The title of ‘video artist’ is a fairly new one, and the term itself is representative of a changing dynamic in the creation of media.
Whereas, previously, the entertainment industry has relied on specialists in each department to handle one aspect and just that aspect, the digitization of post-production elements has de-emphasized specialization.
The clearest example of the shift is in the area of video editing, VFX, motion graphics, and color grading.
A skilled video artist can execute all of these tasks and more. But what does it take to get to this level of expertise?
Think of this as a kind of boot camp for aspiring video artists who might be wondering how they can go from being a hobbyist to a fully-fledged professional.
For any of you out there who might find yourself in this position, there’s one piece of information that can be good news and bad news at the same time: you’re on your own.
Now, for anyone who typically works better within a network of coworkers and under the leadership of a manager or supervisor, this would definitely be bad news.
But for anyone who thrives in an environment where they can act as their own boss and take on as much work as they can handle, it’s undoubtedly good news.
It’s true that one day, after completing many projects on a freelance or contract basis, you might attract the attention of a major studio and decide to become a full-time employee.
But earning a role like this one requires that you prove yourself first, demonstrating that you can handle big-name projects and deliver the goods on-time.
We’re going to offer some valuable tips, with the help of in-demand video artist Denis Ogorodov, who has credits on projects for Twitch, the Boston Celtics, Jeep, Toyota, Coca-Cola, Google, Nike, and many more.
How to familiarize yourself with VR content
VR content is going to become more important and more prevalent as time goes on. While VR has been slow to enter the mainstream, new tech is making the creation, distribution, and consumption of VR video and video games far easier than ever before.
Not every video artist needs to focus on VR, but if you want to be able to offer comprehensive services to clients, then there is a large chance that you will be asked to work with VR.
But how can a starter-level video artist familiarize him or herself with VR? Wouldn’t it take an incredible expensive editing rig just to be able to process and render VR video?
Fortunately for us, Ogorodov has extensive experience in VR video, and his advice for aspiring video artists who want to work with VR content in the future, whether live-action or game-based, was:
“Play games! There’s plenty of cheap or free-to-play VR games. You can use these to great effect to experiment with VR as a medium for storytelling, pacing, camera movement, and set design. Also look into Unreal Engine, the base version is free, and it is a fantastic place to start exploring VR and real-time 3D Physics engines.”
While VR gaming doesn’t represent the full breadth of what VR content demands of its editors, it can give the user valuable, immersive firsthand experience with the format.
For example, standard video editing involves creating a visual experience that will be largely similar for different viewers. There is a single field of view and viewers will all see the entire contents of the screen.
But in VR, viewer/player choice is a much more significant factor.
Understanding how to curate a much broader visual space and learning some tricks from the VR content that’s already out there could be invaluable to anyone hoping to work with VR video in the future.
In the old days, most of the equipment editors needed to do their work was provided by a movie studio or production house.
In fact, when we look back several decades, editing gear like the Moviola couldn’t even be moved, so there was zero chance of working from home.
But with post-production software only becoming more ubiquitous (and more advanced), video artists need to put quite a lot of thought into the resources they use for their work, especially when it comes to hardware.
Yes, any consumer-grade computer can technically run some form of editing software, but just try to import HD or 4K software on your HP laptop and see what happens.
Meeting professional expectations means being a skilled professional whose gear can keep up with the workload.
Ogorodov offered a couple of different viable options for video artists looking to take on more demanding projects:
“You could purchase a mid-tier laptop for $1,500 and download the free version of DaVinci Resolve and that would be a great starting point, but make sure it has a discrete graphics card! A desktop PC built by yourself will almost always be the best value, but as an editor starting out, the portability of a laptop makes you a very flexible editor. I’ve actually written a guide on how to build your PC, which you can read here if interested.”
If it wasn’t clear already, there’s a decent amount of room for flexibility in the hardware department.
The most important standard by which you should judge your PC is the complexity of the work you want to take on.
This is why a custom-build PC is such an appealing option for so many professionals: the quality and the price are entirely up to you.
Best of all, a custom-build PC can also be upgraded piece by piece if you so choose. As Ogorodov mentioned, no matter what the project, your graphics card will always be incredibly important, and if you’re hoping to work with 4K or VR video, you will need a high-end GPU, no questions asked.
How useful are tutorials?
We’re all aware of the massive amount of online tutorials available today, especially within the realm of computers, video editing, and VFX.
Many of the creators behind these tutorials are motivated by views and the promise of substantial ad revenue, which is good news for the average viewer because it means many of them are offered for free.
But, of course, there are also paid learning platforms that offer what they claim to be more professional and more valuable resources, in exchange for a monthly subscription fee.
For someone hoping to learn all they can about different aspects of post-production, the sheer number of resources can be daunting. Which are the most valuable? Is it possible to become a pro simply by watching YouTube tutorial videos?
Ogorodov weighed in to help clear up some of the confusion:
“Tutorials available online are fantastic, whether you are using LinkedIn learning or Lynda or free platforms like YouTube and Vimeo. Online tutorials alone aren’t enough of course, as the only way to truly learn is to actually do the work, but they can be an invaluable resource to get familiar with the software, what it can and can’t do, and more importantly, it can be a fantastic solution to troubleshoot problems when on a job.”
With this advice in mind, we could compare tutorials, of any kind, to vitamins. Yes, using them can be very helpful, but by no means should they represent 100% of your ‘diet.’
Experience will always be a fantastic teacher, and different online resources may offer very disparate perspectives on solving the same problems.
Try to take in as much information as you can while also practicing specific techniques. After all, lessons are only useful if you can actually apply the knowledge to your work. Overloading your brain with tools and techniques that you forget about three days later isn’t going to help anyone.
How to meet deadlines consistently
To end our look at becoming a professional video artist, we will be discussing communication with clients and how to manage their expectations.
Managing client expectations before the project has really begun will always prove to be a saving grace.
In particular, effective and clear communication can assure that you will have plenty of time to deliver a finished product that will please the client.
Obviously, this dynamic is extremely important for freelance video artists and those who make their living from contract work, but these are also important ideas for any video artist working in any environment.
If you can’t communicate well with the people ordering the work, then the results won’t be satisfactory and you won’t get recommended for more work in the future.
So what did Ogorodov have to say on the subject?
“Clarity is the key. If one round of notes requires significantly more work, the onus is on you to make that clear. The other key point is that if a deadline is pushed or the project goes in a different direction, this is now a new contract with new terms. Your client might not truly understand what they are asking from you. It is up to you to make things crystal clear.”
You will need to be your own best advocate. If a client changes their request partway through the process, it’s in your best interest to have proof of how those expectations have changed.
This is just one small way that the work of the video artist can extend beyond the work itself.
What this job entails is extensive to begin with, and it will change even more over the course of your career as a video artist.
But having a solid foundation, skillset, and the ability to communicate well will protect your reputation and possibly even expand your career until it reaches new horizons.