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From Behind-the-Scenes Observer to Creator of Magical FX : The Journey of Trung Nghia

INTERVIEW
April 12, 2024
Interviewed by:
Mearg Taddese

Trung Nghia is a 23-year-old junior FX artist at Sparta VFX Studio in Hanoi, Vietnam, who is already making waves in the industry.

His path from being fascinated as a youngster to being an expert in magical effects is fascinating. Discover the magic he presents to the screen as you explore his story.

Let’s start by briefly introducing yourself?

Hello everyone, my name is Trung Nghia. Some may recognize me by the handle “BlueZi”. I’m a Junior FX Artist currently working at Sparta VFX Studio based in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Can you tell us some about your childhood and how that related to your current status or maybe find it an inspiration?

Ah, my childhood does affect my current career significantly. I’ve grown as a boy who loves watching cartoons and superhero movies. One of my favorites is Boboiboy by Monsta. It’s a boy who has elemental-based superpowers such as Lightning, Fire, and Ice.Growing up, I’ve been captivated by the world of special effects in movies. I’ve spent countless hours watching behind-the-scenes footage, marveling at the magic of visual effects. These fascinations were the reason why I chose FX as my specialization!However, I didn't have many chances to study at an Art School officially. Back then, Visual Effects was not common in my country so my parents encouraged me to study Banking. Therefore, I was only able to study VFX in my free time so I guess it was a bit of a hurdle.

Moving into your creative mind, what lights the spark for you? Where do you find the most inspiration when you're deep into a project?

For me, inspiration can come from various sources such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Vimeo so I usually browse them to get some ideas for my artworks.When I'm deep into a project, I often find inspiration in collaboration. Brainstorming sessions with colleagues, bouncing ideas off each other, and seeing different perspectives fuel my creativity.

Let’s shine a light on one of your favorite projects. Walk us through the creative process and the magic that brought it to life. What makes it stand out in your portfolio?

I would pick this cinematic. Even though this one is quite old as I did when I had just joined the industry, it marked a decent beginning of my whole career. In this project, I had a chance to do some cool Magical FX stuff like Lauriel Wings, Hand Energy, Trail and Dragon Aura.However, there were only 2 weeks for creating FXs for the whole project. It was quite overwhelming for a first-timer like me, but I soldier on by making to-do lists and managing my priorities for each FX so I was able to finish them on time.Thanks to this project, I could discover which type of FX that I enjoy doing the most and how I was capable of getting out of my comfort zone.

Only 2 weeks for such FX works is interesting. How do you manage your time, especially with side personal projects?

I think making a to-do list is a must to avoid burnout and manage our time properly. I usually do 2 setups at a time, so when a project needs to be cached / rendered, I always take a look at the other to utilize my time. In addition to the production work at my studio, I only do personal projects when I have free time or there are some FXs needed to be RnD for upcoming projects at work.

When stress arises, I usually get outside, engage in activities like running and playing badminton. Additionally, I lean on my support network, seeking guidance and solace from loved ones when needed.

As you over 2 years of experience in the industry, with interesting FX works. what's your secret sauce?

Finding a mentor when you first get into this field is quite important in my opinion. When I first applied to my studio, I luckily met Hai Minh Nguyen and to be honest, I would not be who I am right now without him. He's taught me the process of creating each type of FXs, the FX pipeline and all the goodies goodies stuff that he has discovered over the years.When Hai left Sparta, I’ve had the privilege to be a temporary lead for the FX department. Besides creating FXs, I manage the schedule for each project, create shot lists, talk to producers and guide fresher artists. There are many more tasks that I have to do, but I comfortably take them because I’ve grown a lot from these experiences.

Interesting! Your artworks encompass different types of FX and rendering. when working with these techniques, What do you find to be the most challenging or tricks aspect, and how do you overcome that?

Yeah, this is the most challenging aspect when it comes to Junior roles, especially those working at small studios like me as I have to learn all types of FXs to handle all the briefs that clients provide. Recently, I’ve been learning RBD for 5 months and there are lots of information that I have to learn like different types of constraints, bullet solver, matrix,.. But I would say that you need to keep practicing consistently, create a personal project that relates to it and watch tutorials / courses until you feel comfortable with the tools and understand them under the hood.

Reflecting a bit, what are the things you wish you knew or learned earlier that would have made a significant impact on your current situation?

I would take more time to build a library of HDAs and tools in order to save my time later on.

Who in the industry do you look up to as an inspiration or role model? Is there someone you’ve said, "I want to be like them when I grow up"? or “I wish I collaborated to work on a project with”

It’s hard to pick one, but I’ll name three of my favorites:

Hai Nguyen

Jesse Gozo

Voxyde

I watch their works/showreel every day and they truly give me a lot of inspiration!

What's your favorite part of your job? Is there a particular feature or tool that you love and couldn't imagine working without?

I always love creating Magical FX and to be able to make it, I use the combination of Houdini for Simulation and Nuke for Slapcomp the FX

Shifting to a broader topic, what's your perspective on AI in our industry? Some artists have strong opinions—do you fear it, love it, or have a neutral stance?

Neutral I think! I recognize the incredible potential that AI brings to the workflows, enhances creativity, and pushes the boundaries of what's possible in VFX. In my opinion, I think AI serves more as a tool to augment and enhance our artistic abilities rather than replace artists entirely. By leveraging AI-powered tools, artists can automate repetitive tasks, freeing up time for more creative exploration and innovation.

How do you see the future of VFX  evolving in the next 10-15 years?

Real time of course. I’ve seen many incredible things that VFX software is currently capable of like Embergen. Axiom Solver in Houdini is awesome too as it can speed up your volumetric simulation considerably. Hopefully, it will have a big update in the near future so we can simulate it in real time!

For artists who want to check out your work and learn more about you, where should they go? Feel free to share your website and social media links.

BlueZi:

Youtube ( I usually post tutorials and FX breakdowns after cool projects at my studio, please give it a shot! )

Vimeo

LinkedIn

Lastly, what do you have for the community? Whether it's a personal project file or a website you find helpful, this is your chance to give back and contribute to the community.

One of the most useful websites that I’ve discovered is magesbox. There are dozen of Unreal References which you can use it to study the visual, timing and how they marry all of the FX Layers together

I’ve just done a project called “Arrow 5 Shots”. If readers find an interest in it, I can do a workshop with Double Jump Academy!

As we wrap up, what final words do you have for your fellow artists?

Embrace your uniqueness and trust in your creative journey. As Jesse advised me:

”Don't be afraid to take risks when doing FX. Try and always go out of your comfort zone, and attempt different elements and simulations and approaches”.

Yeah, stay curious, keep experimenting and practice consistently!

Building up your connection and receiving feedback from them is a great way to improve your artworks as you will learn from experienced artists. You can do these by joining DoubleJump Academy Discord server. They also usually hold events like Portfolio Review, Hangout with artist and Workshops which are incredibly useful for FX Artists like us.

You have this awesome work ⁠DoubleJump Academy⁠ with the help of our free workshops taught by Jesse Gozo, how did find the workshop and how was the journey of making that final piece of yours?

I embarked on the “Arrow 5 Shots” personal project back in Early December 2023 by accidentally coming across an Unreal FX by 十二点前要睡觉 on Magesbox. At that time, I was only able to do some RnDs on the Charging and Firing but I was struggling with the Impact / Destruction phase as I didn’t have much experience on how to make it look right.

Surprisingly, Double Jump Academy collaborated with Jesse Gozo to do the Anime Impact FX workshop, so I decided to make another attempt. Needless to say, the tutorial helps me a lot! Not only to broaden my knowledge of Stylize FX, but also all the Artistic Principles of FX. Jesse is also a very friendly and kind FX Artist, he guided and provided me with a lot of detailed feedback, and even showed me what was missing from my shot. Thank you, Jesse and Double Jump Academy!

I would say that creating a personal project like this does lots of wonders to my learning progression, so I will definitely do more and hopefully I could also see your awesome work from you guys on LinkedIn!

Thank you Trung Nghia for your time to do the interview!

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