Ashley Knehans is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Media Arts with a concentration in Animation at Northeastern University’s College of Arts, Media, and Design. Ashley has recently completed a co-op with Zero VFX, a full-service creative studio that specializes in visual effects (VFX) for feature films and commercials, where she was able to solidify her choice going into the Animation field. We caught up with Ashley to learn more about what it’s like working in a visual effects studio, and how this experience has impacted her passion for animation.
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How did you prepare for your role at Zero VFX?
I did an internship at Zero VFX in order to become a co-op there so I already knew what to expect going in – I worked on modeling 3D assets from previous film productions as well as learning different techniques in the 3D computer animation software, Maya. I was able to move into the co-op position after the internship, which made the transition a little easier since I had been able to meet my co-workers prior to the co-op, and I felt as though I was more technically prepared and ready to do the work asked of me.
What is your role and what does a typical day at Zero VFX look like for you in this role?
I’m a Junior 3D Generalist. Day-to-day tasks were a little different depending on what tasks other artists needed and how busy the artists were, but I generally did a lot of 3D modeling and texturing for different assets that will be used in some upcoming films. I also worked with several different artists, so during the day they would critique my work and teach me different techniques to improve my projects. I would attend the daily critiques with the other artists that way I could learn what everyone else was working on, as well as see how shots were critiqued at Zero.
What interests you about animation?
I think that animation is such a wide field to get into. Besides 2D and 3D animation, there are so many different aspects that go into animation, from modeling 3D assets, texturing, rigging, to actually animating and it’s really cool to be able to learn everything with Zero. There are also a variety of options within different fields of animation from games and entertainment — to commercial work for businesses.
What is the most important thing you’ve learned at Zero VFX?
The most important thing I learned at Zero VFX is that it’s always better to ask for help if you’re really stuck on something. Personally, I think it’s important to try to solve problems yourself, but if the problem is especially specific or just too difficult to solve on your own, it’s best to ask your co-workers. You never know if the problem is something everyone always runs into or if it’s something that requires someone with more knowledge to help you.
Did this co-op make you more or less excited about a particular industry?
This co-op has made me more excited about the VFX industry. I learned that the work is difficult, but I really enjoyed learning how a VFX studio is generally run, how the pipeline works in a studio and also learning about how different effects are achieved. It was also really cool to learn that more things in movies and commercials are CG than you might expect. This experience in addition to making connections in the industry will definitely help my career post-college.
What is your final message to students who are applying for a co-op?
My final message to students who are applying for co-ops is to make sure you make good connections with people who you go to class with, work with, and your professors. For example, the professor for Animation Tools, David Pietricola, works at Zero VFX; during that class, I had talked to him a bit about the animation industry and just tried to learn as much about Maya as I could from him. Thanks to him, I was able to get the internship and then co-op at Zero.
You never know who might be able to get you in with a company and who might have a great experience for you to learn from.
To learn more about Ashley’s work, visit her website.