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Visual Effects Jobs in California

Home to major Hollywood studios and their big budget, special effects-laden movies and TV shows, California constantly demands a steady supply of digital visual effects artists. According to the United State Bureau of Labor Statistics, California is the top paying state for visual effects professionals, boasting the highest average salaries in the US.

In California, the most popular visual effects jobs are Compositors, CGI Modelers, UX Designers, Character Riggers, Graphic Designers, CGI Animators, and Color Gradists.

According to Glassdoor, some of the highest-rated visual effects companies in California include Walt Disney Animation Studios (Burbank), 20th Century Fox Animation (Century City), Lucasfilm Animation (San Francisco), Dreamworks Animation (Glendale), Pixar Animation (Emeryville), Warner Brothers Animation (Burbank), and Sony Pictures Animation (Culver City).

The top states for finding jobs in visual effects tend to be California and New York, but of the two, California consistently has the highest supply of jobs and highest average wages.

The top ranked schools in California with programs and degrees in visual effects are University of Southern California (USC, $49,464 per year, out-of-state), American Film Institute (AFI, $47,030 per year, out-of-state), University of California Los Angeles (UCLA, $51,990 per year, out-of-state), and California Institute of the Arts ($43,400 per year, out-of-state), according to rankings published by the Hollywood Reporter and Hack College in 2016.

If you are looking to start a career in visual effects, your first goal is to become an expert in industry standard software. Most studios today rely on four major software packages for the core of their special effects needs. They use Autodesk Maya for CGI modeling and animation. They use Photoshop for texturing and matte painting. They use After Effects for motion graphics and compositing. And they use Nuke for heavy-duty compositing. The key to having a successful career in visual effects is to master the software that your job requires. You can start your career as a compositor, CGI modeler, CGI animator, editor, or generalist. Learning all four of the above software packages will make you much more competitive, and more versatile, as a visual effects artist, because each software has its strengths and makes certain visual effects tasks much easier.

Professionals working in visual effects in California also tend to work in the following industries, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics: Gaming, Architecture, Interactive Entertainment, Corporate Videos/Presentations, Engineering, Virtual Reality, Technology, Advertising.

The following are estimates of salaries and wages for visual effects jobs in California, which were compiled from Salary.com, Glassdoor, and the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Multimedia Artists, Animators, and CGI Artists - $83,000 per year, or $39.90 per hour

Graphic Designers - $61,000 per year, or $29.33 per hour

Editors - $109,000 per year, or $52.40 per hour

Art Director Assistants - $91,000 per year, or $43.75 per hour

Creative Directors - $133,000 per year, or $63.94 per hour

Animators - $74,000 per year, or $35.58 per hour

Graphic Designers - $61,000 per year, or $29.33 per hour

Art Directors - $121,000 per year, or $58.17 per hour


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