Guy Hancock gives us an insight into his career path and job role as MGFX Supervisor at DNEG
How would you describe the values and culture at DNEG?
DNEG is an incredibly diverse company and attracts a huge range of talent from all over the word. London continues to be one of the principal hubs of the industry and DNEG remains a melting pot. Every project brings an opportunity to work with a new mix of creative people. There is a great atmosphere in the company and I look forward to getting back into the office.
What’s the best thing about working there?
The onsite coffee bar for a start! But also working with an amazing team, many of whom I’ve had the good fortune to work alongside for several years. I have had the privilege to work on some of the most challenging and exciting creative projects which I’m incredibly proud to have been a part of.
What have you been working on recently?
I can’t talk too much about what I’m working on right now but there are some really exciting TV shows and films in the works which will be appearing in 2022! We have recently completed Apple’s Sci-Fi epic ‘Foundation’ which was a brilliantly challenging project. I worked as an MGFX Supervisor across all episodes delivering 168 motion graphics shots. The work involved included a mixture of particle effects, 3D holograms, HUDS and UI screen graphics. It was an amazing feature and a privilege to be a part of the project.
What inspired you to work in visual effects?
From a very young age I developed a massive passion for films. I have a lot to thank (or blame) my mother who introduced me to a huge variety of amazing cinema. I can remember the moment I saw films like Blade Runner, Interview With A Vampire, and Alien for the first time, then watched them over and over again on dodgy VHS recordings. I knew from very early on that I wanted to be involved in film in some way,
Tell us about your career path; how did you get to where you are now?
I tried to break into the industry as an offline editor, and after graduating in Film studies I moved to London to try my luck anywhere that would take me. Eventually I took a runners position at Rushes Post Production which let me behind the curtain of what really goes on in the VFX company. Only after months of running around the company was I really exposed to the processes and skills involved. After moving to the machine room to support the Flame artists, I found the opportunity to experiment with Adobe programs like Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects. It was here that I found my career path really shift as I began to teach myself more design and animation principals. This in turn led me to the then small Motion Graphics team whom I eventually joined in a full-time position. I worked on a huge variety of commercials, TV, and mixed media projects until 2014 when we procured my first major Film title – James Bond ‘Spectre’. After further collaborative projects with DNEG including ‘Altered Carbon’, we transferred the team and setup a new permanent Motion Graphics department within the company.
What are the main responsibilities of your job role?
As a Motion Graphics Supervisor, I oversee the creative production for any design, animation or visual effects that come through the department. This is on a project-by-project basis. I will liaise with the clients and show supervisors to determine what is required and work on any concepts or look development. When shots are turned over, I help coordinate and lead our teams to produce and deliver the work within the appropriate times and to the highest possible creative standards.
What are the benefits of learning lots of different disciplines? What would you say to someone who is set on specialising early on in their career?
I would say that Motion Graphics is a very unusual discipline in VFX in that it requires a broad range of skills and software knowledge. Fundamentally you need a strong graphic design base and the ability to transpose your ideas using a number of effects and techniques. This can feel incredibly overwhelming to begin with, especially if you might have been predominantly trained in 2D and are then progressing into 3D packages. I think it’s wise to be patient in your career and really focus on the fundamentals of good design and practices. The techniques will come and develop along with the evolution of the software. Gradually you can expand your offering. Whilst generalists are always desirable, I think everyone inevitably finds their niche.
What’s the most rewarding part?
It sounds cliche but it really is an amazing feeling once a show has been delivered and we know we have achieved everything asked of us and to the best possible quality. Each show is a unique creative challenge and it’s always great once the dust has settled on a project to reflect on the work and review the shots we’ve delivered – hopefully on the cinema screen or the TV!
What kinds of projects do you most like to work on?
For me one of the greatest parts of Motion Graphics is the diversity in projects. There is such a massive range of creative challenges from title sequences, concept design, particle VFX, holograms, UI, 2D & 3D animation – there is always something new and interesting to work on. I don’t necessarily mind what the budget, genre or storyline of the specific show is, I just like to have something fun to work with that we can make look awesome!
What do you miss about being in a less senior role?
I have always loved getting stuck into a project and producing content, whether its concept designs, animation or technique RnD. Whilst there is a lot of delegation and many creative processes are taken directly out of my hands, I am fortunate that there is still plenty of opportunity to roll up my sleeves now and again and get my hands dirty!
What skills are most needed in the industry today, and what do you think will be most needed in the future?
I think that it is essential to remain adaptive to the industry. Technology is forever changing at an incredibly high rate so it’s important to be aware of what’s going on in the wider scope and never completely take a finger off the pulse. However, the fundamentals of good design, knowing what works and what looks good will always be an essential and invaluable skill for anyone in a design-led role. I really think that patience and experience are two of the most valuable assets you can have for longevity in the industry.
What sort of soft skills are valuable in VFX – things like communication, assertiveness, leadership, self-care?
I would say all of the above are absolutely essential and from my own perspective are potentially the hardest skills to develop. The VFX pipeline can be a complex and tricky beast. What’s more the majority of projects we run are often international and require collaboration from teams from all over the world. Projects of such complexity require a great deal of care and it is our responsibility as supervisors to run and streamline the process as best as possible, so the artists don’t suffer with things like unnecessary overtime.
What’s your advice to artists for creating a killer showreel?
Be as selective and ruthless as possible in your choice of shots. 40 seconds of great stuff has so much more impact than 2 minutes of padded out content. Really spend time on the edit and make sure the images work well with the music, it really adds to the success of the reel and shows off your creative offering.