The Visual Effects Bubble Chart

Visual Effects Bubble Chart
A visual representation of the relative weights of different disciplines and skills in an ideal, comprehensive visual effects education.

I had a chance to share this latest incarnation of what has become known as “Tad’s Visual Effects Bubble Chart” with a group of CG educators who attended Escape’s Educator’s Summit last week. I’ve been developing it off and on since around 2002 (although I drew a simplified, bubble-free version on a whiteboard at NYU in the summer of 2000).

The original purpose was to explain to students the various disciplines that make up visual effects. It has since been refined to more specifically illustrate the relative importance of each as part of an idealized visual effects education (which would probably take about 6-8 years). Since originally conceived, it had been used in conversations with professors, school administrators, government agencies, producers and directors. It also proves extremely useful in talking to students who are just getting started with visual effects (or considering it as a career).

Edit: I should note here that I treat character animation as a separate educational pursuit (which would have its own bubble chart). My stance is that if someone wants to be a character animator, they should spend all of their time learning to create a performance. The “Animation” bubble is there to represent the amount of animation necessary for people who don’t want to be character animators. Many visual effects programs grew out of animation programs, and still require students to spend lots of time on character animation.

The Visual Effects Bubble Chart’s main function, however, was to act as a visual representation of a book that I planned on writing (and had been working out in lectures and classes) for 15 years. The title would have been: Understanding Visual Effects: A Practical Approach for Digital Artists, which reflects my belief that none of the bubbles (aside from CG Foundations) need computer graphics to work, and were, in fact, practiced for decades without computer graphics.

Also keep in mind that what you see here is the bubble chart in its most static form. It’s meant to be animated, and the disciplines and sub-disciplines should bloop out as I introduce and discuss each one. Failing that, I’ve worked hard to jam lots of information into it, even in the form of a printed graphic.

Several educators have told me that it would be extremely helpful to them to have a copy of “Tad’s Visual Effects Bubble Chart” to share with students as well as their colleagues, so here it is.

I’ll be sure to let you know when there is a blooping version available on your iPad.

Edit: The bubble chart has been revised to add clarity about character animation and to include creature/character development disciplines, which have returned to the chart following compelling input.

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