I'm a VFX Artist who works in full feature films doing computer graphics effects. The new Disney the Jungle Book, Pirates of Caribbean or Wonderwoman are some of my credits. I also produced and directed SUMER short-film, and I'm on board of a new Animation project called "The Seed of Juna". Ask me anything! :)


Comments: 112 • Responses: 56  • Date: 

TheAmazingAaron5 karma

Okay, this may be too specific, but how the heck did you guys pull off the shot where Mowgli gets water from Peace Rock? The combination of live action, water and CG is seamless. The entire movie has off the charts effects, but that shot has me stumped.

steppenlovo6 karma

Most of the cases the water is just real and then is put on top of cg water that surrounds the area where the actors interact. This is a good understanding between FX, Comp and lighting departments.

TheAmazingAaron1 karma

Thanks for the reply! I haven't watched the extra content on this Bluray yet (because my son just wants to watch the movie on repeat) but I'm hoping there is some 'making of' content.

steppenlovo2 karma

No worries!

You can see a hint of this in second 8

suaveitguy3 karma

When is it OK to work for 'exposure' alone? When have you done it?

steppenlovo3 karma

You mean for self-promotion in my personal projects?

DivinoAG2 karma

Not the OP, but...

If you're working on a project for yourself, it's always good to work for exposure.

If you're working for others, "exposure" is just a bullshit term for "I don't respect you enough to pay for your work". Same for contests that only award the winner, but retain full or partial rights to your work. Never do speculative work, it's never worth it.

steppenlovo1 karma

That's the thing. However, a good point is that due to be part of a bigger team you can improve your real thanks to people that is good in other disciplines, otherwise will take you ages to have a good balanced demo reel. Of course, this should be paid or agreed with the director in case is a non-profit one (i.e keeping the rights of your own work). Sad part is that 90% of these projects are just smoke and mirrors, so be sure of the director / co-worker background first.

laundry1233 karma

What is something about the VFX side of movie making that most people don't know about? What is the most difficult scene you've had to work on and why?

steppenlovo5 karma

  1. It sounds so cliché, but the amount of people, resources and time you need to achieve every single shot is absolutely insane...

  2. The Jungle Book battle between Baloo and Sherekan was a pain in terms of distances, continuity of all the animals, cameras and enviroment... Regarding my personal projects, the sequence in the city of SUMER was quite hard. The more objects you have in the scene, the more stressful became everything.

dynaco3 karma

When did you discover that VFX was what you wanted to do for living?

steppenlovo5 karma

When I was 22 or 23 Officially. I was a personal trainer in a gym but I had always in the background all this 3D stuff waiting for a chance. Since I was kid spent a lot of time doing comics, draws, stopmotion films and playing tons of video-games... But I didn't see it as a professional option until that moment.

srgboom3 karma

Much respect. Is there anyway you would be interested in working on a short film to put into film festivals? I am part of a team that is doing that currently and we would love your input. We currently have a video with 8 million views that we are proud of but we want to go into more serious stuff. (Fantasy action)

steppenlovo7 karma

Hey, thanks! I'm always happy to give feedback to any kind of artistic project. However, I'm spending so much time at work and with my new film that I have to take part of my sleep time... Good luck mate!

srgboom1 karma

Ah i feel ya, awesome, thank you for the response. I will send you a link to some upcoming stuff soon. We have been having a hard time entering the official filmmaking world, we have made dozens on our own budget, but we lack the ability to get our work in front of the right eyes i guess...Do you know anybody interested in a group of low budget filmmakers looking for a producer or somebody we can show our script/pilot/screeplay anything to?

steppenlovo4 karma

One the best resources is trying to get a vimeo staff pick with your pitch/shortfilm/proof of concept. That is the best platform to reach most of the producers and managers.

SlothHing2 karma

What are some of the most memorable stuff you've worked on so far and why?

steppenlovo5 karma


The Jungle Book final battle between ShereKan and Baloo. I was leading that sequence in the Layout department and was quite intense. Final sequences are always tricky but impressive ones.

I would say also that the personal project I'm doing right now is being quite exciting in terms of ambitions. I'm trying to raise the bar of my past projects, and that makes every single step epic.

theres_an_i_in_idiot2 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA! Have you ever actually met any of the actors and do they appreciate you CG'ing them on the big screen?

steppenlovo1 karma

Not me, but definitely some of my colleagues that work on set. Pretty sure some actors are amazed by our digital doubles. :)

yrrkoon2 karma

What are the main differences between doing CGI today vs when the original Jurassic Park was made?

steppenlovo2 karma

That's a god question! there are hundreds of improvements. From ways to optimize the amounts of polygons the computers can move, to new ways of deform the meshes or add extra details on the surface with bigger and bigger maps.

Regarding the animation, things as muscle systems, skeletons or fur didn't exist at that moment, so the movements were quite simplistic and without physical reactions in the anatomy. Besides, the cg materials and lighting was quite simplistic... now we have things such as indirect illumination, a must have thing, which is the remaining light after the bounces of objects, which is the key of any photo-realistic render.

However, Jurassic park remains as a good cg reference just because was really well directed and you can't tell all these lacks of technology.

jabberwockxeno2 karma

I remember hearing a while ago that for 4k releases of many films, the CGI isn't actually re-rendered at a higher resolution for the release, but is rather just upscale/interpolated up; is that accurate?

I'd have imagined, if anything, when you guys do the final master render for the production, it's already rendered at an absurd resolution so it's "future proofed" for future format releases and it's merely downscaled for the normal 1080p release?

Bonus question: You ever used blender? Is it's UI as terrible to you as it is to me?

steppenlovo2 karma

Never used Blender, but yeah, it seems untidy under my pov.

Mmmm, a comper or lighter would answer better that question... but I can say that sometimes is the other way around... If we are doing a 2k movie, we do need to add extra pixels beyond the frame, called overscan, to add later camerashake or reframes/reracks.

Not sure about 4K one, and how much compers scale that up with smaller resolutions. Sometimes I guess it's depending on the project and deliveries.

Baron_Von_Wasteland2 karma

How's the job market for VFX? I went to college for 2D animation but that is a smaller industry now and can be hard to find work. I've always been interested in VFX. If I were to try and teach myself, what programs and online resources would you recommend?

You've worked on some great movies, congratulations on your success!!

steppenlovo3 karma

Thank you mate!

Maya and Houdini are the most used tools in the industry as main ones, then you have zbrush, nuke, katana, mari... etc.

Gnomon School, Digital tutors, Animation mentor or youtube channels are all good places to start with!

Baron_Von_Wasteland1 karma

Thanks very much!!

steppenlovo1 karma

U welcome!

SoYeahNope2 karma

What's your favorite thing about working on these great films?

steppenlovo6 karma

First time you go with your relatives to the cinema and they can understand then all the effort we put on this. It's also amazing to meet other people with different skills and never stop learning new things that you can also apply for your own personal projects.

Mckitten972 karma

Do you have a bachelors in anything art related? (Vfx, animation, etc

steppenlovo4 karma

I have a one year M.A. Have to say, that there is a wide range of different backgrounds. From Phds, to non academics but with a lot of artistic eye or practice. In my case, I learned how to use the basic tools in the M.A, but most of my knowledge is just my own practice, personal projects and curiosity.

Mckitten972 karma

Awesome, that is interesting. I would like to go into the same field myself and am currently in college for software engineering but animate and make art on the side. Thanks for your response, you do great work! :)

steppenlovo1 karma

Thanks! Keep going, a good balance between technical and artistic stuff is always a safe bet. Good luck!

andy_hoffman2 karma

I'm actually studying motion design right now, and I'm interested in going into VFX and/or grading when I'm done.

Could you give any advice that can help me along the way? Certain things to think of and such? And also, any tips on good studios to apply for internship at? Preferably in Amsterdam or LA.

steppenlovo3 karma

You have MPC Amsterdam and Guerrilla Games (not vfx, but great company though).

Not quite expertise with L.A buddy!

Just try to choose your discipline (lighter, animator, modeler... etc), and then focus in having a 1 / 2 minutes strong demo reel. That's what a good recruiter or manager wants!

blackmonk22 karma

Read somewhere that the hair on all the animals in The Jungle Book is/was super hard compared to other effects.

What makes is so much harder than other things?

EDIT: Maybe it was the animals movement actually...

steppenlovo2 karma

Yep. I could work doing the simulation of some of these fur and muscle systems. The more photo-realistic the goal is, the harder is to work with these systems as you have to create something believable with acculturate physics and so.

gruesome_gandhi2 karma

I do vfx too! But for games. I know they are pretty different animals, but a lot of real time effects sort of follow tech from movies, and video games loves hiring movie guys. I guess my question is what sort of film techniques should I learn to be a better game vfx artist? What sort of fundamentals are useful to keep practicing?

steppenlovo4 karma

I honestly think we should learn more from video-game techniques and not in the other way around. You can feel this in previzualitation stuff with unreal, unity and so. We also have LoD systems and real time lighting... as a kind of legacy from that industry. Storytelling and filmmaking skills are good not only to learn how to tell your story, but also to optimize your resources... but again, I can recognize that many videogames tell better stories than many of the full features films.

seesp0trun2 karma

What computer program is the best to learn for VFX? AE, Nuke, Motion, Maya, Cinema4D?

steppenlovo3 karma

I would say Maya and Houdini as main softwares are both a solid option to be a Generalist, and then you can point your career to more specific tools depending on your discipline.

DivinoAG1 karma

XSI forever #neverforget

steppenlovo1 karma


Adon1kam2 karma

Would you agree with the widespread rumor(?) that Hollywood VFX artists are underpaid?

Also, when do you see the limit for practical effects to VFX?

steppenlovo4 karma

Nah, it is just a wide range of salaries. Some of them underpaid, some overpaid, some just normal. Another stories if u compare vfx salaries with hollywood stars.

Well, I think the problem is not about using cgi or practical effects, is just about how to use it, when and why. You can see shitty practical effects, as well as cg ones. The percentage of use of this usually is depending of the budget and vision of the director.

hdpeter21 karma

Aspiring editor here, how hard is it to get into the film industry and how would you reccomend doing it?

steppenlovo2 karma

It took a little while, but eventually happens.

I good trick is trying it hard in a crunchtime where they all need a lot of artists. Just have a look to LinkedIn / twitter recruiters pages and you will notice this ramp up and their urgency.

nanotech231 karma

Sumer was pretty cool. Have you ever seen a colleague experience burnout and move to a different field altogether? I hear the hours for animators are pretty rough

steppenlovo1 karma

All of us. haha, just kidding... I mean, I never seen a colleague just giving up the industry to work in a farm, but yeah, many need big breaks after a crunchtime.

I think the worst are lighters and compers though

duglarri1 karma

What software have you worked with by way of an animation pipeline? I've built animation software for traditional, but 3d, like Maya, always stumped me- simultaneous development of assets. Two people working on the same object at once.

steppenlovo2 karma

I mainly worked with Maya and 3d Max. But it is true that what makes this tool great is an strong pipeline and in-house tools that allows you to animate even with unfinished rigs, assets or fixes... but you have pretty cool plugins to help you out as Studio Library.

duglarri1 karma

So the places you've worked have in-house tools for work distribution? What my system did was handle workflow, automating the cycle from scene assignment, to submission, to director revisions, back to the animator, and so on.

Do your employers have in-house systems to do this? Or has Maya come up with a workflow system?

My system was used for My Little Pony, among other shows. Currently being used by a small studio doing a new series of Tom And Jerry.

steppenlovo1 karma

Nope, they are always in-house tools to manage this massive amount of information in usually more than 10 departments. That includes release and publishing stuff, different streams of work, different stages of an asset, resolutions by departments of the assets, passes, in-house extensions of files, directories management, packaging... and an endless list of shit that is a pain in the ass, but hey, it works.

stealthMFmonkey1 karma

What never fails to inspire you? Do your inspirations change?

steppenlovo2 karma

I understand inspiration more like the sum of inputs and feedback you have while you work. Conversations with people is a good way to break your own paradigms and improve your ideas, but the real creativity is born in the battlefield... I'm not very fan of those that seem to have bright ideas but then don't know how to apply them or are to lazy to even try it.

VokunKiin1 karma

Need any voice actors for anything? I would be happy to help free of charge xD

steppenlovo1 karma

Will need for sure in my next shortfilm. :)

EBJ19901 karma

I really love the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, they're visually amazing. Can you share some of you experiences of being involved? Thanks!

steppenlovo1 karma

I only worked in the fifth one which is yet to be released. I can't tell anything until that moment though, but overall experience was awesome, sorry!

DataTrek1231 karma

Hey, sorry for being late to the party. I've been doing 3d modeling, and I want to learn vfx. How would you recommend starting off?

steppenlovo1 karma

No worries! If you already have the basics of modeling, I would try to improve your overall skills in Maya. You can follow, for example, the Pluralsight tutorials, as they include all the basic discipline. Once you get a good overall, I would focus in one or two disciplines, and try to do a strong 1 / 2 minutes demo reel. It is always good and faster to do in-person courses, but if you can't afford it, there are tons of tutorials on the Internet. Practising is the real key! Good luck!

saiosen1 karma

Huge admirer of people in your line of work! What would be some adivce/knowledge you wish you had when you started in the industry?

Also, if you could work on any movie past, present or future what would it be?

steppenlovo1 karma

Good question... mmm... cheesy one but true, trust in your ideas and your way of doing things... that is a valuable skill.

Mmmm... Matrix was one of the reason I got crazy with this, so that's the winner. Would love also to touch a Star Wars movie, let see how it goes.

SirZoidberg1 karma

How do you feel about Cinemagraphs?

steppenlovo1 karma

An improved Gif :)

liamquane1 karma

Hi, what is the best thing a director can do for you? Thanks P.s I'm a big fan. Love your work, did I see you on the POTC bli ray features or am I misremembering? :~)

steppenlovo2 karma

Wasn't me for sure but thanks :)

Best thing? Shot approved in the first pass by the client / director... that's an epic feeling.

liamquane1 karma

Even still, I do love what you do. :~)

steppenlovo1 karma

Thank you!! :)

saivelamala1 karma

What is the craziest thing you've ever been asked to animate?

steppenlovo1 karma

Before working in the film industry I animated cancer cells, bacteria, viruses and any kind of disgusting things you can imagine.

liamquane1 karma

Do you have any directorial advice? What was it like directing your first feature?

steppenlovo1 karma

Just directed shortfilm so far. Aiming to work in a full-length in the future.

I consider a good advise to never get married to a particular idea... you have to keep yourself flexible to find creative decisions that can save your day.

liamquane1 karma

Ehat was it like working with Gore Vebinski? :~)

steppenlovo1 karma

Ouh, I worked only on the fifth of Pirates, so I don't have an opinion :)

liamquane1 karma

Do you have any advie for anyone starting in the VFX industry?

steppenlovo2 karma

Get use to sleep less than 6/4 hours, and be patient. haha, but yeah, practicing a lot and having a strong reel is the best bet. A good way to reach this is doing your own shortfilm.

skeddles1 karma

How do you feel when you see a terrible movie with great vfx? Do you feel bad for those artists? Do the artists care about the ending quality of the movie?

steppenlovo2 karma

Oh my... that happens a lot. At some point you just do your shots the best you can and sometimes you don't even see the final results. Another story is when the movie has some historical background, or is directed by some film-making legends.

YoRav1 karma

Layout td? Try senior compositor

steppenlovo1 karma

I avoid comping :P

samuelsamvimes1 karma

What is something about the VFX artists/industry that most people don't know about and would be surprised, or is there a widespread misconception regarding your field of work that you want to set straight?

steppenlovo4 karma

At the risk of repeating myself the amount of people you need to deliver one single shot... Storyboarders, Screenwriters, Concept Artists, Modelers, Texturers, Riggers, Lighters, Layout Artists, Crowd Artists, Animators, Technical Animators, FX Artists, Compers, Matchmovers, Look Dev people, 3Dmp... The list is endless, and I'm only talking of Computer Graphics effects.

Most of the cases, you can't see these departments well organized in the credits.

samuelsamvimes1 karma

That sounds like a nightmare.

Having to get something approved by so many different people, each from a different department, with different needs and maybe even artistic vision, there's no way they all agree on something.

steppenlovo3 karma

That's a vfx Supervisor / Director job :)

steppenlovo1 karma

That's a vfx Supervisor / Director job :)

steppenlovo1 karma

That's a vfx Supervisor / Director job :)

steppenlovo1 karma

That's a vfx Supervisor / Director job :)

steppenlovo1 karma

That's a VFX Supervisor / Director job :)

steppenlovo1 karma

That's a vfx Supervisor / Director job :)

gillblithe1 karma

How did you start your career in doing computer graphic effects for movies?

steppenlovo1 karma

I decided to start a M.A of Animation and then I started as freelancer. My first job was working as Generalist in "the new kind" webseries.

rdfar1 karma

Hi. Once I had great interest in vfx (I still have, but a little less). For six months I tried learning vfx from Andrew Kramer and other sites. But mostly I followed the tutorials and tried to reproduce them.

My question is that, how do you make something original?

There are so many things like masking, colors, alpha channels, compositing, blending modes, and many more things. Some of the basic things I started to grasp but some other things made me think how did they come up with that stuff, like voodoo magic. By combining all the things something wonderful comes up. Like inventing new stuff.

Hats off to you guys.

steppenlovo2 karma

I would say that most of that creative ideas are cause specific necessities. There is also a lot of constant R&D, research and development, and it is not like a bright inventor creating all this, but the friction of many people trying to improve all these processes.

liamquane1 karma

Where did the idea come from for Sumer Mr. Garcia?

steppenlovo1 karma

Sumer is the first known civilization on Earth. The city in the short film is ironically the last one. I just wanted to play with the idea of a world with no resources and hope, where only kids curiosity are able to discover new worlds and ways to resolve dramatic situations.

liamquane1 karma

Where do you get the patience for VFX work, is it a very numerical process?

steppenlovo2 karma

Sometimes it is more technical than others. But despite we have a lot of repetitive tasks, there is always some "hero" shots that grabs you and keeps your motivation up.

liamquane1 karma

Is the "Wonder Woman" you mention the new one? If so, what is it like working with Patty Jenkins and Warner Bros?

steppenlovo1 karma

Yeah, the new one. It's being great :)

Can't tell so much until is released though :P

Kifenstein1 karma

Do you work in an office with other team members or remote? How do you manage assets that need to be shared between different people and groups? How much of your work is waiting for others to finish their task before you can start?

steppenlovo1 karma

99% of the crew work in the studio. We have a massive network system. A department works in its specific task, for example, modeling, and once the asset is approved by the supervisor is "Published" and the rest of the departments or the selected ones can pick up that asset. We do overlap a lot, and we can have the final animation of something, and still having updates in the assets of the environment or the characters... sometimes is seamless, sometimes need coming backwards and forwards.

[deleted]0 karma


steppenlovo1 karma

We don't know the "deep" Hollywood so I can't answer that question.

ArchDucky-2 karma

Did you work on Pirates 3? Why didn't anyone stop the giant lady from turning into crabs? It was so stupid. Like, ruining the franchise, stupid.

steppenlovo2 karma

Hahaha. Nope. I worked on the fifth one. Can't remember that moment though...