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Spencer Lueders

FX Supervisor & Instructor

Interview By Rebelway

Spencer Lueders, the acclaimed FX Supervisor and newest instructor joining the Rebelway team! In this interview, he shares his insights, experiences, and what motivated him to become an instructor.

Spencer Lueders has a career filled with remarkable achievements in the world of visual effects. His talent and dedication have earned him nominations at prestigious industry awards.

1- When and how did you decide to become a VFX artist? Where did you study 3D art and get started?

I’ve had a lifelong passion for what were once referred to as ‘special effects,’particularly during my childhood while watching movies. This was a lot of practical effects and miniatures that we would see in movies like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark.

I had an interest in design and computers and during the late 90s i decided to pursue a college education in graphic design. I also pursued several computer science courses as well, which I also had a lot of interest in. Finally towards the end of my college journey, I found a few computer graphics courses which merged my interests of art, design and technology. It was a couple of years after completing my undergraduate studies when I decided to go back to University to get my Masters in Digital Effect at Bournemouth University in England where I learned Houdini.

2- Can you tell us a bit about your professional journey as a VFX Artist and Supervisor?

After graduating with an MA in Digital Effects from Bournemouth University in 2004, I landed an apprenticeship at SideFX Software in Los Angeles where I got to peek behind the curtain of the amazing tools that SideFX develops (this was around Houdini 8.0 release with the introduction of the DOPs context). In 2006 I moved to New York City where I worked at Framestore New York working on commercials and eventually film productions.

In 2011 My family and I relocated to Los Angeles where I worked at Rhythm and Hues on Life Of Pi and quickly followed by landing a role at Sony Pictures Imageworks in 2012 where I rose to the title of FX Supervisor. I took a year off and tried my hand in a games startup as I was interested in learning Unreal Engine, However I reaffirmed my passion for film VFX work where I returned back to Imageworks as an FX Supervisor.

3- Where do you currently work?

I hold the position of FX Supervisor at Sony Pictures Imageworks having dedicated over a decade of my career to this esteemed organization.
I have had the privilege of working on a diverse range of projects,This has allowed me to refine my creative vision and technical prowess, while also fostering a collaborative spirit within the dynamic world of visual effects.

Suicide Squad

SUICIDE SQUAD

spiderman_homecoming_vfx_spencer_lueders_houdinifx

Spider-Man: Homecoming™

vfx_the_amazing_spiderman_2_spencer_lueders_houdini

The Amazing Spider-Man 2™

4- How long have you been teaching VFX, and what motivated you to become an instructor?

My teaching journey began at The School Of Visual Arts (SVA) in NYC where I taught a Houdini FX Course as an adjunct professor from 2006 to 2011. After moving to Los Angeles in 2011, I was approached by an online vfx course company called CGSociety to teach a Houdini where I taught an Intro To FX as well as a Fluids course.


I realized teaching Houdini actually made me become a better vfx artist as I needed to learn the details behind the ‘how’ and ‘why’ things function or behave the way they do when you hit a button, use a particular node, etc. I enjoy sharing sharing my initial learning experiences with students familiarizing themselves with these tools. I think that is how I make a connection with students as I fully appreciate and understand what it is like to not understand how these things work and try to break things down in a way that allows students to learn.

5- Of all projects you've worked on, which one has been the most memorable/the most challenging/the one that taught you the most? Is there a personal favorite in terms of artistry and skill that went into it?

The Sea Beast was the show which I really had a great experience on.  It was a great combination of talented teams, the client as well and a primary focus on FX work, specifically on oceans and water simulations.  With over a 1000 ocean shots in the film, our main objective was  developing a robust and efficient toolset  to deliver high quality water fx and oceans visuals.

I received two VES Nominations (Outstanding FX and Outstanding VFX) as well as an Annie Nomination (Outstanding FX) for the incredible work the team at Imageworks did on that show.

Outstanding Visual Effects In An Animated Feature VES Nomination

Best FX - Feature Annie Nomination

Outstandin Effects Simulations In An Animated Feature VES Nomination

6- What advice do you have for other people who are looking to land their first major job in VFX?

Something I often see on students reels is a really impressive explosion, or meticulously rendered destruction often highlighting the capabilities of the solver or tool rather than the artist’s prowess. Showing how you can control and manipulate,and modify the appearance or behavior efficiently which is an incredible skill to have. Efficiency is paramount.. Expressing how many terabytes, memory usage, and hours taken for a simulation though often says it’s amazing to watch, it may not be something that can be used in a VFX production.

I believe that showing a finely executed small-scale effect that can match real world examples is a better demonstration of one’s ability compared to showcasing an effect rendered over black.

7- Where can people see more of your work?

8- Many digital artists, especially those in the early stages of their careers,, often struggle to keep moving because they can’t stop comparing their works to what the other artists create or get too overwhelmed by the multitude tools available to learn - have you experienced similar issues and how did you overcome them? What would you advise aspiring FX artists to do to stay motivated?

I still experience this challenge. Imposter syndrome is a constant companion especially in a creative field. The other day, a couple close friends of mine and I were out at lunch discussing this very thing that we still feel. One of these friends is VFX Director at one of the world’s top gaming companies.

The other is a highly accomplished VFX Supervisor and Director. I believe it’s is something important to always put in perspective that nobody was born with this level of knowledge or skill. The technology is always changing quickly so keeping up can be overwhelming at times, but the more one engages in the field the more familiarity they gain with emerging tools and workflows making it easier to be understood.

Also, it is important to acknowledge that the work seen in advertisements, film, games, etc is not the product of a single individual’s effort. It often took 100s of artists each with years of valuable experience coming together to accomplish what you are seeing on the screen.

But that’s not all! We have some incredibly cool news to reveal next week, so stay tuned for an announcement that promises to elevate your VFX journey.
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