View Full Version : Professional Studio Workflow

10 October 2011, 06:18 PM
I have learned a lot of the technical skills and I have no doubt that there's more training online I can access to broaden those skills, however I have yet to really find good information on how a studio operates. Where could I learn how a professional studio operates and what each position means.

So far I've got a decent understanding of what a TD does, but that's about it in the post production area. I know what the producer of a film would do and what the director does but in the CG world how do things operate in a professional studio? Where can I find more information about this?

The way I learn things is like a sponge, I have this interest in learning something then i soak up as much quality information as I possibly can as fast as I can so hit me with as much as you can.

Thanks in advance guys.

10 October 2011, 06:51 PM
Just off the top of my head (and apologies to any of my lovely colleagues if I accidentally skip their department), these are the roles you'll find in any big studio (ignoring HR, recruiting, IT and upper management as they're not specific to this industry):


Line producers - deal with budgets, schedules, etc. They ensure the film is running on schedule and in accordance to budget.

Production manager - the name of this role may change from studio to studio but generally speaking, during a show each department (assets, animation, etc) will have a production manager who deals with production stuff for that department only. So similar to a line producer but a kind of mini overlord for that department specifically.

VFX producer - the overall studio-side producer for the show. Has the final call on bids, budgets, etc and deals directly with the clients.

Production co-ordinators - there are usually one or two per department, they deal directly with the artists on a day-to-day basis to ensure everyone knows what they need to do, keeps them up to date with schedules and scheduling changes, organises dailies, etc.


VFX editor - these guys and gals keep up to date with all the latest changes from the client's edit, and manage all the shots for dailies and output.

There are definitely other job roles related to editorial like data ops and stuff, who deal with receiving all the turnover (footage) from the client, digitising stuff, dealing with storage and whatnot.

Art department

Concept artists - as the title suggests, they do concept art for the show. Not all studios have internal art departments but it does seem to be an increasing trend for them to have one.

Art director - oversees the conceptual work and sometimes also works on the overall look of the show together with the director and VFX sup.

VFX Artists

Roto - separate footage into useable layers for compositing. Kinda like using the Pen tool in Photoshop, but on a frame-by-frame basis to, for example, take a character from a plate and put it on its own layer, so that some CG can be inserted inbetween. This is commonly an entry-level position but many people do actually specialise in it longterm.

Matchmove / Tracking - make CG versions of the cameras on-set to ensure that rendered footage sits in the frame correctly.

Modeller - doesn't need an explanation.

Texture painter - doesn't need an explanation.

Rigger/Character TD - doesn't need an explanation, but do bear in mind that TD means "technical director", meaning that this is an artist who also has a strong technical skillset for scripting and other technical tasks.

Lookdev TD - sets up shaders.

Lighting TD - does lighting (lookdev and lighting artists often do both roles).

Generalist TD - an all round technical artist who can help with lots of different stuff.

FX / Effects TD - particles, simulations, cloth, etc.

Animator - doesn't need an explanation.

Animation director - oversees all animation on the show.

Matte painters - doesn't need an explanation.

Layout - works together with the art department to design the layout of props, buildings and stuff in scenes.

Compositors - usually just called comp, doesn't need an explanation.

CG supervisor - works beneath the VFX supervisor, often more directly and more frequently with the artists and department production than the VFX supervisor. Occasionally more than one per show.

VFX supervisor - oversees all the VFX, is basically in charge of the creative side of a show, but also deals with production. Studios assign one internal VFX sup to each show.


Pipeline TD / R&D - develops in-house tools and software to manage the studio's workflow.

Software engineer - develops in-house tools specifically related to creative processes (ie not pipeline related), although this role can differ from studio to studio.

Render wrangler - takes care of the render farm and manages rendering.

Hopefully I haven't left anyone out!

10 October 2011, 07:14 PM
That is the best answer I've ever had on these forums. I knew what most of those technical skills were and even have had a thing or two to do with them, especially rotoscoping, however I had no idea how a studio operated with these roles.

Thank you for the in depth answer. I'm definitely interested in getting into the vfx art department myself sooner than later. We'll have to see what I can pull together.

10 October 2011, 09:59 PM
Glad to be of help! If any more roles pop into my mind, I'll post them.

10 October 2011, 10:55 PM
Glad to be of help! If any more roles pop into my mind, I'll post them.

Yes you have!

Coffee - keeps everyone awake and the production going smooth, improves teamwork, team chemistry and brings sunlight to the gloomiest of days! Yet it's always taken for granted.

Great post otherwise. ;) :)

10 October 2011, 11:03 PM
Haha good one with the coffee.

10 October 2011, 11:32 PM
Pffff it isn't taken for granted! The last studio I worked at and the one I'm at now have espresso machines on every floor. I limit myself to two a day though :D

10 October 2011, 11:58 PM
Pffff it isn't taken for granted! The last studio I worked at and the one I'm at now have espresso machines on every floor. I limit myself to two a day though :D

I disagree, until I see "Coffee" in the end credits, special thanks at the very least, it is taken for granted.
I'm starting an NGO - People for Ethical Treatment of Coffee. :wise:


I also limit my self to two a day, but I always do double espresso so it's actually four. Regular espresso feels so hobbit like. :P

10 October 2011, 01:51 AM
I honestly don't drink coffee. I just run all on healthier food. Works really well for me and I stay pretty darn healthy. Plus it's quite cheaper.

But to keep this on topic I agree food should eventually make the special thanks list.

12 December 2011, 08:20 AM
I feel like that list needs to be stickied somewhere...

12 December 2011, 08:21 PM
Need more Java!! ^_^

12 December 2011, 02:51 AM
So the Line Producer is the Big Boss then!!??
Who is above the line producer? The studio owner I guess...
Honestly, I had never heard of this position a few days ago and that's exactly what I came here today to search for. So is there only 1 line producer/ project or is it a department in itself?

Thanks OP, brilliant post and also thank you to leigh.

12 December 2011, 03:27 AM
What's the distinction between a Line producer and a VFX producer? From the definitions, it looks like they both have the same work

Line producer:
Can you give me an example of exactly how a line producer would schedule his daily work or even when an he comes into the pic?

From what I've read, this is what I understand-
A story teller (for the lack of a better term) approaches a studio owner to make an animated movie. If the owner thinks the project is interesting he calls in the line producer.

1.So then the Line producer comes in, he reads the script (I'm thinking at this point there would be no story boards) and based on it and some meetings with the story teller, tries to get a feel of the style and quality that is desired and the rough deadline that the client wants to target.

2.Based on that he would start calculating how much time would be spent in pre-production, how many artists, hardware, other tools needed and for what time duration...he then does the same for the production and post production phases. He'll submit all these numbers to the studio owner.

3.If the project is started then he'll have to monitor the entire production with the help of Production Managers who answer to him. Based on the level of productivity, he'll give them a thumbs up signal or if the productivity is low , will ask them to give more output/stretch out more...
He will rarely deal with artists directly and will depend on Production Managers and Team Leads to do that.

4.He'll be giving daily/weekly reports to the client. He'll also handle the changes required by the client.

Is that correct?
Anything that I've left out or am wrong in assuming?

12 December 2011, 09:05 AM
The line producer is lower in hierarchy than the VFX producer. The VFX producer is the studio's main producer, while there may be a couple of line producers further down the chain of command.

CGTalk Moderation
12 December 2011, 09:05 AM
This thread has been automatically closed as it remained inactive for 12 months. If you wish to continue the discussion, please create a new thread in the appropriate forum.