A Day in the Life of a Lighting Technical Director @ DNEG

By Neville Freitas | 21st September 2018

The role of Lighting is to make stuff look good, make sure it looks realistic and that it follows the rules of physics. It’s the Lighting department that has most control over how all the other departments’ work will look on screen. This is definitely one of the benefits of working in a discipline that is near the end of the VFX pipeline and it’s something that makes me proud of my work.

My day usually begins with Dailies. This sees us bring together the previous day’s work, along with any completed renders from overnight, for the VFX Supervisor to review. It’s only after the VFX Supervisor approves the work that it can it pass to the next team, which for Lighting is either Effects or Compositing. We do this for every shot.

With my current project, we’ve had updates coming in from other departments. Whenever a director changes the layout, the lighting usually needs to change too. I have to make sure everything looks consistent.

Rendering is another important aspect of my work that goes hand-in-hand with Lighting. I have to balance the need for our renders to look good (be at the highest resolution possible without noise), with the need to deliver work on schedule. With the current show I’m working on, the average shot consists of 1,600 frames. If each frame took 50 hours on the render farm, there simply wouldn’t be enough time to deliver the show!

I also manage three people and it’s my role to communicate the production schedule and help my team meet their targets. Everything is really well organised.

I think that’s something many students don’t appreciate until they join a studio. Time management skills are very important; you need to plan your work and pace yourself. Also, if you want to get into VFX you have to understand what every department does because all the departments must work together.

I’m originally from India but I was incredibly fortunate to win a scholarship to attend Bournemouth University and complete a one year Masters in VFX.

At school in India, I studied physics, chemistry, maths and computer sciences. I learnt that Bournemouth University was the best place to go for VFX. So, in 2008, after graduating with a degree in Graphic Design, I applied for and won a scholarship to join the course. Back then there were only 30 places, so I was very lucky. But it was a massive jump and very overwhelming. But by focusing on my studies and coursework, I overcame this.

After graduating from Bournemouth, I secured my first VFX job at Cinesite, where I started in Matchmove. I was there for around six months and I worked on Pirates of the Caribbean 6 and John Carter, which was very exciting! From there, I moved to Prime Focus, where I spent four years. I then joined DNEG as a Lighting Technical Director. Today, I’ve worked on more than 25 Hollywood films. Ultimately, I would like to be a CG Supervisor and then hopefully become a VFX Supervisor.