A special effects supervisor is an individual who works on a commercial, theater, television or film set creating special effects. The supervisor generally is the department head who defers to the film's director and/or producers, and who is in charge of the entire special effects team. Special effects include anything that is manual or mechanically manipulated. This may include the use of mechanized props, special effects makeup, props, scenery, scale models, pyrotechnics and atmospheric effects: creating physical wind, rain, fog, snow, clouds etc. Special effects or are produced on the set, as opposed to those created in post-production which are generally called "visual effects". In recent years real physical special effects have been increasingly overshadowed by computer-generated imagery effects created in post-production." Some examples of special effects are explosions, car crashes and chases, gunshots, earthquake effects, special makeup, prosthetics, special set construction, snow and rain. Special Effects Technician is a person working in the special effects department, under the special effects supervisor, and he is responsible for creating and assisting special effects. Major motion pictures, with many special effects may have many special effects technicians.
A special effects supervisor has to ensure the safety of his/her crew and everyone else on set. Before the cameras start rolling, local officials may step onto set and perform inspections, so knowledge of the law and safety protocols helps when using explosives and firearms during the production process. Specific education programs are recommended for one to gain high awareness in health and safety. Other training in various fields such as handling explosives, firearms, high voltage and other hazardous material and equipment helps. One should be familiar with all the necessary equipment such as wind, snow, fog, fire and rain machines, as well as dummies and body parts. On set, the supervisor is the one in charge of setting up and operating these gears. Creativity and imagination plays a big role in this occupation, for he/she is the one responsible to see the big picture of the script and know when and how a special effect should be implemented. He/she should have the ability to visualize how things will appear ‘on screen.’ Strong communication skills and presentation skills are an asset because being able to show such skills during the interview process proves personal responsibility and willing to collaborate with others. As well, the head of the entire special effects team works closely with the production designer and art director. The supervisor plans a special effects scene and presents it to the director, in hope that he/she will be pleased with the results. Experience in photography may be an advantage in this job because as the supervisor, he/she has to plan the camera angles when shooting special effects scenes. Starting young allows one to absorb all the information and experience you can get and applying them to become a special effects artist.
Entry into this career path is competitive. There are various paths that one can take in order to become a special effects supervisor. People with animation, computer science, and industrial design backgrounds are seen. A formal education, particularly in electrical engineering and mechanical engineering is suggested. Some enter into this profession with a degree in film and television production, which is useful. Some students may specialize in fine art or sculpture, which may enhance their techniques to apply to special effects careers in modeling, illustration, animation and much more. Being good with computer software saves a company time and money to invest in training their new employees. Modern special effects tend to be computer generated nowadays, blending physical techniques and digital tricks. Taking classes related to computer graphics gives people insight on computer animation software that he/she may come into contact with. Several years of employment experience at the junior level is necessary before one takes on this senior-level role as a supervisor. Special effects are a form of science, so courses in Chemistry, Physics and Biology are recommended. To have an understanding in advanced mathematics allows preparing the department budget and crew scheduling easier. Education in any of these fields gives a person valuable experience that he/she may be able to apply to their career.