ideas. Most technicians possess a bachelor's degree in art with a focus related to digital media.

Required Education (Multimedia Artists and Animators) A Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation, Computer Graphics or Digital Media
Projected Job Growth (Multimedia Artists and Animators) 6% from 2012 - 2022*
Median Annual Salary (May, 2013) (Multimedia Artists and Animators) $64,470*

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) places visual effects technicians under the category of multimedia artists (www.bls.gov). According to the BLS, multimedia artists and animators earned an annual median salary of $64,470 in May 2013. Most visual effects technicians work in the motion picture and video industry. Multimedia artists in this industry earned an annual average salary of $84,610 in May 2013, according to the BLS.

Location significantly affects salary. For example, multimedia artists and animators working in California made an average annual salary of $88,150 in May 2013, compared to those working in New Mexico, who earned $70,310. BLS records from that same year showed California paid the highest annual average salaries for this field, especially in the following metropolitan regions:

  • Los Angeles, $92,730
  • Oakland, $88,810
  • San Francisco, $83,950

Career Information

Creating animation effects for film, television, and the Internet, multimedia artists use computer software programs to produce computer generated imagery (CGI). These individuals use special computer applications to color, shade, and morph images as needed. Within the motion picture industry, visual effects technicians blend film segments of real actors with CGI elements to create the appearance of interaction between actors and a virtual world.

O*NET Online states that visual effects technicians, as multimedia artists, also draw storyboards that help the director position the actors to best interact with CGI elements that will be added in post-production editing (www.online.onetcenter.org). Technicians also meet with the director and film crew to discuss what CGI effects are needed and how they should look onscreen.

Most employers require multimedia artists to possess a bachelor's degree that focuses on animation and digital media, such as a fine arts degree. Coursework often includes several drawing classes, software and graphic design, motion design, 2-D and 3-D imagery, animation techniques, and digital illustration. These types of undergraduate degrees usually take four to five years to complete.

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