Matt Leonard – Resume

Industrial Light and Magic – Vancouver

Matt is currently working at Industrial Light and Magic (Vancouver) as a Technical Trainer.

His role involves teaches tools for multiple artist disciplines including proprietary software applications.  Delivers training to ILM studios via live classes, remote training, and recorded videos.  Develops and implements curricula in accordance with the facility needs in Vancouver, San Francisco, London and Singapore, including instruction on the ILM production pipeline and production procedures.  Customizes new hire training to the needs and goals of each trainee’s assigned production.  Evaluates and reports on trainees’ progress to Director of Talent Management, and appropriate department managers and production supervisors.  Interfaces with ILM artists, software engineers, and production supervisors to determine artists’ training needs and develop course content.  Creates and evaluates technical documentation for a global ILM audience.  Trains on various vendor and proprietary software packages and monitors industry technical advances to stay current with the needs of production and the goals of the organization.

MPC – Vancouver

Before working at ILM Matt working at MPC (Vancouver) as both the Lead Lighting Instructor for their Academy and as  MPC University Technical Lead.

The Lighting Academy is designed to train Junior artists coming into the company, giving them software skills in Katana, RenderMan and Nuke, plus a host of proprietary MPC software tools, alongside a wide range of other skills such as HDRI workflowColour Science and Management, both Traditional and Digital Lighting and Cinematography skills.  The 12 week program is designed to take a university graduate (or other artist) and train them up to be able to output production-quality shots within the Lighting Department in accordance with MPC systems and processes.  Artists that Matt has trained have gone on to work on movies such as ‘Ghostbusters‘, ‘Suicide Squad‘, ‘Sully‘ and ‘xXx: Return of Xander Cage‘.


More recently, as MPC University Technical Lead Matt has headed up the technical side of MPC’s in-house training project which involves developing training for all artists, across all departments, in all studios worldwide.

Matt works closely with the Global Head of Lighting to provide up-to-date training material for the entire global Lighting team, covering not just Juniors but Mid and Senior artists too. On a number of occasions Matt has provided training for specific shows eg. ‘Independence Day: Resurgence‘, ‘The Finest Hours‘ and ‘Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice‘, creating documentation to help the team solve particular challenges.  He also works with other departments such as Animation, Compositing and TechAnim where necessary to help with their training needs.


Liaising with local universities is also a key part of Matt’s job.  He jointly runs all the university visits to the studios, giving presentations about the MPC Academy, and regularly visits specific schools and universities to talk to students or attend graduation shows.  He has written content for the main MPC website aimed specifically at universities, including downloadable material and advice for graduates looking to get into the VFX industry.  He is currently on the Industry Advisory Board for:

• Vancouver Institute of Media Arts
• Visual College of Art and Design
• The Art Institute of Vancouver

Sphere VFX

Before working at MPC, Matt ran his own company Sphere VFX for 8 years, an international visual effects training company which become well known and respected among the VFX community worldwide.  In his role as Head of Training, Matt created industry standard courses for most of the top 3D, compositing and VFX software applications such as Maya, Fusion and Nuke, and produced the world’s first training courses for The Foundry’s look-development software Katana and Solid Angle’s Arnold renderer.  In addition, he developed courses covering multiple disciplines, e.g. Compositing Basics or Animation Fundamentals.  Through Sphere VFX, Matt had the privilege of training artists at some of the top visual effects companies in the world including DreamWorks Animation, Industrial Light and Magic and Weta Digital.


One of the aspects Matt has enjoyed while teaching is the diversity of people and teaching situations. Matt is very flexible, being able to adapt his training style to match any situation. Over the years he has trained individual freelance artists, small groups (5-10), larger groups (10-30) and whole company divisions, such as the entire compositing team at Screen Scene for the TV series ‘Game of Thrones’, Windmill Lane for the feature film ’Lockout’, and Dreamworks Animation (Los Angeles).


Through Matt’s initiative, Sphere VFX adopted a unique client-centred flexible approach to training, where courses were able to be customised to the client’s specific requirements. Furthermore, training was able to take place on-site at the client’s premises and be tailored to use their own projects/footage if required.


Matt is recognised and respected by a large number of universities at which he has taught both students and lecturers.  These include:

• Bournemouth University (UK)
 Nation Film and Television School (UK)
 Savannah College of Art and Design (USA)
 Sydney Institute TAFE NSW (Australia)
 Art Institute of Vancouver (Canada)
 University of Teesside (UK)
 Vancouver Film School (Canada)

Sphere VFX won a number of contracts to deliver training on behalf of Creative Skillset to VFX lecturers at UK universities, specifically targeted at ensuring the lecturers were up-to-date on current industry practices and software so that they in turn could train up their students to be industry-ready on graduation.  In addition to overseeing these projects, and developing and teaching on-site courses, Matt also co-authored a comprehensive set of visual effects training manuals which have been sold to universities across the UK.


In addition to all this, Matt developed and taught a VFX Masters Degree Course for the University of South Wales (MA VFX) in 2013-14.


Matt is a regular Professor at FXPHD where his 270 classes including Maya, Mental Ray, Katana, Arnold, RenderMan, Fusion and Nuke, have benefitted thousands of artists over many years.  He is also a regular co-host on The VFX Show, and has written various articles for FXGuide.


Nuke Accreditation Program

Working with FXPHD for the Foundry, Matt designed, wrote and recorded an extensive training program and accompanying assessments to enable The Foundry to train, verify and accredit Nuke trainers to teach their software around the world.  As Nuke Master Trainer, Matt continues to personally assess and approve all Nuke trainers for certification.



Matt is no stranger to the international stage, having spoken at large conferences including FMX, IBC, Digital Story Telling and Digital Media World on behalf of Alias/Wavefront (now Autodesk), eyeon Software, The Foundry, and Solid Angle.  He has had articles published in a number of journals, magazines, and websites including Computer Graphics World, 3D World, Showreel Magazine and fxguide.

Matt has been a member of the Visual Effects Society (VES) for 5 years and helps on the VES Vancouver Section Board.


Matt has developed a renowned 600+ slide presentation on ‘The History of Visual Effects, 1833 – Present”, which has been delivered to various audiences, including at the VFX Festival (London), The Foundry, and various universities across the UK and Canada.

historyClick image for 4k resolution version..

Matt has a keen interest in remaining up-to-date with industry practices and standards, which he does through a variety of avenues including white papers, industry research, close contact with industry, conferences, and ongoing personal learning.

Matt has worked alongside a number of companies helping them develop software and techniques, including The Foundry with their look-dev tool Katana and Nuke’s particle system.  Participation in various alpha/beta test teams gives Matt insight into new software developments before they are released.  These have included Maya, Mari, Katana, Mudbox, RenderMan, Arnold, Fusion and Nuke.

Production Experience

Prior to working at Sphere VFX, Matt had 16 years of production experience working for various companies producing work for the film, broadcast and corporate industries.

Matt has a strong background in all aspects of 3D, Compositing and VFX having helped oversee a number of large scale projects including post production on the TV show ‘Red Dwarf: Back to Earth’ and the award nominated short films ‘Moving Day’ and ‘I Love Sarah Jane‘.  This has involved working closely with the international VFX team, dealing with shots, schedules, data management, administration needs and much more besides.


He has also consulted for a number of post-production companies advising on subjects such as Colour Management, 2D and 3D data I/O, and VFX Pipeline Setup.

Matt has experience of 3D, Compositing and VFX concepts including:

• Modelling (Polygon, NURBS and SubDiv)
• Character Rigging (Basic)
• Animation (including Characters)
• FX and Dynamics (Particles, Rigid Body, Fluids, Volumes, etc.)
• Cloth
• Hair and Fur
• Look Development (Texturing and Shading)
• Physically Based Lighting and Rendering
• 2D and 3D Compositing (including Deep, Stereo and Multipass techniques)
• Keying
• Tracking and Stabilisation
• Roto and Paint
• Cleanup and Rig-Removal
• Colour Correction and Management
• Match Moving
• Editing

Matt has strong skills in both project planning and organisation, with a solid understanding of both the big picture and of how to break that down into smaller sections, focusing on the details and structures.