Making movie magic

Lucy is a London-based visual effects artist who helps bring the biggest Hollywood films to the silver screen at VFX House, Double Negative.

Lucy is "Look Development Artist" at Double Negative, the visual effects company behind blockbusters like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter. We caught up with Lucy to find out how the most exciting movie scenes are made.

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Name: Lucy Salter
Age: 32
Job title: Look development artist
Company: Double Negative
Hometown: High Wycombe
School subjects: A levels - Maths, Further Maths, Physics, Art
Qualifications: university degree - Mathematics BSc, Computer Animation MSc

You can also take a look at the#AskAnEngineer Twitter Q&A that Lucy took part in for Tomorrow's Engineers Week 2014 below. Find Double Negative @DNEG.

Hi Lucy, tell us about your job…
I work as a 'look development artist' for the visual effects company, Double Negative. This role involves taking an object – anything from a building or a character through to water or clouds and making it look as realistic as possible.

How does your work affect people’s lives/the world around us?
My company creates the visual effects for films so whilst we might not be saving the world, we provide a film for people to enjoy and relax with in their spare time, when they're not saving the world!

What do you like most about engineering or your job?
The satisfaction of creating something that looks realistic and makes people go 'Wow, did you work on that? That was amazing!’

How did you first become interested in engineering?
When I was at school I didn't know what I wanted to do so pursued the subjects I enjoyed and was good at, namely maths and art. When I was at uni studying maths I met a family connection who worked at a visual effects company. She showed me round the company and gave me a chance to see the work being done on the films (one of which was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) and the different jobs people were doing. It was at that point I realised that with my skills (maths, art and physics) I could go for this job. Plus, I love the Harry Potter books and films!

There are a number of different routes you can take into your career. What route did you take?
I chose maths, physics and art for my A Levels, before studying maths at Manchester Uni. At that point I wasn't sure which career direction I wanted to take so chose subjects I enjoyed and was good at. When I found out more about Computer Animation I applied for the Computer Animation course at Bournemouth University and did a 1 year masters, which was far more vocational, before applying and finding work in the Visual Effects industry.

How important was studying maths and science in school for what you do now? Did you enjoy it at school?
Physics was massively important to understanding the physical complexity of how materials look how they do and how light behaves like it does. Maths, aside from the maths I do as part of my job, also gave me a strong foundation in logic for when I needed to learn programming and scripting.

What personal qualities do you think are important for your career?
I think that's an impossible question to answer. Engineering roles are so varied and for a successful team you need different personalities that complement each other. I guess one quality that is universally important is an interest and drive to understand the world around you and the work you're applying yourself to.

There are fewer women working in engineering than men. What would you say to girls who might be interested in a career in engineering?
Go for it – there are so many opportunities and jobs, great wages and it can be far more fun than it sounds in school where it's never advertised well. Personally I need a job that will challenge me and keep me interested. I'd hate to do a job that bored me where I was watching the clock waiting to go home. Jobs in engineering will always be able to push you and there will always be fresh challenges.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
My job is quite demanding so I like to be able to unwind with friends or a good book, and in my weekends go camping, surfing and walking when weather permits!

If you could go back in time and be the inventor of any product, what would you choose?
Probably a camera or a paintbrush – as both give you the ability to record the world around you.