Visual effects artist presents alternative route for students

Posted on Thursday 2nd March 2017
Jonathan Reilly

"Work hard and doors will open for you” was the message from visual effects expert Jonathan Reilly to University of Bolton Games students.

With experience in both the games and film industry, Jonathan spoke to second year Games Design, Games Art and Games Programming students as part of their Employability module.

He is now Senior Creature Character Artist at Double Negative and his most recent work includes the Jungle Book which won the Academy Award for best Visual Effects on Sunday evening, as well as Skyfall and Thor: The Dark World.

Jonathan’s career began in the games industry in the early 2000s when he began working for Bizarre Creations, the distinguished production company behind the racing series Project Gotham Racing.

‘I started in games and did 12 years in the industry before I moved over to films,’ said Jonathan.

‘After working at Bizarre Creation I went to Sony and worked on Wipeout. I had moved to TT Fusion working on the Lego game when someone said I should try working at Double Negative.

‘I had never heard of Double Negative, I didn’t even know film existed in the UK for that sort of level, but I applied and a month later I was working there.’

In recent years he has crossed back and forth between the games and movie industry which, due to the advancement of technology, now have a lot in common.

‘From an artistic side the industries are very similar. They may use some higher end texture resolutions in film but the quality and poly counts and programmes being used are the same. Games are using programmes like MARI to texture and Substance Design is used as much in film as it is in games.

‘The quality bar is higher in films because it’s pre-rendered but even that gap is getting smaller and smaller.’

As a result, many of the skills Jonathan learnt early in his career now allow him to switch between the two genres.

‘There’s a relative set of skills that I use for both, whether I’m creating Shere Khan in the Jungle Book or the Vanduul for Star Citizen, it’s a very sort of similar process.

‘The only difference is for film it’s usually a faster turnaround because a project may last six months or a year.

‘I personally prefer film because of the variety in the projects. One minute I could be working on the Jungle Book and then the next a James Bond film and then the next a Sci Fi shooter.’