Artist Spotlight

Elmoatasem Ragab

Compositor | Lost Boys Alumni 2020

Demo Reel

Tell us a little bit about your visual effects journey.

When I was younger, my brother inspired me when he showed me one of his concept art. This opened me up to the artistic field and compositing was the most accessible during this time. Honestly, I had so much fun doing it that I began to incorporate compositing into as many short film projects I made with friends. In fact, I fondly remember trying to replicate a hologram shot inspired by Iron Man 3. From this experience, I hit so many brick walls which fueled my need for higher education. The process of problem-solving was so addictive and this sent me on a spiral of online resources to learn the craft of visual effects. However, I quickly realized I wasn’t progressing in the right direction. To break out of this plateau, I searched for a more specialized education.

Because you came from a generalist program prior to joining Lost Boys, what pushed you to come to a specialized school?

It was very hard to excel and be disciplined in a specific field in the generalist program. This is mainly because of how much stimulation is coming from things that are not adding to a specific discipline. Essentially, stifling my growth by loading me with information which isn’t even part of the discipline I was pursuing. In fact, most of the time I was powering through my own way and finding solutions to the roadblocks I faced. In a more specialized program, I found myself surrounded by people who have the same discipline in mind. Each individual is problem-solving in completely different ways which exponentially grows the learning experience. At Lost Boys, there is a strong guidance coming from the mentor which was something I needed. In my opinion, if you have a specific discipline in mind, it is always better to go to a specialized school.

Why did you choose Lost Boys?

I went through a very selective research phase as my bachelor’s program was wrapping up. I had already tried programs and courses of all kinds, but there was always something missing. Eventually, I found Lost Boys and it simply ticked all the right boxes for me. I first noticed the school was ranked as one of the top schools in the world for visual effects. When I talked to alumni and recruiters about the school, I noticed first-hand how highly regarded the school was in the industry. In those same conversations, I got a sense of a very strong, tight-knit community.

I learnt that the school functions as a studio with hands-on practical projects and feels more like a tailored mentorship-which is exactly what I was looking for. When it came to looking into the instructors, I found nothing but positive regard and an ocean of knowledge. The choice was very clear. I was ready to move to Vancouver for this.

There is an ongoing conversation about learning visual effects online over going to a visual effects school. In your opinion, is attending visual effects school worth it?

So here is my point of view on this subject. I have gone through online learning for so many years at this point that I can completely understand the argument of accessing online resources to learn. However, the main issue with it is not having feedback from more knowledgeable people in the industry or a clear trajectory of where you are heading. I like to say learning online is like progressing with a blindfold. You can feel the room and move forward with a blindfold on, but you can progress much faster and stronger if you have someone who truly understands the room to guide you through it. In addition to this, you move further along with an actual understanding of the industry ahead. 

I also believe that this industry is really about connections which is non-existent in many online educational platforms. You can’t make the same kind of bonds you would at a visual effects school in an online format. Ultimately, the amount of progress you make and the position it puts you in the industry makes up for the cost pretty quickly! You gain the skills to push you through the industry much faster than if you were doing it on your own.

Some people find visual effects to not quite be an art form. Do you believe visual effects, at its core, an art form?

Definitely! I mean, art can be the interpretation of anything by anyone. A lot of things can be categorized as art and it’s very subjective 100% of the time. For me, visual effects is a very versatile artform that requires a lot of creativity, problem-solving, and technical skills to be used effectively as a storytelling tool. What is really awesome about compositing is its supportive and seamless nature. In a way, it helps everyone’s work come together which gives the audience the ability to suspend belief and be immersed in the viewing experience. It’s such a valuable tool, I think many of my favourite movies and tv shows couldn’t have been made without it.

Lastly, what is a common misconception of visual effects?

I think a lot of people see visual effects as something that is a lot simpler than it is. That misconception resonates with a lot of people because they never had the experience of actually working through it. Imagine being the cinematographer and not noticing the boom mic dip into frame. Then suddenly you see all traces of the boom in the shot seamlessly removed. It’s hard to understand what went into that one shot, and for a neutral audience, it’s not even considered if it was executed properly. There are so many hidden challenges you face as a vfx artist and the solution is different every single time. Even though a lot of tasks can feel repetitive or tedious, the best approach could be different each time. In the end, the amount of considerations you need to focus on to get something to look photo-real is unbelievable. It’s meant to produce a seamless result, so all the work that goes into it is very hard to understand. That’s why I love breakdowns because they give a taste of all the work going into every frame.

Thank you, Elmo! Check out his demo reel.

“I feel lucky to have had Ganz and Andrew as my mentors. My experience at Lost Boys set the bar for what is possible within a teacher-student relationship to a leveI that I can’t imagine being met by anyone else. It is nothing short of inspiring how they consistently push beyond any of my expectations-especially through Covid. This is an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

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