I've been asked a number of times for reference, tips, tricks, and even how to make it in the industry, but if your looking for the holy grail of visual effects help, may I quote the character "Brody" from the Indiana Jones trilogy:
"The search for the grail is the search for the divine in all of us, but if it is answers you are looking for, I'm affraid I have none to give you."
HOWEVER, we can help to lead you down the right path in your quest for knowledge
The magic and splendor of making one pixel look as if it belongs with another.
The marriage of 2 or more plate elements in such a way as to fool the eye for just the length of the shot, as if they were shot together, and were never apart from each other. Love, they way it was meant to be.
If only our shots were so kind
Doing compositing/visual effects/motion tracking for a living is a rather broad stroke to take if you wish to make a living in the effects industry.
But maybe what one must do is isolate what it is exactly that interests them in a given shot in a movie or game that motivates them to want to persue this type of work.
Insted of turning this into a "How to make it in the industry" type of post, let me just point you in a few directions with wonderfull reference to maybe aid your thought-process as to where your passions may truly lie.
Reading or watching the below reference will help you better decide where you wish to go in terms of a speciality in the broad world of digital effects.
I, personally, have not gone into the extreme depths of motion tracking, and particle dynamics as 3 of the best artists I know today. And as luck may have it, they just happen to also be members of Simply Maya
Hailing from Finland, kbrown has amazed and astounded me in ways I never thought possible on a free public forum community such as this.
His work in the past on his "Andria Gail" shot was utterly beautiful, and if you need to bounce a few questions regarding ocean shaders, and dynamics, then kbrown is your man
A search for "perfect storm" returns his amazing work: (his www site is currently down, but keep trying!)
The second member is Brian Ellebracht:
His site in his bio is currently down, but ask him, and he'll be glad to point you in the right direction
It goes without saying, his tracking skills are awesome.
He's worked with everything from Bayou to After Effects, and is a great source for information regarding all things Motion-Tracking.
Then of course you CANNOT go on without mentioning Pure Morning!
He's an awesome particle dynamics resource here at SM.
He's even got his own credits list as a TD for Framestore in the IMDB!
PS, a side mention goes out to ADLDESIGNER!
Because the Alien and the dancing bananna ROCK!!! (don't ask, hehe)
Hailing from CCS, Venezuela, ADL is an awesome person to bounce ideas off-of and has a great eye for detail.
Plus, he gets all the hot chicks! A true ladies man
/* Insert geeky compositing/tracking joke here
During one difficult tracking shot of a 3d element of a Gas Can and a live plate of fuel spilled onto a floor, the TD's at ILM went home for the evening, leaving only the warmth of one crt monitor for the layers in the comp to bask in while sleeping.
The Gas Can layer said to the fuel layer:
"Anybody got a match?" HAHA!
(Get it? A Match as in a source of flame, and a Match as in a good Match-Move.......ok, nevermind...)
*/ End of geekness.
One person who shaped the way we think of using Maya's dynamics engine for visual effects today is a man by the name of Habib Zargapour. Employed at ILM since 1993, now working for Electronic Arts, he was known at ILM as "The Particle Man" since his famous "green gas" shots on the Jim Carrey film "The Mask".
Alias dubbed him a Maya Master in 2001 for his achivements in particle effects for the Perfect Storm, and many other awesome films.
Alais even has a "Learning Tool" dvd that is Authored, and hosted by him as well, so who better to teach you than Habib himself!
More on Habib:
Compositing/Visual Effects/Motion Tracking Reference books:
The art and Science of Digital Compositing:
The Invisible Art:
Matchmoving: The Invisible Art of Camera Tracking:
Digital Compositing for Film and Video:
Digital Compositing In Depth: The Only Guide to Post Production for Visual Effects in Film:
Inspired 3D Lighting & Compositing:
Adobe Master Class: Photoshop Compositing with John Lund:
Visual Effects in a Digital World:
A few good Maya-Dynamics-specific books to have on your shelf are:
Maya 6 Dynamics - Alias
Other good books to have on your shelf are these NON-Maya specific Dynamics and Particle references:
Physics for Game Developers
Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems
Dynamic Simulations of Multibody Systems
(For those who wish to make thier own version of "Massive"
Good luck with your quest for knowledge all, and we'll see you again shortly!