Vfx, Shaders, Particles - QUESTIONS


Recently I’ve been wondering if I could learn something about VFX. Someone told me that when it comes to games, to create VFX I need to learn something about shaders and particles, and the best place to start is Unity. Then I’ve been reading something about VFX in movies, and how they are being made in Maya or Houdini. By reading Internet stuff I got pretty confused, so I was hoping there is someone kind enough to explain it as simple as possible:

  1. What are shaders, can you learn them without much knowledge and skills in programming, where are they commonly used and which software is best (in terms of resources) to learn something about them, and of course are there any good resources/courses to learn (if, as I said, it’s possible for a newbie)
  2. ^^Same goes for particles^^
  3. Same goes for VFX we can see in movies and animations.

I know these things are pretty hard to learn and I might sound like a desperate, uneducated noob, but I really find this things fascinating and would like to learn something more about them. So thank you for anyone willing to help and have a nice day y’all!


Hi dsnvlns,

When people talk about shaders in games or film they are talking about the look of an object or a scene, color, lighting, material, texture etc. Basically a shader tells the program how to render each pixel. For VFX you will need to learn about particles and dynamics so that you can create simulations, such as a building blowing up or smoke billowing from the explosion, for example. Houdini is great software for this. You will need to learn how to model 3D objects to use in your simulations. You will need a powerful computer with multiple CPU’s, lots of RAM and the best graphics card you can afford.

Before getting onto complex things like VFX straight away, take an Introduction to Unity course online (if games are what you are interested in.) The course should provide some assets for you to create a simple game with, and yes, there will be some coding but in a beginners course they should provide you with the code.


I agree with toulalee.
To some up.
FX for games still have to be optimized for games look as good as possible while performing well with the game. This is getting better and better but is still confined by the requirements of running in a game environment.

FX for Movies are make the best looking effect you can with the time that you are given for a given shot.
So if you have six months and need to do it with 200 plus simulations together with terrabytes of memory and it needs a week the render on the render farm (forget about real time). Than you can. And if you need something else for another shot you need to do build it to fit that shot’s context. You might be able to get a head start with some related FX assets for another related shot-but it will never be plug-and-play.

Both types will use some type of shader. In the case of FX for films -likely many shader types and render layers all put together in comp for the final result.

So really the end goals differ quite a bit.


If you want to learn VFX for movies then you’d need to learn Houdini, Unity is a video game engine.

And VFX are becoming more technical, you wouldn’t necessarily need to know how to make shaders if you’re doing particle FX, and if you do want to learn how to make shaders that will require some coding skills.


thank you guys so much for taking your time and explaining this stuff to me, really appreciate it!


yeah, i had the same problem