Special Effects Training: Education and Job Training Requirements for a Career in Special Effects

Published Aug 14, 2009

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Ever wonder how filmmakers create mythical creatures and fantasy worlds, stage impossible stunts and otherwise bend reality, while making it all look as natural as daylight? Consider becoming a Special Effects technician and learn the secrets behind the magic. Learn what it takes to enter the field of Special Effects and bring your dreams to life!

Special Effects Technician Career Summary

As a Special Effects, or SPFX, professional, your job is to create the layouts, stunts and visual illusions in films and other visual media such as videos and computer games. Special Effects can be broken down into four fields, explains the All Effects Company, www.allfx.com. Mechanical effects involve creating events or stunts that are impossible or too dangerous to be filmed in live action, such as a car crash or a tornado. Robotics and animatronics are involved in making and manipulating mechanical devices, including puppets, to behave like living creatures. Makeup is the art of changing an actor's appearance to fit a role, by use of makeup and prosthetics. Visual effects are those created by use of the camera or through computer-generated imagery (CGI).

Education Required to Become a Special Effects Technician

While there are no formal education requirements to become a Special Effects professional, the field requires an extensive skill set. To work in mechanical effects, fabrication skills such as welding, plumbing, electrical and automotive mechanics, are crucial, as well as a solid background in math and physics, chemistry and expertise in pyrotechnics. Robotics and animatronics require individuals trained in computer programming, computer technology or electrical engineering, and those with experience as sculptors and seamstresses. Finding work as a makeup specialist usually requires formal training at schools such as the EI School of Professional Makeup in Hollywood. Visual effects is a discipline taught at many film schools, while more and more 4-year colleges, such as Elmhurst College in Elmhurst, Illinois, are offering courses in computer-generated imagery (CGI) and entertainment technology.

Job Training and Certifications Required to Become a Special Effects Technician

Training and certification will depend on which area of Special Effects you want to practice. For instance, those interested in visual effects should probably pursue an associate's, bachelor's or master of fine arts degree program in film or video while makeup artist would do well by attending beauty or makeup school. A computer science degree with an emphasis on entertainment and gaming technology can prepare you for a career as a game producer. Another option, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.org, is for aspiring Special Effects technicians to simply start at the entry level, running errands and performing manual tasks on movie sets.

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