Episode 362 — Henrique Reginato – NOX Visual Effects
Episode 362 — Henrique Reginato – NOX Visual Effects
Henrique Reginato is a VFX Supervisor and the Founder of NOX Visual Effects. After working in VFX for over 13 years, Henrique launched NOX Visual Effects during COVID-19 by purchasing the Nuke Indie license and working from home.
Born in Brazil, Henrique first studied at Centro Universitario Senac, in Sao Paolo. He then pursued 3D Animation and VFX training from Vancouver Film School. He’s worked at a number of studios, including Pixomondo. His credits include: Star Trek: Discovery, For All Mankind, The Orville, The OA, Gotham and so many more!
In this Episode, Henrique shares his journey as an artist, the benefits of working for smaller studios, how to become a VFX Supervisor and gain experience on set, how to start your own studio, the importance of relationships and gaining a business mindset for artists.
NOX Visual Effects on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/noxvfx/?originalSubdomain=ca
NOX Visual Effects: http://www.cgchannel.com/2021/02/how-i-started-a-new-vfx-studio-with-nuke-indie/
Henrique Reginato: https://henriquereginato.com
Henrique Reginato’s IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm6110571/
[03:34] Henrique Reginato Talks About Starting Out in VFX
[10:15] Moving to Canada and Working Abroad
[19:55] Working for Smaller VFX Houses Versus Big VFX Companies
[24:42] Becoming a VFX Supervisor and Experiences on Set
[29:11] Starting Your Own Studio
[38:29] Building and Maintaining Relationships
[42:42] The Business Side of Creativity
[52:10] The Lessons of Running a Company
EPISODE 362 — HENRIQUE REGINATO – NOX VISUAL EFFECTS
This is Allan McKay. Welcome to Episode 362! I’m speaking with VFX Supervisor and Founder of NOX Visual Effects Henrique Reginato. We get into a lot of great stuff: from the benefits of working for smaller studios, to how to become a VFX Supervisor and gain experience on set, how to start your own studio, the importance of relationships and gaining a business mindset for artists. There is loads of really great stuff in this Episode! I’m really excited about this one!
Let’s dive in!
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
[01:24] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!
[1:04:13] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!
INTERVIEW WITH HENRIQUE REGINATO
[03:34] Allan: Henrique, thank you so much for taking the time to chat! Do you want to quickly introduce yourself?
Henrique: I’m Henrique Reginato. I’m the Owner and VFX Supervisor at NOX Visual Effects. I’m currently in Vancouver. I was originally born and raised in Brazil. Sao Paulo is my hometown. That’s where I lived and worked before I moved to Canada.
[04:01] Allan: I always tend to start with this question: Did you always imagine you’d be in some type of creative work? Or is it something that you came into later on in life?
Henrique: I’ve always been into the creative arts since grade 5. I went to a particular type of school, it was a very creative school. From a young age, we’d interact with older classes to create art pieces or art exhibits. I was really focused on arts, dance, and music. Just by being in that environment helped me be what I am today. I never studied anything else but visual arts.
[05:03] Allan: That’s amazing! When you know – you know! It’s better to lean into that. In the early days, how did you get into VFX, especially in Brazil?
Henrique: Visual effects is something that I landed on by accident. When I was in high school, I was doing a 3-year technical program in radio and television, and broadcasting. I wanted to work with radio originally. I was already shooting short films and giving narration. I was interested in voiceover and narration. I got wind that someone in my family knew [somebody] who worked at a production house. So I asked if I could do an experience day when I was in high school. And they said, “Yes, come by and spend a day with us.” But when I got there, they said, “You’re the kid who’s here for the internship, right? This is your desk.” So I stayed there for 6 months. That was my first gig in tv. I knew a little bit of After Effects and Premiere at the time. They put me on a desk with a Mac and After Effects, and I started doing commercials.
[06:57] Allan: I’m curious about what the first few days were like.
Henrique: Oh, man! At the end of that day, I had to call my buddy to ask how to turn off the computer. I never worked on a Mac before. The first few days were rough. It was a part-time internship that I accidentally got. I was supposed to be there from [2:00] to 6:00 p.m. learning, but I don’t think I’ve ever left that place until 10:00 p.m.
[07:35] Allan: Was this due to the workload or have you found your passion?
Henrique: I think it was a little of both. It was me realizing I really enjoyed doing that. I was putting price tags on clothes that people were walking by [in a commercial]. I liked doing that! The challenge of learning how to learn to do that on the fly, plus the amount of work. I had to walk home for an hour. I could’ve taken a bus, but I prefered to walk so that I could digest my day. It was important for me to prepare for the next day, mentally. I was 16 at the time, so everything was so interesting.
[08:38] Allan: Do you still follow that idea of having time to digest? From my first studio job, I used to walk home 2 hours every day. That was partially because my roommates were really intense. But I also wanted to be in my head.
Henrique: Nowadays, I do have my own studio and I allow myself time for that because I didn’t do it for so long. When I first moved to Canada, that’s when I got my first visual effects studio gig, working on major tv shows and films. I didn’t allow myself the time. I was riding the fury and the glory of VFX. You work, work, work – you party, party, party. You get up and do it all over again. Now that I’m allowing the time, both my girlfriend and I have careers to follow and difficult jobs to do. We do set aside at home to talk about our day and the problems that we had. That is extremely important!
[10:15] Allan: I think it’s so vital to set aside that time, even if just to switch off. With you moving to Canada from Brazil, how did that transition happen?
Henrique: After that first gig that I had in high school, I was doing more After Effects and some editing work. I learned from the editor at the studio. I also enjoyed photography. (I always had a camera in high school, I was that kid!) I was exchanging my skill sets with that editor. One day, a casting director asked me to operate the camera for the casting session. He bonded with me and I started to work as an on-set PA. That on-set work got me the next gig which was camera assisting on a music video. Then I had another gig assisting a director on another production. That gave me a bit of a legup. I was 100% sure that I wasn’t going to be in post-production: be it directing, photography, anything on set. I never enjoyed writing. Then in college, I went for a cinema program. I got a gig editing again. It was a great way to learn storytelling. I found that editing other people’s stories allowed me to understand how they thought. It also gave me an opportunity to see how people didn’t know how to film things. I knew how to film but how do we push that for tv. I studied a little bit more of post-production. And then I heard about the Vancouver Film School in Canada. I decided to apply and I moved here to learn post-production. Once I got there, I realized I’d be studying Maya, Nuke. It was a brand new world that I decided to embrace! When I moved to Canada, I had no idea I’d do visual effects. To this day, I do visual effects because it’s a tool to tell a story. It’s a tool that mixes visual art with storytelling, which has always been my passion.
[15:03] Allan: When I used to live in Vancouver, there was no VFX. There were 3 studios at the time. As soon as I left, it became the center of the VFX universe. I still love that city a lot! Comparing your experience at home, what would be the difference?
Henrique: When I left Brazil, there wasn’t much VFX going on. There were maybe 3 bigger houses. We didn’t really have many TV series. A lot of post-production was geared toward commercials and advertising. In the last 10 years, they opened a VFX school. I was a little pissed! Thank god I stuck to my guns and stayed in Canada. I still work with a lot of people in Brazil. But at that time, I didn’t know many VFX artists. There were Flame artists. That’s what I knew back home. There were no compositors, lighting artists, just the finishers. Nowadays, the industry has grown enough. A lot of little production houses popped up, especially in Sao Paulo. The industry in Brazil is balancing out a lot more, especially during the pandemic. A lot of studios are now hiring artists from Brazil.
[18:21] Allan: There is so much talent! We can get into talking about COVID. Despite all the negative aspects of the pandemic, a lot of people started working from home and the bigger studios can now hire people anywhere. There is so much talent across the planet! It’s pretty amazing to see.
Henrique: Now, with COVID, people are working from all over the world. The sheer amount of talent is impressive. The work is in specific places, but talent is everywhere.
[19:55] Allan: Are there any particular projects that stood out as challenging to you? You’ve worked on a lot of amazing episodics and feature films.
Henrique: Because I focused my career on episodic work – I was attracted to that a lot more – I never got to work on Marvel movies. I did work on Endgame when I was at DD. They asked me to help out. I decided to take some time off instead. But because I did focus on working for a smaller house, where I had more tasks, one of the projects I was most proud of was the TV series Gotham. It was pretty amazing to work on that! I had to learn to do my own roto. I like the broad strokes, I like being able to work on everything. On Gotham, we were doing matte painting, our own cameras, grabbing 3D geometry, doing our own projections. It was amazing! I loved working in such a creative environment. We were given free reign. The art director gave us a lot of material to create that world.
[23:14] Allan: I’ve shied away from working at bigger studios. I’ve been surprised to work at ILM where I got ownership of the shot. But most of the time, I expected to be a cog in the machine. At smaller studios, you get to wear more hats and influence the projects creatively. Has that been your experience?
Henrique: Always has! I’ve only worked for 2 larger studios and even then I made sure the producers were aware I wanted to work on my own shots. I wanted to look at sequences and suggest things. I dodged the major studios because I wanted to have more creative input.
[24:42] Allan: Can you talk more about working on set? What was it like to become a VFX Supervisor?
Henrique: For me, it was like going back to the beginning of my career. I felt really comfortable. Because of my previous set experience, when we were working on Almost Human, we were shooting in Vancouver. We had a Supervisor come to the studio asking if we needed anything specific. He said, “Is there anyone here who has on-set experience, so you could come with me?” The studio manager pointed me out. And since then, I never stopped going on set. Finally, I have a chance to do my own project from beginning to end.
[26:14] Allan: That can be so intimidating to people! Having that experience is extremely valuable.
Henrique: If there is any inspiration to be taken from this: Do not be afraid to go and try it out! Someone just asked me if I could operate a camera. I said yes.
[27:07] Allan: I think that’s just such a valuable lesson on its own, just to say yes to opportunities. How often do those opportunities come around?
Henrique: Going to compositing gave me the ability to make it pretty in post-production. Now, going back to set, I’ve worked on really bad green screens. So I know how to shoot certain things and I go back to set with a compositing mentality. And producers and directors can trust you more.
[28:10] Allan: Do you think it’s more of a natural progression? Coming from comp, you’re going to have more of an understanding of what to do onset. You understand the whole piece. Were there any knowledge gaps?
Henrique: So many! It doesn’t matter how good you are at one thing or multiple things. When you’re making a movie, there is never enough knowledge from one person. There is politics and the delicacy of navigating a set. I remember covering for a buddy on set, 3 episodes of a pretty expensive show. On my first day, the camera department is setting up a dolly right by a swimming pool. I tripped on the dolly. I reset the whole setup. It was a valuable lesson to learn.
[29:11] Allan: I’d love to talk about your experience of launching your own studio. Was it something you always intended to do? Or was there something about that time that inspired you to pull the trigger?
Henrique: It was never in my plans. Bouncing from studio to studio – hearing about profit margins and how the producers are losing their minds – we, as artists, feel it because we have to work more hours. But changing a shot last minute can bankrupt a studio. To me as an artist, when that happened, meant getting paid more and working overtime. That was good enough for me! What happened was I saw a mix of opportunities. I saw investors putting money into studios. There was an opportunity to work remotely again, you didn’t have to be that secure [in terms of] the server and the NDA’s. They were asking me to work now. I saw a window over there and I thought, “If I could get one shot a week done, I could pay all my bills and be happy. One shot a week turned into 20 shots a week, turned into 30 shots a week. Suddenly, I had to hire artists to finish shots and I saw myself in a Supervisor / Producer position. That was a natural progression.
[33:12] Allan: I think that’s the secret to doing it right: You have to keep that natural progression. You have to be prepared for it and build relationships in the meantime. Was it pretty natural for you? Was it scary to be responsible not just for yourself, but for other people?
Henrique: Yeah! In the very beginning, I bought a computer and a license. And by the way, I planned to buy a full Nuke license which cost over $10K. I was going to need Nuke Studio. I had an appointment with the bank to get the loan, to buy it. When I got to the bank, I realized the owner of Nuke released Nuke Indie which was a fraction of the price. I got one commercial, which involved 15 shots. I was approached by another client to do another commercial. The natural progression: There were days when I’d wake up at [4:00] in the morning, with a stomach ache from anxiety. I had to supervise both projects and I had to be responsible for my friends who were helping me. I was paying them. Now that I have a full-time crew, it’s not too scary because I’ve made the right relationships and the right partnerships. In the beginning, I was really careful with not taking on too much. Can I get it done? Put it on paper, write it down. I thought I’d do 5 shots a week on my own. Now that I have a crew, I’m not scared. It’s just about owning your responsibility to the people that you’ve hired. I want to protect them and understand that taking a hit is going to be part of the process. As long as you understand that, it’s not scary.
[37:12] Allan: I feel that a lot of the time, as a studio owner, that’s really what you are: You’re a shield for the people underneath you. It’s your job that you do what they’re hired to do. But you’re the person who keeps the communication from the above into actionable steps.
Henrique: Because I particularly don’t believe in the screaming chain, I’m not going to scream at my crew. That’s what I mean by taking a hit. But I have to be open with them about it, at the same time. It gets to the point where I need to admit I need help. Having that relationship with the artists is really important! I feel well supported by my team as long as I’m supporting them.
[38:28] Allan: How important are relationships? There is a relationship with your team, but there is also one with clients. You know that you’ll have some work coming in, but your work and reputation will keep it coming in.
Henrique: I’m still learning a whole lot about that. I don’t think I’ll ever stop learning. A relationship is a two-way street and they vary from person to person. When I started the studio, I didn’t have a lot of overhead (I was working from home), I had a relationship with a person who was a mentor to me. He went client side. I asked him, “If I do this, can you give me some work?” To this day, he’s my biggest supporter. First week of opening the company, I emailed every producer I’ve ever worked with. That’s how I started building those relationships. Keeping those relationships – once you become a client / vendor – I haven’t burned any bridges yet, but I’m still learning when to say yes and how to say no.
[41:14] Allan: Learning to say no is such a tricky thing. There are people who don’t ever expect you to say no. For you to stay in the profit margin, you need to know how to keep those boundaries.
Henrique: I’ve had directors say to me, “Your job is not to say no to me.” And I had to swallow that. I could tell the producer no.
[42:19] Allan: You’re absolutely right! I’ve seen that go horribly wrong when a vendor is saying no to the director. The director’s job is not to worry about money.
Henrique: It’s not even the client’s job to make it profitable. Their job is to get their project done.
[41:42] Allan: When you think about it that way, that’s how it works. How did you learn about the business side of creativity? Did you have mentors or look at books?
Henrique: I haven’t read many books on that. I asked around. One thing I try to do very often is hang out with people and ask questions, to be proactive with approaching producers for their opinions. How to bid a show? You had a Podcast about bidding once. I took it to heart. The video taught me a lot. After I watched it, I was asked to bid on a show. I called my friend and said, “I have no idea how to do this. How do I know how to hire and pay a crew?” My friend sat down and created a Google Sheet, and told me to trust my gut. And the first project wasn’t very profitable! I was charging very little and the client said yes, of course. I’m still learning how to do that:
- What’s my overhead?
- How much does it take to keep my business alive?
- How much money do I charge my clients?
- Can they pay that?
- How to manage their expectations?
[45:44] Allan: That’s such a valid point! Even right now, I’m overseeing a project and someone did some work. It’s not what I wanted. A lot of the time, you need to get in front of that and get everyone aligned – and it comes back to communication.
Henrique: I don’t think there is a single week that goes by without my calling that friend, even though he’s been my client for a long time too. We have those conversations too, and we always find a solution.
[48:00] Allan: That means there is trust. You will figure it out if you have those people around you. Sometimes, underbidding isn’t where you get screwed over. Sometimes, underbidding raises red flags. There will be clients who will communicate that to you. You launched NOX VFX in the middle of COVID. I did find it interesting how with COVID, everyone was willing to overlook the security. Was that a sign of it being the right time to do it? Or was it a scary thing?
Henrique: There was a fear of: Is it going to shut down? Are they going to stop filming? If they stop rolling, it will dry up for VFX. But knowing that the studios facilitated that we had more freedom on how to get the projects done, because I had a low overhead, I wasn’t worried about drying up for a while. I didn’t get to that point. But I did have that concern. I didn’t have anyone on payroll, so it was the time to do it. I had to figure out what I could do by myself. I was really cautious with that. I was also clear with my clients that my crew was going to be all over the world (so we couldn’t claim some of those tax credits). I did have the understanding of the labor laws and tax breaks. Everyone’s hands were tied. The clients needed to get things done.
[52:10] Allan: What were some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned running a company?
Henrique: What a loaded question!
- Be nice! Just be respectful. Don’t be greedy, you’re dealing with people below and above you. Everyone has a client. If you’re just a respectful person, that’s going to go a long way.
- Take responsibility for the work you’re doing. If someone is failing under you, that means you’ve failed. As a Supervisor, you have to set up your crew for success. I’ve always known that.
- Being a business owner is so much more! I think it’s about being humble. That’s my biggest lesson. Being patient. Nothing happens overnight, not even your renders.
[54:00] Allan: That’s such great advice. Most people want actionable stuff. They just want to know the tricks. If you don’t know something, have the mindset to just ask. It’s about the core foundation of how to do anything. If you’re difficult to work with, it makes it tricky to have relationships. People work with people they enjoy working with.
Henrique: And to be able to have these people that want to work with you, that means loyalty. You don’t buy loyalty – you build loyalty. As a business owner, it’s a gamble. One more thing I’ve learned: If you are a business, you invest in your people. What if you invest in them and they leave? But what if you don’t invest in them – and they stay? One thing I did when I started my studio is I bought courses, like The Mindset of a Business Owner. I listened to a bunch of podcasts. I understood a bit more about harnessing people together. I invested in myself and in my artists, and my production crew. If they want to be better, let’s find them a course to become a better artist or producer. In the first five years, you aren’t going to make a million dollars a month. You’re going to be on the grind to build a little thing that one day will become bigger.
[57:17] Allan: The first five years is where you can set yourself up to make a million dollars a month. Everything is a trajectory. The time you put in now is what matters down the road, for the payoff.
Henrique: It’s a weird concept, but if you treat people well – they will stick with you.
[58:09] Allan: When people go away, it’s not a bad thing. It’s relationships. When you think of things as a trajectory, you start seeing it that way. All of a sudden, these people become a satellite studio, for example. Right now, I’m working with someone I worked with 15 years ago.
Henrique: Networking, networking, networking! You have to keep it alive. My girlfriend jokes that if I were a janitor, I’d go to a janitor convention.
[59:22] Allan: I’d love to touch base really quickly on your experience going to the bank and getting a loan, and the mindset to see the Nuke Indie license. I think it’s a fascinating story!
Henrique: I had this mindset that I’d get money from the bank. I think it was $13K for the license and $7K for the computer. My fallback plan was to go back and work as an artist. I booked this meeting with the bank at 11:00 a.m. And 10:00 a.m. the Founder of Nuke announced Nuke Indie which was $600. I got to the bank and said, “I don’t need a loan anymore but can you tell me how I could get a loan in the future?” I got home, put $600 on my credit card and I started doing shots. It was incredible! After that, I started hiring people. Most people don’t have a Nuke license at home. I made sure that people put that on their invoice. It’s like the cryptocurrency market. If you buy it tomorrow, it could be cheaper. You just have to keep moving forward.
[1:03:02] Allan: Where can people go to find out more about you?
Henrique: Thank you for the opportunity to talk to you and to meet you! I’m pretty active on social media. You can find NOX Visual Effects on LinkedIn. I’m also on Discord.
[1:03:49] Allan: There is so much more I want to talk to you about, like your band! I’d love to have you back.
Henrique: I’d love to do that!
I want to thank Henrique for coming on the Podcast! Please take a moment to share this Episode with others.
Next week, I’ll be doing a solo Episode talking about the positive outcomes of COVID-19. It’s a really important one.
Until then –
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