From Dinomaniac to VFX Olympus

Alumni Stories: Andreas Feix


Andreas Feix is alumnus of Animationsinstitut and currently works in London as a digital compositor at Industrial Light & Magic, the visual effects company responsible for creating some of the most stunning images in the history of film. At the forefront of the digital revolution, ILM continues to break new ground in the field not only in visual effects but now virtual reality, augmented reality, and immersive entertainment as well. Andreas Feix already worked on major VFX productions during his studies and dared to make the leap to the island after his spectacular graduation film.



As a child Andreas Feix was a big fan of dinosaurs and had the dream to become a paleontologist one day. He grew up in the tranquil Hegau region near Lake Constance when the first films of Steven Spielberg's "Jurassic Park" and the legendary BBC documentary series "Dinosaurs - In the Realm of the Giants" triggered a worldwide dinomania. Andreas soon began to wonder how the primeval creatures are actually created in such films. The more he occupied himself with this question, the more his career aspirations as a dinosaur researcher were replaced by the idea of directing such dinosaur puppets himself as a film director. At the same time, special effects in cinemas, like the "Lord of the Rings" saga, became increasingly spectacular.

When the toy manufacturer Lego called on people to use stop-motion technology to shoot little films with Lego figures and upload them on the Internet, Andreas first came into contact with the world of animation. "From today's point of view, the quality of the videos was pretty poor", he smiles about it today.


Andreas Feix now lives in London and has been working there as a digital compositor since 2017. He has worked for various VFX companies over the past few years, and regularly works for Industrial Light & Magic (ILM)]. Among VFX artists, the company is regarded as a kind of Olympus. It was founded in 1975 by Star Wars director George Lucas and has been setting new standards in visual effects and computer animation ever since. Andreas worked at ILM and other London production companies on some of the world's most successful feature film productions with VFX, including "Transformers: The Last Knight", "Jurassic World", "The Lion King", "The Mandalorian", "The Rise of Skywalker", "The Last Jedi", Marvel's "Black Widow" and the new James Bond "No Time to Die".



First VFX experiences in Stuttgart

Andreas' career in the industry began quite a while after his first cinematic attempts with Lego bricks. After his civil service he decided to move to Stuttgart in 2008 at the age of 19 for an internship at Unexpected. The production company creates 3D and VFX advertising films for major international brands and is one of the most important players in the German advertising film industry. For a year, he got to know the art and work processes of 3D animation and visual effects for real films in a professional environment.


Unexpected was founded by Alexander Kiesl, who once studied animation and visual effects at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg’s Animationsinstitut. While still at school, Andreas Feix had also been toying with the idea of studying animation and visual effects at Filmakademie. The internship at Unexpected finally strengthened his decision. From 2009 on, he was enrolled in the study specialization Animation with a focus on VFX.


At Unexpected he could continue working as a freelancer and thus finance his studies. But not only advertising films fill his portfolio. In 2011 he helped out with the VFX of the horror movie „Bela Kiss: Prologue“ as part of his studies. For his vacation year, in which students of Animationsinstitut can gain practical experience in the film industry, he was drawn to the German VFX studio Pixomondo in Stuttgart. There he was working on the effects of the HBO series "Game of Thrones". After that Andreas continued to work on GOT, namely as a freelancer for the Stuttgart production company Mackevision, which was awarded with an Emmy for its work on the series.



Award winning diploma film with spectacular images and effects

Meanwhile, he continued to sharpen his skills at Animationsinstitut. Through the project-based training he worked on several student films and finally made his own diploma film as a director, which he published in 2015. In Citipati ,Andreas paid homage to his old dinosaur passion with breathtaking VFX. The film tells the story of a dinosaur when the meteorite hits the earth, exterminating him and his conspecifics forever.


Highly realistic movements and textures of the animal, the impact and explosions of the meteorite, the death struggle of the Citipatisaurus - the entirely computer-generated six-minute film is a masterpiece of images and effects. The short has won numerous awards, including the VES Award for "Outstanding Visual Effects in a Student Project" and "Best Student Project" at the Annie Awards.


The mentoring at Animationsinstitut helps making the leap to the island

Shortly before the end of his studies, Andreas had the opportunity to present his work to some 3D artists from the Moving Picture Company (MPC) at the Animation Institute. Because the institute regularly ensures that its students meet people who are already successfully working in the film industry. These mentors, in turn, are happy to look around in Ludwigsburg for new talent. The representatives of MPC, a large production company for VFX and computer animation in London, were impressed by Andreas' work and offered him a job after his diploma.


"Making the step to England was a great opportunity for me", emphasizes Andreas, "Germany has been catching up more and more in terms of VFX and animation in recent years, but the amount of commercials and films produced in the UK in comparison is even bigger".

At MPC, he was then involved in dozens of commercials in various activities, sometimes leading the way in award-winning commercials. After one and a half years, he took the next step and applied for a job at ILM's London production facility. "I simply tried it with an unsolicited application," he recalls. "I was lucky that at the time a commercial for a department store that I made got a lot of publicity and won several VES awards.” In the end, it worked out that way.



ILM's system of perfect illusion for cinema screens

Since then, Andreas has regularly worked as a digital compositor for ILM. Depending on the order situation he also works for other VFX companies, for example for Framestore. As a DC, he usually works on one project and only rarely on several films in parallel. He is usually responsible for a few shots a day. Depending on the complexity of the project, he works on 6 to 12 shots, whose processing can take a few days or even several weeks.


It is always important to coordinate the look of all scenes and characters as well as the technical procedure in general within the team. This happens in daily meetings and scene presentations. "Work on the shots is divided up so that each scene is edited and checked by several people," explains Andreas. The idea is to get one hundred percent control over the coherence of the design. Even scenes that are basically finished are checked several times in order to avoid mistakes and to optimize them further and further until the perfect images are ready for the cinema screen.


The composition of a few minutes of film can take a few months. For a more opulent feature film project, such as Jurassic World, there are several hundred people working on it, around 50 of whom are digital compositors. "How long a production takes usually depends on whether it is a real film with VFX or completely animated films, as well as on the specific requirements of the projects," says the VFX specialist. A film with "invisible effects" or reduced interventions may only be in production for a few months. The Lion King, on the other hand, took about three years, of which he personally spent seven months.



"Talents are strengthened at Animationsinstitut”

"The studies at Animationsinstitut prepared me well for my current job," he emphasizes. Even though many skills could also be learned in practice at the VFX companies, the teamwork on the student projects, which often takes place in exchange with other departments of Filmakademie, has given him helpful insights into all facets of filmmaking. The fact that one gets to know things like camera work during the basic studies has also been of great help to him. Moreover, without Animationsinstitut it would certainly have been more difficult to make the right contacts for the leap to the island.

He advises students at Animationsinstitut to try out as much as possible artistically during their studies. One rarely enjoys so much freedom in the in the film business. Moreover, he says that studying at Animationsinstitut is a good opportunity to strengthen and develop one's talents. And with regard to his own VFX and animation projects, which are labor-intensive and sometimes seem impossible to master, especially in small student teams, he recommends: "It has always helped me to break big problems down into several small problems". Obviously, this strategy has not done any harm to his career.



Learn more about Andreas Feix and check out his Website.

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