Nathan Anderson - Rebelway Online VFX Course Alumni

How did you start in 3D and how did you discover Houdini?

 I was always interested in computers from a young age, and started programming simple games around the age of 13. After seeing people post some of their VFX work online, I thought it would be an interesting thing to try. A friend of mine was using Blender at the time so I decided to try that too, and it became my first 3D tool. It started as a hobby and after several years grew into a career. I was doing a lot of generalized sort of work, but was always most interested in effects work. I think the mixture of technical and creative needs suits me well, along with my patience to wait for sims. So naturally my interest in effects led me to discovering Houdini. I quickly saw the potential of how powerful it could be so making the switch was a clear choice.

Where do you currently work?

 I’m working full-time at a studio called Priest. We’re based in Cape Town, South Africa.

What drives you to learn the craft of 3D & VFX?

 Personally what drives me the most is the actual process of making things. I enjoy getting absorbed in the work, figuring out out things, and seeing how it all comes together to create beautiful imagery. I’m always looking at other people’s work to help get inspired and see what new challenges I can take on and learn.


There are many vfx schools & tutorial websites. In your opinion how does Rebelway compare?

 It’s true there are a lot of schools and tutorials on the internet these days. And since I didn’t study at a university this was the way I learnt and have done a ton of tutorials and courses from various places. A lot of them teach techniques in an isolated context. What I like about Rebelway is they teach in a much more complete way. Teaching not just techniques but also how and why things are done in certain ways, and how to apply that knowledge however you wish.


What did Rebelway help you achieve?

 After completing Rebelway courses and updating my reel I received multiple job offers. And more importantly the kind of work I was getting was more of what I was interested in doing.


How did Rebelway help you take your craft to the next level? What were the highlights? 

 I’ve done 3 courses with Rebelway. Introduction to Houdini, Mastering Pyro FX, and Water FX.
All of them were really great and helped me immensely. In particular before taking the Mastering Pyro course I had a hard time understanding how to manipulate volumes. In the course we learnt how to build our own smoke and Pyro solvers from scratch, which was a really big breakthrough in understanding what’s going on at a lower level. All that makes it much easier to know how to then control things at a higher level.

Tell us about your favorite project accomplished in Houdini. What made it interesting? What were the challenges you faced? 

 It’s difficult to choose a favourite, but the beach waves project I did as part of the Water FX course comes to mind, I thought the end result turned out great. Water is such a challenging task and I went through quite a few iterations and did 38 fluid sims and 28 whitewater sims before I was happy. There are so many steps you have to take to get fluid to look realistic and balancing that while managing the heavy data and still being able to control it in the way you want is rather tricky. There is so much information in that course that I still plan to go through it a second time so I can absorb even more knowledge.

Who inspires you as an artist? Who do you look up to and why?

 Saber Jlassi and Igor Zanic from Rebelway have both taught me a huge amount about Houdini and their dedication inspires me. But most of all I have to mention my mentor Grant Aerts, from the studio I work at, who took me under his wing when I started there and was always very patient and generous with guiding me in the right direction.

What podcasts or youtube channels keep you motivated to grow as an artist?

 The VFXShow podcasts on FX Guide are usually interesting, as are Allan Mckay’s podcasts. As for youtube channels I like Gleb Alexandrov, Hugo’s Desk, Flipped Normals, Houdini’s own youtube channel of course, and then all the big studios like Weta, MPC, ILM, Framestore. But I tend to rather browse Vimeo for FX inspiration. There’s a ton of amazing FX artists on Vimeo that would be too many to mention.

What’s next for you on your artistic journey?

 You can find out by following me through the links below 😉

Nathan Anderson - Rebelway Online VFX Course Alumni