What is a Layout TD?
A Layout TD (Layout Technical Director) is a VFX (Visual Effects) role, responsible for providing a foundation in terms of shots for the rest of the production team.
What is the Job?
A Layout TD (Layout Technical Director) determines the position of the virtual camera, and ‘blocks’ the characters for computer generated image shots of a virtual effects sequence. This involves choreographing where the characters will be positioned and where they will move to throughout the shot.
As a Layout TD, you will have to consider a shot’s framing, composition, camera angle, camera path and movement, as well as paying some attention to the lighting of each key scene. The work of a Layout TD will enable other VFX artists to carry out their work – as a Layout TD, anything you create is going to be passed onto the CG departments as the foundation of their shots.
On top of this, the Layout TD will communicate with the director to work out what virtual camera ‘language’ to use, as well as decide how they want the animation to be framed and look on screen. When working on larger projects, a Layout TD may be required to produce several versions of their work so that the Director and Editors have options when putting the film together in post production.
Depending on where you are working, your role as a Layout TD may involve pre-visualisation. However, this job may not be included in your role as some studios separate these two key pre-production positions. Whether or not your role includes pre-visualisation, you’ll need a thorough understanding of the overall 3D pipeline.
- Thorough understanding of the 3D pipeline
- Ability to work under pressure
- Experience in sequence and shot composition
- Excellent understanding of practical cameras and camera techniques
- Knowledge of working with software, such as Maya
- Good creative and technical problem solving skills
- Team orientated
- Good communication skills
- Highly motivated
Salary & Working Hours
The average salary for a Layout TD is around £30,000, however this will depend on the studio you’re working for, how much work you are completing, and the type of projects you are involved in.
Working hours for a Layout TD will depend on how you are working; Layout TDs can work as full-time employees of a VFX company or studio, or they can work as freelancers on a project-by-project basis. Working hours will vary between the two, and from pro
How To Become a Layout TD
As mentioned above, you’ll need a thorough understanding of the 3D pipeline, and for this reason, some studios opt to look for generalists to fill the role of a Layout TD. You’ll need to have a few years’ worth of experience working as a VFX Artist in order to become a Layout TD, as it is more of a senior role. This can be through starting off as a Runner in a VFX company and then working in roles such as Modelling Artist or Texture Artist.
To become a Layout TD, knowledge of scripting languages such as Python and C++ is essential. You’ll need to have some experience with using VFX software such as Adobe After Effects, Maya and Nuke. A less essential skill is having experience and understanding of editing programs such as Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro and Lightworks, but this can still be useful in the role.
Whilst a degree is not essential, degrees in relevant subjects such as computer programming or animation would provide you with useful knowledge and a greater understanding of the work involved in the Layout TD role. A more important aspect however, would be to create a portfolio to showcase your work, and make sure you network with contacts who can link you to potential vacancies.
Where Can It Take You?
Layout TD’s work under the management of a VFX Supervisor. Therefore, the opportunity of career progression could be through being promoted to the role of VFX supervisor. As with most jobs in the industry, career progression will likely be through having the opportunity to work on bigger and more highly-recognised films and projects.
Become a Layout TD
If you are ready for the next step in your career, why not take a look at the latest Layout TD vacancies on our jobs board? You can view our latest Layout TD vacancies here.