Co-Founder | Supervisor

Tefft Smith

Tefft is originally from Chicago and from early on was drawn to creating art.  He graduated from grade school art projects to cartooning, painting and even flipbook animation in high school, experimenting with differing mediums from pencil to oil, always pushing himself creatively.  While still in high school, Tefft started a business doing graphic designs and creating visual identities for local companies.

After seeing Jurassic Park, Tefft was fascinated by the power and potential of CGI.  He then decided to pursue the study of computer animation at one of the few schools then offering a degree in computer Animation, entering the Minneapolis College of Arts and Sciences (MCAD).  Toy Story further solidified his passion for animation and his desire to “go to Hollywood and make movies.”

As Tefft was graduating from MCAD with a major in computer animation and double minor in design and photography, he realized that he could not get hired in Hollywood without a knowledge of Maya. Tefft persuaded MCAD to allow him to spend his final semester, in 1999, at Gnomon, a high-end visual effects training school.  His studies there produced an MCAD award winning animation, the first in Maya that the school had ever seen.  After graduation, Tefft continued his studies at Gnomon, receiving one of the School’s first High-End certificate degrees.

While still at Gnomon, Tefft was interning at Look Effects Inc., which quickly hired him as their main CG Artist, in 2000.  He spent 8 years at Look, designing their logo, learning the day-to-day of working in the Industry and building their 3D department.  As Tefft progressed artistically and gained recognition in the Industry, he moved on, exploring creative opportunities at other studios; Zoic, Gradient FX and Stardust.

In 2008, Tefft was asked to become the Director of Education at Gnomon, to bring his years of Industry experience back to the School, to reshape their curriculum to reflect the evolving needs of the studios and movie makers.  Tefft spent two years there, working with the faculty (mostly active industry VFX professionals) and students to enhance Gnomon as a pipeline for the Industry.  Through this process Tefft realized the value to filmmakers of Previsualization, helping to develop and refine the concept.

With this new found passion, Tefft returned to active creative work, becoming a Previs and then an overall Visualization Supervisor at Halon, then Pixomondo and, on special assignment, to MPC, working on over 20 projects.  One of the most creative projects that Tefft had the chance to work on was Tomorrowland, with Brad Bird.  He was able to creatively collaborate with Brad to bring new ideas to the film.  It was personally a special thrill for Tefft as one of the first films he was able to see develop, first hand, was Iron Giant.  So, the chance to work so closely with Brad on a film that advanced the art of visual imagination was a dream come true for Tefft.  There was one sequence in particular where we needed to make a 12 minute single camera move  that was needed to be filmed in several different location around the world.  Brad wanted a clear vision of it before they ever went onto set.  He was extremely happy with how easy it was to shoot once we successfully prevised it.  The comparison between previs and final was identical.  For me that was so rewarding to achieve.

Tefft has made presentations on the benefits of Previs and Visualization, generally, on many occasions, most notably, at the Beijing and Cannes Film Festivals. Most recently, he formed OPSIS, a Visualization Studio, with 2 industry colleagues.  Outside of being a Visualization Supervision Tefft has produced and provided the visual effects for Carolina Parakeet and The Smiling Man, both short films receiving Multiple Festival Awards. He also created and directed a short of the 50 greatest VFX Films and a Tribute to Steven Spielberg for the Visual Effects Society.